Vegas offers plenty to look at even if you don’t gamble. After the Burger Bar, we wandered north, passing through the Luxor, Excalibur and New York, New York. The Luxor has the widest variance between quality and spectacle: an impressive architectural feat that’s widely regarded as a shitty place to stay. Excalibur’s worse: the faux-Bavarian castle, meant to signify a British king from five centuries earlier, looks gaudy even by Vegas standards, and its biggest attractions are an Australian male stripper troupe and the voice of Satan himself, Louie Anderson. New York, New York isn’t bad: the casino’s nice, the interior attractions resemble the parts of Manhattan that a Midwesterner would want to visit and it’s got some nice bars.
Dave and I stopped in one of them, the Bar at Times Square, on Friday night. Two dueling pianos dominate the floor, with velvet ropes channeling entrants around them: $10 to go left and stand, $20 to go right and sit. We paid $10 each and stood, buying expensive domestic beer and filtering into a crowd. The emcees kept the crowd rolling with a string of hits from the last thirty years: Bon Jovi, Journey and that staple of piano bars, Billy Joel. A knot of feral Canadians tipped them $40 to play Nickelback; it took three full verses and two choruses of “Rockstar” before enough Americans got their act together to outbid them. First Olympic hockey, now this.
A bride-to-be of no more than five feet in height, flanked by bridesmaids and matrons, waved me down at one point. “Do you know the band Snow Patrol?” she asked. The name sounded familiar. They did that song about chasing cars? I nodded. “You look just like the lead singer!” I’ve never heard that one before, but I quietly added it to the list and thanked her. We made friends with her coterie and danced for a little while until the fatigue of a six-hour plane ride and a three-hour time change overtook us. “Keep an eye on her,” I yelled at one of the bridesmaids. You never know what this city will do to people.