Beer and Clothing in Las Vegas

May 2008

As a 49 year old virgin of Las Vegas, I have spent my whole life with an image in my mind of this city. Everyone is in a tuxedo or an evening gown with neon radiating off of the beautiful people. The City of Sun, the City of Sin, the City of Stories. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Everyone I know has been here, some multiple times. They all have their reasons and desires for coming here again and again. After dipping my toe into this pool of excess, I am trying to find out why.

It is the morning of day 2 in Vegas and I sit on the balcony of room 524 at the Sahara Hotel. The neon minarets present a mirage of Marrakech as they project into the sky above the palm tree oasis of the pool deck. The Sierra Madre’s stand in for the Atlas Mountains to complete the illusion. With blinders on to keep the encroaching parkade out of my line of site, I can visualize old Vegas as it was. From this angle, I cannot see the fake pyramids and New York skylines.

I have only seen Las Vegas from the inside of a shuttle bus that showed me the backside and underbelly of the strip. A tour of delivery entrances and lanes showed me a view of empty lots, tough apartment blocks and construction sites headed for the sky. Our driver weaved us to and fro, dropping other visitors off behind famous names such as Circus Circus and the Riviera. My first view of the world famous Las Vegas strip has so far consisted of a tour of the wrong side of the cheap end of town.

After being politely herded like lambs headed to slaughter, our patience was rewarded when it was our turn to check in. A very helpful and personable receptionist named Alicia smoothly ascertains from us that we are in town to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. She then proceeds to set my lovely bride and I up in a sweet, faded yet still glamorous suite. The walls of our temporary home echo with the sounds of the real history of this town. We settle in to experience this place called Fabulous Las Vegas.image.jpg


In a perfect metaphor for our first day in Vegas, my wife and I drink champagne out of cheap plastic cups for breakfast. As the day progressed, the feeling of plasticness was continually reinforced. The concept of cheapness was revealed to be just an illusion. As we strolled the golden mile of mega resorts, I could not shake the feeling that I was in a giant theme park, a perverse Disneyland for adults. People walked the streets drinking $30 margarita’s in a plastic souvenir cup while carrying an M&M bag full of goodies bought at the factory outlet. I am offered 1/2 price tickets to Cher which will only cost me $100. I could get a barely legal blonde Asian friend at my side in only twenty minutes. I neglected to ask the cost.

We went to New York/New York to see the fabled hotel’s interior lobby, a painstaking attempt to recreate the originals energy. I walked into a shopping mall that screamed with such eagerness that it was as cool as NYC, but to me it was just a fantasyland. Maybe thats why it was packed full of people. Back outside the hotel, a crowd was applauding a performance of water shooting into the air out of a large water feature to the music of Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind”. I watch gamblers slide a $100 into a slot machine, then robotically press the button over and over. There is no pleasure on their face, even when the bells and horns tell them they have won something. What is the drug, what is the draw that has brought so many people to this city in the desert. Billions are spent to build Las Vegas ever skyward, the sole purpose to extract billions more from those who come seeking escape. Then I realized that escape was exactly what Las Vegas is serving. Whatever you are looking for is provided for you here at whatever cost you want to pay for it. Money is definitely no object.

Another confusing aspect about Sin City and its promotion of sex, sensuality and promiscuity is how it interacts with the current mind scape of conservative America. As I have already discussed, a date to satisfy whatever kink you may have can be procured in mere minutes. My wife and I were in the audience yesterday for a performance of “Zoomanity”. It was an extremely sexual, stimulating production put on by incredibly talented, easy to look at actors. Nudity abounded and the crowd loved it. Back outside, billboards for gentlemen’s clubs and topless bars sit atop mini flat deck trucks cruising the Strip.

The opposite side of this anything goes in Vegas coin played out quickly at our hotel yesterday afternoon. A young gentleman was having a good time at the poolside with a group of friends, sipping cocktails provided by the hotel poolside bar. The girls in the group wore bikinis that barely covered their assets. This young man was foolishly only wearing a towel around his waist and walked back across the pool deck from the bar with a drink in each hand. Of course the towel started to slip and he was unable to prevent the top of the crack of his ass being exposed to fellow pool area guests. Instantly he was taken down forcibly by hotel security, cuffed and marched off, never to be seen again. A nearby witness who filmed it on his camera was grabbed by a black uniformed rent a cop and escorted away as well. He later returned, minus his camera to quickly gather his things and his wife, saying that his camera had been confiscated. This couple was also never seen again.

