Apologies for the absence. It turns out that working at NAB is just as busy (if not moreso) than being on the road in Australia.
However, the addition of alcohol at client dinners (it was Vegas, after all) and the spectre of jet lags did make updating a little more difficult than originally expected.
Anyway, I thought that I’d post some thoughts about the neon-speckled city, or at least what little of it I did get to see.
I was lucky enough to get some free time though, and I was able to do a walk up and down the Strip with a Dutchman. I’ll admit that I’ve only been to Amsterdam for two nights, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a couple of broad-brush comparisons. I’ll also pre-warn you that I’m going to be talking about both European and American cultures. I’m not doing this to start a riot; simply to point out the differences. I don’t really have a preference for either of them.
Of course, the Dutchman’s reaction was “Vegas is for pussies,” and in a lot of ways, I agree with him.
Both Vegas and Amsterdam have (well deserved) reputations for being party towns. And it’s a little funny how that impression becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most people travel to Vegas or to Amsterdam to have a good time; to drink, to take drugs, to have sex with strangers, and to generally behave like they wouldn’t if their parents were watching. After decades of this behaviour, the cities seem to have turned it int a tourist attraction. During the day you can see parents with young children walking up and down the Strip, or checking out the hookers in the Red Light District.
A lot of the Americans that I was working with kept on telling me that Vegas wasn’t much like any other city in the States. Of course I’m not naive enough to believe otherwise, however I do think that Vegas reveals a bit about the American culture as opposed to the European.
Firstly, Americans seem to be attracted to the spectacle. The mile-wide hotel complexes, the replicas of the Eiffel Tower and the New York skyline, the showgirls serving drinks… everything is larger than life, built to make an everlasting impression on one’s mind. Amsterdam, on the other hand, makes very little distinction between the residential buildings and the “window shops” of the Red Light District. I’ve seen the same kinds of behaviour in Americans and Europeans in general as well; Americans seem to want to impress their greatness upon you, whereas the Europeans are happy enough to sit back.
In both cities people do things just because they are there. I saw people walk straight off the plane and use the slot machines that were sitting in the arrivals hall. There was a spot where you could take a photo of yourself pulling the lever of a giant slot machine. Meanwhile, in Amsterdam you can watch hundreds of men bargaining with hookers in windows, often in front of their friends, just to say that they did.
Another difference that stuck me was, of all things, the Hookers. I’m going to qualify that I’m not really well-versed in the sex industry, however if we apply the lens of a business analyst then there are some interesting points to be seen.
As you walk up and down the Strip you will be assaulted by tens, nay – hundreds of people flicking cards at you. Cars drive up and down the street pulling billboards, and there are “free” magazine dispensers every 10 or so meters. They’re all selling one thing – sex. One phone call and “Gorgeous Babes” will be at my hotel room within 20 minutes. I didn’t really look to see how many phone numbers there were (I think I will next time) but I can imagine that there were a few different vendors that I could have approached should I want the services of the aforementioned “babes.”
If you ever want to know something about anything, ask a cab driver. Whilst riding in a cab with the Dutchman, we asked about the price of sex in Vegas. For $200 you can get a girl to your room. After that, the girl sets the price – upwards of $700 – for the services that she’s going to provide. The Dutchman, of course, nearly lost himself in laugher. “For that kind of money I could get a return flight home and two hookers. Actually, I like that option more, because I’d get a meal on the plane…”
Sex in Amsterdam’s Red Light District is about $60; less than 10% of a shag in Vegas. The businessman in me wonders why. Both cities are roughly comparable when it comes to demographics and cost of living. Both cities have a reputation for being in demand for sex workers, so I can’t imagine that there is a dearth of willing women, so supply shouldn’t be a problem. Only one thing, then, strikes me as different – the perceived value of sex. A visitor to Vegas values sex 10 times more than a visitor to Amsterdam. Sure, you could say that Vegas is more likely to attract people with free cash (due to the casinos), but we all know that casinos produce more losers than winners.
Overall, I think I actually liked Vegas. It shows off the enterprising spirit of the Americans, and the one-upmanship that keeps them striving for more. Everyone has the chance to be a hero in Vegas. Like the rest of the world, most people come up empty handed, but the few that do walk away with thousands are paraded as champions of the common man. You can also catch a glimpse into the heart of America’s economy. A party town can only flourish if the population has free cash, and there are a few dead or dying casinos along S. Las Vegas Blvd. Casinos do anything to keep you at the table; free drinks flow so long as you keep betting, and hotel rooms come free with a few hour’s play. You can see the owners tearing their hair out over operational efficiency; I can imagine that the profit margins are wafer thin. Still, for the time being there are a lot of people that are plying their trade and paying their bills by the never-ending lights of Las Vegas.