This is what I wrote in “Frugal Fridays,” the predecessor of this blog, after the attacks of 9/11/2001.
Last week I promised you that I would write about red-white-and-blue Las Vegas, a city with patriotic feelings as strong as anywhere else in the U.S.A. As I’ve been traveling all over our spread-out city since September 11, I have proudly seen the proof of that everywhere, from children’s make-shift pictures of flags and eagles in the windows of simple homes in the most impoverished neighborhoods to the big new flags that wave from tall new flagpoles I can see above the cinderblock walls that guard the most exclusive suburban enclaves. When we went looking to buy a flag, no store in town had one of any size, so we cut out the full-page color flag from a our local newspaper and put it in our window.
Sure, we’re a “company town,” but the towering casino marquees replaced their flashing advertisements of magic, or dancing girls, or the message of possible riches, with eagles and waving flags and the simple message of “God Bless America.” A couple of large casino companies have contributed a million dollars for disaster relief — but small businesses all over town have donation jars at their cash registers in their best effort to help fellow Americans in this time of crisis. Our firemen have been out on the street soliciting contributions for the families of their brothers lost; our entertainers are unselfishly showing up everywhere for benefit activities. And so many people arrived to give blood that the Blood Banks were swamped.
If you just come here on vacation, you might think of Vegas mostly as the Strip, the downtown casino area, and a few casinos scattered around the outskirts. Actually, casinos make up a very small percentage of our city. If you fly into town in the daytime, you’ll see that most of the buildings are not tall casinos, but are red-tile-roofed houses, stretching in neat rows for miles and miles beyond the Strip or any casino. And in each of those houses is a person or groups of people that have lives much like residents in any American city. Many of these people will never enter a casino their whole life, will never play a slot machine or sit down at a blackjack table, will never eat a meal at a casino restaurant or see a casino show. Many may go to work in casinos, but when they come home and take off their black-and-white dealer uniform or scanty cocktail-waitress costume, they’re simply tired mothers who are cooking their families’ dinner or dutiful husbands who are cleaning out the garage when they would rather be watching a ballgame on TV.
Of course, many local residents do visit casinos, but because of time or money constraints, this is a special maybe once-a-month treat. Even most of the retired residents with extra time and money don’t go to casinos every day. Most of the time Vegas residents are busy with the same activities that you and your family are busy with in a non-casino town: going to school, earning a living, playing golf, standing in line at the DMV, reading old magazines in a doctor’s office, shopping at the mall, figuring out how to make enough money to cover all the bills, reading a newspaper, getting married or divorced, finding privacy time to have sex, doing volunteer work, welcoming new babies, and burying the dead.
And when disaster strikes in our beloved country, like it did on September 11, all of our eyes are glued to the TV, just like anywhere else, whether we’re in a casino or at home. For a few days life seemed to stand still, even when we wandered around doing necessary tasks, our pain so great we could barely breathe. The normally raucous casino atmosphere was strangely quiet, with most of the scattered gamblers around only because their planes had been grounded and left them stuck in a place where they really didn’t want to be. Everyone longed to be home, and that was where most Las Vegans were whenever that was possible.
Las Vegas is trying to start getting back to normal — that’s what our President urged us all to do.
I think this still describes the Vegas I know and love..