Saturday, October 6, 2007

Las Vegas: Hate to Love It

Las Vegas is an impossible city. It should not exist. Its very being conflicts with geography as well as general standards of taste and morality. Not only does it exist, it is one of the fastest growing areas in the U.S over the past several years. Is Las Vegas destined to be a latter-day Sodom and Gomorrah, a hedonistic pleasureland doomed to be destroyed by its own success? It is definitely possible. Nonetheless, this oasis of abundance is a hell of a lot of fun, and we should enjoy it while we can.

The City of Sin wears its ignominious title with pride; even the mayor is a supporter of legalized prostitution. Mayor Oscar Goodman was recently quoted as saying “magnificent brothels" could bring the city "tremendous" benefits. The mayor has also invited controversy upon himself by defending mobsters during his legal career, advocating alcohol consumption to fourth graders, and promoting corporal punishment for criminals and misbehaving children. The man is the perfect figurehead for this raging, lawless metropolis: a showy, shoot-from-the-hip character with Wild West ideology.

Everything in Vegas is fake: facades, bluffs, implants. But in trying to be something that it is not, Vegas has become its own unique entity, a city of unabashed artifice. Its very name is an illusion (as are many names of modern southwestern cities), as there is not one vega (meadow) to be found in the vicinity, much less several. Vegas has succeeded in branding itself as a carefree fantasyland with such slogans as “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” a refrain vying with “I love NY” for the most well-known municipal tourism slogan. People come to Vegas to release their inhibitions and give in to their most pent-up desires. It is the original virtual reality, a place that seems to exist outside the real world, which is governed by pesky blue laws, responsibilities, and other unfortunate shackles of life.

No matter how stringently my superego disapproves, it is no match for my impressionable id once it falls victim to the sensual seductions of this Devil’s Paradise. I expected to despise Las Vegas for its crass simulacra of such inimitable cities as Venice, Paris, and New York City, its slavish servitude to hedonism and materialism. Instead, I found myself willingly playing along in the game, taking pictures in front of the meticulously replicated Fontan de Trevia and Eiffel Tower, despite having visited the real McCoy only two years before. I also found the faux shimmering sky above the Venetian bridges a welcome change from typical shopping mall ceilings. You think you’re above it all, but Vegas, the glittering, dizzying array of addictions it is, sucks you right in, the helpless human that you are.

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