This quick aggressive drama was played out so quickly and intently over a flash of male skin that offended no one. Fellow poolside patrons sat dumbfounded but silent. No one else wanted to disappear under hotel arrest by the tactics of security. If the selling of male and female skin is one of the products of Las Vegas, and this is the reason why a lot of people come here, what the hell just happened?image

Opposites is another visible contradiction in Las Vegas that I am increasingly finding quite interesting. Cars costing many tens of thousands of dollars wait patiently at crosswalks for the legions of people from middle America to work their way to Circus Circus for a chillidog and penny slots. I believe the driver knows it is these people who have paid for his ride. Mere yards from the penny slots are poker tables that have a $25,000 betting limit. The real big money tables must be hidden from view, the domains the very rich few. Very full figured people are everywhere, fuelled by an endless supply of buffets and embedded fast food restaurants. Bellagio’s or Bill’s, Vegas has a casino for everyone, and it seems like everyone is here. Completing this potpourri of people are the citizens of the world. All colours and languages of humanity, all the shapes and sizes of everybody from everywhere in the world are here.

While Las Vegas brings in people from all around the planet, the cynic in me looks at a different angle to all that is provided here. Again, analyzing the psyche of the American nation, it’s paranoia and isolationist tendencies, I start to see a pattern amongst all the glitter and commotion. The average citizen of this country has little or no knowledge of the rest of the world. One thing Las Vegas provides is cartoon images of famous world locations. Why go to Cairo, Paris, or Rome when Vegas reenacts them right here. The Luxor or the Venetian will show patrons what these places are truly like while distracting them with noisy casinos, buffets and big name shows. Who needs to travel the world, just go to Las Vegas. A nation that gets it’s news from FOX or CNN is always happy when it is being entertained. So if you can go to Vegas to explore the world while partying, who needs to go to those real places and know what is going on over there. As long as I can walk the streets drinking my 58 oz plastic football of bad beer while staring at T&A, life must be this good everywhere.

I am sitting at a bar in the main check in area of the Mirage, watching the comings and goings. The hotel name is a perfect description of this place called Las Vegas. Nothing here seems real but everything is finished with perfect detail. The clientele is multicultural and intermingled. Everyone belongs and everyone is welcome. The noise of the casino does not reach this spot and the soundtrack is Top 40, U2 currently filling my ears. The age span is from infant to elderly. They all seem to have a place to go. Then I realized that out of all the people and professions that provide service to the many guests of Vegas, there are no bell hops. No one needs their bags carried because no one carries their bags. Everyone pulls their own, the heavy or not so heavy bag obediently following on those little plastic wheels. Tiny women or big strong men head in all directions looking like stewardesses walking through the airport. Man I wish I invented those little wheels.

Last night was spent in downtown Vegas, the old traditional half of town, where the strip began. There is still lots going on in that part of town. Live music is on the promenade, people are everywhere and there is some incredible neon on display. The old neighbourhood exuded a real charm that is lacking on the new portion of the strip. This place has the potential to market itself as the new strip alternative. It’s a great location for street parties, open air festivals or any other excuse to get people there and entertain them. For some inexplicable reason a decision was made to build a two block long screen above the best couple of blocks. I think the reason is at night they use it as a screen for a super cheesy laser show that is pathetic as it is desperate. The whole gory mess lasted maybe 10 minutes and both times we have drifted down to old Vegas the theme song was the same. The tune was “We Will Rock You” by Queen, one of their worst songs ever and massively overplayed. This was the choice of music for this feature production. Both nights that all American band from England were the stars. The cowboy from the Gold Nugget was engulfed in the curve of this arching piece of sky trash. One of the coolest bits of Americana in Vegas and the powers that be do not have the confidence in their history to let this neon masterpiece stand proud on its on accord.image

Funny enough, the very next block after the laser canopy of crap ends, the street is home to some funky little bars with outdoor stages, eye catching restaurants, great old school neon and the stars and sky of Mother Nature above. It was such a great setting but it was so wrong. For every 20 people at the laser show, there was one person wandering and enjoying a very cool neighbourhood a scant 100 yards away. What a shame.

When I came to Las Vegas and truly had no idea what to expect, one of the last things I thought I would experience was to see Elvis. As far as I knew he had died and left the building. Now downstairs in the lobby of the venerable old Sahara, they have posters for this Elvis tribute guy. Apparently he’s one of the best in the world. Our “Elvis” has a real name, and it is Trent Carlini and he is appearing right here right now. How easy can that be. We are in Vegas and Elvis decides to show up at our hotel. We cannot say no. So we headed down to the Sahara Theatre. Like the hotel itself, our venue was full of charm but a little tattered around the edges. The place is half full but it is an excited crowd and seems ready for Elvis. So in comes Trent Carlini and blows the roof off the place. The man looks so much like a young King that it is uncanny. Our Elvis has the moves, the hair, the tight leather outfit, a tight band and that voice. Women in the audience are screaming and crying. No underwear was thrown but I’m sure there were pairs that were wet. Elvis tribute guy was very good and I’m sure he will soon rule the Elvis Impersonator Kingdom. Long live the king!


