In most parts of the world my family gets branded as noisy. But in Las Vegas we blend right in. The collective enthusiasm of 14-member family presented itself soon as the plane taxied into McCarran International. It was then clear we were like the McCallister family (the chaotic bunch who featured in the Home Alone series of films), except that we hadn’t accidentally left any kids behind. We had brought them along. Two hyper bundles of energy, who also had an agenda of mischief for Sin City, but one that soon revealed itself to be entirely different from ours.
As we sped towards the Bellagio, aunts and uncles hatched disparate plans for our three days here. Quite predictably the men voted in favour of roulette and black jack, while the women compared lists of Vegas’ designer outlet malls. I was simply looking forward to our stay at this iconic hotel, which was the backdrop to Steven Soderbergh’s slick remake Ocean’s 11.
Though it was dramatically devoid of people by day, the excitement about the excessive Vegas of the movies prevailed on us. The only bump in our wild and racy Vegas experience appeared to be my 9 and 14-year-old nephews who had to be kept from running into the rather inviting gambling zones. Neither adolescent nor completely grown-up, I was appointed child-minder, a privilege that was the first of my many regrets about a family rendezvous in this gambling oasis.
Embarrassment outdid regret as we strolled onto the brightly lit Las Vegas Boulevard post sunset. This 6.1 km stretch is populated by resorts, hotels, clubs, casinos and other arenas for vices. For Vegas virgins the Strip is also the extent of Sin City.
By nightfall Vegas is an ode to hedonism. It’s when the Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe impersonators descend on the streets. It’s also when the sex and crack peddlers commence their prowl. If you aren’t among the yuppie tourists posing
for pictures with the faux Elvis, then you almost always are a reveller, keen on Vegas‘s carnal exploits.
As a family of 14, with kids on board, you are neither. Soon, as the battle between dusk and Vegas’s brilliant lights begins, the long stretch of road gets shrouded in a layer of print advertisements; posters flaunting pictures of women escorts either in the nude or in positions suitable for a new volume of the Kama Sutra.
Beset by awkwardness in this witching hour I had to deflect the attention of my curious nephews away from this licentious material, and towards M&M World and the Coca-Cola superstore. The sugar high notwithstanding, neither compared to the Playboy penthouse suite or the Hard Rock Café’s celebrity-studded casino that I’d hoped to come back and brag about. Pit
stops at theme parks were also a necessary hazard with kids in tow.
While the adults got to slink away for Zumanity, a sensuous and provocative, cabaret-style performance by Cirque du Soleil — a performance troupe comprising gymnasts who put up the most spectacular entertainment in Vegas — I aged a little while speeding down a demonic ride called Chariot of Death with the shrieking nephews on either side, in a theme park nearby. As a peace offering the ‘young ones’ were treated to O, a surreal, aquatic theatrical by Cirque du Soleil, and my first real, non-nanny Vegas moment. Of these there was one other, like my one shot at gambling. Indebted to me for assuming responsibility of his hurricane sons, my uncle bet USD 100 on me. Considered petty change in casino capital, the sum was rapidly lost over an amateur attempt at roulette and then recovered courtesy the kindergarten of casinos, the slot machines.
Visitors to Sin City return with Dionysian tales and live to boast of risqué adventures. What happened to me in Vegas should have stayed in Vegas, but alas.