Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 2 Road Trip '11: The Prologue, cont.

We woke up later than we wanted (which would become a recurring theme during this trip) and headed out to pick up the Lion King tickets. It took forever. The lines were not long and the traffic wasn't bad but HOLY MOSES' STUTTER the tellers were slow. When we finally got out of there we had burned up a lot of our time for Hoover Dam. We were afraid we wouldn't make it: the traffic going out of the city was horrendous; apparently it was the last day of spring break so everyone was returning home via this highway. We almost bailed on the dam due to time constraints, but we rolled the dice and scored big.
We curtailed some of the traffic via a more scenic route and came up on the Dam. If you don't know, the Hoover Damn is huge. Also if you don't know, the canyon that it is built in is HUGE. And also if you hadn't heard, they just built a bridge that spans the enormous canyon. It took 10 years or so to plan/build and it is an epic achievement.

Now, as a kid, I swear I had Gephyrophobia. It's a deathly and irrational fear of bridges, although I would contend that it's perfectly rational. I would have nightmares (and still do) of driving on a bridge over the ocean with NO LEDGE and only ONE LANE. Any movement to the left or right would send me plummeting into the crushing depths of some nameless ocean. Of course, the car would be full of passengers and something would be wrong with the car, like a blown tire or something.

Well I conquered this fear of bridges. I would force myself to look over the edge and see what was below us. I wanted to be a fighter pilot at the time, you see, so I couldn't be scared by something as trivial as bridges. I would look at the cars around me and be like, "See, they are driving over just fine and they haven't died yet." I would wait for them to spontaneously combust or fall through the road into some hidden, never-ending chasm, but they never would. Soon I didn't even get butterflies when driving over one.

The Pat Tillman Bridge at the Hoover Dam brought it all back full force. I walked out on that bridge and felt my whole body seize up. The bridge had a walkway for pedestrians with a chest-high wall on both the canyon and road side (the road is like four a four lane highway for cars to pass over). This one guy was sitting on the edge of the walkway but on the road side, which made me envision sitting on the CANYON side. As soon I as did so, I physically convulsed and my back kinked up. I involuntarily shifted to the road side of the walkway and hugged the wall. No joke.

The wind was blowing so hard I thought it might actually pick me up and toss me over like a rag doll. The wind in that canyon is powerful (they should put some windmills up there and just add to the power being generated by the dam). I took my sunglasses off because I felt them getting lifted off my face.

As I made my way out onto the bridge it only got worse because I could now see fully the grandeur of my death should the bridge suddenly collapse or the wind toss me over the edge. I felt the sharp stab of the rocks ripping my body in half as I peered over the edge. My heart was seriously pounding. And it wasn't the height, I realized. I mean, I've been skydiving and I LUVED it. Here it was the combination of height, bridgeness, and SHARP ROCKS that awaited my inevitable and involuntary descent. I finally caught up to Kyle and B-Reil (I was going pretty slow) and we agreed that when we did fall off, we would die from a massive heart attack before hitting anything below. Kyle told me some fact about that being the case, and I believe it. If (or rather, when) I fell from there my heart would literally explode the second I started free falling.

Anyway I survived (somehow) and we made our way off the bridge to the dam. We were really pressed for time but B-Reil insisted that it would be worth it so we rolled the dice and scored big again.

The Dam is just incredible. The whole time I was thinking about the bottom 1% of the gene pool that I had mucked through the night before, and how it had taken the top 1% of the human gene pool to create something like this. I was awed. The Dam is also right on the Nevada/Arizona state line so you can be in both states at once. There is a clock on each side that has the states' times, and a really, really cool memorial with some kind of cherubic figures guarding a diagram of the galaxy. If I had more time I coulda spent the whole day looking at the diagram. I'm gonna have to find a picture of it if I can...

I had another chance for reflection here. Mainly I just reflected on the immensity of what human beings had accomplished here. This canyon was about the most powerful earthly landmark that I had ever witnessed. The sheer volume of water, the size of the chasm, the force of the wind... how could man tame such a landscape? I was awed.

Finally, I will just point out that the water level of the dam's lake is SIGNIFICANTLY reduced from when the dam was built. You can see in the rock face the discoloration from decades of water and can clearly see the past water levels. At one point in history the surface of the lake was close enough to jump into quite comfortably, as long as you didn't mind getting sucked into the depths of hydrologic madness. Now though, if you jumped you'd be falling for a while and contact wit the surface would be anything but comfortable.

We peaced out and sped towards the city. The traffic was more or less clear, but we missed our turn and fretted about having to stand outside the doors for the whole first act. But SOMEHOW we made it to the theater, changed in the parking lot, and sat in our seats 2 minutes before the show started. I couldn't believe it but I was like "I'll take it."