Last night I learned the Vegas lesson that he who hesitates is lost. Naive arrogance perhaps, but I was under the impression that Las Vegas would wait for us. The massive capacity for absorbing the partying masses would allow my beautiful bride and I to operate on our schedule. The appeal of one last sunset on the deck overlooking the truly fantastic vintage Sahara Hotel sign called our name. The desert mountains silhouette against the translucent night sky as we sip cocktails and share life and laughs. It was truly another side of Las Vegas I never expected to see.

Our plan though was to dance our last night in Vegas away, and we had our complimentary VIP passes to get us inside the ropes of a swanky rooftop disco. Unbeknownst to us, while we partied on our patio, the Vegas hotel horde had filled the streets before us. The excited new arrivals hooted and hollered, the noise and intoxication levels rising as the night wore on. Our chosen dance floor was packed with a long line up at the door, our personal passes no longer getting us in without providing the doorman some substantial love. Every other dancing option was a $25 cover charge and a long wait. We were the proverbial all dressed up with no place to dance couple. How is that possible in this town. There is always space in the high end clubs but operating on a low end budget, we just didn’t want to cross over that line. So instead of dancing the night away with all the roof top beautiful people, we amused ourselves watching the action at street level sipping cold Coronas. It wasn’t a bad gig but it was a bit deflating after our big plans and expectations. When in Vegas, if you snooze you lose.

I, we returned back to the real world 5 nights ago. Game faces were applied, 110% was given and we uncertainly became members of regular society again. How fast time flies. Time has been provided in this interlude to reflect upon Las Vegas from afar. Having been back almost as long as we were gone, it seems a perfect time to recap the adventure that was.

For the sake of continuity and the ability to limit verbals, I am just going to reminisce in point form for the next few moments. As a memory hits my recollection bank, I am going to throw it down, pen to paper as fast as I can. It will be lean and not too clean. that’s Fabulous Las Vegas, what a scene, what a scene.


In no particular order

I miss the warmth, I miss the desert

How can you love something that disgusted you. Las Vegas flaunts all that is wrong with today’s North American society. If not for greed, gluttony, narcissism, misogyny and just plain excess of everything, what would Las Vegas have going for it? Despite all of this, I was drawn into the vibe of the city. Even though you have barely slept you are wide awake early because if you sleep in you might miss something. This city churns on energy that all its inhabitants feed off of. Even though they use, abuse, cruise or shop for bad tattoos, you want to taste more, smell more, watch more. No other venue is as capable of allowing a diverse, more cross section congregation of American citizenry to blow off steam, crepe, spillage and wonder as Las Vegas. I hate myself for loving it.

Why do so many attractive, fit, looking good at any age women wander around Vegas with big man tits, shit sack packing male escorts. It can’t always be for money can it?
We watched an 80 year old man walk through the lobby of The Palms with a 30 year old lady on his arm. Both of their smiles looked real.

You can always find live music if you look hard enough.

I love road trips with my wife

I want to experience Las Vegas from all angles. To see the city from the tuxedoed money chambers to the taverns blocks off of the Strip.

Where does all the water come from? This question alone could be the subject to a long, dissecting monologue about society today. Thank god for being able to drink beer while walking the strip. By drinking street side beer, I felt I was doing my small bit to keep the drought at bay.

If you don’t gamble and are willing to venture off the Strip, you can explore Las Vegas in an inexpensive fashion. From $11 Indian lunch buffets to bars selling you $5 all you can drink vodka, one does not need to go broke while having fun.

Hotel rooms with balconies rule.

My lovely wife said lets go to Las Vegas. We have been married 25 years and it seemed like as good of reason as any. So I went having no idea what to expect.

Vegas charmed me, it harmed me. Like Vancouver, like New York City, I need to shoot it into my vein. As much as I am a green, clean, working hard to be organically lean, I need the city and the downtown. Las Vegas was all this. Everyone there had morals, standards and limits. The problem with Las Vegas was that it did not care. Party on or be gone, just get out of the way. Like all great cities of the world, it forces you out into the night. There is no chance to recharge when you need to live large. We were truly want to be’s, trying to be a has been, a has been on the comeback trail.

