Dear Gabi and Rob
Thank you for buying us gambling in Las Vegas as our wedding present. We followed some good advice and put all the money on black. And lost it all. That tactic doesn't work when you are playing poker. (I thought that joke was funny anyway)
Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas. A big over-the-top playground for adults. Las Vegas is America's version of Butlins, but like all American things it is not as good as the original English variety. OK, so it is bigger and more impressive and there is a lot more to do here and if you asked most people they would probably prefer Vegas to Butlins but to me, it just lacks that English charm of Bognor Regis. But hey ho we are here and we are making the most of it. Yesterday, we walked up and down the strip, which is like a big street. It took us about eight hours.
And so what can I tell you about Vegas? Well for a start, it is very loud here. You cannot go anywhere without blaring music deafening your eardrums, whether a restaurant, a bar or even the swimming pool. It is a bit hard work at first and you wonder why at first. But then the more time you spend here the more you understand the American psychi. America is a big country with lots of open spaces. Therefore on average everyone lives very far apart from each other, which means they have to shout for the next person to hear them. This explains why Americans all talk so loudly. They are all talking so loudly they don't even notice the music. By the way, this theory holds up anywhere in the world. Singaporeans all live close together, talk quietly, Russians having to cope with living all over Siberia, shout a lot. I should have been an anthropologist or something.
An important lesson to learn when you are in America is that it is a very good idea to complain. I filled in a hotel satisfaction survey a bit negatively and we have since been inundated with free stuff. Including a free buffet meal. Where we made a classic error. When you only have one hour in a free buffet, you need to learn that is actually quite a long time to eat food. We approached it like a contestant on the Dale Winton daytime quiz show Supermarket Sweep, running around grabbing food willy nilly without any discernable tactic or plan. And for anyone who has ever seen Supermarket Sweep knows it is always the contestant who calmly goes for the inflatable banana that wins every time. And so with no plan except to rush around, our plates filled up with bread rolls and pasta. Seriously? Who goes for bread rolls at a free buffet. That is just going to make you bloated. We barely managed two or three full plates between us. We will learn better next time.
Any blog about America cannot exist without at least a passing criticism of tipping. Over here, you are expected to tip anyone and anything. Apparently, this is because all those evil employers in America do not pay their bellboys, waitresses, bar staff, delivery men or anyone else enough to survive on a liveable wage. Apparently, we are all meant to help out these big evil American employers by subsidising their staff. Well, it may be the socialist in me talking but I say we shouldn't do it. Let's not help the Man, let's not support these evil rich companies. Let's refuse to tip their staff in protest so that they pay them more. My logic is sound, trust me.
George Bernard Shaw once said that England and America are two countries divided by a common language. It is true. Americans can be quite incomprehensible at times. Although England is about the only other country in the world who still thinks Imperial measures are a good idea, even we cannot understand what they are going on about. So your beer comes in either a 12 or a 24? What the hell does that mean? Oh 12 or 24 liquid ounces you say. Nope still don't know how much that equals. Just tell me which one is closest to a good old fashioned pint. You don't know what a pint is? I give up.
No, that is not true. I am going to persist in teaching these people how to talk proper like. Like in the fast food restaurant the other day.
'Does that come with chips?'
'It comes with fries'
'Good, can I have chips with it please'
'You mean fries'
'Yes, chips. And I want it take away.'
'You mean on the go'
This could take a while.
While infuriatingly loud and confusing, Americans do have some charm. For one, they like our accent. 'Gee, you guys have the best accent ever.' Even if they don't get our humour. We were only joking when we said we would steal all your stuff while you go to the bar, ok? For another, they can be completely over-the-top friendly. At the airport, I left Donna alone for ten minutes and she got offered a doughnut and someone's house to stay in (complete with pet and swimming pool). I might leave her alone for a bit longer next time.
Lastly, when I walk around Las Vegas, I am reminded of the old criticism that a lot of people throw at America. That apparently only 10% of them even have passports, let alone have been abroad. People use this as a stick to beat them with, an indication that these people are unworldly and introspective. I say that is a good thing. The 10% that go abroad are aware, intelligent, fun and interesting human beings. So let's leave the other 90% here. These wonderfully loud, friendly, weirdly dressed, Trump supporting, crazy people in their own little world, waddling down the Strip with their fat guts, huge muscles, fake breasts and bottoms big enough to hide small children in, drinking their drinks in bathtub-sized containers, their vodka infused birthday cake flavoured milkshakes, their family sized packets of crisps that could feed a small African country, their life threatening burgers, their extra cheese on everything, their adding tax to everything, their obsession with tipping everyone, their need to speak about food orders ridiculously quickly, their silly little facial hair, their brash and open demeanors, their silly sports, their pretending to be Irish, their 'Sir, please stop touching that animal inappropriately, step away from the squirrel and put your hands in the air', their pure Americanness. Otherwise, places like Las Vegas would have none of the charm, the fun, the uniqueness and the all round 'What the f***?' attraction that it has. And more of them might end up on holiday where normal people go.
All our love
Jim and Donna