Las Vegas and Disneyland.
I have delayed and debated what I would write about for Las Vegas. If you haven’t been, Vegas is a very interesting place. For some it is a (desert) island oasis that is surrounded by mountains on each side. Like many of the other stops to this point we have found many places that are off the beaten path. Our visit included the following:
A visit with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority
Two wedding chapels
The Strip (including the fountains at the Bellagio, the Venetian, Sirens at Treasure Island, and Paris)
The Red Velvet is delicious. However, it seems like it is about 15 minutes from everywhere in one of the many strip mall jungles that exist in Vegas. It is a veggie-friendly joint, with a Red Velvet Vegan cake that is out of this world. I think that visitors from Roswell may have dropped it off. I digress.
As I walked around Vegas I thought about all of the people who journeyed across the land with hopes of making it rich. Was this the same ‘hope’ that we had been witnessing all along? I don’t think that it is. I am not quite sure what to make of it.
What I am sure of is that Vegas is an adult playground. Vegas is to adults what Disneyland is to kids. (Although, I think Vegas is for adults that want to act like children). Everyone that I spoke to said that they loved the lifestyle, but they would never raise a kid there. As for me, I felt a little prudish as I walked around the streets. In the meantime, there were thousands of people who flocked to the casinos, who went looking for a good time, a release, an escape, or maybe they simply wanted to enjoy the fantasy for a spell.
I couldn’t help but relate this to Disneyland experience, and how each step that I took was carefully constructed to lead me to someplace else. Shall I go to Adventureland or Futureland? As we walked around Disneyland, I saw the same glossed-over looks in the eyes of the children and their parents that I saw in Las Vegas from their patrons. Both Disneyland and Vegas are man-made fantasylands. Both were built to help us escape to far off exotic lands in the midst of our hectic daily lives. Jean Baudrillard would suggest that these two places are ‘hyper-real’ as we have no doubts that they have been constructed for such purposes. The reality is that all of the locations that we have visited have been fabricated to help lead us in a certain direction (some fabrications and paths make more sense than others).
I have never really fancied Vegas or Disneyland; neither place is really my cup of tea. However, this latest excursion has forced me to really consider how they fit within the American landscape. I think about what those two places offer in terms of escape and exploration, as well as dreams and desires. Sometimes I lose sight that the land around me has been carefully created to offer up each of those ideas and feelings. It is difficult to see when we are so consumed by our daily lives. However, I think trips to these fabricated “exotic” locations like Disneyland to help me realize that everything around us has been purposely planned out for one reason or another. Each place that we have visited has offered its own version of Vegas. For instance, Nashville’s ‘Lower Broad’ gives a slightly different version, but offers you that “country experience”, New Orleans offers a bit of Cajun culture, etc.
This trip has pushed me to consciously examine the land around me as intentionally constructed for a certain purpose within the American landscape. I don’t think that we need to be unified in each place, rather; we have the opportunity to seek out the options in those places we do visit. Perhaps one of the thinks that unites us is the opportunity to seek out answers, sometimes to questions we don't even know.