Las Vegas – City Of The Damned Or Just Morally Maladjusted?

Sorry, dear readers, for the delay in getting you a new review or bit of wisdom, but as is the norm, real life keeps getting in the way of pursuing one’s passion. I had to travel for work, and when I do this I generally have almost no free time due to my rather strange work ethic of doing everything I can to squeeze every drop of productivity from every dollar I spend of my company’s treasure.

So, for this trip I had to visit Sin City itself, Las Vegas, and I say “had to” because I truly despise the city, and up until Wednesday I thought it was a city completely beyond salvation. I’m not saying that I want it to be hit by a one-kilometer meteorite and completely annihilated down to the subatomic particle level, but I sure wish they’d let up on the “sin city” theme a bit. It’s not the people that I hate, it’s the entire fact that there’s a place that almost every possible form of putrescence, debauchery, or vice can be found and abused. If you’ve never been, the first time on the “Vegas Strip” is like being hit in the face with a brick that’s been wrapped with dirty thong panties, used condoms, and gin-soaked olives. Now, I am not one to judge, nor have I ever held anyone else to my standard; if you want to head there to get drunk, high, and laid all in one fell swoop, go with God. That’s your bag, and more power to you. Me, I’m a family guy. I have a wife, kids, and some semblance of a “bushido” code that requires that I am faithful and humble in all my endeavors. I have two daughters, and the notion that women that have their images plastered all over the place in various states of undress makes me wonder what the hell their fathers think about their chosen career path. This place is simply too surreal for my simple mind to accept, and my synapses falter and recoil in horror at the sheer insanity of the place.

For example, where else on the planet can you drive for 20 minutes and during that time witness:

• A Rick James impersonator with a jacket proclaiming “I’m Rick James, Bitch”
• Mexican guys handing out cards bearing photos of naked chicks with phone numbers and dollar amounts to couples pushing strollers
• Mobile billboards mounted on trucks with larger-than-life photos of naked (but censored) lesbians making out
• News-stands on every corner with titles in huge fonts offering “Gay News” and “Hot Ass Chicks”
• And my personal favorites, huge replicas of the Eiffel tower and the Statue of Liberty

It’s simply fucking madness. It’s a collision of worlds spinning out of control leaving mayhem and madness dripping almost tangibly from the towering structures that define the skyline. All that being said, you can imagine that there’s a hell of a lot to do, and if you’re the kind of person who’d get bored in Vegas, chances are you’re that same guy who jerks off and has your hand fall asleep on you. It is the ultimate dichotomy; thousands of things to do, architecture unparalleled almost anywhere on the planet, yet an abhorrent culture of sex, drugs, and debauchery that embraces you as a brother, noting that whatever you do in their city of wonder is fair game and that nobody will snitch you out when you get home. It’s almost a secret society devoted to causing you to abandon all your morality, social beliefs, and to send you home with almost no recollection of what you did.

My trip out to the Big V was for business, as there was a huge convention of people in the industry that I work in, and I’ve been doing things so long that I cannot walk anywhere for more than 3 minutes without running into someone I know and probably like. I stayed at the Luxor again, which is a towering, ebony pyramid with a full-size Sphinx posted up outside, luring onlookers in with the myriad tools of marketing and the hope of hitting it big. It’s truly a marvel of engineering, to say the least, but in all its splendor, it’s still rife with perversion. Everywhere around the place are giant billboards with half-naked chicks and the bells and lights of all manner of games of chance. The sad reality is that these are all simply an illusion, and that with little exception gamblers’ hopes and dreams are being dashed upon the rocks of the reality that if casinos lost, they’d be out of business, not to mention the fact that if these girls weren’t being paid, you wouldn’t have a hope in hell of seeing them naked.

The residents of Vegas, though, appear to be good, honest folks just trying to make a living. That their sustenance is derived from people coming from all over to world to toss their money into the abyss of the casino bosses’ coffers says nothing of the fact that although the place is set with the sole intent of separating people’s money from their pockets, this does not preclude the inhabitants of this modern day Babylon from being good, honest people. I only realized this during this trip, where I left the “strip” to explore the surrounding area and check out the “real” Las Vegas.

