California! And Capitalist Whore Okay!

I had to leave. The machines were getting to me. The carpets were closing in. There was only one thing to do: get out of town. After one day.

However, being without a car, my options were somewhat limited. I settled for Primm, a city of the border of Nevada and California. Primm is home to a fashion outlet mall serviced about five times a day by a shuttle bus from the MGM Grand. The choice was clear: if I'm going to be stuck in this haven of capitalism, I might as well get something tangible in return rather than putting it in a slot machine.

I may have a Converse problem. I think I now have five different colours.

The mall also features a gas station, which would normally be rather unremarkable, except that the station is over the state line, so they can sell tickets for the Californian lottery. Which is a lot more complicated than ours…so many different options to chose from. But eventually I sorted it out and gave $1 to the California state funds. Hurrah for me!

In other purchases, I now have a Roddy Womble shirt. Now, that probably means nothing to the two or three people reading this who even know who Roddy Womble is, but I've been desiring one ever since their 2003 concert in Chapel Hill. So yay me!

I couldn't stay too long though, as I had to get back to meet Richard (and to tell the truth, after about an hour or so, there's not much to do). I do hope his bar experiences improve. Perhaps with a bit more sleep behind him tomorrow, and us paying attention to bar/restaurant boundaries, we'll do better!

More Things To Remember About Vegas

One: The Strip isn’t actually that long, but in 35˚C heat, it soon stretches over the horizon.

Two: Vegas never sleeps, but shops don't open until 11am on Sunday for the most part.

So, yes, I was stupid. I got up rather early so I could get a lot of things done before I met Travis in the afternoon. I could have stayed in bed a bit longer. At 8:30am, the heat was bearable; warm, but not quite burning up the tarmac off the roads. Just the right weather for my trek.

Perhaps in a premonition of what was to come, I went to the monorail to get a head start, planning on walking back later. Perhaps you can work this puzzle out: the system costs $5 for a single trip, $9 for a double-trip, $9 for an all-day pass, and $40 for a three-day pass. Another Las Vegas hustle? Or just the oddest ticket system I've ever seen?

Still, I got down to the Imperial Palace stop, got off, and started the walk to the Fashion Show Mall. It was around 9am. I realised two things: it was getting much hotter with every passing minute and that I could feel my face burning. Not good.

This was compounded twenty minutes later, when I finally reached the Mall, dehydrated and already reddened, only to discover it wasn't open for another hour and a half. Oops.

I trudged all the way back up to Caesar's Palace, dimly remembering a CVS on the road back in 2000 but not finding it (I discovered later that it was much further up, next to New York - New York in fact), before finally surrendering and buying sunblock from a shop in the Flamingo Hilton.

The city was filling up fast. Las Vegas is the end point of The American Dream, where money mixes with the two great cultural taboos: alcohol and sex. Back in the 1990s, there was a push to reposition Vegas as a family-friendly venue, but somewhere along the line, they must have decided that it wasn't making as much money, because the adult world is firmly in charge again. The MGM ripped up its theme park, replacing it with shopping and nightclubs, billboards mounted on trucks advertise naked girls that 'want to meet you now!'; even Cirque du Soleil do a topless show. Only the M&Ms, Circus-Circus, and the Excalibur remain.

I was propositioned by a hooker today. Though I didn't realise until about two hours later.

Eventually, I finally got into the mall. Where the Apple Store came up empty on wireless keyboards and my 1920s fixation broadened further. Borders Express tried to tell that Naomi Klein doesn't have a book out on Monday, and the Sanrio store is shockingly pink.

In fact, I think that aside from a pleasant couple of hours phoning home and talking to Laura, I think I've been walking around shops all day. Which isn't strictly Vegas is it?

Richard arrives tomorrow. I hope the machines don't traumatise him…

For Irregular, Bite-Sized Updates

You’ll be wanting Twitter.

Eyes Peeled

What you have to remember is that the hustle begins in Vegas as soon as you get off the the plane. As soon as you step into the terminal, you’re presented with a bunch of fruit machines just waiting to be played. In the airport.

It continues at the hotel, when you step up to the registration desk. You have a pre-paid room, but did you know that they have a few large suites available? And don't they look good? With a jacuzzi as well? You don't want that one? Well, here's a cheaper suite…in the end, there's no real escape from the hustle; you're in Vegas, therefore you will lose money somehow. I ended up getting the $5/day 'resort package' so I didn't ruin the clerk's day completely. Although he got his revenge by apparently sticking me on the the floor where the club overspill sleeps at 4am. But then, in the grand scheme of Vegas, it's a victory.

One thing I forgot, having spent most of the five years in North Carolina, is how different alcohol is handled here. There probably are open container laws, but people walk down the street drinking, girls that look unconvincingly over 21 swig from Budwiser glasses or buy cans of malt liquor at service stations; it's like an average British town…oho. Except that every other woman seems to have work done, or at least in the area I've explored so far (the Stratosphere and the Sahara; forgive me - I've been up for more than 24 hours!).

