The Las Vegas Strip
Without a map of the city or any knowledge of where we were going
we just followed the brightest part of the sky until we found the
strip. We drove up and down the street, that was bustling with
activity even at 2 in the morning. From childhood I remember
pictures from television of the great old casinos like the
Stardust, the Flamingo, Ceasar's Palace and the other one with the
giant waving cowboy. These were the casinos of the mob. These were
the casinos of the "good old days". Now the casinos look like
sections of Disney World and Epcot Center. Every place has a theme
to get you to come in and loose money. One trend that seems to be
all the rage these days is casinos that take after other famous
places in the world. We drove past the casino that looked like
ancient Egypt, and the one that looked like ancient Rome, and the
one that looked like modern New York. They were even building two
more places: one that looks like Venice and another that looks
like Paris. Who needs to Eastern Hemisphere? Las Vegas has managed
to condense it all down to the bare essentials.
One of my favorite casinos was the one that was built to
look just like a McDonald's restaurant. Oh, wait a
minute.....that was a McDonald's. Even the fast food places in
this town looked like casinos. The McDonald's sign was covered in
small lights, all flashing on and off to get your attention.
Usually a McDonald's doesn't have to try hard to be noticed, the
golden arches are higher than any other sign in most cities. But
in Vegas and on the strip, every place has to put up signs and
lights that scream, "HEY! OVER HERE! LOOK AT ME!!!!" Every
establishment has "youngest child" syndrome. They have all learned
the only way to be noticed is to be loud. If they didn't do this
they would go broke, because nobody would be able to find them.
Which by the way happened to me at age 4. I was the youngest and I
hadn't learned to be loud yet. Mom and Dad would always forget to
pay me my allowance and I had to file for bankruptcy on my 4th
birthday. I didn't have a good credit rating until I was 14.
I was amazed at all the energy on this one street. Lights
flashed and buzzed all around us. Every sign had at least
a couple of thousand lights on it. Every sign had at least one
nuclear reactor at its base to power it. Man, ol'man was this
place exciting. Some people find Vegas gaudy and therefore ugly. I
find it gaudy and down right beautiful. I'm a sucker for the
electric light. I love Christmas and I love houses that are
covered in a million different colored lights during the Yuletide.
I love Vegas because it's nothing but lights. Vegas does gaudy
right, it over does it. If you're gonna be a spectacle you have to
go all the way.
In some ways Las Vegas brought my trip full circle. I complained
about Gatlinburg, Tennessee during another chapter of this trip.
It was gaudy, but it stopped way short. It tried to be gaudy and
wholesome at the same time. It just doesn't work. If you're gonna
go for the wholesome vibe, go with it the whole way, be a sweet
little town. Be a place with candy shops, and antique dealers, and
500 year round residents, who live off the money yuppies spend
during the high season. If your gonna be trashy, you've got to
have some trash. Does this make sense? Let me give you an example,
Tammy Faye Baker versus a Ringling Brother's Clown. Is that clear
enough. (By the way, Gatlinburg equals Tammy Faye in the above
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