PE-ving Las Vegas

Around September of last year, a pop-culture buzz began swelling in all of our consciousnesses. An informational electric tidal wave, the significance of which would forever tweak the framework of morality and acceptable practices in society.

I recall the specific time and place in question; September 27th 2005, 8:15 AM, when the news leveled this writer.

Amidst my normal weekday preparation, required for presentability in the world of Corporate Accounting, I heard it discussed lightheartedly by my favorite morning “shock jocks”. They were discussing the release and Oscar-worthiness of the film “Brokeback Mountain”. A film whose subject matter’s controversial nature would propel and force lifestyles, alternative in nature, to validity.

This was it, the moment I’d been waiting for…finally I’d be able to pursue my dream. At last, I was equipped with the societal blessing my ego needed to delve into alternative adult film!

Quickly after the celebratory dance in front of the mirror, to Q. Lazarus’ “Goodbye Horses”, I thought it would be best to phone in my bi-weekly ”I’m sick” call to my supervisor. After all, a full and uninterrupted day would be needed to plot my next life-changing step. Only the surest of plans could pry me away from the beautiful arms of Seattle, and the culture I had learned to covet.

After playing out and punting around many ideas in my mind, I came to the conclusion that only one place seemed worthy of my new occupation. A city whose name alone conjured up thoughts of debauchery, abuse, sin, and acceptance - Sin City, a/k/a/ Las Vegas.

Aside from the aforementioned occupational reason, I was excited to call Vegas home for many others. There were the obvious; lights, gambling, 24-hour availability to any and all, and all-around excitement. But there also were the lesser-known appeals; Vegas is and has been number one in terms of growth, economy, and job opportunities for nearly a decade. The chance to be a part of a city’s burgeoning sense of community was alluring as well.

The next few months involved planning, using the loosest definition. I had made my mind up, and the move would come at the beginning of 2006. Specifically, on 1/1/06, I’d shove off for Sin City and all her haunts.

All I knew, and most know, of Las Vegas, is the infamous Strip. Rightfully, it’s the first and only thing we think about when she arrives in our mind. Being no different than most, I fell into that trap, envisioning the new brands of jocularity living within walking distance to the Strip would afford me.

Oddly though, once you live here for as little as a week, the Strip becomes reserved for special occasions. The hustle and flow of the streets, coupled with visually assaulting swarms of rubes, giddy over the Carrot Top performance of which they just partook, evokes the biting of faces….at the very least.

For my new pursuit and sanity, I began to acclimate myself to Las Vegas’ other areas. Be it through my visits to clubs that offer me a chance to practice my desired comedic craft, or local watering holes where one could enjoy a beverage and the company of locals.

Within the first week or two of my venture into the “real” Vegas, I began to sense an uneasy and eerie vibe from the city. A feeling so indescribably foreign to me, it remained unidentified until these last few weeks. There were many signs that I blindly ignored.

One of the first signs was the lack of a mass-transit system. How can a town that’s growing so rapidly, seemingly out of control, not offer any sort of mass-transit solutions? Furthering this oversight was the lack of a manageable website displaying information about the transit the city did offer.

Another sign was the local news. Every broadcast leads with a story of some local-government elected official being indicted or found guilty on embezzling, laundering, campaign funding fraud, or old-fashioned theft. Seemingly, there were numerous hands in the cookie jar; all grabbing for the reported $1 billion budget surplus as if it were Hungry-Hungry-Hippo.

Then, there’s the most alarming sign that something’s creepily vacant; the blank, hollow, Manchurian Candidate, Stepford-gaze all locals seemingly possess. Locals here seem more like Phil Hartman’s character “Troy McLure” from the Simpsons than actual humans. Their life seems more a pursuit of selling rather genuine conversation. For the most part, no one here seems to have a soul, sense of self, or identity.

When the cause of this finally hit me; I became depressed by my ignorance to it. It was simple. This place, Sin City, is without culture or a sense of community. Looking at the signs, it was obvious - the fact it took me more than five months to realize it speaks to the city’s ability to vanquish your own identity.

