The Strip

 

If there is a quiet space, they will pipe in music to fill it.  Where the pipes don’t reach, the street performers swarm, busking for dollars (or $5.00 if you want to take your picture with them).  The smell is unmistakable: a combination of cigarette smoke, booze, competing cherry and vanilla air fresheners, salted foods, body odor, perfumes, and waffle cones.

The people are dressed to the nines, barely dressed at all (sometimes both at once), slovenly and uncouth, or just tidy and unremarkable, and all intermixed at once.  You cannot drive anywhere, but then people don’t drive except to show off their rides, so you walk and walk up and down the bright streets, over the elevated walkways, and through the gaming floors with their miasma of smoke and hammering noise.

20-story portraits smile or stare down from glass facades, while others beckon from brightly lit billboards and marquees, while more sordid snap wallet cards and try to thrust them into your hands to lead you to lower establishments where the glamour is less polished and more visceral.  Vendors of Prada are within a minute’s walk of vendors of cheap trinkets, all housed in buildings that must have been uprooted from theme park imitation lands, where you can walk from caricatures of Egypt to renderings of New York brownstones, then on to a Roman forum, a rainstorm in Paris, and a gondolier boat ride through a canal, stopping in between to grab a cup of coffee, a milkshake, or an ice cream cone.

The Las Vegas Strip, the cluster of casinos running north from the airport on the south side of the city, is a strange place.  When I returned home from it last night I found the midwestern quiet unnerving after a week of solid noise and hotel living.  The locals told me again and again that they avoid The Strip themselves.  The food and drink, even when of decent quality, are massively overpriced ($8.00 for a beer?).  The strip shops carry a fantasy of goods and clothes, while the many other casinos in town are quieter and nicer.

And yet, while I would not choose this place as a vacation destination, I can see why so many choose it as a convention venue.  I was just there for the ConExpo, a massive trade show for the construction equipment industry only held every 3 years.  The show ran for 8 hours per day, over  5 entire days, with exhibitors such as my own company having to get there at least a day in advance for setup.

That sort of work it taxing on the mind and body, dealing with long stretches of boredom between hectic waves of established customers, proverbial tire kickers, end users, competitors looking to snoop, and genuinely good leads.  When you are not working the booth, you are walking the endless acres of booths, exhibits, competitors, and vendors, glad-handing your current customers while trying to get leads on new ones.  This show was so massive it was impossible to walk it in just a single day.  When each day was through we would part ways, some to seek out past coworkers for drinks, some to just unwind over a dinner, some for other things.  I had my wife with me, and we would would wander the strip.

There are few places in the world, perhaps New York City, London, Paris, Tokyo, and the like where one has so very many options for things to do, yet in those cities the activities are spread widely and intermixed with businesses and homes.  Not so the Las Vegas Strip.  Where other cities are dilute, the Strip is concentrated into just a few miles.  Sure their Eiffel Tower is a phony, and their New York City Skyline is an amusement park caricature, but where else could you see both in such a short time?  And the fountains of the Bellagio, doing their dances every 15 minutes, are truly a marvel of both technology and art, while they attract a bevy of street performers and scantily costumed women who work to hold your eyes between the fountain displays.  You can go see a world-famous stand-up comic one night, then catch a major singer the next, and see acrobats on another.

Of course there are the racier acts too.  As a desk clerk told us, “it’s not a safe place for children.”  Some of the acrobatic performances are decidedly ribald, or even obscene, and nearly every casino has at least one nude dance revue at any given time.  And after dark the single man has strip-club cards, calling cards for private strippers, and numbers for brothels shoved at him constantly while walking the strip – such huskers leave the couples alone, but the cards litter the sidewalks like leaves of pulchritude.  Everywhere too is the urge to drink.  Any food or drink than can be served steeped in alcohol is available, and one could easily overindulge.

Las Vegas truly is Sin City, but it is also a dream of brighter possibilities if you choose carefully.  The locals may disdain the Strip, but in one way or another it is the Strip that feeds this city.  The locals are not even really locals, as one said to me.  They’ve all come from elsewhere, and may all return elsewhere if they have arrived to retire in the desert heat and low taxes.  Without the sin and vice, there is not much real industry in Vegas – what has arrived has done so because of the population base already there to support the casinos.  Las Vegas is an upstart and a fraud in many ways, but it is unique in what it does, and I “get it”.  I may not want to live there, but I understand why others do.  It was fitting that on our last night of wandering the strip, before the meetups with other Ricoteers that would follow, as we walked back to our own casino-hotel we stopped for one more fountain show at the Bellagio.  The fountains danced to Elvis singing Viva Las Vegas.

