Vegas: What’s Old is New Again – What’s New Will Never Die

There’s no garbage in Las Vegas.

There can’t be, not in a city that was created from nothing, where tacky neon signs and waddling Midwestern tourists are slapped on and walk side-by-side with billion-dollar lobbies, designer sunglasses, and the highest of heels. In the revived Downtown, you’ve got the old casinos you’ve seen in the movies with the mob and Chevy Chase – the waving cowboy, the sitting cowgirl, Binion’s, Four Queens, the Golden Nugget, and others with titles and entrances clearly meant to impress half-a-century ago. On the strip, the themed circuses of Caesars, Paris, the Flamingo, and the Luxor still exist. They’re just less current, perhaps, than what the new age is demanding – that would be the upper-deck vertical resorts like the Cosmopolitan, the Wynn and the Encore, and the rest that have invaded the middle.

Very quickly, those hotels will expand from the centre and will overtake the garish, gaudy weekend residences they’re stealing from. Tastes change, of course, and that’s how Vegas has survived – it turns and weaves to accept the curveballs from new consumers, bringing in the world’s best chefs and electric music acts to cater to the appetites of today’s younger generation, or at least its spending generation.

Where once rock and roll had millions of teens and under-30s cheering and growing their hair long, back when beer, acid, and cocaine were chugged and popped before (or during) an Iggy Pop concert, now the pills, the powder, and the champagne have gotten pricier, and the guitar has given way to a turntable and a million skinny lights. You don’t need to go to Vegas for the big entertainment you used to get – magic or acrobatics or Wayne Newton.

Sure, Mariah’s got her residence at Caesars, and those tickets still draw water. But trends are trendy and they evaporate for the next big thing. Vegas has always been Vegas, which means it’s forced to adapt to those trends, because the people just keep flying in.

(And they’ve always been checking in, despite the fact Caesars really should have an apostrophe separating the r and the s. If we’ve been able to put grammar aside and arrive regardless, I think we can conquer anything.)

And that’s why there’s no garbage. Those old buildings are either blown up or they’re renamed and rebranded. The signs that no longer matter, they’ve been turned into the Neon Museum – the closest thing a still-young America has to ancient Angkor Wat or the Colosseum. Forget letting the rubble rust. Why do that, when you can turn your trash into the globe’s greatest hoarding collection?

And while comparing Vegas to the treasures of Ancient Cambodia or Rome seems crass or laughable, while Vegas’s man-made money pit isn’t exactly a Wonder of the World, maybe that’s just the best America has to offer. And it’s fitting really, since the city has for so long attracted its tourists by offering them mini versions of the places and countries they’d always wanted to fly cross-Atlantic to visit – but you don’t need to leave the States to see Paris or Italy or Egypt, and you don’t need to leave Wisconsin or Kansas to see New York City or whatever the MGM Grand’s based on. Not if you can just go to Vegas and get a jumbo-sized daiquiri in an Eiffel Tower-shaped plastic cup, or if Robuchon, Batali, Savoy, and Jose Andres are cooking and serving their award-winning food right there in the middle of Nevada – not in Paris or London or L.A.

Is it real? No. But isn’t that part of the appeal? Like fast food, doesn’t it just feel good to ingest a bunch of crap sometimes?

There can never be waste, not in the desert. You’re surrounded by sand, not water or lava. You’d have to bury the garbage, where in California or Manhattan you could just let it sink to the bottom.

Downtown Fremont Street – Las Vegas
Downtown Fremont Street – Las Vegas (Photo: Kolby Solinsky)
Caesar's Palace – Las Vegas
Caesar’s Palace – Las Vegas (Photo: Kolby Solinsky)
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