It would be arrogant and ill-informed of me to volley ideas of why this place lacks what I took for granted in Seattle. I’m not the most cultured of types; using standard definitions.

Any gathering I happened across in Seattle, that by its nature would define culture or community, I used as an opportunity to amuse myself. Whether it’d be informing a gathering of hippies that “Every day, millions of Tuna get caught in dolphin nets” or hoisting a sign brashly displaying “I Want Oil” at an anti-Iraqi war gathering, I’m not the authority. All I know is the most basic and primitive of cultural bonds.

I can speak to the importance of sports, particularly professional sports, in a community. Look no further than the gift our beloved Seahawks laid at our feet last year.

Not long after my move here, I returned home to witness the history that was the Seahawks finally reaching the Super Bowl. There was nothing that would keep me from seeing my Hawks stomp the Panthers en route to what, until then, had seemed impossible.

Shortly after arriving, I realized that this wasn’t the Seattle I had left. All around the city, its occupants seemed focused on one thing, something that until then had been largely ignored - The Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks lead every news broadcast, mugged every front page, and were unconditionally supported by the city’s patrons. Seattle had bonded as a front of support for the Seahawks’ quest for a World Championship.

Another oddity was how, upon my arrival, I began receiving congratulations and acknowledgements as if I were the one playing that Sunday. Finally, the many who watched me live and die Seahawk Sundays chose not to ridicule my blind allegiance, but pass on the Mule Sniffs they knew my years of anguish had earned. Those actions couldn’t help but endear those who recognized that, penetrating my usually tin-man persona, forever cementing myself into Seattle and her culture. Further increasing the sense of community all of us felt.

There are other specific examples all Seattleites can find commonality with. The brilliance of the 1995 Seattle Mariners, and their “Refusing to Lose”. Who can forget Cortez Kennedy dancing in front of Key Arena as the Sonics vanquished the Utah Jazz in their Speedos, on way to challenging the Bulls for a title? Just like last year, those events took Seattle from a city to a community, instantaneously.

A different area where Seattle has an advantage on most cities, not just Las Vegas, is the ever-so-growing uniqueness of having of all major sports venues within the actual city limits. At first read, you’d immediately question that thought’s rarity, but sit back and really think. How many cities truly have that in their favor anymore? How many have one or more of their venues pushed out to the suburbs? The realism of my statement may shock you.

In the end, Las Vegas has none of this. Sure, they have UNLV, but barring another sanction-filled run and a towel-biting man roaming the bench, it’ll produce little or nothing in comparison to what us Seattleites feel.

Again, I don’t know how much sports play into culture or community. Some of the more elitist individuals amongst us would automatically disavow sports role in any community or culture.

But without it, how would you be able to quell those uncomfortable silences on the bus, in the office, or even in the presence of estranged family, with a simple “How ‘bout those Seahawks, huh?”

I know that’s the lowest common denominator I reach for; and I’m naked now…since Vegas disarmed me of it.


Postscript

I’d be remiss if I didn’t use this forum, especially given the theme, to address the Seattle Supersonics’ pleas for a new deal with the city. Make no mistake; the Sonics do have the worst stadium/arena lease in professional sports. The city council’s ignorance of this fact, in the name of “let’s pay for schools first”, is irresponsible, lazy, untrue, and laughable. But what else would you expect?

Their allowing and fostering of visions ending with the Supes playing outside the city limits, is one that will affect all of us and our offspring for years to come. Would you rather be a city with an actual downtown? Or succumb to the L.A. mold, being one consisting of different suburbs. The Sonics playing in Bellevue or Renton will definitely lead to the latter.


Known very well to friend and foe as "pehawk" in our fan forums, Ryan Davis will be providing a fresh voice on the Seahawks, Seattle sports in general, and life in a nutshell. Feel free to send your thoughts, recriminations and mule sniffs to Ryan here.


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