“You two oughta lighten up.” That was the cabby’s frank, if unsought, advice. What inspired it was my question: Know where there s a good, cheap Chinese restaurant?
“Lighten up, honey,” she said. “You’re in Las Vegas now.”
“Yeah, but we’re from Vermont. We’re cheap and proud of it.”
“Listen, honey,” she said as she gunned it through a red light, “I came to Vegas nine years ago, and I don t have any concept of money left. Better just lighten up.”
It was sound advice, even for a Vermonter. If ever a city was made for lightening up, it’s Las Vegas. It’s a free-fire zone for three of the most commercially successful sins: sex, gambling and reckless spending. Yeah, ignore all that hoopla about how Vegas has transformed itself from the epicenter of adult entertainment (sex, gambling and reckless spending) to the Family Entertainment Center (roller coasters, circuses and volcanoes that erupt every half hour). In the battle for the soul of the town, adult entertainment has all but crushed the family stuff.
So let’s look at the three sins that rule the fastest growing city in America. Starting with the first sin among equals, gambling. Or “gaming” as it’s called here. Gaming. Sounds cleaner than gambling, doesn’t it? Guess how many casino slot machines are operating in Vegas as I speak? 140,588. Plus thousands more in laundromats, restaurants and grocery stores. Plus poker, roulette, craps and games Vermonters have never even heard of.
Sex was always the second sin of Las Vegas. Prostitution is legal in Nevada, and the ready availability of boughten sex makes the newspaper boxes rather different than in Vermont. Instead of the Free Press, they hold the Nude Review. Well, at least it’s free.
But while gaming and sex have always been at the heart of Las Vegas, the new sin in town is conspicuous consumption. The difference between Vegas shopping and everywhere-else shopping is fantasy. Buying a diamond watch in the desert is one thing; buying it at an Arabian Nights bazaar, complete with oasis, sudden rainstorm and belly dancers is quite another.
Long ago, Las Vegas transformed night into day; now it’s turned indoors into The World. You can ride a gondola through Venice, dine under the stars, watch the sun rise and set, buy a $60,000 watch all without stepping foot outdoors. And of course, you can visit the Eiffel Tower, see the Statue of Liberty and watch that punctual volcano erupt without leaving town. For Vermonters like me, it isn’t just another reality, it s the dead-opposite reality, the antipodes of life in the Green Mountains. I recommend it. As the cabby said, Lighten up!
This is Jules Older in Albany, Vermont, the shy and quiet Soul of the Kingdom.
Jules Older is the author of more than 20 books for children and adults and is a passionate outdoors enthusiast. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.