It sounds good, but really, at this stage in life, sinning amounts to little more than eating way too much good food and dropping a few bucks into the slot machines. But there is nothing quite like a trip to Vegas to get a taste of all the excesses available to anyone who has the time and money. The most excessive part of this short little whirlwind trip for us was popping for tickets to Elton John’s concert at Caesar’s Palace, The Million Dollar Piano.
For years the music of Elton John was part of the background of my life. I enjoyed it, but never paid much attention. As years went by, however, I would hear something amazingly melodic and rich and sure enough, it was Elton John. I also heard that he put on a concert rivaled by few that was worth seeing. I think the first time I tried to get tickets was back in the early 90’s, in the days when phones would do automatic redial trying to get through that busy signal. By the time I got through, the tickets were sold out. That story was repeated a few times, more recently when he was playing in Portland and other venues in the northwest. Always long gone by the time I got through.
Now, however, he is playing in Vegas. Maybe that is a sign of the times, when all the old stars finally make there way to the Vegas stages. Motley Crue and Chicago are even there right now. The nice thing about this, though, is that there are enough shows scheduled that getting tickets is not an impossible dream. Hence the four day trip to Las Vegas. Allegiant Airlines flies out of Medford, direct, for a very reasonable price. The airline tickets were cheaper than the concert tickets at least. Cut rate airlines are an experience of themselves. Buying online, we discovered that if we wanted an assigned seat, it was an extra 8.95 for each leg of the flight, if we wanted water in flight, it was 2 bucks a bottle. If we wanted to check in prior to boarding, we had to pop for the assigned seat. Mo and I were reeling from the concert tickets and decided to skip the seat assignments. No big deal, right? It was only an hour and a half flight anyway.
The reality was funny, though, like the old days with Southwest airlines cattle calls, we had to get to the airport early enough to hopefully get a low number for the lineup. Once on the plane, we could take whatever seats were left by the time we got there. We checked no baggage and brought peanuts for sustenance.
Arriving in Vegas after ten pm, we caught the rental car shuttle to the state of the art new rental car facility about 7 miles south of McCarren field. I was impressed. The whole car rental experience was simple and straightforward, at least until we attempted to open the windows of our tiny compact car, a neon yellow Fiat 500. It also took Mo a few miles to discover that the reason the engine kept winding up was because shifting was required. No clutch, just shift by hitting the joy stick on the console. Sirius radio and heated seats added to the delight of a tiny car that somehow felt pretty darn roomy inside and had lots of zip on the road.
Mo and I haven’t been to Vegas since 2004 when we flew down and spent a day in town before driving for a week or so around Death Valley. We decided it might be fun to stay downtown near Fremont street and the Main Street Station turned out to be a great choice. On the first night we had a room on the 14th floor facing north, right over the freeway and the railroad tracks. No earl plugs? ahh. I had no idea I would need them inside a big hotel. Somehow we ended up on a smoking floor as well, but a phone call to the desk was worthwhile since the next morning we were moved down to the non smoking, much quieter 4th floor for the rest of our stay.
We enjoyed a slow Saturday morning walking Fremont street before we boarded the sleek and efficient SDX bus to the strip. We spent the rest of the day walking the strip, in and out of all those incredible casinos that are like a huge Disneyland for grown-ups. Grown ups with more money than we had, for sure, but I still really loved strolling through Neiman Marcus fingering Oscar de la Renta gowns, Jimmy Choo shoes, and Prada bags. I like a good bag. Two hundred bucks is a big deal, but when I picked up that 2,800 Prada bag I wondered about my daughters and how one purse could pay a couple of big mortgage payments, or a pair of shoes could pay for some badly needed dental work. Vegas is definitely a place to feel the ridiculous imbalance that is part of our culture now. There were lots of homeless folks in our end of town as well.
After miles and miles and hours and hours of walking, we settled in for the “sin” part, a great Italian supper at Trevi’s in the Forum Shops at Caesar’s Palace. I had some kind of succulent drink that should have been on a cruise ship with red italian wine, peach liqueur and who knows what else. It was decadent and delicious. We just sat there a long time enjoying our meal and the changing (fake) skies that turned from dawn to dusk several times as we sat there in the courtyard. I don’t think there is any place better than Vegas for people watching, either, and we were fabulously entertained by the shifting crowd passing by on the mall.
Finally it was time for the show, and we filed in with several thousand other excited folks, dressed in everything from jeans to spandex to sequins. I knew I had been sequestered too long in the back woods when I realized I was gawking at the gorgeous young girls wearing what must be the latest “thing”. Their dresses were stretchy like a girdle, covered the part from the breasts (barely) to the panty line (barely), with platform shoes that had heels with more inches then their skirts. It was great fun, but sure did remind me that I am in my sixties and fashion is completely irrelevant at this stage.
Once inside the theater, we could feel the excitement building. I was surprised that the crowd was so diverse, all ages, all styles, and all seemingly thrilled to be there. When EJ came on stage, the roar was huge. He was dressed tastefully in a sparkly black tuxedo, with a nod to his old self expressed in some crazy bright red tennis shoes and a subdued pair of barely colored glasses. He started with “Benny and the Jets”, not one of my favorites, but the lights and the music and the sound built throughout the show in a way that kept me alternately in goose bumps and tears. You have no idea how much this music is in the background of our lives till you hear the melodies and find yourself singing the words.
His voice is deeper and richer, and while he doesn’t hit the high notes the way he once did, there is a strength and quality in his singing that is breathtaking. Two young men from Croatia on electric cellos, (appropriately called the Two Cellos) expanded the richness of the music and his percussionist took my heart away, even his tambourine sounded like a full scale orchestra. And yes. The Piano. The Million Dollar Piano. I never heard anyone play a piano like this, truly. Rachmaninoff maybe. I know, apples and oranges, but still. Goosebumps and tears. It was not just a rock-n-roll concert. It was incredible. Of course, I wanted it to never end.
We left with the crowd with our eyes filled with lights and our ears with sound, enough that the lights and sounds of Vegas seemed almost irrelevant. Caesar’s Palace is right next to the famous Bellagio Fountains, which obligingly started up their musical water dance in time for us to enjoy. On our way south along the strip, I saw many of those girls in those skinny dresses and high shoes, tugging at the dresses and carrying their shoes! Another reason to maybe skip this particular fashion trend!
We found our SDX stop and climbed up to the upper deck for the slow ride back downtown, thoroughly enjoying the street shows below us at each stop. It was a great day, but we both agreed that the next day was going to be our chance to get out of town and away from all that glitz and craziness. Vegas is great but the desert calls.
Just a quick note here as well, I didn’t pack a computer or even a camera for this trip. Managed to get these photos with my iPhone. It is rather amazing what a telephone can do, but of course, it ain’t the Nikon.