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:: Broiling in Vegas

"On behalf of the whole flight team here at Southwest, we thank you for flying with us to sunny Las Vegas. Have fun while you're here, but remember to drink water every chance you get because the current temperature outside is 114 degrees." Jesus. What am I doing back here in Vegas? Every time I find myself in this soulless overglorified truckstop I tell myself it'll be my last. Like always though, something came up. This time I'm here to present a paper at a half-baked conference on work I did with an intern of mine last summer. I don't know if the conference makes this trip better or worse.

As I step off the plane into the walkway that feeds you into the airport I'm reminded of just how hot 114 degrees really is. You can feel the heat radiating off the metal walls- it's like some hotbox they'd use at Guantanamo to cook confessions out of prisoners. Half way down the pipe I start hearing the slot machine chatter that is the inescapable voice of Las Vegas. The first time you visit this town the chatter sounds like opportunity, so cleverly broadcast through the city in a single rumbling voice. However, the more trips you make to this town, the more the chatter reminds you of the gurgling noise a hose on septic service truck makes, as people's souls are sucked out of their backs, one coin at a time.

I get my bags and walk outside into the shaded heat to catch a van to my hotel. The other riders in the van are excited to see what their respective hotels have to offer. At each hotel stop, our numbers become smaller, with the remaining riders sizing up the recently departed by the quality of their hotel. MGM? Well, someone has money. Excalibur? Ok, dungeon master. Hooters? How sleazy. My stop this week is New York, New York. Maybe my grumpy mood matches what the rest of the people on the van think of as New Yorkers. Heh.

While I've walked through it before, this is the first time I've actually stayed in the New York, New York hotel. On the outside they have small versions of famous NYC sites and make the hotel rooms look like they're part of the NYC skyline. The inside has movie-like versions of central park and the narrow streets of NYC. Walking through the twisty maze of NYNY's casino labrynth, I couldn't help but think that the whole thing really was a lot like NYC, just without the constant smell of urine. My room was pretty high up, facing towards the Vegas strip. In addition to a view of all the hopeless ant-like people streaming along the streets in 114 degree weather, my room has a fine view of the Coney Island rollercoaster that's been built on the roof of a lower building in the NYNY casino. As I would learn later on that night, the roller coaster goes by every ten minutes or so, until a little bit after midnight. I guess late night noise just adds to the NYC ambience.

Since my last visit, Las Vegas has finished its cross-town monorail. As a connoisseur of public transportation, I braved the heat and wandered across the street to try to find an enterance. It took a lot more walking than I thought was required, but I finally found the station and paid my $9 for a round-trip ticket. The ride was pretty awful, snaking along the backside of hotels and jotting around properties where the hotels did not want the monorail. Similar to other monorails, it was a shaky ride that made me wonder how structurally sound the whole thing was.

At the end of the ride was something that made this whole trip worthwhile. There, just before the exit turnstyles of the hot open-air station was a monorail security guard sitting on a stool. In order to make this outdoor job bearable, the guard had brought an air-conditioning window unit and placed it on the stool next to her. When she stood in just the right position, she'd be in this tiny stream of cool air while the rest of us suffered just a little bit more from the heat produced by the other side of the unit. It was a scene that perfectly captured the whole Las Vegas mentality, but one that I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of. Las Vegas, I've got to never come back here.

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