Thursday, September 23, 2004

Vegas Buys Me Doritos

Had to go to Las Vegas for a conference recently. I don't enjoy gambling, particularly when those you're gambling against can fix the odds. Further, the whole "sin city" thing is more annoying than alluring to me. The big public TV screen on downtown mainstreet that displayed an endless loop of women taking off their tops (their breasts were then covered by words like "Holy Cow!" and the like) just made me sad for the few children around who had been dragged to Vegas rather than Disneyland, or Europe, say. What can a 9-year-old boy or girl think when seeing that? I'll bet it made them feel creepy, or confused.

We saw the obligatory show, but luckily picked a good one. He's billed as "Downtown Gordie Brown" and is hilarious as hell. He primarily does impersonations, but he's unique in that he does singing impersonations. He sounded exactly like whom he was supposed to, like Neil Diamond and, amazingly, Roy Orbison. If you find yourself in Vegas and aren't driven to obsessively dump your money in noisy, blinking machines (and more power to ya if you are), check out his show. His site is here:

The big canopy TV over mainstreet is also somewhat cool the first couple times you see it (it flashes screen savers and blasts generic disco for about 5 minutes every hour on the hour after sundown). What impressed me more is how they can coordinate 3 blocks of casinos shutting off their massive lighted signs and then turning them back on quickly after the show. Cycling that much power on and off all night is a feat of engineering prowess, friends and neighbors. The device that does that is a show I'd like to see.

The few times I put money into machines, I quickly noted that most of them paid off within about 5 tries, and typically within the first 3. (My compadre in the know called that "the hook.") If, after that initial win, you continue to play, you almost never hit again. Thereafter, I went no higher than 3 or 4 plays, and every time I got a payoff, I cashed out. I came out roughly even and was probably up a buck or two. On the way back to my room the last night, I passed a vending machine that had Doritos, which I only indulge in for special occasions. I used my winnings for a bag. Thanks Vegas.

My quintessential Vegas experience is this: Once, when I dropped a couple quarters into a one-armed bandit while waiting in line for a buffet, it appeared as though it had taken my money without crediting me so I could play. A couple folks around me tried to help, but to no avail. After messing around with the buttons a bit I got it to go. Before that moment, I was annoyed, thinking, "This damn machine took my money!" Afterward, when it fired up and did its thing, even though I didn't win, I was satisfied ... until it dawned on me a couple seconds later that there was no discernable difference between the prior and latter states.

And that pretty much sums up my feelings about Vegas.

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