I can’t claim credit for Seine City. Stole it from the marketers at the Paris Las Vegas, the fantasy land on my Fourth of July weekend calendar. I was stoked. I had a ticket to see Barry Manilow. I was going for the full-on Vegas experience; kitschy and fun. Besides, I hadn’t been to a concert since Reagan was in the White House. No kidding.
Google said it would take five hours and change to drive from San Diego, my base of operations for a few weeks (partner Mitch was in Scotland on his own adventure, doing research on a novel; we touched base every day. I actually heard bagpipes in the background when he Skyped a while ago.)
Anyway, trip to Vegas was a piece of cake. Or so I thought.
How was it I’d never been? Well, I was never much for theme parks. After a nauseating encounter with a ride in Asbury Park, NJ, that took all of my childhood to try (Asbury Park in the good old days, when Springsteen and I were still kids), that was it. I spent my time at the Asbury boardwalk staring outwardly at the ocean; dreaming of traveling the world.
I’d been to casinos passing through France, the Bahamas and Washington State. I’d be laughed right out of Gamblers’ Anonymous because I’m such a scaredy-cat. My phobia for financial risk-taking limits me strictly to slot machines. I was so proud I started and ended up with $20 in Nice.
Would luck be this lady in Vegas?
Well, I wasn’t starting out on the right foot. Was late getting to the rental car place, and then stuck in rental car hell. This being July 4th weekend, everyone else also needed wheels. I got on the road just after 1. I had six hours to make the show. Thelma, without Louise.
By the time I got from San Diego to the L.A. area, winding east to the Mojave Desert and Nevada, I’d had it.
Too bad, because I still had a long way to go. To amuse myself, I tuned into my past. Turned on L.A. talk radio — the station where I worked part-time as a screener for fun when I lived there. When it was the home of Dr. Laura. (Hard to believe she’s still on somewhere. My encounter with her is for another post.)
After more than a decade of being away, it was frozen in time. Same hosts I’d once listened to. Same schtick. (There’s a show hosted by Jesus Christ, played by one of the long-time producers.) I still appreciate the creativity and the hosts’ easy banter. But not into people venting their spleens anymore. Still, an entertaining way to kill some time.
Once in the desert, I was counting my Dollar Rent A Car blessings. Unlike Moses; the souls who trudged West in the covered wagons; and that group America that rode in the desert on a horse with no name, my horse had a name. It was a cute little Nissan Versa, with nice automatic transmission, air-conditioning and plenty of gas — at over $4 a gallon.
But I started sweating when I saw the first of too many signs announcing freeway inclines. They advised turning off the air conditioning to avoid overheating. I switched it off, coaxing the Versa, which didn’t have much pickup, to make the climb. After mere seconds, the furnace-blast hit, just as the temperature was announced on the radio. It was India all over again; over 100 degrees. Air conditioning was back on, pronto. I’d rather the car overheat than me. Besides, no one else seemed worried. They all had their windows up.
There were very long stretches of absolutely nothing. Started getting a little nervous about running out of gas. Stopped in Baker, CA, which cheerfully touts itself as the “Gateway to Death Valley.” How very appealing.
Filled up on gas and bottled water; felt better. But the clock was ticking. By the time I got to Vegas, it was nearing 6 pm.
My only meal, breakfast, seemed like weeks ago. In my hunger delirium, I realized I didn’t know where the Paris hotel and casino were located. I just assumed the Eiffel Tower would be larger-than-life and super-easy to find. It was dwarfed by all the other pieces on the giant Vegas game board.
I had to stop for directions twice. Vegas was packed; traffic was crawling.
By the time I self-parked and checked in, it was 45 miutes before showtime. Just enough time to grab a salad and an eclair (Hey, what’s Paris without an eclair?) The place was so huge and mobbed, there was no time to go to my room. Quickly changed my shirt in the ladies’, left my luggage with the concierge, and excused myself for attending a Barry Manilow concert in running shoes. But after looking around, I saw it really didn’t matter.
Up next: Tryin’ to get the feeling again with Manilow.