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S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.


Thursday, April 21, 2005

Vegas, Baby!

The Pull of Las Vegas
Two of the blogggers that I read regularly talk about trips to Vegas. Wil Wheaton went to play poker www.wilwheaton.net . The other writer is fighting a cold while on his trip www.hoffmania.com/ .
And, despite the passage of at least a decade since I have been there, the place still has a fascination for both my spouse and I. We watch all the Vegas gambling expose shows on television, and talk at times about our past trips there. We love the ad promos that promise "It all stays here." What is my fascination?

  • The constant change is mind-boggling. Huge gambling resorts seem utterly disposable, as they are imploded and rebuilt over and over. The predominant type of visitor changes, for a time it was geared to draw families, at other times conventioneers, etc.
  • The place glitters! Or glows, depending on how your eyes work. At night the Strip is awsomely lighted. And rich visitors (of both genders) are draped with lots of personal "Bling-Bling" decor and glitter as they stroll.
  • Time works different in the Vegas Zone. Casinos have no visible clocks. You can get married or divorced at a pace not available in other places. Architectural history must constantly be updated. Show girls "age out" at a rapid rate.
  • The Strip, Downtown, and the city of Las Vegas are separate entities, as different as day and night. Workers "commute" between these worlds, behaving differently (I assume) in each locale. One of the key differences in behavior, I suspect, is whether the worker gambles or not. I have explored the municipal side of Vegas and agree that the residents have perfectly normal lives away from the gaming districts. They sleep, eat, mow their lawns, and go to school just like the rest of us
  • Gambling for each of us is either addictive or not. I generally helt to a $20 expenditure per day on gaming (meaning entertainment); were I an addict I would see it as a gamble and there wouldn't be a loss limit.
Here is my essay about Las Vegas, written many years ago while I was there.

Las Vegas - In the Midst of Contradiction

Another Gold Cup Golf Tournament, and we’ve just checked in. I decide to step outside for some clear desert air after the confines of the plane. I find a deck chair and put my feet up. I sigh. Water reflects all shimmering and blue in my view. But here by the vacant pool deck, no bikini-clad bodies languish. Though Spring is just around the corner, it is not yet here. Something’s different. Buildings surround us! We will soon be in an enclave. Are we being fenced in or is the world to be fenced out?
The suave white-haired Sicilian Pit Boss is strolling around the sunny pool deck. He wears a sleek steel-gray silk suit, a white tie, and eyes to match his suit. He has traded the clamor of the crap table for the noise of construction. Fortunes and buildings are made and destroyed today and he is silent. He is in the business of watching.
Palm fronds, reflected in smudged glass panels being installed as a fa├žade during the remodeling of the Desert Inn, speak of the contradictions of this town. Our rush to come here was to escape the urban pressures in another part of the nation. But what is this? A gigantic construction project has intruded upon the Glitz, the order and serenity that I had expected.
Sounds press in on my solitude. Today’s noise collides with the stillness of the languid desert I remember from the past. Hammers are banging, motors are running, and workmen are yelling. My peace is disturbed. The noise of the jetliner overhead blends with the power saw . . . B-flat and E, I believe. The noise I heard before I came outside was $$$$’s moving.
Just above me two men in blue hard hats are preparing to weld another iron girder in place. Three or four holes quickly drilled for the bolts and soon another part of the Tinker Toy Structure will be complete. It strikes me that many kinds of bulky building materials are going into this large structure. But it is looking quite fragile with all its lacy ironwork and glass.
The theme of the huge new structure seems to have been settled: little hexagon roofs everywhere you turn at ground level and soaring glass towers. In one section every single story room at ground level is topped by one of these geometric domes. In the adjacent section workmen stack concrete blocks eight stories high. I see twin towers – glass, glass everywhere, and not a drop to drink in this desert.
There are all types here. A couple of “21” dealers stride by, commenting on how much it is going to cost just to keep all the glass clean. They are in crisp and formal black and white with little green aprons. They don’t resemble cooks or men who shoe horses, however. Two young dudes, also in black and white, whose green aprons have been traded for black vests, truck by with a load of booze on a handcart. The cases of Las Vegas’ liquid sustenance tend to be 98 proof, the hard stuff. And another man, old and Black, trucks by with the trash.
Everyone moves . . . the little ant-men putting the last touches on their 12-story anthill. It is being built to match an identical glass anthill that harbors a Queen and all her workers. No one has ever seen the Queen but we know that she rules. A security guard with a walkie-talkie, a red face, shiny black cowboy boots and a large gun stoops to pick up a rock from the site for his grandson’s collection. He was a champion marble shooter and rock collector, himself, when he was a boy.
I turn my head and survey the scene. Hexagons, glass and blue everywhere I look. Has anyone ever dared to suggest an octagon, just to break up the monotony? Perhaps just such a suggestion prompted the firing of the Desert Inn’s two previous general contractors. Las Vegas, which prides itself on being the place where anything goes, really can’t tolerate radicals.
The jackhammer noise starts and it is the worst. Has it all been a ghastly mistake? Is Howard Hughes, the building owner, alive after all? Has he come back to demand that it all be returned to what it was before? “Put my penthouse back, be sure it’s sterile, then get the Hell out of my sight forever. I must have quiet!”
By Carol G.
March 9, 1985

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