After an uneventful day of travel, it was time for a lazy day lounging and loitering by the pool, finishing the book I was reading (A Gentleman of Moscow), and lots of yammering on a variety of topics (high school friends, The Donald, etc. etc.). When late afternoon rolled around, we changed into moderately good bib and tucker for a dinner at Vegas’ Italian American Club.
I’m not sure when the place was founded—forever ago would be my guess. It’s an outpost of what R & T call “Old Vegas”. That is, of the Vegas of the legendary Rat Pack and long gone casinos, The Dunes, The Thunderbird, and The Silver Slipper. In other words, the Vegas that made Vegas Vegas.
Without its louche roots, Vegas would be a really big Branson, Missouri…in the desert…except with gambling, boob jobs, legal reefer, and The Atomic Testing Museum.
While the Italian American Club may still be a club, it’s open to non-members. Best of all, you don’t need to be Italian to enjoy it.
The Strip. In fact, we drove by it a couple of times before finding the place. It’s just around the corner from a giant statue of a Shriner and a bunch of homeless folks. This, of course, describes more than a few Vegas street corners.
Inside, it wasn’t quite like the bar scene in Star Wars, but it was a time capsule from a long time ago. For a moment, I wondered if we were there during a Sam Giancana look-alike contest. Many of the women were, as my parents would have said, “all dolled up”.
There’s a whole lot of nothing between LV and St. George. Mindful (for once) of at least 25% of what I learned in driver ed, I took only a few photos through the windshield.
After a miles and miles of nothing, I-15 went through the Virgin River Gorge, which is pretty darned spectacular. The road twisted and turned unlike any Interstate highway I've been on as it climbed through a narrow slit in the rocks. No way was I going to try to take a photo through the windshield there. You'll just have to Google it.
After the gorge, St. George wasn’t far. I stopped at the St. George Visitors Center to have a local give me the lay of the land.
I waited for my face time behind a German family with a screaming tyke. The Germans were interesting in hiking. It was about 100°. (But a dry heat!) Hiking?!? Crazy! I told the woman at the counter that whatever they were doing...I didn’t want to.
She showed me a map of town and pointed out all the points of historic interest, far away from the screaming Teutonic toddler.
St. George was founded by Mormons in 1861 as a place to grow cotton. Some of the Mormon settlers were slaveholders from the Deep South and named the area Dixie. That’s why St. George is home to Dixie State University. Makes sense...sort of.
According to Wiki, in the Latter-day Saints church, a tabernacle is a multipurpose religious building, used for church services and conferences, and as community centers. Although it looks like a church, it’s not a church—there are no Sunday services, Sunday school rooms, church offices, and so on.
Non-Mormons can enter a tabernacle, but access to Mormon temples is restricted to Mormons in good standing with the church.
St. George Tabernacle is one of the oldest, and from the exterior looks like a congregational church that you’d find in a prosperous New England village.
It wasn’t crowded. As in, I was the only tourist there. The docent, a retired medical equipment salesman, gave me lots of personal attention. He told me that St. George is a hot spot for affluent Mormon retirees. Who knew?
After my tour, I walked to a restaurant suggested by my docent. Walking was a stupid idea. City blocks in St. George are enormous and it was over 100 degrees (But a dry heat!). I was consoled by the thought that the bratty German tyke had to be hotter than I was.
The tour started in a small outbuilding that served as the office. Brigham Young worked there as both head of the Mormon Church and the governor of the Utah Territory.
Another earnest Mormon retiree had already started giving the tour to two other old folks when I arrived. We exchanged brief greetings. The other folks on the tour were from Las Vegas. They smiled when I said I was from Pennsylvania. Perhaps I should have brought scrapple with me?
According to the website for the BYWH, Young’s office ”provided privacy for him to meet with selected Church leaders to reinstitute temple ordinances that had not been performed in a temple since the Saints left Nauvoo, Illinois.” Presumably eavesdropping neighbors could hear Mormon bigwigs saying “Please Sir, may I have another?” before hearing the whack of the ‘Board of Deacons’ on some Bishop’s butt during this process.
After the brief spiel our docent took us over to the Big House where a different docent took over.
Very few of the objects in the house belonged to Brigham Young. There’s a piano in the parlor—one of his wives played the piano. And sang too. I’m pretty sure about that. Though she might have just hummed along. Don’t quote me. My eyes glazed over shortly after arrival. Perhaps I was having a vision!
