Las Vegas, NV – late night

My last night in Las Vegas.  The time I’m writing this qualifies as “late night,” but I’m actually in a casino at the moment.

No, not gambling.  I learned my lesson pretty quickly (more on that later).  I’m here having a late dinner.  All the casinos have all night restaurants in them, just so you won’t be tempted to actually spend any of your money elsewhere.  Oh, and you can bet on Keno and sports right from your table, in case the flow of money out of your pockets has slowed to a rate unacceptable to you.

I met a nice family (dad and two brothers who are a bit older than I am) at the Atari show.  To be honest, they were just about the highlight of my Atari show.  If this is the “World of Atari ’98,” it really is a small world, after all.  But I talked with these guys for awhile (one of the sons was also a comic collector.  I keep running into Silver Age DC collectors on this trip.  I wonder what that’s supposed to mean to a long-time Marvel Zombie?), and we ended up killing some time in the casino at the Holiday Inn Boardwalk, where the WOA ’98 was held.

The dad of this little crowd stuffed a ten into one of the nickle slot machines for 200 credits and started “playing.”  I put playing in quotes, because the activity consisted solely of pressing one big button to play three more credits (the machines that are labelled “nickel” or “quarter” or “dollar” actually only pay the maximum if you “play” three, four, and sometimes five credits at a time.  Again, can’t let you hold onto that money any longer than absolutely necessary).  He played for quite awhile, hovering around 120 credits, then losing all the way down to about 30 credits, then hit a couple big ones that put him back over 200 for awhile.  I think he cashed out at about 170-odd, which amounted to about forty minutes of slot “play” for a buck or two.  Actually, not nearly as bad as I would have guessed.

While he was playing, he was talking about how there are certain tricks to which machines to play when, how long to stay at one, playing the one “next door” a couple times in between playing yours, that kind of thing.   He also convinced me (and I must confess, to my eternal embarassment, that it wasn’t very hard) that it was a good idea to put a twenty into the dollar slot machines.  Those are the ones with some serious payoffs, and, as my slots mentor pointed out, “you never know when they’re going to hit.”  By hit, he meant give the “progressive” payout, which keeps going up, even while you’re there watching it, until somone wins it.

So I threw a twenty in the dollar slots.

Three minutes later, I was done with my slots career.  I think I “won” six credits along the way, but playing 3 coins a pop makes a total of 26 credits go really fast.

After I lost my twenty, dad put in his twenty.

Without going into too many painful details, after moving around to several machines and cashing out twice, he’d won about $350 over his $20 investment.

I opened my wallet.  It was so obvious, you just have to spend money to make money.  If you keep putting it in, it’s going to pay off sooner or later.

I had another twenty in my hand, but I was thinking about the last twenty and how fast it went.  I also thought about the night of camping, or two decent meals, or third of an RV tank of gas that other twenty would have bought me.  I mentioned already that the finances of my little odyssey are becoming an issue, and I was weighing options, here.

Of course, that $19 million progressive jackpot would keep me camping for the rest of my natural life…

I didn’t do it.  I’m glad I didn’t, I have an addictive personality, and I can easily see myself feeding bills to these machines until there’s no bills left.  And I imagine that’s the way it works, an awful lot of the time.  The folks like the old man, who don’t really care and are just passing time, win.  Then there are people who are in a hole, and think the progressive will get them out of it.  And they lose what they’ve got left.

I think that’s what really bothered me about Vegas in the first place.  The only way to enjoy it is if money is no longer an issue for you.  If you have earned, begged, or stolen more than you’ll ever be able to use, don’t bother giving some back or trying to help someone who hasn’t found the way, yet.  Go to Vegas and blow it all out your ass.  And if you’re not there yet, come to Vegas anyway, we’ll take whatever you have left and toss you in a deeper hole.

I didn’t mean for this to get quite this down on Vegas.  I actually had a good time in a couple places I’ll tell you about later.  But even those places are examples of reckless, over-the-top, conspicuous spending.  It seems to me that Las Vegas is a monument to selfishness and waste, and a freak show of losers hoping for that one spin that will change their lives while they keep throwing them away.

Okay, more upbeat now.

Ceasar’s Palace and the Mirage are actually quite cool.  New York, New York also had a couple fun points.  The Mirage first, though.

