Las Vegas: Bright Lights, Big City, Small Town
These days, two versions of Las Vegas occupy the public imagination. One is of Sin City, home to The Strip, to glitter and entertainment. The other is as a dramatic victim of the recent economic recession, a city where whole neighborhoods have been foreclosed upon, where the jobless rate shot up to double digits, where massive casino and hotel constructions were suspended, leaving hulking ghosts to remind residents of the boom times. In this episode, SOTRU explores stories of people making Las Vegas home between these two sides of the city, those working to cultivate community in a place that has a reputation for being impersonal.
Residents narrate the city’s rise during the real estate boom and the depth of the foreclosure crisis since the bubble burst.
Beneath the casinos and the glitz of Las Vegas’ strip, another world exists. In the tunnels built as a flood channel several miles beneath Las Vegas, several hundred people make their home.
Vegas residents have what every American suburb has: movie theaters, restaurants, bowling alleys . . . but in Las Vegas, all of those things are located in the neighborhood casino. These are not the glittery operations of the strip; they’re built for locals—and, for many residents, they’ve become de facto community centers.
Among the many transplants the boom brought to Las Vegas were those not from the “Mainland.” Hawaiians have come to Las Vegas in droves—so much so that they refer to it, both on Hawaii and off, as “the ninth island.”
Local writer Steve Friess—sees the mortgage limbo many Vegas residents find themselves in as holding promise for building community spirit and civic action that the city has lacked.
Michael Cornthwaite was attracted to Las Vegas, because, as to so many others, it seemed like a city of boundless opportunity. In his first few months in Vegas, he noticed there weren’t enough places catering to residents, instead of tourists. He found an answer in an old abandoned medical center on Fremont Street.
For the past ten years, at least once a month, a group of musicians who play in the Blue Man Group show morph into… Uberschall. The band is made up of professional musicians who play on the strip, who see this band as their outlet: an entirely improvisational, crazy jam that holds audience members spellbound with its musical intricacy and exploration.
You might think of neon when you think of Las Vegas—but how about pristine, untouched wilderness? We explore the beauty of the desert with members of an online meet-up group for those enthusiastic about the outdoors in Sin City.
Additional Las Vegas Stories:
The Boom to the Bust
An Underground World, Where The Destitute Live
Let’s Meet Up at the Neighborhood Casino
“The Ninth Island”
Stuck in Your Home? Make it a Home.
A Bunch of Artists in a Former Medical Center
One Long Song
Seeking Solace in the Wilderness
Frank Sinatra “Luck Be a Lady”
Helios “Cullen Hill”
The Roots “Instrumental—Guess Who’s Back”
Brian Eno “Emerald and Stone”
Phillip Bimstein “Casino”
The Skatalites “Naked City”
The American Dollar “Equinox”
Lymbyc System “Contemporary Art”
Uberschall “Was Ist Das,” “Soundcolumn,” and music recorded live at the Double Down
Saloon, Las Vegas, NV on December 26, 2010
This Will Destroy You “Happiness: We’re All In It Together”
Amon Tobin “People Like Frank”
Elvis Presley “Viva Las Vegas”