Sunday, January 28, 2007

 

Why bloggers go to Vegas

Late Friday afternoon, a man I'd never met slipped quietly into the back of the mostly empty auditorium just after start of the Q and A session following my presentation. After sitting mum for several minutes, his hand went up and the moderator called on him.

"Um, professor Madison, you make some very good points, but I would like to posit a distopian view. What if space aliens took over the earth and destroyed all our legal institutions, so that we had nothing left to arbitrate but ourselves?"

I thoughtfully scratched my chin for a moment, and then replied: "Security... please eject that man."

That man turned out to be Brevity is Wit author Neel Mehta, who was gracious enough to wait by the stage door following his expulsion from the building in order to go forward with our blogger meet-up. Neel proved to be a delightful dinner companion and Vegas tour guide.

From UNLV law school, we got into Neel's car -- a Hummer stretch limo -- and drove to the Venetian, where B and I had relocated from the conference casino-hotel.

"Las Vegas is actually a nice city," said Neel as we crushed a subcompact car that had stopped short in front of us. "When you live here, you only come to 'the strip' to bring out of town guests. Really, except for the driving billboards and the taxicab signs, you could raise your kids here."

We met B at the Venetian, and as B and I gawked, Neel engagingly told us about the history of Las Vegas, pointed out sights like the trompe l'oeiul ceiling that makes the shopping arcade look like the outdoor streets of Venice, and shared interesting factoids -- much as he might have tour-guided us through the Smithsonian or the Washington Monument had he been living in D.C.

DSCN7329
The mobile billboards of Las Vegas.

Neel has a fascinating life story, filled with exciting adventures and dark secrets -- I'm sure if I had asked for his permission to publish all that on my blog, together with his picture, he would have gladly consented... so, here goes.

The first thing that strikes you about Neel is how knowledgeable, wordly and wise he is, both on his blog and in person, even though he just turned 19. In case you're wondering, Neel doesn't look quite like his avatar: he doesn't wear a fedora. But otherwise, he does bear a striking resemblance to R2D2.

R2-D2
The reel Neel.

How did a nice young man like Neel get to Las Vegas? Well, it seems that he had taken up with a married, though soon-to-be divorced woman. Helping her out of a jam, he got a bit rough with the husband, and fled west with her, one step ahead of the law, in an old beater of a car. He drove it as far as he could, and it finally died near Vegas. "It was the hand of fate putting a pin in the map," says Neel.

Neel was born in a small Alabama town on the Gulf of Mexico, raised by his mother and influenced to virtue by his best friend, a beautiful young girl with long golden hair. After a tour of duty in Iraq, in which he won the Congressional Medal of Honor, he returned home to a nation that did not value him. So he worked for a while on a fishing boat right outside of Delacroix, bought the boat and started his own business -- Brother Neel's Eels -- made a fortune, sold the boat, became a professional pingpong player, was invited to the White House and now finds himself to be the star defense witness in Scooter Libby's trial.

And what does he do for a living? As we all know, Neel could well work as a professional film critic. His normally composed, if slightly robotic features became suddenly sharp and alert at the slightest mention of celluloid, and his movie knowledge is truly encyclopedic. But, he muses, why kill off his love for this wonderful hobby of film criticism by getting paid for it?

So, instead, Neel makes his living as a fixer. Basically, if you have a problem in Las Vegas -- if, say, you've just stolen $11 million from casino mogul Tony Benedict, who now has several hit men pursuing you, and you want to just go on and live your life without being rubbed out -- you go to Neel, and for a not-exorbitant fee, Neel will make it right. "Basically, anything from a parking ticket to a mob contract, I can fix it for you," Neel says modestly.

One thing confused me in conversing with Neel. He kept talking about wanting to have iced coffee with me. What was that about?

Still, while many of the attractions of Las Vegas leave me cold, I can understand why it is such a Mecca for bloggers. This is where you go if you want to meet Neel.

Comments:
So what WOULD happen if space aliens took over the earth and destroyed all our legal institutions, so that we had nothing left to arbitrate but ourselves?

And don't be shy... that roving billboard was really Neel's car, and not the stretch limo, wasn't it?
 
Oscar:

For future reference, the Venetian is one of the few non-union hotels in Vegas. Just thought you might like to know that.
I'd interested in hearing if you went to any of the acclaimed restaurants out there.
 
Voxwoman: you're very observant. Not only is that roving billboard my ride, but that picture describes how I like to dress on the weekends.

Brock20: Oscar and B, thankfully, are not restaurant snobs. They rented a guitar and set up some sidewalk space. We then sang for our supper. Love that Carl's Jr. jalapeno burger.
 
I would like to go to Las Vegas and play in a high roller casino but it’s an expensive thing to do, even more so when you live in the UK. I have to resort to playing a casino game online instead which lets me win the money but I miss out on the atmosphere, but still save £600 on the 14 hour flight. So until I win big all I’ll do is play online casino dreaming of Las Vegas.
 
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