Thursday. I took a walk down the east side of Las Vegas Boulevard from the Tropicana Las Vegas to the Wynn Las Vegas. The idea was to take a look at all the retail establishments that I might have missed in that area. I had not walked the Strip for years.
When I finished the almost two-plus-hour walk, I was tired, had seen a lot and also was a bit uncomfortable. Yes, I had seen a number of hotel/casinos, shops and restaurants, many of which I didn’t realize had come to Las Vegas. I had also seen so many Las Vegans with hands out asking for tourist dollars, I wondered if I were in a new town. The Las Vegas I choose to know is a town of fountains, palaces, palm trees, Celine Dion, Penn & Teller, Gordie Brown, Clint Holmes, statuesque showgirls, fabulous comics, grand conventions, beautiful gardens, fine restaurants and glittering casinos. I didn’t expect to find a shopping cart and its owner asleep in a Strip elevator or to be bombarded with folks volunteering for photos and asking for donations.
Feeling rather disheartened, I then remembered reading something in the papers about Clark County attempting to “clean up” the Strip by examining options to control street performers and street vendors. (The Las Vegas Strip is not a part of the City of Las Vegas; the Strip is part of Clark County.) A clean-up hadn’t been on my mind when I began my walk. But now I knew the problem.
Walking the east side of the Strip is full of things to see, but it is also an obstacle course in avoiding a variety of gimme artists, some calling themselves magicians, some distributing free or discounted tickets, some masquerading as recording artists, some proudly wearing costumes and some simply saying they need money to live.
In the accompanying video which takes me along my route, I filmed all the stops. (It’s a longer than normal video, so be prepared.) Yes, I also filmed a few of the folks asking for money, but it wasn’t until the end of my walk that the cumulative effect of all those street people got to me. One of the characters I filmed actually came up to me later, held a digital camera near my face and said, “Now I’m photographing you!” This man obviously felt comfortable with a bit of intimidation for the tip I hadn’t given. He didn’t know I lived in the Las Vegas valley. Are Las Vegas visitors in addition to me subject to such intimidation? (By the way, when did wearing a costume on the street become an occupation?)
I know we have many people out of work in the Las Vegas area, and that is a serious sad problem, but we also have many agencies willing to help people with financial issues. We also have several mining companies in other parts of our state looking for employees. In my view, donations from tourists are not the answer to our local unemployment, particularly if turned-off tourists decide NOT to return to a city that has made them uncomfortable. Tourism is the lifeblood of Las Vegas, and I must now join the voices who say even more folks may be out of work if we don’t make visiting Las Vegas a safe and pleasant experience…downtown and on the Strip.
So here’s a bravo to those Clark County Commissioners who want to clean up the tourist corridor. I had no idea when I began my walk that I’d be cheerleading for the Commissioners. However, I am now cheering. Tourists already pay (and pay generously) for rooms, meals, drinks, souvenirs, nightclubs, shows and gambling. Most of them still have fun in Las Vegas, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some tourists, taking a walk down the east side of Las Vegas Boulevard, have a rather unsettled feeling when they return to their hotel rooms.