Saturday, April 30, 2011

Learning From Las Vegas

We walked out of Cashman Field, home of the Las Vegas 51s, 20 hours after I woke up in New York.  The Sacramento River Cats had tied up the game 8-8 in the top of the ninth and when the 51s didn’t score, we decided it was time to go.  “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," but we could not stay until the end of the game in Vegas.  It had been a long but very enjoyable day and Melvin and I—with my friend Norton along for the ride—were exhausted.

We read the next morning that both teams scored in the 11th.  Sacramento brought four men around in the 13th and Vegas was unable to score, making it 13-9 in the end.  Former big-league pitcher Chad Cordero gave up three home runs and proved, as Melvin put it, why he is “former big-league pitcher Chad Cordero.”  The wind was blowing out and there were nine home runs total, five by the visitors, including a pair by catcher Anthony Recker.

Hitting was not limited to the long ball.  The 51s got 13 hits but allowed 20 by the Cats, who also benefited by an intentional walk and two hit batsmen.  Based on the preceding, it would not be incorrect to say the pitching was ineffective but there were positive signs as well.  The six Sacramento pitchers struck out 13 and the eight guys who threw for Las Vegas set down 18.  Another former big leaguer, Wil Ledezma was consistently in the low- to mid-90s but could not find the strike zone.  Our seats were behind home plate and around us sat nine scouts, not counting the three guys just charting pitches.  We don’t know who they were there to see but they got an eyeful.
Box Score

Instead of watching the rest of the game, Melvin and I strolled over for the 11:00 pm show of the Fremont Street Experience.  We did not find the video-display canopy over four blocks of Fremont Street entertaining (medley of Queen hits), but we were intrigued by how it has made downtown Las Vegas, the strip’s grandfather, relevant again.  Since I saw it last, an 800-foot long zip-line ride has been installed beneath the canopy but above the street.  The ride looked thrilling.

Installed just beyond The Fremont Experience are nine restored neon signs, also a new feature since my last visit, property of the Neon Museum.  We started the day in the museum’s storage yard (“The Boneyard”) where a collection of signs of all sizes, saved from the scrap heap, await reconstruction.  The museum plans to open formally in 2012, housed partially in the lobby of the demolished La Concha Motel that was cut into eight pieces and moved to the site.  The museum asks visitors to make an appointment for a tour and I thought the three of us might get a private walk-through something that resembled a junk yard but the thirty of us on the tour saw smartly-arranged, delightfully-described artifacts.

After the boneyard tour we headed out of the city to see Michael Heizer’s 1969-1970 earthwork, Double Negative.  Heizer cut two voluminous voids, 240,000 tons of rock, into facing edges of the Virgin River Mesa.  Four decades later, it has held up remarkably well although there is some erosion and collapse.  A bit tricky to find, especially at the end, the sculpture is well worth the trip for aficionados.  It is really impossible to comprehend the scale until you have seen it first hand or, as we did, walked in it.

We drove back to the city by way of Valley of Fire State Park.  The rock formations are as dramatic as guide books made them out to be.  However, the ten dollar charge to drive through seemed steep, a complaint I will make while admitting most visitors stop and explore, which we did not.

Actually, our day did not start at the Neon Boneyard Museum.  It started hundreds of miles away in New York and Chicago.  Personally, long waits for each of the three trains I took to JFK meant I arrived later than I planned or wanted to.  I thought I was still okay until the guy before me was found to have a parachute, helmet and altimeter in his carry on luggage.  Not surprisingly, the TSA thought it suspicious that someone would fly with everything necessary to leave the plane while in flight.  And why was my luggage hand-checked at the gate after having gone through the x-ray machine just minutes earlier?

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