On my way east for the holidays this year, I took a little detour to join my sister on a road trip that went from LaLa Land to the Land of Fruits and Nuts and back. I am, of course, referring to a trip from Las Vegas to Southern California and back
Did you know that there was a four-story store dedicated to M&M’s on the strip in Las Vegas? Better yet, you can actually get maroon and teal M&M’s there. You can’t miss it. It’s right next to the Coca-Cola store. Who knew soda and candy could be that fascinating?
Of course it is all part of the complete ambience of the Las Vegas strip where you can travel from Egypt to Paris to New York without ever having to cash in your bucketful of nickels. The first day I was there, I looked out the window from our 26th floor hotel room and the words “The Last Days of Pompeii” and the “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” kept replaying in my head. My sister looked out the same window and saw an adult Disneyland. Once again, we asked, “How can we possibly have come out of the same womb?”
Actually, some of the Las Vegas casinos do have a lot to recommend them over the originals. For instance, when you are at New York, New York, everything is clean and smells pretty. As someone who once lived in New York, I can tell you absolutely that the real New York comes with smells, noise and general debris.
The Desert Passage shopping mall is another place where the re-creation is nicer than the original. The water pipes that come out of the fake stone walls never have people crowded around them trying to wash their hair or clothes or baby.
My favorite place, though, was Paris where you got the whole French ambience thing without ever once having to deal with a snooty Parisian who’s total joy in life seemed to come from making you feel as uncomfortable as possible.
We left Las Vegas about $20 richer than when we arrived thanks to my unparalleled skill at the nickel Monopoly slots and headed across the desert to Southern California – the place where perfect blondes obliterate the sun. Along the way, we were amused to find over 108 outlet shops plopped in the middle of the desert to occupy your time while you stretched your legs. I was even more amused when I bought a blazer at a place called the Dress Barn and the saleswoman who rang it up for me turned out to be Inupiat and the daughter of a lady from Barrow. We visited a childhood friend in California who, despite living in a gated community that seemed to only be populated with size 3 blondes who jogged in perfect make-up and designer sweats, has not lost her neighborhood values. She, in fact, refuses to jog with her neighbors because she says they discriminate by making brunettes stay at least ten paces behind.
At first I thought she was joking. Then, after we’d passed our third grouping of joggers with a brunette trailing respectfully behind them, I had to admit that either she either wasn’t joking or brunettes were physically incapable of keeping pace with blondes.
Getting back to Alaska and reality was a relief after traversing the spectrum of weirdness that exists in the corridor between Vegas and southern California. It was a relief, that is, until I landed and realized there was more snow in Atlantic City than there was in Anchorage. And then I just felt plain scared because Barrow was starting to look like the sanest place on earth. And that can’t possibly be true – can it?