On my first day into the city I headed directly to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, which is a beautiful structure in and of itself, to meet up with my salespeople and form new alliances with companies that might see benefit in working with me. The convention hall itself is mammoth, having enough room to hold at least 80,000 souls as well as a cornucopia of products, displays and sundry items. As I walked the aisles, I noted that what I saw had not differed from the last five or six years, and that the electronics assembly market has essentially remained stagnant and unchanged for a very long time. There were very few new companies, little in the way of new technologies, and if anything, far fewer people and entities in attendance than the previous few years. I keep hearing “positive economic indicators” on the local and national news channels, but if this show is an indicator, we’re still in deep, deep shit, collectively. As the day’s business wound down, I left with a business acquaintance to adventure into the labyrinthine halls and corridors toward the hotel and casino proper to talk some shop and work out a deal.

We settled on getting some dinner at one of his favorite haunts, the Red Brick Pizza parlor, which is north of the Strip by a good 15 miles. This was the first time I had been off-strip, and it was an eye opener. The place looks like almost every Southern California city I’ve ever been to; palm trees, stucco, Latinos and graffiti abound. When you get outside the casino section, it might as well be Los Angeles. We ate at the pizza place, which was not only cheap, but excellent, and we headed back to the den of evil for some more conversation and a cocktail, ending the night on a good note with a Tanqueray Tonic and a firm handshake. As I sat in my overpriced and underwhelming room, I pondered the duality of what I had experienced; an area with all the possible depravity you can imagine surrounded by a city that is not unlike some of my favorite places. It was then that I decided more exploration would have to occur after work the following day.

The next day started with a meeting with my largest rep group, where I read them the riot act and noted that their performance “sat somewhere in between craptastic and fucking pathetic, leaning more toward the latter.” I, of course, ended on a positive note that they were good men that had simply lost their way and that I had faith that this meeting would begin our relationship anew, with a much better result than had previously been evidenced. I ended up spending a few more hours talking individually with some of the reps before my next meeting, sharing some tips on how to get new business, starting with the original sales idiom, “You’ll never get the business if they don’t know what you sell.”

After a few more meetings and some positive results that will likely bear fruit, I went with a new potential partner to another hotel on the Strip, Planet Hollywood, a gleaming bastion of steel and glass that is truly a sight to behold. We ate at Koi, a Japanese fusion restaurant that my Director took me to last time I was in town, which has the best sushi and sashimi dishes outside of Sapporo in Japan. We dined and discussed our potential partnership while listening to remixed versions of classic songs like Pink Floyd’s “Breathe”. The food was wonderful, as expected, and by the end of the meeting I had decided that this gentleman might be exactly what I am looking for in his respective territory, ending the encounter with promises of follow-up and an ensuing contract.

I hopped a cab back to my hotel, where I met a friend in the business to vet some of the reps I talked to during the day, and who knows the area very well, at which point he told me of the “Fremont Street Experience” just a few miles away. I was immediately made a believer, and we adventured onward toward our destination. We arrived 20 minutes later, because while it is truly only a few miles away from the strip, the traffic on the Vegas Strip is ridiculously bad for such a small area. It’s as if some mystic force descends upon every person who owns a car there and causes them to lose 50-100 IQ points. Anyhow, we stepped out of the cab and into a place that is truly a mix of modern-age cutting edge technology and old-school mobster casinos.

This place has not only the older casinos, but a pantheon of amazing things to see and do, such as landscape painters who use only aerosol cans, live music on several stages, and street performers such as the killer sax player outside of Binion’s. It’s simply an overdose of light, sound, and aroma, with the pinnacle being the largest television on the planet which spans a few hundred feet across and two full blocks long, at least. Every half hour there is a show played with accompanying music, and it is truly the only place in Vegas I have witnessed truth in advertising; it is an experience, indeed.

After walking the area for two hours, we cruised back in a cab and had a final round of drinks at the bar closest to the elevator, ending the night with good conversation and hopes of a renewed and invigorated electronics assembly industry, as well as an ever-better economic climate. Maybe it was the drinks or the walking, but by the end of the show I was convinced that even with Congress spending money faster than it can be printed, the end of the recession is near and business will pick up.

Anyhow, I’ll be back to writing reviews today and next week, as well as on Jury Duty for the Commonwealth.  I’ve just gotten Prophecy, Runebound:Midnight, and I still have about 70 more games to review, so keep coming back for more!!!


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