I went back to see The Secret Garden of Seigfried and Roy, a little zoo in the Mirage complex with a bunch of rare cats.  I went during a break in the Atari show, and so, unfortunately, did not have my camera with me.  Oh, well.

From the strip, you have to go completely through the Mirage to get to the secret garden.  Past the casinos are several shops, some of them kinda cool.  On the other side of those is the swimming pool, which looked to me to be a damn fine reason to stay at the Mirage, all on it’s own.  The lagoon out front (the one with the volcano) had left me with the feeling that I wanted to dive in.  Well, the pool lets you.  It’s got waterfalls and palm trees and fountains, and… it’s just really cool.  But they only let you in with a Mirage room key.  Poopie.

Anyway, past that is the Secret Garden.  The first exhibit in the Secret Garden is the dolphin habitat, so you know this isn’t your typical tomato garden.  There are several rooms underground with windows looking out into the habitat, and they were working with the dolphins while I was there.  So you could hang around and see the ‘phins pick up speed under water for those jumps and flips.  One of the dolphins was over nine feet long and weighed close to five hundred pounds.  I never realized they got quite that big.  But one of the windows was right underneath where the trainer was rewarding the dolphins with fish, so a bunch of them were just bobbing around there, not more than a foot away (through eight-inch thick glass, of course).  Huge, incredibly powerful animals.  And they do seem to love playing with people, a couple “charged” the windows, then turned away at the last second.  And of course they’re always smiling.

After that, you get to see the cats (and one elephant, which I’m sorry to say I simply don’t care that much about).  Snow White Tigers, White Striped Tigers, Heterozygous Orange Tigers (orange tigers that carry the recessive white gene), White Lions, a Snow Leopard, and two Black Panthers were out when I went.  My first trip through, every damn one of them was asleep.  Knowing cat tendencies, I went to get a slushy and came back about fifteen minutes later.  Sure enough, the big White Striped Tiger was up and around, and the Heterozygous Orange in the same habitat was beginning to stir.  The third cat in there, a Snow White, slept on.  The Orange noticed the White having a drink from the pool, with his back turned.  The Orange jumped off his little tree perch where she’d been sleeping, and crouched in the grass.  I’d seen that posture enough to know what it meant, and I told the guy with the video camera next to me to “shoot the Orange.”  Just in time, he turned the camera, as the Orange pounced on the White.  It’s fun enough to watch two housecats playing, just imagine when both the cats are three times as big as you…

The White Lions were also waking up, and I noticed some more behaviors familiar to those who live with cats.  It was great.  Unfortunately, the Black Panthers remained blissfully asleep.  I would have loved to see them roaming around in the light.  Black Panthers are actually leopards, and in the right light, you can often see the patterns in their coats.  But ’twas not to be.

I was pretty much done with the Mirage.  As I walked back through the casino to get to the strip, I saw a sign that said “High Limit Slots” and out of curiosity, I checked it out.  They had tons of $5 machines, then I saw $10, and $25.  They had a couple machines where a “coin” was fifty dollars.  And, like always, if you “play,” you’re going to play three “coins” at a time.  One hundred and fifty bucks, gone in two seconds, for those who have the means.  In-fucking-sane.

Back out on the strip, it was 110 degrees.  Rather than walk back to the Holiday Inn Boardwalk down the sidewalk, I went through Ceasar’s Palace, assuming Ceasar would have air conditioning (I was right).  The Forum Shops at Ceasar’s Palace are actually the coolest mall I’ve ever been in, thanks largely to having the coolest FAO Schwartz toy store I’ve ever been in.  This is a three-story toy store with two integral snack bars.  The snack bar on the third floor was in the action figures section and had a Star Wars theme.  Not “theme,” like music playing in the background, “theme,” like the place _was_ the Cantina, with four life-size Cantina band figures on a stage up behind the counter.

