Sexo y violencia, and Cheap Prime Rib: Homer Visits Las Vegas…

AP Photo/Lenny Ignelz

…and sees plenty of Steeler Nation in Sin City…

by Homer J.

It had been ten years since Homer last visited the Sodom-Gomorrah-Las Vegas Tri-cities area, but a visit over Columbus Day weekend revealed that while much of Vegas has changed, the underlying spirit and decadence has not.

We flew out Friday night on Frontier Airlines, and that was mistake number one. Frontier, once a comfortable carrier with plush seats and in-flight TV, has gone ultra-low cost. That’s fine. But they have removed those plush seats and put in something that Ryan Air began using in Europe a couple years ago. They don’t recline at all. And they have removed most of the padding, with the slimmer seats allowing them to put in an additional two rows of seating. That means 180 seats in an Airbus A-320. 

About an hour into the flight, your rear end starts to hurt. You can’t recline your seat, and it feels like you are sitting on a bench, waiting for the bus to come. Either that, or you are waiting for your captors to begin the waterboarding. You walk up and down the aisle, and chat up the flight attendant. And you decide that you will buy a damned pillow to carry on for the flight back.

Our flights left on time, arrived early, and the in-flight crews were cheerful and professional. But take Homer’s advice and don’t fly Frontier for anything longer than 90 minutes unless you bring along a pillow. And reading material, because they don’t have any in-flight entertainment or wi-fi. Ah, just like the good old days.

We arrived half an hour early, deplaned, and took a bus the new rent-a-car place.

Nearly all the rent-a-car companies share a common center, and it’s nowhere near the airport. Maybe five miles away, but there was no wait for a bus and it took ten minutes to get there on a Friday night at midnight. 

We got the last mid-size car in Alamo’s fleet, and it had some serious coca-cola stains or wine stains on the cloth seats, but we didn’t care. Not one bit. 

As Homer headed down the Strip to his hotel, he wondered what had happened to the city he once knew. Nearly all the places where he had stayed were now gone. Sands: gone. Frontier: gone. Stardust: gone. Little Caesar’s: gone. Even the LV Hilton is now something called the Westgate. Lefty Rosenthal, dead. Gene Maday, dead. Tiger Paul, dead. Niedermeyer, dead. It’s like Homer never lived, or there is some other Las Vegas out there in some parallel universe. In its place is Las Vegas Bizarro, with new stuff like the Venetian, the Wynn, SLS, and a whole lot of lots – empty lots where Homer’s old haunts used to be. 

We checked into our hotel, which had no casino but spectacular rooms because it was a time share. It was cheap, but Homer would have to spend two hours Saturday listening to a man trying to sell him something he didn’t want. Worth the hassle? Yeah.

Homer visited Vegas with a fellow politico, another sports junkie, who had never seen the city, so – after a good night’s sleep – we headed off Saturday well before the crack of noon to see the old Vegas and the new Vegas.

First stop was Fremont Street – the old main street of Vegas in the 40’s and 50’s, with places like the Golden Nugget and Binion’s. It’s covered over, so that there’s a light show at night, but on a Saturday morning, it’s like the whole world is either hung over or busy panhandling. Nothing to see here. Move along, folks.

Homer had asked the concierge at our hotel to recommend a place on or near the strip that still had the feel of the 70’s and 80’s, someplace that had really good prime rib at decent  prices, and he suggested a casino called Ellis Island. It’s a block off the strip on Koval, and we headed there for lunch. We pulled into the parking garage. It was pretty dark in there. 

Homer spotted a parking space on the second floor of the garage, and pulled in. He noticed that the car parked next to him on the right still had its lights on. And the two front bucket seats were pushed forward. 

As we got out of the car and headed toward the casino entrance, I mentioned to my buddy that the driver of that car had left his lights on. “Yeah,” he said. “They’re in the back seat.”

[Homer then quoted the garage attendant, who explained exactly what was happening in the back of the car, including why the lights were on. Momma has edited it out, because as we all know, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.] 

Having not eaten since back in DC, we quickly left the Garage of Iniquity and headed into the casino and to the lounge and the land of plentiful and cheap prime rib. 

A 14 ounce cut of prime rib, served with a salad, veggies, a potato, and a big glass of beer was $14.99. The prime rib was excellent, and at prices like that, Homer began to wonder why that couple was wasting their time in the car in the garage. 

We also made a couple of baseball investments, before Homer headed off to the time share presentation. Two hours later, it was time to do the Tour de Strip, checking out the  Mirage, Caesar’s, Bellagio, the Venetian, Paris, and a few others. We were in one of those damned places when we saw Chase Utley cheapshot Tejeda and break his leg. There is still a ton of energy in Vegas on a Saturday night. Nothing like it anywhere. 

