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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Travelogue: Las Vegas


Each place you visit teaches something about yourself- something you never knew or something you had long forgotten. Las Vegas, which means ‘The Meadows’ in Spanish, has something to offer to everyone. Whether you will remember it as the ‘The Entertainment Capital of the World, or ‘Sin City’ or by some other name depends on what you are looking for in your trip, and what you find really.

He said he wanted to spend his birthday with me- just me, and that he wanted to take me to Vegas. Soon enough, we made reservations for our hotel, rented a Jeep Liberty (usually, we don't use our own vehicle on road trips) for what could be a 8-10 hrs drive- depending on the pits stops and the traffic. We knew it would be a gas guzzler, but we found comfort on the road and were happy with the choice of our car. Initially, we wanted to see Death Valley on our way, but later gave up on the idea to save some time.

We started early morning on his birthday- July 8th, Friday. On our way, we stopped by San Luis Reservoir, and at Bakersfield for lunch. Windmills always remind me of Don Quixote - the canonical ideologist disenchanted by society.

We saw Boron, named after the element, which inhabits the largest deposits of borax in the world. A dead river at Mojave made me sad. There were interesting posts that said :
'Water=jobs, Keep water flowing into farms'
'Congress created the dust bowl'

We always stop to buy some farm fresh fruits on our trips. The spiced pistachios we picked from a fruit stall made delectable munching material. He drove, I DJ-ed on our ipods & the satellite radio, and we sang old favorites together. When the first road sign mentioning Las Vegas appeared, we were still a couple of hours away. But the appetite to get acquainted with the city increased.

A couple of billboards said,’ Going to Vegas? Go where Vegas began. Flamingo.

One of the most celebrated early resorts; Flamingo Hotel was built by the mobster Benjamin’Bugsy’ Siegel, a member of the Meyer Lansky crime syndicate. Lansky and Siegel were lifelong friends and the former is said to have convinced the Mafia to place Siegel in Vegas. Lansky had heavily invested in the Flamingo, like many other syndicate bosses in the 1930s who invested their illegal profits in a smorgasbord of ventures.

After long delays and cost overruns, the hotel was still losing Mafia money. Most of the bosses wanted Siegel dead. It is said that Lansky bargained twice to save Siegel and give him some time. But in 1947, Siegel was shot and killed in Beverly Hills, California. The crime went unpunished. Only his brother and a priest attended the funeral. Much of Siegel’s life is the subject of the 1991 movie,’Bugsy.’

The Ten Commandments and another billboard stating,' Not everything stays in Vegas' prepared the wayfarer morally for what lay ahead.