Monday, February 09, 2009

My Favorite Vegas

Vegas is not my favorite, but I have discovered my favorite version of Vegas, and it's at Legoland California.

We were there, the real Vegas, once in '97, maybe it was '96... yeah, '96. Alex was a toddler, William was fascinated by pirates and Geoff had a conference to attend. He must have been working for a healthy company, because they sent the 4 of us, all expenses paid. Arriving in Las Vegas with 2 children, one does not hope to catch shows or learn blackjack. I went for the clean sheets, fresh towels and a 2 day break from dishwashing... sweet!

What was the conference? It had to be a tech/gaming/graphics/electronics theme... whatever it was, it booked the whole town, which was quite awesome, because all the geeks were in meeting rooms and convention halls and all the pools, buffets, freebies and rides were practically empty. The boys and I walked all over the place and enjoyed the last days of the ill-fated "Vegas is for Families" campaign. We stayed in the Luxor, which was mind-blowing for William who was also a huge Egyptology enthusiast. While Geoff did his thing, we traipsed over to the MGM and discovered they had rides and shows for children and families, so besides the superficial glitz and glam of the hotels and general environs we had actual activities and entertainment, and no one was there! It was exclusively ours.

The pyramid is the hotel and inside the rooms are on the perimeter, overlooking the interior. It was an impressive layout, but kind of nauseating when staying with young children... it was hard to resist hanging over the railing to look down and from many floors up, it was a long way down. And there was so much to see! Every hotel has its theme, and before you get jaded looking at yet another slot machine, you can have a good time being engrossed by the lengths they go to fill the places up with eye candy. The Luxor was brimming with ancient *artifacts* and replica treasures, so cocktail waitresses aside, it was kind of like visiting a very glamorous museum.

I believe this, New York-New York, was what we were watching under-construction from our Luxor room, but maybe it was the Venetian. All I know is that I really love watching stuff under-construction. I love the earth movers and the cranes, the dirt and dust. I marvel at engineering and coordination and design. It's no less amazing when achieved with Lego bricks.

Vegas is strange. Everything is fake, but of course very real. It's right there in front of you, so it has to be real, but I see the superficial qualities and half expect the walls to evaporate, and everything to disappear, like a mirage. I had a very good time, because I had no expectations, no illusions. Someone was kind enough to make our beds and serve us 3 generous meals and I never had to scrub a pan or change a bulb.

What really struck me though was that look of disappointment and boredom I kept seeing in people's faces. Not every visitor was a geek, there was room for a few pockets of regulars, tourists, dreamers. They were drifting in out of buffet lines and sitting dutifully at slot machines. Even out in the light of day, they looked like unhappy investors in a fool's paradise. They looked like they wanted more stimulus, more glitter, more, more, more, and they wanted it served to them... they were not going to go traipsing and exploring for their fun. I thought it was hilarious, especially the kind of Farside characters in the casinos... cigarettes dangling from crestfallen lips, glazed expressions on made-up faces... lots of leisure wear and high hair, big rings, and bedazzled accessories, but every one of them defied their shiny exteriors and exuded profound sadness, loss, and disengagement. They lacked gratitude, awareness, joy. Vegas is strange, baby, very strange.

How many bricks to make Camelot? I do not know, but it must be in the millions. Can you imagine designing, planning and constructing something this elaborate and assembling it with Lego bricks? Amazing.

Legoland has a section in the park called Miniland USA and it's quite a sight in terms of construction and creativity, and it is also interesting when you know the places, towns and regions they are representing in bricks. Vegas looks just like Vegas. They go to great lengths to include the details and regional flavors of D.C. and New Orleans, New York and California, so that if you have been to those places you have the delight of rediscovering that place on a whole new scale.

Cars and buses are moving around, and a recording plays the kind of ambient sounds you might expect to hear in a bustling city. I love the landscaping... lamps and bridges are all made of Legos parts, but the trees and lawns, gardens and flowers are all achieved with live plants.

...Okay, twist my arm... I will boast for a moment. When we sold El Rancho, one of the buyer's family members was a landscaper from Legoland, which we thought was really cool. He had a lot of praise for the landscaping design at El Rancho, and you bet I swelled a bit when he spoke in such glowing terms of the layout and plant selections. We got help putting everything in, but the entire design and every plant choice was mine. Good memories. Sigh

This is where Vegas puts on a glorious fires blazing,seafarers dashing, 2 ships and cannons blasting, pirate show. Even after all these years I can recall the heat of the fireworks and feel William absolutely quivering with the delight of live theatrical spectacle. The pirates were manly and swashbuckling, with open shirts... you know, to be authentic, ahem. It was all so real and so fake, and so fun and maybe we'll go back and see that again.

I call this one "Pink vs. Vader" Pink is totally going to win, every time.


Tiglizzyclone said...

What a wonderful place Lego Land looks like. I wish I lived closer so I could go see it. I like miniatures a lot. I have only been to Vegas 2 times. But we have Reno closer by, I actually lived there for awhile when I first married. I never gambled much, not interested in it.

Anonymous said...

I hate to burst your bubble, but the Treasure Island show was retooled a few years back (probably about the time the "bring your kids to Vegas" thing was scrapped) and I guess it now features scantily-clad, chesty sirens, not swashbuckling pirates.


Lesley said...

I agree with Holly about the Treasure Island show — lots of grinding as I recall.
I like this Lego version of Vegas much better! But now I'm kicking myself we didn't ever get there — and there's no time in the seven days we have left!

Julie in Seattle said...

Hi Natalie! I always love catching up with your blog. Your posts inspire me to think poetically, artistically about my whirlwind life with three young kids of my own. Sometimes you have to stop and take a breath and remember how much fun this all is! Whew!

Laura Jane said...

I was with Lesley for the Treasure Island bump and grind show and it certainly DID leave much to be desired. Sigh

Ah, Vegas....but I am glad to have seen it once.

Our favourite bit was the water show at the Bellagio, it was utterly delightful.

Yes, the Farside look, always a bit disappointed...good description.

Tracy said...

Hi, Natalie! Now this is a Vegas I could handle too...LOL! What fun...And so is Marie taking on Darth Vader at the end there...sooo brave! Happy Days to you all ((HUGS))

Jennifer said...

Sigh. And we didn't even need another reason to yearn to visit Legoland.... Great stuff, this. I love how you tell a story.