Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I saw Las Vegas for the first time last week, when Robert and I braved the nine-hour drive to celebrate his birthday.

I am not a Las Vegas person. I’ve always known this, but it was reassuring to have it confirmed.

We stayed at the Bellagio, which bills itself as refined, elegant, sophisticated, and lushly European. Well, I guess, except for the hordes of middle-Americans in baggy jeans and sports-team t-shirts, college boys in sideways baseball caps holding fruity mixed drinks at nine in the morning, college girls teetering on slave-girl-sandals-with-five-inch-stiletto-heels, fat people on electric scooters, old ladies alone at the slots machines, hookers, and large groups of people speaking unrecognized foreign languages. I would have loved to study all of them in more detail--like most writers, I relish any chance to look at people--but the casino was cloudy with cigarette smoke and I simply could not endure it.

We had a remarkable birthday dinner at Picasso.  I am not a foodie; I consider gourmet food to be anything that I didn’t cook. But our dinner was breathtaking. A cream of butternut squash soup with floating islands of marshmallows and a puree of morel mushrooms. Kobe beef “spheres” (which is apparently what the refined call meatballs) on a bed of lentils. Delectable snapper, the preparation of which I don’t remember, thanks to the efforts of our sommelier, who brought a different wine to accompany each course. Dessert was something with chocolate and butter pecan ice cream. I think I ate a quail egg somewhere along the way.

The next day, we walked down the Strip, dodging smokers and drunken college kids and the guys silently flicking ads for escort services at us. We walked through the Paris casino (poking our heads into the oh-so-elegant soap shop just to see the big sign for the new toilet-bowl cleaner, Poo-pourri) and Bally’s (which looked seedy, but not as seedy as Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon, which seems to be the lone holdout from a bygone era). Sushi for dinner. I was ready to leave.

It’s a big playground, just like Branson (which we visited last year), except that Las Vegas is for the grownups who want debauchery and sin and the opportunity to browse in a Hermes store as if they were really going to buy something. (I don’t know any adults personally who would like Branson, but there seem to be loads of them, all aching to get a ringside seat for Andy Williams, most of them from Kansas.)

I guess it’s nice that there are two different kinds of playgrounds. It made me think that there should be different kinds of playgrounds for children. One kind with swings and slides and parallel bars, for the kids who want to be where the action is, the girls who make everything a competition, the boys with a constitutional need to run and yell. And another kind, with sandboxes and water tables and pails and shovels, for the kids like my son, who always wanted to think seriously about what he was digging, who watched the other children with happy interest but was content to play alone, who sighed in resignation when his castles were trampled and announced quietly that he was ready to go home.

We're all entitled to the right kind of playground.  I'm still looking for mine, which should include a window seat, a stack of books, and plenty of scones.

1 comment:

  1. I'm still in stiches about the quail egg. Good stuff, Gina!