No one cared. Be yourselves. Go forth
It’s okay



Fun Grando and the Church of Bike (Part 1)

Fun Grando and the Church of Bike
Dude, where’s your spandex! (Part 1)

My lovely bride and I roll gently north, heading up the bike route after crossing Kingsway. It’s still not 5AM and we are up early before the crack of dawn. The two of us are riding a couple of single speed cruisers with coaster brakes, kicking it old school. Modern USB rechargeable bike lighting illuminates the way. Other than the few remaining revellers from last evenings Friday night out, the streets are almost deserted. A cab scampers for a last fare, while early morning workers resolutely make their way along the main roads. The backstreets though are deserted, and we descend down from upper East Van and ride into the city.

There are a couple of good reasons why we are up and out on our bikes before the birds on a Saturday morning. Justifying this little bit of madness is the official #whistlergranfondo which departs at 7AM from the middle of beautiful Stanley Park. Amongst the throngs of spandex wearing, space age fibre bike frame mounting, shaved leg sporting, protein gel pack sucking bike riders is a very good friend of ours. He and a couple of more buddies are going to ride to Whistler on this beautiful late summer day and we are going to cheer them on.

This ride in the real early morning process allows my wing woman and I to sort of relive and renew a great experience from some SE Asian travels a couple of years ago. The city was Hoi An in Vietnam. In daytime it is a charming, chaotic, historic riverfront city jammed full of locals, commuters from outside areas and tourists from everywhere. Especially along the riverfront market areas, you cannot move about freely on foot, let alone even think of riding a bike due to the crowds. Somewhere in one of those travel related Internet forums my wife unearthed a nugget of advice. It simply stated that when in Hoi An, try getting up very early and see the city before it awakes. So we did, and it was a fabulous experience. Riding figure 8’s on the empty main market square as the sun rose over the river was just a small part of that magical morning.image
Ever since then, it is something we have always wanted to replicate, especially in Vancouver. We stopped mid span on the Burrard Street Bridge to reminisce about our last such adventure and discuss our route for this new one. Down below us in the shadows, a full marina of pleasure craft bobbed gently on the False Creek tide. Ahead of us is downtown, it’s tall semi illuminated buildings beckoning us forward. We exit the bridge bike lane and start zigging and zagging the alleys and lesser streets of the cities core, purposely angling towards Granville. We sweep down off of Helmcken and take a left onto the original spine of Vancouver’s entertainment district. Disappointing to us, even at this early hour the street is starting to populate and the buses are running. We ride hard up Granville Street heading towards the mountains to the north, but there is not going to be any solitude and empty streets for our ride. There is also a deadline we must meet at Stanley Park. The Gran Fondo waits for no rider.

As we continue through downtown, we quickly realize we are not alone. The streets and bike lanes are filling with an invading spandex horde.
All riders are heading in the same direction in a migration like flow. As our riding uniforms are non conforming and our steed are obviously not going to carrying us to Whistler, none of the other riders pays us any attention. We do not belong to their chapter of the Church of Bike and everyone’s focus is on the 125 odd kilometres they need to ride today in order to arrive in Whistler Village. Fortunately, my co-cruiser and myself meet up with our buddies on the Hornby bike lane and we are able to pedal the remaining distance to the Brockton Oval mass start. As two members of this giant malleable bike gang, we have slipped inside the ropes and entered a cycling world both foreign yet familiar. While this ever expanding peloton of stationary road cyclists nervously congregate along the roadway, my lovely bride and I are at the halfway point in our mornings riding adventure. We wish everyone a safe ride and slip away to watch the riders depart from a safe vantage point. We break out a breakfast picnic and a flask of enhanced tea. So far this morning’s excursion has been pretty damn fine, and we still have to ride home. What more could you ask for on a pretty, early late summer morning in Vancouver


Old Vancouver/East Vancouver(Vol 2)

Old Vancouver/East Vancouver (Vol 2)

Alley Alley Art 4free

East Vancouver has great alleys. They range from gritty and illicit to meandering and peaceful. Some are rough and garbage strewn, full of inner city hard life. Many though are striking in their variety and scope of artfulness. Immaculately tended back yard gardens rub property lines with decades of unkemptness. New lane way houses have views of the mountains. Forty year old grape vines climb telephone poles

More so than the actual house residing at each address in East Vancouver, a true taste of this neighbourhood and it’s roots are found in the alleys. For a large portion of the people living in the area, the alley is their primary vehicle route home. Cars park there, sometimes never to move again. High fences and cameras guard some houses, unfenced, unruly wildflower gardens beckon the visitor with aged elegance from others. Life is always unfolding in an East Van lane.image

Alleyways have their own set of rules, different from the streets and roads. Put an object you don’t want anymore out in the alley and everyone knows it’s first come first serve. At times it’s a very efficient means of moving excess material things to people who need stuff at no cost. It is reduce/reuse/recycling at its best. Other times, the lanes are deemed a great dumping spot for ratty mattresses and what have you. This is still deemed an acceptable method of getting rid of your shit by a small percentile of society.

