Sin City

Nevada is a place for giants. The mountains are made of boulders the size of mountains themselves. Great pyramids of rock exist there.

From either side of Route 40 the mountains jutted up beside us so sharply and so high, there was hardly any space for sky. And when there was space for sky, Dad and I both felt as if we didn’t belong; the view was a devil’s game of marbles.

Spotted in Nevada:

St. Jude’s Mission AND Car Museum

St. Jude's Mission: Serving God & Automobile Enthusiasts

When we began to reach the outskirts of the city it was dusk so that Las Vegas itself looked like a bowl of stars in a basin of desert.

It was jarring to have witnessed the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the Grand Canyon and to then arrive in Las Vegas, city of sin and lights, all in the same day. We drove to the Fremont area of Las Vegas, which dates back to when Las Vegas was first established in the early 1900’s. Fremont, in it’s early years, was the heart of Las Vegas containing a train depot, movie theaters, cafes, Indian trading posts, restaurants, and gambling halls.

Now Fremont consists of two city blocks that have been closed to car traffic and are enclosed from the sky with a domed screen consisting of hundred of thousands of LED lights. Every hour on the hour, the screen splits in half with lightning, the blocks rings with sound, and a light and music show is projected on Fremont’s skyscreen.

Fremont Street.

Dad and I checked into the Golden Nugget, one of the oldest casinos in Las Vegas.  Originally built in 1946, The Golden Nugget underwent a $100 million dollar renovation in 2006 and is now complete with a shark tank, several full-sized restaurants, casinos, and the world’s largest golden nugget on display, named the Hand of Faith.  The Hand of Faith was discovered in Australia, and amazingly the family who found it was living in a trailer and unearthed it in their backyard with some rinky-dink metal detector.

Hand of Faith

After a much-needed shower and some dinner, Dad and I wandered out onto Fremont street for the infamous “Freemont Street Experience.”

A transvestite in knee-high stiletto boots, brown wig, and red lipstick chatted with the statuesque, glittering showgirls, expressing his sorrow in missing his calling for the stage and the chance to be a real woman. Rebuffed by the showgirls he took to doing awkward high kicks in a square by himself.

Street vendors sold art and booze, the homeless greeted each other, toothless and shoeless, sharing dented flasks. Freddy Mercury screamed “We Are The Champions” in white cut-offs from the domed skyscreen while tourists rode a zip-line that spanned the whole, two, city-sized blocks beneath Freddy’s gyrating white shorts.


Jack Sparrow waggled a limp fingered hello, hoping for a picture opportunity and monetary donation, and a speed artist spray painted an eerie twilight scene in four minutes flat. Dad and I watched an 80’s Rock’ n Roll show that was amazingly complete with the Flash Dance routine, frizzy-haired performers, and ripped leggings. Sometimes I’m sad I missed the eighties when I hear the music, and sometimes when I see the fashion, I’m really not.

Vegas is interesting because while its easy to get distracted by the lights rebounding off the glassy casinos, and the half naked dancers in the their sparkly bikinis, and the music and the shows, there is a seedy undercurrent flowing right along of all the glitz. If you are too distracted you would miss the man with the orangey skin and tattoos yanking a woman’s neck back with a fist full of her hair, or the drug addicts wordlessly begging for money, fingers to mouth, or the young homeless man without a shirt absent-mindedly flexing in a reflective, casino window, or the local kids with nowhere else to go dancing with each other in a circle—no rhythm and glassy-eyed.

After having woken up in Albuquerque at 4:30 that morning, seen the Grand Canyon, and walked on Fremont Street, we collapsed at midnight. I fell asleep after accidently ingesting a $7 dollar bottle of water, and in the mid-action of putting the television remote on the side table (for some reason, nicer hotels charge for internet, water, and coffee—basic life necessities, criminal! I didn’t even attempt to make coffee the next morning because it was a $12 dollar charge for using the machine).

Before we left the next morning I convinced Dad to hit the pool and to go down the slide that went through the shark tank. You couldn’t see much of the sharks or deep-sea fish as you slid through, but as I told Dad, when there’s a shark tank with a slide through it, you definitely can’t pass that up.

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