FABLV license plate

Fabulous Las Vegas

Bet 250!

I spent the weekend in Las Vegas with Jim Schrempp, Jim's Angela, Jim's cousin Pete, and Pete's Kim.

Jim, Angela, Pete, Kim Seated: Angela, Jim; Standing: Pete, Kim

It was Jim's birthday Saturday, but that wasn't the occasion for the trip. For years the gang has been waiting for Jim to fulfill his promise to organize an outing to Las Vegas, but this wasn't it. It seems that Pete and Kim had planned a warm vacation to escape the menacing cold and snow of Manitoba and suggested that Jim join them for the weekend. Jim generously invited others to join the fun, hoping, perhaps, that we would forget about the trip he was supposed to organize.

Amboy Road near Twentynine Palms Amboy Road near Twentynine Palms, CA. You can see about as much traffic as I encountered between there and I-15 in Nevada

I drove to Las Vegas over the back-country routes (map) rather than the freeways. Since having been forced to take this route last October when the freeway was closed due to the California fires, it has become my preferred route. There is absolutely no traffic, and it is a much more scenic route. I was looking forward to seeing the countryside when not shrouded in smoke, and true, it was not shrouded in smoke this trip — it was shrouded in rain clouds that reached all the way to the ground in places!

flooded desert Flooded desert near Primm, Nevada

Heavy rains had swept into the Las Vegas area on Friday and rain would continue into the weekend. In fact, standing water on the road made driving a bit hazardous from time to time, and expanses of the Nevada desert were under water on Saturday.

I stayed at the Flamingo Hotel, a Caesars Entertainment property. As a stockholder I was not pleased to see how the reception desk treats customers! I had joined a check-in queue that moved at glacial speed. Having finally arrived at the front of the line, I proceeded to the next available check-in station as soon as it became vacant.

Paul Angela Jim Kim in search of cocktails Paul, Angela, Jim, Kim — in search of cocktails (Photo by Pete)

"I'm not ready for you. I'm still working on the previous customer," chastened the officious bureaucrat behind the counter, who returned to clicking and clacking on her keyboard.

"Well what would you like me to do?" I inquired, with as much restraint as I could muster.

"Go back and wait in the line until you are summoned." I returned to the line, where I explained to the puzzled queuees that customers were not to make assumptions and take initiative to approach the counter, but were to wait compliantly until beckoned.

Later I discovered that the Flamingo had a talking trashcan that said "Thank you" when used. Perhaps I'll suggest that the trashcan be assigned to mentor the reception desk clerk.

Paul at Second City Here I am, waiting for the show to start
Thong detail Would you look at the detail these 5Mpx cameras pick up!

Saturday evening we went to see the Second City comedy show at the Flamingo. A combination of sketch comedy and improv, it was quite fun.

The real pre-show show was in progress on the other side of the table behind me, where a young swain and his maid were in advanced stages of foreplay. Let's put it this way: I'm sure John Ashcroft would not have approved!

penny video poker

I must report that gambling has changed in Las Vegas.

• Penny slots and two-penny slots are now everywhere, even in upscale casinos like Bellagio. It used to be that you could only find penny slots in small, dark establishments downtown where your shoes stuck to the floor.

• Coins are becoming obsolete. Many machines now pay off by issuing a voucher, assuming you have any money left. Indeed, the trip to the cashier's cage can now be a thing of the past, since there are now machines that will redeem the vouchers for cash, assuming of course that you have any money left.

• Video is replacing mechanisms. Many machines now have a video display that merely simulates spinning slot-machine wheels. Simple pictures and symbols have been replaced in large part by bewildering, sensory-assaulting graphics. This has allowed machines to become more complex. Instead of offering one, or perhaps three, win lines, many machines offer countless ways to win. It's humanly impossible to figure out winning combinations, which reduces it to a process of simply contributing money and waiting passively to see the result. Since each way to win requires another coin to become active, the "nickle" machine quickly turns into a money pit. For example, one 5¢ video poker machine that I played kept trying to entice me to "Bet 250" nickles. Unless my calculator fails me, that would be a bet of $12.50!

On the way home I made a detour through Joshua Tree National Park to see the Joshua trees blossoming. They were blooming themselves silly.