But now, the city has claimed me. Tomorrow, I will explore the monorail, and get to the truth of whether OJ Simpson carried out an armed robbery on the Palace Station...

We Were Actually Quite Far From Barstow...

Heathrow is the last trick we play on tourists, a mean-spirited and cruel device to grind them into the ground for having the temerity of leaving our shores. Under the guise of construction, which seems to have been in progress since the airport opened in the 1960s, we huddle passengers through dimly lit corridors, along cheap wooden panelling, and queue after queue until their will is beaten into a bloody pulp.

I felt sorry for those who turned up half an hour after I arrived; the queue to the check-in desk had snaked past the overflow; the poor fools that attempted to join us were taken aside by officials and shown the overflow queue, stretching back towards infinity. You could see the holiday joy and elation disappear from their face, replaced by disbelief and annoyance as they trudged to the back of Terminal 3.

Once you manage to clear check-in, a trip upstairs leads you to the queue to security control. Boarding passes are inspected; your reward is access to another queue. This time, it's X-Ray. Once you've survived that experience, you think you're free. But it is not to be. Another X-Ray queue just for shoes, and another passport control. You are free.

Free to shop. BAA makes no pretence of being subtle about this; passport control is the entrance to their World Duty Free chain. Does any other country obsess about Duty Free as much as the UK? I wonder. The thrill of cheating Darling Darling out of a few pence on a bottle of Gordon's Gin or a box of 100 cigarettes seems to be highly significant to us, yet in all the other countries I've flown from, its importance is lessened. Or perhaps I've just flown from the wrong airports.

Las Vegas…Las Vegas…I've been in the air for five hours now, and we're only just half-way there. Scraping into Canada, still having to travel the same distance again to get to Los Angeles, then another hour on a plane to McCarren Airport itself.

some time passes…

I'll say this for AA. It may have been an eleven hour flight, but it saw THE RETURN OF THE PIZZA SNACK, and for that, all possible sins are forgiven. And they gave me a drink of water and a Toblerone while I was sleeping (briefly).

My usual Fear of Homeland Security was once again unwarranted; while I was in the air, thousands of SQL statements executed across the banking system, and a computer determined that seeing Helvetica wasn't a barrier to entry. All in all, it took about five minutes. And that included the agent filling out my form, stamping it, giving me back my passport, and only then realising that I had ticked one of the five boxes on the back. Honestly, it's a wonder that LA isn't awash with Nazis. Amusingly, she told me something that conflicts with both the document and the previous five years of travelling to America. A little strange.

Hunter S. Thompson wrote in Fear And Loathing that Las Vegas in the 1970s was behind the times somewhat; it's idea of "hip was Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin". These days, I guess that isn't the case - after all, it is Britney's party area of choice, but LAX upholds the 1950s throwback by having its flight to Las Vegas depart from the original airport terminal.

There's a shuttle bus that leaves from the modern era into the past. Which would be fine, except that as the bus pulls out of the terminal, you suddenly realise that you're sharing the road with 747s. This would be enough to brig on the Fear of course, but after being up for twenty hours, eyes bloodshot and mind slightly dulled by the ten hours of roaring engines, you might get a little cocky. Bring them on! American steel versus American rubber! Land against air…but on land's terms. All we need is a little energon…and a lot of luck.

Thankfully, the driver was having none of it, forcing us behind the yellow line, and driving in circles until the taxi-way was clear. In retribution, she drove us past the line of propellor planes lined up outside the old terminal. Now, I'm not someone who demands the very best, but I do insist on a jet engine. I Had A Bad Experience. I had been assured that jet engines would be strapped onto the wings of my plane, and if they weren't? Then it would be off to the Polo Lounge to hire a red convertible and find a Samoan attorney. And that would probably cause red flags on my return trip.

Incidentally, one day, we will have to go to LA and visit the 20th Century Fox building. And climb through the ventilation shafts, obviously. Welcome to LA!

I will leave you now, as they're about to call the flight. I will inspect, and you may hear from me again when I reach Baker.

No monkeys, but Vegas!

Updates will no doubt follow…I will try not to lose everything I own in the casinos!

currently playing: saint etienne – how we used to live





This is a no smoking cinema!


It’s like a whole barrel of nostalgia at the moment!

currently playing: Dexy’s Midnight Runners – One of those Things

The Motorola F3

It doesn’t have a camera. It doesn’t play music. It doesn’t do bluetooth. It can only display six characters at a time. It is an uncompromising slab of plastic that is cutting-edge yet harkens back to the LED displays of the 1970s. And it cost me £10.


It is a phone of Futurism.