As for the show... meh. My only regret about Las Vegas is not going to see Cirque du Soleil. I mean, you can see Lion King anywhere but not Cirque du Soleil. Do they have it in NYC? If they do I'll hit it up there. But Kyle really wanted to see Lion King ("I'll fight people to get into that show") and I was indifferent about what show we watched so long as we watched one while in Vegas. But Dad, you were right.

In any case, Lion King was still enjoyable save a few points which I will point out.

1) Little Simba should be fired, flogged, and kept out of show business forever. That kid was so annoying that I had to cover my ears when he was on stage sometimes. He spoke through his nose the whole time and was completely off tempo and just... sucky. I was really getting tired of the show by the time Act I was over and that dumb kid's part finished.

2) Scar fell flat. His role in the play has even more show-stealing potential than the movie, but he and the director didn't seem to think so. They made him into this obnoxiously animated squealer of a schemer as opposed to the Scar from the movie who is (seemingly) lazy, lackadaisical, and yet fueled with a seething with hatred for Simba and Mufasa. He is sinister and cunning in the movie, but was more cartoonish, loud, and clumsy in the play. Oh well. Kyle and I both said that we coulda done a better Scar. Even if we could have directed it we could have fixed it, so I blame both the director and actor.

3) The movie had the comedic timing down perfectly. Since the lines were taken right from the movie, it would make sense to follow the tempo and timing, right? But in what was clearly an effort to "not be the movie" the director changed up the tempo and timing for the worse. Just stick to what works, people.

4) Finally, some of the extra songs were just crap. "Chow down" was stupid and pointless and blaringly obnoxious, and get this: SCAR WAS HITTING ON NALA TRYING TO GET HER TO MARRY HIM LIKE WTFFFFF. Anyway, some of those extra songs sucked majorly.

However, there were some amazing things about the show:

1) The costumes and scenery were mind-blowing. The animals were so imaginative in their execution, and the scenery was just breathtaking. I was constantly impressed with how they used the stage. It rotated and elevated during the scenes which added this depth that really moved the audience during key moments.

2) There were these little African dances interspersed throughout the show that were just wonderful. They mainly focused on the lionesses, who would come out, sing and dance, and then the next scene would start. Very well done.

3) Although some of the extra songs sucked, some were really impressive and felt like they had always been a part of the show. Nala sang a song as she left the pridelands to look for a better life and better lands for her people that was really moving. Rafiki and Mufasa (at different times) sang this song about how the great kings of the past live in you. "He lives in you" was a such a great song, you should check it out. Very powerful, I though, especially with the way they did the starts all over the theater for that number.

4) The stampede scene was AMAZING. I was blown away by how they did it. I don't know if I could adequately explain how they did it... They had four ledges, and at the very top ledge they had shadows of the wildebeasts grazing. Simba was situated on the third ledge. When he roars, the ground shakes and he looks up. Then there are a series of cylinders with wildebeests on each ledge which turn towards the audience, giving the effect of the the wildebeest running up over a ridge and then down the terrace, only to reappear at a lower terrace. Then on the very bottom ledge, below Simba, they had people in wildebeest costumes stampeding. It was an incredible effect. And Mufasa's death was just epic. That scene was so well done (except for Scar).

5) Finally, Rafiki was just on point the whole time. What a great performer and a great part. Kudos to the writers, director, and actor for pulling off this role.

We left hungry; we hadn't eaten all day in order to make the Dam and the show, and we were starving. All I'll say about it is that after eating I felt completely energized. It was like night and day. I was so energized and pumped, and I realized right then how important a full stomach is to your mood.

We ended the night with me and Kyle hitting up the strip again and B-Reil going to visit some friends. Kyle and I had some shopping to do.

Two things I noticed this time:

1) Good grief THIS is the city that never sleeps. NYC goes to bed, trust me I know I've lived there. Las Vegas DOES NOT SLEEP. It was ONE A.M. and all the shopping malls were still open and PACKED. You can seriously go shopping at any time on the strip. Any. Time.

2) You get desensitised very quickly by the materialistic dogma of the city. The nudy pictures and the constant barrage of smutty ads didn't phase me as much, and I started wanted things like cars and houses and clothes that I didn't really want before. I realized how easy it would be to fall into that trap of a lifestyle. I remember saying that if I lived in this city, all I would think about is getting money so I could get a sweet place in the city center to live.

Anyhow, I got some socks and Kyle some.. something I can't remember, and we headed home. Guess I'll get my shoes in LA.

((PS I know some of the pics are sideways. I just don't have time to straighten them right now. If you know how to do it in the blogger let me know.))

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