Viva (in a meh sort of way) Las Vegas

AGMA’s been busy.

Babysitting duty with the WG (wild grands) and climbing out of the winter doldrums has been keeping me on my toes.

And of course there was that 2nd COVID shot.

It went down easy, but I had a Moderna hangover the next day for about 9 hours. Nausea, the sweats, headache, chills, and total exhaustion. Holy crap – if that was just a very tiny taste of what a mild case of COVID is like, then OMG… I should have been triple masking and bathing in hand sanitizer this past year!

I am so very grateful I managed to keep it off my dance card.

And with the 2nd shot in my arm, AGMA did what AGMA does, but hasn’t done in a very long time.

I got in an airplane 3 days later. Destination – Vegas Baby!

Yes – I know I wasn’t full protected because my 2 weeks wasn’t up, but I had made the CHEAP airline and hotel reservations back in January as a birthday gift for Hubs. And I wasn’t about to cancel yet another trip now that we both had our 2 jabs.

Besides, I figured, how crowded could Vegas be? Everybody – except Florida and Texas – was still sort of hunkered down and only old farts were getting the vaccine, so at most, it would be a lot of blue hairs.

AGMA was pretty wrong about that.

It was WAAAAYYYY more crowded than anyplace should be while a pandemic is still raging.

And it wasn’t just blue hairs. The vast majority of folks were Millennials with some GenZers mixed in. And lots of these people brought their kids.

To Vegas. During a pandemic.

OMG.

The trip can best be described as fun with a large dose of weirdly surreal thrown in.

It was strange being in the airport, flying in the airplane, renting a car, checking into the hotel, going to casinos, and being on the strip…

It was clear everybody wanted everything to be back to normal. It just wasn’t.

We wanted the freedom to see some of the cool areas outside of Vegas, so I arranged to rent a car. When I booked it back in January, AGMA thought $50 a day was really steep for Vegas. Back in the day, you could rent a car for like $15 a day.

Turns out, we got a super bargain. People renting at the counter without a reservation were paying $120 a day.

Nope.

We stayed a the Hard (to like) Rock Hotel.

This was not one of AGMA’s best decisions. I was lured in by the low price (relatively) and large rooms. I think the room was $39 a night BUT now everybody gets charged a “resort fee” of around $40 a night. It’s for the pool (it was too chilly to swim) and the internet (you could only connect 2 devices before you have to shell out another $14.99) and other “resorty” stuff that I never figured out.

Our room was indeed big with a HUGE bathroom, but it was some what bland and soul-less.

The hotel parking garage was (and I kid you not!) 1/3rd of a mile walk from the hotel. We had to walk through a pretty big shopping mall to get there. And, if you could find the elevators in the casino to get to the lobby (which was a floor below – the signage was terrible) you could check in. We wandered with our luggage for about 10 minutes before we found the elevators.

If you were fortunate enough to actually find the lobby, you had to check yourself in via machines (like at the airport). Unfortunately, the machines didn’t work very well.

I don’t think I saw anybody who didn’t need the assistance of the single harried staff person assigned to the peons consigned to the machines for all their needs. Only VIPs (??) could actually check in with actual real live people. WTF?

And if you’re room wasn’t ready, there was no place to leave your luggage. You just had to walk around with it.

First impression – not impressive. At all.

Regarding gambling, clearly they didn’t know they were dealing with an AGMA who does nothing but lose my money when I gamble. I really wanted to give the hotel casino some of my $$, but it was a REALLY awful casino. It was like they made a casino for GenZers who’ve never gambled before and wouldn’t know any better. They put in the worst machines (OMG – you couldn’t understand how any of the payouts worked – which obviously was the point!) and high limit table games.

Nah baby nah.

And other than two sad display cases with Hollywood memorabilia in them, there was nothing Hard Rock about the place. It was more like Elevator Music Generic Hotel and Casino.

Soul-less.

It’s been more than 18 years since my last trip to Las Vegas. Things are very different from my last visit..

AGMA is one to embrace change…when it doesn’t interfere with my good time.

We did have fun at times, but we really had to work hard for it.

One day we made the nearly 3 hour drive to Zion National Park. It was breathtaking and is now on AGMA’s list of “must return to” places.

On the 3 hour drive back to Las Vegas, we stopped in Mesquite, NV at the Virgin River (a Virgin in Nevada – ha!) Hotel and Casino for their $13.99 prime rib special. It was us and the rest of Mesquite (where the median age has to be 60) in line for the coffee shop, the majority of whom (or is it who?) were not wearing masks with a good deal of smoking sprinkled in.

We turned around and left.

We ended up having dinner at the coffee shop in Jerry’s Nugget, an old Vegas style casino in north Las Vegas. There was a pawn shop across the street on one corner and a closed nude bar, the Palamino Club, on the other corner.

Perfect!

Jerry’s knows their cliental is more “mature”, and they were the only casino we went to that checked people’s temperatures at the entrance. Impressive!

Everybody was wearing masks, every other machine was turned off for social distancing, the drinks were cheap, AGMA won about $10 at video poker, and the prime rib special was delicious.

We liked Jerry’s Nugget!

The next day, we went to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and did the nature thing again. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and mild temps. Glorious!

Then we headed to the last remaining collection of old-style Las Vegas hotels and casinos…

Downtown Las Vegas.

We played video poker for a nickel a game sitting at one of the bars in Binion’s and got free drinks.

We scored yet another prime rib dinner (evidently we have been beef deprived at home.) This time is was the $8.99 early bird special at Tony Roma’s in the Fremont. Score!

