Rough Times in Las Vegas

A sci-fi moon base? Or Las Vegas resort hotel? (Photo credit Michael Patrick Shiels)

A sci-fi moon base? Or Las Vegas resort hotel? (Photo credit Michael Patrick Shiels)

A very long day of meetings, networking sessions and seminars had come to a conclusion – but it was 8:30 – a time of day that Las Vegas, a destination without clocks, laughs as “Sin City” – cigarette in one hand; martini in the other – saunters past it each evening.

The day had been all business, but still the impenetrable fortress of concrete and maze of imprisonment Las Vegas has become had worn me down. Sure you can see the casino next door, but try walking there – either by emerging from the front valet entrance and virtually rappelling down to the desert heat of the street or by ant-farming through the frustrating misdirection of the pedometer-busting walkways, skywalks, and tunnels that connect buildings the size of airports, conference centers and shopping malls – with gaming tables and slots. A very unglamorous tram slithered between the futuristic glass and metal high-rises piled up beside The Strip in what felt like a sci-fi setting.

I needed to decompress, rinse and reset, so a primal, evening swim under the desert sky in a quiet glamorous swimming pool at my “resort” hotel sounded like the kind of thing that would make me feel human again…until I found out the reason the pool was so quiet was that it closed at 8 p.m. Some Vegas hotel pools close even earlier. I suppose someone swimming – or supervising their children splashing around – is not helping hike the house handle by rolling an ill-timed seven on the crap table or losing when the blackjack dealer suddenly turns a 16 into a 21.

So into the trap I fell, and onto the casino floor, where I slid my debit card into the ATM machine to get some cash to play cards. The readout on the screen told me the withdrawal fee would be $7. Seven dollars – to withdraw money I would likely lose anyway! That was the last straw. On principle, I declined the transaction, and hiked back to my room, where I sat down to write this column in lonely longhand.

Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz,” which used to be displayed at the 5,000-room Strip hotel casino down toward the airport, knew there was “no place like home.” Back in Michigan, at Firekeepers Casino Hotel near Battle Creek, I found the pool is open until 11 pm, and the casino floor ATM fee is $3. The longest walk is from the hotel desk to the Cabaret Lounge at the front entrance, which can’t be more than 100 yards, and you can park just outside either of those…for free. And guess what – it actually looks like a casino, with plenty of characters to “give the joint atmosphere.” From now on, that’s all I need to get my Vegas on.

Michael Patrick Shiels may be contacted at   His radio talk show can be heard weekday mornings in Lansing on 92.1 FM.

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