Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Soul of Sin City

Las Vegas is an elusive place. A quick glance will tell you that it's all glitz and glamour. Having little experience with Las Vegas myself (I spent nine hours there two summers ago on my drive from California to Connecticut and came out on top with a note worthy $9.00 worth of winnings), that was how I saw Las Vegas for a long time. It's only now, after my second trip to the city, that I understand that Las Vegas has a darker side.

The RTN team's mission in Las Vegas was to book a few interesting interviews and to take in the city's colorful nightlife. We did end up with a few interesting interviews (actually, they were pretty incredible) and we did enjoy the nightlife until hours of the night that no one should be awake for, but we also did something we didn't expect - we went away from the main strip during the day. I know that going outside of the main Las Vegas strip doesn't sound like something worth writing about, but the experience was actually very eye opening. Life outside of the strip seemed oddly sad. In a city that millions of people visit a year, one might expect there to be more to Vegas than just one main artery of traffic, but life outside of the strip was pretty empty and sad.

This trip to Vegas also allowed me to do something that I didn't do on my last trip - talk to locals. The first was a harmonica player named James. He moved to Las Vegas a year and a half ago to accept a job promoting gambling at the Bellogio. When the job market crashed, he was left without a job with a family to support. His background is in photojournalism and he does some freelance work in the area whenever he can, but his main stream of income comes from playing harmonica on the Las Vegas strip. He moved from New York to Las Vegas and told Ray (a fellow Roadie) and I that he can't wait to go back to the east coast. He told us that the drug trade in Las Vegas is running rampant and that the city's mayor is corrupt. He also said that Las Vegas is a "soul-less city" that just cares about making money. What a different perspective of Vegas.

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