The Worst Place I Have Ever Been
A UK tourism bus side for Las Vegas reads; ‘You know why you come here.’ To which a million answers spring to mind;
‘Because it’s the last place my parole officer will ever think of looking for me.’
‘Because I’m a morbidly obese gambling addict.’
‘Because it’s the Pikey Monte Carlo.’
‘Because I sometimes black out and wake up covered in blood.’
‘Because women won’t talk to me unless I pay them.’
‘Because the police have a sample of my DNA.’
My partner was once in Vegas near their horrible stunted version of the Eiffel Tower (sorry, ‘The Eiffel Tower Experience’) when the gigantic woman next to him said, ‘I’m so glad I’ve seen this – I don’t need to go to Paris now.’ It is, by a very long way, the absolute worst place I’ve been in the world, and I’ve been to Tunisia.
Paradoxically, the streets behind the strip where the Vegas workers hang out between shifts are less offensive. They’re good people, sad, hard workers with tough employers, and doomed lives, and provide a respite from the grotesqueries of The Strip, with its catcalling drunks, its clockless glaring environments, its vast bland buffets and ‘colour & movement’ shows. The Strip is the only part of Vegas people ever see, but it’s actually located south of the city limits in the towns of Paradise and Winchester.
I saw Frank Sinatra’s final performance at Caesar’s Palace there, when it still had a little bit of an edge. I’d gone in the company of professional gamblers who got the kind of top-table service normal schlubs only dream about. Now Vegas is not just a holiday destination; it’s a top three spot in the US for business conventions, so basically a drunken knocking-shop for delegates willing to pay for ‘table service’ to sit at a one-armed bandit. Because the last thing may of the patrons can do is stand unaided with a bucket of coins.
Las Vegas was founded as a city in 1905, when 110 acres of land adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks were auctioned off as the downtown area. In 1931 Nevada legalized casino gambling and reduced residency requirements for divorce to six weeks. The influx of construction workers for the Hoover Dam helped the city avoid economic calamity, and the power was used to floodlight every inch of the place. The heat is unbearable there, so there noise of slot machines is accompanied by the buzz of air conditioners.
These days, Vegas appears to be a squeaky-clean family entertainment capital, but still has more than its fair share of shocking scandals. You won’t find them on Google, though, as the city’s PRs have wiped its pages of anything negative. Vegas is regularly voted as one of there worst places in the world. Its homeowners were ruined by the housing crash, which fell 64.5 per cent. It has the 13th highest incarceration rate in the US and a legendarily crooked nightclub industry designed to strip cash from morons.
So when you pass that bus side and think, ‘I’ve never been to Vegas – maybe I should check it out,’ keep walking.