Sunday, of course, was NFL day, which began on the front porch at the SLS, a relatively new place where the Sahara used to be. It has a big front porch with couches, and you can sit there and drink beer under the cool spray misters (it was 90 degrees outside), having placed your bets inside. 

Homie did well with Tampa Bay, and was riding high with Seattle, taking three points and up by another 17 with 12 minutes to go. He was counting his money on that one, until Seattle pulled a world class choke act and gave up their 17 point lead, and lost it in OT on a field goal. But, since Homie had three points, it was a push. He also had a little bit on Cleveland, simply because he hates Baltimore and thought six points might be a bit much for a Baltimore team to give up. He was right.

But Nick Foles and Jeff Zuerlein conspired to ruin Homer’s hopes to fortune and glory. Homer had St Louis and nine points against the Packers, and the Packers won by 11, thanks to Zuerlein missing four field goal attempts, and Foles going 11 to 30 with two picks in the end zone (both passes from the red zone). When Foles threw his final interception – from the three yard line – with less than a minute to play, 

We took in the second round of NFL games and some baseball at the Mirage, enjoying lunch at the California Pizza Kitchen overlooking the sports book. Homer’s second round pick was Detroit against Steelers West, a disastrous pick that left him back in the red, but only by a very small margin. His rule is that when it looks too easy or the spread is ridiculously small, bet the other way. It didn’t work this time. Ouch. 

It was comforting to see how many Steeler fans there were in the sports books. We are everywhere, but especially in Vegas. 

The Steelers are what bookmakers and gamblers call a “public team.” We are a huge, loyal fan base, which often costs you a point or two in the spread because so many people want to bet on the black and gold. 

Monday was baseball, the Hoover Dam, and MNF. Hoover Dam is an impressive site, and Homer’s friend jokingly kept repeating, “remember when we used to BUILD things in this country,” going into his political schtick. It was good for a laugh, but the lack of water in Lake Mead is no laughing matter. Homie remembers the winter of 1983, when a wet winter filled the lake up to almost the lip of the dam and they had to open the spillways for the only time in history. You can still clearly see the high water marks along the canyon walls, and the water level is now maybe 70 feet lower – maybe even lower than that. It looks like a ring around a bathtub that’s far more empty than full. 

On the way back, we got off the 515/93 freeway at Las Vegas Blvd, and headed past Fremont Street, past the Harrison’s Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, past a bunch of closed and boarded up places, and we both caught a glimpse of two sketchy looking guys standing on the sidewalk, when one hauled off and decked the other with a solid right to the side of the head. As the one guy fell, the other immediately ran away, pumping his arms almost comically as he fled the scene. We wanted nothing to do with that action. 

We headed for the Westgate, formerly the Las Vegas Hilton, for the Steeler game. 

We missed the opening kickoff, but we decided earlier not to bet, but, rather, to merely enjoy the game. Homer’s overall losses were less than a hundred bucks, and his colleague’s winnings are also less than a hundred dollars, but it was fun. 

The Westgate sports book is undergoing a lot of renovation, and it’s okay for now, but nothing like it used to be. And the hotel itself seems to be some kind of time share deal, or something like that. They’re not making James Bond movies there any more, and the only Elvis you will see is a show full of Elvis stuff and Elvis impersonators at the theater there. 

One thing that hasn’t changed about Vegas is the proliferation of Elvis impersonators. They are the third largest racial or ethnic category in Vegas, just behind Anglos and Hispanics, and just ahead of African-Americans.

We headed out at halftime, catching the second half of the Steeler game at the Tropicana, which is also a bit of Old Vegas, although well-maintained and still charming. Homer watched the last play from the lounge restaurant, and a cheer went up from the Casino as Bell took it in for the victory. Steeler Nation is everywhere. God was in his heaven, and all was right with the world. 

From the Trop, we head to the world’s largest and most out-of-the-way rent-a-car return place, and then off to the airport and free drinks and couches at the Amex Centurion Club. 

Then the flight home, a red-eye. The seat pillow was a big help, but, days later, Homer’s back side is still tired. 

Vegas is still one helluva town. And it keeps itself young by constantly reinventing itself every ten years. Homer, on the other hand, just keeps getting older. But he’ll probably be back in Vegas soon enough, if only for the prime rib and the football. 

2 comments

  • Very entertaining fun piece here.

    Not sure if I liked this one as much as Homer’s epic odyssey to Baltimore piece at BTSC last year, but still a thoroughly enjoyable read.

    Tough tough loss on that Rams-Packers game. Ouch! I felt Homer’s anguish over here on that one. 🙂

    Like

  • Yes always entertaining. The title says it all.

    Sex is like pizza because sometimes you can’t wait to get home and start in the car. Courtesy of collegehumor.com.

    Like

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