LAS VEGAS -- With the American economy at a crossroads, a cross-section of America still converges here every summer. It's as if money grows on palm trees in the middle of The Strip, because, even with recessionary dollars harder to come by, bigger crowds keep coming to the World Series of Poker.
In good times or bad, the one constant is: Gamblers will gamble.
Each year I watch with wonder -- as ESPN's alleged poker expert -- at the Brobdingnagian bankrolls that roll into town.
Then again, Las Vegas is an around-the-clock Mecca to excess.
(It's sort of like ESPN, without "SportsCenter.")
And in a city that invites and defines excess, there are excessive displays of conspicuous consumption everywhere. The other night, when I couldn't sleep -- who sleeps here? -- I compiled a list of my favorite immoderate, larger-than-large Las Vegas landmarks:
But there's a customer-friendly catch.
These are the words straight from the menu board: "Finish It and It's Free!"
Now, before you call Southwest and get on the next no-hidden-fees flight, ask yourself this: Could you eat 24 quarter-pounders with cheese at McDonald's? Exactly. Still, I wanted to conquer that 96-ounce burrito, but, well, I can't expense these things anymore -- what with newspapers plunging into bankruptcy -- and I thought a double sawbuck was too much to pay for apocalyptic indigestion.
On the other hand, if I'm the Oakland Raiders, I'd shift my practice facility to Sin City tomorrow and the entire team could eat without cost every day.
You can pick up Las Vegas shot glasses for 99 cents, six pairs of dice for a buck, a "CSI: Las Vegas" coffee mug for $5.99, an Elvis light-up carrying bag for $29.99 or a miniature "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign for $42.99. They even sell books, including "The Art of Pole Dancing" (career change?) for $9.95.
Beware of the security guards - they'll look at you so suspiciously, you'll
This amazing sight is in plain view any day for anyone who goes to the Jean Philippe Patisserie inside of the Bellagio. If you bring any 6-year-old to see this, they will immediately move into the Bellagio, regardless of the room rate.
I stood there and stared at it for 10 minutes, then drove to Costco and bought a crate of Twix.
It's the Sapphire Pool at the Rio, daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., in which "performers" from the Sapphire -- aptly billed as The World's Largest Gentlemen's Club -- hang out poolside and talk shop with tourists. It beats downloading porn, does it not?
Q. Do the competitors at the World Series of Poker take your advice regarding fashion and style? (
A. I've yet to see one of them standing behind me in line at Target buying Cherokee T-shirts.
Q. Being that your favorite "sports" appear to be bowling and poker, is it safe to assume you were not a jock in high school? (
A. Actually, I was home-schooled and was cut from the family's croquet team.
Q. A friend of mine saw you drinking a glass of wine while playing poker recently. Isn't The Slouch more of a shot-and-a-beer guy? (
A. I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Pabst Blue Ribbon.
A. Pay the man, Shirley.