I enjoy Vegas but not for the gambling or the shows or any of that. I enjoy it's world class people watching, I enjoy the food, I enjoy it's energy of corruption and yes, I enjoy the hedonistic vibe. I've been going since the 80's, mostly for conventions and as a jumping off point for hiking trips in Utah and Arizona. I've only been there for strictly vacation purposes a few times. My wife's 50th, a bachelor party trip and a one time, solo three day layover on the way to culinary training in Napa. Vegas is constantly evolving. Over the time I've been visiting I've seen it go from Sin City to Sin City with the Family back to Sin City and now it seems like it's Sin City 2.0 with special add-ons; those being the less Mortal of the Deadly Sins - Gluttony and the uniquely American Sin of Consumerism. Vegas is now one of the culinary hubs of the world - any famous chef worth his salt has a restaurant (we call them "properties" in our business) in Vegas. Same goes for upscale retailers and major International Brands. Versace, Hermes, Coach, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Armani, Chanel, etc. They are all there and they are everywhere. Vegas is becoming a shopping Mecca, supplanting Rodeo Drive, Mall of America, Fifth Ave and any other Hive of Shopping in America you can name. What the world has to offer in consumer goods Vegas has in concentrated form contained in an 8 mile radius surrounding the Strip, Fremont Street, The Fashion Show Mall and the International World Outlet Center.
I'm always a little unsettled by the amount of money floating around when I first arrive in Vegas. This time I had a monetary out of body experience while buying a $5 toothbrush on the first morning there. Along with the outrage and shock of paying 5 bucks for a toothbrush at Walgreen's, I was further shocked when the guy at the register next to me plunked down 2 grand for a new laptop like he was buying a pack of cigarettes. And yeah, they had laptops at Walgreen's - it's Vegas, you sell anything, anywhere. This was 6 in the morning and I was approaching being awake for 24 hours by this time, which is something else I do in Vegas - not sleep. My former SousChef and now newly minted Banquets and Catering Chef was with me. He had never been to Vegas. Even though the counter person didn't bat an eye at the laptop purchase, my convention partner and Vegas newbie, Josh, couldn't help but say something.
"Dude! You're buying a laptop at Walgreen's?"
The guy peered at Josh with a look of friendliness tinged by a hint of disdain. It's a look you get a lot of in Vegas from the truly heavy weight hustlers you run across.
"Yeah, my old one took a puke down at the sports bet and I need to have one for the afternoon races."
"But its two grand."
"Yeah, now I'm only up 22 grand." And he grinned like Satan barbecuing babies.
Josh looked at me in gawping shock. I smiled big enough to hurt.
"I love Vegas."
Another thing I like about Vegas is the Casinos on the Strip. Some, like the MGM Grand, Wynn, Riviera, and Treasure Island are casinos that happen to have hotels wrapped around them. Others, like the Venetian, the Bellagio and our hotel, the Cosmopolitan, are actual, huge grand hotels that just happen to contain casinos.
Our chef's convention, for whatever reason, was booked in the newest place on the Strip - The Cosmopolitan. Perhaps you've seen the commercials on TV. It's a hotel specifically targeted for the younger crowd. From my perspective of a 55 year old aging hipster, it was a delightfully weird hotel with a Goth/Matrix theme full of 20-something party girls and their douchebag paramours. Their were the Italian Guido douchebags, the Persian douchebags, the Asian douchebags and the Hustler Hip-Hop Brother douchebags. The girls were non-descript and interchangeable hoochies with no delineation from each other. Whereas the GUYS all had their separate style identity, the girls all looked very much like they were taking their stylistic cues from Maxim magazine and the BET channel. This didn't bother me so much as the little accessory obsessions did. I am so over the baseball hat turned backward, sideways, flip up thing. The bill perfectly straight preferably with the hologram UPC sticker still attached. Bad tattoos. Japanese kanji and barbed wire bicep bracelets for the guys and tramp stamps and ankle tats for the girls. Ugh. Sheath dresses with nothing underneath but perhaps a thong seemed to be de rigueur for the girls. And sky high stilettos. Some things don't change.
Of course, Josh was in his Glory, ogling every girl that flounced past him even though he has a wedding looming with the Love of His Life in December. All I saw was my daughter, the Z-Girl, wrapped around some gorilla tricked out like the rapper Pitbull and reeking of Axe. Disconcerting doesn't come close to covering it. That said, I delighted in the occasional Grey Panther that glided by me, usually attached to some corporate, high roller drone, on their way to the Roulette or Craps or Cirque du Soleil show VIP section. Their were a few unattached women of a certain age wandering the casino, but I had no time to discover if they were pros trolling for guys like me, or just there for the Gambling Jones or there attending the convention. I had to remain focused on keeping Josh from going off the rails and I had some certifications I had to attain before I left. Opportunities for a Vegas tete a tete would have to wait for another time. I would be back again soon, with no obligations. And then we will see what we will see.
I love Vegas.
Next: Fremont Street, Las Vegas - Hell's Pre-Registration