Driving Away from the Dust Storm Towards the Wildfire
On Friday night, Mariah and Harry walked up and down the Las Vegas strip together for a while which gave Mariah a fairly good sense of the nightlife scene in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Sarah and I took a cab away from the center of things to a James Beard Foundation awarded Thai restaurant filled to the brim with young local residents. It was a satisfying evening for all.
The Bellagio boasts a Dale Chihuly glass lobby ceiling (titled: Flori di Como) that contains more than 2,000 individually hand-blown glass flower sculptures. It is massive. Though the individual flowers were beyond beautiful, when crowded together much of the the beauty was lost. I feel about that lobby ceiling, as I feel about the Bellagio as a whole, and the entire city of Las Vegas. It is too big, too noisy, too gaudy, too in your face, too messy, too vulgar, too crowded, too ostentatious, too pushy, too unhealthy, too cheap, too artificial, too pathetic, too desperate and too everything else.
Las Vegas is so not my cup of tea.
Paradoxically, Mariah, Sarah and I planned to have afternoon tea together at the Petrossian Lounge in the Bellagio yesterday afternoon. We read about their high tea service months ago. It was advertised as an ideal family friendly activity. It turns out, however, that a newish Nevada State law prohibits anyone under the age of 21 to enter a bar, even if that anyone is with her mother just having a midday pot of tea accompanied by small overpriced sandwiches and desserts. So no afternoon tea. (We had gelato, instead.)
Slot machines, Poker, Baccarat, Roulette, Craps, and Blackjack are legal in Nevada. Enormous billboards with scantily clad girls on them advertising adult escorts that will come to your room in 15 minutes is legal in Nevada. Betting on everything and anything is legal in Nevada. But drinking a cup of tea at age 15 in a location that also serves alcohol is illegal. They have standards to maintain in Nevada. After all, it also illegal to use the same plate more than one time at an all you can eat buffet in Nevada.
Mariah, Sarah, Harry and I watched the water in the Bellagio fountains dance from up in our room on the twenty-fourth floor. We visited their Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and walked around the casino a few times. We marveled at the constant level of drinking, partying and gambling that occurred all morning, afternoon and night by the unending hoards of people. Harry and I pointed out to the girls that all casinos are built without windows or clocks to reduce visual cues reminding guests of the passage of time.
In the late afternoon, Harry left for his flight back to Boston, and the girls and I prepared to drive to our next stop, midway to San Diego. As we loaded up our car at the Bellagio, the valet told us about the recent news. A wildfire was raging in California at the Cajon Pass which separates the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountain ranges. As we began our drive, we learned that the fire was uncontrolled and spread over more than 3,000 acres. Interstate 15, on which we needed to travel between Las Vegas and our destination was closed as the fire imperiled homes and vehicles. We made a few telephone calls and changed reservations immediately to a hotel between Las Vegas and the impacted area. Before checking-in, we stopped in a small town en route to see the world’s largest thermometer (registering 100 degrees at the time of our visit) and a very odd store that featured alien paraphernalia. These stops seemed important at the time.
As we returned to our car, less than ten minutes later, our phones all buzzed with an emergency warning notifying us that the area where we were standing was at imminent risk for dangerous dust storms. We fled the dust storms, drove towards our replacement hotel (in the direction of the fire) and checked into our room. We were very lucky to have called ahead to secure the room as the lobby was filled with agitated and disappointed travelers unable to either continue on their way or obtain lodging. We are hoping the fire fighters, residents, and travelers in the area of the fire are safe. We hope today is a much less exciting day.