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Photo by stuckincustoms

Driving across the long, barren stretches of highway through the Mojave Desert, I get this bittersweet feeling of coming home after a long time of being away. I see the light rising up—the hellish illuminations of Las Vegas—a city cradled by mountains on all sides; it looks like a smoldering fire pit, or the mouth of a volcano ready to blow itself wide open.

As I’ve traveled outside of my hometown, I’ve encountered numerous people who find it hard to believe that a man could actually hail from Las Vegas. More than once I’ve been asked if I live in a casino. No, no. There are even houses and apartments and trailer parks.

“Wow,” they will say, “must be a great place to live,” and I’m compelled to laugh in their faces. It may be okay for a tourist on holiday, but as far as I’m concerned it’s a glamorized cesspit, and if you don’t lose your ass gambling, then the dry desert heat will get it.

Photo by lostamerica

There are two types of gamblers in Las Vegas: those that gamble because they think they can beat the house, and those that gamble for sport, because to them gambling is everything and the money means nothing. If they won Megabucks they would be back in the casino the next day to start giving it back in installments.

I’ve seen my grandfather throw his social security money away every month for the last decade of his life. When he died his wife discovered winning tickets for over twenty grand stashed away in his dresser. She never saw a dime of it because in theory the money had never changed hands.

Photo by gsgeorge

The casinos seem to draw any culture and vitality from the rest of the city. There have been a few attempts at creating an art district but setting up art galleries in dangerous areas only invites despicable hipsters in, and it doesn’t clean up the trash. It only creates more.

Most of the local poets and writers hang around the bars and cafés near the university, and because of the lack of any scene, it’s easy to sift through the bullshitters, the pretentious, the sycophants, the pseudo-intellectuals, and so on. It’s cool to be an artist in San Francisco, but if you’re an artist in Las Vegas it’s usually because you want to be.

Photo by geoperdis

There are plenty of good bars by the university, where it’s easy to avoid any insufferable tourist crowds—obnoxious frat boys and Barbie look-alikes are scarce, because they like to be a part of the show, and that takes place on The Strip. As for the downtown scene, it is swarming with hipsters, and like The Strip it is overcrowded and overpriced.

I’ve found my local dens, and that’s where I spend my nights when I’m back home. I don’t know what keeps dragging me back to the neon landfill -usually women, unfinished romances, that sort of thing. It’s never long before I’m back sitting at the bar of one of my old haunts, considering another way out.



About The Author

Walker Rose

Walker has been on the lam for the past few years, fleeing a life sentence in purgatory. He gets around any way that he can, making quick money, and protecting his writing machine with his life.

  • thebigkislowski

    It’s great to see someone else from Las Vegas! I moved here four years ago from New York and when I told all my friends, their immediate reactions were “do they even have houses there?”

  • nat

    i love it.

  • Carlo

    I enjoyed that read. I went to Vegas for a friend’s stag (or, bachelor party as you Americans know it) – it was a weekend of debauchery of course. It’s such an overstimulating place, I don’t think I could stand more than the 4 days we were there…my head would explode.

    Saying that, I plan on visiting again, this time with my wife, so it will be a completely difference experience. What sticks the most in my memory from there are the touts flicking their pamphlets as you walk by, the clicking sound of the glossy paper.

  • loretta

    A very good piece of work.
    A very truthful piece of work.

    Youur mother would be proud, of your thoughts and words and how they were put, it gives a totally different perspective on Las Vegas that most people have, those who have visited and those who only dream. I am sure this will put a new perspective on the thoughts of the people that have visited the city and have read this.
    Have you ever thought of trying the PDX Oregon area, I here they have a love for the arts.

  • loretta

    I look forward to your next piece of work.

  • Tim Patterson

    Loved this post. I think some Las Vegas folks would get pretty pissed at your description, though – I’ve visited people who live on the outskirts and enjoy mountain biking and the dry air – it’s not all soul-sucking.

  • Jean Norman

    For a youngster, your cynicism is impressive. Vegas can suck souls, so you have to protect yours. But it can also be fun for the careful.

  • Daniela

    Hate Las Vegas. I can’t stand living here because there is no arts scene but I’m forced to stay because my fiance is in the Tournament of Kings at Excalibur and I’m in Cirque de Soliel. I can’t wait to get out of here.

    You painted a very accurate portrait of the city. I’d love to know where you hang out because I’m so sick of all the frat boys and barbies here. ugh. Tourists.

    Wonderful article.

    • Carlo Alcos

      I love cirque du soleil. I saw Alegria in Rome and Dralion in Sydney. My wife and I plan on going to Vegas early next year and will probably take in the show there. How bout some free tix? :) Or at least a backstage tour…

      • Daniela

        Oh man, I’d love to but I’m taking some gigs over in Asia at the beginning of next year. Hopefully getting out of here and moving back to Austin sometime after Burning Man too. I feel bad. Wish I could help!

        • Carlo

          Haha, don’t feel bad! Was a tongue-in-cheek comment…of course, I wouldn’t have turned down any offers :)

          Good luck!

  • Shreya

    This is beautiful.

  • Eva

    Huh, funny you mention that “do you live in a casino?” conversation! The first time I ever met someone from Vegas, I was so surprised, all that came out of my mouth was: “People live there?”

    (However, my follow-up wasn’t “Must be fun!” It was “Must be weird…”)

  • john northern

    Excellent article. I like your style of writing. Perhaps you could write a story for my website. I’m always looking for authors who can write something interesting.

  • Salt Lake Photographer, Amanda

    Could you give us some suggestions of local places to eat / dive bars ect. that you DO ENJOY ? I think it’s normal to not be thrilled with your home area , but do you have any gems or favorite places that you like?

  • Refugia Flatt

    I agree this is a mighty thoughtfully written article, thanks for sharing this!

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