We have no shame. But we had fun.

On the way back to the Elevator Music Hotel with the horrible casino that evening, we drove down Las Vegas Blvd and saw the iconic wedding chapels, and some scattered old school hotel casinos that haven’t been hit be the wrecking ball.

Yet.

I think I’d like to go back to Vegas again post-COVID to visit more of the “old” Las Vegas. The fun Las Vegas.

But first…Arizona…Sunday.

Grand Canyon, AGMA’s coming your way!

Mama needs a new pair of shoes

OldVegas

AGMA found herself part of a uniquely American ritual this week. It’s one that thousands upon thousands of American Baby Boomers participate in a regular basis. One that knows no racial, gender, cultural or economic barriers. You just have to be over 21…

She made a pilgrimage to one of the 600+ casinos in the U.S.

Cha-Ching.

I realize that casinos are present and popular in other parts of the world.  But our casinos in the U.S. are gigantic, over the top affairs filled to the brim with aging Boomers. Graying, sallow, drawn and sometimes wheezing Boomers.

Makes me proud of my generation. Not.

Don’t get me wrong. There isn’t anything wrong with a bit of dabbling in games of chance now and then as long as it doesn’t consume your life, retirement account and make you like the Walking Dead.

Must. Press. Button.

It’s actually kind of fun. Especially if you win.

I wouldn’t know about that.

My first encounter with the gaming world was in Las Vegas in 1987.  The AGMA’s celebrated their 10th anniversary of nuptial bliss with a trip to Sin City. I was 33 years old. It was pretty much fun.

That was at the very tail end of the Rat Pack Las Vegas. The last gasp of the Vegas glory days. Hotel coffee shops still served 50 cent shrimp cocktails, $3 prime rib dinners and $6 all you can eat crab legs. Rooms were cheap and drinks in the casino’s were always free.  And dark, smoky lounges were sprinkled throughout the casino floor with smoky, sultry lounge singers.  It was a veritable cacophony of sights and sounds when somebody hit a jackpot – flashing lights, sirens and that wonderful loud klink, klink, klink of coins dropping down.

Those were the days of The Tropicanna and The Sands and The Stardust.  When the concept of the mega hotel-casino was in it’s infancy and thoughts of bringing your kids there were ludicrous.

As cliche goes, those were “the good old days”.

I’m glad I got to see that remnant of the old Vegas.  It was iconic, and, for better or worse, a quirky, crazy part of American history that’s now gone forever.

Anybody who’s been there in the last twenty years knows what I’m talking about.  Now you need a 2nd mortgage just to be able to stay and eat there.  No more smoky lounges on the casino floor. No more coins – now you get a piece of paper from the slot machine with your winnings printed on it to a recording of clink, clink, clink.

Totally lame.

Back in the day, I played $1 minimum bet blackjack at The Hacienda.  Some of the places off the strip were 50 cent minimums.  Now, it’s a miracle to find a table with even a $10 minimum. Too rich for my bank account…

Oh – I never won.  Ever. It didn’t matter what I played.  Blackjack, slot machines, roulette, machine poker.  But I never gambled much – maybe $50 in a day.  A good day was when I went up to the room at night with anything other than nothing. Cha-Ching.

Once pretty much confined to Vegas and Atlantic City, now it seems like casinos are everywhere.  The expansion started on Indian reservations, then to riverboats, but that wasn’t enough.  States, many of them Bible thumping red states (go figure…) wanted a piece of the multi-kazillion dollar gambling pie so they legalized casinos. The revenues support the schools you know. Yeah right…

Fast forward to a few days ago.  I’ve been on a trip.  Again.  Visiting family and old friends in Arizona. Good times.

On the drive up from Tucson to Phoenix, I made a pilgrimage detour.  The casino I went to is on some of that prime real estate that the U.S. Government graciously gave the Native Americans as a thank you for “allowing” the white settlers to have their sacred, traditional rich hunting and farming lands.  In other words, it was a barren patch of scrub desert that couldn’t support a family of kangaroo rats. Thanks Uncle Sam.

Kudos to the Native Americans for now having a lucrative purpose for that God forsaken, piece-o-crap land. Thanks Uncle Sam.

Cha-Ching.

Unfortunately, AGMA was not shocked at what she found inside.  The Woodstock generation fighting over the Davincci Diamonds quarter slot machines.  Boomers who protested at Kent State sitting in front of poker machines with their oxygen tanks beside them.  Smoking a cigarette.  Slumped postures and glazed over eyes and a big line at the ATM machine.

All incredibly depressing.  It was the middle of the day on a Thursday, the weather outside was spectacular – sunny and mild – and the joint was full.

How the mighty are fallen.

I fished my $50 offering out of my wallet and started my dance with several one armed bandits.  Twenty minutes later, when the carnage was over and the dust cleared, I cashed out.  I tenderly put my redemption ticket in the payback machine, grabbed my 55 cents, and fled into the sunshine and fresh air.

It was difficult to find an exit. They do that on purpose.  Bastards.

Actually, I consider my bad luck rather fortunate. It gets me in and out pretty fast. And I know I will never become one of the gambling Walking Dead.

Must. Push. Button.

AGMA’ll be back in a casino again.  Oh yes….  Hope springs eternal in AGMA-land.

I know that the big jackpot is waiting for me one of these days. Not.

But it’s fun to dream about seeing those flashing lights and hearing that clink, clink, clink sound.  Even if it is a recording.

Come’on triple 7’s!  AGMA needs a new pair of orthopedic shoes!