The other side of Las Vegas

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Thursday November 29, 2007.

The StripThe Strip as seen from a distance of about 7 miles, from the northwest end of town.Somehow, many years ago, I married someone from Las Vegas. She grew up there and experienced Las Vegas much differently from the vast majority of people who have experienced Vegas. As part of the agreement marriage implies, we spend time in Las Vegas occasionally, visiting friends and relatives and generally just hanging out. Over a 13-year relationship, I’ve probably been to Las Vegas in the ballpark of 20 times. I’ve never been a fan of the place, but in this past trip, I looked at it in a much different way. It has redeeming qualities, if you can believe that.

I want to take a little time to talk about the side of Vegas that most people just don’t know. It’s the side where people live regular lives—not the glamorous life of gaming or the seedy underbelly of a city based on sin where once-interesting ad campaigns become tired clichés. It should be noted, somewhere, that people live in Las Vegas. In fact, the number in the city proper has just exceeded 600,000, with a metro area population close to 2 million.

The part about people living in Las Vegas has long been the reason for my dislike of the town. I once described it as Los Angeles fifty years behind Los Angeles. That’s to say, it was a city that was just reaching the point where outward expansion began to really take root and suburbs were popping up all over the place and every major intersection was a strip mall lined with the same old stores and the same old restaurants and there was nothing original about the place. I always hated that. I still do, as a matter of fact. It’s something I can’t understand, being a resident of probably the coolest area of Reno, complete with uniques coffee shops, unique neighborhoods, and plenty of quirky characters to go along with all of it. Outside of the area in Las Vegas known as Downtown, there isn’t a whole lot of originality at all. Event The Strip largely consists of replicas of other cities.

Northwest Vegas MountainsThe mountains in the northwest from Centennial Parkway. All the signs are for new home developments, of course.This past trip, however, I realized something about the town—it’s really pretty down there. Flying in (at about 7 am), the valley looked awesome. It’s set on a large expanse of flat area with stark mountains jutting straight up on the edges. The mountains are red, desert rock and look great with the right sunlight. I follow the rules about “no electronic devices” on the plane when they say so, so I’ve never taken a picture. In fact, I’ve never taken many pictures at all of Las Vegas outside of the one time I went to Red Rock (where, seriously, I captured one of my best beauty shots ever). That’s the real shame. I have to admit that it’s a town that deserves a little more credit than it gets—that means that it’s more than the parties and craziness that people experience on The Strip. As a frequent visitor, the closest I ever get to The Strip is the airport and this time a game at the Thomas and Mack.

I know a lot of people who don’t like Vegas. The traffic is worse than up here, it’s obviously got a much different image, it’s truly becoming a major city, and it’s hot as hell. But I can now understand what could draw someone there.

We spent a little time hanging out at some friends’ houses and the environment was great. There were kids playing football and riding bikes, and that’s something that I can’t do in my neighborhood very easily. People tear down my street like idiots and I am afraid to have my kids in the front yard by themselves. Hell, even the alley has people driving like asses in it, so that’s even a tough place to ride bikes.

I’m not moving to Las Vegas anytime soon, but I sure will appreciate my trips down there for more than the time we spend with people from now on. My biggest regret this time is that I didn’t get away to take more pictures of what I wanted to write about. I’ll be there again in a couple of weeks, and hopefully I’ll have a little time to explore the beauty of the surroundings. I fear that I’ll spend all my time on The Strip, though, and I’ll leave as dissatisfied as this time. We’ll see.

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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