Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Civitas Dei vs. vanitas vanitatum

The day we left Moab, we drove toward Canyonlands once again, but this time turned off a few miles before the entrance to visit Dead Horse Point State Park, which has a wonderful view of Island in the Sky. I'll post picture to SmugMug soon. They aren't as stunning because they're from midday, but they're still pretty cool.

We continued to Salt Lake City. Now I don't know if it's just that the weather was absolutely perfect--low 80s and sunny--but I liked it. A lot. The city's laid out on a grid with street names that are a bit confusing, but pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it (radiating out from Temple Square, of course). The Wasatch Mountains, still snow-veined in June, are visible down all the very broad east-west streets, giving a native Northwesterner a sense of direction. Everyone is ridiculously nice. Half the residents are Mormons, but the other half seem to be relatively liberal, outdoorsy, coffee-drinking, and just plain old drinking gentiles. Alcohol's not that hard to come by as long as you don't want to go someplace just to drink, which we don't really do anyway. And I assume that everyone assumes you're Mormon, so it's the only place in the world that Mormons won't try to convert you. [Justin here - it's also the only place where Mormons cling selfishly to their Books in place of aggressively thrusting them upon you.] I don't want to be Mormon, but I like Mormon city planning.

After a day and a half of wandering around Salt Lake City and failing to get lost, we headed down to Vegas. I'm writing to you from our suite at the New York New York, which is larger than our apartment-condo: 1100 square feet, two TVs, a hot tub, a king-sized bed, a kitchen-dining room thingy, ridiculously cheap for what we get. Of course they have other ways of getting your money, heh. We don't need to leave the hotel, or even our room, because everything is here: food, coffee, shopping, a spa, a roller coaster, the casino... The service is effusive. Everyone walks very slowly, gawking, to whatever their destination is, or maybe they don't have one. Most people are white or Asian. There are black shoe-shine men and Mexicans on the streets, handing out flyers; I was wondering why they ignored me until I realized what the flyers were for.

I'm trying to appreciate Vegas for what it is--extravagant, ebullient Americana--but there are my nagging prejudices: how can people use up so much water in a desert? Why should I want to visit a fake Venice, Paris, and New York when I've been to the real Venice, Paris, and New York? Why was the drive-thru line at the In-N-Out so freaking long? I mean, if you drive 2500 miles to be in In-N-Out land again, it would be nice if you didn't have to wait in 100-degree swelter for half an hour in a dangerously overheating car to get an In-N-Out burger. (You could make a movie out of our burger pilgrimages. The first time we were here, in the outskirts of Vegas, we spent a lot of time fruitlessly searching for an elusive In-N-Out that was supposed to be there but was impossible to find.)

On the other hand, I had the mother of all spa treatments today. I smell of lavender and pomegranate, and my face is shiny in a good way. I look and feel as glamorous as a nerd in pajamas can look and feel, which is pretty cool.

Tomorrow, we are headed through hundreds of miles of desolation toward Ely, north of here. Nevada tends toward extremes.

UPDATE: Justin thinks my comments on Vegas are pretentious, which is probably true, but whatever. Also, I changed "ginger" to "pomegranate," which is more lyrical.

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