Vegas : Deadwood in the Sin City
What would I do in Las Vegas? Gamble? Naah. Lady Luck doesn't smile too often
on me and I sure did not want to see slot machines gobbling my hard-earned money.
Booze? Water is my favorite drink and not a drop of alcohol runs in my genes.
Showgirls? I am straight so those never-ending legs and voluptuousness spilling
out of the skimpiest of clothes do nothing to me. Sleaze? It draws a blank in
my rather virginal vocabulary.
for Las Vegas?" My friends smirked, I could read sneer in their crooked smile.
"What a waste! You'll be such a deadwood there." There came another
Ha! Deadwood in the Sin City! A waste
in the City of Sleaze! I fought these epithets bravely, but when I sat in silence
and thought about it, I conceded defeat. They were right. What would I do in Las
Vegas? Gamble? Naah. Lady Luck doesn't smile too often on me and I sure did not
want to see slot machines gobbling my hard-earned money. Booze? Water is my favorite
drink and not a drop of alcohol runs in my genes. Showgirls? I am straight so
those never-ending legs and voluptuousness spilling out of the skimpiest of clothes
do nothing to me. Sleaze? It draws a blank in my rather virginal vocabulary.
why was I going? I was going, so I would go, I thumped. Before I drove the first
mile I did make an effort to get rid of the deadwood image - I had my niece braid
my hair, I fished out my stockings, pulled my mules and slinky tops, shrugged
aside my hermit-like stance, slid Lionel Richie in the car's music system and
exhaled! Las Vegas, here I come.
Las Vegas is definitely
not a morning city; while the sun is there it lies dead and deserted. And I am
only talking about the 3.5 mile stretch that is the real Vegas - opulent hotels
with breathtaking facades are lined up on both sides, there's the world's tallest
free-standing structure, the largest gift shop, the biggest bill board, the highest
roller coaster, a volcano spitting lava and pirates on the prowl; just about everything
is catchy and makes your head turn. During the day, Vegas lives the night's hangover
- there are pamphlets of sleazy shows stomped by thousands of footfalls, there
are men in daze and hotel employees hurrying home, fountains looking tired after
all the night's work and showgirls out of skimpy clothes and into something that
covers their beautiful toned bodies.
When in Vegas, the
best thing to do is to turn your body clock upside down. Sleep during the day,
as I did. And when I peeped out of my 13th floor $ 20 a night room, I thought
of gangster Bugsy Seigel. Think 1945, think Vegas. It was then just an ordinary
small town living its ordinariness in a desert, till gangster Bugsy gave it the
first touch of makeover by constructing the its first hotel-casino. Hotel Flamingo
opened in 1945 and that moment changed the character of Vegas forever. Without
him, Vegas would have continued to be an ordinary toad that never turned into
When evening came, sleep and the thought of
Bugsy deserted me. The neon lights were calling and I rearranged my braids, squeezed
into my slinky top, slid into my mules, jingled some coins in my purse and took
to the streets. I started walking on the famous strip, amused by the interplay
of glitz and mimicry everywhere - Hotel Paris Las Vegas has a huge replica of
the Eiffel Tower, the Luxor resort has a 10-storied Great Sphinx and 30-storied
Egyptian pyramid, Mandalay Bay looks straight out of a Disney movie, while the
MGM Grand has a real lion in a glass cage. Rivers have been carved in the desert
for the gondoliers and a shopping mall has an artificial morning sky for a roof
- there's never darkness there, the lobby of Hotel Bellagio has a ceiling decked
with glass flowers and yes, there are those beautiful dancing fountains. When
they dance on the hour, they look like swirling ballerinas. That perhaps is the
most beautiful sight in Vegas.
My eyes were soon tired
with the innumerable eye candies so I decided to play some games. In Circus Circus,
I tried dismantling cans in one stroke and throwing hoops around tiny gifts. There
were people clutching tens of toys as prizes, I just managed a little brown monkey.
And when I went gambling, I could hear coins jingling out of several slots, I
made a $ 2.50 with a 25 cents investment. Hey not bad! That's 10 times the investment.
What if I had put a $100 bill? Imagine 10 times that! The greedier I got the stingier
the slot machine became. I came out of the casino poorer by $ 10 and vowed never
to enter one again.
As I walked out of the casino I bumped
into a turbaned swami who was predicting the tomorrows for 50 cents. Okay, he
was not real, it was an automated swami caged in what resembled a vending machine.
I slid 50 cents, the swami mumbled something. I could not figure out my tomorrow
because whatever the swami uttered seemed Greek or garbled or both.
this time my stomach was growling and headed straight into a restaurant that was
offering a buffet dinner for $ 10. Inside there were people pigging on so much
food that it would have fed a hungry nation; the spread was not only lavish the
choices were mind-boggling - boiled sweet corn, rice in orange sauce, grilled
meat, steamed prawns, octopus salad, smoked salmon
. I lost count. I fed
on garlic bread and macaroni and soon could feel the eyelids drooping. It was
well past midnight; Las Vegas was just about warming up. My legs were giving away
and my eyes were squinting with the lights. There were showgirls in another corner
But I walked back, loosened my braids and curled up in a Queen's bed. And no,
I did not dream of sleaze.
Perhaps my friends were
right. Maybe I was deadwood in the Sin City! A waste in the City of Sleaze! Maybe.
in Sun magazine, March 2005