Las Vegas is a Gateway to Death Valley from Sacramento

Las Vegas skyline

Las Vegas skyline from Southwest Airlines

Other than the slow loading time of a hotel’s WiFi, working away from home is really not much different from working at my home office. Today, I am in Las Vegas, staring at two huge twin vertical steel structures that are going upward with no end in sight, with pieces of steel rebar unfinished at the top. They sort of look like the old World Trade Center, which is kinda spooky because the backdrop is the McCarran airport, and from our hotel at Mandalay Bay I can watch and, unfortunately hear, the planes take off and land.

This is just a stopping spot on the way to Death Valley. I don’t much care for Las Vegas. I’ve come here for one reason or another at least a few dozen times. It seemed much more glamorous and exciting when I was younger in the 1970s than it does 40 years later. I was married here once, and that guy is long dead. It wasn’t a real wedding anyway because when we got home we discovered he wasn’t yet divorced. And it was just an impulsive thing at the time. He was the one who dragged me kicking and screaming to the courthouse.

Wine tower storage at Aureole at Mandalay Bay

Wine tower storage at Aureole at Mandalay Bay

I saw two young kids standing outside the wedding chapel on Las Vegas Boulevard with another young woman. She was shooting a photo of the lucky couple with her cellphone. They were dressed in black, he in black suit, black shirt and black tie, and she wore a floor-length beaded black gown, and looked like they had just tied the knot. They possessed a giddy glow about them. But what kind of fun is that? Standing on a street corner while a friend shoots your wedding photo with her cellphone?

Still, passed by the slot machines slotting and dinging, and made our way around the Blackjack tables without any urge to sit down and kiss our money goodbye. Besides, they take tokens, and that’s just too much work to figure out where to get them and cart them around. There is no fun in pushing buttons, either. The thrill was throwing down that arm.

Mandalay Bay Casino

Mandalay Bay Casino

Everything seems to be an impression of days gone by. They still play up and promote Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, and even the rock-and-roll bands play somebody else’s music. None of it is real. That’s what made the old Las Vegas, Las Vegas, though. There was enough real stuff to go around, and now it’s gone.

Our housesitters just checked in via text to say all is well at home in Sacramento. Today we leave this one-horse town, headed for Death Valley.

Photos: Elizabeth Weintraub

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