I will skip the details of our trip through three airports from the middle of Canada to the country's western edge to Las Vegas, Nevada over eight hours. It entails all of the bland food, anxious fear, and pained babies that we have all come to expect from air travel.
What I will tell you about is the grand, sweeping facades that mimic greater things elsewhere and yet manage to warehouse torn stools, sticky escalators, and dented gambling machines. Pallid and tired daughters with their parents scuff their shoes along the perpetual, patterned wool carpets that stretch from blackjack tables to bars to shops to buffet lines that promise all the carbohydrates your wallet might afford. The woman at the hotel desk complained to us of overgrown nails, which made me notice how yellowed they were as she clacked them over the wrong keys. Waitresses' skirts are of barely legal length and their legs are smooth, but in the cheaper lounges their faces are old and makeup settles in the lines around their eyes. It is nice to be away from the inflated breasts that cantilever over serving trays in the so-called classier establishments.
There is plenty, plenty everywhere, but this place is short of umbrellas, so we sit on the bed our hotel room with the balcony door open to beat mugginess brought on by the rain. Young men holler at the traffic in the parking lot below, as though the rain in Vegas is more fun than in Wisconsin. I think they might be suffering from lead poisoning brought on by the paint on the matching plastic bling around their necks.
Smaller copies of iconic objects from other places are everywhere. There is a Statue of Liberty, a Brooklyn Bridge-inspired roller coaster, and an Eiffel Tower. People walk down the street drinking colourful, alcoholic beverages out of plastic see-through guitars and European monuments. One corner of the Strip pretends to be Hawaii, and people in neon-coloured costumes dance to drumbeats. I disappear here, and it's a relief, really. Everyone looks up and turns and turns to see all the lights. You have to navigate the streets around the people who have forgotten where they are. There is a giant Coca-Cola bottle and the planet earth and M&Ms on rotating stands and mammoth beer glasses that support the awning over a shop's door. Even the McDonalds' sign is bedazzled with flashing red and yellow lights. There must be at least one hundred lightbulb changers employed on this street alone.
As the Palinode and I made our way to the Bellagio yesterday evening to feast at a buffet of epic proportions (the mushroom-stuffed pasta in truffel-infused cream sauce will kill you dead in the best way possible), we stopped to ask a man for directions who was sweeping the sidewalk beneath a three-story high, golden lion. He smiled, nodding, and said " Right, go right" in a thick, Mandarin accent. Several hours later, we passed him again, only this time I noticed that he was sweeping business card-sized ads for prostitutes from the sidewalk. The bin into which he swept them was filled with pictures of plump, beglossed lips and frothy hair and large, naked breasts. I realized that he looks at these all day long. Men and women stand in lines up and down the Strip clapping fistfuls of these cards along their fingers, handing them out to anyone who acknowledges them. The cards litter the ground, and when I looked down last night to avoid catching the clappers' eyes as we passed a dozen of them calling "Cómo está?" to get our attention, I saw their cards everywhere. "The sidewalk is full of tits," I said to the Palinode.