Las Vegas, NV
Leaving (or trying to) Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV
Here I am sitting writing the latest episode of my blog, at McLaren Airport in Las Vegas (not quite gambling capital of the world – Macau in the Philippines lays claim to that title). I`m sure the margaritas there are not up to those here in “Sin City” though… and they don`t have The Strip either do they (well not the kind you can cruise down in a limo anyway – more of that later).
I`ve been here to celebrate the 50th birthday of one of my best mates, Karen, who is visiting me in San Francisco with another good friend, Ronelle. Arriving on Saturday after an hour`s flight from San Fran, there was no confusing where we`d landed – we found ourselves sitting opposite our first huge bank of slot machines, in the arrivals lounge – waiting for Karen`s old school friend, Wendy, who was flying in from Calgary (Yay! here come the (old) girls!).
Watching the huge advertising screens, we quickly worked out that this was where all those pop “stars” of the 70s and 80s wound up! Matt Goss (remember Bros? “When Will I Be Famous?” No? – well apparently he is the “leader of the New Rat Pack” , known to his fans -or should that be “fan” – across the world as “The Voice”) – and there was I thinking he was a washed up, one-hit wonder … Cue upcoming gigs by those monsters of 80s power ballads: Styx and REO Speedwagon, Queensryche, Foreigner and Pat Benetar, along with Herman`s Hermits with Peter Noone, Don McLean, ZZ Top, Huey Lewis, Blondie and the B52s, Level 42, Cyndi Lauper, Jerry Lee Lewis (blimey, thought those great balls had been extinguished years ago!), to name but a few. There`s a future for all those X Factor and Britain`s got Talent finalists after all – although not quite sure if Las Vegas is quite ready yet for a be-sequinned Susan Boyle. Liberace would be turning in his grave.
The taxi ride from the airport proved a moving experience in more ways than one. Chatting to the driver, I established that he was Cambodian, and explaining that I had visited his country last year, he divulged his fascinating and tragic life story. He was around my age, and had lived through and survived the Killing Fields era in the 70`s. Having lost his entire family to the Khmer Rouge`s brutal regime, through starvation or murder, he managed to flee to Thailand by foot (avoiding the major roads for fear of capture), it must have taken months. He lived off whatever he could scavenge – even eating the huge centipedes found in the jungle. Once across the Thai border, he spent months in refugee camps where he witnessed appalling treatment by the Thais – torture and rape were commonplace. At least his story had a happy ending – he sought asylum in the States and has lived here since – educating himself and learning English. Listening to this story, while riding in his cab through the hedonistic capital of the US, felt very strange and humbling. Nonetheless, what a great tribute to a very brave man and a country which certainly has it`s faults, but which took him in and gave him his life and freedom. He got a big tip.
Settled into our corner suite at the Trump Hotel, we hit the town and so begun a great weekend of good fun, good friends, good food and good frozen margaritas. As they say “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, but highlights were… strutting our funky stuff at the 80`s disco at Caesars Palace, watching Karen`s face when the limo turned up to pick us up for a champagne-fuelled trip along The Strip, the very hot waiter in the Indian, the amazing Bellagio Fountains, and last night`s drunken but hilarious attempts to catch a moth that was terrorising Ronelle in the bedroom.
And in case you were wondering, I only put $1 in the slots, and won nothing, so I won`t be completing my trip in First Class. I`m glad I didn`t bet on the estimated departure time of this plane though – it`s already been delayed 2 hours and counting . Ah well, back soon to (not so) sunny San Francisco….
Next episode: The Prodigal arrives for a visit….