While doing my laundry at Furnace Creek the day after taking the Dunes shots, I had a dodgy sandwich which knocked me out of action for the whole of the next day. My stomach was making some very disturbing noises, so I ate nothing for 24 hours, took medicine and lay low in my hotel room. It was sad to waste a day where I’d intended to photograph two sites but if you’re ill while travelling, the best thing to do is acknowledge the fact and set about getting well quickly. Hence my day lying on my hotel bed. Better one day out than three because I’d stupidly soldiered on.
So the next day, mostly recovered, I drove to Vegas. I had a light breakfast but no lunch or dinner. I still was far from 100% and had no appetite. I walked around Vegas and took the shots you see here. They are not terribly interesting because, to be perfectly frank, I found it difficult to be interested in Vegas.
Now, this is mostly because I still wasn’t well. In fact, the day after I arrived in Vegas was spent mostly in bed. My stomach grumbled on and my appetite and energy failed to return until later that day. There’d been a shooting at LAX earlier in the week and security there has been tightened. Because of that, I cut my Vegas stay down from 3 to 2 nights, deciding to make the drive to LA the day before my flight instead of on the same morning. When I mentioned this to the girl at the desk at the MGM Grand, where I was staying, she said it was a good idea as roadworks meant that the normally 4 hour drive could sometimes take over 6.
So my last day in Vegas was spent mostly in bed. I arose at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, too weak to take photos, thankfully a little hungrier but wondering what to do with my evening. David Copperfield was playing in the theatre downstairs. I’ve always found him a bit full of himself when I’ve seen him on TV but I do like a good magic trick so bought myself a ticket, third row. Without going into detail all I’ll say is that it was a great show, clever and funny. Mr C himself is much different than he appears on TV and is actually very funny, with a dry wit and a wicked sense of humour. I would recommend seeing him if you get the chance.
I had a meal and an early night and today, write this from Pasadena, where I’d stopped off hoping to get one last look at the Huntington Library, the first place I visited on my arrival, only to discover that it’s closed all day Tuesday. Fate had it in for me, it seems.
So what of Vegas?
Although I was ill and saw very little of it upon which to form a full judgement, I doubt I’ll be returning. If you want to get drunk, laid and fleeced, go to Vegas. It is a monumentally stupid city. It’s been built for the sole purpose of taking money from the gullible, who very happily let it do just that. It was so depressing seeing vacant eyed souls staring at slot machines, roulette machines, one-arm-bandits or playing at craps and poker tables. You hear a lot about the air having more oxygen in the casinos. I don’t know about that but I can tell you that the air is ‘sweeter’ in the hotels; not nicer, fresher or cleaner but it tastes of vanilla or popcorn. It actually tastes sweet. The other thing is that smoking is allowed inside the casinos. Also, they are below ground, completely artificially lit. So as you walk around to restaurants, shops, etc in the complex you’re breathing a sweet, smoky, recycled air and listening to a permanent ringing, clanging and banging of machines while doing it. The lighting isn’t bright, either, it’s dim. The complex is huge, comprising a theatre, several restaurants and bars and with over 5000 rooms. Yes, that’s not a typo, it’s 5005, to be exact. Outside the place is packed with people. I’ve never seen a street busier. The strip itself is like a giant toytown but again, you get the feeling that it’s not really there for enjoyment, just for making money. It didn’t seem to have a spirit of fun about it, just business. I don’t think my feeling unwell was entirely to blame for that perception, either.
The air in the casino made my asthma worse, too – it wasn’t as bad in the rooms – but by the end of the second day I was finding it harder to breathe. I was happy to leave the place behind.
Maybe, though, I’ve actually been here about a week too long. I’ll have been here 28 days by the time I leave tomorrow. I realised this morning that on all but two of those days I’ve been out with my camera taking photographs, frequently for up to 8 hours a day. I’ve climbed up and down steep and rocky mountain trails, walked through forests and across streams, marched across deserts meeting tarantulas, climbed up to the top of sand dunes at 6.30 in the morning, found myself caught unexpectedly in freezing fogs and trudged through deep snow, all while carrying my camera kit and tripod. And I’ve been poorly twice. And driven over 2,000 miles.
I’m completely exhausted. But it’s been a fantastic experience and one I’d do again in a heartbeat.
This is the final blog from the States. I’ll write one more in about a week. If you’ve read some or all of the entries, thank you. I hope you’ve enjoyed them. For those of you that have emailed or posted on the blog, my very special thanks. I appreciate you taking the time to comment and talk to me. See you in a week, when I shall look back with a little more perspective and confess to something that may surprise those who know me. See you after the jet lag!
Take a look at more of my work at www.billblack.co.uk