This is the last of my blogs on my business trip to Las Vegas back in October which came along completely unexpectedly.
Having written about various aspects of this most bizarre place, I’m reflecting on the diversity of opinion around it – it truly is a place which evokes a ‘Marmite’ reaction.
In some ways it reminds me of Disney, you are either ‘all in’ and embracing the clear commercialism that it offers yet you want to embrace your inner child or you are ‘all out’ denouncing it as totally fake and artificial designed to relieve you of as much money as possible. It’s just that here it’s not an inner child you are expressing – it’s more like an inner demon .
The interesting thing is that both perspectives have truth within them. When you fly into Las Vegas it truly is like a shiny jewel in a desert. Then you land and the various facets of that jewel start to emerge showing up both the worst and the best of humanity.
I’m so glad I went and have had that experience. I would go to the conference again if invited, however the rest, I’d have to seek out the ordinary among the frippery to frankly stay sane.
As a conference venue, it’s perfect as it has the space for a big event, the staff to man it with easy, if not cheap, accommodation all around. It also has the capacity to wow conference goers with the ‘special’ treats on offer. This included a cocktail night for the media overlooking the Strip, also a trip on their version of the London Eye (though 2m larger wouldn’t you know) and a concert with a band I’d never heard of called One Republic (I know many of you will have heard of them). I didn’t go to most of these events as you had to have a pass to get in and with two of us, it wasn’t fair. However I suspect the price tag for that event was astronomical.
Everywhere you look in Las Vegas there are opposites, experiences for the super rich who are made to feel super special, experiences for those who have set money aside and believe me this place will wring it out of you, experiences for those who have come for other reasons. It will fulfil every shallow need.
On the other hand, it’s clear many people live perfectly happy and normal lives here, usually living away from the Strip with the Strip offering employment, often in a job which in the UK would be considered low paid. The tip culture can elevate a job in hospitality, for example, from $30,000 a year to three or four times that. If you came to the UK with a skill set like that, you would struggle to make that kind of money – so there’s almost a feeling that this place can ‘trap’ you with its greater riches.
Also just talking to those who work here, it seems to offer far more than many other more isolated places in America where people feel their opportunities are limited. There is also a whole community spirit which has a different language alongside the more artificial side of this place. People do meet up for sporting events in great numbers just because they are fans and they gather together for that as if the Strip itself is simply the incidental backdrop. We saw community events just like at home when travelling by bus and there is clear community spirit here, as with everywhere else. Plus great weather so loads of events are outdoors.
Las Vegas also has its very dark side, there are regular shootings here though not every one seems to make the local news. There’s clearly a huge problem with addiction, especially with cannabis which you see and smell in most places. One morning I saw a lady, who looked to be in her 60s, rocking on a low wall murmuring to herself – she seemed to have no awareness of her surroundings. Several hours later I walked back the same way and she was still there rocking.
There are many homeless people and I noticed many of them were older, many disabled and when I asked, I was told that there are large numbers of homeless people who stay in the storm tunnels under the city for shelter. I was even shown where the entrance to those tunnels was. I got the sense that there’s a whole other town under the streets.
If I could go back and find out more about ordinary people, the jobs that they do, the volunteering they do, the events for neighbours and the reality behind the glitz and glamour then that’s what would interest me.
The noise, the lights, the entertainment, the gambling – none of that really floats my boat at all. I have considered that this may be because I’m now in my 50s however truly I don’t think it would ever have been my thing. After two days of seeing and experiencing all of that, it can leave a taste of ashes in your mouth. It’s quite soul-less and can oyu
The irony of course is that there’s also a religious undertone to this place. Signs pop up regularly warning you about the consequences of sin. Hilarious seeing that the Mormons had a hand in creating the place.
In every way Las Vegas is a place of extreme opposites and I do believe everyone, given the chance, should visit it at least once – yet go with your eyes open.