Las Vegas, Nevada

Because of Las Vegas’ reputation for being a gambling/party city, I never really thought I would enjoy visiting there since I drastically over-did the party scene during my 20’s and 30’s. I have been living a much more mellow existence since then, and I must say it suits me just fine.

In march of 2001, however, there was a very special event in my family that resulted in my visiting “Sin City”. It was the 90th birthday of my cousin, Lula, who has lived in Las Vegas for as long as I can remember. Lula is the peppiest geriatric you will ever meet, and she is a lot of fun. Despite the fact she is 50 years older than I am, she truly wore me out during my visit by whisking me to all of her favorite spots across Las Vegas.

And let me tell you . . . Lula has a LOT of favorite places. She insisted on personally driving me and my mother to all the locations she wanted to show us, and as she enthusiastically careened through the busy strip intersections in her monstrous car, I was (uncharacteristically) gripped with terror. Lula casually said “Rhonda’s awfully quiet back there”, and I whispered “I’m praying”. Lula, who is normally deaf as can be, grinned and chirped “what are you praying about?” I learned to be careful what I said around her as the hearing problem seemed to be rather selective.

I was completely taken aback by how much I loved Las Vegas. I fell in love with the energy of the city, but perhaps even more with the climate. It was technically hot when we visited, but unlike Kentucky, the humidity was negligible and I could actually breathe.

Also unexpected was the fact I loved the casinos. I was pleasantly surprised that each one of them had one entire floor of interesting things to see and do. I had always thought of them as nothing more than gambling dens, and I was amazed that they offered so much in the way of excellent entertainment, shopping, and restaurants. We stayed at the Excalibur which appealed to my affinity for anything mystical.

I also greatly enjoyed visiting the Luxor, as I have always loved anything to do with Egyptian history, art, and design. We took in an interesting film at the Imax, and some interesting meals here as well.

The other casino that I particularly enjoyed was the Venetian, because I have always wanted to visit Italy, I love the famous glasswork of Italy, and of course . . . everybody loves the food! My mother & I took the gondola ride, and that was a lot of fun.

My very naughty 90-year old cousin couldn’t wait to get us in Caesar’s Palace to show us HER favorite thing, which just happened to be the statue replica of Michelangelo’s David. She stood in front of it, beaming with pleasure, and loudly announced “I’ve been looking for a man like that all my life”. I was red-faced and squirming with embarrassment, but Lula didn’t seem to notice.

Since I couldn’t visit Las Vegas without trying my hand at gambling, I played a few slots . . . I didn’t want to spend much time doing this, as we had places we wanted to go, so I was a bit frustrated that mountains of quarters spewed out every time I played one. I finally told my mother “come on, let’s go . . . I’ll be here all day if this keeps up” and was a bit miffed when I sensed hostility on the part of the others playing the slot machines. I found out later that getting constantly bombarded with quarters is not the norm, and is actually considered “beginner’s luck”. I have no doubt, whatsoever, that if I had been trying to win, I wouldn’t have. Now, if only I could have that beneficial mindset when buying lottery tickets . . .

Of course, the primary reason for our visit was to celebrate my cousin’s milestone birthday, and her son (Al) and daughter (Nona) put together a wonderful Luau style party, which was a huge success. We all had a truly wonderful time, and I particularly enjoyed getting to meet Nona, as she had never visited Kentucky when Lula and Al had. We became good friends, and I hoped to get to visit her again. Sadly, that was not to be . . . a few years after this visit, Nona died of cancer. I was heartbroken by her loss, and I wondered how Lula could ever cope with it. Nona was a kind-hearted, fun person to spend time with.

Despite the fact I have not managed to return to Las Vegas since this trip, I hope to do so before too long. Lula is now 101 years old, and is still celebrating her birthdays in “high style”, which pleases me immensely. Perhaps I need to explain what I mean by that . . . every year, Lula decides what she is going to do for her birthday, and her choices are always interesting to say the least. I remember her taking a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon (which I would also find totally appealing), and a hot air balloon ride over Las Vegas. These are all fun things to do, but you don’t generally think of someone her age partaking in them.

All I’ve got to say after having experienced Las Vegas, is “Viva Las Vegas”! If you haven’t ever been, I am definitely recommending you make it a priority on your “to do” list.

Last modified on: May 27th 2012.