Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Texting Level: Expert

A couple weeks ago I was in Las Vegas. My friend Kristin, who lives in New York, texted me via picture message and asked how my vacation was going. The following is a transcript of our conversation as it happened.


Kristin always has the best advice. I haven't had sex with a single shark since she told me not to.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

5 Reasons to Avoid The Las Vegas Strip

I don't watch Exteme Couponing. I don't think I'll ever stoop that low. But I get it. I'm a sucker for a deal. Every morning I wake up to emails from Groupon, LivingSocial, and dozens of other discount websites. I love to feel like I'm saving money, even at the cost of buying things I don't need or use or even particularly want. About a month ago I received an email from Jetblue advertising reduced rates on flights, and the roundtrip fare from Portland to Las Vegas was outstandingly low. "That could be fun," I thought. Oh, how wrong I was.

After spending a week in Las Vegas, I can say without a doubt that I'd rather rub fiberglass in my eyes than set foot on the strip again. There are several reasons for this.

1. Everything in Las Vegas is Fake

Vegas is structured like a theme park, if the theme was "disgusting." It's like walking around Disneyland, only all the wholesome, beloved Disney mascots have been transformed into drunk sluts and bros drenched in Axe body spray.


All the big casinos and attractions are consolidated to one stretch of land, and after a mile or two it just ends. One afternoon I walked all the way down Las Vegas Boulevard, and after a few miles I found myself smack dab in the middle of nothing. A tumbleweed rolled by my feet and I was reminded that I was in the middle of the desert. Behind me, the strip shimmered like an oasis, except it's the opposite of an oasis, where instead of water and camels they have Jose Cuervo and staph infections.


2. Vegas is Geographically Confusing

The strip is crowded, and I have a shitty sense of direction as it is. There are dozens of pedestrian walkways and overpasses, so it was impossible for me to walk down the strip without getting lost. To make matters worse, many of the large casinos are connected by meandering strip malls full of expensive boutiques, like some glitzy Underground Railroad.


I lose my way so easily and it's always frustrating. I remember watching Labyrinth as a kid, and even that experience was mildly exhausting for me. I just wanted Jennifer Connelly to find her goddamned way and save me the two hours of dancing puppets. Las Vegas was a pretty similar experience.


3. Everyone is Trying to Sell You Something

If you somehow manage to keep your bearings while maneuvering the strip, you'll still be harassed by a constant barrage of salesmen, amateur musicians, and "entrepreneurs." Dudes are trying to sell you club passes or mixtapes they burned on their laptops, or handing out cards advertising hookers social companions at discounted rates.


The folks handing out the ho trading cards are by far the worst distraction in Vegas, because there seem to be hundreds of them. They abjectly flap these cards in your face featuring ladies who will apparently show up to your hotel room for a nominal fee and entertain you. With trashy names and stars arbitrarily covering up their naughty bits, they glare forth like super sexy Pokemon. Gonorrheachu. Hepatitisaur. Chlamydiotto. Take your pick.


Ironically, the dudes selling their homemade rap albums on CDR's mostly ignored me, figuring I wouldn't be interested. Joke's on them, because if there's one thing I would have shelled out cash for it's poorly recorded homebrew hip hop.

4. Everything Being Sold is Outrageously Expensive

I wouldn't be suckered into $45 club passes or crazy-hot, totally disease-free hookers, but I wasn't able to starve myself for a week in protest of exorbitant food costs. After a few days of eighteen dollar spicy tuna rolls and $24 scrambled eggs, I decided to try my luck at my hotel's buffet. I figured I'd have a more satisfying meal when more options were present, but after a twenty dollar entrance fee I was met with stale bagels and cold pancakes.

I normally take umbrage with buffets and I should've trusted my gut this time and steered clear. I'm a man of few convictions, but buffets just seem crass to me when people are starving in other countries. I think about it this way: if Americans learned there was a country somewhere where people paid a modest fee to browse through a buffet of Apple products, we'd all lose our shit over the profound injustice.


Ok, maybe comparing America's material obsession with shiny technology to the plight of African famine babies isn't really a sensible comparison. I'm just saying, buffets are pretty terrible, and it's obnoxious to throw away perfectly good food just because you want to fill a new plate. You wouldn't do that to a MacBook or an iPod.


I finished my old crusty bagel on principle, because I care about Africa.

5. Las Vegas is an Awful Representation of America

...or perhaps it's the purest representation of America. It depends on who you talk to. I prefer to have faith in the American Dream™, and pray that Vegas isn't it. Wandering around the strip, it struck me how many different languages I was hearing. I'm not one to criticize someone else's choice in vacation destination, but if you come to the US and Las Vegas is the one place you visit, I'm concerned about what impression you'll take away about America.


Tourists are stationed about every 10 feet, always in the center of the sidewalk, oblivious to the foot traffic maneuvering around them, snapping photos of casinos, neon signs, street performers, bushes, rocks, the sky, everything. I saw one lady taking pictures of things with her iPad, which I don't even have words to express my feelings about.


The ordeal lasted a week but it felt like I was trapped in Nevada for a year. I've never been so happy to be home in Portland. Of course, I came back with a cold, and as of writing this I'm a drippy, congested mess. In the back of my mind I'm afraid it's more than just a cold. Since I caught it in Vegas, I have a sneaking suspicion it's some virulent strain of airborne hepatitis. I guess what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas.