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Las Vegas Today
  Las Vegas Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton

lasvegasstrip.jpg . . .My first trip to Las Vegas was by car about 25 years ago. We were coming from Los Angeles. It was dark and for the longest time there was nothing, just eerie shadows in the desert moonlight. Then a glow started to appear and it spread and spread until the entire horizon lit up. If I close my eyes I can still see it; it was such an unusually image, this artificial oasis in the middle of the wilderness.

A few years later, we arrived from a different direction and the vision was completely different. The world was going through a power shortage and the garish neon lights that once drew visitors like flies to a flame were no longer predominated. Las Vegas lost some of its charm.

But not for long.

Today, Las Vegas is big and getting bigger. One of the fastest growing cities in North America (over 30, 000 new arrivals each month), new businesses, new subdivisions, new casinos and new roads seem constantly under development. Unemployment is practically non-existent and the average worker can earn nearly $75,000 in a year.

Las Vegas looks like it was build by Disney World engineers, with each casino its own theme park. New York skyscrapers, the Taj Mahal, hotels the size of small towns the city's skyline has to be the most creative in the world. I think if some creature from space landed on the roof of one of the casinos, it would believe we are a united community living peaceably with such a strange assortment of neighbors. Nothing matches in Las Vegas, but the fact that most buildings are covered in lights.

Sophistication rises to new heights in Las Vegas, particularly in the casinos. Where else can heels look so swanky with blue jeans, and a fur coat cover a tee-shirt and shorts? Cigarette holders don't look out of place, either, nor do rhinestones mixed with diamonds. Or ratty runners and jogging suits. Actually, the more eccentric you are, the more you fit in. Noone is paying attention, as long as you have stacks of money to play with, you are a welcome guest.

Outdoors the look is quite different, with entire families filling the streets. Kids are everywhere, skirting the casinos, dining in the buffets and milling about the lobbies. Wide-eyed and dressed in designer outfits, they are completely dazzled by the light shows, the carnival rides and the constant action. On our first visit, it seemed we were the only ones with children. And surely, other then the midway and a circus act in Circus Circus casino, back then, there was very little for them to do. Today, however, children are entertained visually and physically, with rides, electronic games and stunt performances.

Grownups have been entertained in Las Vegas right from day one. And speaking from personal experience, the live stage performances are worth the big bucks. When we sat down in the theater to watch Circus Soliel I was pretty blase. I had been to many live performances, including a few in Paris, London and New York. Well, my eyes never left the performers, from the moment they appeared (which wasn't always on the stage), to the moment the curtain came down. The choreography is spell-binding, the costumes intriguing, the talent unimaginable.

It was daylight when we approached Las Vegas last February. We were heading north from Mexico and while still miles from the city's center, development was already visible, growing gradually. The dramatic look of a sparkling oasis in an empty wilderness is no longer there. Las Vegas is now more like a hub with spokes heading in every directions. What a difference a quarter century makes.

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