Somewhere in the tumult of the walk through the Casino floor to get to the elevator to my room on my last day here, the thing that had been building all week became clear: I do not care for Las Vegas.
There is an argument that could be made that the gambling and the artifice and the appropriated culture and the top-down enforced unnatural 'classiness' -- all designed to separate tourists from money -- is somehow refreshing in its frankness. At least Las Vegas is honest about what it is, the argument would assert, and that's noble in its own way. But I won't be making that argument, because I think it's bullshit.
Las Vegas, has, since the mafia first moved in, been a city that has fed on -- feasted on -- hope and optimism. People looking to have a great time and being served substandard entertainment, 'top-quality' food at absurd prices, and of course the opportunity to win all of it back. Or you know, lose a bunch more.
This is not a hot take. This is the age-old argument against Las Vegas. That all the shine, and the celebrity chefs, and the occasional work of real beauty, and all the family-friendliness are a thin veneer over a city that turns its residents into mercenaries -- a culture of money over everything. There are exceptions to the rule I'm sure -- I even met a couple. But it is a rule -- I've seen enough to believe that.
Panic and desperation on gambler's faces. Pretty girls wearing bunny costumes and handing out flyers in the searing midday heat. Groups of men and women trying to convince themselves of the awesome time they must be having. And the staff of the hotels and casinos -- doing their jobs, diligently and joylessly.
Maybe I stayed too long -- that a weekend is all anyone should ever spend here. Maybe I'm bitter because I lost some money. Maybe the heat is getting to me. All of these things are possible.
Let me tell you what I believe, however. If you want great live entertainment, go to Toronto, or, even better, New York. If you want great cuisine, you have the same options. If you want to gamble, there are plenty of places close to home -- and the slot machines are mostly identical. If you build a trip around the Grand Canyon and the Valley of Fire and Hoover Dam you might find some value in that. But it's just not worth the flight if all you plan on seeing is Vegas. My advice: Don't bother.
Or do. I'm not your mother.
All I can tell you is this: I do not care for Las Vegas.
I'm heading home for a couple of weeks. I considered driving out west up the California coast but decided against it. I'm regretting that decision now. I could use a little more open water after days in the desert. Lake Ontario will have to do.