Robin didn’t tell me where we were staying until after the plane had landed and we found ourselves outside, being loaded, then unloaded, then loaded and unloaded again back and forth between two small shuttle buses. (The same radio station piped in through the ceiling in both vehicles, making it feel extra pointless.) “Where are you staying?”, they asked, and he had to reply. “The Bellagio,” he said. Then again each time as they swapped us back and forth. Fountains, I thought. Is that all I know? Yes. Famous fountains.
Every road was lined in billboards advertising mostly naked women, middle aged male caucasian comedians, and various big ticket shows. I saw one for Penn & Teller and felt a small jolt. Robin had asked me to choose something for the night we arrived and that is what I had, with absolutely no hesitation, pointed us to their website. It didn’t quite seem real. Stepping off the plane wasn’t enough. Airports are interstitial places, manufactured to be Anywhere, it was stepping into the hotel that grounded me.
All the floors were marble, all the employees in matching black suits. I felt like I was the only women for miles without make-up or a tiny skirt. Perhaps the only poor person, too. The front desk clerk set the tone of the hotel quite well. Smartly dressed, impeccably groomed, our check in clerk looked a little bit on the expensive side, the way you can look at a man and tell when they pay too much for their shoes. His overstated pilot’s wrist-watch, for example, was the size of a coaster and shimmered with gold like a prize belt buckle might. (Large, flashy watches, an anomaly in these days of smart phones, were a trait we found common to almost all of the staff). But his manner, once he looked up to find himself facing someone with pink hair, (almost as rare a plumage in Vegas as in New York), was a tiny bit irreverent, the way a friend might be, or a friend to be. It was interesting, actually, to discover that trick – that the more expensive a place, the higher the grade of professionalism, the more comfortable the staff were to speak casually with us in particular. One clerk, much later in the week, even made flirtatious jokes as he approached us with useful ideas while we were trying to puzzle out an alternative to bubble bath at two in the morning.
As there are almost 4000 guest rooms at the Bellagio, (3933, to be precise), my first time looking down the hall of the 22nd floor was my first visceral experience with the scale of The Strip. It’s one thing to peer at the resorts from the window of a shuttle bus, it’s quite another to see a hallway disappear into the horizon like a physical representation of a crude drawing lesson in perspective.
Our room was unexpectedly lovely in a “this room is set to blue” sort of way. (Later I peeked into other rooms as they were being cleaned and confirmed my theory, finding mint, butter, and mauve). We liked finding switches, sinking into the chairs, and making fun of the ever-present Gideon, but most important was our perfect view of the fountain from the floor to ceiling window, where we could look down upon the display and listen along to the music on channel 23 of the flat screen TV. It was quiet when we arrived, but a show began while we were still settling in, so we plunked down on the carpet and proverbially pressed our noses to the glass. It was impressive when it was off, wide enough that it would be called a pond were it natural, but staggering when it was on, with some extra loud jets that shuddered up into the sky higher than our window, as tall as the mock Eiffel Tower across the street.