Home Means Nevada

When people ask me what it’s like to live in Las Vegas I roll my eyes and say, Ugh. Tourists. I say, Neon lights everywhere. I say, Summer days hot enough to break thermometers.

I tell people that Las Vegas lacks culture, but then I mention The Smith Center with its marble and polished wood and Broadway shows.

I make jokes about the casinos, but then say I live out in the suburbs, surrounded by old ranches and mountain ridges.

I don’t gamble and I’ve never set foot in a night club, but I’m quick to gush about the beauty of Red Rock and Mt. Charleston.

What I’m saying is, I complain about Las Vegas, but I love it too.

I also feel like I’ve earned my right to complain about it. I’ve lived here since I was four, which almost makes me a native. It’s sort of like the sibling code. You can make fun of your siblings—but God help anyone else who dares.

That’s why I was less than thrilled to read the article by Julie Bindel published in The Guardian earlier today.

It begins with a jab at the Safari Club International Convention which is held in Las Vegas—implying that Vegas itself is responsible for the butchering of helpless animals. Come on. Hundreds of conventions are held in the city every year. Yeah, some of them are a bit distasteful. But if we blame Vegas for a hunting convention, should we also say that Vegas is responsible for the groundbreaking technology that was showcased at CES last month?

Next up in the article, the author checks into her hotel where she’s handed a pornographic key card advertising prostitution.

For those of you who don’t know, Las Vegas is located in Clark County, where prostitution is illegal. Yes, if you drive an hour to Pahrump, you’ll find brothels. But they don’t exist within our city, and hotels on the Strip sure don’t advertise callgirls.

I’ll give the author some credit and assume she was confused and didn’t blatantly lie. Maybe there was an advertisement for a day club on the key card, with a model in a bathing suit? Sure, I wouldn’t call it classy, but it’s hardly the same as directing hotel guests to the nearest prostitute.     

The author states, “Locals will occasionally tell you that this is not the “real” Las Vegas, perhaps adding that the Strip isn’t even within the city limits. But the Strip is all that most outsiders ever experience, and it certainly felt real to me.”

Just because the Strip was all the author experienced, doesn’t make it the same for everyone. As with any vacation, you choose what activities to participate in. The author could have left the Strip—many people do. I regularly run into tourists while I’m out hiking. Her dissatisfaction should have been with herself, and not with our city.

In the next paragraph, despite her previous aversion to seeing the rest of Vegas, the author mocks casino patrons for their laziness. But she was among them. She chose to stay in the smoky, clockless world of slot machines and table games.

“I looked for somewhere to eat, reckoning there was no point in leaving the hotel as the Strip merely connects you to other hotels and shopping malls, all as grotesque as each other, and saw something that literally took my breath away. There was an actual McDonald’s in the actual hotel, and the queue for it was massive.”

Okay. The Strip can be crass and obnoxious. But it also has beautiful architecture, incredible shows, and some of the best restaurants in the world. The author writes about the McDonald’s in the casino, but doesn’t mention the five star restaurant that’s also on site. Again, I repeat—sometimes it’s up to you to make the effort. If the first thing you see is a McDonald’s, and you make no effort to find something better, then don’t complain about eating McDonald’s.

Nor do I think every hotel on the Strip is the same. As I said, I don’t gamble, and I don’t do the club thing. But I play mid-way games at Circus Circus. I watch jousting at the Excalibur. And if you’re not into that, if you think replicas of the Sphinx and the Eiffel Tower are a little tacky, then there’s The Bellagio and The Venetian and The Wynn.

But forget the Strip. And I’ll look past the comments on Elvis and the buffets (though it’s hard for me to imagine anyone finding fault with a buffet!)

The one thing that the author concedes, is that Las Vegas has beautiful sunsets—though she complained about the Strip blocking the view.

Boy, is she right. Growing up here, I got spoiled on breathtaking skies every evening. It isn’t until I go to other cities that I realize how spectacular a desert sunset really is.

And we have history! No, it’s not the same as east coast history, or European history. But for all the glitter and neon, Las Vegas started as a cowboy town. Maybe you don’t realize it if you never leave the Strip, but this is the Wild West! Leave the city and visit some of the small towns where it’s dust and worn down boots and rattlesnakes.

Make an effort to look into our mining history! If you’re feeling brave you can even go out to Nelson’s Landing and take a mine tour. And check out Lake Mead while you’re there. Get away from the slot machines and be awed by the Hoover Dam.

Go see a play at Spring Mountain Ranch. Play in the snow at Mt. Charleston. Visit the Old Mormon Fort.

And, best of all, drive out into the desert where there’s no one else around for miles. Wander through canyons. Breathe in the pure, fresh air. Climb a peak and look out at the vista below you. There’s a reason people call the desert spiritual.

Just outside the city, a whole different world is waiting. From the alien landscapes of The Valley of Fire to the hidden ponderosa pine forests near Corn Creek, there’s nature unlike anything that exists elsewhere. Caves and hot springs and slot canyons!

That’s what Las Vegas is to me.

Please, future tourists, don’t go to the Strip and assume it’s the only thing our city has to offer. And if you do spend all your time on the Strip, well, look farther than fanny packs and fast food chains.

In fact, if Ms. Bindel ever comes back to Las Vegas, I encourage her to drop me a line. I would be more than glad to offer advice for off-Strip activities. I adore introducing people to my home town the right way.

And yeah, while I’m at it, I’ll probably make some jokes about getting lost in a sea of tourists. I’ll likely make it clear that I only go down to the Strip once every other year. I’m a local, and that means I know exactly how ridiculous Vegas can sometimes be.

But no matter what, I love it. I’ll make that clear too. No matter what, this is my city.

And because I’m currently brimming with Nevada pride, let me share a few lines of our state song:

“Here is the land which I love the best, fairer than all I can see. Deep in the heart of the golden west, Home means Nevada to me.”

Home will always mean Nevada to me.

I’m not saying other people need to love it. Las Vegas isn’t for everyone, that’s for sure. But at the very least, don’t make assumptions. Don’t judge when you only know half the story.

Please, treat our city with a little respect.