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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Las Vegas and the Desert

Walking down Las Vegas Blvd S. in the 105-degree heat last week, I tried to put my finger on exactly what about the place bugged me so much.   I did a pretty good job of it, too: by the end of the trip I had an exhaustive list of huffy, detailed complaints.  (Right at the very tip-top of the list: 105-degree heat.)

But then I thought about it some more once I got back to the hotel room , and all of the issues I had on my list were the exact same reasons that millions of people give for liking Las Vegas so much: the heat, the indoor smoking, the cheap-fantasy hotels, the relentless celebration (instead of mere quiet enjoyment) of decadence, the luxury being passed off as culture.  I’m just not the target tourist for a place like this.  I’m uptight and judgmental and snobbish.  Las Vegas needs input from me about as much as Los Angeles needs input from Woody Allen.

So instead I’ll say this: If we’re going to have something in southern Nevada, Las Vegas probably makes more sense than anything else.  And if we’re going to have Las Vegas somewhere, southern Nevada probably makes more sense than anywhere else.

I’ll also say that, as much I dislike the heat, it does kind of make leaving your hotel room an adventure.  Will you find something to drink before you get dehydrated?  Will your super-sensitive neck get sunburned?  Will you get a caught in a mob of drunk trashy people who are unapologetically blocking the whole fucking sidewalk?  How good-looking will the semi-naked men you encounter be (I got to see the top of this one guy’s penis because he wasn’t paying attention to how low his pants were sagging)?  Just walking a mile or so down the street feels like this huge accomplishment because hey, you didn’t evaporate!  Also, I’ve never been so excited about water in my whole entire life.

Our hotel, The Riviera, could charitably be described as retro.  It’s actually a really cool old resort complex, but it’s in bad need of some interior updates, better restaurants, and hipper stage shows.  The last time I heard the name “Andrew Dice Clay” was on a Comedy Central stand-up show in 2002.  He shouldn’t be headlining at a hotel in Pigeon Forge, let alone Las Vegas.

Our hotel also featured some mildly offensive slot machines.

We gambled once because we felt like we should.  I couldn’t even figure out how to make the slot machine I was at do anything other than frantically flash its lights at me and eventually say “Game Over!”.  Erin, who is much cleverer, managed to figure hers out and win several free plays, but in the end she lost her quarter just the same.

I really don’t get gambling.  If you’re going to be addicted to something, why not pills or booze or food?  At least they’re fun, and you don’t have to go to some dingy, smoke-filled lounge to enjoy them.  I know they say it’s supposed to be an adrenaline rush, but I don’t feel anything but anxiety.

The Trump Tower somehow manages to always be in your line of sight despite not actually being on the Strip.

The inside of the Wynn is ultra-fancy.  See the flower-balls?  They’re made with real, live flowers.

With ultra-fancy tile work.

So by day two I was already pretty eager to get out of  town for a little bit.   The Grand Canyon was a little too far, L.A. sounded too overwhelming for a day trip, and Hoover Dam was supposed to be even hotter than Vegas.  So I ended up renting a car and going to the area around Zion National Park in Utah, which turned out to be an excellent choice.  Southern Utah is kind of like a more colorful version of Central Oregon, and the weather there was perfect.

Southern Nevada desert.

I-15 in the little patch of Arizona that it runs through.

The outskirts of St. George, Utah

Somewhere between Hurricane and Springdale, Utah.

The entrance to Zion National Park.


The Central Valley

Woke up this Sunday, decided to go for a drive, and ended up down past Salem.

I don’t have  exciting captions for these; the Central Willamette Valley’s not really an exciting part of the world.  Lots of agriculture, lots of gray days, lots of flat, Midwestern-looking towns.  No amount of fancy-talk from me is going to me make these more engaging, is what I guess I’m saying.  But it’s a part of the world just the same, so I think it’s worth knowing what it looks like.  You just have to be in the right state of mind.

First up is the Salem suburb of Independence.

Independence’s sister city is Monmouth, home to Western Oregon University.

Monmouth is a horrible place for a college (it’s a tiny little nothing town, and Oregon State University is less than 30 minutes away, so it doesn’t really do much good having it there), and I’ve never met anyone who actually went to Western Oregon (it’s actually really hard for me to imagine anyone going to school there) but the campus is really pretty.  All of the buildings are lined up along one street, which I like.

The perfect midcentury-modern ranch for me…if only it were anywhere but Monmouth.

Slightly to the west and up into the Coast Range foothills is tiny ex-logging camp Falls City.  This photo pretty much encompasses the entire town.

Falls City High School is kind of a neat building, though.

Neat old house in Dallas, northeast of Falls City.

Hills between Dallas and Salem.

I got lost somewhere between Dayton and Amity.  I probably couldn’t find this house again if I tried.