A Stranger - In an Even Stranger Land

by Steve Mason

We make some of our greatest gains
when we see old things in new ways

I had a swell view of the Strip from my lavishly appointed suite at the Tropicana Casino & Resort Hotel. My mentioning the same makes us even for their having provided the same. At a mere $4,000 per night, I can see where readers will be lining up for room #1801. I know the price because the law requires that rates be prominently posted on the door. If they try to charge you more than 4 G's, you can demand a refund! But, come to think of it, I can't recall ever having stayed in a hotel where the posted rate wasn't at least ten times the going rate. Who said the people making these laws don't know what they're doing?

Looking out the window I could see a two story tall MGM lion and a two story wide picture - of an even wider - Tom Jones. On opposite corners across the street there was the New York City skyline incongruously positioned cheek by jowl with a Medieval Hamlet. And, if I pressed my nose against the glass, I could even see an Egyptian pyramid off in the distance.

I tell you all this because the big news in town had to do with a building permit currently being sought by the Stratosphere Casino & Resort Hotel. It seems they are keen on building a roller coaster that will plunge from the top of the building and, after crossing the six-lane boulevard at 120 mph, come to a stop down the street. Residents of this down-the-street area, made up primarily of tattoo emporiums and by-the-hour motels, say it will screw up their neighborhood.

What makes this difference of opinion involving matters of taste in Las Vegas interesting, is the Stratosphere's fallback position. It seems they already have approval to build a King Kong style gorilla (with seating for 38 in his windowed belly), that will continuously climb up and down the outside of the tower. Clearly they view this as the greater of two evils, and feel they can use it as leverage. Say No to the roller coaster, and we build the gorilla. The locals clearly have their work cut out. What goes better with a pool parlor? Property values will hinge on their decision.

I was in town to cover the annual Adult Video convention at the Sands Expo Center. This was the first time I had to fly since 9/11, so it was the first time I got to experience the new, beefed up security at the airport.

Right off I noticed the combat troops strolling around the terminal. I noticed because they were all dressed in rain forest camouflage. Now it seemed to me that gotten up as magazine racks they would have blended in better; fold a COSMO into a little hat and cover your body armor with 12 Ways to Make your Man HOT - While Taking Inches Off your Thighs. Aside from the assault rifle you'd be practically invisible but I figure the Pentagon must know what it's doing.

I also noticed the lady ahead of me in line. She was wearing a jacket that looked (and smelled a bit) like a pink bathmat. Across the back, God Bless America was boldly emblazoned in red, white and blue. Ignoring the fashion statement, I considered the printed words. When exactly did God begin blessing America - 9/12? DRATS!

I then proceeded through the security checkpoint without so much as a pause (those ladies can always spot a guy who really wants to be gone over with the wand), and made my way to the waiting area where I waited. I waited big time - two hours for a domestic flight. I wondered if perhaps this was to allow a reasonable period for rethinking the whole idea of a hip flask bomb - and what are the chances those 72 virgins are really going to be waiting on the other side?

Entering the Expo floor, I was set upon (I wish) by a young lovely holding out a bowl of condoms. I tried slipping one into my wallet thinking it would remind me of my teen years - only to find the original was still there. I decided I didn't want to be reminded of my teen years after all. The young lovely explained that she was passing out condoms hoping for contributions that she would then use to purchase and pass out more condoms. Thinking I had misheard, I asked her to repeat the concept. She did and I hadn't.

Moving right along, I came to an even younger and lovelier young lovely who was handing out ballpoint pens marked "Souvenir of the Chicken Ranch"; the world famous brothel in the nearby town of Puhrump. This is a community known for its legalized prostitution - though just having to write Puhrump as a return address should be enough reason not to move there. But the idea of a ballpoint pen advertising "The Best Little Whorehouse in the West" was what struck me. I can't wait for the next time Mrs. Trimble, my bank manager, asks me to sign on the dotted line for cash. Who thinks up these inappropriately linked giveaways? Do they make a refrigerator magnet that says Souvenir of Donner Pass?

Of course, the big attraction at the Adult Video Expo was the adult video starlets. Wearing 8 inch heels, and little else, I overheard one complaining that her feet hurt. Frankly, I'd have been more surprised to hear "I've been balancing on my toes all day and my feet feel fabulous". Why men find such excruciatingly painful garb attractive might be something to consider. Oh my! You're bleeding from your eyes and ears - I think I'm in love! But, to their credit, the ladies kept smiling and signing autographs for their fans. What exactly I'm going to do with my autographed "I'm wet and slippery for you Baby! Stormy Beaver" I don't know. Maybe I'll keep it in my wallet next to my condom.

But please don't think I didn't enjoy my visit to Vegas. I had a swell time and got to see lots of unusual things.

One booth, for example, was run by a couple of young fellows who said they were ministers. They were there to talk people out of the porn industry, which was odd as everyone I saw wanted nothing more than to be in the porn industry, and to stop internet porn addiction - a second cause with which the crowd did not seem overly keen to identify.

The ministers' web address, XXXChurchs-R-Us (or something similar), was craftily designed to snare folks looking more for Stormy Beaver than eternal salvation. And you just have to wonder how much of the church's hard-earned cash went to defray the cost of this foray to Sin City? I know the booth alone came pretty close to the posted price for my suite at the Tropicana.

Anyway, since their reported aim was to meet with "people in the industry in a professional and respectful manner" I wondered why they thought it necessary to dress as chickens? No kidding. Here was the booth and there they were wearing those feathered costumes usually seen on minimum wage employees attempting to wave passing motorists into an adjacent McFastFood. One would think the creator of the whole universe could have found a couple of better reps.

Look At It This Way

We grow so accustom to the events and behaviors unfolding around us that we sometimes forget to realize a simple truth - in any other time and place it would all be seen as pretty damn silly. And sometimes you don't even have to go to another time and place.

Dr. Mason is a psychologist & radio talk show host. He may be contacted directly at DrSBMason@aol.com

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