Today is the Fall of Rome!

he said, when we came down to breakfast at 11:30. So i got a Bloody Mary. Got to get started right. The gambling floor was still as full as it had been at one the night before, full of - who knows? schoolteachers, upholsterers, nurses' assistants. Salesmen of all stripes. Newlyweds, bridal gowns complete. It's our last day in Vegas, and we still haven't had an Elvis sighting - we are on the brink of despair. Nerves are raggedy, but we, as always, are troopers, holding things together as others whinge.

The Fall of Rome is our rallying cry, and we manage to make it through the day. No Elvises. The cabby tells us about a recent suicide from the top of the needle: this guy, he said, stole five thousand from his boss. Wow, we say. No, that's not it, he says. He used it to buy an engagement ring for his girlfriend. And she turned him down. So that's why he jumped. It was in all the papers. So what did she do, we ask. I don't know, I just skim the papers, you know, I never read them. I snag an Elvis postcard from the plastic pouches on the seatbacks before we get out ... let nothing go to waste, especially free stuff.

My sister, who is underage, gets carded again again for just being in the casino. Her mood is evil. We try to shake it off, shouting The Fall of Rome! the Fall of Rome! The heat is oppressive and the blocks are long. Everyone starts to look the same, variations on a theme: anorexic or obese, middle-age, middle-class, middle-America. I am ashamed of these generalizations, but i am foggy. It is, after all, the last day, time for sweeping things.

There is a parade-in-the-air every even-numbered hour at the Rio Resort and Casino. So it is during dinner, when mum and dad are drinking from margarita glasses large as soup plates but deeper, and the dancing girls in sparkling floats are throwing beaded necklaces down to the crowds at the railing, and the crowds are jostling and trampling each other for the beads, that i finally see it: not one, but two Elvises, hanging from the ceiling, white sequinned jumpsuit and all. Flying. After Cirque du Soleil, the acrobatics are nothing, but somehow we feel fulfilled.

WIth so many nodes devoted to Elvi or Elvii around here, you might appreciate this one:

In Steven Pinker's book Words and Rules (1999, Basic Books), he cites (p. 56) a story from The New Republic on December 12, 1994: In Las Vegas, The Flying Elvi sued The Flying Elvises for trademark infringement. Both groups were skydivers who would wear Elvis Presley costumes and dance and pretend to sing upon landing.

(Pinker's point is related to irregular plurals, and the way that people sometimes extend not only the regular plural rule but also irregular plural "rules" to new words. A few pages earlier he mentions VAXen and the like.)

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