Vegas, baby: how I got kicked out of Bellagio

I am not a Las Vegas person. There are people who enjoy gambling, my friend Dave particularly; I’m not so big on it. There are people who enjoy clubbing, my friend Richi particularly; I look at it mainly as a night where I go out to dance to terrible music, drink too much, and not pick up. To paraphrase Bill Hicks, at home “at least I can listen to music I like.”

However, some friends were going down to Vegas for a bachelor party, and I went. The bachelor didn’t, oddly enough, but we went anyhow. I’m still not sure how that worked out.

We stayed, six to a room, in the Stratosphere Hotel. Every hotel in Vegas has a theme; Mandalay Bay is Indian-themed, the Luxor is Egyptian, Caesar's Palace is Roman. And so on and so forth. The theme at Stratosphere is kind of high-concept; it's a reasonable representation of what would happen if Communists built a casino. Lots of concrete. And phallic symbols. But it was ghetto-cheap, and so are we, so it’s a good fit.

Saturday night: we got sold some cheap passes for a club called Light, in Bellagio, by a short, bald guy named Mark. The line got packed real fast, and after about an hour of the bouncers letting in nothing but women, it became clear that tonight was not a good night to be a group of six guys trying to get into that bar. (I’m not sure what all those women were doing up there without any guys to dance with. I like to think it was a giant lesbian orgy, but then again I like to think that about a lot of things.)

Now, at this point, we tried to unload these passes. We’d gotten a couple sold before security found us and kicked us out. They bought that we’d been taken by someone else and were trying to make our money back, but they still don’t look too kindly on people reselling complimentary passes. Now, I’m willing to admit here that the fact that we were all drunk as hell and shouting angrily at security may – MAY – have coloured their opinion of us negatively. But that could just be my impression.

One of my cardinal goals in Vegas was to not get my ass beat by casino security guards. Call me strange, but that’s really a turn-off for me. At this point, I was trying to convince my friends that maybe we should move along out of the doorway of the casino, particularly since those large men over there looked kinda menacing. It took a while, but eventually, we were politely but firmly booted into the street.

Coda: Fortunately, the fact that we never made it into the regular club meant that we were EARLY for the after-hours club. This is a positive thing, because apparently there’s like a two-hour wait if you get there at the wrong/right time. And, despite my general dislike for clubs, Drai’s was pretty goddamn fine. Great house music. And – this is key here – I can at least say I’ve been kicked out of a casino now. I’m a fucking rockstar now, man.

A walk in the park, or, why I voted NDP

Last weekend I went and sat in a park to read a book. Hawrelak Park's a beautiful place, really; a few acres of green space in the middle of the city. Kind of the ideal representation of civic-mindedness; it’s tangible proof that at one point people cared enough to set aside a prime chunk of land for such intangible uses as recreation.

The book I was reading was Fast Food Nation. A tangential point of Eric Schlosser’s is that, as part of the commercialization of the Western world, we have abdicated the use of public spaces in favour of private ones. McDonald’s Playlands are popular not simply because they provide an attraction to children, but because there are fewer public options remaining. We can’t be arsed to provide such ‘frivolities’ as recreation; that would mean paying TAXES!

“Taxes! My God, the government’s taking our money! Stop them!” The problem inherent with that mindset is that it ignores the reality that such things as civic spaces are necessities for a modern, well-functioning society. We need places to assemble, to regenerate, to feel as though we are citizens, part of a broader whole. There’s something missing when we have to rely on a peddler of cheap hamburgers to provide that for us.

Let’s call it what it is – a spirit of meanness. This attitude that no public service is worth funding has gutted not only our parks and rec departments, but our schools and hospitals. Schools in the States sign contracts with soft drink companies, sell advertising on their busses and on the roofs of schools lucky enough to be near airports. Worse, they rely on ‘corporate-sponsored’ educational tools that, by the way, provide a hefty dose of advertising in the kids’ fucking textbooks. When you get to that point, you basically have to admit that you’ve abandoned all pretense at a democracy and essentially conceded to corporate rule.

As I read this book, with its depictions of soulless suburban strip malls and gated communities, I took my socks off and ran my feet over the grass. The air was soft and warm. And the park was full of couples walking around, kids sprinting through the playgrounds, and teenagers trying not to appear desperately horny.

When it got too dark, I walked home. I cut through a neighbourhood west of the university, full of small bungalows and alleyways overarched by elm trees in full leaf. It felt almost Kingstonian, really, and anybody who’s walked through the old part of town there will recognize what I mean. I looked at the houses and imagined the people inside; they’d bike to work and gladly pay their taxes and raise their kids without television and go out to locally-owned restaurants all the time and come home and fuck without feeling guilty about it. It was a nice thought and, upon reflection, there’s probably even an element to truth to it. It's a nice little neighbourhood, and there were tons of little NDP signs to go with it.

Further along, I came to a new art installment on the lawn of one of the university buildings – a collection of metal sculptures. One had an inviting shape to it, a smooth half-circle that looked like an exotic piece of modern furniture. I laid down in it and thought that, all told, there’s hope for the future, at least in places. I knew that the strip malls were only a couple of km down the road, but they seemed much farther away at that point in time with the stars coming out and me in my cocoon of scrap iron. I thought about how precious, in this day and age, any kind of civic responsibility, any kind of broader thought beyond ‘don’t take my money,’ has become. Since there’s an election next week, I thought, perhaps I should put my vote where my mouth is.

We’ll see how that turns out.