I’ve never been much for Las Vegas. For an introvert like me, it’s all just too much. Too many people, too many of them drunk. Too many lights, too many fountains, and way too much ding, ding, ding from the slot machines. As I write this, I can look through the airport windows at the odd sight of the Luxor‘s pyramid and Sphinx. Just a block down from there are replicas of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. Crazy. The only word for it is crazy.
So I should have seen it coming when my middle son, Joe Buttry, decided to come live here. He and his wife, Kim Bagby, are both professionals in theatrical production. That means they do things like coordinate loading shows in and out of venues, hang, set and operate lights, and, well, many more things that I don’t really understand. Las Vegas is a gold mine of work for people in their profession. As Joe always likes to remind me, there are lots of people living normal lives, even in Sin City.
We’ve visited here before, and our time with the kids is always good. Like Joe says, we do normal things. We catch up with each other, play with Leeroy and Harry, the couple’s Yorkshire terriers, and, of course, because I am who I am, we cook up a storm. Sometimes it startles me at night, when I glance out the window on their stairway landing, to see the bright halo of light radiating from The Strip, having forgotten the manic, adult playground just a few miles away.
This past week my companion was here for a work event, right at Mandalay Bay, where our son has also been employed for the last few years. If you’ve never been there, Mandalay Bay is an enormous complex, including a hotel, casino, retail stores, restaurants, a convention center and an arena. For this visit, we spent most of the week at Joe and Kim’s home. But Friday was our 38th wedding anniversary, and Joe very thoughtfully arranged for us to have a penthouse suite at the Mandalay hotel. Kim also arranged complimentary tickets for the Cirque du Soleil show, O, at the Bellagio that night.
Now, we’ve stayed on The Strip before. I’ve always seemed to be immune to the thrall of the ricky-ticky, cut loose, inhibition-free, rolling good times that seem to infect so many who come here. But I have to admit, from the moment Joe started driving us all around the complex in a golf cart, I felt compelled to whoop it up. I usually stick to a glass of white wine or a small shot of Jameson, but suddenly I wanted a huge, sweet, fruity drink, preferably with a colorful umbrella sticking over the rim. If Joe was surprised by this reaction, he put on a good poker face with a droll, “I’m sure someone will be happy to accommodate you.”
The suite was luxurious, with the requisite Jacuzzi tub, enormous bed and fabulous view. We were given a late checkout of 3 p.m., complimentary bedroom slippers and a gift basket from Joe’s coworkers filled with candy and champagne. In a city with wedding chapels in every casino and street corner, they make hay out of a celebration of 38 years.
My companion dutifully accompanied me to a casino bar, where a delightfully sweet Mai Tai was delivered by a nice young girl with remarkable (and no doubt surgically enhanced) cleavage. After a short cab ride, we arrived at the Bellagio bang on time, and only slightly tipsy.
The show was amazing, taking the best circus aspects to new heights. No, there were no elephants or tigers. (Although I hear there are lions over at the MGM Grand, but that’s a blog post for another day.) The closest I can come to describing it is sort of a ballet with acrobats, clowns, contortionists, and a really deep pool built into the floor of the stage. It’s a riveting display of beauty, physical strength and derring-do. And, although I generally find clowns aggravating, even these were more entertaining than most. Joe had been worried that we might be bored, but that can only be a concern from someone who’s been watching acts like these night after night for a number of years.
While we waited in the cab line for a ride back to Mandalay, we were entertained by the famous Bellagio dancing fountains. On our return, we had a delightful, light late dinner at Wolfgang Puck‘s restaurant, Lupo. Our table was perfect for the continued entertainment of people watching. And really, is there any place better than Vegas to see the foibles of humanity? It wasn’t just the wine that had me giggling.
The next morning, my companion spent a little time working. At ten in the morning, the Las Vegas temperature was already in the 90s, so I headed down to the pool. The wave pool was quite nice, but I got a particular kick out of tubing down the “Lazy River.” At first I was concerned that, as a “woman of a certain age,” it was most unseemly to inflict the sight of me in a flotation device on others. But it was just a little too tempting to walk away from. Floating along was delightfully indulgent, especially since it was too early for the Party Hardy crowd. Even with that, I was surprised at the number of people sipping huge, not-found-in-nature-colored drinks. And then I thought, “What the hell.” The young lady in a red bikini was only too happy to provide me with a bright blue vodka lemonade, obscenely strong and nosebleed expensive.
Wisely, I decided the only way to not waste the drink, yet still remain on my feet, was to share it with my companion. So I returned to our suite to find him waiting. Before checkout we still had time to stroll down to the Burger Bar for a little lunch, and just a touch of sobering up.
By Vegas standards, I’m still a piker when it comes to wild life indulgences. No tigers or chickens were found in our suite, and both my companion and I are returning home with all our teeth intact. But it was a good time, and a treasured memory. Joe and Kim are a hard-working, goal oriented young couple, but they know how to show the old folks a good time. And happily, even after 38 years, we’ve had our moment of Viva Las Vegas.
My companion also blogged about our Vegas visit.