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Las Vegas is not my first choice when thinking about places I want to go for fun. It isnít even very far up the list. As a matter of fact, youíd have to flip through a lot of pages before you got to ďLas VegasĒ in a list of places I want to go. Yet here I am, again.
To be honest, this is the first time Iíve been to Vegas for fun. Iíve been here a couple times for a client who ran auto repair shops, which doesnít count as the Las Vegas we think about -- I was actually in the town of Las Vegas visiting auto shops and taking a quick trip to The Home Depot.
I was here last for the Clio Awards in 2010. Now THAT was a Vegas destination -- advertising from around the world at the Hard Rock Hotel. Only it turned out to be a lot of the same conference events that you find in any hotel, you just had to walk past the casino to get to the meeting rooms.
Those casinos are what make Vegas hotel owners rich. And yet they are the ugliest part of the town to every sense -- the too-dry air smells of stale cigarette smoke and air freshener, the flashing lights and constant bombardment of the electronic tones from the gaming machines that jar you at ever turn, and the blackjack dealers are always looking at you with the come-hither of a well-dressed carnie.
The casinos steal money from people who like shiny objects and canít do math. Which, I suppose is a pretty strong American trait. And thatís where I look at Vegas not from just my personal comfort but from the other part of vacationing -- learning new things and experiencing something truly unique.
Las Vegas is so American itís almost a parody of America. I say ďalmostĒ because it IS what America does best. The science and technology in this place is astounding; the fact itís been exploited to create a giant, corporate complex that jacks up visitors like some kind of consumerism crack whore is just part of what we do in this country.
Vegas pushes the boundaries in all directions at once -- extreme engineering with more hotel rooms on the corner of Las Vegas Blvd and Flamingo than in all of San Francisco. The acquisition of masterpieces from Masters such as Monet and Da Vinci is almost overshadowed by the amazing collection of contemporary artists with private galleries.
Sure, Donnie and Marie are doing a show tonight, but there are also three Cirque du Solei performances. Every celebrity chef has a massive restaurant here, and while weíre spoiled with amazing food carts in Portland, one of the best meals Iíve ever had was at Emerilís in Orlando, of all places.
Look past the giant TVs, the blaring advertising the enormous buildings, the hawkers on the sidewalks, the strippers-to-your-room billboards driving down the middle of the stripÖ Look past all these things and you see the industrious, dreaming, driven part of America that put us on the Moon.
Itís the part of America that constantly innovates and makes something new out of thin air, solving complex problems for fun and profit. And while itís garish and wasteful and opportunistic, if you live in this country you live with this evil twin of the America pictured in campaign ads (the good twin being that industrious, innovative American in a wheat field).
Iím not suggesting you embrace Vegas -- we donít all need a lost weekend. But I do suggest you look at the marvels that make this scar in the desert also a miracle in the desert. We are all flawed creatures, but we are also amazing creatures -- Las Vegas amplifies both sided of our American values and debauchery.
So while Vegas is buried deep on my list of places I want to be, I canít help but enjoy myself while I dig into concentrated America -- because America, good or bad, is an amazing place and so is Las Vegas.
Sad Futures: Re: - The Thing about Vegas
There is a theory that Las Vegas is actually at the pinnacle, the forefront, the leading edge, the epitome, of human evolution.
If you throw enough money in one direction, eventually, it looks like Las Vegas.
Some of the best visual design in science fiction films taps into this ethos. I'm sure we'd like to envision a different future, but I'm not so sure the Las- Vegasification-of-Life isn't more accurate.
Kristen Fife: Re: - The Thing about Vegas
Nice catching up last night. I actually enjoyed Vegas when I went in 2007 (need to go back). Hit some shows (including Zumanity and O!), had some great food and wine, did some shopping at the M&M store, and took some amazing photos.
I'd love to go back; I have to disagree...I think we all need a lost weekend every now and then :D