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  1. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    There’s weed in the air, too, & as smoke after fire, there’re racial stereotypes, too!

    • #1
  2. Knotwise the Poet Member
    Knotwise the Poet
    @KnotwisethePoet

    I’ve lived in Vegas (Henderson, technically) for a year and a half now, but still haven’t really explored the Strip at all beyond driving down it with my wife’s family when they visited.  I don’t gamble at all and am turned off by the whole “Sin City” aspect of it, but I hope one day to go with my wife to see some of the shows.

     

     

    • #2
  3. JLock Member
    JLock
    @CrazyHorse

    The locals in every city always tell you to stay away from the only thing you know about said city. The bigger the thing, the more incredible, disappointing, magnificent, perverted, and dangerous it is. And the strip in Vegas is the Mecca of all Gomorrahs. I’ve been there, perhaps, 30 times. The only places more disturbing in Vegas than on-strip are downtown. The old gangster spots still breathe down there, granted with an oxygen tank, but they can kill you just the same.

    Being that most of the many times I’ve been there was as a roadie — I can’t tell those stories here. But make sure you avoid or visit, depending on your moral turpitude, The Double-Down. Its, uhm, quite a place.

    Great read, Skip.

    • #3
  4. Jason Rudert Member
    Jason Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    I spent the three days traveling around by bus. The system works well, is relatively clean–not Salt Lake City clean–and the abundance of tourists over ranting scruffy people makes it pleasant. $20.00 for a three-day pass is a bargain, though The Deuce, which runs up and down The Strip, is hindered by the heavy traffic. Nice to duck into when your feet are tired.

    There is always that Boulevard of Broken Dreams feel to it all, especially the mix of renovated and abandoned lots around Downtown. Manicured landscaped strips of palm trees–with a family hiding among them, just waking up as you’re making your way up to The Thunderbird. Clusters of people sleeping rough behind the bus stops in the cool night air. It’s bizarre seeing this mixed in with this whole system that’s sooo hospitable to you, provided you’re able to participate in the one thing that keeps it all going: literally throwing money away.

    The Convention Center gets a lot of business because even though it’s a hideous racket of its own, it’s a less-hideous racket than what you go through in, especially, Chicago.

    I liked the racial mix there. Mostly when you see black people here, they seem like they maybe just got trapped somehow. But in Vegas you encounter large numbers of African Americans who just seem like Normal Americans. That could all be fake, too, but still I found it kind of encouraging.

    • #4
  5. Ray Harvey Member
    Ray Harvey
    @RayHarvey

    I used to live in Las Vegas. I love Las Vegas. I love the Strip. I believe in it. In many ways, I think it represents America at her finest.

    And I think your article captures that.

    • #5
  6. skipsul Member
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Jason Rudert (View Comment):
    The Convention Center gets a lot of business because even though it’s a hideous racket of its own, it’s a less-hideous racket than what you go through in, especially, Chicago.

    No one does Chicago trade shows or St Louis shows in my business anymore.  The corruption and graft are terrible beyond words, the lodging is extortionary and the people running it all are arrogant monsters.  So it is all Vegas, or Indy, or Louisville.  Accomodation, transportation, and friendliness.

    • #6
  7. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    There used to be a fair amount of avionics work in the vicinity — not so much anymore.

    The rest doesn’t sound like it has changed much since I was there last, though I don’t remember there being that many street performers.

    • #7
  8. Addiction Is A Choice Member
    Addiction Is A Choice
    @AddictionIsAChoice

    I was visiting a friend in Chicago and said, “It sure is nice being in a real city!” She said, “Las Vegas is a real city.” I said, “Ummmm…No…it’s not.”

    Great post, skip! Leave it to a Mid-Westerner to capture our desert “oasis!”

    And meeting fellow Ricochetti never disappoints!

     

    • #8
  9. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    I love the Bellagio fountain. My avatar is from the glass flower sculpture in the lobby.

    I saw three shows, drove the strip in a convertible, visited Hoover Dam, and flew to the Grand Canyon. Best restaurant meal I ever had was at the steak house in Steve Wynn’s hotel.

    It was a great trip to Las Vegas, but I’d chose a week-long family reunion at the beach or mountains over Vegas any day.

    • #9
  10. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    I think of Las Vegas as a vacation destination for teachers from Indiana. Wayne Newton Show and baked potato included.

    • #10
  11. skipsul Member
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    I think of Las Vegas as a vacation for teachers from Indiana, Wayne Newton Show and baked potato included.

    • #11
  12. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Great photos, skipsul

    • #12
  13. skipsul Member
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    Great photos, skipsul

    Thanks!  Or rather, danke schön!

