I have to say, in recent years, I have been mighty jealous of co-workers who went south for a week in the winter. After 11 years of marriage, my wife and I never seemed to be able to do something like that.
This February, we were finally able to change that pattern, and hope to make it a regular feature of an otherwise frozen winter.
Of course, being the geek I am, we couldn?t just go to Vegas and have fun. Nope, I registered for the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International conference, a week-long affair full of workshops for the ultra camera geek.
In other words, for me, it was a bit of heaven.
My wife? Well, she enjoyed the rest of the Vegas experience.
Las Vegas, as far as I can decipher, is the cheapest place to fly to or stay at. We booked a flight and hotel package from Minot that was dirt cheap, much to my liking. It had been 13 years since I had driven to Vegas in a rusted out 1982 Ford camper van (two full days of driving), so a two-hour flight was glorious.
So while the flights and hotels were cheap, everything else was not.
We soon discovered you could easily spend $35 on breakfast for a couple, and well over $50 for lunch or supper. That was eating at the less expensive places, including several food court restaurants. We longingly looked at the menus of the classy restaurants by Wolfgang Puck, Emiril Lagasse and Tom Colicchio's, said ?Not this time,? and walked on by.
Even Wi-Fi is exceedingly expensive. Normally you can find a free hotspot somewhere or other, but on the Strip, it was $13.95 a day anywhere you went. We only found two free hotspots in the whole time there.
While a large portion of the U.S. population is black, and yet another chunk is Hispanic, there were very few we saw as customers in the hotels, casinos and restaurants. As workers, yes. As clients with money to spend? No. The people walking down the Strip were almost entirely white. So much for the land of equal opportunity.
What you did see every second street corner or so you would run into about four Hispanic, likely Mexican, men. All but one that I saw were five-foot nothing or less. One would be wearing a bright green hoodie, another a white hoodie, a red hoodie on the third, and I think a yellow one on the fourth. All these hoodies had something of the lines of ?Girls Girls Girls! In your room in 15 minutes! 702-555-1234? written on their chest.
They were handing calling cards with pictures of nude women and a phone number on them. I?m assuming these were for call girls. Each of these men would snap their cards as you walked by, trying to get your attention, and then hold it right in front of you, an inch from your body, until you passed. One did not make eye contact with these men, who looked like they were cloned from corner to corner.
One day, as we carried a shopping bag, they seemed to be particularly aggressive. Ignoring them to the last, we found 11 cards in our shopping bag when we got to the room! That was an eye-opener.
At the end of the week I considered dropping all my accumulated American change into a slot machine, but found that the slots are too-high class for mere nickels these days. Instead, you have to have a card to play them. No thanks.
We spent a week in Vegas, took in a show, a convention, a helicopter ride over the strip at night, and yet managed to not spend a cent on gambling. We still came home essentially broke, but were richer for the experience. I even learned a thing or two about photography.
I can?t wait until next year.
Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at email@example.com.