Viva Las Vegas… ?
Hey, everybody. I’m Alex Adrian and this is the Diary of an Atomic Man. And this week…Las Vegas. Not just anything about Vegas (Baby) but specifically the sheer absurdity of it. I’ve always regarded Las Vegas as a strange experiment: less the logical, natural output of people wanting or needing to live somewhere than a massive experiment–the first in human history–in terraforming. In that prior statement lies the thrust of (this part of) tonight’s post. Who in blue thunder thought that putting a city in Middle of Nowhere, Nevada, was a good idea? There’s no mining, or a river, or an ocean/lake/large water feature, or a forest, or…ANYTHING THAT COULD BE CONSTRUED AS USEFUL IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER! Most cities spring up around something useful, such as the aforementioned features: Denver, Colorado, for instance, has mining. Copenhagen, capital of Denmark, is located on a bay. (Nice place.) London–River Thames right through th’ middle. New York, of course, is more or less a freakin’ island, or at least spread across two or three; I’m not counting in the Bronx for argument’s sake. Tokyo was once a fishing village (and called Edo), before becoming the Japanese capital. BUT…nothing at all like that can be found in Vegas (Baby). (I suppose that you could count the A-bomb tests that ranged throughout the Mountain West in the Fifties, but…) Same goes for Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix has it worse, as (so my sources tell me) it is a trap for smog from Los Angeles due to the mountains and dippy geographical thingy. In both cases they’re “service-industry meccas” distinguished and built around one thing: in the case of Vegas (Baby) gambling, in the case of Phoenix having the climate of a Middle Eastern city. On that note, let’s move on to the next topic of tonight’s post: those little towns whose economies revolve around one single tourist activity. Leavenworth, Washington, where my family spent a weekend around last Christmas, is a good example. In that specific case, the town was intentionally…retrofitted…into a Bavarian Christmas village so as to promote tourism to that part of Central Washington. Another example–examples, plural–would be the various towns that spring up near mountain ski resorts, existing solely to serve them. Or, for that matter, Atlantic City, New Jersey, until a few years ago. Or Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, birthplace of Dolly Parton and location of her theme park, Dollywood.
Yes, Dollywood. According to the official website :”The Great Smokey Mountains’ family fun vacation adventure with great shows, thrilling roller coasters [my italics], festivals [what in…], and kiddie rides.[Kiddie rides. KIIIDDIE RIDES!!!!]”
Or (I could do this all night) Branson, Missouri. This’ probably a better example than Atlantic City or Pigeon Forge, as various musicians and performers have set up shop along the “Strip”, Highway 76. (Oh, and according to Wikipedia, Dolly Parton also has a theme park there, Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. What in hell…?) In all these cases (Well, maybe not A.C’s…or that of the ski villages) their success isn’t so much the result of some logical, natural, phenomenon, but rather a calculated attempt on the part of someone (probably the Chamber of Commerce or a related entity) to boost tourism to the town/area. All of this is nice; however, it’s nothing like our next topic: college towns! (Cuz there’s not a law against having three topics…or sexual partners, for that matter. Anyway…) Okay…slight generalization time, here. College towns are typically small to medium-sized, population wise. They contain colleges (duh), and most of the adult population are in some way connected with the college, as professors or other capacities. The schools are good–after all, parents who work as professors want only the best for their kids–the politics liberal, everyone–just about, so long as you ignore the bulk of the science (hard and soft) and liberal-arts students and faculty–is devoted to the sports teams, and the culture and overall vibe…well, let’s just say that reality and college towns can be of out of sync at times. This is pronounced in major, multi-discipline universities (when you bring physicists, engineers, biologists, sociologists, and liberal-arts majors together in one place, weird things are bound to happen )and for some reason small liberal-arts colleges. As noted above, size matters; although Seattle, Washington, and New York have several universities and colleges, they’re not college towns, since they’re fairly large cities. In general–I say in general–they’re more liberal and relaxed in attitudes towards “alternative lifestyles” compared to their neighbors, especially in more “red-state-y” regions of the country. Not sure why this is. I’ll look into it in a future post, perhaps.
Hey, first post of the year!
–Alex Adrian, 1/16/12