May 29th, 2007
Cross the international dateline too frequently and soon your mind enters uncharted territory. The month of May saw me flit between Tahiti and the Tuamoto archipelago one week, spend two days back home, then fly to the USA. No wonder I experienced some discombombulation. How do trans-Pacific flight crews manage to cope with such regular temporal dislocation?
The effects of “crossing the line” thrice in short succession caught up with me in Las Vegas. Fortunately that’s one place in the world where, as the late Hunter Thompson said, “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”. So my parlous state of mind undoubtedly went totally unnoticed by anyone other than myself.
I blame the effects of dateline hopping. But from what I saw and experienced I might just as easily have been experiencing a drug-induced hallucination. Feeling totally weird is the natural state of mind for being in Vegas. There’s nowhere else like it.
Macau may now be the world’s gambling capital yet Las Vegas appears totally unfazed by this distant Asian competition as it heads full tilt into the future. Billions of dollars have been committed to future construction and expansion along the already densely-packed Strip. More than 100 hotel, high-rise, condominium and mixed-used projects are currently underway or on the table. As fast as they knock down one old casino or hotel, another more extravagant one quickly takes its place.
One behemoth project, City Centre, billed at somewhere between $7 and $14 billion and reputedly the largest privately financed development in America, is now rising from the dust of the demolished Boardwalk Hotel and Casino. It’s located between Bellagio and Monte Carlo. At the far end of the Strip entrepreneur Steve Wynn is now building Encore to complement his recently-opened Wynn Las Vegas casino resort hotel. Immediately across the road is the half-built golden-clad Trump Tower.
The upsurge in development represents a spending spree of staggering proportions, largely funded by the tsunami of cash which continues to pour relentlessly from the pockets of millions of willing punters who flock to Las Vegas each year. How anyone could imagine ever leaving Vegas a winner totally escapes me. Mere observation of the city’s perpetual expansion, the ever-expanding glitz and glamour, is surely enough to convince even the simplest visitor that the money never, ever, really leaves town; it’s simply ploughed back into the bedrock.
Las Vegas acts a Black Hole in the middle of a desert sucking gamblers’ cash into another dimension, where it’s transformed into a fantasy land of gargantuan proportions. This process of transmutation is so amazing it has to be seen to be believed. And that’s exactly what keeps ’em all coming back year after year.