I am in the World’s Most Famous Pawn Shop in Las Vegas (Gold and Silver).
It’s famous because it’s a reality show on TV called Pawn Stars, and I’m looking for any of the show’s “characters”, Rick, “Big Hoss” Corey, Chumlee, or the Old Man.
To get inside, I have to wait in line, and the doorman (yes, you read that right) says the lines stretch all the way around the building at times, and I can believe him, because there’s air coolers blowing a nice cold mist onto those who, like me, have no life and want to see the Stars.
Jonathan and I are browsing through the interesting collection of sports memorabilia, coins, guns, antiques, collectibles, and just plain bizarre stuff, including some items we’ve seen on the show, and we haven’t seen anybody famous yet, when we are told by intercom that we must leave the building so they can film another show. We leave a little disappointed, but not all that surprised.
We came to Sin City via Ventura, California, through some pretty boring desert. The flat farmland only has a few mesas and buttes to keep your interest, and really this area is only arable due to the tremendous amount of irrigating required to grow the crops. As an aside, we pass over the California Aqueduct on our way.
If you can tell a lot about a city by its billboards, then Vegas lives up to its reputation of decadence and depravity. Massage parlors, “gentleman’s clubs” (an oxymoron), the latest entertainment, spas, and, of course, gambling all vie for your attention as you approach this city, which could be anywhere, really, but is incongruously slap dab in the middle of a freakin’ desert, and when you see these giant tasteless buildings rising up from the parched dust of the Nevada plateau, you just know that this place isn’t natural, and you aren’t wrong.
I used to like Vegas. I came here a few times over the years, mostly for conventions, ostensibly for business purposes, and always enjoyed myself in spite of the fact that, like almost everyone else, I lost a little money. I enjoyed the shows, the lights, the glitz, the glamor, and the girls as much as anyone. But today as I approach it, the city looks ugly, like a faded old hooker that lost her charm years ago and now has to discount her pricing to keep selling her wares to new Johns. She she can be tarted up to look great in the pitch black of night, but in the during the day she’s still recovering from her hangover.
That’s how Jonathan scored us a nice room at the huge Orleans Hotel for $55. Like the rest of this city, everything’s done loud and large here. There’s a movie theater, bowling alley, a host of restaurants and shops, a spa, performing arts center, and, yes, the obligatory casino all right here under one roof equipped with enough blinking lights to land an airplane. I’m not oblivious to the garish charm of it all, but I guess my tastes have changed, because Vegas just doesn’t “do it” for me anymore. I think I’d rather go to a casino in Campeone d’Italia, where you may pay for your own drinks, but the odds are better and the gamblers are treated with some respect in an old world city full of ancient byways and its own mysterious charms. There’s no mystery to the cachet of the aptly named Sin City…Las Vegas is a whore. If you like that…well, what can I say? I don’t. Not anymore.
But I’m here anyway, you say? True, but after failing to find our heroes at the pawn shop, we have a quiet evening watching a very good football game between the Saints and the Packers at the Four Kegs bar (recommended by Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives), and we split a huge Stromboli sandwich, which I have no experience with, but it seemed tasty enough to me. Jonathan wishes we’d opted for the extra sauce for 75 cents, but I object to needing to pay more for what should already be included in the price. Anyway, we order up some wings as well and enjoy them. I wouldn’t go out of my way for this place’s food, but it’s a good spot to watch a game.
But if you’re in Vegas the Orleans is a nice enough hotel with big clean quiet rooms, and like most of the places here you really don’t need to leave the premises to enjoy most of what the city has to offer.
That’s really about all, but tomorrow I plan to take $100 and burn it just for fun. Actually I’m not, but I will throw that amount away in a futile effort to beat the house. Stay tuned.