This year Maxjet made it up to us and sent us off to Las Vegas.
This was not a place we had intended to visit, but a place to where we were offered a free trip, and this offer which we could not refuse, had to be taken-up within a certain time. Thus, we headed west for a week of tacky debauchery.
Before we got there we had to confront the guilt of an unnecessary long-haul flight. This trip was classic carbon-footprint-busting.
I grabbed the moral high ground by denying myself the apparent irresistible buzz of gambling in Las Vegas. Mrs Monk did not join me in the boycott. She invented a rule that allowed her to put one dollar in a machine every hour, because she did not want to pass on a jackpot opportunity. This is the flawed logic of the hopeless gambler. I watched Mrs Monk follow her rule and dispense each dollar into each machine, and then sigh 30 seconds later as her credit evaporated. Occasionally her dollar would draw a small dividend, and that was when I would sigh, because this would mean I would have to wait a few more minutes until Mrs Monk lost her winnings and we could move on to the next attraction. The Casino always got its dollar, given time.
Las Vegas is remarkable in that it has it’s own unique ways of selling hedonistic pleasures especially when it comes to show time. From the Rat Pack to Elton John and Celine Dijon and Barry Manilow and now the Cirque De Soleil all seemingly quintessential Las Vegas. And let’s face it, you can take Elton John out of Las Vegas, but you can’t take the Las Vegas out of Elton John. Note EJ at Lady Di’s funeral in Westminster Abbey. I rest my case.
The Monks avoided the Big Shows, preferring the attractions of the Big Country landscape. We intended to go out into the desert and visit the Grand Canyon, since we had not yet seen an official “Wonder of The World” and Elton John did not quite match that billing, even in the over- hyped world of Las Vegas show biz.
We were convinced by the Car Rental agent that we would need a four x four off-roader. Our carbon-footprint-offset suffered another blow.
Mrs Monk is my little wonder of the world, who blames herself for not actually making it to the Grand Canyon. The problem is her self diagnosed vertigo. Mrs Monk gets nervous when she approaches the edge of a kerb at a roadside. When she gets onto an escalator at the shopping centre, she stands in the middle and holds onto both handrails on either side and won’t let go, and if someone wants to pass her by, she just makes them wait until she is ready to get off the moving stair, which she does gingerly, as if she were alighting a dingy, bobbing in a shifting sea.
So the Grand Canyon trip was never a real option.
I can’t help feeling that Sin in Las Vegas is rather less obvious than Sin in Southend on Sea. Yes, they openly ply their trade in sex and gambling and alcohol, but it is in a contrived clean-cut all American theme park corporate make-believe kind of way that will offend no one, and disappoint only the odd snob. The visitors wear immaculate white tennis shoes and the hookers that ply their trade at all times of day and night are polite and respectful, while at the same time direct and to the point. The odd drunk that we found lying in flower beds was no more threatening than a sleeping baby.
Las Vegas, was of course, invented by the mobster Bugsy Malone, and sustained by the Hoover Dam, without which, they say, there would be no Las Vegas.
We found remnants of the old Las Vegas, in the historic Downtown, where the wedding Chapels are fading fast, and down on the strip, the Rat Pack have been supplanted by a tribute band.
Corporate Vegas is a plastic Vegas but after a few drinks it feels like the real thing.