This ol town filled with sin
It'll swallow you in
If you've got some money to burn...
A postcard from Vegas, where I'm spending today and tomorrow for a conference sponsored by the National Human Services Data Consortium. Just the type of folks to do Vegas with.
I've never been to Vegas before. I hate to admit that my images of Vegas are heavily influenced by the Godfather and Hunter S. Thompson, and on the way out here I read the classic architectural tract Learning from Las Vegas
, which was from about that era. The latter book, a quick read with alot of pictures, makes a case for the architecture of the Strip as being one expressing the American vernacular of sprawl and how it was a welcome counterpoint to the often vapid modernist highbrow architecture of the time.
What was sprawl in the 70's has now become urban, with towering hotel/casino buildings fronted by spectacles and a vibrant streetscape that is surprisingly walkable. I spent yesterday evening walking through simulacra of Paris, ancient Rome, Venice and the like. But Venturi et al.'s point does remain, that these behemoth structures are "decorated sheds" and beneath the veneer lie the acres of gaming tables that are ultimate the same in a depressing kind of way.
If you don't think that a casino is depressing then walk through one at 6:30 in the morning and look at the people who are still at the tables or, worse yet, playing the slots. You have to walk through what seems like a half mile of these to get from the hotel elevator at the Mirage, where I'm staying, to the front entrance. I was heading out for a tour - I had me a ten-mile course
all gmapped out and my running shoes on. There is no better way to see a city.
My tour went north up the Strip for the first four miles. The over-the-top grandiosity of Treasure Island and Wynn's soon gave way to a zone of transition where they look to still be building these edifices, and I don't envy the developers holding the bag here. The Sahara, with its gaudy Arabian theme marked the official end of the Strip. Going farther up Las Vegas Avenue was like peeling away time, as the architecture reverted to the car-centric and somewhat dated themes that was more consistent with the Vegas in my head. Wedding chapels, pawn shops, strip clubs and rent by the week motels that looked like they could fit in at Wildwood brought out an underside of Vegas that holds much more interest for me. A right on Fremont Ave and it seemed to be a parallel Vegas here, a B-version perhaps, one that the hordes of people crowding the Strip further south never get close to. Unless they have to get some quick cash for their Rolex or need to get married.
When I hit Maryland Avenue I headed back south and improvised, zig-zagging through the residential streets and seeing if there was really as much foreclosed property as one reads about. The cab driver who drove me from the airport described this as a boom town going bust, but the modest, Hispanic blocks I ran down looked okay. From there I hit Joe W. Brown Blvd. and it was backstage of the Strip, seeing from the back how the large hotels lined up along LV Blvd. like a movie set. Here the run started getting long, the traffic was bad, and the view was boring. I was ready to pack it in.
The run made for good sightseeing but not very good running, as I kept it slow and never got much of a rhythm. The official loop length was 10.1 miles, but was a bit longer with the turns I made. Still, 91:49 was a slow pace. But speed wasn't what today's run was about.
To catch up, I have been running, modestly, over the past week, just not blogging it. Yesterday I ran the same route through the Horticultural Center that I did two Thursdays ago, and ran the MLK two miles in 12:21. Getting faster but still a long way to go. Tuesday it was an Art Museum loop, Monday and Sunday were off, and Saturday was a rushed 7.5 around Cobbs Creek and Kingsessing. And that brings me up to date. The semester is over next week, and then I'll have no excuses left for not running hard again.