Leaving Las Vegas.

I wish I could afford/had time to travel more, but it’s almost always good to be home. I’m glad that at this late point in life, I finally got a chance to see Las Vegas. It was as advertised, and not, although complaining about false advertising in a city where everything is fake, from the smiles to the boobs to the hospitality — that’s like complaining about the weather. It’s just the way it is. Deal.

What I liked: The glorious absurdity of the place. That you could get a drink anywhere, at any time of day. The look of the MGM Grand lion at sunset:


Fremont Street. Hoover Dam. The dancing waters at the Bellagio:


Watching Kate play “Anarchy in the U.K.” to an audience of prisoners on Guitar Hero in the arcade at Bally’s:


Among other things. What I didn’t like: The way the maps lie. (“Across the street” means “half a mile away.”) The way the old business model — everything’s cheap as long as you don’t mind seedy — has given way to one in which nothing is cheap, but it’s still most of the way to seedy, just the high-gloss, breast-implant variety of seedy. Great restaurants, but frightfully expensive. Fancy hotels, crammed with people gawking at the fanciness. Like the Bellagio lobby ceiling:


Finally, I grew weary of being nickel-and-dimed. It’s true you can do anything in Vegas, at any hour of the day or night, but it’ll cost you. Everyone has a hand in your pocket, and every inch of the place is designed to empty them as quickly and efficiently as possible. For instance: Someone told me I wouldn’t be able to take Kate into a casino, and so I’d be doing a lot of detouring. Scoff. You can take kids into casinos all you want. (According to law, they can’t “loiter” there.) We walked past more slot machine and blackjack tables than we did fat people. You have to walk through the casino to get anywhere. (They have slot machines in daycare centers, I am certain.) Add-on fees are everywhere; our friends Clark and Aimee were charged a daily fee at their hotel for, no kidding, electricity. A simple ATM withdrawal — from a bank’s machine, not one of those private things — costs $5. I know that staff works for tips, but by the third day, all the forelock-tugging grew wearisome. My last act of defiance was to stiff the valet at our hotel as we were checking out; I had no small bills, and damn if I was going to give him a tenner for putting my suitcase into a taxi. Sorry, bub.

Filmapalooza was OK, a little thin, but the talk by Jason Reitman was quite enjoyable:


I asked him about shooting in Detroit. He said if Detroit could do for the city what it did for its airport, it would have no problems whatsoever. From a visual perspective, he’s right. He talked a little about subject and theme, although he called it “location and the deeper thing.” “Thank You for Smoking” was about a lobbyist for a vile industry, but the deeper thing was freedom of choice. “Juno” was about teen pregnancy, but it was really about innocence and growing up.

Everything I need to know about writing I already learned in the newspaper business.

And the NAB show, the National Association of Broadcasters, the show to which Filmapalooza adhered, was a wonder. Acres and acres and acres of whiz-bang doo-dads, lights and cameras and action and software. Everyone’s showing a 3D television rig — no thanks, anyway — but the thing I found most interesting was the big thing in budget filmmaking: Shooting on a single-lens reflex still camera. This guy showed this film, shot entirely on a Canon 5D. You need a lot of SD cards, but who cares when you can carry your whole rig in one hard-side suitcase?

(They’re shooting the final episode of “House” this way.)

I almost bought one of these at a 30 percent discount, and still might. I have until tomorrow to decide. It all depends on how my tax refund shakes out.

And now we are home. Green and cool and blessed humidity. What did I miss when I was gone?

She-Who wants a bendy straw. And you’d better provide one. No, two.

Gene Weingarten won a second Pulitzer? His long-time editor explains how it happened.

The cilantro/soap thing, explained.

On to taxes.

Posted at 9:29 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

30 responses to “Leaving Las Vegas.”

  1. judybusy said on April 14, 2010 at 9:49 am

    Is the Bellagio ceiling Chihuly? Looks like his stuff.

    Thanks for info on cilantro! I had to have it three times before loving it. I first had it at dim sum in soup, and seriously just thought they didn’t rinse the dishes well! Now I heap it on in prodigious amounts, and always inhale deeply when I first pick up a bunch at the co-op.

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  2. LAMary said on April 14, 2010 at 9:58 am

    They raised the tuition 30 percent at the Cal States last year. Now I know it went to a good cause.

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  3. Dorothy said on April 14, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I don’t think there’s one among us nn.c regulars surprised by the pre-screened questions aspect of SheWho’s appearances. And I never thought I’d have anything in common with She’sNuts besides a vagina, but I like me a good bendy straw too, if they’re around.

    judy I thought the same thing about the Bellagio’s ceiling. I snapped a few pictures in Columbus last summer when Mom came to visit of the Chihuly exhibit at the Franklin Park Conservatory. http://www.flickr.com/photos/truvy57/3696921093

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  4. Laura Lippman said on April 14, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Have you read the Weingarten piece? When it was published, I think I said something like, Too bad he already has a Pulitzer because this is one of the best things I’ve ever read. (Not that prizes mean anything.)

