Sunday, April 13, 2008

Way Out West

Just finished a week in Las Vegas.

I spent an entire week, and did not check e-mail once. I did not read really anything news wise on the internet that I normally read daily (the person we stayed with had no internet access). I didn't really watch the news at all only in bits and pieces (I did see enough to see that Barack Obama made a MAJOR misstep in Pennsylvania and left the door open for the Clintons).


The thing that strikes me about Las Vegas both this time and when I went two years ago is that Las Vegas seems entirely unsustainable as a community in the long term.

There are people on top of people (and the automobile traffic is horrendous creating a lot of haze), huge hotels, swimming pools in almost every yard (you can see it when you fly in - and oh, by the way, Phoenix the same thing (we had a short layover in Phoenix on the way back).

There are also a lot of homeless people wandering around (great place for it - good warm weather all year round). Of course they were not on the strip where all the tourists are (they are sent away from there - who wants to pay several hundred dollars to stay in a huge opulent hotel and meet homeless people when you walk out the door), but are all around the city on the fringes.

When you go to Hoover Dam and see how low the lake is after a seven year drought cycle, you understand that at some point there are going to be pretty serious water issues (and there are already water issues). This small water source called Lake Mead is the water source for several million people, and billions of dollars of agriculture over several western states. And there is not much to it, and it's getting smaller every year.

To top it all off, they are building several MORE mega-hotels on the strip. They are building these hotels 24 hours a day - we watched them working at 10:30 at night one night.

I had a great time, and there are a lot of neat things to see (and one of my favorite sights is the Conservatory in the Bellagio), but Las Vegas, at some point will be gone. All those people cannot continue to live there without something giving.

One other thing. People are always walking around like zombies on the strip day and night. One flight attendant I talked to said she HATES flying out of Vegas - people come out of there having not slept in days, consumed massive amounts of alcohol, are dehydrated and have usually lost a good sum of money (probably money they can in no way afford to spend - NOBODY wins in Las Vegas, especially with all the machines now being digital and electronic). In short, they are damned cranky.

It is a place that I think capsulizes most Americans desire for instant gratification and consumption. The amount of food eaten and wasted and the opulence of the hotels borders on the obscene.

I'm not moralizing or sermonizing or saying that people who go there are bad or anything, those are just my observations.

We took a side trip to the Grand Canyon (South Rim). Now, we didn't do any burro riding or white water rafting or flights over the canyon, or hiking. We went to it in a speeding car, spent a few hours there, and then went home in a speeding car. Even seen that way, it is something that every human being should see at least once in their lives. It is simply awe inspiring.

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