(p.s. from May 2014)
Well, looks like this town isn’t done with me yet….or that could be the other way
around. At this point, it’s all turning into a blurry territory fight.

Just over a month after I got back from the ONJ-themed trip, a 4-day Vegas trip
was organized with the friendlier branch of our small family tree; the former-
brother and sister-in-law from my fathers’ side, my mom, one of my nieces and
myself, back at the Jockey Club. Unfortunately, by the time THIS one rolled
around, they all dropped off due to either health reasons or scheduling problems
with work. It was going to be my mom and myself.

The first night was me poking around the strip and losing count of how many
Walgreens that were either there or opening up; adding to the two already
opened, there were two more on the horizon, one at the Casino Royale right
where the Denny’s was for decades (actually, Denny’s is moving above this new
Walgreens) and number two planned for the Treasure Island just a few steps
from Senor Frogs. This later makes some sense as you’re going to need a lot of
that ‘Hangover’ medication and aspirin after your system and ear drums receives
a beating from The Frog. (I’ve been to The Frog in Mazatlan, Mexico and, believe
me, you need all the protection you can get!)

However, Walgreens wasn’t done with me just yet as, a day later, I saw one being
constructed on the corner of the Strip and Sahara Blvd, across the street from SLS
Las Vegas.
….speaking of which, the new hotel for this trip is the former Sahara, now known as SLS Las Vegas, which opened a month ago.
What I will say up front is that they used so much white paint that it must have been a chunk of the $450 million budget spent
converting this place. I squinted from the glaze when I poked my head into the pool area. You’d get a sun burn JUST from the
desert sun’s reflection off the building.

Apparently, SLS is a chain of expensive boutique hotels and their general design is a variation of Miami Modern,
which, judging from I saw, is addicted to the color of white to the point that it sucked out any other color in this territory, the
dreaded beige included, which is impossible to do as beige is the black hole of the universe. At least there was color and variety
with the old place, with the new….well, any sign of life is covered over in the Miami Modern White. It’s almost as if the glare has
replaced the Stratosphere for the guiding light for the north end of the strip.

Amidst all this “whiteness”, there were sculptures designating the pool area and the front entrance; a silver ‘rubber ducky’
overlooking the pool and a shiny silver inflatable “alien” strutting his stuff with his oblong arm waving at you (or everyone else as
he had no eyes) at the front entrance (
above). I thought of asking an employee what that piece was named and who done it, but I
was getting the suspicion I would have to deal with ‘the attitude’ that came with the ‘whiteness’ before getting a straight answer to
an odd sculpture.

BTW, I just posted a nagging question on their FaceBook page about what SLS means and got the following answer: “Great
question, Don! There is not set acronym, we like to let our guests interpret for themselves. We tell people, "Style. Luxury. Service,"
but it can mean sun loving socialites, schmooze like Sintatra, or star lit soirees.” *sigh* You’re not helping, guys!
The other “new” property of this trip was just barely out of the ‘new’ box smell before
they changed it again. The questionably named The Quad found itself a newer name
many months after the opening and a couple more after my ONJ trip: ‘The Linq’, which
is named after the promenade section that just opened between the old Quad and the
Flamingo. This latest change is costing the owner, Caesars Entertainment, another
200 million dollars in MORE renovations, despite the fact they are in the middle of
reconstructing their 20 plus billion dollar debt.

In fact, by the time you read this, Caesars are planning to file for bankruptcy on few of
their properties as part of their reorganization plans. Go to Las Vegas Death Watch for
the updates on this financial square-dance.

The main attraction of this trip was the 5th annual Halloween Parade in the Downtown
area. As I was there for the first one, I figure I’d check this edition out, only this time, I
wouldn’t take too many pictures as I usually suck at nighttime photography, especially
with moving objects (with flashing lights, no less!).

However, as it turned out, there was going to be a lot more going on that day as it was
also Nevada Day. Being that this also marked the 150th anniversary of Nevada’s
statehood, a big parade was also being planned for the downtown area. Being a
sucker for a local parade, I checked out the 2 ½ hour show. It was pretty nice and they
even had a couple of inflated giants (some western guy logo representing some cable
company and Elvis, right), though they had to bow down to the street light along the way.

