July 13, 2012
Why I Love Vegas
By Sal Rizza
Yesterday, I was in my office speaking with Natalie, a wonderful college senior at SCSU. She noticed my two Las Vegas calendars hanging on the wall amongst the pictures, souvenirs, coffee mugs, magnets and other Vegas paraphernalia. She asked, “Why do you have two Vegas calendars?” I explained that one calendar is the current month and the other is an older calendar that displays the resort I’ve most recently stayed in or where I will stay next. “Oh…” she replied followed by “that seems a bit obsessive.” Then I showed her the website, twitter accounts, and apps on my iPhone. She asked me the question that I’ve been asked countless times, “Sal, why do you love Vegas so much.”
I always have a difficult time answering this question but I know two things: I rarely fall short on words and I always want to go back. I’m not sure the exact reason why I love the city of Las Vegas the way I do but I learned even more when I answered Natalie’s question.
Growing up in a lower middle-class home, we didn’t take vacations. Trips to the local beach or city swimming pool were our reprieves from reality. I don’t remember ordering from a waitress until I was in High School as dinner out for us was usually at Roy Rogers, McDonalds and when we got fancy, American Steakhouse. One of my first real vacations was my honeymoon when my wife and I visited Las Vegas for the first time. While I will write about my terrible first night in Las Vegas in a future post (it was NOT love at first sight) as I got to know Vegas, I quickly fell in love.
It starts with the vibe of the Vegas strip which is mobbed with throngs of tourists often wandering like mindless zombies in awe of their surroundings. Others parade along the mega resorts in their heels, skirts and club shirts double-fisting spirit laden beverages looking for a forgettable adventure. Asian and European tourists pause and pose to take pictures with the Venetian or Paris as their backdrop, and with mere gestures ask for their fellow foreign tourist to snap a few shots in front of the Bellagio. Wedding parties appear in front of you as brides in elaborate gowns smile and laugh for the camera as they celebrate their nuptials and then it just happens. The fountains begin and everyone stops. They cram together in front of the show and quietly watch the water dance. Flashes fill the night air, couples squeeze tight, and even the noisy bachelor parties quiet down until the song ends and everyone cheers and applauds. My wife thinks it is the oddest phenomena that people clap for water as if the fountains can be encouraged by the audience’s approval. The vibe on the strip is as eclectic as the tourists that walk the sidewalks. It is ever changing but never different. The Vegas strip is fun, happy , exciting and thrilling place to be where you never know what you’ll see but you always know the comforts of the fountain show, the lights of the Luxor, and the beauty of the Venetian will be there to enjoy. One walk down the strip when I was 25 and I knew like knowing when you meet the person you’ll marry, that Vegas was my place.
Like it’s world-famous buffets, Las Vegas doesn’t lack variety and allows you to choose if you want to have filet or sloppy joes. I love variety. Choices. Where else can you dine at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, see Jerry Seinfeld and play $5 craps all in one night? Moreover, have similar options the next night and the next night after that.
Vegas isn’t called America’s Adult Playground for nothing. This ISN’T Disney. I’ll save my “Disney is overrated” rant for another post. I’m not a high roller but I like to sit at a blackjack or poker table, with other adults, and play some cards. I LOVE to be the shooter at a craps table while enjoying a complimentary bloody mary at 10am. I love that 3am feels the same, if not more vibrant, than 10pm. I love that a 40 year-old can feel like he’s 25 for a few nights. Vegas is a different type of fountain of youth. It keeps you young, until the next morning when your body reminds you that you aint 25 anymore.
It’s the stories that you’re surrounded by continuously. People watching on steroids. I’ve run into Jimmy Walker, Anthony Keidis, Carmen Electra, Vince Neil, Ryan Bader, Frank Mir and Steve Schirippa on the Vegas strip. These aren’t the biggest names that party on the strip but these are just the people I’ve run into that I recognized. Celebrities aside, it is the bachelor parties, weddings, and newlyweds that provide the character and color that I enjoy. Where are they from? How much did they win? Is that old guy with a hooker? (Of course he is). I’ve seen proposals, people literally having sex in the bushes outside of the Hard Rock and people win small fortunes on slot machines. It is the hopes, failures and indiscretions of Las Vegas that I love to experience. It is like living vicariously through the best and worst of the human condition.
And, my love of Vegas couldn’t be complete if it wasn’t for my partner in Vegas crime. Nine trips to Vegas with my wife and nine great vacations. We have it down. McCarran Airport. Taxis. Shows. Dinners. Pools. Casinos. Drinks. Everything. We step out of our suburban roles and slide into a leisurely routine and weave into the fabric of the Vegas strip and allow Vegas to absorb us for a few days. With each trip to Vegas, we seem to get to know Vegas, and each other ,a little better.
Maybe I just love Las Vegas because it represents everything that I didn’t have until my 20’s. Mindless fun surrounded by absolute excess and gluttony in a world designed to do things that you aren’t allowed to do in your daily lives. A woman that I can hold hands with while watching a few shows. An escape, where you can forget about your age, your responsibilities, drink, eat lavishly, be surrounded by beautiful people, and allow your imagination to be over stimulated one minute and be completely relaxed the next. Day trips to beaches with my family followed by a stop at McDonald’s on the way home were some of the best days of my summers growing up. I wouldn’t trade them because they taught me to appreciate what I am fortunate to experience today. As I said, I’m not exactly sure why I love Vegas as much as I do but as I said to start, I am never short on what to say about why I love Vegas and I absolutely cannot wait to go back in nine days.