La La How The Life Goes On

Viva Las Vegas

Posted on: April 8, 2016

I just got back from Las Vegas.

I completely loved Las Vegas.

I have many thoughts about Las Vegas.

These many thoughts can all be distilled into one statement: From its origins in the early 1800s as a waypost for traders on the way to Los Angeles, to its current status as the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas represents everything that is both inspiring and troubling about America.

I have a soft spot for Las Vegas. Which is odd considering that 72 hours ago I had never been there. But I have wanted to go since I was a wee chubba Scottish kid watching Dan Tanna make it with The Ladies on Vega$. You know the show. And if you were a wee chubba kid in Scotland you knew that what you were watching on TV had to be a rich and fabulous American’s fever dream. I mean, the man drove his car into his damn house, y’all! He had a drive-in freaking living room! There was not a Scottish mother on the planet in the mood for that foolery. Trust me. Which made it fabulous times ten. He also hung out with ditzy bombshell Judy Landers and poor-man’s-Huggy-Bear, Binzer, while solving crimes in the most debonair way possible at some of the most famous Vegas Strip landmarks possible. There was not a single thing not to love about Vega$–AND Vegas.

You told your little chubba Scottish self you were going to get there someday. Even if only in that impossible dream “and maybe I’ll go to visit JR at Southfork Ranch or marry Parker Stevenson and have Hardy Boy babies” kind of way. It seemed impossible. But this being a dream about Las Vegas, something inside you kept telling you it WAS possible even if you hadn’t yet figured out the ways and means.

I was so interested in Las Vegas that I remember (now, stay with me young’uns) going to my local library’s card catalog (google it; I’m not your damn card catalog) to find books about it. I pulled out that 8 foot long drawer and flicked my little fat fingers through the well-worn cards. I consulted various encyclopedias and atlases. I learned the names Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel. I learned about Mexican merchants and Mormon bankers. I learned that Las Vegas means, “the meadows” because–you may need to sit down for this–LV used to have water wells that supported a marsh ecosystem before it all receded leaving the desert we know today. I learned that the Las Vegas Strip is actually municipally separate from Las Vegas proper. I learned all about the checkered and proud history of Las Vegas, Strip and City, which we owe for the thoroughly unique and inimitable place we know today.

As I grew up I realized that the Las Vegas Spectacle detailed in works of fiction is as real as such a spectacle can get. That the larger-than-life, dare to dream ethos that said, “We can totally build a gambling mecca for the entire planet on this patch of dirt” is real. That every bit of perseverance, great expectations, and arm-twisting disguised as glad-handing that we associate with American success is real and thriving in Las Vegas.

We stayed at the Wynn Encore. A $2.3 BILLION enterprise. The luxury involved in this property is maybe standard for some folks. But for us it was jaw-dropping. They say that Everything’s Bigger in Texas. FALSE. It’s Las Vegas. Do you need transportation? How many Escalades do you require? First time guest? Here’s $100 as thanks. You like an AM coffee at a precise time and of a particular brew? Just tell the staff member and you will awake to find it. Back when I worked at a real job I would periodically meet celebrities at various events. My standard joke with coworkers was to adjust my boobs in my shirt, ostentatiously lick my lips and say in a breathy Marilyn voice, “Hello Mr. Hot Celebrity, How can I make your time with us more profitable and pleasant?” Well, if you go to Las Vegas and you have a little bit of money to spend, THIS IS YOUR REALITY. Everyone wants to make your stay more profitable and more pleasant. If I’d wanted to, I could easily have paid someone to adjust my boobs in my shirt for me. A commitment to customer service, people. It is real.

What makes Las Vegas so appealing is its ability to be all things to all people. If you are a person of limited means who has saved for years to come here, there are hotels and events for you. If you are a wealthy person of unlimited means, there are hotels and events for you. If you are young, old, gay, straight, black, white, Asian, rich, poor; whatever you are, there is a place for you. We saw Rod Stewart at Caesar’s Palace. You want a cross-section of America (and the world)? That’s your show. All ages, all races, all stations in life. All at one show in Las Vegas. The following night was the opening of the T-Mobile Arena featuring The Killers (greatest band in the world, FYI), Wayne Newton, a new local artist named Shamir, and various jugglers, magicians, showgirls, and humans dressed up as rollerskating animals. You know: an average evening on The Strip. Again I was struck by the demographic diversity and the total lack of judgment of other humans at this big crazy party.

As we walked back to our hotel from the arena at midnight, the streets still jammed with revelers, we witnessed the other side of the Las Vegas Freedom coin. Obviously troubled people obviously under the influence. Stores selling alcohol shots on deep discount. Drunk parents with babies in strollers hanging out on the corners. Toddlers in strollers drinking 20 ounce Dr. Peppers while their parents danced to music only they could hear. Obvious pimps carnival-barking about “beautiful ladies” available.  Random guys handing out “” business cards. To my husband. In front of me. Inviting us both to strip clubs.

It became clear that a place so limitless as Las Vegas requires you to set and maintain your own limits. That the “anything goes and anything is possible” philosophy that can be so inspiring and freeing for some people (and is the foundational belief that created the city in the first place and fueled its renaissance in the 90s), can be the very anchor that plunges others into financial and psychosocial oblivion. If you are at all untethered in any aspect of your life, you should not make Las Vegas (and certainly not The Strip) your home. Because limits will not be set for you. Moderation will not be the natural order of things. The only moral compass you have will be your own.

And yet this is why Las Vegas serves as a microcosm of America. It illustrates all of the good that can result from believing that anything is possible. One of the first places in America to desegregate was Las Vegas because casino owners recognized that all money is green. Stars like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin would not play at the Flamingo unless Sammy Davis Jr also got a room. It was at the forefront of saying we are all equal–under the dollar bill.  It is a place that turned a patch of desert into an absolutely stunning municipality. The majority of Las Vegans do not live near or frequent The Strip.They make their lives in neighborhoods around the city, doing what people in every other city do. But they thrive as a result of the seeds that were planted more than 100 years ago; a belief that this little trade stop could become something more. And not just something more, but something spectacular.

Las Vegas, at its best, represents what is possible when there is a belief that anything is possible. Las Vegas, at its worst, reminds us of the desperately important delta between “can” and “should” in the human experience. Las Vegas, in all its good and bad, is a triumph of dreams.

Especially for that little Scottish chubba.

12932738_1089041294471404_8388881862975438601_nSomeday we’ll do this gondola thing at the Venetian.

By Thomas Wolf,, CC BY-SA 3.0 de,
Those of you who know me will understand my joy in this So I Married An Axe Murderer scene, the delight in knowing that Las Vegas means, “The Meadows.” Please enjoy this clip of Mike Meyers playing his (actually MY) dad in his movie:


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