Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How to Learn to Stop Worrying and Love Even the Stupidest Parts of Las Vegas

Today, I ran across a Thrillist article about The Neapolitan of Las Vegas, an adult's only Ice Cream Parlor located near the pool at The Cosmopolitan. I balked when I read about the place, which offers alcohol and liquid nitrogen infused Ice Cream, Milk Shakes, Sorbets, Smoothies, Frozen Fruit Drinks, Popsicles, and Push-Pops served by women wearing the questionable fashion choice of lab coats over bikinis. The Cosmo describes it as "avant-garde," somehow. It is consistent with their brand of high-class hedonism they've pushed since their first TV spot dropped, but also revels in all of the things that people who hate Vegas hate about Vegas.

Last week, VegasChatter reported on a similar dining concept opening on The Strip called Twin Peaks, and let's just say that the name of the restaurant is not a classy reference to David Lynch's bizarro-awesome cult-classic TV series from the early 90's. Like a Hooters with mountain theme, the national chain is growing quickly and will open their biggest restaurant yet in Vegas at the end of the year, offering what will no doubt be mediocre food, beer, and waitresses dressed in mid-riff baring lumberjack style shirts who will hopefully be tipped well enough to make up for all the ogling they have to put up with.

I'm not gonna lie, you guys. These new dining concepts are stupid. Extremely stupid and borderline (okay way  past borderline) sexist, and they only appeal to the basest of base human instincts. And you know what? That's sort of the point of Las Vegas.

I've spent an endless amount of digital ink arguing that Las Vegas is becoming a cooler city where hipsters need not fear to tread. Downtown is evolving into something legitimately cool, with unique bars, creative restaurants, and even a genuine cultural center. All of that is great and makes Las Vegas a valid place to spend your vacation without feeling embarrassed or ashamed. But at the same time, if you just wanted to find a cool bar where you could drink some Craft Brews and listen to Dirty Projectors songs on the jukebox, you can find that in any number of cities. Make the pilgrimage to Portland, Austin, LA, or Brooklyn if you want a hipstered out vacation. But if you're going to visit Las Vegas, you might as well indulge in the things that make Sin City Sin City (for better and for worse).

I'll never stop advising people to avoid summer "Daylife Pool Parties" like the plague (quite literally... these places seem to be cess-pools for STD outbreaks for which chlorine seems like an awfully weak first line of defense), and nigthclubs that blast a mix of Dubstep and Top 40 (though even I won't deny the catchy delights of the inescapable bubble-gum jam of the summer, Call Me Maybe), and I've "bashed" on the typical Vegas D-bags who populate said places plenty. But how can I truly endorse this city, how can I write an entire blog talking about how much I love it, without accepting and embracing some of its stupider elements?

The cliche "when in Rome, do as the Romans do," should apply to Vegas as much as any other city (especially a city that features a fake version of Rome), or else why are you there in the first place? Las Vegas is a ridiculous place where people are offered an opportunity to escape their normal lives and indulge in behavior they wouldn't indulge in back home. Certainly that idea is marketing as much as anything and all of it is actually very controlled and safe... but why not blow off a steam, drop the too cool for school act, and enjoy Vegas on its own terms?

Below are some of my favorite picks for Vegas-centric activities that invite you to "do as the douchebags do" but won't make you feel too ashamed. (Just remember not to snap any Instagram pics if you don't want your cool friends back in the real world to know that you were actually having fun.)

Yes, gambling is stupid and pointless, obviously. You're laying down real money that will probably be gone so fast it will make your head spin, and you'll probably get nothing in return. Except you do get something out of it if you think of gambling as an entertainment option like any other. You're willing to lay down a certain amount of money on concerts or movies, so when gambling you should do the same... decide an amount of money you're willing to lose on gambling and stick with it. You're paying for an entertainment experience and you should consider the money spent and gone and be fine with it when you lose it. If you're not fine with losing it, you won't have a good time. What you will get is a fun, buzzy thrill you'll feel as you wait to see if you won or lost, and if you're lucky, you might even win a bit of it back. The key is to not spend any money over whatever budget you set for yourself. Because once you start spending more than you promised yourself, that's when you stop having fun and  might have a Marge-like problem (from an episode in the era when The Simpsons was great). 

