Tag Archives: travel

las vegas

Las Vegas, Where Everything Is Authentically Fake.

By: Chris Warren.

I just got back from my very first trip to Las Vegas and it was the satisfaction of a curiosity that had been nagging at me for a long time. Las Vegas is more than anything a place where nothing is what it seems, and that is exactly why I’m looking forward to going back.

If you are destined to gamble away every cent you have, then you may never get out of the airport. As we stepped off the jetway the very first thing that greeted us was a row of slot machines. Going the other way, the airport slots give you that one last chance to leave town as a millionaire. That scene was only the beginning of the aura of wealth and success that Las Vegas plants into the mind of every single visitor no matter how modest their means.

As our cab pulled up to the casino-resort-hotel (they all triple bill themselves that way) the first thing that hit me was the both the opulence and the size. Casino-resort-hotels are built with huge, palatial architecture, finely appointed with artwork, fountains, luxurious furniture. The size of these places is hard to overstate. Just being there makes ordinary folk like me feel rich.

That is the psychology of Las Vegas. They want guests to feel above their means because it makes them more inclined to spend money above their means. They do a brilliant job of pulling off the con. Everywhere we went, attendants in neat uniforms were holding doors open for us, handing us towels, offering us drinks. Every detail was addressed. One barely has to even do much walking to get around Las Vegas: I think there are more shuttle buses and taxis than there are private cars.

We took a walk over to the The Venetian, a casino with an old world Italian theme that features an actual indoor canal with gondola boats. The ceiling was convincingly painted to look like a blue sky. It’s easy to forget that you’re really in the middle of a desert. These illusions are repeated all over town. There is a fake Eiffel Tower. A Fake Statue of Liberty. A fake Roman Coliseum. Hundreds of fake Elvis’ and probably thousands of ladies who are, uhhmmm, technically not ladies, if you know what I mean.

Las Vegas is the world capital of fake-ness, but they aren’t liars: Las Vegas never claimed to be the real deal. Heck, they even have a casino-resort-hotel named The Mirage. They loudly celebrate being fake. Of course, deep inside no one believes anything there is real. Yet, that’s the attraction. The idea that everyone will strike it rich is the the biggest fake of all and the source of funding for all that feigned opulence. Las Vegas is so good at what they do they still earn very huge, very real profits even after coving all the overhead costs of the fake stuff.

I never gambled a cent the whole time I was there but I had a terrific time in Las Vegas and definitely want to go back again. I too can be swayed by the allure of fake. Las Vegas is the only place in the world where an average dude like me can feel like a globe-trotting aristocrat for a few days. I am well aware that all those grand Roman columns and statues are made of Fiberglas. And yes, I know that Eiffel Tower is off by about 5400 miles. In Las Vegas, the fake is real, but the hospitality and kindness of the locals, and the good vibe that comes from just being there, is the genuine article.

Lessons From A Dixie Trip.

By: Chris Warren

I’m on a layover at the Atlanta, Georgia airport (ATL), one short plane ride away from beautiful Florida where I’m headed to visit a guy I’ve been close friends with since we were teenagers. Where I’m from, the winters are long and rough. Florida is a welcome treat; I’ve been looking forward to this trip for months. I’ll be crashing at my friend’s house, so I don’t have to pay for a hotel or a rental car. Time off in a warm, comfortable place and it won’t even cost me much money…it’s as good of a deal as I’m going to get without packing up and moving there.

In addition to the excitement of seeing my friend, this trip will expose me to people different than what I’m used to at home. It’s easy to think that everyone all across the USA is mostly the same, but I’ve been to places that made me forget that I was still in my own country. There have been moments when I had to remind myself that I didn’t need a passport to get there and these people were just as American as myself. Even within my home state, there are areas a world apart from where I live.

Now in Pensacola, I am in a part of the state that is more “Southern” than “Florida” in the way outsiders imagine these things (the Alabama border is less than a twenty minute drive). This is Dixie in spirit if not geography. There is a real Civil War-era fort on the gulf shore just a few miles away. The customer lounge at Jiffy Lube has Bibles as reading material. The convenience stores sell fresh boiled peanuts. And I must, must, must, have breakfast at an ubiquitous culinary icon of the South: Waffle House (there are sixteen of them in the Pensacola area alone). If you order iced tea and and don’t specify sweet or unsweet, you out yourself as being from, well, not here. It’s ok, though. The locals will smile and gently guide you through the protocol. Southern congeniality…it’s not a stereotype when it’s actually true. These people are sincerely nice.

Travel is not something I’m very interested in. I’ll seldom go somewhere just for the fun of going and if my friend did not live in Florida, I’d probably never come here. I may not be excited by the idea of boiled peanuts and oil change evangelism, but the value of wandering and witnessing firsthand how others live is not lost on me. Aside from my jealousy of the mild weather and being left speechless over what Southerners think is “good pizza,” things around here are not shockingly different than life in my own end of this great land. USA2EDIT

The buddy I’m here to visit knows a lot about acclimating to different people and customs: He originally came from Vietnam via Indonesia, lived in Illinois for many years, then went to Seattle, Washington for a short run, and is now a US citizen firmly planted in Pensacola. My learning curve was more straightforward: I’ve been on numerous treks stretched over a decade or so to see him, and once I stopped trying so hard to understand the South, the lightbulb went on in my head. If one looks for only differences, then understanding will never come. It’s like a Venn diagram where none of the circles overlap. I first had to seek out similarities and use that as a starting point to appreciate the differences.

As soon as I ended my preoccupation with being a stranger in these parts, the differences didn’t seem like all that big of a deal. We are America, after all. There may be many different color threads, but they are all part of the same piece of cloth. That is where the Venn diagram intersects. When someone from Dixie stops by my neighborhood, I’m going to offer them a slice of real pizza and hope they will see how much they are welcome in my part of the circle.