Viva Las Vegas

Photo courtesy of statsfun.com

Photo courtesy of statsfun.com

As our vacation in Las Vegas winds down, I have a few random thoughts.

After about 1/2 inch of rain, the streets flood and the aqueducts overflow here.  The rocky, dusty ground has no topsoil to absorb the rain.  All the streets and sidewalks are cambered to maximize water run-off.  How much rain does Las Vegas get annually?  About 4.

Ruby’s impression of Las Vegas:  “Everyone is so posh!”

As we walked through the MGM Hotel to get to the M&M Store, we pointed out the over-the-top themes.  We observed the men and women laying bets at the roulette wheel.  Some played the slot machines, each with their own themes.  We saw “Lord of the Rings” slot machines.  Seriously.  I told Zac that the odds are stacked against you when you play in a casino.  The house has the advantage.

“Everyone is playing the ‘I-want-to-lose-my-money’ game”, Ruby said from her perch atop Jonathon’s shoulders.

Yes.  Exactly.

Ruby and M&Ms

I took myself off for a brisk walk to the nearest Starbucks this morning, open 24 hours.  No holidays in hell!  On the other hand, I got a perfect peppermint mocha.  Best I’ve ever tasted. Usually, the peppermint is too strong. It screams, “Mint present, sir!” This was a delectable balance of chocolate and mint. Practice makes perfect.

On the way back from the coffee mission, I walked along Tropicana, one of many busy streets/highways here.  People zip by at 50 mph a mere two feet away from where you walk.  Not much foot traffic here, despite the sidewalks.  I passed a man with a newspaper.  He smiled at me behind his mirrored sunglasses as he saw me.  He stopped in his tracks.

“You look so cute like that!” he exclaimed.

Perhaps I should take up a new career carrying coffee.

I’ve run outside at sunrise the last two days.  Simply gorgeous mornings here. Pink and coral clouds drift across the blue sky, the sun highlighting the western mountains.  Seems I never can get enough sun. Something strange has happened both days:  I ran out of road.  I start running off the main road in a residential neighborhood.  The hacienda-style homes go for miles and miles.  Until they don’t.  I hit an asphalt road with no sidewalks, and then…dirt.  Las Vegas continues to be a growing city.  For years, it was the fastest-growing city in the U.S.

Las Vegas contains at least two different personalities.  There’s the Strip, glamorous and lit up like an overgrown eccentric Christmas tree. Tour groups and conferences frequent the expensive shows and shops.  Las Vegas’ nickname is “Sin City”.  Legalized gambling, renowned nightlife and state-sanctioned prostitution play into this moniker.

My brother-in-law and his family make up the other half.  This is the real Las Vegas.  Families live here.  People hold down regular jobs, not at the blackjack tables.  They commute.  They pay bills and grocery shop.  They live much like everyone else. Only they endure in the shadow of the glamor of an adult playground and constant influx of strangers.  It’s an interesting dichotomy  in a state economy funded in part by a gambling tax.

I feel privileged to be able to see both sides of this fascinating city.  We’ve had a great time visiting family and making new memories.   I got to be a part of the living, breathing town, behind the dreams and the alluring glitz.  Las Vegas means “the meadows” in Spanish.  And I guess it used to have lots of those, supported by artesian wells. May it continue to sustain the families making a home here, creating their own green pastures.  That’s where Las Vegas’ true beauty lies.

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