Las Vegas is located at the bottom of a valley in the desert. Many don’t realize that until it rains. A few years back, before so many of the houses were built, I was in Las Vegas during a pretty bad storm. One of the casino’s called the Imperial Palace with an Asian motif discovered that their newly built parking garage was the lowest point of the valley. The small rainstorm that blew through the area ran down the mountain sides, through the streets, and pooled in the Imperial Palace garage. A Volkswagen bug floated down the Vegas Strip in several feet of water.
Another storm happened in the middle of July a few years ago. Don’t ask me why anyone would host a conference in the 100 plus degree heat of July. I was staying at Caesar’s Palace for the event with a great view of the pool on up to the mountains. Slowly this huge orange spiral, which looked straight out of the Old Testament to challenge Moses and the Israelites, pushed towards the hotel. As it drew closer the staff stacked the long white deck chairs around the pool and told guests to go inside. When it finally hit the hotel my room went as dark as it had with the shades drawn. It sounded like uncooked rice was being poured on the window for about fifteen minutes. Then it stopped and cleared. The chairs by the pool were blown over and an orange film covered the top of the pool.
At the same conference the year prior to that storm, it had gotten so hot, that my midday flight was postponed several hours until it could cool down. From what I was told, modern jets can not create enough lift with so little moisture and such hot air. Even on good days leaving Las Vegas is bumpy with all of the turbulence in the first ten minutes.
Looking back at all of my times in Las Vegas, I have to say my first trip here was by far the most wonderfully stupid. As a young poor college student I went to visit relatives in San Francisco for a few weeks during a long break. On my flight back, my brother who booked the flight, had me stay in Las Vegas for the night. I was all excited about this. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a room for my overnight stay. So I checked my bags and took a cab to the far end of the strip. Over the evening I proceeded to walk back to the airport. Along the way I stopped to have a drink, do a little gambling, get hit on by hookers, and see every casino I could. This was a week after Dean Martin, a member of the Rat Pack and regular Vegas resident, had died. At the Sands I had a martini and watched a fifteen member Elvis impersonation band from Japan – each dressed in a different Elvis period costume - sing a song in Japanese from the time period he was dressed in. It was, well, uniquely Las Vegas.
A member of my team reminded me of these stories yesterday when she referred to me as a “jaded traveler.” It may be true that I don’t find the same things about Las Vegas as funny or amusing any longer. It has become much more corporate here. It has less of the old charm and individuality from the first few years of visiting than it does now. Part of that might be the Indian casino’s competing for every dollar. I tend to believe it has more to do with corporate consolidation of the industry. Each hotel has games. Each has shows. Each has restaurants. Each has a buffet. Each has a member program. Each has sports booking that influence the rest. On strip properties are especially guilty of an attempt to out do one another with the size of ones signage out front.
I guess I lament the days when a fifteen member singing Japanese Elvis group caught my attention on the casino floor.