Sunday, July 06, 2014

ALA in Las Vegas

Old Las Vegas: Beef, Booze and Broads

The big annual American Library Association conference was held in Las Vegas last weekend. Neither of us is all that fond of Vegas, especially in the summer. But we couldn’t resist the lure of seeing 20,000 librarians descend upon Sin City. “Stereotypes will be shattered!” I insisted.

Well, we really didn’t see too many librarians going wild playing blackjack or letting their hair down at casino shows. For one thing, the conference was far too spread-out. Most events took place at the convention center, which was miles from The Strip. Plus it was too damn hot to go anywhere without a car. Librarians are all about walking, if it means saving a few bucks on cab fare. But when evening temperatures hover around 100 degrees, not even the most diehard gamblers feel much like leaving their hotels.

We drove to Vegas (5 hours from L.A.) and so were able to escape the conference a bit to explore the old downtown area, now known as the Fremont Street Experience. Still promising “BEEF•BOOZE•BROADS” and “LOOSE $ SLOTS,” the once glamorous casinos of Fremont Street are now covered by a protective roof that seems to attract more homeless people than tourists. Though apparently spectacular at night, the famous neon signs of yore are truly sad by day. 

Fremont Street Experience in daylight

Howdy, Pardner: Vegas Vic

Easy money!

Fallout shelter sign: reminder of past nuclear 
activity in the nearby Nevada desert

While there, we had a tasty if overly filling breakfast at Du-pars, an L.A. staple that now occupies the old Bay City CafĂ© space in the Golden Gate casino. I could easily picture my parents eating here after a long night of feeding the slot machines at the nearby 4 Queens and Golden Nugget casinos.

Always open, like Vegas

Old-school Vegas diner

Old-school breakfast: lots of carbs and bacon—YUM!

We also visited the Mob Museum, housed in the former post office and courts building located just two blocks from Fremont. Not only does it chronicle the history of the Mafia and other gangster organizations, the Museum also touches on the early days of Las Vegas, when it was nothing more than a desert waystation between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Everything from the Rat Pack to the infamous wall (complete with bulletholes!) from the 1920s St. Valentine’s Day massacre to one of Tony Soprano’s outfits is displayed. Plan on spending at least half a day, if you go. Lots of fun and highly recommended!

Mob Museum

One-armed bandit and assorted early Vegas memorabilia

No trip to Vegas is complete without seeing at least one show, so we did Cirque du Soleil’s Love (again—my third time). We also ate dinner at Pamplemousse, a French bistro rumored to have been inspired by one of our favorite singers, Bobby Darin. The food was delicious, but we recommend not eating all day if you’re going to order the five-course meal.

I was going to attend one last conference session, Monday morning, but when we heard the temperature was expected to reach 110 degrees, we packed our gear and left town by 9AM. Good to be home!

One of the best things about Las Vegas: the monorail—
it ain't cheap, but at least it's air-conditioned—we got a 3-day pass

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