Drink Like a Sorority Girl
Between advocating gambling and this, I'll admit that this is not the most responsible post I've ever written, but we're talking about how to enjoy Vegas properly here. 9 out of 10 doctors recommend alcohol as the best way to deal with anxiety, relieve stress, and remove that cooler than though stick lodged firmly up your butt (note: no real doctors have endorsed this as a solid life plan). Do some shots! shots! shots! (like Lil Jon and LMFAO rant about in one of the worst. songs. ever.), enjoy comped drinks as you gamble (and order the good stuff, cause it's free!), and bring some booze for pre-gaming in your room. Vegas is best enjoyed on a continuous light buzz... it will make all of the stupidity seem more fun and enjoyable. Just don't overdo it because you don't want a Vegas hangover (and I'm not talking about the kind where Mike Tyson's tiger ends up in your room, am I right?).

Binge Out at a Buffet
Another one that's easy to roll your eyes at, I know. Buffets are gross and represent American gluttony at its very worst. They're about quantity over quality, and the grotesque spectacle of overweight families piling their plates high with fried food is a common sight in almost every one of them. While these things undoubtedly true, buffets are also awesome. You're on vacation in Las Vegas so loosen up (and loosen your belt) while you enjoy your very own piled high plate featuring Nachos, Fried Chicken, Sushi, and Pasta all mingling together. You can get back to your organic, portion controlled, gluten-free farm to fork meals and your daily jog when you get back to the real world. But when you're in Vegas, indulge in one of the better all you can eat options in town... The Wynn Buffet actually tips the balance towards quality (though it's a bit expensive because of that), while The Rio and Paris Buffets are almost as good (and cost a little less than the Buffet at a resort where the underlying theme is money).

Cool Off by the Pool
I already mentioned this in my previous, ultra-patriotic 4th of July post, but one of the greatest things to do in Las Vegas (and the rest of the world) is to lounge by a pool with a drink and turn your mind off. I'll reiterate for the millionth (or third, but who's counting?) time that you must do everything humanly possible to avoid the awful daylife pool party grossness where you have to pay a cover to deal with gross dudes competing for dumb chicks. So try and make sure you book a room at a hotel with more chilled out but fun pool. I already recommended Mandalay Bay, The Golden Nugget, or The Red Rock (for some swimup blackjack), but might I also mention checking in to The Hooters Hotel and Casino. I know, I know Hooters is disgusting and just as exploitative as the above-mentioned Twin Peaks or Neapolitan... but the rooms are cheap and you can eat Chicken Wings by the pool. Do you really want anything more out of life than Chicken Wings by the pool?

Dance Like an Idiot
Yes, yes, I agree with what you're thinking and I've said it before myself: most clubs and "ultra-lounges" play truly terrible music. But you should find a place without a cover (or with a low one at least), suck it up a bit and deal with the fact that you'll have to hear that awful Katy Perry song or that (not so bad) Rhianna jam for the ten bazillionth time, loosen up, and cut a rug. Because if you are one of those people who stands with their arms crossed while other people are having fun, you're not proving that you are cooler than everyone else, you're just being a a dick. Believe me, I know this from experience. You'll have fun, members of the opposite sex will see that you're fun, and that can lead to even more (naked) fun. Just make sure none of your friends film you with their camera phones because nobody wants to see what they look like dancing (unless they're John Travolta). 

Revel in the Glory of the Synthetic Cheese
You don't have to go to Twin Peaks, but you should probably enjoy some of the (totally free!!!) over-done fakery that defines The Strip. Take a stroll down Las Vegas Boulevard and encounter such anachronistic sites such as a too-colorful version of The New York Skyline, a half sized Eiffel Tower Replica, a heavily chlorinated version of the canals of Venice, and a Egyptian Pyramid that looks exactly like authentic Egyptian Pyramids except for the fact that it's made of black glass and has a light shooting up from it that's so bright it can be seen from space. Also, you can enjoy one of The Strip's classiest (or at least closest to classy attractions) with The Beallagio's beautifully choreographed water and light show set to classical music and Frank Sinatra tunes. Get drunk enough and you'll probably be moved instead of feeling guilty that this massive waste of H20 takes place in the middle of the dessert.

After you enjoy the stupidity of it all, you can go home, roll your eyes dismissively, and tell your cool friends that Las Vegas is fake, crass, stupid, and representative of the worst and most excessive tendencies of late capitalism.

But secretly, deep down, you'll know. You'll just know.

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