Saturday, May 7, 2011

Doing Vegas

Sometimes life is like a dream: from busting my butt at the clinic until 10pm finishing up paper work to waking up and finding myself in a plane that's landing at McCarran airport, it all seemed more than a little surreal.

Having thrown a few items into a carry-on by midnight, I closed my eyes for a 4-hour rest .. a 4:30am flat tire on route to the airport meant scrambling to reach my departure gate on time. Meeting my flight and connection with adrenaline intact seemed to be an appropriate way to land in Vegas.

I can't tell you much about my experience there - after all, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas but, instead of my usual rambling research, let's talk a bit about Vegas culture. Vegas is blatantly excessive: from the 80 ounce flasks of tequila-rich margaritas to the full-sized roller coasters that line the strip. From breast enhancement surgeries that have inevitably led many women to require weekly chiropractic adjustments to male dancers that have abs so defined that you would swear they were painted on, Vegas is a place where people live out fantasies, where people can pretend to be something they aren't in real life and where this is completely acceptable.

After a day of exploring, I began to question the evolution of Vegas: how did this desert town become a haven of debauchery?

Its gone something like this: Vegas has always been a city for nomads, beginning with Paleo-Indians who would often use the valley as a rest stop. In 1829, Vegas was officially "discovered" by a European scout named Rafael Rivera, who came upon the valley and praised its abundance, from the lush wild grasses to the plentiful water supply. In the late 1800's, minerals including precious metals were discovered in Las Vegas which led to the beginning of the mining industry and perhaps the perpetual association between Vegas and anything glitter! The completion of the railway sealed Vegas' fate: Vegas became a railway town between Salt Lake City and Southern California. Soon, Vegas was known to provide more than just potable water to passers through: divorce laws were liberalized in the state of Nevada making "quickie" divorces (after 6 weeks of residency) available. Men waiting on these divorces stayed at "dude" ranches which offered wonderful opportunities for (then) illegal gambling and premature romantic rebounds. The construction of the Hoover Damn brought even more money into Vegas which supported the development of debauchery .. however real debauchery didn't actually start until after the second world war. In 1945, Vegas became the largest tourism and entertainment employer in the US however, it wasn't until 1957 that Vegas had its first topless showgirls show.

Fast forward to 2011: Vegas remains the place where you can get married and divorced in a matter of hours, where you really can find your wildest fantasies and where you can start out a rogue and leave a millionaire (or vice-versa).

So why exactly was I there? Well my friends, some things in life must remain a mystery!

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