This week Dancing with Fireflies is on the road again. We are taking a break from the snow and ice and warming up in the sun. I have always loved spending time out in the desert, Las Vegas was a regular get-away when I was a kid. This week I come out here again to see family and enjoy getting my creative juices flowing with new scenery and climate.
I used to come and visit my Dad when I was little when he worked in the hotels. I loved coming and seeing all of the lights and the sparkle of the chandeliers in the Stardust hotel. Back then, Vegas was a little different. It had a sense of pride that has been lost in the last decade.
Visiting now that my Dad has passed is harder and filled with memories of my childhood.
I feel like when the old owners of the hotels (Usually Mob bosses) ran the strip they had a code of conduct that wasn’t disrespected. You got dressed up in your fancy dresses and suits to dine in the hotels, you would never see the skimpy crotch bearing outfits the women are wearing now outside of the burlesque shows.
Even the Vegas showgirls had an air of class and respect as they donned their head-dresses and sequined bras. Much of that pizzazz has been replaced by odd circus themed shows. The push and shove of drunken pedestrians trying to get in to see the freakish street-performers who have caused a ruckus dressed up like homeless Bert and Ernie is obnoxious. The beautiful show girls are now body painted young girls standing next to strangers as they smudge their painted breasts posting for photos at a cost of a dollar tip per photo.
I miss walking down the street and looking at the beautiful gardens and landscaping of the hotels, the fountains of crystal clear waters that always seemed refreshing in the summer heat. Now the walkways are so crowded that you must keep moving to avoid being splashed with gallon sized margaritas and the beautiful gardens no longer sweetly scent the air but make you gasp with the stench of urine and vomit.
In spite of rest of the country making efforts to clean up and address unemployment and poverty, Las Vegas remains Unbreakable as the city of extremes and excess. There are pockets of beauty hidden here and there. If you get up early and walk through some of the hotels like the Venetian around 6am you can find one of the city’s sanctuaries before the hordes drag themselves out of their beds. In spite of the demand for cheap booze and everyone believing that they are a high roller, The Venetian, The Wynn, and some of older hotels have navigated away from the tasteless décor and shunned the stingy passerby.
Still by mid-day those places are packed tight with those who want to pretend to afford the extravagance. Sadly Vegas also claims to have over 1500 homeless shelters. There are over 9,430 homeless individuals stay in Las Vegas. It is the 12th largest homelessness population but only 30th most populous in the United States. An estimated 1,430 Nevada veterans were homeless last year. Those are just the people reporting to be homeless and living on the streets. This doesn’t count the high number of people in housing that are government assisted housing, or in housing that costs more than half of their monthly income and threatening to leave them homeless.
Yet Las Vegas hums with the sound of construction of yet another hotel casino, truckloads of trash that are being hauled out hourly, and the flutter of nude women photo-shopped onto business card size flyers drift on the breeze, Las Vegas will not be broken by the fall of our economy, there will always be someone willing to chance their paycheck in the hopes they might win big.
Source: National Alliance to End Homelessness/Homelessness Research Institute