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Thursday, September 19, 2013
The Promise of Las Vegas
Las Vegas is the quintessential American city. It is also unlike any city in America. It is a unique place. A desert city encompassed by hotels and casinos, it is an adult fantasy land where dreams are corner stone if it existence. The city is much more that it appears. Beneath the glitz, this Nevada play pen says more about the United States than any other U.S. city dare. Unabashed and unashamed, the city makes bold promises to those who venture towards the sparkling palace of lights.
Back in a time when immigration was not a hot button issue, the U.S. made a bold promised to those who ventured here. “Give me your tired and huddle masses” was an American mantra that reached out to anyone looking for a better way to come over and taste the sweet flavor of freedom. Here on these shores, immigrants were promised a country where happiness was a destination not a day dream. America made great promises. For those departing inequity and limited prospects, The United States was a sanctuary that greeted with open arms. How things have changed. But how they remain the same. America still promises a wonderland where anyone with drive and ambition can rise up from poverty to wealth.
Big promises are magnates that draw anything near. Big promises inspire even larger expectations. The American Dream is one of those promises.
Vegas makes promises too. It makes big promises. Cross the arid sand and you will find wealth and a good time guilt free. Vegas promises a wonderland that brings the world to those who never venture beyond the U.S. boarder. Come to Vegas and find happiness.
The kind of happiness Vegas promises is something of a distortion of the American Dream. It promises the pursuit of happiness minus the hard work. Simply bring your coins and you too are granted easy access to material wealth. Join the world of spinning lights and you can be lucky enough to hit the jackpot.
Where the American dream appeals to positive ends, happiness, Vegas promises more. In no uncertain terms Vegas is the city where whatever happens here stays here. Indulge yourself in carnal pleasures and no one need know back home need know what your deepest sexual desires are. Along with the promise of cash without labor, sex without guilt is also offered. There is even the promise of romance. Look no further at the number of quickie marriages you can have here and the city becomes one big promissory note.
The underbelly of America finds expression in Vegas. The same country that prides itself on “home spun” values and the compass of morality sees no difficulty in consuming sexually charged material. The show girls of Vegas, the strip clubs, Vegas is a city of carnal distractions and glitzy diversions. The world of sexual desire is promised fulfillment.
Vegas also promises the world. Granted it is highly Americanized, the stereotypical wonders of Europe are here. Gondolas and Gucci sit side by side. There is even a mock Eiffel tower. As a homage to the BIG APPLE, Vegas provides its own little New York.
Blending Europe with the States, Vegas achieves such a lack of the authentic that it achieves an identity all its own by borrowing. It is the very fakeness of Vegas that makes it so real. Like a place out of time and space, there is such a disconnect between reality that the whole place feels disturbingly out of place. It is the surrealness and kitsch mixed together than make the city the most superficial city in the world and the most fascinating at the same time.
Again that which is unreal becomes real in Vegas. It promises so much and has no problem not delivering the goods. After the casinos are hit, the clubs visited and the taste of alcohol is consumed, the whole journey becomes a high calorie desert. It will not nurture the soul, but it certainly give the senses enough eye candy not to care.
What makes Vegas so distinctively American is that it embodies so much of what Americans want. Instant material gratification, sexual desire satiated and all of Europe without having to bother leaving these shores or learning a foreign language. the entire world is here, but in American terms.
Tear beneath the surface and Vegas is a much deeper than it seems. Behind the brash promises and monuments to comfort and pleasure, there is a certain desperation to a place that professes to offer a pay day.
Las Vegas is a world of its own, not just a city in the sands. It is also the very flip side of the American Dream given free expression.