Bemused to death: A tradition of outsiders writing about Vegas continues to delight and perplex


See the explorers—outfitted in khakis and pith helmets—braving the unknown wilds. Every so often, an intrepid band descends upon our city to find the “authentic” Vegas. A courageous few might even venture beyond the Strip. Still, most follow the Hunter S. Thompson template: Blaze into town amid a flurry of imaginary bats and search for the American Dream.

Locals read along with chuckles or derision, amazed at the hilarity of observations that are always slightly skewed. My favorite is this gem by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist J.R. Moehringer: “Vegas isn’t a real city. It’s a Sodom and Gomorrah theme park surrounded by hideous exurban sprawl and wasteland so barren it makes the moon look like an English rose garden. (Smithsonian, October 2010.)” The LVCVA couldn’t have come up with a better description. All those biblical references to debauchery are great for business.

Vox Media’s Curbed is the most recent publication to enter the fray. Last week, the real-estate blog released an ambitious package about Las Vegas. The series of in-depth articles addresses transportation, homelessness, sustainability and architecture.

Despite—or perhaps, because of—Curbed’s serious intentions, its package grated locals more than the most absurd tourist confessional. Excluding a nice interactive map of public art by Las Vegas artist/blogger Ed Fuentes, the writing reeked of colonial-style condescension. A piece titled “Starchitects in Sin City: Can high-profile architecture survive in Las Vegas” begins with the line: “Las Vegas is where architecture goes to die.” Ouch.

Adding injury to insult, the authors critique Strip architecture based on the incorrect assumption that there are “no height restrictions” and “basically no planning rules at all.” Did nobody notice the giant airport (with restrictive flight paths) right next to the Strip?

As for solving Strip gridlock, the authors suggest restricting one lane of Las Vegas Boulevard to bikes, Segways and electric go-karts. Okay, that’s one idea crazy enough for me to support … as long as the Segway lane steers me directly to the Sodom and Gomorrah casino of my dreams.

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C. Moon Reed

C. Moon Reed never meant to make Las Vegas her home, but she found a kindred spirit in this upstart ...

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