A look at the least important things in life

The Screwdriver Diaries, Vegas Edition: Part One

Of course I’m going to write about Las Vegas. I was always going to write about Las Vegas. You’d be surprised if I didn’t. You may have even been disappointed.

Now I just have to make up my mind on what I liked and didn’t like.

For me, Las Vegas was phantasmal. I thought I’d like things that were just okay. I thought I’d hate things that turned out to be pretty cool. And it may take further trips and reflection before I can categorically decide on what I really think about everything. Oh, God yes there will be future trips. I’d go once a year. I’d go once a month. Hell, I’d leave right now for the airport but I need to work at least a little while to recoup some of the losses Mrs. Me and I incurred while in the City of Sin. Some were foreseeable – I anticipated taking a mild thrashing at blackjack and was delighted to keep it under $100 a day combined. Some were a little more unlikely – I did not see the eight-dollar tube of sunscreen coming, nor did I expect to pay more for a pack of smokes (11 bucks!) than I did for lunch on Monday. I’ll know next time and plan accordingly.

(Yes, I smoked while in Las Vegas. Disgusting, nasty habit that only crops up when I’m drinking or gambling, which usually means I’m drinking anyway. I will not apologize for it.)

I’d like to tell you about some of the things I liked and didn’t like, but a top-20 pro-con list of every hotel would make you hate me. So I’m going to start as far north as we went (Fremont Street/Old Vegas) and work my way south, expounding on all manner of things liked and unliked around the clusters of hotels. Leave now if you don’t to read a lot of complaints about heat.

(You’re still here. Valhalla. Strap in.)

FREMONT STREET/OLD VEGAS

Pros:

The Pawn Stars Shop

(Not exactly the area, so sue me)

The shop was as cool as you would expect it to be; it was different in all the ways the History Channel show would lead you to believe, with the upshot being that it had stuff that normal people (i.e., me and my wife) could buy. She wound up springing for a bracelet that was pretty plain but has the built-in storyline of ‘We were in Las Vegas at the Pawn Stars shop when she bought this thing.’

Plus, we saw the Old Man. He was just disgusted by everyone in the building. I don’t know if that was just character or how he is anyway. I don’t care. It was awesome.

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Crowds

Maybe it was because we hit Fremont Street at 11 a.m. on a Friday, but the place was not crowded. Given how packed in everyone was the rest of the trip, there’s something to be said for that.

Main Street Station Micro Brew

Excellent beer, excellent food, hidden away inside an old hotel well off the Strip that took a little finding even after we got inside. If you’re in the area, this is as good a lunch as you’re going to find.

The Mob Museum

Recommended by a reader last week, I expected the Mob Museum – dealing with Vegas’ involvement in organized criminal activity – to take an hour, tops, to get through. Two hours later, we left and I felt like we probably rushed things a little bit. If people like Whitey Bulger, Frank Costello and Bugsy Siegel interest you, it’s easy to get lost in there.DSCN0422

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DSCN0416(Ten bucks if you can tell me how Dyersburg got listed on this list of organized crime centers of the 1920s.)

Cons

Cabs

One thing about Old Vegas: Cabs are not as prevalent. From the Mob Museum to Main Street Station was  half-mile walk, followed by another half mile after lunch to another off-strip casino that actually had cabs because no one ever needs to get anywhere in Old Vegas, apparently. I may also have been a teensy bit pissed off because it was 110 degrees that day.

Access

If you’re staying on the Strip, you have to REALLY want to see Old Vegas. Our journey to Fremont began with a Monorail ride from MGM Grand to LVH, a mile walk in the blazing heat, a cab ride from the Stratosphere to the Pawn Stars shop (11 bucks for just over a mile, but it had AC so I would’ve paid 90) and then another mile or so from the shop to Fremont Street. There’s a reason I ate like a Rockefeller and drank like Vince Neil during the recording of Girls, Girls, Girls and didn’t gain a pound while I was out there.

Shop size

I was disappointed in the size of the Pawn Stars shop. I don’t know what I expected, but one long narrow room just wasn’t it. They packed enough stuff in there that I spent a good hour wandering around it, but I came in with the presupposition that I would be here longer than I was at the Mob Museum, which was not even close to the case.

THE STRATOSPHERE

Pro

Top of the World

Mrs. Me informed me about halfway through that this was the sort of date that women fantasize about but rarely assume will ever happen. I’ll let you work out for yourself how the rest of my night went.

(Bring money. Minimum, if you drink ice water and order the cheapest thing on the menu, you’re staring at 75 buck a person, and we were young, drunk, dressed up and in Vegas, so do the math. I doubt I have a meal that expensive the rest of the year, and maybe my life.)

Is it worth it? Absolutely. The rotating dining room gives you a killer view of either the Strip, the mountains or Old Vegas. As much as you’re paying for the view, the food is pretty good in its own right, the staff kisses ass like you read about and with prices like these, you won’t find many people bringing young children into the equation, allowing you to have a nice romantic meal that definitely ends with both parties involved on the right side of tipsy.

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Con

Being 900 feet off the ground

I don’t like heights. I have never liked heights. I feel a slight wave of height vertigo when I stand on the back deck of my parents’ house sometimes. Imagine my consternation at being 900 feet above ground for dinner.

So I did what you’d expect me to do – I drank. Thankfully, we were seated away from the huge window during dinner – it’s possible the maitre’ de noticed my green complexion upon seating. But Mrs. Me prevailed upon me to go up ANOTHER level after dinner to the outdoor observation deck, which makes me slightly nauseous to think about. While there, we got to watch…

The people who jump off Top of the World

Yeah. So there we are before dinner, I’m trying to get acclimated to my new, 900-foot off the ground surroundings and order a drink and trying to pretend this is all cool when in my head I’m thinking, People don’t belong in the sky like this. This is against nature. God is going to smote me when suddenly WHOOSH there goes someone jumping off the top of the building attached to a harness and flying toward the ground. And that happened throughout dinner. I’d be digging in for a bite of pasta and there would go some peckerwood jumping off the roof of the damn building again.

Anyway, so after dinner we go up to the deck, where we get this picture…

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…and where I got to watch first-hand one of these idiots strap on the suit, latch on to this rickety-looking harness and plummet toward the ground. I watched once. And when I was fleeing the premises, I kept thinking, Another dozen drinks and somebody could probably talk me onto that thing.

THE WYNN/PALAZZO/VENETIAN TROIKA

Pro

Lagasse’s Stadium

It was always easy to find a score in Vegas. If my phone was dead or lacking sufficient signal, I was roughly 30 feet from a sports book at any given point. Lagasse’s Stadium was different. Plush couches, attentive waitresses and it was quiet. Set way away from the casino part of the Palazzo, you had to want to find it in order to get there. Loved the place. Best spot to watch sports in Vegas.

Architecture

This is where people with money will stay. Since I only pretend to have money, and couldn’t even do that for very long in Vegas, I only visited. Visually, these were the three most stunning hotels that I saw other than Caesar’s and the Paris. I expected a bit more from the Wynn, but the Venetian may as well have been a cathedral.

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Con

Price

Since this is where the rich people stay, it’s also where the rich people spend their money. Outside of a $15 table at the Wynn, the Venetian and the Palazzo were a bit rich for my blood, although going on a weekend featuring a national holiday and a major fight (UFC 162, apparently) caused a significant bump in rates from what I was told. The Venetian was also the site of my ill-fated $11 cigarette purchase.

Stuffiness

Put it this way… I know almost no one that would’ve felt right at home in the Venetian. It’s just too nice. Like playing blackjack in an enormous china cabinet or something.

Part Two coming later… I write too much

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