It's time to start the return trip. The first stop will be Las Vegas. Land of dreams, valley of losses. It was once a lush valley but time and geologic changes gradually turned it into a small oasis surrounded by desert. Las Vegas springs drew Native Americans before the Europeans showed up. Even then, they did not find it until the 1800s and then only by accident.
Now, it's the largest city in Nevada. It really didn't get its start until the construction of the Hoover Dam in 1931. That same year, gambling became legal in Nevada by statute. Between the dam construction, the expansion of the Union Pacific railroad, and the gambling, Las Vegas hardly noticed the Great Depression.
It holds both bad and good memories for me. Both of my marriages were there. Weddings and Vegas are a good combination. What is a bigger gamble than marriage? I guess you could say I have "broken even" on that score.
The first visit I made to Vegas was in February of 1970. It rained. Heavily. Average rainfall for that month is less than .5 inches. There was close to 2 inches on that weekend alone. The Strip was more a river than a road. I should have taken that as an omen. I was there to get married the first time. Those days, the gambling was still under the control of organized crime. Hotel rooms were cheap most of the time and food was always inexpensive. The mob wanted people to spend their money on gambling which could be skimmed easily. And people did their best to accomodate them.
The mob was eventually driven out and replaced by those with MBAs. It was the end of cheap rooms and cheaper food.
In the 60s and 70s, the casinos were king. Las Vegas Blvd (aka "The Strip") was a constant flow of traffic with easy turnouts to get into, and out of, the casinos and hotels. Gambling chips were a local currency with the casinos honoring each other's chips. That changed, mostly due to counterfeiting but also a desire restrict players' mobility. If you had a pocket full of chips and a difficult time locating a cashier then you would more likely stay where you are.
Now the casinos are set back from the Strip, the ease of walking to the next casino gone, the little casinos that were wedged into the little strip malls between the big resorts are gone. By design, I think. People tend to spend all their time at the hotel/casino they booked. Just too much trouble to move around easily. It seems to work. I am told the casinos are hurting in this economy but I am not so sure. Lots of people here, lots of traffic, lots of people at the tables and the slots. Prices are high for food and drink. And people seem to be paying.
The ultimate indication of its fall from grace? Kato Kaelin is appearing on the Strip.
I liked Vegas when I was young, I liked to play Blackjack and Craps. I liked to try the little casinos and the hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Those are mostly gone now, even off the Strip. It's changed. It's not as much fun. I look forward to starting my journey back to my little town of Sebring.
A Night Unremembered
2 years ago