Newly married and freshly hungover we spent the next day recovering, exploring the neighborhood, and celebrating the 4th of July.
Our merry group has started seeing some dents, though – some planned, others accidental, but all were solely missed:
- brave Andy drove Nika across the desert back to LA to catch her morning flight to Russia to see her granny. And while there must have been a throw-up stop or two on the itinerary, his heroic feat the morning after could only call for applause.
- Cindy and Sean spent the next day recovering with drawn curtains and room service – their feats in the photo booth were definitely making themselves known in the bright light of the following day!…
- Olga and Sean of the Dead were going back to the Bay Area, but before they went the remaining gang met in Paris for a drink…
Now, a few words about Vegas topography. The Strip, which is the main happening place with all the big hotel/casinos and old Vegas downtown are two different places. Few people are familiar with the real downtown, unless they got married there (we did!). This is where all the chapels and other businesses working on Cupid call have their base of operations.
The Strip, on the other hand, is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. It hosts all the fake world sights – Paris, Venice, you name them, they are all there. It is considered en vogue to hate and despise Vegas for being phony, but just like the commercial side of the Valentine’s Day and Christmas, I actually found them attractive. The fake Venice and Paris we saw in Vegas were definitely cleaner, more compact and slightly less crowded versions of the originals. You can enjoy them both indoors and outdoors, complete with the canals and singing gondoliers (in Venice), and narrow streets and fancy bistros (in Paris).
On the way to Paris we observed a couple of typical local pastimes, that everywhere else in America apart from Vegas would have left people completely bewildered. Hordes of pedestrians were walking around sucking on what from a distance looked like big bongs, but upon closer inspection turned out to be extra large cocktail glasses, filled with disturbingly colorful icy concoctions. Public consumption of alcohol, just as indoor smoking, was apparently OK in Vegas. Another point in support of a theory that it’s not really a city, just a chain of interconnected Casinos.
Everybody who was not sucking on a oversized psychedelic cocktail was distributing porn ads. The elderly Chinese grandmas were especially skilled at flogging stacks of little business cards to unsuspecting passers buy. The cards showed a variety of naked women with invitations for a good time for all tastes and budgets and were especially popular with toddlers being dragged down the Strip by oversize moms. Prostitution, although frowned upon in Sin City proper, is absolutely legal in Nevada. So everything a lonely heart needs to do, is get out of the city border. For a couple extra bucks you can also be limoed out to the place of your choice.
In Paris, despite the excesses of last night and early morning promises to ourselves to keep it real today, we nipped into the wine (what else?), and spent an enjoyable couple of hours watching the world go by. After tearful hugs and good byes it was time for Olga and Sean of the Dead to get on the way – after all, they had about 8 hours of driving ahead of them till they reached home in Oakland. Fletch and Jane decided to throw some bucks onto the roulette table (to the best of my knowledge, they were the only ones who actually contributed to the gambling industry that trip), and together with Thomas our remaining trio started in the direction of the hotel. We admired the fountains of the Bellagio, got stuck in a people jam at the overpass bridge of the Cezars Palace, got warmed up by the volcano at the Mirage, and finally enjoyed the famous Vegas July 4th fireworks along with a couple other thousand people crammed into the Strip for the occasion.
Half an hour before that, though, a mysterious text message appeared on my phone, with “where are you, be there in 15 min” from Olga and Sean of the Dead. And we thought they were mid-way to San Francisco!… Turned out they made it out of Vegas, drove for an hour, then realised they were two idiots who were about to spend the evening of the 4th of July in the middle of nowhere without even a room service, turned the car around and came back. Just in time for the fireworks display!
The fireworks were OK. Not as fantastic as the rumors promised them to be, but still decent enough. What was memorable though, was how the Vegas police sealed the Strip to all sorts of traffic within 5 or so minutes, letting hordes of people flood into the street, but seemed to be utterly amazed at the fact that said crowds did not clear up in the same amount of time after the fireworks display was over…
Back at the hotel bar, the scene of so many late night vigils of the past couple of days, we once again repeated the tearful good byes, this one not only with Olga and Sean, but with the rest of the surviving gang as well (Cindy and Seattle Sean were still nowhere to be seen). The drinks program was repeated in a shorter version, as Fletch, Jane and Thomas had an early flight to catch, and Olga and Sean had all the good intentions of starting their drive back to Oakland as early as possible. We were intent on not repeating our mistake of being caught in Death Valley in midday heat, and planned to leave Vegas not later than 5 in the morning.