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  5. coozledad said on April 14, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Cilantro is actually a kind of blood soap. It can chelate heavy metals and help get them out of your system, though probably nowhere to the extent claimed by naturopaths. I’ve started using it a lot because it’s easy to grow (invasive), because we live in the shadow of a coal fired power plant that’s left a huge beryllium footprint on its lee side, and because you can mix cilantro with a can of stewed or diced tomatoes and make a far superior salsa to the “gourmet” rubbish they sell now that contains raisins, dates, peaches, coconuts and 3/4 of a cup of corn syrup per jar because too few Americans are losing extremities to diabetes.
    This year we’re planting some papalo. Some Mexicans keep bunches of it on the dinner table in a jar of water to add to their food.The flavor is supposed to be similar to cilantro but veers a little closer to garlic, skunk and corpse.

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  6. harrison said on April 14, 2010 at 10:54 am

    I remember the time my younger brother and I stopped and stayed a night in Vegas back in 1984. We played the slot with a limit of $30. After we lost that much, we went back to our hotel.

    Highlight of the visit was our breakfast the next morning at Circus Circus. It included scrambled eggs, steak and champaign, all for around $1.99 to $2.50, IIRC. It was very tasty at 6:30 a.m.

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  7. bacioni said on April 14, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I just wanted to put in my quarter (don’t get anything for two cents anymore) (well, wait, there are the penny slots), since I live in Las Vegas. Yes, that is a Chihuly ceiling (it is pretty awesome) and there are no slots in daycare or Walmart, at least not yet. However, there are slots at the laundromat down the street. Way back in my apartment days, I would play my leftover quarters waiting for the dryers to do their stuff. I don’t ever go to the Strip unless I have visitors. It is gaudy and cheap for the most part–I steer my visitors to the nicer hotels but won’t part with $14 for a drink (looking at you, Wynn). There is so much that is wrong here, and yet we are people living in a city, doing our every day things, raising our children, hoping for a better future.

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  8. Deborah said on April 14, 2010 at 11:51 am

    I absolutely love cilantro, especially the scent.

    That Chihuly ceiling is the best thing in Vegas. I gave myself a $20 limit to gamble on a business trip there once. I lost half of that in the first second at a blackjack table. I lost the rest about a half hour later at a slot machine. That was that.

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  9. nancy said on April 14, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Of course I read that story, Laura, but for my money, the best story Weingarten ever wrote was “Tears for Audrey,” about Audrey Santo. I think it’s maybe because I first heard of Audrey via Amy Welborn’s blog. There was a strong streak of Catholic mysticism there, not so much from Amy but certainly from her large and lively comments section. As a skeptic, of course I am an unbeliever in the “miracles” she is said to have performed, but I hadn’t realized until reading Weingarten just how preposterous the ruse was. But Gene doesn’t stop there; he digs pretty deep, and in the end finds a truth that is so much more amazing and interesting than weeping statues and oil and all the rest of it. The ending is still the best ending I’ve read on any story, anywhere. He said himself he came to believe the ending was a mistake, but I disagree.

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  10. Catherine said on April 14, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    The best part of the Gawker piece on Palin’s rider is the link, in the comments, to Joan Crawford’s rider when she was shilling for Pepsi. My favorite (this in addition to 3 additional fifths of liquor and 2 bottles of Dom Perignon):

    Two-fifths of 100-proof Smirnoff vodka. Note: this is not 80 proof and it is only Smirnoff

    Now THAT’S a rider!

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  11. basset said on April 14, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    A music-business accountant here in Nashville told me a similar story awhile back about a client who had a contract rider requiring X amount of diet Evian water backstage.

    at least one promoter had someone chase all over town looking for it… they finally explained that there’s no such thing, it was just in there so they’d know the promoter had read the contract.

    same deal with Van Halen’s famous bowls of M&Ms with the brown ones picked out – you put something crazy in the contract, when the buyer asks what that’s about you know they’ve read everything, cross it out, and move on.

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  12. nancy said on April 14, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    The director of the Ohio State Fair, which features name entertainment every day, never did any of that shit. He routinely drew big Xs through the riders, and as most of the entertainers were at the take-it-or-leave-it stages of their careers, no one really objected. He wasn’t a total hardass — he provided decent food and drink for everyone who passed through — but he wasn’t going to be spending taxpayer money on name-brand booze or grapefruit candles or white couches.

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  13. Rana said on April 14, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Bleah, cilantro. I’m one of the few people who dislikes it, yet can’t taste the soapiness. It’s the smell.

    The trick with Las Vegas, if you get tired of the fake and the expense, is to go off strip. Then it becomes just another large, sprawling desert town with wide streets and low houses. UNLV is nice, as is its small botanical garden, and the public library is peaceful.

    What I mostly enjoy about Las Vegas aside from gawking at the fakery is the food – not the food in the casinos, but the stuff in the malls and shopping centers. I’ve had excellent Indian food in a little place at the north end of the strip (where, if you want to see seedy casinos, is the place to go) and excellent Japanese food in one of the luxury malls. It’s a lot quieter in the mall, too, since it’s not attached to any of the casinos.

