Homeward bound through Nevada toward Northern California and then into Oregon. Desert. It is hot and barren and then Las Vegas sort of shimmies out of the heat on the far horizon.
Las Vegas is nothing new to me. I have been here before. We find our hotel—the New York, New York Casino. One thing about Las Vegas—nice hotel rooms, in casinos, are plentiful and affordable. They count on taking your money down on the casino level to make up the difference. After dinner and a blessedly cold and tangy margarita, in one of the casino's restaurants, Ray suggests we go for a walk. We've been in the car all day. I am not thrilled with the idea of going outside into the heat, but I seem to remember that the Bellagio isn't that far down The Strip and we could walk down and catch a little spray from the dancing fountains out front. It is 6 pm and 102 degrees F outside.
The heat is oppressive. Don't talk to me about it being a "dry" heat. It is damned hot. The sidewalks are crowded with people, lots of them young folk, carrying beers or tall, bulbous plastic drink cups, sloshing with fruity alcoholic beverages. They take up the sidewalk with their careening and pawing. At every corner several hucksters flip cards at us, showing scantily clad women and advertising prostitution. These cards litter the sidewalks. The atmosphere is party! party!, but a little desperate. As Ray notes, old people come here to gamble, young people come to "hook up."
We discover that the sidewalk ends at one point and in order to continue up the street, you must take an escalator up to the second floor of a new casino, then another escalator down onto the casino floor and then out the other end where the sidewalk continues. As we are about to step onto the down escalator a beefy security guard, wearing a dark suit and ear piece, steps forward and confronts a young man just in front of us. "Put your shirt on!" he barks at the kid, who is wearing shorts, sandals and carrying a T-shirt. "It's wet," the kid protests. The guard gets right up in the kid's face, then chest bumps him a couple times, forcing him backward away from the escalator. "PUT YOUR GODDAMN SHIRT ON!" Ray and I step around this engagement and hotfoot it down the escalator. Outside we look at each other, wide-eyed. What the hell was that?! Oh yeah, I guess shirtless-ness offends the pristine standards of Las Vegas.
It is farther to the Bellagio than I remembered, but eventually we arrive. A crowd awaits the fountain show. Paramedics are attending to a young woman sitting on the sidewalk, looking ghastly and unwell. No one pays much attention. I keep glancing over, wondering if they will load her up and take her away. She does not look good. Soon the sprightly, and oddly anachronistic strains of "Singin' in the Rain" begin to play and the fountains come alive, shooting thousands of gallons of precious water into the air. In this heat I imagine that much of it evaporates the instant it makes contact with the hot, dry air. Then it's over and the crowd begins to disperse. Two showgirls, in full feathered regalia stroll past. The paramedics are still talking to the girl on the sidewalk as we head back toward our hotel.
Back in the room I feel a little sick from the heat. I take a cool shower, drink a bottle of water and view the city from the tinted hotel window. Unreal. Tomorrow we'll be out of here. Not a minute too soon.