Suellen Zima travels from her beloved abode in Laguna Woods, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada, where she spends the holidays with her adopted Chinese family.
Suellen marvels at the man made wonders of Sin City.
She experiences the mundane lives of the families that reside there.
And she realizes that while Macau, the tiny Portuguese enclave that she once – if only briefly – called home, may have surpassed Las Vegas in terms of gambling revenue, there is still only one Las Vegas.
The following entry was posted in her blog, Follow the Senior Hummingbird, on 27 December 2010. It is republished here with Suellen’s permission.
I’m in Las Vegas now, home of my 13-year-old granddaughter. As we come close to January, Las Vegas brings to mind Janus in Roman mythology with two heads facing opposite directions, simultaneously looking into the future and the past.
While deeply mired in the recent past and present economic crises — very high unemployment, high rate of home foreclosures, rock bottom housing prices, incomes down, much lower numbers of tourists and conventions – the other face of Las Vegas also still offers a sunnier face of elegance, opulence, imagination, joy, laughter, and fun.
Visitors from Asia
Christmas and New Year’s is the time for increased international visitors and Asians on attractively priced packages to Las Vegas. The sorrowful side of Sin City is definitely there, but it coexists with a fantasy world of dancing fountains, playful dolphins, a harmless but terrifying volcano, and gondola rides through canals in a re-created Venice.
Tasteful, wonderful, high class artwork and sculptures adorn the Strip along with fake flowers, garish artwork, and gaudy neon that flashes relentlessly all around you.
Each year, in spite of the economy, one new phenomenon or more arises. One year, a man-made mountain in front of the Wynn. Next year, City Center opens with museum quality art and sculptures luring the eye.
This year, the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino delights the eye with a gigantic, shimmering chandelier and artful designs in the lobby that change as you watch through new technology that caters to today’s short attention spans.
If I had to sum up the Cosmopolitan in one word, I’d choose “reflection” — not the heady, spiritual kind, but the “look up, look down, look all around” kind. The impermanence of what your eyes see is as stimulating as it is dazzling.
Las Vegas Strip
On the Las Vegas Strip, the world beckons on a single traffic-jammed street — New York, Venice, Paris. History lives on the same street with the re-created world of Caesar’s Rome, the pyramids of Egypt, the Knights of the Round Table.
The people-watching couldn’t be better — short-sleeved T-shirts next to fur-clad jackets; high, high heels and very short dresses next to running shoes and flannel lined pants; rich, poor, and every economic level in between; myriad international faces making sounds of many languages; old faces to young faces; excited expressions next to late-night yawns; determined hucksters and hawkers handing out fliers to wide-eyed, can’t-take-it-all-in first time visitors.
Because my granddaughter lives here, I also see normal family life — schools, libraries, restaurants, Wal-Marts, and homes that also exist in Las Vegas, but that are rarely seen by tourists. The natural beauty of the surrounding mountains is real and beautiful. The deep blue skies and sun glinting through the palm trees is restful and serene.
Las Vegas is also plagued by crime, drugs, teen pregnancies, corruption, poverty, and physically and mentally sick people like any other American city. But even though the new American casinos that have opened in tiny Macau already take in more money than their Las Vegas namesakes, Las Vegas remains a man-made wonderland unique in the world.
Suellen Zima is author of the award-winning autobiography Memoirs of a Middle-aged Hummingbird. She publishes an insightful blog entitled Follow the Senior Hummingbird. We met in Macau many years ago when we were both teaching English in the then Portuguese enclave. We continue to be close friends.