As for the Halloween parade itself, it was very good and very short, about 45 minutes. I
did manage to take a few pictures, but I should have learned my lesson on that night-
time photography trick….damnit! After that, Fremont Street had their own parade to
contend with, with the added booze. (left, the only decent picture I took of the parade)

…and just in time for the new ‘no alcoholic glass container’ law, too. Despite the
constant claims that Fremont Street “will never become Bourbon Street”, the locals
have passed a series of laws to keep the street clean and safe, like only plastic
containers for alcoholic drinks and curtailing street performers….similar to the ones
passed in New Orleans. Be careful what you wish for, guys….
Another local event I learned at the last minute was the Vegas Valley Comic
Festival (not a “con” as I was later corrected many times). It is a yearly small
comic “convention” that focuses largely on local artists and publishers, like
F. Andrew Taylor (
left at his table), a gentleman I met through my early zine
days. He had a comic anthology called ‘Rat Sass’ and I had a character
named Shmuck-O Rat and we’ve been throwing our art work at each other

This Festival was a nice and small comic affair, though it offered a rather
confusing balance of mainstream/superhero and independent influences;
the superhero/mainstream element trying hard to put on a big appearance,
like a photography area for cosplayers, but the independents where winning
the day here as, due to the festivals small size, there wasn’t much room for
the superheroes broad shoulders. Hell, the place was smaller than A. P. E.
early days in San Jose!

There were local comic book stores selling their back issues and wears
outside with artists, small publishers and panels inside the main county
library. I stopped by The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund table and
congratulated them on what just might be the greatest ironies of all
publishing history: ending up with the intellectual property rights to the
Comics Code Authority Seal of Approval!! I won’t go into here; it’s too long
and complicated yet, it is all TOO funny. (link of this details are
here )
Old Andrew had a table, too, and it was manned by his son, Duncan, who I guess
inherited his dad’s friendly smirk (right). Andrew and I talked for a bit about the new and
old times and our first personal meeting at the San Diego Comic Con in the mid 90’s
where I geeked out on him and his Vegas centric zines and comics.

This conversation went across the aisle to another table manned by his friend, Pj Perez
who runs a comic book company called ‘Pop! Goes The Icon’. I’ve bumped into one of
his titles over a year ago, a Vegas comic anthology called Tales Of The Boneyard, a
collection of stories related or located at the Neon Boneyard (basically the backyard of
the Neon Museum). Andrew mentioned to Pj that I “still do zines” and they discussed
whatever happened to the guy running the local zine library. Last I check, which was
yesterday, it’s still there, but both Pj and Andrew haven’t heard much about the operator
himself….or the web site which hasn’t been updated in over a year.

Before this meet & greet was over, I bought Pj’s recent titles; Tales From Fremont and
Tales From Lost Vegas, the later being friendly title about a group of kids finding mutated
Vegas legends in the flood tunnels underneath the town. One more stop at Andrew’s
table to purchase a comic he co-authored called ‘Christmapus: The Christmas Octopus’
cover, right). Hmmmm…heat stroke and the holidays can be tricky around here, I guess.

After a pit stop at the Alternative Reality Comics store next door (and picked up Harvey
Pekar’s The Quitter for $10), I head off to see my mom at the Paris sidewalk café to
destroy our collective diet by having some Pâté. It was quite a fatting way to end our final
Vegas day, but the town wasn’t done with me JUST yet….again
Later that night, I bumped into a rare sight, a fragment of the old Venice Beach Boardwalk performing in front of Planet Hollywood,
Harry Perry and his amazing guitar busking for attention and change. I haven’t seen the man and this land for a long time, so seeing
him was a pleasant surprise….for a while. When I whipped out my camera to take his picture, he blocked the view and I pay him $20
for a picture.

I was so bummed from this that the border-line food fight between the string quartet who were playing Christmas music and a pissed-
off costumer in front of Pink’s Hot Dog Stand felt anti-climatic.
ABOVE: When I see the 'Holiday Motel' lit up at
night, my old Vegas heart swells....and yes, the
neon still works!