I’m not good in crowds, for example, and cannot abide loud people. In fact, I’m generally not a huge fan of the general public. I loathe new year’s eve. I’m uneasy when meeting new folk. I’m an anxious socialiser. Any supposed writing eloquence is completely at odds with my articulacy in person. I’m useless at small talk. I hate going shopping. I’m tetchy about personal space. I have a low tolerance for the high-opinionated. I’m famously impatient with drunk people. And, when surrounded by a bunch of jovial folk I don’t know, I regularly convince myself that each of them is laughing at me. And yet I took into account none of these things when booking a holiday in Las Vegas.
Vegas was to be the second stop on mine and P’s driving tour of southern California and Nevada; three days of craziness sandwiched between a long-overdue catch-up with our friend Ant in Los Angeles, some sunbathing beside old couples in Palm Springs, a spot of sightseeing in San Diego, and all kinds of four-wheel-drive fun in between (all of which, by the way, was completely brilliant). And, as the insanely neon-tinged Vegas photos currently uploading from our camera demonstrate, that’s exactly what we got. Craziness? Check. 10/10. Gold star. Smiley face. 50 house points. No problem. You got it. Would you like a side of fries with that? And perhaps I can assist you with a restaurant reservation or some theatre tickets?
Pre-trip, the cheery angel on my left shoulder would respond to people’s ‘ohmanyou’regoingtohavesuchanamazingtime!’ enthusiasm with a gracious ‘well, I certainly intend to’ (disguising the ‘oh fuck I’ve made a terrible mistake’ from my right-shouldered devil). But, in fact, everybody was spot on. Las Vegas was amazing. It’s entertaining; it’s frenetic; it’s hilarious. And, when you’ve got a beer inside you, it’s all that and twenty times more. It’s one of the most incredible places in the world. But not in a way that’s easy to explain when you get back.
Allow me to present a few examples.
Las Vegas offers the world’s most gloriously unrivalled people-watching. Much of which includes observing middle-aged tossers hitting on girls young enough to call them ‘Grandpa’.
Practically everywhere you turn, there’s a deliriously happy couple who’ve just got married… but always within fifty yards of another couple tearing strips off each other in the street.
You could catch a show by Elton John, Madonna, Andrea Bocelli… or Matt Goss.
It’s a city that can, in the space of 24 hours, make your self-esteem soar (ie, following the comment: ‘So, uh, what’s the royal family’s surname? Like, what does it say on the Queen’s credit card?’), or completely plummet (ie, when looking up from your bust-flattering M&S swimsuit to find the pool-edge being catwalked by a Playboy bunny with ‘Candie’ embroidered in sequins into her gold bikini).
If you’re jammy enough, you’ll get to see an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime event – in our case, the Pacquiao v Mosley fight – after which you’ll find yourself in a testosterone-soaked crush for the exit in which a fiftysomething married man will choose to broadcast his (presumably fictional) account with a ‘29-year-old chick who really knows how to suck a sausage’ (prompting you to look him in the eye and say ‘you, sir, are a wanker’).
It’s the perfect place from which to take a helicopter ride over – and indeed into – the Grand Canyon. Provided, of course, you’re happy doing so to the soundtrack of Katy Perry’s Firework being fed through your headphones.
See, having been to Sin City, one of the first questions you’re likely to field upon arriving home is: ‘So, Vegas… Did you love it?’ To which my answer must be: ‘God, no. What do you think I am? A lunatic?’ But of course nobody wants to hear that. Nor do they want to hear the probably more truthful response of: ‘Well, on one hand I enjoyed it more than anywhere I’ve ever been. And on the other I hated it like an eternity in hell with the Black Eyed Peas’. Which gives you a flavour of my conundrum.
It’s something I asked P on our last night there. ‘Well, babe, we’ve had a bloody good laugh,’ he said, diplomatically. ‘But if you don’t get me the hell out of this place soon, I’m going to kill someone.’
‘Exactly! Spot on,’ I concurred. ‘But how are we going to sell it?’
‘You know, when we get home. Every holiday needs a PR job.’
‘What on earth are you talking about?’
‘Well, people only take the headlines, don’t they? So if you tell anyone what you just told me, they might think that we had a shit time.’
‘Is this really the kind of stuff that goes through your mind?’
‘Uh, yeah,’ I admitted, meekly. ‘Why, does it not go through yours?’
In addition to my list of home truths, then, I perhaps ought to add that I’m perpetually preoccupied with my own PR. Hence, in keeping with my aforementioned yin personality, I always want to be able to appraise any kind of major experience (be it holiday, party or whatever else) with resounding positivity; the kind of breezy, cheery thumbs-up that won’t paint me as an ungrateful git. My issue, therefore, is that Vegas panders to my yang-like miserable bastard every bit as much as its counterpart happy chappy.
As those of you who’ve been there will undoubtedly attest, the usual post-holiday ‘yeah, it was lovely thanks’ doesn’t just not quite cut it, but actually feels like a bit of a fib. Because how do you sum up somewhere that’s both utterly amazing and completely awful? Hence using this post as a means of finally figuring out my answer.
So, Vegas… Did I love it?
Well, let’s put it this way. For me, Las Vegas was a lot like being 17. By ’eck, I had a good time. But there’s no sodding way I’d go back.