America, May 26, 2004
No shows, no stars, still all fun
I'm walking on downtown Vegas's Fremont Street and the 'Experience' is stopping me in my tracks. On the underside of a giant awning spanning four city blocks is a light show like no other I've seen. From one end to the its the world's largest electric sign radiating down so brightly that I'm temped to break out shades.|
That way I could keep my 'night eyes' that are needed for the best old-school casino in Vegas: Binion's Horseshoe Casino. Once home to a million-dollar horseshoe, sold recently to cover debts, Binion's still has the dark decor and deep smoke that comes to mind with the term 'Vegas Casino".
Now new casinos like the Bellagio and Mandalay Bay outside downtown, on the Strip do have flash and cash, but for me, no soul. They're designed to be clean and safe, perfect for grandmas from Iowa, who were out on the Strip in record numbers.
Not since senior discount days in Florida have I seen so many blue-hairs elbowing for a second helping at the buffet. A second helping none of them needed. With easy-fit elastic pants I watched in awe as waves of comfortable shoes rushed the seafood section, gorging on rubbery frozen shrimp and tasteless tuna sushi.
And that kinda defines the Vegas Strip in my mind. Like a cheap buffet promising good food yet delivering quantity versus quality, the big tri-foil hotels look impressive from afar, but when you knock on the walls, as I did often, you find plastic not marble.
It is downtown, on Freemont Street that I find soul. Here you can feel the hope, the want, and the desperation that made this oasis in the desert. I can also easily find trouble, as the downtown doesn't have the security through space that the Strip's oversized lots afford.
I can't find sleep thou as this is my last night in Vegas and I'm due for a modern joy, a red-eye back to my own DC job-hunt reality. But before that its time for a few more hands and some good schooling at Texas Hold'em poker.
This time I'm gonna do the teaching, with an expensive lesson on how my three queens can beat your pair of aces or his pair of kings and take all y'alls lunch money, wanna-be Vegas high-rollers!