Vegas Can Teach Hawaii A Bunch

Rick Hamada
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Wednesday - February 10, 2010

I just flew in from Vegas and, boy, are my arms tired! OK, old joke, but it’s always nice to venture off island for a bit to game, er, gain some perspective on life.

I love Vegas, but there’s not a chance that I would ever want to live there. The weather is not a problem, but the desert air is brutal. My lips shrivel and dry out about an hour into the flight. And trust me, there is no such thing as a “tasty” flavored lip balm. Sure, the label may say strawberry, honey or cherry flavor, but it’s like smearing the blubbery remains of a whale carcass on your lips.

My wife always tells me to drink lots of water. Only problem is, I then become the star of that commercial who has a “going” problem. I may not know many shows in Vegas, but I sure can tell you where the best men’s rooms are. Besides, water takes up valuable real estate when you’re trying to hydrate with Grey Goose.

The taxi cab drivers, and I love ‘em, are the most psychotic road jockeys anywhere. I know New York cabbies are a breed of their own, so let’s leave them out for now. Evidently, every Vegas cabbie is issued the Harry Potter invisibility cloak, ‘cause they sure drive like they can get away with anything, and stoplight colors are green, yellowish green and reddish green.

I am a poker player, or thought I was until I sat down in a Vegas poker room. I played my first tournament at Caesars Palace and it was a great time. There were more than 50 players and I made the final table, cashing out in sixth place. Then, feeling energized, I proceeded to get schooled in a cash game. Watching professional poker on TV is like playing along with Jeopardy. When you’re in the comfort of your own home, you sure do know the answer to, “The Titanic was just one ship in this company’s fleet.” Of course, if you were on TV, you would probably blurt out an answer like, “James Cameron.” It’s the same with poker watching. “All in,All in” is much easier from your sofa than when you are sitting at the table with your mortgage stacked in colored chips.

If McCarran International Airport is Angelina Jolie, then Honolulu International Airport is Roseanne Barr. LAS is a beautiful, modern and features many amenities for a passengers convenience.

I understand there is a multigazillion-dollar airport modernization plan under way here. But you don’t need a multi-departmental, multi-layered bureaucratic ballet to take care of the basics. Deplaning this most recent trip, it was such a contrast from the experience we had at McCarran. The show stopper was on our way to baggage claim: We confronted both escalators out of order with a very disinterested fellow sitting at an equally disinterested podium watching all of us schlep our carry on luggage down the stairs. I am not trying to be picayune, but c’mon. The airport is the heart of our tourism industry. First impressions are the lasting impressions, and each day we allow our hub of commerce continue to deteriorate, we all lose. Remember, a tremendous amount of public money is dedicated to the marketing of our state. The imagery of Hawaii is beauty, aloha and a romantically exotic experience. Then the first impression you get is a dingy facility with a rickety shuttle bus to a confusing roadside transportation system. A scene from Planes, Trains and Automobiles has just replaced the swaying palm trees dancing in a tourist’s head.

Hawaii will never be Vegas and none of us wants her to be. But in the competitive business of tourism, you have to always put your best foot forward.

Hey, we have great feet, but we could use a pedicure now and then.

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