Where to begin? On my convoluted itinerary over the last week or so, I found myself flying from Palm Springs to Buffalo in the middle of the winter, a direction that is hard to explain to someone not born and raised to appreciate the special qualities of that snowy wonderland. In this instance, a bit too snowy, and the flight was cancelled.

And so, overnight in Las Vegas it was. Las Vegas is a city I never planned to visit. I figured I’d get there eventually one way or another because what is not in Vegas does not stay out of Vegas. And there I was. I would not be a good travel writer for a lot of reasons, lack of traveling being among them. And there are too many things I fail to take a wide-eyed delight in, and Gambling Meccas are among those. Wading across an ocean of grimly determined wagerers is not my idea of frolic. I know, I know, behind each dour face is a desert fountain of adrenaline high, but not for me. I was stymied by the complexities of the means by which I was supposed to surrender my money. Even the slot machines are not especially straightforward, including the 1-cent machines that do not take pennies. I played a dollar machine. I managed to win, One Whole Dollar, take that, House Always Wins, though it did not feel exactly like a triumph. Advertisement-worthy jubilation did not ensue.

Las Vegas is a city of many very fine people, and would be very interesting as a one-of-a-kind phenomenon, but instead its special charms are leaking out into the countryside, Yucca-mountain safeguards notwithstanding. (NOT everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas). Gambling now infests virtually every hamlet in the nation, and the Vegas Vision of Grandeur that consists of over-the-top showiness built of some Polished Granite juxtaposed with some Very Hollow Plaster in a Jumble of Historical Stylings piled up Bigger Than You Can Imagine seems to have become the Exurban Standard of Gracious American Houses. One can only think of the style as Empire in Decline. Caesar’s Palace indeed.