Got into Vegas yesterday afternoon, just in time to experience heat and light like never before - and I live in Florida, aptly named The Sunshine State.
As soon as I walked through the doors of Circus-Circus, I knew it was going to be everything I had read in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and more! The front of the room had little room for standing around, as slot machines blinked and beckoned in an endless ocean. I slung a bag on each shoulder and lumbered to the nearest line that looked like a check-in for the hotel. For once when I sniffed the air I didn't smell arid, baking concrete - I smelled cigarette smoke from years and years ago that had permeated the wall-to-wall carpeting, in the days when you could still smoke in most establishments. No amount of carpet-cleaning was going to get that smell out, I decided, and reminisced about the days when I used to smoke. Within 5 minutes I was in front of a clerk who looked at me suspiciously before asking me to repeat myself. "Manor Motor Lodge - I'm here to check in," I explained. "Honey, this is the line for joining the Circus Players Club." She pointed to a poster on the wall next to the desk that offered information on how you could play slot machines and get "comps" like a free room discount, 2-for-1 chicken wings, and things like t-shirts and beach towels. After asking where I go to check-in, her suspicious look changed to pity as she saw I was close to heat exhaustion. "You're going to have to go all the way to the back," and she pointed straight ahead and behind me. "Just keep going and you'll see signs."
Breathing in the ancient second-hand smokiness, I turned around and started the second death-march, this time in the comfort of air-conditioning. It was loud - people shouting and slot machines - I turned down my hearing aids and kept going. I passed the first floor of slot machines and saw that not only were the penny slots already engaged by old ladies (I'll check those out later), but there were themed slot machines for every occasion. TV shows like True Blood were represented, as were popular movies like The Hangover. I had taken the virtual tour of this room before leaving (and I'll link to it as soon as I find it again), so this part of the resort looked familiar.
I finally started to see signs, and an escalator ride with tourists of every shape and ethnic persuasion crowding in around me, I walked yet another mile past a gauntlet of overpriced tourist traps, to get to the check-in area - a long, slow-moving line had formed as check-in had opened a half-hour earlier, at 2pm. At this point I cared little about the line as I was able to put my bags down, take my hat off, and finally start to calm down after my near-death experience on the lonely Circus-Circus Drive. I watched the clerks and the tourists - they both looked harried and tired, and most of the people checking in left in a huff. Was there something wrong? Was I missing something? The place looked well-appointed - molded plaster jesters smiled blankly from the tops of pillars, and large murals of circus acts decorated the wall behind the hotel desk. People waiting in line seemed to leave placeholders while they wandered away to find a bathroom or just to get out of the boring situation of queing up. It all looked oddly familiar, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what it reminded me of. Small children danced around the stanchions that kept the line somewhat straight, causing them to wobble precariously. My mom instinct clicked and I was about to lurch forward to snatch a little girl away from a falling, heavy brass pole, but it wobbled back into place and she danced off, completely unaware of the danger, as were her caregivers (apparently).
A Korean family ahead of me was having problems interpreting their map and reservation information and waved me through to the next clerk. She was incredibly nice and I was soon given a key and a map to my room. Why was everyone in such a state of irritation? Was there some kind of weird vibe? I looked at the people behind me still waiting in line - a grossly obese young man wore a foam cowboy hat with playing cards and dice etched in bronze and black, and his t-shirt had a picture of international stick figures showing people running from other stick figures in red. The inscription said, "Warning: If running away from zombies, I will be tripping you." I decided I hated everyone in the immediate area, and then it hit me: This was exactly like checking into a Disney Resort, right down to the harried parents, spoiled kids, and garish decorations. Coming out of the swinging 60's and 70's, Circus-Circus had at some point decided to adopt the Disney model of cartoonifying every aspect of their resort amenities. I had the evidence - a game app I had downloaded on my phone before pushing off for Nevada.
MyVegas slots app for the Disney-fied Mirage resort. Wait, wasn't this the casino that Oceans 11-13 tried to heist? Why does it look like an iPad app for 3rd graders? Why would a 3rd grader want to bet on the slots? It's kind of insidious.
Anyway, distances were misleading and I couldn't quite parse the ink line the clerk had helpfully inscribed on the map. A helpful salesman next to the 1/2-price Vegas show counter was able to understand it, and directed me out a battery of glass doors to what looked like an underpass parking stand for taxis and shuttle buses. "Is there a way where I don't have to go outside?" The feel of crawling heat stroke was still haunting me, and the clerk nodded hurriedly. "Yes," he said, "but it's going to take longer to get to your room." I said I didn't care and he directed me to the escalators going up another level. "When you get off, just keep walking to the back and look for the signs that say 'Manor.'"
Getting off the escalator, I walked through another gauntlet of over-priced food stands and tourist tchotchke kiosks. I knew I was going to be beholden to some of these stands for food in the morning - I was almost done with my bag of Probiotic Boost Blend trailmix that had quelled my hunger up until now. I walked past the Adventuredome, an indoors amusement park featuring El Loco, a coaster that boasted a 90-degree drop and G-force pulls. My usual enthusiasm for such strange locales was buffered by the overload of stimuli and people. I hurried past and kept on, struggling with my bags and hoping for an end to the walking.
Finally, I came up to a people mover like at airports - I was able to put my bags down and sigh with relief. The only sound now was the repetitive friendly-female voice welcoming me to Circus-Circus resort and reminding me of the many amenities. Coasting along, I looked to my right and saw one of three swimming pools at the resort, filled with clamoring children and adults relaxing off to the side in lounge chairs covered with red and white-striped circus-style canopies. It looked inviting, but I was past caring about anything except getting to my room. Would this walking trip ever end? I wish I had had the wits about me to use Map My Walk to find out how the hell long this whole twisted trudge had been.
After getting off the people mover and down another escalator, I could see the first of the Manor Motor Lodge buildings and hoped to God this was the building where my room was. I stepped briefly back into the world of heat and light and scuttled through the glass door. To my right were stairs but I was not walking up any stairs at this point, so I asked the closest cleaning lady where the elevator was and headed towards it. I figured the walking was fine as long as I didn't have to do any walking up anything. Stepping off the elevator it was another quarter mile to my hotel room, and for once the key card worked on the first try and I was inside my room, where I finish writing this post. It's a nice room and I managed to get some of my clothes hung up before laying down to watch cable for a few minutes. Until I woke up at 6am this morning.
I missed Whisk(e)y Wednesday and my apologies to the librarians who organized it - I really wanted to see the Irish pub in the New York New York resort and meet my fellow ALA colleagues. Well, tonight, then - I go on the ALA Vegas All-Conference Pre-Party club crawl with the ALA Think Tankers. I just visited the Facebook page and noticed that the link to the Eventbrite event was taken down - so, sorry stalkers, you'll have to find me some other way. Anyway, I'm hoping that it's more fun than Circus-Circus. See you later!