Saturday, July 21, 2007
That's what an elderly gentlemen asked me in Las Vegas this week as the two of us shared an elevator from the 10th floor at Harrah's. Of course, he asked me where I was from first, and when he was assured that he wouldn't offend a local, he let out his feelings about the week long 110 degree temperatures.
I had no answer for my fellow traveller. But it's an interesting question on more levels than mere thermometrics. I had a well-liked, outstanding employee leave my department to move to Vegas. So, a few thoughts from my recent trip.
First, I'm not a Vegas guy. I don't smoke, don't gamble, don't even drink much (although a nice Stoli martini up is hard for me to turn down). The heat is intense. Noise from slot machines is everywhere. Sad-looking humans on the streets outside pass out baseball-card-type invitations to strip clubs as you pass by. Maxim-type teaser billboards are everywhere, offering the promise of skin. Even otherwise appealing shows fall prey to this teaser mentality in their advertising: Toni Braxton-Revealed, with a provocative, hotel sized billboard. And finally, a guy I work with from England told me he'd now seen everything : A London-style red, open-topped doubledecker bus giving a tour of the city, hosted by, of all people , Elvis. Indeed, the city is a spectacle.
And that's what brings people to Las Vegas. It's as if PT Barnum's guiding hand hovers above the Vegas chessboard, with one masteful move after another. Even if you're not a Vegas-type, it's hard not to be impressed by the enormity of everything. By the determined persistence of the tease: Maybe you'll win... Maybe you'll see a wardrobe malfunction... maybe it won't be a malfunction... maybe you'll be able to eat all 57 different items on our buffet. Maybe. Or maybe you'll sit at a loser slot, 37 cigarettes in a row, bleary-eyed from the free drinks, pushing nickel after nickel into the slot. Maybe not. Maybe you really will win the $117,531.47 jackpot on cigarette 50. Wouldn't that be the lucky cigarette?
I have a hard time not walking around open-mouthed, gaping at people. You really do see all types: slick-dressed men and women, average Jane and John, portly Pete and Polly. But to me, what you can do in Vegas that you probably can't do anywhere else, is walk 100 yards from just about anywhere you happen to be standing and hear great music. This is great for the visitor to Vegas, who can pay big bucks to hear Celine or even Barry (of all people--I'm sure it's the steroids that keep his voice so mellow after all these years...), or you can walk into a bar and hear a small, local, fantastic band belt out cover tune after cover tune with perfection--in any style of music you can imagine. I heard a great band play at Toby Keiths Bar and Grill in Harrah's, and they weren't even the regular act. I tried to find out online who it is--they're not even listed. But they played country, folk, rock, oldies--the lead singer played guitar, piano and sang. Fantastic. And yet, because it wasn't TK himself, no one really appreciated them. Each tune would end with mild applause. Maybe people were distracted by the free shots, or the sexy bartenders, or monster plate of ribs. But I felt sorry for these guys as I was appreciating their music.
It's got to be tough for a band like that to play every day without real recogninition. Maybe it pays well. That would at least be a good thing. But if you're like me, and you're going to Vegas, that's what I would do: Walk around town, going into the hotel bars. You'll hear great music from bands that are trying like hell to make sure that you have a good time. If, by any remote chance, anyone performing in Vegas reads this, let me just say it: Thanks for making my trip worth the time.
Cheers to you,