Friday, May 21, 2010

Viva Lost Vegas

It's been about 20 years since we were last in Las Vegas. Which was also about 20 years from when I was there last. Seems I get to see Sin City every two decades. And yet, the last two seem to have changed the place far more. Sure, Vegas in the 90's was different from that of the 60's, but not like this!

Vegas is a place I've avoided. Definitely not my scene. But hard to be too negative about something based on secondhand information.

So, here we are. In a city that's become Bladerunner-in-the-desert: High-tech, tacky, international but unsophisticated, Disneyesque replicas substituting for culture. Not being gamblers (I tell people I use up my luck in real life) we wandered the Strip, dodging Southeast Asian touts flipping girlie ads in your face ("This place is turning into Ermita!" "From the 80's!") dress-alike boys (baseball caps, baggy long shorts, "tribal" tattoos and piercings) holding ridiculously tall cocktails, families from the Mid-West, Middle East, Northeast, South Asia, East Asia...

The worst change, though, was the city itself. 20 years ago, you could drive five miles and be completely isolated in the desert. Today, that desert is paved and jammed with quickly built houses, strip malls -- a giant urban sprawl that goes on forever. It was heartbreaking. People who had homes in the desert decades ago, far away from the neon, found that the city had rushed toward them and enveloped their isolation and open spaces. Viva LOST Vegas.

"It'll all turn into a ghost town when the water's gone," predicts Big Dog. "All of the southwest will become a harsh, inhabitable desert."
"Sooner than later, the way they've let the population explode," I add.

A friend who's retired in this town gave us her personal tour when we arrived and showed us what I consider to be the coolest thing in Vegas: this building which houses the Brain Institute. I loved the irony of having such an institute here.

Two nights in this town is more than enough. I am longing for the open vista of the desert. The kind that makes me want to sing "Calling You" from the movie Baghdad Cafe. It's out there, but a lot farther away.

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