Saturday, December 15, 2018
There's a reason Las Vegas, Nevada is my favorite city in the US and - if I were better traveled - the world.
It's that so many people think it has to be the most shallow place on the planet. From big-suited business leaders to self-professed intellectuals, everyone knows Las Vegas represents the lowest of the low-brow.
Let's crush that fallacy here.
My first job in Vegas, early 20s, was as a porter. Which meant I'd do anything for a tip. One of the things I was told to do was dig holes and plant plastic palm trees. So cheesy. So lowbrow. How Vegas is that?
Thing is, I wasn't planting fake, non-indigenous trees and soon dressing them in lights for us.
I was planting them for you.
Same goes for the gambling, magic shows, all-u-can-eat-buffets, 24/7 alcohol, strip clubs, faux city resorts and landmarks, and the A-to-Z "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" tongue-in-cheek naughty mentality. None of it is done for Vegas resident. It's for you.
Las Vegas is America without the facade of good taste, but that's done for you.
So what's it like living there? What were our off-hours amusements?
The arts. When it comes to film festivals or even independent films shown regularly at the local theater, I've never seen such quantity and variety outside of cities ten times the size of Vegas, including D.C. metro.
The outdoors. Ever ski and sunbathe on the same day? How about hikes that include Red Rock Canyon, Mount Charleston, Painted Desert, and others plus a beach with boating?
Culture. Food, festivals, community, and true diversity - I'm sure there are more truly diverse places somewhere, but I haven't been to any. Certainly not for under $800 rent.
Other recreation. Vegas's neighborhoods are well funded for their price thanks to tourism. I was surprised to find that similarly priced neighborhoods outside of Vegas don't offer a plethora of green zones, biking trails, sports courts, and other funday healthy activities within walking distance of the front door.
Blue collar intellectuals. Yes, you can philosophize with any urban professor about anything. I like people easily just as smart but with callouses. Within a few months of living in Vegas, don't be surprised if you're at a party with a construction worker, entertainer, top-notch chef, taxi-driver, photographer, and software engineer as well-read or better than your favorite college prof...but with a clue.
The tourist experience. Sure, it's fun to head downtown or to the boulevard once in awhile. Even locals like to get silly and behave like one of the more "cultured" outsiders too...eating, gambling, spending and acting the provincial fool. But not that often. It's an occasional thing. No airline tickets are required.
For my part, I found some of the best meals, arts, hiking, company, conversation, diversity, entrepreneurial inspiration, community, neighbors, and work while in Vegas.
I learned how to plant a plastic palm tree to make the tourists feel welcome and not take a whole lot too seriously.