Walking Las Vegas

Las Vegas: 1/9/09 – 1/12/09    For three and a half weeks during December of 2008, the cold and snow pummeled my new home of Kalispell, Montana. It was a storm that brought minus 30 degree temperatures and thick ice that the Flathead valley hadn’t experienced in ten years. I was trapped from all but the most essential movements, and paced mindlessly with the debilitating effects of cabin fever.

 For the last several years my brother lived in the heart of Las Vegas just off the strip, and I figured I couldn’t pick a better time to load up and go see him. The forecast was cloud free for the entire week, so I packed light and purchased my $29.00 Allegiant Air tickets on-line ($114 after taxes and fees).

The flight was a bit of a nightmare, very Vegasesque, starting with some poor guy suffering a heart attack or something just as the door was closing on an already uppity, stuffed plane half-filled with gambling addicts. The stewardesses looked like they had just come from a New Orleans whore house, soiled about the edges, taking zero crap off anyone.

            The door couldn’t open too soon, and the beaming flood light on top of the Luxor pyramid lit the way to my brother’s apartment. He lived approximately one and a half blocks from the large, India-inspired waterfall garden on the NE corner of Mandalay Bay. We cracked a beer on his outside balcony which looked west on (from left to right) the Luxor; New York, New York; and MGM. I recognized the buildings of the Manhattan skyline and had to admit the view was pretty cool. A black limo raced by during my second sip, and I asked my brother what was going on. It turned out that the landing strip for all the private jets coming to Vegas was a couple miles behind his complex; so Brittany Spears, Madonna, Paris Hilton, the whole posse regularly passed within thirty feet of him while he slept. He believed that most of them looked on his complex while thinking, oh, those poor people; but he loved it, and I could see why.   

            My plan was to hit Las Vegas Blvd early, taking what was referred to locally as, The Deuce, and spend most of my two full days seeing as much of Vegas on foot as I could manage before collapse. I was up with only a few burned hash browns on toast for fuel before making The Deuce by 9:29am and riding the line all the way to Fremont Street. The secret, I was told, was to occupy the front seat on the upper deck where the large windows gave the only panoramic view on the bus. Two couples, one from Russia and one from South America, already claimed the front seats, so I sat one row back in the middle. The Vegas that passed before us was like a condensed version of the world crammed into boxes by some irresponsible, giant child. All the icons of Venice, Paris, Rome, and New York were there, lining the street in a Disneyland-like presentation that inspired a sense of awe, even if the illusion was constructed from Styrofoam. It occurred to me later that day that Las Vegas was the working mans’ Paris, a place where anyone uncomfortable with travel or short the necessary funds might make the trip anyway, sampling the best of the planet without straying more than a thousand miles from home. It seemed to inspire what my brother had discussed the previous evening as a last hope for many in the country. A last hope to become rich with one push of a button or roll of the dice, a hope for hedonistic luxury and a glimpse at the upper classes or celebrity.

            It was with my arrival at Fremont Street that I viewed the other side of this vacation paradise: desperation. Police appeared on every corner weaving bicycles through sleepy-eyed vendors, old women gambled with shiny black-eyes, a lone man followed me to a blind corner to offer drugs, a prostitute lasted 30 seconds on the street before turning a trick, and homeless men sat on tourist benches – too spent to beg.

            Still, the cheesy neon signs and lightbulb-laden figures were alluring. What in the 50’s and 60’s had represented the creation of fake entertainment had become art somewhere along the line. There was a charm in the tall cowboy and the giant 61 pound gold nugget circling under glass. What seemed the epitome of contrived bullshit captured the imagination and created a unique niche for itself.

                                                                                     

More in my upcoming Walking Vegas zine.

 

MBK    

Lathering up the sunscreen for a Montana winter    

snowtan 

 

Mirage dolphins dance in 65 degrees!

Mirage dolphins dance in 65 degrees!

 

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Don Fields
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 03:12:57

    Hey, Mike
    Just saw a review of your Vegas zine in XD #28 and it looks interesting (I’m a sucker for the combination of Vegas and zines)! Expect to see two bucks in your mailbox sometime this week.

    Looking forward to reading MV #1
    Don

    Reply

  2. Don Fields
    Apr 27, 2011 @ 15:54:51

    Mike,

    Read and enjoyed the Vegas zine. I wrote a review for my upcoming Twilight World zine (#10). As the issue won’t be ready until late May, here’s the review.

    “If you’ve read my past issues at this point…hell, if you personally know me by now, you’ll get the drift that Las Vegas is the drug of choice I keep leaning on like a addict; either for a subject to write about, or draw, or read and so on, pro AND con. Fortunately for my Vegas fit, there has been some zines that have tackled this grand subject, warts and all; the first issue of Traveling Shoes and some of the early works of F. Andrew Taylor like Penny Dreadful and Beer & Foaming In Las Vegas (the later was turned into a comic series from Slave Labor Comics) are just a few that come to mind. Now, there’s Walking Vegas by Mike K.

    As this travelogue zine starts, Mike is escaping from the harsh winter weather of home to visit his brother who lives just two blocks from the Strip, but Montana won’t let him go that easily as, just before boarding is done, a passenger has a heart attack. Some can’t handle handling Vegas, I guess.

    The rest of the zine is a fine detailed jungle cruise through the Strip and Downtown and humanity tip toeing through this mind field. Like any good Vegas write up, there are moments of viewed desperation, detailed descriptions of Vegas’ fakery and at least one reference to Hunter S. Thompson.

    What makes Mike’s LV offering a standout is his detailed and personal observations that makes for a fine read in the face of countless clichés you’d normally read about this town in travel magazines and articles. A few favorite moments includes his descriptions and critiques the fake blues skies at some of the strip’s mega malls and his brief tale of a Japanese Buddha placed near one of Caesar’s Palace Strip entrances and how it drives the impatient Western tourists nuts when the Asian ones stop and quietly pray in front of them. There’s a good dose of human interaction as Mike talks to the occasional tourist and employee; one, in fact, gives Mike tips on being a time share salesman (Dicks Ahoy!!) and there’s an unfortunate encounter where he fights the temptation to bitchslap a Canadian (EHHHHHH!!!) on The Duce.

    Despite all the decades I have pounded the pavement in this town, I could never muster the discipline and alertness needed to do justice that Mike has done to effectively express his relationship and his observations of Vegas. Highly recommended!

    PS: As to serve as a bookend: someone on the return flight has a heart attack.”

    BTW: It looks like I’ll be returning to Vegas in May, too. Wish me luck.

    Don-O

    Reply

    • realitycheck7
      May 24, 2011 @ 02:35:47

      Hi Don, Thank you so much for taking the time to give me such a wonderful write-up on my Walking Vegas zine. As I am sure you know, it is such a motivation to know that somebody out there reads your work from time-to-time! As the Director of a very haunted mansion/history museum I’m currently working on a ghost story zine I hope to have completed by this June. Please send me information on how to order your upcoming Twilight World Zine (#10). I would love to give it a read!

      Thanks again! Mike

      Reply

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