Less than a year ago, the Duke took his first trip to the U.S. in 13 years. As often happens for us Canadians when we haven't crossed that omnipresent line not too far South of us in a while, he expected it to be some sort of some fundamental je-ne-sais-quoi you can feel in your bones, telling him that he is somewhere different. Outside of the bottles of energy drink the size of our heads and slabs of beef jerky the side of our legs at convenience stores, the presence of Jack In the Box, much cheaper alcohol, the difficulties in finding playoff hockey on TV, the ten cents difference in the value of a dollar, and the annoyance of having to convert kilometers to miles... well, things weren't too different.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
It was rather funny watching Glenn Beck ranting about the evil of compact fluorescent lightbulbs on television (we also don't get Fox News in Canada, making it a bit of a legend we needed to see for ourselves) right in the middle of laid-back Portland. The two didn't quite fit.
He remarked again, as 2009 passed, how the U.S. we visiting didn't quite seem like the U.S. we saw on TV, the one with the bling and the angry people shouting about public health care causing the downfall of the universe. While I agreed, I also reminded him that the three places we'd been that summer, Portland, Seattle and San Francisco, weren't exactly the epitome of the America that is supposed to be so diametrically opposed to Canada.
As such, I eagerly anticipated our first visit to Las Vegas this January. I figured that if any place could capture the cliched "I-saw-it-on-TV" version of America, Vegas would.
And, in many ways, it did.
There was no such thing as the dark. It was also never quiet.
Everything you can imagine is done up in lights. Even disturbingly eerie clowns...
... and Denny's.
The portion sizes are absurdly enormous. The Duke was only feeling slightly peckish, and thus ordered a fruit plate-- the smaller one on the menu. He instead received this, enough fruit to feed a family of four for a week. (Note: This picture does not include the accompanying loaf of banana bread.)
There are breasts the size and shape of genetically engineered watermelons, and skirts the size of a postage stamp.
There is more Ed Hardy than should ever exist. The designer even has his own nightclub-- entrance probably incurs a dangerous risk of a Jon Gosselin encounter.
You can get a $1 marguarita, but later on that night you will pay $10 for a vodka and soda. You can also pay $50,000 for someone to bring you some Dom to your table, or $450 for that very same bottle of vodka I have sitting in my freezer at home.
You will go crazy at the sound of people flicking call girl trading cards at you, and will start to wonder if your personal bubble ever really did exist.
Nothing is original-- every single concept, particularly in architecture, is just a plaster version of something that has been done before. Yet there is something insanely creative about all of it.
One of the first things that greats you off the plane is an ad offering you to try shooting a machine gun.
It is the middle of the desert, yet literally millions of gallons of water are used every fifteen minutes for a free fountain show.
Every washed up and/or random performer can have faith they will find a home in Vegas. Carrot Top, Andrew Dice Clay, Wayne Brady-- you name it.
Somehow topless showgirls are different than stripper. I don't know how.
Hot dogs are $1.99 but bottles of water are $5.
Tickets for the "Eiffel Tower" exclusively forbid unauthorized weddings, as apparently these are more rampant than the average person expects.
There are buffets with multiple different kind of mashed potatoes. And more mousse than any human could ever process.
And people really do gamble at 7am.
You can really sum Vegas up in one word: excess. Utterly and completely.
But it was still unexpectedly pleasant to be overwhelmed in the midst of all those lights, not quite knowing where to look next.