Las Vegas, Nevada
Trip Start Apr 11, 2010
40Trip End May 20, 2010
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To me Vegas represents America at its worst and is a symbol of its overall social decline even though it was the fastest growing metropolitan area in the nation for nearly two decades. Vegas offers the opportunity to take big chances with a fleeting probability of coming out way ahead. And until the recent recession gaming was one of the leading growth industries in America as the "work hard" route to a good life has become ever more elusive to the country's struggling middle class in a society polarized by extremes of wealth and poverty.
The gambling, though, is only part of the well-oiled machine designed to separate you from your money regardless of your income or credit limit, one glad to service your craving for any vice imaginable
So now that we've covered avarice, sloth, and lust, how about the rest of those Seven Deadly Sins? Well, Vegas certainly caters to the inclination toward gluttony. I knew it would only be a matter of time until the all-you-can-eat buffet's natural successor finally made an appearance. Yes, the all-you-can-eat $29.99 buffet "day pass" is now available at numerous casinos. I suppose the folks with ample backsides and pendular guts waddling around the casinos must be among the regular day-pass clientele.
Then there are the big name shows, entertainment as mindless as the act of pulling a one-armed bandit, most of which fails to entertain
Besides the pervasive tawdriness the overall atmosphere in Vegas is simply fake. There's fake New York, fake Venice, fake Paris, fake Egypt, fake tropical islands, etc. What comes most to my mind when I'm in Las Vegas is a book I read sometime in the early 1990s that I still have somewhere in storage, one named "The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste" (http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Bad-Taste-Jane-Stern/dp/0060164700) covering the most extreme examples of tastelessness in American pop culture ranging from Elvis impersonators to Liberace, breast augmentation to pink Cadillacs, snow globes to Hummel figurines. Those and most of the 200 or so other entries are on display along The Strip or not far from it.
Vegas was recently named "America's 2nd Dumbest City" in a ranking of large metropolitan areas on the basis of educational attainment, book sales, and institutions of higher education. That it was also the fastest growing metropolitan area is perhaps indicative of the direction of American intellect generally over that time, but it's growth was based heavily on construction and service industries that support gaming. Residents everywhere, of course, need medical, legal, financial, educational and other services which employ more highly educated people, but I don't know of many tech research facilities established in Vegas or any corporate headquarters that have been relocated there.
The drive across the Mohave Desert from Las Vegas to Southern California on I-15 is across what strikes me as one of the bleakest stretches of road in America. I dropped Dave off at Disney's swank Grand Californian Hotel and Resort in Anaheim where he was going to stay with some friends. It was quite late and I ended up sleeping in my car at a rest stop along I-5 at Camp Pendleton rather than pay the exorbitant $40 camping fee at San Onofre State Park.