Mason County News
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Casino du jour
Wednesday, January 26, 2011 • Posted January 26, 2011

You would think, as much as it costs to fly these days, that airlines would hire pilots who could find your major cities in the U.S. Hah. You would be wrong. I got on a plane in Austin to go to Las Vegas last week, and the knucklehead up front missed it by one state and about 250 miles. He went to Los Angeles, and I had to get on another plane and fly back to Vegas. Not only that, but when I tried to come home, the very same thing happened. The pilot went the wrong way, to LA again, and then turned around and flew the same plane all the way back to Austin. And we wonder why our luggage ends up in Topeka.

I did, however, finally manage to get to Vegas, and took a shuttle to the Venetian hotel on the strip. I found Gordo at the Grand Lux café in the Venetian, but to get there you have to walk all the way through the casino. Which is normal in Vegas. You can’t go anywhere without walking through a casino. I would not have been surprised if I’d gotten to the hotel room and there was a sign that said, "For your convenience, your bathroom is located in the lobby, on the other side of the casino."

They do that so you’ll gamble, which didn’t work with me, but I guess it does with some folks. If they want my money (and they do) they will have to tax me for it, or charge out the wazoo for everything from bottled water to internet service (and they do). Nothing is free in Vegas, even the stuff that says FREE on it. And there is very little in Vegas with FREE on it.

Gordo’s suite was very nice, though, and the couch folded out into a bed, and it had two televisions, a set of stairs, and, surprisingly, its own bathroom. So I didn’t have to go through the lobby to get there, although the casino route is recommended.

Everything is overdone in Vegas, of course. Just up the strip from the Venetian is New York New York, a hotel so big it has to be repeated. Out front it has a replica of the Statue of Liberty, about half scale.

Across from that is the Paris, which has a replica of the Eifel Tower out front, also about half scale. MGM Grand, just down the strip, has a huge lion statue out front. Treasure Island has a pirate ship surrounded by a lot of fake rocks and waterfalls and such. Another hotel, probably the Cairo or something, is shaped like a pyramid and made of glass, and at night a searchlight shoots out the top way up into the sky. There’s a huge sphinx out by that one. You can’t sling a cat in Vegas without hitting something that cost more to build than France spends per year on rudeness lessons for its waiters. And France leads the world in that department.

The Venetian, for example, has a canal out front, and another one inside. Gordo told me some guy built the hotel for his wife, because she was vaguely Italian, and wanted a place to stay in Vegas that reminded her of the ‘Old Country.’ Not that he couldn’t have bought a suite at Caesar’s Palace, hung a violin on the wall, and put a cheese and wine basket on the coffee table, but then, Vegas is a city of extravagance.

This indoor canal at the Venetian, called the Grand Canal, is on the third level, and it’s surrounded by jewelry shops, gift shops, high end dress shops, and cafes to beat the band. There’s a railing around the canal, so no one can fall in after spending too much time in the wine shops or the cafes, and there are gondolas you can ride up and down the canal. The gondoliers wear the traditional black and white striped shirts, and red bandanas on their heads, and sing to you while they pole you around the canal, while the folks eating at the cafes and walking around the railing point and laugh at you for being lame enough to pay for a gondola ride in the middle of a desert. It’s a quaint scene.

The thing about this canal area is that it’s always late afternoon there. The buildings all look like old Italian shops, and the very high ceiling is domed and painted like the sky, and the lighting is done so it perpetually appears to be about seven o’clock on a summer evening. Kind of a neat thing.

The hotel also has lots of restaurants and shops and cafes all over the place, and several swimming pools and saunas and spas and such, and at least a couple of huge theaters, where famous people perform. I wanted to go to David Spade’s show while I was there, but I didn’t get to.

The reason I wanted to see David Spade is because, about a year ago, he donated $100,000 to the Phoenix police department, because he found out they couldn’t afford to put AR-15 rifles in all their police cars. A guy who does that, I figure, is worth going to see in Vegas.

I did, of course, attend as much of the SHOT Show as I could, which we’ll get to next week. Assuming, of course, I can find my way out of this casino . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who tries to avoid California when possible. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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