My Beef With Vegas

My Beef With Vegas

Why Sin City needs to get its groove back
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I am descended from a long line of gamblers, with games of chance serving as a strong multigenerational bond. In my family, learning poker and its many variations is a rite of passage, the threshold to maturity, and when finally able to confidently bet, bluff, and swear in Spanglish, you're allowed to sit with the grown folks while they drink beer and puff away on Marlboro Lights. My Friday nights as a child were spent bonding with my aunts and uncles at the dog track, the bingo hall, or the home of whoever was hosting that week's poker game. And between the ages of 10 and 18, I visited Las Vegas 12 times.

These visits consisted of exactly what you'd expect them to; aimless wandering, light shopping, heavy eating, the occasional show, everything but the true Vegas experience. I looked forward to the day when I too would feel the unforgiving pain of a hangover, the sense of disappointment following a loss on the casino floor. I wanted to mingle with bitter retirees and drunken bachelorettes, slovenly, denim-clad tourists and experienced card sharks.

Having recently turned 21, in keeping with family tradition, I made my pilgrimage to Sin City. I had high expectations after more than a decade of anticipation and three main goals for #SpringBreak16:

1. Get drunk

2. Get tan

3. Get rich.

After truly experiencing Las Vegas from a more mature perspective, unwinding with a well-deserved week of complimentary liquor, blackjack, and surprisingly cool weather, I can now say with authority that Las Vegas is hell on earth. This claim doesn't stem from any losses of lucre or dignity (I even won a sizable chunk of change), but the fact that Vegas is an amalgamation of every awful quality found in today's society. And this isn't some Bible Belt rallying cry for family values, this is a public attack on Las Vegas for veering away from its resplendent past in a charmless, modern direction.

I loathe nothing more in this world than pretension. I deplore pomp and relish in the mockery of anything or anybody employing unnecessary, and oftentimes undeserved, airs and graces. Las Vegas, at least the new Las Vegas, is founded on this concept. The early days of Las Vegas, the era of mafiosos and the Rat Pack, was a genuinely, faultlessly elegant time. While it was still a tawdry, Americanized reproduction of Monte Carlo, Las Vegas had a chicness to it that money couldn't buy and all the flashing lights on The Strip couldn't diminish. It was the age of tuxedos and taste, of husky-voiced, Peggy Lee-esque lounge singers crooning in smoke-filled rooms, of stars such as Bing Crosby and Marlene Dietrich selling out shows each night for record-breaking, six-figure weekly salaries.


The Rat Pack and La Dietrich: class defined


Then the 1960s barrelled in, unapologetically throwing tastefulness to the wind and resulting in my personal favorite incarnation of Vegas. An overweight Elvis, packed into a rhinestone-studded jumpsuit, made his infamous comeback, Circus Circus, that monstrosity of a hotel/casino with an unbelievably tacky theme, opened, and women like Phyllis Diller, Charo, and Lola Falana, who each represented the dubious (if not nonexistent) taste levels of the '60s and '70s, were regular headliners. This Las Vegas was a loud, kitschy facsimile of its halcyon days. There was a wink-wink nudge-nudge quality to the whole affair, an overpriced joke that everyone was in on; Vegas knew it was something special, but its ever-increasing, verging-on-ludicrous glitz and ostentation made it laughably common. The town may have been an affront to decency, but it was a damn entertaining one all wrapped up in a flashy package.


Today's Las Vegas, however, is a bloated mammon staggering under the weight of its own legacy. The entire town has become a commercialized behemoth with no sense of mystery; a place where women who were beautiful four facelifts ago and are now entering Frankenstein territory hunt in packs for vaguely-European gigolos in pants that look painted on. Undulating crowds sweep through, past, around one another like some fleshy tempest. There is no underlying joke or thrill, nothing concealed that slowly reveals itself. Resting on the laurels of its infamy, Las Vegas prefers to club you over the head rather than, even for a moment, conceal anything from you; if the old Vegas was a fan dancer or showgirl, the new Vegas is a desperate prostitute willing to haggle.

As I looked on in horror at people stumbling in circles or spanking each other by the pool, I realized that Vegas, throughout its 70+ year history, has served as a visible representation (albeit a highly exaggerated one) of the state of America, of national tastes and mores, and that my dissatisfaction wasn't limited to Vegas, but to today's widespread, national, even international styles and sensibilities.