Sometimes even a blind hog gets an acorn. 4. Repeat as necessary. 5. Await the invention of the electric iron in 1882.
according to Wiki had 55 wives, 54 of which he married after becoming a Mormon. While the majority of the sealings were "for eternity", some were "for time only". I don’t know if this meant they could stay overnight, or if Brigham Young told them to skidaddle after enjoying their company since he “needed to get up early for work tomorrow”. Researchers believe that not all of the 55 marriages were conjugal. (Yeah, right!)
It’s not a bad thing that Tinder wasn’t invented during Brigham Young’s lifetime.
By his slew of wives, Brigham Young had 56 children. Do you think he had trouble with their names the way my mother did with her kids names? That would have been quite the moment of domestic bliss, when he tried to call Levi and instead had to go through Abraham, Mary, Martha, Dorcas, Joel and 51 other names before finally hitting on Levi.
I asked the docent if with 56 children, he repeated any names. She didn’t know.
I chuckled at the thought of Brigham Young naming one of his kids Oliver Boliver Butt as Dr. Seuss wished Mrs. McCave had done. Yes, even on a bad house tour, I amuse myself.
Not having had my fill of Mormon History, I drove over to the St. George Temple, which is the oldest Mormon Temple in use by the church. For whatever reason, the Temple and Tabernacle aren’t near each other, don’t face each other, and pretty much seem as if they were plopped down in random spots.
According to Wiki, there are “three ordinance rooms and 18 sealing rooms, and a total floor area of 110,000 square feet .The building used to have four ordinance rooms, but they were refashioned into “three rooms, at the time the endowment ceremony was changed from a live presentation to one presented on film.”
I am not going to comment on endowment ceremonies even if they are on film, VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray or the part of the internet reserved for porn.
Since I’m not a member of the church in good standing (with the special underwear and all that), I wasn’t permitted to go into the Temple. However, I was permitted to go into the Temple’s visitor center, staffed, by you guessed it, Mormon retirees.
The visitors center was actually two buildings. The first building is about the building of the Temple. It has a small model of the town of St. George in the 19th Century and some 19th century artifacts related to the construction of the Temple. Next door was a larger building, evangelizing in bricks and mortar about the Mormon faith.
The latter building was staffed by cute twentysomethings (with a fortysomething supervisor). I wondered if they church had finally run out of retirees.
What a Friend We Have in Jesus was as close as I was going to get to a religious experience.
After my fill of Mormon hot spots (it was 111° according to the gas station thermometer) I was really in the mood for coffee. I stopped at a local coffee shop—mostly just to see if a town filled with Mormons HAD a coffee shop—for a cup before heading back to Vegas.
That evening, Tracy and I went to see Mystere, the oldest Cirque du Soleiel show playing in Las Vegas. If you’ve never been to a Cirque show, go.
On my last day in town I wanted to see Zak Bagans’ Haunted Museum, as seen on the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures!
OK, I have no idea who Zak Bagans is, or what Ghost Adventures! is, but I have heard of the Travel Channel.
The website promised the chance to...
...see original collectibles from haunted sites….
“original collectibles”…as opposed to Limited Edition Collectibles from the Franklin Mint?
…and hear the bone-chilling stories of the paranormal activity that surrounds them….
It was 111° in St. George. My bones could use a little chilling.
This isn’t your average haunted house in Las Vegas;
…there is such a thing?
…museum-goers can even peek inside the VW death van in which Dr. Jack Kevorkian ended the suffering of terminally ill patients as well as get a close-up look at the “Propofol chair” from Michael Jackson’s death room...
Who doesn’t want to see Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s van? Or Michael Jackson’s “Propofol chair”? (Manufactured by La-Z Some Young Boy.)
But dang it. This non-average haunted house was closed on Tuesdays.
Oh well, there's always next year!
So back to Philadelphia airport.
My flight was cancelled.
There were no rental cars.
There were no hotels within 12 miles and $200 of the airport.
As I was waiting in line for an American Airlines employee to hit me in the head with a croquet mallet, the American Airlines app on my phone told me that I could fly out the next morning at 8:38. Yay! At least my carry-on wasn’t lost.
I moved away from the loud 24 Hour TRU-TV featuring CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta going to Italy, not shaving, and eating slow food. I tried to sleep on the floor. I tried to sleep on the settees. I tried to sleep with my head on a table. I tried to sleep using my backpack as a pillow.
I adjusted my compression socks.
The security announcements continued through the night. The loudspeaker repeatedly told us if a stranger asks you to take their ticking Acme brand suitcase with you, it might jeopardize your status as a member of boarding group 57.
At 6:00 am the food court reopened. I resisted the call of a Budweiser omelet and had a bagel sandwich.
My new flight left on time. If it hadn't, I would have walked home. Even if I had to take a screaming German toddler with me.