Viva Las Vegasby Rossiter Drake
Have you ever wanted to travel around the world to see famous historical landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty and the Egyptian Pyramids? Perhaps you've always wanted to visit New Orleans for a leisurely stroll down Bourbon Street, or maybe you've dreamed of steering a gondola down the Venetian canals. It's possible you've even entertained a secret wish to visit the remains of ancient Rome, to plant your feet on the same hallowed ground that once supported Caeser, Cicero and Marc Antony.
If you've ever been struck by an overwhelming desire to travel the globe, you've probably encountered the same frustrations that plague most would-be explorers. Fact is, most folks don't have the time or money necessary for a sightseeing tour of the United States, much less the world. They are doomed to spend their days working at the office, trapped behind their desks, staring at computer terminals until their ears ring with the humming of monitors. They dream about paid vacations to exotic locations, but they resign themselves to the sobering reality that their fantasies will never come to fruition.
There is, however, one American city that can provide the fun and excitement of a morning in Egypt, an afternoon in Rome and an evening in Paris - all for just a fraction of the cost of a round-trip ticket to any of those distant destinations. It's a small city that takes up just a few square miles, tucked away in the arid valley along the Old Spanish Trail, and it's covered in filth. It is the Sin Capital of the World, a city that embraces vice as eagerly as any good Catholic schoolgirl would reject it. It is Las Vegas, and it's a sight to behold.
It's a stretch to say that the Las Vegas experience is as culturally rewarding as a trip to Rome, but the fact remains that Vegas is an ideal vacation spot for the average blue-collar hedonist. Airfare to America's own Sin City is cheap, and the hotel rates range from the affordable ($29 per night at the prestigious Showboat Hotel) to the astronomical ($500 per night at the Aladdin). But whether you're looking for bargain basement prices or luxurious suites that cost a small fortune, there are plenty of options available to you. After all, the owners of the hotel-casinos that line Las Vegas Boulevard don't want to take your money at the door; they want to win your money at the blackjack tables and the roulette wheels. And once you've arrived at McCarran International Airport (the only airport in the nation that features more slot machines than newsstands), the fun begins in earnest. Want to check out the Pyramids? Head to the Luxor Hotel and Casino, where the scantily clad pharaohs would rather serve you free drinks than slaughter your first-born children. Care for a taste of gay Paris? Book a room at Paris, a brand new hotel-casino that boasts downscaled models of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triumphe. Indeed, Las Vegas offers tacky interpretations of domestic and foreign cultures that would make an anthropologist retch and a drunken frat boy giddy with delight.
The main attraction in Las Vegas is the gambling, of course, though there is a healthy market for prostitution, also legal in the state of Nevada. Folks from all over the world travel to Vegas to double and triple their life's savings, hoping that a lucky roll of the dice will win them mountains of cash. Needless to say, the odds are stacked against them, but educated gamblers should be able to escape the city with the shirts on their backs and enough money to grab a meal at one of the many buffets that line the streets of the Strip. They should also take advantage of the unlimited free drinks available at every casino, as long as they maintain some dignity, self-control and a tight grasp on their purse strings.
If the hookers, gaming tables and free cocktails don't pique your interest, there is plenty of wholesome entertainment at your fingertips during any trip to Vegas. For those in search of cultural redemption, the Bellagio art gallery is a pleasant (albeit overpriced) distraction, featuring works by Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Paul Cezanne and others. For fans of lounge music, the Vegas arenas are always crammed with the usual suspects (Tom Jones, Wayne Newton), an eclectic collection of has-beens (Air Supply, Cinderella) and even a few legitimate artists (Roger Waters, Bruce Springsteen). There are roller coaster rides at the MGM Grand, adult magic shows at the Tropicana and Siegfried and Roy at the Mirage. In short, Vegas is a true mecca of entertainment, with or without the craps tables.
So if you're in the mood for some high culture, save up your cash for a few decades and plan a trip around the world. With any luck, you'll get to see the Pyramids and the Eiffel Tower before you reach the age of retirement. But if you want to check out plastic recreations of those very same landmarks while downing a handful of screwdrivers and playing a good game of keno, plan a reasonably inexpensive trip to Las Vegas. If only for the x-rated magic shows, it's worth the trip.
Copyright © 2000, The Oberlin Review.
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