Vulgarity and garishness, at one point in recent history, retained a certain level of wit, and to take it all too seriously was to completely miss the point. Circus Circus, the sprawling hotel/casino opened in 1968, is barely surviving proof of that. A casino with a carnival theme would never be built in today's Las Vegas, in today's America, and its tragic state of decay, grimy attractions, and (to put it kindly) eclectic clientele only serve as a testament to the vast shift in public preference. Our modern society doesn't want high camp or riotous lowbrow fun, it wants to feel some semblance of luxury, of the Bellagio or the Aria or the Palazzo. With every passing day, Circus Circus, and the rich history it represents, fades further into obscurity and slides deeper into decline.

There is no instant cure to Vegas, or, to a larger extent, America. I'm not advocating for a return to the exact style of the 60s or 70s, but rather learning to laugh at ourselves and one another again and stop taking everything so seriously. It would require a national overnight realization that stereotypical ideas of elegance and style are passé, that sometimes we need a little mockery in our lives, a glimpse behind the facade of good taste and societal standards, to put things into perspective. America, Vegas, It's perfectly alright to strive for greatness, but it's best to have a little fun while you do it.

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3 Reasons Why Step Dads Are Super Dads

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I often hear a lot of people complaining about their step-parents and wondering why they think that they have any authority over them. Although I know that everyone has different situations, I will be the first to admit that I am beyond blessed to have a step dad. Yep, I said it. My life wouldn't be the same that it is not without him in it. Let me tell you why I think step dads are the greatest things since sliced bread.

1. They will do anything for you, literally.

My stepdad has done any and every thing for me. From when I was little until now. He was and still is my go-to. If I was hungry, he would get me food. If something was broken, he would fix it. If I wanted something, he would normally always find a way to get it. He didn't spoil me (just sometimes), but he would make sure that I was always taken care of.

SEE ALSO: The Thank You That Step-Parents Deserve

2. Life lessons.

Yup, the tough one. My stepdad has taught me things that I would have never figured out on my own. He has stood beside me through every mistake. He has been there to pick me up when I am down. My stepdad is like the book of knowledge: crazy hormonal teenage edition. Boy problems? He would probably make me feel better. He just always seemed to know what to say. I think that the most important lesson that I have learned from my stepdad is: to never give up. My stepdad has been through three cycles of leukemia. He is now in remission, yay!! But, I never heard him complain. I never heard him worry and I never saw him feeling sorry for himself. Through you, I found strength.

3. He loved me as his own.

The big one, the one that may seem impossible to some step parents. My stepdad is not actually my stepdad, but rather my dad. I will never have enough words to explain how grateful I am for this man, which is why I am attempting to write this right now. It takes a special kind of human to love another as if they are their own. There had never been times where I didn't think that my dad wouldn't be there for me. It was like I always knew he would be. He introduces me as his daughter, and he is my dad. I wouldn't have it any other way. You were able to show me what family is.

So, dad... thanks. Thanks for being you. Thanks for being awesome. Thanks for being strong. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for loving my mom. Thanks for giving me a wonderful little sister. Thanks for being someone that I can count on. Thanks for being my dad.

I love you!

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Doing Things On Your Own Should Be Celebrated, Not Pitied

Our time with ourselves should be just as treasured as our time with other people.

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Despite living in an incredibly individualistic society, it is rare to hear of occasions in which people go to restaurants, sight-see, or head out to a bar… alone.

Humans are naturally sociable creatures. We thrive in groups, and we often reach out to each other in the hopes of making long-lasting connections. This is great! People need people, and completely isolating yourself from everyone can have negative consequences on your mental health.

However, this also means that we tend to latch onto one another in social situations. I'm sure many people would be confused at the thought of going to a bar alone without the prospect of meeting up with friends—but why?

Why is it that people need to be seen in public with other people? Is it because socializing gives us a sense of purpose in being out at all? Is there something inherently shameful about being seen alone?

There certainly shouldn't be.

So much good can come out of spending time in your own company. As much as we love our friends and family, sometimes we need our alone time, and this doesn't always mean that we stay in and binge-watch a new Netflix series. (Although many times it does, and that's totally cool too.)

Sometimes needing our privacy means heading out to get a cup of coffee and sitting in a cafe for hours without waiting for anyone. Sometimes it means visiting that museum you've never been to and soaking up all the art at your own pace. Sometimes it means that you need a break to sit with your thoughts.

So why do we feel such immense pity whenever we see someone standing alone?

If we see someone at the movie theater with their bag of popcorn and no clear sign of expecting anyone, why do we assume that means the person is a loner?

Maybe that person just wanted to enjoy a film they've waited years for, and maybe they couldn't watch it to its fullest extent with their best friend asking questions about it all the time. Maybe they had a rough week and want to sit with their popcorn—no questions asked.

Regardless of the reason, we should not be pitying anyone who stands apart from the crowd in a public space. Rather, we should remember that our time with ourselves should be just as treasured as our time with other people.

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