I’m sitting at the airport on a Sunday morning waiting for my flight to Las Vegas for the now-annual pilgrimage to the NamesCon conference. A few years ago, Vegas was one of my “bucket list” places – one of those iconic cities that one should visit at least once in their life. For me, once was enough. This is now my 4th (I think?) trip to Vegas, and while the city has a lot to offer, it’s just not my cup of tea.
For one thing, I’m not a gambler, like at all. I don’t have anything against it, I just don’t enjoy it. It either feels pointless or stressful to me. The city itself makes me a little sad – in some cases, it reeks of desperation. Last time I was there, my cab driver entertained me with stories of how she was working 3 jobs to save up enough to join some mega-massive bingo game. She won a small jackpot a few years back and that allowed her to work only one job for a few months. She was hoping to win again so she could cut back to 1 or 2 jobs.
I wondered how many people do similar things – gambling their money away, in big or small chunks, in the hopes of that big score and in the process, putting themselves in a not-great financial situation. I suppose as long it makes them happy, then it’s all OK, but I can’t help but think someone like my cab driver might be happier overall if she only worked 1 job instead of 3, instead of working extra jobs to save up money to gamble her way to financial freedom. But that’s for her to decide, not me.
The juxtaposition of extreme and in-your-face wealth and the homeless people on the Strip also makes me sad. It’s difficult to see people begging for food and sleeping on the street while all around you, millions of dollars are poured into creating a massive playground with every type of indulgence possible. But I’m the first to say that I’ve enjoyed staying in some of the nicer hotel properties there and eating several excellent meals at some of the finer restaurants in the area, so I’m not exactly helping to solve the problem. None of this is meant as criticism for folks who enjoy all that Vegas offers, just my personal observations and thoughts.
There’s a lot to recommend Vegas, including many excellent shows, great entertainment, and some awesome dining (and the casinos and other gambling opportunities, if you’re into that). The Strip is a sight to behold for sure. This over-the-top string of massive buildings, decked out in bright lights and eye-catching design and architectural features rising out of a desert valley is like the ultimate story of humanity overcoming the limitations of a natural environment. With a dollop of hubris thrown in. 🙂
I’ll be interested to see how the city has changed in the wake of the mass shooting there last year – still unbelievable to me that a human being would do that to other human beings. I don’t have any deep concerns about visiting the city, mostly because the world has gone mad and violence can happen to anyone anywhere. I try to take reasonable precautions, but there’s a limit to what any one person can do to keep themselves safe and I try not to worry about things I can’t control.
Despite this not being my kind of town, I still have a good time when I’m there, as long as it’s just for a few days at a time. And I’m always more than ready to go home and wash the smell of the pervasive cigarette and cigar smoke out of my clothes.