You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Deserted in Sin City

AAP logoAAP 2/10/2016 Michael Wayne

"HEL-lo!" Two gents on the wrong side of middle age announce their appreciation of a statuesque woman who's walking through the casino ahead of me. "Our room number is 586, come up later and pay us a visit! We're having a party!"

Mine is 585. Bugger.

I'm in Las Vegas because that's the done thing if you're in the vicinity. And I booked into Bally's casino because I'm travelling at my own expense.

It's phony opulent, but my window offers views of better hotels: there's the one themed around New York, the one that looks like a giant black pyramid, and the enormous Caesars Palace. My mind drifts for a moment back to the Rat Pack era, when Frank Sinatra and his crooning buddies lent Vegas a bit of class.

Speaking of which, I can hear Ol' Blue Eyes drifting across the hall from room 586. Time to hit the street.

Outside, the stifling heat never lets you forget Vegas is in the middle of a desert. No wonder people are so skimpily attired. It's just approaching sundown, so the famed Strip is nothing to see yet. I head off the beaten track, catching the bus past McCarran International Airport to east Vegas - the part you never hear about. As we pass "Terrible's Car Wash and Lube" I realise why.

Soon we approach the University of Nevada and the largely residential area beyond. It's easy to forget that Las Vegas is a place where people live and work, that it's not just a hedonistic playground for drunk tourists.

I end up at the Pinball Hall of Fame, a warehouse full of machines that celebrates the golden years of swatting a silver ball with flippers. I swap a twenty for a cup of quarters. Before long I'm broke and it's late.

Back out on the street, I wait for the bus. And wait.

And wait.

Oh, here it comes. I stick my hand out. The bus driver matches my gaze as he glides past.

It's a long walk back to town. I find guidance in the unlikeliest of places. The Luxor Hotel, the one shaped like a pyramid, sends a beam of brilliant white light into the sky come nightfall. It makes for a great waypoint.

I follow the light, staggering through the night heat like a zombie and trying to shake the homeless guy who's decided to follow me. Like many Vegas visitors, I find myself reassessing my life choices.

Did I have to come here? Nobody twisted my arm. I'm not even a gambler, yet I've spent all my cash. All I've got now is a bunch of bloody pennies.

When I eventually reach the Strip, it's full of the kind of slimy characters who prefer to come out under cover of darkness. Only it's not dark here. If I hadn't looked at my watch I wouldn't know it was almost midnight. The neon here is wonderful, terrible; an obscene offering to the gods of avarice.

I'm still blinded when I stagger into Bally's. I'm hot, tired, thirsty and pissed off - the perfect state of mind to make good decisions.

I decide to throw what little change I've got left into the pokies that surround me like seagulls around a bag of hot chips. My money happened in Vegas, it should stay in Vegas.

The experience of "cashing in" isn't as glamorous as it is in the movies. The attendant counts my change, looks up and says, in her best Marge Simpson growl: "High roller!"

I've got a dollar.

I feed it into a machine called OMG! Puppies, and stare in shock as three identical doe-eyed beagle faces fall into line.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon