Once upon a time a wide-eyed southern woman went to Las Vegas for the first time…… doesn’t that sound like it needs a punch line or it should be a limerick, a la “there was a lady from Knoxville/who went to America’s Sin-ville…..”

OK, it’s never been a place that I’ve longed to see — not like the streets of Paris, London or Cardiff, yet when my brothers proposed a trip to one of their favorite destinations, I was curious. So this past weekend, I left my husband and babies and headed for Nevada.

Just a note to the airports, as you’re doing a final boarding call, the Musak probably shouldn’t have the love theme from “Titanic” on a repeat loop. It fit though as we plunged through the rain clouds into the Charlotte airport, the water roiling sideways on the windows. I have to say I love those little planes so much more than the gigantic sardine can for the longer flight to Vegas.

The boys had decided I needed to be spoiled as a late birthday present. So, first I have to give an enormous thank you to them. They made sure that all I had to do was have fun for the entire weekend — sleep, not so much 🙂 . That’s not a big deal, as sleep usually takes too much time. 😉 A friend of mine asked, now that I’m back, what did I think of the town?

I’m a green and leafy, waterfalls and woods kind of girl, so the landscape was intensely different for me. Everything looked scraped from the lunar surface and wildly arid. I’m not quite sure I feel completely hydrated yet…. My gosh, though, as you flew in and then drove near those rocks they looked raw and new. The natural landscape contrasted dynamically with Las Vegas Blvd. The new Strip with all its famous casinos: Bellagio, Mirage, Excalibur, Luxor and the Venetian — bits and pieces of fantasy dropped into the desert. We walked the entire length and took a cab down to the seedier and more intimate old Strip — the casinos where the Rat Pack idled their golden hours.

It’s a PG-13 Disney World, with grown-ups earnestly playing games, dressing up and enjoying all sorts of rides. Even the Chippendale dancers wandering around, hyping their “Thunder Down Under” show (OK, it makes me giggle) were buffed and polished as they grabbed me from my brothers for a photo op…. they weren’t so much sexy as they were mischievous. Even as these oiled/ripped Ken dolls danced me forward, we grinned at each other knowing I wouldn’t be buying into the “Barbie Dream Fantasy” they were selling. I slipped away laughing as they turned toward a tipsy bride-to-be and her bachelor-ettes on a binge.

I’m so not a slot girl, though they were everywhere, whirling and dinging….. however, I did enjoy the cheap Blackjack tables in old Vegas — you meet the neatest people at them. There was an older woman from Hawaii who was delighted that I knew the northern route around the Big Island. She said most people follow the southern way and it’s not as lush. Then I swear the other guy at the table looked up and said, “I’m from the OC, dude.” Ms. Hawaii looked confused, and the guy continued in a “duh” kind of voice, “Orange County.” Of course, he meant CA, but one of the neat things about my brothers is they tend to puncture pomposity rather well, so I watched as Jim turned to Mr. Coolness and inquired, “you’re from NC too? We have some friends down in Orange County,” in his broadest Southern accent.

After a surfeit of gambling, we wandered along the Strip and through the resorts shopping and people-watching. It was truly strange, all the headlines were of the financial debacle and yet…. there was no recession along Las Vegas Blvd. We wandered through the resort, receiving drinks along the way — which definitely seemed a plausible marketing strategy. Unfortunately, I made my brothers suffer a small bit — I wanted to ride the gondola, I know it was a little cheesy…. but the gondolier had been born in Venice and he sang for us as we floated along the manufactured canal with it’s painted starry sky and shiny, new-old facade.

The guys saved my biggest treat for last. You can’t read this blog without getting the hint that I love music — so imagine my delight when we got to attend a performance of the Broadway musical, “Jersey Boys.” It’s a retrospective of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and it rocked from beginning to end. It won the 2006 Tony for Best Musical and as one of the reviewers commented, “it was intensely satisfying.” I was wiggling in my seat from the opening act — Chris always laughs because even after all these years, even as a professional scholar/mom of 2 — I can’t do the ever-so bored, it-was-merely-adequate approach. It was fun! Afterwards, I think I danced through the casino, waving bye to the boys who wanted to play a little more and causing the security guard to want to have a loong conversation. He said he doesn’t usually have people smiling at him at 2 in the morning. It turns out he’ll be going to the show this weekend — so he was psyched by my review.

So, would I go back? Not so much for the gambling. But, I’d love to show the kids the nature, those naked mountains and shifting desert — and the fantasyland growing from the middle of it…

vegas vibes: Luck be a Lady (from Guys & Dolls, strangely, I love Brando’s version — he’s trying sooo hard); You Gotta Sin to Get Saved (Maria McKee); Working My Way Back to You (the Four Seasons); With a Little Luck (Wings); Wild Night (Van Morrison, although the John Mellencamp version kicks butt); Wicked Time (Joss Stone, from the Alfie soundtrack); 1 2 3 4 (Feist); Walk on the Wild Side (Lou Reed); Viva Las Vegas (Elvis, of course, but check out the Grascals duet with Dolly Parton); Summer in the City (Regina Spektor); The Lady is a Tramp (Lena Horne does an incredible take); One Night (of Sin) (Corinne Bailey Rae); Sunday Kind of Love (Renee Olstead); Stay (check out Cyndi Lauper); Can’t Take My Eyes off of You (Lauryn Hill); Frank & Ava (Suzanne Vega); and (Oh, What a Night) December, 1963 (the Four Seasons)

There is as much risk in doing nothing as in doing something. –> Trammell Crow

Take care,

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