Do you live in a hotel? Is Wayne Newton your neighbor? Which casino does your mom work in? Is she a showgirl? A hooker? A stripper? Is your dad in the Mafia? Is he a gambler? Do you eat in casinos? Where do you play outside?
When I was a little Las Vegan, any trip outside Nevada would subject me to this litany of Silly Vegas Questions, and many more like them. While some of my peers (and their parents) took offense, I preferred to field them as a badge of distinction, a sign of the uniqueness of my hometown and the mystery surrounding it. Such was the nature of living in an isolated, mysterious Sin City long before the spread of legalized gambling.
Sadly (or thankfully, depending on your perspective), the convergence of three factors in the early 1990s essentially erased these queries from our collective consciousness: the Las Vegas population boom, the intense national media attention to that boom (attention that often tried to rewrite Las Vegas as a family-friendly boomtown) and the Internet explosion. Knowledge may be power, but so much instant global information—webcams, Twitter feeds, Instagrams—also serves to demystify and de-romanticize everything, turning everyone into an “expert” and every city into an information superhighway off-ramp.
Today, as others try to rewrite and recast the nature of Las Vegas, the questions have changed and the flood has subsided. But the tide still flows in their direction. Frankly, I’m afraid of the day when the questions stop; by then, the city will likely have changed so much I’ll hardly recognize it.
In case you’re wondering, here are my answers: No, sort of, the Flamingo (once upon a time), no, no, no, what Mafia?, occasionally, yes, and in the desert with my friends, like everyone else.
Why are we so hot to build stadiums before we have franchises to fill them?
Because modern professional sports are more loyal to money than to cities. As urban areas become increasingly congested, fancy stadium complexes built on empty plots of land large enough to house them are often a way to lure a team from one city to another. Besides, have you never seen Field of Dreams? “Build it and they will come”? That’s Vegas, baby! Maybe they’ll even include parlay kiosks in the locker rooms.