July 25th – The Gilded City

We woke up, and headed straight to the Imperial Palace. Check-in took only ten minutes, and we were quickly set up in our new room, which was in almost every way exactly identical to the one before it. Though the strip has a much more glamorous appearance, it is but gilded, a facade hiding the ugly gray towers housing all us suckers. Still, this hotel felt much less sketchy than the Riviera. We smoked another blunt, and headed out to get started on our buffet of buffets.

Out of the cool dim casino, and into the bright hot desert sun outside. I should have had more water before I left, but between the heat and the blunt, my mouth was forming a desert of it’s own. Of course our destination was on the far side of the strip. Omnipresent are the men shoving business cards for prostitutes in your face. Flashing animated signs advertise each casino’s special strip show. It’s like a perverse Disney land. In possibly the most brilliant advertising I’ve ever seen, every casino has separate high powered air conditioning vents blasting cool air into the outside at every entrance. You trudge through the 103 degree heat for a while and then you walk through a little bubble of nice cool air as you pass the entrance to a casino. “Come inside and gamble!” beckons the cold. “Girls girls girls!” booms the voice over the loudspeakers. We wander on.

Our first stop was the Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood. They had a wide variety of ethnic foods, many of which were quite good and well prepared. A dramatic improvement over the mediocre heat-lamp cuisine of the Riviera. We spent most of an hour eating until we could barely move. When we finally could stuff our faces no more, we waddled back to our hotel.

We stepped out on the balcony to smoke a joint, but before I could get it lit, I caught a waft of burning weed. I looked around, and spotted a guy smoking a blunt a couple stories up on his balcony. Nice. Vegas is definitely a town built on booze and cocaine, and there’s surprisingly few people here that I recognize as stoners. One good joint deserves another, and we continued to relax on the balcony, blowing smoke rings up to our neighbor.

Sometimes when I travel I end up with someone who is really paranoid about smoking weed in hotels. I am here to tell you, that paranoia is completely unfounded. If you can avoid burning anything, ash your bowls in the toilet, and leave a window open when you leave, there’s really nothing to worry about. If you’re really really paranoid, just leave a few extra bucks in tip for the maid. She probably smokes on her breaks anyways, but even if she doesn’t she’s not gonna rat you out to management. I have smoked in dozens and dozens of hotels in over a dozen states and 2 countries. Really, it’s nothing to worry about. Cigarettes are what they’re concerned with, because it’s hard to get that smell out.

This trip must really have been working up an appetite, because a few hours and a few joints later, we were ravenous again. Our next buffet would be the Paradise Gardens Buffet in the Flamingo. The sun was going down as we walked the strip, and Vegas was starting to light up. The Flamingo is roughly pink themed. Everything in it is pink. Everything. Like most casinos, the highly repetitive decorative scheme makes navigating pretty tricky. Yet another annoying thing about Vegas designed to get you gambling for longer. No clocks, no natural light, and everything is a maze through slot machines and craps tables. We finally found the entrance to the buffet, and were seated fairly promptly, breaking with tradition.

The food was pretty good, though not as good as the Spice Market, which would remain the best buffet we would attend. I do remember some good deserts here though. After a less than memorable, but still incredibly filling meal, we wandered out into the gardens where they housed real flamingos, and several other species of bird and fish. It was admittedly a nice illusion of nature amidst the man-made macabre.

By the time we left the flamingo gardens, it was dark, and Vegas had become electric twilight: dazzling, flashing, whirling technobaubles lure in patrons. We pause for a while at the Bellagio to watch it’s famous fountain show. It’s a lovely bit of aqueous choreography, geysers erupting in time to the music blared over loudspeakers. Perhaps some of the only artistry in Vegas, and even it comes off as a shallow attempt at wooing the hundreds of potential future gambling addicts in off the street and onto the casino floor.

We took our time making it back to the hotel, wandering the strip observing both people and the ludicrous theme attractions lining the road. People watching in Vegas is a unique experience. Everyone is there to do it, and everyone knows it. As a result, nobody does the polite look-away when caught staring. They stare at you. You stare at them. No eye contact is made. Neither party looks away. It is a zoo of people with no distinction between visitor and attraction.

Despite the huge variety of different themes presented by each casino, each looks almost exactly the same inside, with variation mostly in color schemes. Lured in by a huge pirate ship outside one casino, we wandered in to find some bathrooms. The nautical theme barely bade it 10 feet through the door, as again we found ourselves on a generic casino floor. They could at least dress up the staff as sexy pirates. The more I think about it, this place isn’t really like Disney. Disney has their people in costumes, and they never break character, on pain of firing. As an amusement part for adults, this one is pretty half-assed overall.

Finally we made it back to the hotel. We had been given some pills we were told was MDMA, and decided to take them that night. As is the case all too often, the pills failed to deliver. At least we hadn’t payed too much for them. We still had a nice night smoking irresponsible amounts of weed and cuddling in bed, though it wasn’t quite the night of extravagance we’d had planned. To think, without prohibition, this problem would never happen, since I could just buy such chemicals from the pharmacy. Say what you want about how evil Bayer of Pfizer is, I have never tried to buy Tylenol and received some random untested chemical instead. They may be evil fuckheads, but they do usually label their products correctly.

We passed out late, our bellies still full, and our minds hazy with smoke and whatever had been in those pills, likely Methylone or some other poor imitation of MDMA. Unsure what sort of hangover this mystery chemical would bring, I was glad we had an extra night to stay indoors before I had to get back on the bike and into the wilderness.

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