LAS VEGAS – I brought a book to see if I can make it.
I’m in a cabana at Circas Stadium Swim, the hottest new pool in downtown. It’s bright and loud outside, but I open up Mark Twain’s “Life on the Mississippi” anyway.
“Go, Shorty,” the loudspeakers boom, “it’s your birthday!”
The Mississippi is worth a read …
“Go Shorty, it’s your birthday.”
I close the book. The river can be remarkable, Mr. Twain. But I’m distracted.
Lesson One: Vegas Pools Are Not a Beach Reading Place.
Why I’m here?
For a front row look at a Friday by the pool at a time when people come out of isolation with shots in their arms and cash in their pockets.
I reserved a cabana for shade to watch the sights and sounds – to watch people reach for a sense of normalcy.
I waded in with my camera, notebook and pen.
It’s just after 5 p.m. The temperature is mid-80s. The sun is hard and hot. Huge video screens are geared towards sports. Large speakers pump out bass-heavy electronic music. It’s noisy.
Tourists and locals crowd in and around Stadium Swim’s six pools. Some look like they just walked out of a casino – pandemic, jeans, t-shirts. Others look like Instagram influencers – fit, brownish, very little in weight.
“Have fun seeing lots of asses,” my partner told me before work.
One thing is certain. My Hawaiian shirt won’t take off.
But there are plenty of places to soak up the sun here – 340 chaise longues and 38 day beds on two roof levels.
Patrons in bikinis, board shorts, and even street clothes dangle their feet in the water. Some are slurping alcohol-infused slushies out of plastic cups. Others dump beers back.
The 30-meter-high screen wall rises above all of them and shows seven baseball games, two basketball games, one hockey game and an MMA card.
Below the screens, brothers with hats behind, stand between daybeds. They sip mixed drinks and regularly check the screens for scores.
Almost everyone drinks. Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Corona, White Claw – they’re all here somewhere.
This is the main party time at the Swim Stadium.
Lesson Two: Getting Thirsty.
The cabana costs at least $ 1,000 plus a tip for the server. Her name is Michelle. She is from Brazil, has a passion for photography and wears a green bikini.
Inside there is an L-shaped couch, lounge chair, 65-inch TV, ceiling fan, sink, towels, closet, and even a safe with a keyboard.
The cabana is way too big for one person. It would be perfect with a group of three or four friends – although two cabanas can be connected for up to 25 people. There are 30 cabanas at Stadium Swim, just like this one.
There is a thick menu book on the cupboard. Food and bottle service. A bottle of Belvedere vodka? $ 450. Patron silver tequila? $ 450. Do you want a bigger 1.75 l bottle? $ 795.
On the food side, there are plates for large groups. Lobster Corn Dogs: $ 145. Gourmet Grazing Board (think poolside meats): $ 125. Fruit platter: $ 65. For those with less appetite, check out the Stadium Dog (US $ 10) and the Taco Trio (US $ 14). Much more too.
When I order a 6 pack of mineral water, Michelle gives me a weird look.
Lesson three: bring friends.
Grasping for normal
Around 6 p.m., shade covers everything.
Veronica Ramos, 30, is splashing in a pool near my cabana. She is a soccer player from Los Angeles and with her friends in Vegas to play a tournament.
You have taken an entire corner of the pool to yourself. They dance and sing to electronic music. They move their heads when the beat falls.
Ramos is happy to be at a pool after the year she just had.
It is the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic that she has been to Las Vegas. But there is a part of her that feels out of place.
“It feels like I’m breaking the rules,” she says.
Ramos is fully vaccinated and proud of it.
“It’s nice to see people in the world,” she says.
On the second level deck of Stadium Swim, Paula Pelligrino, an English teacher from Rhode Island, is sunbathing in the last hour of light.
She is also happy to be away from home with friends. But she keeps her vaccination status to herself. That’s personal, she says.
What she comments is the scenery on her last night in town.
“The sky and the mountains,” she says, “are beautiful.”
Others focused more on the action closer to the pool.
At some point two men visit my cabana. One of the men pinches a bag of white powder between his fingers.
“Do you want us to join you?” Says a voice.
I refuse and they leave. They are later removed by the security service.
Lesson 5: People Go To The Pool For Various Reasons.
The cabana next to me is clinking. Men start to cheer.
Two women kiss deeply. The deeper and longer they kiss, the louder and longer the men cheer. I look over and see a lot of skin, a bottle of champagne.
It’s almost sundown. A big moon hangs in the purple sky. The temperature screen on Binions Hotel-Casino shows 86 degrees.
Men in front of the cabana pumpers next door. A woman with a foldable fan mimics the unce-unce-unce of music booming on the speakers.
Nearby, a woman is whirling around in the pool for a cell phone photo. She leans against the lip of the pool and sucks on her vape pen.
Ramos, the soccer player, and her friends split up.
In their wake is a collection of left behind items: 4 towels, 4 plastic cups, a Corona Extra can, a pair of light brown sandals and a blue face mask.
There’s no telling what belongs to whom, but it doesn’t matter. A Circa employee quickly clears away the rubble. The pool is quiet again, the crowd is now thin. The party is on the move.
The sun has set, but many sunglasses remain.
As I prepare to leave, I see a familiar face, people I actually know.
I go and say hello. One of them gives me a cold beer.
I close my notebook and stay a little longer.
Lesson seven: the night is always young in Las Vegas.