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November 27, 2005

Las Vegas, City of NOISE

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Las Vegas used to appall me.

But time has worked its magic: I've either mellowed or perhaps become a tad more libertarian, and Vegas has branched out from being a purveyor of stuff that satisfied a spectrum of our less-admirable tendencies.

Knowing of my immunity to gambling, Las Vegas, like a clever virus, has mutated itself into a town with fun architecture and world-class shopping.

Nevertheless, I just returned from a week there and can proudly announce that I didn't buy as much as one single solitary expensive Italian sweater, a type of garment that induces a curious weakening of my penny-pinching ways. [Pause for wild applause from readers.]

Alas, Vegas still falls a wee bit short of perfection for me. For instance, it's by far the noisiest town I can think of. Here are a few examples:

If you are making your way south on The Strip from the posh Venetian you pass by the Casino Royale -- a perfect setting for a James Bond movie if Bond was played by Danny DeVito. The Royale's sidewalk awnings are equipped with speakers constantly blurting out inducements such as how generous the payoffs are. There's no escape till you cross the property line.

Across the street from the Venetian is the Treasure Island, a large casino apparently in the midst of an image-tweak. In front of the hotel tower is a pool with two mock sailing ships, one a pirate vessel. In past years, the free show for passers-by had the ships blasting away at one another and one eventually sinking. This year, one ship is populated by "sirens" bearing suspicious resemblance to showgirls. The sirens do the typical Vegas tusch-twisting to a blasting disco beat and the pirates do their thing before their ship inevitably sinks below the waves. Oh, and "Treasure Island" is being nudged aside in favor of [drumroll] "TI"!

The noisiest street experience for me was a sign in front of the Fashion Show Mall, home to Nordstrom, Neiman-Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. The images on the sign were of an animated rapper and the noise level of the music was almost painful. The advertiser? -- Apple's iPod.

LV fashion mall sign.jpg iPod sign on Las Vegas Strip.

The noise experience for most visitors begins at the airport. The baggage claim area has a large video screen at one end showing 10-15 second snippets of headliner acts playing at various casinos. The place is so noisy it's hard to converse with people.

But there are other kinds of noise. Computerized slot machines emit a tinkly-bubbly sound that is moderately loud if you're sitting in front of one. But if you are standing 30 or more feet away from a casino floor, what you hear is a softer, almost- "white noise" where the sounds of hundreds of slot machines combine.

Good thing I'm half-deaf, due in part from firing M-1 rifles when in the army.



posted by Donald at November 27, 2005


I think one of the attractions of the slightly-more-sedate hotels (I'm thinking MGM Grand, but there are others) is the brief oasis of semi-quiet they offer. We ran over the pedestrian walkway from the Tropicana to eat in the relative quiet of their restaurants. Also, the food at the Trop looked uniformly dreadful.

Posted by: communicatrix on November 28, 2005 12:51 AM

Hey---I was just in Vegas two weeks ago myself!

1) I won $45 at Blackjack at the very Casino Royale!! It is loud and noisy and garish and flashing---and packed! It has lower table stakes than some others.

2) By comparison, Caesar's Palace seemed elegant. I'll pause to let sink in. But its casino is light and organized and civilized by comparison. We attempted to actually exit Ceasar's by walking though The Forum of Shops--one of the biggest shopping malls one can imagine. We couldn't get out! We had to turn around and walk all the way back just to try to get back to the Strip---it took a solid hour of walking, and not much window shopping along the way. Walking! And along the way, we were laughing about all the duplicates of famous sculpture, including the Coliseum and the big huge fountain with Neptune. I said they've taken the biggest most famous art and history in the world---and someone I was with said "and made it out of papier mache!" A friend jokingly said, "Really, why go to Europe? It's so much more convenient to just go to Vegas, and you can see all the same things!"

3) However, I won $45 at Blackjack for the first time I ever played it on this I feel warmly about Vegas and the Casino Royale.

Posted by: annette on November 28, 2005 10:25 AM

P.S. Ceasar's has a wonderful Italian restaurant--Vendatta's or something. The food was really quite wonderful---cod and beef tenderloin and spaghetti and potatoes, all served family style. Tiramusu to die for. Worth checking out.

Posted by: annette on November 28, 2005 10:42 AM

I will be making my first visit to Vegas in late January, staying at the Luxor. My parents, sister and brother-in-law, who are joining us are veteran Vegas-goers. Me and my girlfriend are Vegas "virgins", if you will. Should be interesting, to say the least. . . .

Posted by: Michael Serafin on November 28, 2005 1:44 PM

Annette, didn't Mark Twain had a funny story like that? I vaguely remember something about replicating Venecian canals in some American amusement park and much hilarity with authentic painters and sculptors transplanted here to recreate the original, in more economically sensical I dreaming?

Posted by: Tatyana on November 28, 2005 2:28 PM

I always tell my friends " If you can't go to Venice, you can always go to the Venetian". I spent some time in Casino Royale on our trip to Vegas several years ago - small, cozy, fed enough money back to keep us entertained, plus they had a Subway sandwich shop. We're going back next year, after our daughter turns 21.

Posted by: rmark on November 28, 2005 2:40 PM

Communicatrix -- I avoid the casino areas as much as I can. As you know, the fancier joints keep things pretty well separated. My main fave is the Bellagio, but I also like the Venetian. The latter has really nice shopping, as does Caesar's Forum. Ultra-pricey shops are at the new Wynns. Shopping is segregated and okay at the Alladin and ditto the skybridge between Mandalay Bay and the Luxor.

Annette -- Actually there's more than one way out of the Forum shopping area besides the casino floor. Too hard to describe in detail here, but roughly when you hit the place where stuff loops and branches, work around to the right (not to the left and the Atlantis thingy) and you'll eventually hit the newest part, a three-story atrium with curved escalators. The lowest level has a Strip entrance.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on November 28, 2005 10:27 PM

Just because I want to get this on the record: I've been to Vegas only twice. But the first time I went there I saw Elvis perform. Only a year or two before he died, and I thought he was awful: sweaty, confused, forgetting the lyrics of his own songs, buttoned up in that high-collared spangly outfit he wore after he got fat. Nonetheless, the women in the audience screamed and threw panties. Even my sister, who I was there with, thought he was great -- and she had never been much of an Elvis fan. I asked her why she thought he'd been so good, and she said: "He's just such a magnetic performer!" I guess he was, but it didn't work for me, at least not that evening.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 29, 2005 12:12 AM

Tatyana---I'm sure Mark Twain did. Probably funnier. But we were more in the mode of a "Twilight Zone: episode---time has stood still and we will never get out of Caesar's Palace!

Posted by: annette on November 29, 2005 10:23 AM

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