    • #13
  14. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    skipsul (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    I think of Las Vegas as a vacation for teachers from Indiana, Wayne Newton Show and baked potato included.

    Striking resemblance to KD Lang.

    • #14
  15. skipsul Member
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    BTW – These photos were shot on an Iphone 6s, but not using the built in camera app.  I highly highly recommend Camera+ as it allows for better shutter bursts, lets you leave your flash continuously on for direct illumination instead of the gimpy flash mode, it doesn’t hesitate while the auto focus dithers, and gives you extremely fine control of your exposure, your point of focus, and your light-sample point for setting your exposure.  Best $6.00 I ever spent on an IOS app.

     

    • #15
  16. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    skipsul (View Comment):
    BTW – These photos were shot on an Iphone 6s, but not using the built in camera app. I highly highly recommend Camera+ as it allows for better shutter bursts, lets you leave your flash continuously on for direct illumination instead of the gimpy flash mode, it doesn’t hesitate while the auto focus dithers, and gives you extremely fine control of your exposure, your point of focus, and your light-sample point for setting your exposure. Best $6.00 I ever spent on an IOS app.

    Wow I didn’t think these could be from a phone camera! Are they 300 dpi or 72?

    • #16
  17. skipsul Member
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    skipsul (View Comment):
    BTW – These photos were shot on an Iphone 6s, but not using the built in camera app. I highly highly recommend Camera+ as it allows for better shutter bursts, lets you leave your flash continuously on for direct illumination instead of the gimpy flash mode, it doesn’t hesitate while the auto focus dithers, and gives you extremely fine control of your exposure, your point of focus, and your light-sample point for setting your exposure. Best $6.00 I ever spent on an IOS app.

    Wow I didn’t think these could be from a phone camera! Are they 300 dpi or 72?

    Not sure on the DPI – the native camera resolution is 12Mp, but I exported these at a lower res for better upload here.

    • #17
  18. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    skipsul (View Comment):

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    skipsul (View Comment):
    BTW – These photos were shot on an Iphone 6s, but not using the built in camera app. I highly highly recommend Camera+ as it allows for better shutter bursts, lets you leave your flash continuously on for direct illumination instead of the gimpy flash mode, it doesn’t hesitate while the auto focus dithers, and gives you extremely fine control of your exposure, your point of focus, and your light-sample point for setting your exposure. Best $6.00 I ever spent on an IOS app.

    Wow I didn’t think these could be from a phone camera! Are they 300 dpi or 72?

    Not sure on the DPI – the native camera resolution is 12Mp, but I exported these at a lower res for better upload here.

    I ask because I have a sideline as a stock photographer. Photos for stock must be high-resolution. For a while now, the agencies have been accepting cell phone pictures, which totally turned the industry upside down I must say. I don’t get how they’re doing it because my IPhone pics, while the files are huge, are only 72 DPI (dots per inch, as opposed to the industry standard 300 DPI). DPI is separate from MP (megapixels). If you right-click on a photo and go to “Details,” it will give the DPI.

    • #18
  19. skipsul Member
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    I’ve checked, and you are correct:  just 72 DPI.

    • #19
  20. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    skipsul (View Comment):
    I’ve checked, and you are correct: just 72 DPI.

    Hmm maybe they’re taking them That way. I shall investigate. Thanks for checking

    • #20
  21. skipsul Member
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    skipsul (View Comment):
    I’ve checked, and you are correct: just 72 DPI.

    Hmm maybe they’re taking them That way. I shall investigate. Thanks for checking

    Given the prevalence of camera phones, I could see why.  Really opens the available sources while also allowing them to pay lower rates.

    • #21
  22. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    We went to Las Vegas a few times over the years. Early on, we gambled with $20 each on $1 tables; when that ran out, we stopped. And the shows–they could be really great and not too expensive. At one point Bellagio had a wonderful, small art museum. I believe it’s been closed. The fountains were neat. We don’t plan to go back.

    Now, since I prefer quiet and solitude, I’d go nuts. It seems so surreal there. Thanks for the perspective, skip. I really enjoyed it.

    • #22
  23. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Omg. Totally forgot my epic gambling escapade in Vegas.

    Not being a card shark, and no fan of slot machines, I planned to try my luck at the Roulette table. I ended up at a resort out near Hoover Dam using lucky number suggestions from my uncle and some friends.

    I told the table manager I was a novice. She did her best to help me, but the arrival of the pit boss suggested I was incompetent or unwilling to follow the rules. I don’t think he believed anyone could be so green.

    I  left forthwith, with $70, having started with $20.

