What comes to mind when you think of Vegas? The Strip with it’s parade of casinos, bright lights, the clang of slot machines, high rollers flanked by half clad women, drunken monkey business, girly shows, escorts and Elvis ? That’s what I always thought of Vegas. Or you think of new Vegas with it’s extreme makeover face lift that caters to families with it’s kids clubs, circuses, family shows, and carnival-esque attractions. Well, it doesn’t quite live up to either well-crafted image.
Brendon and I headed down to Vegas for the Cirque du Soleil “O” show, a Phish concert, and a weekend of debauchery; well as much as two straight, married kids can have without getting divorced or thrown in jail. So you can guess we scratched half of those old Vegas clichés off the list, and went with the new Vegas to-do list. You don’t have to sin to enjoy Vegas nowadays, right? I think the jury is still out on that one.
I will have to say right off the bat that Vegas needs to learn something from Disney. Everyone who visits Disney gets a moment with Mickey. Now who is Vegas’ equivalent to Mickey? Elvis. Some would argue that it’s showgirl, a celebrity sighting or winning money, but I prefer Elvis. And I did not have my Elvis moment. First of all the only “Elvis” that Brendon and I saw was this atrocious looking, dancing Asian mannequin dressed up as “Elvis the Mason” way out at the Hoover Dam. Second of all, the only other Elvis to be seen were people on the strip wearing the fake Elvis sunglasses/sideburns get up. I guess if I want to have my Elvis moment I need to plan my next trip during the Elvis convention. But did have a celebrity moment – Jessica Simpson was shopping at Bebe in the Venetian.
Another misconception that I had from all the movies and CSI was that the hotels/casinos would be right on top of each other. One or two are right next to each other, but the rest are pretty spaced out and require about a 5 minute walk to get from one to the next. So it was no surprise to see the enormously long queues for taxis outside every hotel. But being the city girl that I am, I wasn’t going to take a taxi just to get to a few blocks down the road. And I have the gaping red blisters to prove it.
As for the smut and family atmospheres, there was neither extreme and only a smattering of each. Most of the smut was confined to the escort flyers that were being passed out on the street corners and the random escort billboard. And the family atmosphere was almost tongue in cheek. You could go shopping, but majority of the stores are for adults. And most likely the other mall patrons are drunk and sucking back a margarita. Or you could go to the circus, but even that is on too late and is a bit too sophisticated for kids to enjoy. God help the parent that takes their teenager to Zumanity. But with the kids clubs aside, all other kid attractions like the arcades and roller coasters are really for the child inside the adult. They have to be, otherwise they’d be unused the majority of the time.
So this dichotomy in perception and reality of Vegas raises the question for me, are we as writers required to portray a setting exactly as it is, or are we allowed the creative freedom to warp it into what we want it to be? You could argue it either way. There are excellent creative works out there based in settings where the author has never been, and I’m not talking about speculative fiction here. And you know that those authors had to be very creative to imagine what their setting is like. But to some extent it has to be real. You can’t have the Eiffel Tower next door to the Louvre (spelling of this museum by the way is not in the MSWord dictionary). But if I need to have a boulangerie just down the road from either of those places then I should have the creative freedom to do so. I suppose it all depends on what your main goal is – inform or entertain. You can have a mix of both, should have a mix of both, but in the end a work of fiction has to entertain in order to be successful.
So I suppose one thing that I got out of Vegas, seeing as I didn’t win any money, is that I should try to remain true to the atmosphere or wherever I’m setting my story. And when going to a city that’s been built up in my mind by movies and television, I should take it all in with a grain of salt. Because by the time I get around to visiting, it sure isn’t going to be anything like what I thought it was going to be.
Next time I’m there I’ll be armed with sneakers to avoid major blisters from all the walking. I’ll check out a “tribute show” to get my moment with Elvis. And I’ll take in a traditional Vegas show.
Now what did I like about Vegas? That’s for my next blog entry.