Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I have been put in the unenviable position of defending Las Vegas against the claim that it is a racy, uncultured, highly sexualized theme park.
But I can say that having lived in Las Vegas for 11+ years, I have not had 1/20 of the bawdy experiences that journalist J.R. Moehringer had in his relatively short stay here. I don't know who this Caligula neighbor is, but in my experience the omniscient and omnipresent homeowners association would have put a quick stop to his noisy escapades. And none of the friends who have visited me here have been treated to backyard parties stocked with statuesque women named Dallas and Paris. I am a boring host in a boring suburb.
The article reminded me of two things about Vegas that I think about almost weekly. First, what possessed people to stop here in the first place? I know that the easy answer is water. Believe it or not, Las Vegas was once a relatively lush oasis amidst the otherwise stark Mojave desert. But it is hard to conjure up that image when it is 115 degrees outside and you are surrounded by brown dust and rocks. Of course, if you find yourself in these stark surroundings, you have undertaken a deliberate hike into the desert or taken a serious wrong turn, because most of Vegas is now an irrigated, landscaped, palm tree-lined park.
Second, one of the most charming features of Vegas (to me) is that it allows everyday people to experience the bacchanalia that is normally reserved for the rich or beautiful (or both) in other cities. For one weekend, everyone is invited to Caligula's backyard to see how the other half lives. Everyone is invited to strike it rich at craps or blackjack, surrounded by free drinks and beautiful people. It's America's egalitarian, libertarian wonderland.
But I wouldn't know much about bacchanalia and blackjack. Most weekends you'll find me on the couch, in the suburbs, watching football and reading email.
Ngai Pindell, UNLV