I was walking along the 'strip' and taking in the sights, people watching, admiring cleavage, etc., and I overheard a fellow say in disparaging way that Las Vegas was the center of American culture. Having not much else to think about, I pondered his statement and his attitude for a bit and came to agree with him.
Las Vegas exists only due to the efforts of a massive logistics effort that brings in virtually everything that humans need to live. If the power ever goes out, you could measure life expectancy there with an egg timer. On the surface, it's a colossal misuse of air conditioning, electricity, water and fuel to make this city built on sand in business. It's a monument to excess, from the buffets to the pixilated T&A.
But under the seamy surface, there are some interesting concepts in play.
Las Vegas sells dreams, kind of like Hollywood. The big score, the never-ending party, and 'We've got it all here' mentality are main themes.
Some of the sights are truly extraordinary, like the interior of the Bellagio Casino/Resort, with some of the most elegant plazas and foyers I've ever seen. It's the false reality of the movie set, but as a get away and diversionary entertainment, it WORKS!
What I found so fascinating is the numbers of foreigners walking the strip, speaking so many different languages, all enjoying the (relatively tame) Citadel of Decadence. It quite an experience to see Arabs, Indians, Chinese, and who knows what else, strolling the streets, playing the tables, waiting in line to spend money in the good 'ole USA. Vegas is an egalitarian playground, kind of like the country at large. All these people went out of their way to come to this place for their experience. While the same can be said about NY, SF, DC and other towns, Vegas stands alone.
It is also true to type that so many of the casinos are an homage to other parts of the world, The Paris, Caesar's Palace, Belaggio, Luxor, and others bring these places to America. In a way it is a tacky knockoff, disney-esque front, but in another way, it points to what is really special about America. This taking of the best in the world and adopting it as our own is part of what makes the United States a great nation.
In a bittersweet tribute, immediately after 9/11, evidently a number of folks left mementos and tributes in front of the Statue of Liberty replica outside the New York/New York. Surely these people knew that it wasn't the 'real' statue, but what was important to theme was the expressions of support for the symbol. It's quite touching to see that the cash vulture casino operators in LV had these items put in cases along the sidewalk with plaques adding to the impromptu memorial.
In the most unlikely of places you see the strength of a people. From the capital of American Culture,
Viva Las Vegas!
"Having not much else to think about..." I love that, since I happen to know you were there on the Government's dime!!