The Grand Illusion and Moral Schitzophrenia:Vegas Diaries
According to Henrik Ibsen's play The Wild Duck, illusion is a necessary part of existence. Without illusion, he posited, the revelation of the naked reality of existence would literally kill us.

If he ever went to Vegas, he might have changed his mind. An artificial life filled with starry painted ceilings and no clocks, fake revelers at the Orleans watching the action on the floor, a scheduled oasis rain inside the Aladdin, talking busts of Gods at the Forum, the Eiffel Tour and Grand Central in miniature, giant reproductions of Egyptian ruins and all available in air conditioned glory might have tipped him off that illusion should exist in harmony with other elements. Vegas is like living inside a giant game of miniature golf design by Genet.

There is no way to explain a casino really, the bells, the lights, the laughably bad faux-ness of it all designed to bombard your senses and put them to sleep at the same time. If you ever want to know what it's like to deal with ADD, walk into a casino. Everything is clamouring for your attention catering to every type of vice-video arcades, gambling, liquor, food, cocktail waitresses, and music. I was asked by a fellow writer before he went to Vegas for tips to survive. "Stay drunk" was the advice I gave him. Drunkeness is the only way to minimize the invasion of your senses and somehow it adds some reality to the seemingly relentless absurd and surreal nature of Vegas.

Ah if only I was smart enough to follow my own advice.

I met my host at the Starbuck's on the Casino floor. Which meant I was not only stone cold sober, but also highly caffeinated while bells jangled and lights flashed. My host strode up.

The only thing Woman of the Year had told me about our host was that I would "love him." Unfortunately what I failed to grasp is that WotY is into astrology, and so her entire basis for "you'll like each other" assessment was based on the fact both of us are Sagittarians.

He was well over six feet tall with only slightly less charisma than Tor Johnson and about the same fashion sense. I've met lint with more personality. I think Liberace's lint could carry on a whole tea conversation on its own WITH historical and philosophical references. This couldn't possibly be the man who WotY had described in such glowing and loving terms. The man who had played with her a game of, gulp, strip golf. But he walked up to me and shook my hand. It was him.

I only met with Frog Prince for ten minutes. Essentially it came down to "Hi. How are you? Check your luggage. I'll meet you here at six. Have a good time." Not quite the "getting to know you" chat I expected. But now I had most of the day to do what I wanted. This is far less exciting when you realize I was confined to a local's casino unless, again, I was willing to cross the freeway to get to another local's casino.

If you ever go to Las Vegas, go to the movies. I know what you are thinking, but the theaters there are huge and luxurious. I couldn't help but think how wonderful some of the movies I saw at the NYCHFF would look on such a big screen. I saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. "When else," I thought to myself, "will I have the time to see this film?" Besides what would be more fitting in Vegas than a film all about illusion and spectacle?

After the film I decided I could legitimately have a drink. Since I'm English professor, even my vacations have themes and symbolic content. I was looking through the drink menu at the Martini Ranch while pondering the usefulness of a working fireplace on top of the bar, when I saw a drink called an illusion-orange stoli, midori, blue curacao, and a splash of lime. It looks like something mermaids would give sailors to make them forget their wives. It is the color of oblivion and tastes sweet like the water from the Lethe.

At the bar, the bartender asked me if I wanted to pay for my drinks or gamble. I'm never one to turn down a new experience so I played video 21, but I found myself staring at the screen in the bar oblivious to what is going on around me as I tried to stay up one or two dollars. I looked around and saw the others at the bar similarly mesmerized. It's this grand irony, here are these casinos, in which huge groups of disparate people come together so they can sit hypnotized for hours by something with less sophistication than an Atari. I decided I'd rather pay for my drinks.

How do people play slots all day? I know there is some sort of "method" to it, but it really is the most mind numbingly boring thing I can imagine. I played a few, of course, selected again more for symbolic reasons: Russian Treasure, Angels and Devils, Frog Prince, and Visit Paris. Only Paris pays. But I watched as people stood for hours and just couldn't fathom how this could be "fun."

As I wandered, I noticed a line of gamblers picking up pies. "Yeah, yeah I got my pie at Texas Station" a woman said into her cellphone as she walked past. I'm shocked by it. And I'm shocked that I'm shocked. People picking up their pies for Thanksgiving at a casino? It made sense, but I couldn't actually conceive of people A coming to a casino for Thanksgiving and B actually incorporating a casino give away into their holiday celebration.

