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January 3rd

January 3, 1991

First stop in the morning is Termo, California, population 2 – an incredibly cheerful woman and her husband, who run the gas station, general store and bar. (The town is for sale, in case anyone is interested.)

Then it’s on to the Bally Hotel in Reno for lunch. It’s the worst example of tacky American opulence and conspicuous consumption I’ve ever seen. When someone tells me Las Vegas is ten times worse, I don’t believe them. I’m wrong.

When I first arrive in Las Vegas, I’m more amused than anything else by the irony of coming to (one hopes) save lives in a town which is dead from the neck up.

Yes, the amount of energy consumed to run those giant neon signs 24 hours a day is outrageous. Yes, the sight of thousands of people sitting, glaze-eyed, in front of slot machines, roulette wheels and blackjack tables 24 hours a day is pathetic. And, yes, the greed represented by the whole operation is nauseating. (Not for nought is the city nicknamed Lost Wages.)

But, I have to admit, it does get to you. The overkill of bright lights become hypnotic and the gambling begins to seem relatively harmless – especially after you discover that by judiciously investing a few nickels in the slot machines you can get free beer all night.

I don’t investigate The Strip (home to the big hotels and casinos) that night. I’ve been travelling for 40 hours and want nothing but a shower and some sleep.

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