    • #23
  24. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    I go every other year to a user group conference in Vegas with several people from work.  The conference runs Sunday-Thursday.

    Frequently one or more of us will have spouses come out for the weekend.  I learned early on to have my wife come out the opening weekend and not the closing weekend.  There’s just too much of an energy level mismatch otherwise.  When you first get there, you’re all “Vegas!  Whoo!”.  By the end of five days, you’re pretty much done with it.  To have your spouse then show up and be all “Vegas!  Whoo!”  just doesn’t work when you just want to go home.

    Even when we’ve gone out there for multiple days just on our own, we always make it a point to rent a car and get the heck out of town for a day in the middle  (Red Rock Canyon, Zion, Death Valley, wherever).  It’s just too hard to take more than a couple days of “Vegas!  Whoo!” without a break.

     

    • #24
  25. skipsul Member
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    I go every other year to a user group conference in Vegas with several people from work. The conference runs Sunday-Thursday.

    Frequently one or more of us will have spouses come out for the weekend. I learned early on to have my wife come out the opening weekend and not the closing weekend. There’s just too much of an energy level mismatch otherwise. When you first get there, you’re all “Vegas! Whoo!”. By the end of five days, you’re pretty much done with it. To have your spouse then show up and be all “Vegas! Whoo!” just doesn’t work when you just want to go home.

    Even when we’ve gone out there for multiple days just on our own, we always make it a point to rent a car and get the heck out of town for a day in the middle (Red Rock Canyon, Zion, Death Valley, wherever). It’s just too hard to take more than a couple days of “Vegas! Whoo!” without a break.

    I was glad to have my wife with me for the entire week.  For one, it was the longest we’d had just to ourselves since our eldest was born 16 years ago, for another I’d have been bored to tears on my own.  Plus, since we were having a Rico meetup that 2nd weekend (thanks to @therightnurse for setting it up!), I really wanted her to meet the people I’d come to know and love here over the years.

    • #25
  26. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    All that (see comment 24) having been said, Vegas can be a real blast when you’re winning.  I think it was three years ago I was out there and had a really good five days gambling.  By the last day I still had a couple hundred bucks more in my pocket than when I got to town – and I spent pretty much every minute I wasn’t in conference sessions or asleep in the casinos.  So I made a couple stoopid bets I never would make otherwise ($100 straight up on the roulette wheel – pays $3500 if it hits), figuring if I hit, I’m golden, if I lose, I’m still leaving town even.

    I lost, of course.

    I went out one evening to kill 30 minutes before a group dinner.  Stuck $20 in a video poker machine.   Five hours later I was still playing on that same $20.  I’d work it up to a hundred or two, then go into the death spiral.  On more than one occasion I got down under two bucks before working it back up again. (I have a witness that I’m not making this up).  Never did hit the Royal Flush, and by the last half-hour of the 5 hour session my brain was starting to get really wonky. My periphal vision started getting weird, and my decision making started slowing down noticeably.

    No, I don’t have a gambling problem.

     

    • #26
  27. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @BobW

    I was there a few years ago and an international bakery show was going on, and since some of the suppliers at the show are some we use, we went.  The convention hall is massive!  One exhibitor was demonstrating a bakery.  It was as large as a small house. They were putting flour in a hopper at one end and wrapped loafs of bread came out the other! A supplier of just about all the donut shops around was making his wares. and had large filled display cases where you could just pick what you wanted.  (You can tell what impressed me!) It too was too big to see all in one day, but fun.  The set up for some of the exhibitors must have been quite a job!

    • #27
  28. skipsul Member
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Bob W (View Comment):
    I was there a few years ago and an international bakery show was going on, and since some of the suppliers at the show are some we use, we went. The convention hall is massive! One exhibitor was demonstrating a bakery. It was as large as a small house. They were putting flour in a hopper at one end and wrapped loafs of bread came out the other! A supplier of just about all the donut shops around was making his wares. and had large filled display cases where you could just pick what you wanted. (You can tell what impressed me!) It too was too big to see all in one day, but fun. The set up for some of the exhibitors must have been quite a job!

    This show had a multi-story fracking tower, several portable concrete factories, and the sorts of massive cranes you only see in strip mining pits.  We logged our walking and averaged about 9 miles a day just at the show!

    • #28
  29. DocJay Member
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Nice review Skip.

    I am going to have fun in Vegas at the Freedom Fest booth with David Sussman, and Melissa the Marketer  in July.   Man it won’t be tolerable outside until 9 pm.

    I can’t wait til the Sin City Raiders are playing football there.

    • #29
  30. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    The biggest downside to working in Canadian politics: Our conventions are never held in Las Vegas.

    • #30

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