Friday’s Essay – Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada – What a place!  It is every kind of American paradox I can imagine.  The homeless and mentally ill survive alongside the disgustingly wealthy. On one end of Las Vegas Boulevard are lavish hotels, casinos and shops; at the other are (wonderfully) tacky, old school hotels and casinos with five dollar buffets.

Fremont Street Pirates

Fremont Street Pirates

Every calibre of performer is here, from Celine Dion and Garth Brooks to the people dressed in stained Elvis costumes soliciting money for photos on the street.  And, of course, there are the folks who come to Sin City and those who work at saving folks from sin.

There’s only one reason I’ll be coming back to Vegas – Celine Dion.  (I don’t care what anyone says I’ve loved her since my French teacher introduced me to her music in 1988.)  I am conscious of the environmental impact this town and my trip has had, and it concerns me.  It’s a town in the US that, like so many others, is suffering from over three years of economic downturn.  There is homelessness and hardship.  And, yet in just a few days I have developed a fondness for this place.  It is silly and crazy and glamourous and fabulous.  Once off the Strip and Fremont Street it is a real place.  People have real jobs and take the bus to work and have to meet with IRS agents.  Some people get to be showgirls in gorgeous shows, others clean hotel rooms, some folks are looking for work.  Whatever people do here it’s real work and they are real people.  That’s always my favourite part of travelling – seeing the real place and people.  Even the young mom, carrying a skateboard, who lost it a bit when her tired three year old daughter sat down in the middle of the crosswalk!  It’s always good for me to see that the world is full of regular people living regular lives no matter how exotic I think the locale.