This is part 1 of the Warrington Destination Diary: our trip to America, 2015.
Peter my 16 year old son is the last to get up. He’s grumpy when I wake him; has that look of contempt. He’s moody because I say no to a burger at Gatwick. He suddenly comes to life on the train telling us that ‘Utah has freaky weather’ – snow in June etc. He says he’s read that Vegas is best experienced under the influence of narcotics.
We arrive to a splash of colour and bright lights in Gatwick’s duty free. The granite floor sparkles below. There are samples of strawberry Pimms and blood orange Southern Comfort and Malibu. A black man in a tropical hat is serving and I hand one to Peter. The man says ‘madam he said he’s only 16’ and Peter looks at me as if I’m stupid.
Peter is bored trawling the make up counters. I give him a tenner for the burger I had refused to buy. He stands there in his colourful planet hat and looks at me as if to say ‘is that all?’
We are like magpies around the make up counters. ‘Wow, owww, look at that, try this.’ Anna, my 19 year old is trying on all the sunglasses, stepping back, puffing up her hair, taking selfies. Tin Tins warns me that Anna will get me to buy all the makeup if I’m not careful. I ask Tin Tins what she thinks: ‘does this blusher make a difference.’ No she says. Anna says ‘wow mother that makes you look amazing, buy it.’
At security there’s a white board for people to write their opinions. People have written ‘aggressive rude staff, arsey. Peter says why be rude and draws a smiley face, ‘they were great’ and glares at me.
I make jokes to the staff telling them the clear bags you use to put your cosmetics and liquids in will make perfect sandwich bags and the lady chuckles but Peter tuts and says ‘did you hear what SHE said?’
On the plane…
We mention the mile high club and Anna asks where she was conceived; then shrieks ‘oh my frickin God’ and we both shriek.
Tin Tins (short for Tinika. She’s 11) tooth comes out over the Atlantic. She puts the tooth under her blanket. I tell her the fairy won’t be visiting because as we are not in a country she doesn’t know what currency to bring.
I spill my gin and tonic over Anna’s dress and she goes mental. Tears are in her eyes; she says she’ll never be able to wear the dress again.
We are served Fab lollies, pepperonis, alcohol but no bloody tea!
Peter is watching Cinderella and the parched landscape below comes into focus: its like a three dimensional map, bumpy, muddy coloured with crevices and canyons. We see the Hoover Dam – a deep sapphire blue. The houses look like square biscuits and the warehouses like Weetabix or pasta lined up.
From the airport…
From the airport we see the Luxor; a black pyramid under the bright sun. The road is lined with red rock, small boulders and palms. The gold of the Mandalay Hotel glitters and some buildings look like metal foil. I can see a statute of liberty, a Disney castle and a massive lion in gold.
Inside it is like a theme park or massive shopping centre. Escalators take you up to a food court and to the right is the reception. I count 25 people serving at desks. I count 80 people in the queue which takes 30 minutes to go down.
As we leave the hotel we are hit by the slap of desert heat. The traffic lights allow 11 seconds to cross. It all looks like an upmarket Butlins. Peter refuses to take his coat off. He takes about 50 photos of my back with Tin Tins camera and she gets annoyed.
In the room the air con noisy; like a motor bike. I give it a bang. I ring reception and tell them we are in room 280165 and the lady says ‘how may I help the Warrington party?’
There is nothing on the news about the Greek crisis. The news is all about a shooting in Tennessee and teachers fighting for ‘raises.’ There’s a lit about the presidential campaign. ‘George Bush drives a Uber. The candidates want to look hip by arriving in a Uber.’ There are weather warning that it’s flash flood season… mind the road.
There are tons of medical adverts on TV: whooping cough; talk to your doctor about vaccination. Mega Red supports your heart. Hep C. All the side effects of each drug advert are read out in the advert.
The hotel has a Starbucks and I queue for 20 mins for a bottle of water debating whether to get a 700ml bottle for $15 but then ask for tap water. I also ask for tea and the server says ‘chai or iced tea.’
We walk to the Excalibur Hotel; a medieval castle hotel over the bridge. The Excalibur is tacky. It has dirty casino type carpet. Anna gasps and says its amazing. We eat in an area that looks like Dickens World in Chatham. There are streets of artificial houses and a cobbled street that glistens as if it’s been raining and Anna says it’s awesome but I think its the tackiest set up I’ve ever seen but she tells me to stop moaning, we’re here now.
Anna and Tin Tins go for a swim. I watch. Peter paces up and down bored. In the pool Anna pouts and poses like a dolphin waiting for me to take photos of her. She applies lipstick before she gets in.
Peter tells me it gets very cold in the desert at night because the air is thin.
We go to bed early the first night and miss the lights so I get up at 3am to look out of the window but we are too high up and it looks like a fuzzy xmas tree without glasses on. There is a giant sign saying ‘In Out Burger’ flashing with an arrow through it and another sign saying ‘budget suites.’