Martha Thomases: Las Vegas vs. San Diego
While the rest of the pop culture community prepares for Comic-Con International in San Diego, I’m in Las Vegas. Since I don’t gamble, it has been an interesting sociological experience for me. And also, the spa at my hotel is awesome.
I have been to Vegas four times now, and to SDCC about fifteen times. The two share more than one might think. Both are really crowded at all hours. Both mostly take place indoors, but if you need to go outside, you probably won’t get rained on. There’s a lot of noise about every little thing, so that you lose all sense of proportion.
And both count on dazzling you with enough glitz and glamor that you won’t notice how much you’re being hustled.
Still, I’m having a great time on The Strip, and I never need to go to Comic-Con again. What’s the difference?
Although things have improved somewhat in recent years, the city of San Diego doesn’t feel welcoming to me. I went once for a library convention, and that was much more pleasant. As a Comic-Con visitor, I feel like the city regards me as a pig, a beast to tolerate because I spend money. The convention brings in celebrities, whom I’m sure are treated well (if only because they have people on the payroll to guarantee it), but me? I’m the rube paying $4 for a bottle of water.
The water in my Vegas hotel room mini-bar is $8. And I don’t drink it. But you know what? A lovely woman comes by twice a day to ask if I want anything. She is thrilled when I have a request for her, even if it’s just for more free shampoo.
At Comic-Con, I have to stand in line for hours to see a panel, which I may not get to see because thousands of other people want to see the same panel. In Vegas, if the hot new Batman slot machine is being used, there are more around the corner, or down the street.
At Comic-Con, if I don’t make a dinner reservation by five, I can forget about eating anyplace where I can sit down. In Vegas, there are world-class restaurants (many outposts of places I love in New York) stacked up on top of each other.
I was a little afraid to come to Vegas as an older, single woman, afraid I would feel unattractive and unworthy. The hotel at which I’m staying, the Cosmopolitan, goes out of its way to make women feel welcome. Everyone who works there is super-friendly and helpful. In San Diego, there are, instead, lots of jokes about how unsexy geeks can be. True, lots of those jokes come from us geeks. I don’t think that kind of self-hatred would be funny anyplace else.
My friend Pennie used to live here, back in the days when the Mob were the new guys in town. She says that there is a tradition of service here because the populace knows that’s how they keep their jobs. San Diego, on the other hand, is a city with more than just a hospitality industry. I don’t mean to say that San Diego is rude (because, as a New Yorker, how would I know?), but they don’t make me feel like my needs are a priority.
There has been talk for years of moving Comic-Con to Las Vegas. I don’t think it would work. This city is too expensive. It would be a lovely idea, however, to move Las Vegas to Comic-Con.
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman