Monday, July 14, 2008

Vegas, Baby Vegas

I'm back from Vegas! Sans pictures, because I am lazy. Maybe tomorrow. Who knows? 

Vegas was wonderful in many respects. I spent the entire weekend getting quality time with 5 of my favorite girls, and one of my favorite guys. I didn't get on a computer, I didn't watch TV, I didn't read a newspaper, I just hung out with my friends, ate food, got drunk, and hung out at the pool (in no particular order.)

It was Danger J's first time in Vegas, so we took him around from casino to casino, showing him the Eiffel Tower at Paris, the Chihuly sculpture at the Bellagio, the canals at the Venetian, the Caesar Salads at Caesar's Palace. (Okay I made the last one up.) It was really neat getting to see Vegas almost for the first time through his eyes: the beauty, the seediness, and the ostentatiousness. "Vegas is like one huge mall," Danger J finally declared, and ... it is. The Strip is known more for its casinos and its exotic dancers, but it is also absolutely bursting with shops, shops, and more shops. Consumerism knows no bounds here in Sin City. If you're not the gambling type, fear not. You can lose your money to some tacky jewelry instead!!

Overall, I tried to keep the blogging in my head to a minimum, and instead just enjoy the company of my friends. We are all in our late twenties or very early thirties. It won't be too long before marriage and children prevents us from engaging in a weekend of debauchery. I wanted to make the most of the weekend, instead of wasting time agonizing over the plastic waste in Vegas (yes, it's terrible) or the water waste (bad, though clearly steps have been taken so it's not quite as bad as one might fear) or the food waste (the buffets! the buffets!)

Oh, sure, I had my moments, like at breakfast when the waitress threw like 15 straws at us, and I reacted like someone had just killed a puppy. (Honda: What is wrong with you? Me: Nothing. Honda: Oh my God. It's the straws, isn't it? Me: No? Honda: Yes. Me: Yes.)

And then there was the yard (yes a yard) of some delicious pina colada concoction that came in a ridiculous plastic glass. Every time we go to Vegas, we end up buying one of these, and this year was no exception. Yes, I did hear Fake Plastic Fish writhing in agony, but what can I say? I am a weak woman when it comes to my bitch booze.

I didn't, I am proud to say, end up with an over-priced bottle of water though. Instead, I carted my Klean Kanteen around with me, filling it up in the hotel sink. I also didn't end up buying any of the junk I might normally have succumbed to: no chocolate at 2 am, no ice cream, no pretzels. Instead, I stuck to the necessities: meals and alcohol. I'll offer a detailed accounting later, once the credit card charges get processed, but all told, I think the Vegas vacation cost about $275 including the $100 for the hotel that was paid ages ago.

And that, is honestly why we go to Vegas. There are few places that we can go to for that little money. Pie and I spent some time in the car on the way back trying to think of other places that might be more suitable since we don't really gamble, and aren't much into the clubbing scene anymore. But unfortunately, there aren't many places within a five hour drive of LA where one could find nice hotels priced cheaply, and good restaurants, and a pool. 

So anyway, that's our trip to Las Vegas. It was a fabulous weekend, and I wouldn't have traded it for the world, but at the same time, I couldn't help but feel that Las Vegas, and especially the Strip, is just not sustainable. Because I live in LA, I am extremely hesitant of calling places unsustainable. I have learnt that even cities like LA that don't seem eco-friendly at all, can actually be very sustainable in their own ways. But the Strip is out of control extravagant, and I really can't foresee that kind of decadence surviving the next 20-30 years. 

And in a way, that's too bad. Because yes, Vegas is opulent and ridiculous, but she is also a city of love, of friendship, of dreams, and of plain old fun. I have teetered out into her streets, arm in arm with one of my best friends, drunkenly expounding on everything and nothing in particular. We have stayed up all night gossiping in our hotel room. I have danced until I thought my legs were going to fall off in the club. Vegas is littered with memories of my twenties. It is a city that I used to hate, and which I have grown to love. Because, ultimately, for me, going to Vegas doesn't mean gambling, or seeing over-priced shows, or hooking up. Vegas means spending time with people I love. And it's frustrating to me to think that this place that has provided me with so many fond memories, is ultimately not sustainable. 

But I don't think it is. I hope I'm wrong.


hgg said...

I'm glad you had some fun! Seeing old pals is fabulous.

Frankly, I don't think very many places in the industrialized world are sustainable, but I may have a very rigorous definition of what sustainable is. And I don't even know what my definition is. But sure, some places are more unsustainable than others. And some people (like me) live more unsustainably than others (like you).

hmd said...

I'm not much of a gambler either but I went to Vegas once (for the day) and it's a GREAT place to people watch! I enjoyed it. I was traveling in a motor home at the time so I didn't get to stay in a hotel, but we made it out of there having bought just one magnet for my souvenir collection. I'm so cheap :) but I still have fun!

EcoBurban said...

