Let me just get this out of the way up front. Las Vegas is a horrible, awful city.
I know that's just one blogger's opinion and there are a lot of people who disagree. But from my perspective, what happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas.
I was there over the weekend for some business meetings and the experience reinforced my view that Vegas is the apotheosis of all of the worst qualities of America.
The visitor to Las Vegas is greeted with an eye-bludgeoning array of tasteless architecture and gaudy signage. It's frankly offensive to my sense of aesthetic. I like to think of myself as understated -- even minimalistic. That is something Las Vegas is not.
Each hotel/casino/resort has a more gregarious facade than the last. They encourage you to experience places like New York, Paris, Venice, Como and even Egypt -- all while staying within one wallet-lightening city. After all, why bother visiting the real Statue of Liberty or Rialto Bridge when you can visit a 1/3-scale replica and take a gondola ride in an in-door swimming pool?
Americans are having a real problem with artificiality. We eat artificial food, watch artificial television and go to artificial places. And I suppose it wouldn't be so bad if there just wasn't so damn much of it in Las Vegas.
The place is a monument to waste and excess. For cryin' out loud, it's a metro area of nearly two million people in the middle of a desert. Those residents and the millions of additional tourists each year using up water that used to flow down the Colorado River. Thanks to Vegas and other desert metropolises like Las Angeles and Phoenix, the Colorado River no longer has enough water to flow all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Hell, the water level in Lake Mead itself is at a historical low. Some scientist worry that it will soon be too low to run the hydroelectric generators in Hoover Dam.
And the natural resources waste is only slightly worse than the waste in fiscal resources Las Vegas represents. The entire city is built upon the proposition of taking money from people who have more cash than good sense.
But the sight of bleary eyed, hungover, newly broke frat boys is comical compared to the poverty that you see if you drive 10 minutes from the Las Vegas strip. There are people living in concrete block hovels (in the desert, mind you) just a mile or two from ostentatious water displays.
There's not really anything to be done about it. Las Vegas is just another example of Americans entertaining ourselves to death. Eventually there won't be enough water in Lake Mead to power the hydroelectric generators that provide electricity to Vegas. By that time our economy will have really crashed and nobody will have the cash to lose to the casinos, let alone pay the airfare and extra baggage fees to get to the middle of the desert in the first place.
But the food there is pretty good.
tagged: Las Vegas, Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, casino, travel, waste, environmentalist