When it comes to the bounty of fruits and vegetables that grow throughout East Vancouver alleys, I am unsure of proper protocols. Many a backyard garden has every spare inch dedicated to growing food crops. I so envy and respect these small scale farmers for their effort and skills. Other gardens bordering lanes tease passerby’s with an untended and possibly unwanted bounty. Apples and pears hang over fences in clusters, greens and cherry tomatoes beg for a salad bowl. Equally alluring are the colourful bouquets of flowers that spill from every corner. A small corner market could be stocked with the harvest but can a neighbour help themselves to the alleyways charms?

What each lane has though is its own personality.
Some find a rhythm of symmetry, a bunch of old classics all in a row. They present to the backstreet a timeless elegance unduplicated in the modern recreations. Each backyard and garage has a sense of order and efficiency. Other homes spill out into the shared lane way space with a chaotic display of misfiled recycling or a lost decades motorcycle. You can find tropical paradises, complete with the sound of water gardens. You can find despair and sadness.

My favourite part of the lanes and alleys of East Vancouver is the displays of random art. Sculptures, murals, mosaic and graffiti, they are all present. It’s an ever evolving art show for an unknown audience. Some of the alley art you see when you look for it was obviously presented for viewers. Other art seems deep and personal, created from a dark mind space where some of the worlds great works of art and music have come from. Then there is the accidental art, that maybe only I think looks cool. Either way, there is always an art show open in the alleys of East Van if you care to to take the time to look. Alley Alley Art 4free

imageUntil next time
Much love from lars

PS – Check out “larsthebabyjesus” on Instagram
More random photos that caught lars’s eye

OldVancouver/EastVancouver (Vol 1)

Old Vancouver/East Vancouver (Vol 1)

I’ve always been interested in history. It didn’t matter if I was reading about the battles between Carthage and Rome a few thousand years ago or if I was wandering through a small prairie town museum. Curiosity was always an energy that took your imagination and filled your mind with the adventures, the tribulations, the warfares and loves of people and times gone by. Today is now and the future is unknown. History though is everywhere and can mean just about anything to anybody.

In a world where the documented history of mankind goes back thousands of years and touches just about every corner of the globe, this little town of Vancouver is just a mere infant. Carved out of a paradise where the local indigenous people have lived in harmony with Mother Nature for a few millennia, Vancouver has boomed, burnt, built and bulldozed for 150 years or so. Today it stands on the cusp of becoming a big league city, for better or worseimage

Mankind has always needed and wanted shelter. The evolution from primitive caves to today’s modern architecture covers a wide spectrum and many thousands of years. Around the world, buildings, temples and towns built long ago still exist and lead functional lives. Their history is shared and cherished, and people travel the world to see these wonders of ancient architecture. Family homes in other parts of the world are passed on from generation to generation. Vancouver though, in it’s hurry to become important, seems to be missing the point on history and architectures place within it.

Even though Vancouver is a young city, it is losing some of its heritage and history at an alarming rate. Here in East Van, first and second generation housing is being trampled and ripped up in pursuit of more density, more modernity and more profit. The stories behind these old homes are lost, the structures themselves vanish as we all rush forward into the future
Within the parameters of this blog and under the Old Vancouver/East Vancouver subtitle, I am going to try and document a city that used to be. Wandering the lanes and side streets of East Van with my old dog at my side, I am always on the lookout for unique, aged structures that are still standing in some capacity, that have survived so far. Vancouver is a city where 100 day old houses stand side by side with 100 year old houses. Homes built of old growth cedar get torn down and replaced with new versions built out of chip board plywood and laminate lumber. I’m not saying that this progress is bad, it’s just in some fashion it is reckless and sad.

I will not always be looking for the glamorous, meticulous old beauty. My eye also looks for the tattered, seemingly unloved survivor full of stories and mystery. It could be an old rock wall or a leaning garage but I am looking for it before it vanishes. While it is far removed from Angor Wat
or Amsterdam, Vancouver does have its own history. Larsthebabyjesus and Old Vancouver/East Vancouver is just one guys attempt to give some of this vintage architecture a bit of love and exposure