I am in Vegas frequently for work, while I don't gamble, I have learned appreciate it for the fun! A couple of years ago we took our kids there (they were just a leeeeetle freaked out by the guys handing out the naked girl cards on the street) but seeing it through their eyes made me realize how fun it can be. Roller coasters! Sinking ships! Eiffel Towers! Light and water shows! Light and water show seen from TOP of Eiffel Tower! Arcades! Yiipppee! We all actually had a very nice time without stressing out about all the excess, so I am glad you did too. That's what vacation is all about sister! And, when you have kids, let me know and I will give you all the fun kiddie hot spots. Just cause you get married and have kids, it doesn't mean the fun is over!

Sam said...

Glad you had such a fun time. And I agree that alcohol is most certainly a necessity. I certainly need it to deal with the coming apocalypse

Unknown said...

Sounds like you had a great time! Can't wait to see the photos.

Green Bean said...

I've had some good times to in Vegas - none of which involved gambling either. I, like you, do not think it is sustainable which is a shame.

I'm so happy that you were able to put blogging out of your mind and enjoy your time with friends. As you know, I wasn't able to do that on my trip to Disneyland and those places aren't awful or evil. They are a part of our society, our way of life, hold many memories and, despite the issues with waste and such, they can offer many more. I'm glad you found some more.

Jen S. said...

How on earth do you do Vegas for $275? I go every year and it's consistently a $1000 trip. Airfare is usually in the $300s these days, though I got a spectacular $175 deal this year. But ohhh, if you're in LA, I guess you don't require the airfare. Hm, that would help. And it sure doesn't help me that I easily spend $100/day on drinks alone, over 3 days. Ah well. Glad you had fun! I myself am always amazed at their water waste. They're in the middle of the desert!

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Sounds like a fantastic weekend!

I've only been to Vegas once, with my parents, when I was 17; we stopped in for 2 days between San Fran and the Grand/Bryce/Zion Canyon trip. We had tons of fun in the games arcades and cheesy pirate shows, but I'd really like to go back now I'm old enough to do it properly (i.e. drink and play poker).

I remember flying in at night and seeing this oasis of light in the middle of a huge expanse of desert. Maybe it's the contrast that makes it seem so vivid and extravagant. Even back then in 1994 I thought "this is a ridiculous place to build a city, how can they possibly get enough water?".

ScienceMama said...

wish i was there!

Crunchy Chicken said...

I'm glad you had fun. I haven't been to Vegas in probably 10 years, but went quite frequently when I lived in CA and always had a great time. Hell, I even got married there.

It can be a fun place to visit as long as you don't go outside during the day. Between the heat and the gaudiness of it all, it's a depressing place to be.

I don't think I'd be able to handle it there now. I'd be focusing too much on all the waste and would feel sick to my stomach for most of the trip. Unless I was drunk the whole time.

Either way, hang on to those good memories!

Melissa said...

I think the reason that we periodically enjoy a trip to vegas is because it's so over the top, which is what makes it so not like our own really is an escape from reality (although I tend to agree with you that it's not sustainable).

ruchi said...

HGG, yeah, I'm not entirely sure what I would define as sustainable. I guess I would say that there are very few places that are currently sustainable, but I guess I'm looking at whether these places could BECOME sustainable. Or if you can live their sustainably without having to seriously alter your lifestyle. I think LA can become sustainable, and I think you can live here sustainably. I don't feel exactly the same for Vegas (or at least the Strip.) I think without the hedonistic excess, the Strip is not the Strip. But time will tell, I guess.

Heather, you're right. Vegas is an EXCELLENT place to people watch. It is one of my favorite Vegas past times.

EBM, yeah, I agree. It IS fun. I *love* the fountain show at the Bellagio.

Beany, glad you agree that alcohol is a NEED. ;)

Bobbi, thanks, I did!

GB, I'm glad I just focused on my friends as well. It's nice to sometimes take a break from thinking about waste and such anyway.

Jen S, I'll give you the detailed breakdown soon, but yeah. The big thing is that I do not have to fly to Vegas. My share of the gas was $28.00

CAE, I think you would enjoy Vegas. It's the sort of place that really is good as a weekend trip. More than 2-3 nights, and it starts to wear on you.

Sciencemama, we missed you!!

Crunchy, that's cool! We saw a LOT of brides wandering Vegas. It seems like it could be a pretty fun place to get married. I was worried before we went that I wouldn't be able to just enjoy myself, and that I would focus too much on all the waste and excess, but I think I did a pretty good job of it. I think, honestly, my friends and I were just having so much fun together that I couldn't dwell on the excess too much.

Melissa, I think you're right. Honda said she thinks they put something into the air in Vegas, because it is SO over the top and unlike our lives. It's nice to do that once in a while, though I was also relieved to come back to reality!!

Anonymous said...

Glad you had fun. Spending time with old friends is just the best, especially if they're the kind of old friends that you only see every so often, but it's like you see them every day, you know, not awkward and just great when you're together.