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  14. alex said on April 14, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Tears for Audrey is a very well told story and the ending is exactly what makes it work.

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  15. Jeff Borden said on April 14, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    She-Who’s rider looks pretty typical for a mid-level celeb. She doesn’t demand as much as, say, Sean Hannity, who insists on private planes and a fleet of limousines for his entourage.

    You could argue that this kind of information, coupled with the report a few days ago that she has raked in a cool $12 million since quitting halfway through her gubernatorial term, might damage her “jes folks” schtick, but her worshippers are so besotted it really doesn’t matter. She has their unconditional love and support.

    Speaking of divas, the Sun-Times is writing about some of the stuff in Kitty Kelley’s tell-all about Oprah including the fact that the talk show queen has a 3,000-square-foot closet and a bathtub carved from a solid piece of jade in her California mansion. Our entire house has less than 3,000-square-feet of space spread over two floors, so I’m thinking that is one big fucking closet. Nothing to match Candy Spelling, however, who has an entire floor devoted to her clothing, shoes and jewelry. They actually added a floor after construction began –this after she and Aaron shelled out $7 million for Bing Crosby’s old mansion in Brentwood and demolished it to make room for the new building– adding millions more to the construction costs.

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  16. coozledad said on April 14, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Someone at The Discovery Channel richly deserves the sack.

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  17. alice said on April 14, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Cilantro! Bleh. I’ll stick with the allergy theory. Whenever I bite into that stuff I can feel it in my spine!

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  18. Jeff Borden said on April 14, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Cooz, you damned liberal, you!

    If you were a real American like She-Who –to be a real American you must have attended five colleges in four years, lecture others on sexual abstinence while your own darling daughter gets knocked up, enjoy shooting wolves from helicopters, go wild on someone else’s credit cards and quit your job halfway through– you would know this is just another left-wing attack on our future president, savior and Armageddon queen.

    You should be ashamed of yourself, you lefty islamofascistnazisocialistseculardoodoohead.

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  19. Jean S said on April 14, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    whoa, “doodoohead.”

    now we’re talking.

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  20. coozledad said on April 14, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    My wife prefers the more unambiguous “shithead”.

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  21. LAMary said on April 14, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Scheisskopf is good too.

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  22. judybusy said on April 14, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Cooz, just so you feel *some* love today, ” because too few Amer­i­cans are los­ing extrem­i­ties to dia­betes” made me giggle.

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  23. coozledad said on April 14, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    LA Mary: We were having a business dinner with some of my wife’s German coworkers and I asked them if they ever used the term Scheissvogel, as in the Korean War repetoire of drill instructors. My father said if you had some kinds of infractions, they’d yank you out of the column and make you sing
    “I’m a little shitbird
    I’m a little shitbird…”
    Like many of my father’s stories, I don’t know if this is grounded in fact, but it amused the Germans.

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  24. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 14, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Audrey was a good story, but The Great Zucchini is a story I still think about most weeks, if not many days since I read it. That’s the Pulitzer award winner. The Joshua Bell story was the platform to allow an award to be bestowed, not that it wasn’t pretty amazing in its own right, and the launching point of many, many sermons.

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  25. brian stouder said on April 14, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    But back to Jason Reitman!

    Over the years, I have found that when Nancy really likes a movie (or at least, when a movie moves her to comment) I will either really dislike it, or else really like it.

    Half way through Up in the Air, it seemed to me that the plot would have to take Clooney’s protagonist one of two ways – one of which I would have REALLY disliked….and when it went the other way, I was very, very happy (although, oddly enough, Pam was put off)

    Aside from that, I had to laugh at the photo of Mr Reitman that Nance posted. I think there is a uniform that really successful movie directors wear when they speak to an audience. Mr LaBute was in a similar outfit (albeit with a suit jacket), and exactly the same shoes.

    Just sayin’

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  26. brian stouder said on April 14, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    By the way, if you click the “subject and theme” link above, you can enjoy a typically succinct, enlightening post from the proprietress – AND a laugh-out-loud comment from Ashley (who has a very cool gravatar, too)

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  27. Jolene said on April 15, 2010 at 1:31 am

    Just heard Craig Ferguson say that he is going to be appearing in Fort Wayne on 4/28. Should be fun. He’s amazingly creative, and, even if he weren’t, he’s got that great accent.

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  28. coozledad said on April 15, 2010 at 1:53 am

    Craig does a hell Bonzo Dog Dooh-dah lip-synch. And he loves his country more than I do. At least in the sense that he’d spring for the tattoo.

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  29. ROgirl said on April 15, 2010 at 6:20 am

    Another Vegas phenomenon (I was there for a training class a few years back): when you’re in a casino and you want to leave, good luck finding a door. You have to walk through acres of slots and other entertainment features before you’re actually allowed to exit the building. I was stuck in a casino and had to wander around for a long time before I could make my escape.

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  30. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 15, 2010 at 7:40 am

    By the way, seeing the “Anarchy in the UK” arcade pic in Nancy’s post — y’all have read Roger Ebert’s latest blog post? That man has lived about seven lives. Amazing, fun, sad, hysterically funny.


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