Even better, I found the X-Wing and Millenium Falcon “danglies” that I’ve known existed, but have never actually seen for sale because those are the ones everybody wants and buys up.  The Falcon was even marked half price.  I did have to dig through what seemed like hundreds of Death Stars and Star Destroyers, but just as I was thinking “well, not this time,” I found an X-Wing in the bottom of the last row I checked.  And is that…yes, the _very_ _last_ box, in the bottom of the last row, was the Falcon.  I assume someone must have hidden it there for later purchase (some of you may not know the subterfuge involved in simply buying toys these days.  In more than one Toys R Us, I’ve run across folks’ stashes, just by knowing the kinds of places they use to hide the rare and popular toys that come out of the freshly opened cases.  I’ve never stashed things myself, but I have bought things I’ve found in others’ stashes.  I know a guy who bought a suitcase at K-Mart [he had grabbed the one on the bottom of the stack, for some reason], and when he got home, he discovered four of the Holiday Barbies stashed inside [he returned them to the K-Mart.  I imagine that was an interesting day at customer service: “no, I didn’t _buy_ them, I’m just _returning_ them, no, I don’t want a refund, I’m just _giving_ them _back_ to you…]), too bad for them.

At one end of this mega-mall is the IMax theatre/ride Race For Atlantis.  It was ten bucks, and after having felt kinda bitten on the $5 roller coaster at Circus Circus (kinda crappy coaster.  The fact that it was indoors was about the coolest thing about it.) and considering the state of my bankroll, I decided to pass it up.  But when I came out of Niketown (have you _seen_ these “Niketowns?”  Unreal.  I can’t imagine they actually sell anything from these places.  You have to get your size sent down from the, I don’t know, attic, I guess, in these little elevator tubes, if you want to try something on.  It’s more like a museum than a shoe/sportswear store), the fountain in the cul-de-ac at that end of the mall had transformed itself into an animatronic stage, setting the mood for _Race For Atlantis,_ complete with shooting streams of water and flames (they really like fire flying around, here in Vegas).  The animation in the robots was incredible, they even had hand gestures.  And not just back and forth, the whole five or ten minutes was intricately choreographed.  I was impressed.

But not impressed enough to give them ten bucks for the ride.  Nyaah, nyaah.

That pretty much let me back out at the WOA show.  It’s getting real late as I’m writing this (somewhere up there, I finished dinner, and I’m back in the RV now), but there’s not a lot to say.  I was pretty disappointed in World of Atari ’98.  I was hoping to buy a 1200XL computer and a 5200 game machine, the only two Ataris ever available to the public in the US of which I don’t own an example.  No luck on either, and these aren’t what you’d call rare and valuable, the 5200 might be worth $50, the 1200XL a bit less than that.  The problem was there were exactly two types of dealers here, those that would have been at a local flea market if WOA hadn’t happened to come through town (I like these guys, I got a bunch a $1 cartridges I’ve never played.  Can’t wait to try ’em out), and the guys who have the only existing prototype copy of a never released game that they want $500 for.  Nothing in between.

The show itself was also a mess.  Everything was running late and no one seemed to be able to tell you when, for instance, the one o’clock auction was actually going to start.  Three different folks with “STAFF” badges would tell you three different things, and of course none of them would turn out to be true.  The auction mostly turned into a joke.  The first few dozens items were all of the “rare prototype” or “only available for three afternoons in Tanzania in 1982” variety, and their current owners (the three big sponsors, suspiciously enough) all had “reserves” on them that were higher than what comparable items have been selling for on the ‘net (a “reserve” is an amount that the item can’t be sold for less than.  Prototypes for some games were available in the dealers room for $30-$50 bucks each, then similar items would show up in the auction with a $75 reserve).  The auctioneer would look at the reserve, and try to start the bidding at an appropriate amount.  For the first half-hour or so, the most common reaction was that he was laughed at.  The good part about this was that a lot a people ended up just leaving the auction, and I was able to get a couple nifty items late in the game at reasonable prices (including a Commodore 64 with disk drive, printer, and a big box of software for $30.  The disk drive alone is going for twice that on the ‘net.  That’s what you get for trying to sell Commodore stuff at an Atari show).

And the people there.  Hoo boy.  Not counting the cool family I mentioned, I was sore afraid of at least 95% of the attendees.  I kid about knowing that I’m a geek, but compared to this crowd, I’m James fucking Dean.  I like the Ataris, but I also realize where precisely is their place in the world.  I’m not sure some of these people have been outdoors since 1978.

So I think I’ll get my Atari fix via Internet from here on out.  I’m glad enough I came, considering I was in the right area at the right time.  But I’d be severely pissed if I’d come out just for the show.

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