Honestly, I've never been to Vegas and hope that I never have to go. When I go into New York City, I start to feel claustrophobic and nervous. It's like I'm the person saying "don't people get mugged here?" or "I saw on CSI..." or "Make sure you wash your hands" or "How do people live like this?" I am just SO not a city person, and I think that Vegas would just push me over the edge. Plus I hate to fly and have been using "fossil fuel issues" as an excuse to not get in a plane! But then again, if my greatest friends were going, I think I might have to go!

A. Brown said...

This town is vaguely disgusting considering how wasteful it is and how difficult it is to even get basic recycling things done. As it turns out, there isn't much of a push to recycle here because the landfill Las Vegas uses will apparently last for another 100 years. Who needs to worry about it now! *eyeroll*

Then you have the water waste of the Strip fountains, too many pools that don't get enough use (honestly, it's just too hot to be in the pool sometimes!), and thousands of homes trying to maintain a lush green lawn... in the DESERT.

Living here and trying to be green is often a lesson in futility, but still we try. :)

Anonymous said...

Glad you had a great time! I know that putting aside your eco-freakiness was hard (it is for me these days and I have only been doing this for a few months) but I also think you have to have some balance (though I have no idea what that is just yet, I think you may have to define it for yourself, maybe).

Friendships are very valuable and I am glad that you were able to take a couple of days to enjoy them - plus you may have had a positive impact on all of your friends (even more so than you already have) - they may just rethink that straw the next time they are at dinner!

And, alcohol always makes everything seem a lot better!

ruchi said...

Abbie, hah, that's funny. I am a total city girl, but I STILL found Vegas claustrophobic at times.

Green Plant, nice to have a native take! I assumed the fountains on the strip all just permanently recycle their water reusing it over and over again in endless loop? Is that not correct?

Bugs and Brooms, it is hard to let go and just enjoy, but I think it's very important as well. It's something I'm slowly learning to do!

Tara W. said...

I was born, raised and still reside in Vegas. The fountain water is reclaimed/recycled water, as is all the landscaping water. And the hotels have come a long way in terms of water waste. In fact, our school district uses more water than the entire casino industry - go figure.

Vegas is also going to be the home to a world-first - a 30 story vertical farm to serve the needs of the tourist industry (forget the lowly natives :). Also many hotel restaurants are beginning to purchase locally grown foods and some golf courses (also only watered with reclaimed water) are beginning to grow some of their own foods.

But as for ultimate sustainability, I ponder this one a lot. As long as we remain an escape from reality for much of the country, and can keep prices relatively low, then we can possibly stay afloat in a changing economy; as things get worse more people will look (and save up) for that escape.

But much needs to be changed. Our waste being up there on top. And mass transportation tagging right along. And the fact that we produce practically nothing locally and must import nearly everything is going to hurt our ability to keep things cheap with rising oil prices.

Time will tell. My husband is a Foreman Carpenter. When work stops for them, the rest of the city will die soon after. Hopefully we'll have our nest egg shortly and be gone by then. :)

Anonymous said...

>>Yes, I did hear Fake Plastic Fish writhing in agony, but what can I say?<<

The voice in your head is your own. You know that, right? FPF has way too many of her own plastic issues to worry about without getting all worked up over stuff she has no control over.

But people (like my dad) ask me all the time how I can leave my house without getting sick at all the plastic I see. And you know what? I really must have selective attention or the ability to compartmentalize life in some way because I really just figure out what I can do and let the rest go. I might stay up late agonizing over my own plastic decisions or what I'll write on my blog to influence others in same way, but more than that would drive me insane. And that doesn't help anybody.

Glad you had fun in Vegas. I've only been there once and just remember that going outside felt like stepping into a blow dryer.

ruchi said...

Tara, thanks for your comment. I always appreciate hearing a "native" opinion. I was actually somewhat impressed by the water usage on the Strip. I know, I know, there were tons of hotels, and pools, and fountains, but I did notice that the public toilets were low flow (though my shower and the toilet in my hotel room did not appear to be) and that the sinks all automatically shut off and on. I was a little surprised that our hotel didn't have one of those little placards, asking us to hang our towels back up if we were willing to use them twice. But that's fascinating that the school district uses more water than the casinos!!

You're right, only time will tell, and my hope is that Vegas finds a way to become sustainable.

Beth, AUGH. Are you telling me that there's a little Fake Plastic Fish permanently lodged in my head now? I already have a little Crunchy telling me to sweat it out and not use a/c, and a little Green Bean telling me to buy local produce and a little Chile telling me to get rid of my crap! My head is getting overcrowded!!

Mad Hatter said...

That sounds awesome! Glad to hear you had a good time. I've actually never been to Vegas but would like to go at least once in my life! Honestly, I just want to ride one of those outdoor roller coasters.... :-)

ruchi said...

MH, it's worth going once. For a weekend. Any more and it will start to freak you out or depress you. But one three day weekend is about right.