But this is all part of the moral schtizophrenia that is Vegas. It's supposedly a "family place", but kids aren't even allowed to walk around the gambling areas. Listening to the music piped in over loud speakers, the line "shake your ass" becomes "shake your thing" despite the fact that you can find all manner of escorts and erotic massages at any hour. The store FCUK (French Connection United Kingdom) in the Aladdin almost had to close down during it's FCUK campaign as it offended so many people, yet no one seems to have problems with shows like Zumanity (which has "Kama Sutra inspired positions") Bite, Fantasy, Crazy Girls , Skintight , Fashionistas , and Thunder from Down Under all playing at casinos that are supposedly family friendly. This doesn't even take into consideration the numerous Adult Superstores, topless "clubs", and completely nude bars, including Spearmint Rhino * and Tally Ho's **(NSFW!) , that populate Vegas. This ensures that families who come here together are inevitably seperated-children being ferried off to a variety of "child safe entertainments", while the adults indulge in other vices. I'm not sure how "family friendly" that is. Further, cocktail waitresses barely dressed in up to here and down there ensembles wear square heeled comfortable Mary Janes (the result of union negotiations years ago), and the rack of visitor pamphlets had not one but two pamphlets proudly advertising safe locations where a visitor could fire a machine gun. It began to dawn on me that any place that could seem crazy to Hunter S. is probably more deeply fucked than I ever could hope to conceive. And now I was stuck here.

I also realized, as I wandered, that I've been here before before. Eric's best friend used to work here at the bowling alley. As I made this revelation, WotY called to ask me how things are going. I told her her I met Frog Prince and he'll pick up me at 6. Then I mention the bowling alley connection. "Small world" she says.

I wish it was. Then I would be able to reach everything.

*Bunniblog Winner of the 2005 WTF Strip Joint Name Award
** I particularly like the "Career Information" picture on the site.

Lush Life: Vegas Diaries Continued
"Thou sensual, supersensual libertine, a little girl can lead thee by the nose." Faust by Goethe

"Baths were the foundation of civilization....Had not the baths spread the Roman ethos across that in whatever town in this farflung empire a man might find himself, he could at least be sure of finding this one precious piece of home?" Pompeii by Robert Harris

As I have said in the past, generally when I travel I am a panties in a paper bag kind of girl. And depending on your destination, the panties are optional.

It's simply that when traveling, anything one might forget can be purchased. Generally the paper bag routine is just a damn fine excuse for me to shop.

But Jedi Master Bakerina has taught me the importance of taking my Lush products along with me. Lush products can transform the most dreary and sad of hotel rooms into a hot house of jasmine, rose, and orange blossoms. There is something refreshing about returning to your generic scratchy rug and brillo pad coverlet hotel room and being greeted by the sweet candy scent of rockstar soap or the light spring overtones of the Emperor of Ice Cream body butter. And so now when I pack to go anywhere, I bring a bag of Lush products, carefully selected for anticipated occassions, to accompany me. Not to mention that the importance of scent has long been aknowledged by courtesans the world over. An Internationally Acclaimed Piece of Ass should not be without a stash of decadent bath products. Even if I don't use them all, and I rarely do, I know that should I lure some poor soul back into my hotel room, I will have a seductively spiced den awaiting him. And if I don't, a luxurious bath can take the edge off being put in a hotel room overlooking a parking lot and a sign advertising Neil Sedaka.

The Lush products I took with me:

2 youki-his (contains gold glitter)
1 jasmine fairy (contains purple/pink glitter)
1 blueberry

Bubble bar/solid bubblebath:
3 wicked (2 pink glitter/ 1 gold glitter)
1 dreamtime
1 elixir (contains silver and blue glitter)
2 hollywood (smells like fever massage bar)

massage bars:
goldbug (gold glitter)
shimmy shimmy (pink glitter)

soap/shower gel
rockstar soap
you snap the whip bath melt (half bar)
soft pair of hands bath melt (half bar)
flying fox shower gel

Now if you do the math, you realize that comes out to a minimum of eleven baths. Eleven baths in five days. But that's only if I was to use one bubble bar or bath bomb per bath. I often pair items-fairy jasmine with wicked (which will make you look like you are going to tea with Liberace) or blueberry with elixir( which creates a purple bath with blue and silver glitter reminscent of Van Gough's Starry Night). When you start taking baths in order to recreate impressionist masterpieces, you know you have crossed into the realm of Roman Emperors. One might well imagine Caligula in his more creative moments demanding a bath resembling the night sky, since he himself embodied all the might of the Gods including Jupiter and therefore should be able to wash his ass in the Milky Way. But to surpass even Little Boots, while I'm in the bath I might use soft pair of hands with flying fox. When you realize all the elements together that might go into a single bath, you realize I have indulged in some of the most decadent bathing experiences since Elizabeth Bathory.

That morning I decided to ease into the trip by bathing in Hollywood, which bubbles into the bath that leaves you feeling like a star of classic cinema. ( and no I don't mean a star of classic cinema the way AMC has now termed in which Steve Gutenberg, for the love of God, can be considered a screen legend-but more like Garbo or Bergman). While I was lolling in the tub, I realized that as much as NYC advertizes itself as a 24 hour city, I could simply take the elevator up one floor and have a grey goose martini for breakfast. And if I played video poker while I was doing it, I wouldn't even have to pay for it. But one has to work up to that level of decadence. As it was, I just ordered breakfast to be delivered to my room. I wanted to be completely put together before I left my room and went back onto the casino floor.

