Upon learning that we're driving to Las Vegas and Henderson on Wednesday afternoon, I extracted Lucky You from my completely full DVD binder (The other still has a few empty pages left) last night to refamiliarize myself with those streets I've missed so much, those views I've been away from for too long.
Lucky You was filmed in 2005, but not released until 2007, and The Aladdin, which is seen in the opening credits shots after Huck drives away from the pawn shop, became Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino by then.
Right when the movie begins, when Phyllis Sommerville, who plays the pawnbroker, is adjusting the earrings on that sheet of felt, "Las Vegas 2003" appears at the bottom of the screen and I immediately feel this hard pull of wanting to know what happened in Las Vegas in 2003, what it was like, what events there were, what changes there were, what whales gambled in the casinos ("Whale" being what casinos like because it means big profits for them, which is why they always offer comps to those usually very rich guests), what attractions opened, what attractions closed, even what the weather was like throughout the year. In 2003, I was visiting Los Angeles with my family, a mere four hours from Las Vegas, completely clueless about the riches it offers, even when you don't gamble. Understandable, since I was trying to figure out exactly what the hell Los Angeles was, this seemingly endless sprawl that you could spend years trying to find your place in, and still not have all that you're seeking.
That line at the bottom of the screen always reminds me of the history of Las Vegas and Henderson and Nevada itself that I still want to study. In fact, I have to put my research for Mayday! Mayday!: The Making of the Airport Movies on hiatus for this week. Today's going to be busy, figuring out what I want to wear while I'm there, if I can get away with a white Fruit of the Loom t-shirt under one of my designed t-shirts (I'm thinking of one or two Big Lebowski t-shirts), and then a jacket over all that, even though I've never been to Las Vegas in January. Today would also be the day to pack a few things, with the majority of the packing tomorrow. It's not much anyway. Just clothes for Thursday and Friday, and Meridith and I are sharing a duffel bag and so are Mom and Dad. Two pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks, two pairs of jeans, two shirts (I've looked at the temperatures which are quite cool, and am still thinking about if I should bring my blue sweatshirt. We'll be inside mostly, wherever we go, and our car will be a rental, so the heat will be quite reliable in there. I'm still not sure), and one pair of velcro sneakers. It's enough for me.
Tomorrow, just to get even more in that mood and feel some of that atmosphere through writing (Besides watching most of Lucky You again after I sign off), I'm thinking of plucking a few books from my Las Vegas stack. I could read through some of the books I have for my research, and the making-of movie books I have for guidance and inspiration, but I know that Wednesday will come up fast, and I want to be completely submerged in everything that I love, everything that I'm totally ready for.
Also in Lucky You, there's that shot after Huck (Eric Bana) has met Billie (Drew Barrymore), and he's riding his motorcycle down the Strip, past Caesars Palace, I think, with all those softly-glowing street lights lining the sidewalk. I'm not sure what street that's on. I still have to develop my navigational skills for Las Vegas and Henderson, but I repeat street names like Decatur and Tropicana, Sahara and Las Vegas Boulevard, Lake Mead Parkway and Boulder Highway, like the mantras I know they are.
Then Huck walks into the Bellagio poker room as the guy overseeing it is ordering breakfast over the phone for one of the players, and after the guy says to Huck, "Why don't you rest up a bit? You know we never close," there's a shot of one poker table where one of the players is eating a bowl of cereal. I look at that bowl and the dish under it, and I wonder where that bowl will go next after it's washed in the kitchens. What will that bowl be filled with and who will get it? I also think about the sheer enormity of the operations of these hotels and casinos and it's utterly fascinating to me. There are so many stories to witness and to write about. There's a reporter named Sonya Padgett in the Las Vegas Review-Journal who writes those stories. In July of last year, for example, she wrote about the MGM Grand's laundry facility in North Las Vegas. She lives the Las Vegas I love to learn about. It stems from monorail drivers knowing us when we went to Walt Disney World every weekend and parade performers stopping by on their route to say hello to us when I was a tyke. I knew that there was another side to Disney, that which was always in motion to keep visitors happy. It wasn't long after that that I learned about the Utilidors, the tunnels underneath WDW property, which is why you don't see Stitch walking through Frontierland. That's where the laundry facilities are for the park, costume shops, banks of computers for all the audio-animatronics in all the parks, and a whole lot more. That's why Las Vegas fascinates me in much the same way. I like the cocktail waitresses dressed in those pleasingly skimpy outfits at Caesars Palace, my favorite out of all the casinos, even those I haven't been to yet, but I also like to learn about what the custodians do to keep the casinos clean. It's always been who I am.
Oh, and there's also the scene where Roy (Charles Martin Smith), who wants to back Huck in the 2003 World Series of Poker, walks with him past slot machines at Bellagio, and I know that atmosphere so well, and I love to walk by and look at all those slot machines, quick glances at those playing at them. I always feel at home because I'm surrounded by so many different kinds of pleasure. What may not work for me works for someone else, but the option to have it if I ever wanted it is always appreciated.
This road trip to Las Vegas on Wednesday will be a relief. It's not just because I've been cooped up in Santa Clarita for so long that it's basicallly an "anywhere but here" feeling. It's also because I read the Las Vegas Review-Journal every day, and I visit the Las Vegas Weekly website at least twice a week. I want to hold actual copies. I want to read it in print. I want to get to know my local newspaper, to be very happy that I'll finally have a newspaper I know I'll read from beginning to end. I haven't had that since the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida. I don't read the Los Angeles Times because I don't relate to it.
It's also because I've seen those roads in Lucky You, and I know those roads we drove on previous trips, and I want them again. I want to see the traffic flow, I want to enjoy smoothly-paved roads, and I want to study them for myself, to begin thinking about routes for myself. What's the fastest way to go from here to here if there's a concert I want to get to in later years, say, Shania Twain when she arrives at Caesars Palace for her residency? What's the best route to take to get to my favorite restaurant? Even better, how close is the nearest library to our apartment complex? These are questions I can't answer in only two days, as this trip will be, but I can re-establish that base and work my way from that. I want everything that Las Vegas and Henderson mean to me and I know I'll get all of it.