Over the past month, I’ve sat down a number of times to write and divulge with enthusiasm some details of the trip I recently took to Las Vegas. Before I tumbled into the realm of travel blogging however there were a few things I felt I needed to clear the air of. And so it is with great sincerity that I say to you:
Clichés make me shudder. And I feel like it is fantastically easy to make cliches about traveling….case in point: Vegas is a place “where you go to lose yourself.” Which is exactly what I wanted to say about my trip…. blasted all.
Some other over-used examples that come to mind:
“My trip to [insert destination X] was amazing – before I left I was all materialistic and when I saw the poverty and the way people lived in X, I just realized what human beings are really made of.”
or “I really thought on my own for the first time when I was traveling through X”
And lastly: “I just got on a train and “went.”
First of all: barf.
Second of all, you would have to be stupidly naive to have to travel to discover the income gap; to think on your own; or to allow your spirit to wander. To be sure, I can see how it would help. But let’s just call a spade a spade and put those comments in the backpacking cliché dossier….
If you are interested in reading more on the topic, please see my friend’s wondrously funny blog on the issue: Things I Hate About Back-Packing. He’s been helping rehab obnoxious back-packers since 2007.
So I digress, but there is not, (as it turns out) a better way to say it: Vegas, is not a place where one goes for self-exploration… (unless of course you are looking to discover your gambling/sex/gluttony addiction) it is a place to get a way from regular life.
The City of Sin offers a multitude of options and packages for the voyager to experience life, if only for a short while, in a completely absurd, imaginary place. Everything is BRIGHT, BIG, LAVISH. If you win money, there are a million ways to spend it.
For someone who spent 6 years studying and closely analyzing the haves and the have-nots, the imbalances of economic power structures and the values which drive them, I found no problem in turning my brain off immediately upon arrival. This was a good thing because as it turns out, it’s actually quite fun to sit back and enjoy extravagance once in awhile.
The irony of this was demonstrated when on the second day of my trip, the “Occupy Las Vegas” protest started marching down The Strip. To put it in the words of Sloop John B, “Who the hell cares about the 1% in Vegas?” He was absolutely (though perhaps unfortunately) right on the money (errr sorry inappropriate choice of word) in that people in Vegas, myself included, are absolutely OK with their choices to buy into the atmosphere of consumption. Heck you are in Vegas after all… and to use a timeless cliche, When in Rome, right?
But the saying “When in Rome” I’m pretty sure referrers to, doing as the “locals” do. The whole time I was in Las Vegas, I kept marveling at the fact that there were people who lived in this strange, wonderful place all year round, doing “local people type activities.” I told myself that at the crux of it, they are like every local population in a major city and they know how to avoid tourist traps. And yet I still couldn’t concede that growing up in a place like Vegas would ever be normal. But that’s just it, for them it is normal, and they do engage in normal things – things like caring about real life for example… like the Occupy Vegas movement.
I mean could you imagine what it would be like to be standing up for what you believe in, and calling out to the world: “WE REPRESENT THE 99%” and this guy walks by you in the street:
I did manage to get a small glimpse into one of the past-times of some local people. It turns out that the terrain around the city is excellent for mountain biking. South-west of Las Vegas there is a town called Boulder City with an attraction of its own: Bootleg Canyon- so named because it was a drop off point during prohibition for the Hover Dam builders to get their fix. In the canyon there are some of the most treacherous bike “trails” which looked to me more like washed out crevasses. They apparently attract some of the most skilled mountain bikers in the country, and it is also frequented by local throngs of avid outdoors-men and women.
I was not in Bootleg Canyon to a) bike nor b) learn about the history. I was in fact there to do Ziplining at Bootleg Canyon Flightlines. They actually call it Flightlines because it is more speed and longer rides. And you don’t have to stop yourself with a gloved hand as I understand you have to do in many Ziplining courses. It’s an amazing experience that takes you to the top of a summit in the Canyon, from which point you hike to an even higher peak, and then you fly, more or less, down crazy thick cables, in a series of 4 runs to the bottom of the mountain. Some guy from British Colombia, Canada actually invented the ride and it is one of only 2 in the world. Highly HIGHLY recommend it if you are heading there. Well worth time and money.
The guide who was helping us propel down the mountain told us this crazy story about Lake Mead when were waiting at one of the check points.
So I guess the water level in Lake Mead, which is actually a reservoir, is rapidly decreasing, because well you know, there’s this massive city in the middle of the desert which puts a bit of strain on it. Apparently, a friend of his was wake-boarding on the lake last year when he broke his ankle. Not so strange to brake your ankle wake-boarding, unless of course it is because you hit it against the steeple of a Church that was on the bottom of the man-made lake! The water level had decreased so much so that the town which had been flooded when they “built” the lake back in the 1920’s in the was becoming exposed. Crazy.
One night we were out for drinks and found ourselves under this giant devil’s crotch, which struck us as entertaining.
But as it turns out it wasn’t just the looming devil which was a reminder of the fact that Vegas really is Sin city. I mean.. you give me one of the Seven Deadly Sins and there are a slew of ways to send yourself to confession.
Hell in fact, might be a lot like Las Vegas.
Ohhh no no no, don’t get me wrong, I loved the entire experience and I would go back in an instant. I am just thinking that after a few days of the inundation of it all, you are ready to roll out……
A version of Hell might be the end of a lovely vacation and the taxi for the airport fails to show up. Just then, a Giant Devil announces out of nowhere, while perched on top of the Fake Eiffel tower,
“Oh you liked that did you? Well welcome to your eternity in a desert, where you will get little sleep, be constantly dehydrated from the booze, roll around from glorious meal to glorious meal and be consumed day in day and day out by crowds upon crowds of people.” The feeling this brings me is closely related to the one I got when I watched the Monty Python and the Meaning of Life scene where John Cleese just keeps eating and eating.
So, like at the end of any great trip, I realized, that real life makes you enjoy decadence, but like all things it is best enjoyed in small doses as there can be “too much of a good thing.” Also at the end of a trip, there’s no place like home (cliche #3 and #5… in case you’ve been counting).
I’m clearly not immune to the wonderful draws of Sin City nor the odd travel metaphor every now and again.