"The only way to prepare for a trip like this, I felt, was to dress up like human peacocks..." Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Much like Hunter, I thought the only way I was going to get through this week was to dive into my closet and come up with some of those over the top outfits that I don't wear even in NYC that often. Considering some of the outfits I've worn in NYC, it's hard to imagine what didn't make the cut, but go with me one this one. Some of them were just so low cut even the Solid Gold dancers would have thought twice wearing them. I have long had a reputation for wearing lingerie as clothes-often I layer a lace bra, with a lacy slip, under a slip top or chemise with jeans. The effect is that I somehow stumbled out of my closet while preparing for a tryst and forgot to finish dressing, which makes me look like an Elvgren girl who just walked off the page. Somehow when you are in a place where "you can wander any time of the day or night and witness the crucifixion of a gorilla-on a flaming neon cross" ( Fear and Loathing) or where the Seven Eleven has entire wall of liquor being sold in the jumbo industrial Motley Crue on tour sizes or where the topless bars are open to eighteen year olds-well, dressing like a pin up girl dipped in rhinestones doesn't have quite the same impact. In such an artificial atmosphere, the only way to compete with the lights, bells, bad comedians, pathetic tribute bands, cocktail waitresses, copious amounts of liquor, and trashy shows trying to pretend to be art is to wear so much body glitter that I look like something Liberace would set on fire and put on top of his piano.

But for that first day, I didn't want to shock my host too much so I donned my Heart Break Hotel t-shirt, some of my more demure body glitter (golddigger from tarte-a sandalwood scented fine gold dust) and walked out onto the casino floor.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

When I was a child, my mother and I used to bake cookies for Christmas presents. In the kitchen of that house, the mixer was actually built into the countertop. I thought this was the coolest thing ever. My mother would put me up on the counter and press a button and up would pop the mixer! Christmas magic! And then after a period of several hours, we would both end up covered in flower with an assortment of rocking horses, soldiers, trees, snowmen, angels, santas, and stars. The lovely part about this is we had Hannukah cookie cutters too so we made dreidls, stars of david, and menorahs for our Jewish friends. We had colored sugars, icings, those little silver ball thingies that probably cause cancer, cinnamon stars, and green and red sprinkles.Then we would put them into piles and wrap them.

Well I can't tell you how long it's been since my mother and I baked cookies together. We cook together about three or four times a year, but neither one of us has baked together, well, I can't even remember it really. Once I was tall enough, I baked on my own-I made teddy bear bread, tartlettes, and fairy cakes. I was such a little bakerina that one time my father's receptionist gave me some of her cookies and said if I could guess the secret ingredient she would give me the recipe. I took a single bite and said "Potato chips." She was surprised, but I had already made potato chip cookies and dismissed them in favor of making snickerdoodles and chocolate crinkles from the Betty Crocker cookbook.

But since we were having Christmas here, my mother and I decided to make cookies. Since we both love gingerbread, we made Joe Frogger's from the Betty Crocker cookbook. (Notice how I am not putting up the recipe for fear of a lawsuit, but you can find the recipe easily enough yourselves.) Just so you don't think all I am doing is lazing by the fire. Here are the results of our efforts.

The New Christmas Order

Christmas at Chez Lapin Posted by Picasa

For those of you who remember some of my past Christmas posts, you will know that traditionally I go to my grandmother's house for Christmas. Since Mere Lapin developed a nefarious plan to keep us away from there this year, I was filled with ambitious intents. This year I would be able to write a monster Christmas post, detailing all my fond memories of Christmas and as an extra bonus including how the daughter of a Jew who hated Christmas suddenly became entitled to it. (Honestly, it was a neat trick kids. I wouldn't try it at home. After I managed to survive cancer, my father decided that I shouldn't be without Christmas. Helluva a price to pay for a tree and some candy canes. I digress.)

But well, things took a kind of turn, and I although my mother and I did manage to have our Christmas here as planned, I haven't had the time to blog that I intended. I know, not a shock considering I'm still writing film reviews from October and my adventures from November. But I thought I would at least include some pictures here of the lovely Christmas in Upstate rather than the frightening drinking anti freeze colored slush with tequila whilst circulating with relatives who are the best argument against Survival of the Fittest Darwin never hoped to see.

This is actually the first Christmas I can ever remember not spending it with my extended family and let me just say this is the way to do it. My mother and I have been drinking excellent mimosas by the fire, then we had fresh eggs with raclette cheese (courtesy of eli's), and now I'm having a mug of glog before throwning myself into a tub of Santa Baby (Lush). I was worried that somehow I wouldn't think of it as Christmas if I wasn't at my grandmother's house fending off depression and insane relatives, but no it seems actually more Christmas-y than past years. There are so many other things to blog about, but well if I can't be a decadent Christmas hog today then when can I?
Merry Christmas everybody!

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