I am in Las Vegas for a software conference. I was last here in last 2013 for a basketball tournament.
While I enjoyed that trip, it was mostly because of my companionship and in spite of Las Vegas itself, not because of it. I was way too cool for Vegas, and I looked down my nose at it and my fellow tourists.
This time, for whatever reasons, I find that I "get" Vegas in a way I never did before, and it has also simply improved, cleaning-up it's act a little. Gone are the guys on the street handing out offensive porn flyers for sexual services, there's more than ever to do that doesn't involve gambling, and the architectural excess has gotten to the point where it is majestic as a fake. That is, these buildings and edifices are clearly fake, but oh what a fake!
Vegas, it will come as no revelation, is a fantasy setting. One can indulge in any number of fantasies; for a few hundred dollars I could pretend that a trim, athletic dancer is my horny girlfriend. I could pretend that free money comes out of a machine. I could easily convince myself that I'm having an experience something like an idealized stroll through Les Halles in Paris, or in the shadows of the Eiffel tower, or back in NYC, or the grand canal in Venice, or a fabulous plaza in Italy, etc, etc.
I could pretend that I am important enough to have a hotel staff at my beck and call, that I can go for sushi, Italian, prime steak or haute cuisine all within a short walk from where I make up my mind. There are many young women here wearing clothes that suggest they believe themselves to be highly sought-after objects of desire.
It's fantasy, and as such, actually fairly harmless. I don't know why I found it so objectionable before.
Perhaps because I am here this time NOT fantasizing myself. I'm working, I'm interested in what I am doing, and I don't have some idea in my head that I want to manifest here. I'm not coming here to fantasize, maybe it was my own failed fantasies before that made me dislike it so, maybe it just sucked more earlier, I really don't know, but somehow this is all no more distasteful to me now than a Halloween costume I'm not really into. I used to really hate Vegas, now I think it's kind of clever in some ways, and I see it's role in a regular person's life--as a place to have a little fantasy experience.
I was out this morning at 3:30am (because of the time difference with the east coast), everyone that was out had been up all night. They were stumbling around in a kind of friendly haze. A couple of young women all made up trying to walk in heels while tugging down on the hem of their way-too-short in micro-mini's yelled "Hey sexy!" at me across the casino floor and then scattered away in peals of laughter as I looked up with a "WTF?" expression on my face.
On another trip, I would have been offended by that, but instead I smiled to myself and hope they enjoyed shocking this old man as a way to pass the time as they stumbled back to their room. I was okay being objectified, because we're all a little part of everyone else's fantasy here.
So, congrats Vegas, I don't hate you like I used to.