As you land in McCaren International Airport, you see a line of buildings rising out of the flat desert.
The last time I was here, Hunter S. Thompson had just written ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.’ My ex and I were driving cross-country from Boston,escaping the chains of weekly family dinners that would one day seem like a good idea.
We settled in a campground on Lake Mead. My makeup melted in my purse, which was on the front seat of our car. The heat was suffocating and I spent the whole time in a blue bathing suit my younger sister had sewn for me from scratch.
The “strip” was then located on Fremont Street, what they now call the old downtown. Dark, smoky casinos seemed shabby and filled with small-time criminals trying to roll their way out of whatever trouble they were in. I didn’t much like gambling, so I just played the slot machines for hours while my ex logged time on the blackjack tables.
It wasn’t glamorous like it is now, so I never came back. Today’s strip is in an unincorporated area with an ironic name: Paradise.
As soon as we ambled down the jet walkway, carry-ons in hand, shiny neon machines greeted us, as if to let us know we were in Vegas.
A man at the Taxi sign told us we could buy shuttle tickets to the Venetian. We stopped at Caesar’s Palace, where cartoonish statues of Greek statesmen dotted the grounds. Looking at the map, I saw New York New York and Paris, Las Vegas hotels. We passed the Eiffel Tower.
Crowds thronged on the streets in the relentless sun. People seemed sweaty but they kept going. Maybe they were just taking walks on the famous strip.
According to Wikipedia, Frank Sinatra and his gang broke color and ethnic barriers here. Sinatra wouldn’t perform unless Sammy Davis, Jr., was given a room in the hotel. Dean Martin performed here, too. Now, the Venetian runs a Frank musical most nights.