bottomless © Laura Kicey
I could have chosen to be really offended by the sensibilities of the city. I even expected to be a little bit. Instead after a couple of internal "Wow, really?" most things meant to be ostentatious went quiet and I could really start to see the city and appreciate it.
hail © Laura Kicey
Dustin and I devoted a whole lot of time to examining and discussing what regular people were looking at when they stopped dead in their tracks and pulled out their cameras to take a picture.
coaxing © Laura Kicey
This is the first time that I have traveled that I was compelled to actually remember what it was like to be silly on vacation and just take goofy photos of each other in front of the sites.
chivalry is not dead, it is merely undergoing routine maintenance © Laura Kicey
If I didn't do it at least a little, I would have felt like a complete bitter and angry jerk.
green with envy © Laura Kicey
They worked so incredibly hard to create this enormous recreation of midtown Manhattan and loop a roller coaster around it, I really should do something with that, it is just to preposterous not to.
The city erupting with ludicrous creativity on steroids. Dazzle and seduce. Whether that means get you to part with your cash or get you to drop your pants... or in my case just let my eyes be wowed, it was successful. Probably in ways it couldn't have foreseen.
wading pool © Laura Kicey
Vegas makes you into a tourist. Or maybe guest would be a better word. There is absolutely nothing homey about it anywhere. Every inch is primped and preened and polished, so that you might enjoy it, the gaudiest peacock. Even the run down parts strive for it, classic Vegas downtown, even with the bulbs blown and letters missing in its signs, it is still vying for your affections, like a wrinkly, one-legged prostitute with no teeth. There is probably someone who appreciates it. And that would be us.
flower bed © Laura Kicey
The trip there was wrought with kinks. US Airways misplaced our pilot. Screaming matches with customer service reps and dramatic jogs between a bevy of terminals helped us work off our overpriced mystery meals. Luggage disappeared into the temporary abyss and clean underwear was pined for. Hand lotion found new use as hair styling gunk and still we managed to meet the day with some grace... and stinky armpits.
We stuck to The Strip on our first day. Inside and out, we suffered from our eyes lying to us about distance. Everything seemed so close because everything was so easy to see from wherever you happened to be, a million fabulous, perfectly placed vantage points to view all of the marvelous sites. Oh its right across the street, we'll be there in no time. This is not the case. It will take you 20 minutes just to get out of your hotel from the door to your room. Then trying to find something in another hotel... signage was a bit difficult to follow and of course led you intentionally through the casinos when you really didn't have to be there. Conniving! I appreciated the careful planning, y'know, in my head. But our feet paid the price, even with all the escalators and moving walkways.
amazon © Laura Kicey
Day two we decided to check out the downtown area, opposite end of the strip where the older hotels were. Escaping the Times Square-like bombardment was refreshing as were the thick layers of kitsch. We got off the monorail at the Sahara and drank in the thick stale smokiness and sheik un-chic decor. We got sucked into Bonanza the world's largest gift shop for over an hour, testing the many Vegas-themed gifts there were to fondle.
occupancy © Laura Kicey
We made our way northward on Las Vegas Boulevard to check out the quickie wedding chapels. I always pictured there being a few here and there, but really the core of the city is covered. Most of the nicer hotels have a wedding chapel. The chapels downtown were mindblowing, offering the drive-thru and themed weddings of every flavor. So long as they were 60s classic movie stars and/or Elvis.
heartfelt © Laura Kicey
No establishment was complete without some kind of gambling available to patrons. Video poker at the laundromat. Though the tide of business cards for prostitutes didn't seem to reach this far north, strips joints were aplenty. And of course the complete lack of evidence of news from the outside world reached far and wide. Replacing daily papers in the omnipresent metal curbside vending cases were rags with pages of prostitutes promising to be in your room in 20 minutes. Endless pages of raw halftone hotties. No matter how disgusting, I couldn't help but be a little bit impressed by their commitment to service.
Saturday was our designated work day. Since we had had a number of only semi-impressive meals over the past two days, I decided to treat us to brunch at the Bellagio. After the indulgence, we went back to the room under the burden of Yum, and took a nap until we were summoned to action as wedding photographers.
arpeggio © Laura Kicey
We went to Mandalay Bay to play wedding prep paparazzi in the honeymoon suite with the bride and her bridesmaids. The ceremony itself was in the Mandalay's Wedding Chapel, and no one was allowed to take photographs except for the staff photographer.... who stood in exactly one position the entire time... I'm sure her photos are about as inspiring as Wonder Bread.
dressing © Laura Kicey
We, at least, got to shoot the fun stuff. And ultimately, it is all good practice. We've already been asked to do another wedding at an amazing location and I find I am kinda looking forward to it actually.
cut the cake © Laura Kicey
To cap off our adventure on the last day, we decided to take the plunge and rent a car to see where the sand would blow us out in the desert. By the time we had waited in line and gotten through all the paperwork, our little white Nissan Vista was taking us out 15N heading toward Valley of Fire State Park, an hour away. Straight off the bat we narrowly missed death, driving behind an SUV that had a blowout going about 70mph... figure-eighted all over the (fortunately thinly populated) road and wound up facing head on into traffic, nose to nose with the car in front of us.
Realizing we were completely ill-equipped for deserting, especially as a couple of chalk-colored kids without a bottle of water, we stopped at a rest stop/casino (as if there is another kind in this state) on the Moapa Indian Reservation. After grabbing a gallon of water and a bag of trail mix, we chatted up the Native American gentleman selling Really Good Beef Jerky out of a trailer outside the casino.
sweet and spicy © Laura Kicey
He told us the names of all the mountains and let us sample some of the sweet 'n' spicy jerky before we made the purchase that left our lips tingling the rest of the day. Then we took his photograph and were off in search of burning rock formations.
rainbow vista © Laura Kicey
Before entering the park and after almost driving off the road a number of times while gawking, we stopped to investigate a smaller mountain with a cave in the side of it. While trying to avoid snagging on all the low growing thorny things and avoid landing my feet on snakes and scorpions, (I could not conjure the vision of Dustin sucking venom from my wounds as hard as I tried) we took oodles of likely very boring photos. I felt rather alien out of my normally more urban element.
glyph © Laura Kicey
It took all of our combined efforts to not try to take photographs of the vast everything. Instead trying to really see, make and compose within the landscape. It was a great exercise... that I am not sure I succeeded at. We did play with a branch I found for a bit, just before we both started to feel like we were going to pass out from the heat. I think the shots where I incorporated the figure felt stronger.
dust storm © Laura Kicey
Guess I'll just have to go back and practice some more.
We ended our last night with an unintentionally horrible bang. Dinner did not sit well with Mr. D... and I drug him down to Fremont Street, for its nightly namesake Experience. We ran around the few blocks excitedly taking pictures of the typographical neon gems while Dustin's meat jubilee boiled in his guts.
seduction © Laura Kicey
The midnight car ride back to the hotel and all the hours between then and the midpoint of our 6 am flight were rough to say the least. But somehow we made it home, with our luggage for once and our spirits mostly intact, if battered by food poisoning fallout.
I had expected a larger more vile version of Atlantic City, with bigger angrier attitudes to match. I was pleasantly surprised over and over.
My gravest disappointment I think was not seeing one showgirl. The closest I came was finding a photograph by Dustin of my naked belly on sale at Urban Outfitters. It seems JPG magazine crept quietly out of the bookstores and was selling my body in Vegas. How very appropriately creepy and titillating.