These two vehicles, a new, fifth-generation Cadillac Escalade and a later, first-generation Chevy S-10, are representative of the contrasts I observed and experienced while in Las Vegas this past October. I love the glitz and glitter apparent in many aspects of Las Vegas, but I’m just as drawn to the more everyday and time-worn facets of this entertainment center. This year’s visit capped a decade of Vegas trips and was unique in many ways: no alcohol, relying entirely on public transportation, and trying things and going places that were unfamiliar to me, including the 18b Arts District. Riding the excellent Big Apple Coaster at New York, New York Resort & Casino was also a highlight, and this is coming from someone who has made many trips to what is arguably the Roller Coaster Capitol of the United States, Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.
One of my favorite things about going to Las Vegas is observing and talking with people who live and work there. Some of my favorite conversations have been with locals including bartenders, hotel staff, and even a few neighborhood dwellers. I’ll never forget the hour or so I had spent years ago with Iris, a beautiful Indigenous American woman who had initially confronted me as to why I had been photographing a boarded up storefront in her neighborhood.
Where and when I had met Iris. Sunday, September 14, 2014.
Much as I had done once in Detroit with an onlooker who thought I was there to take pictures to present that area in a bad light, I explained how I had simply sought to capture things in one moment that were bound to change. I qualified that I had grown up in Flint, Michigan, a town I love deeply that has seen its share of economic challenges even within my lifetime. At the end of our great conversation, I took a cherished selfie of us and it was reinforced in me how no seemingly random crossing of paths is, in fact, random.
Mocktails with friends at Longbar at The D Hotel & Casino.
Beesley, the bartender who took great care of my friends and me at The D Hotel & Casino downtown, made my mocktails with a level of care and craft that I was not fully expecting. The bartenders in Vegas have seen it all and seem to respect it if you’re not buying alcohol. I don’t know if I would have the patience to be a bartender, to be honest, especially the louder and more festive people get.
Of course, people who go on vacation or holiday expect a level of escapism for their travel dollars, which is why vehicles like limos and Escalades are expected as part of the overall landscape. However, what about the Beesleys of this city, and other people like him? They’re not all rolling around in leased Caddys and BMWs. I’m assuming that many of them are driving much more down-to-earth vehicles that get them to work and back, that while they may not be as old as this long-bed S-10, are definitely along those lines of rides driven by Everyman and Everywoman.
This Escalade, parked in front of the Plaza Hotel & Casino, downtown, is of the most recent generation that was introduced for 2021. I couldn’t identify the exact model year of the S-10, but I do know that it was from one of the final three model years, 1991 through ’93, of its original incarnation, from the chrome surrounds of the front side-marker lights and the ribbed bodyside moldings. I wonder where the S-10 driver was headed on this Sunday morning. What if he or she was on their way to tend bar during the Raiders-Bears football game that day (which the Chicago Bears did actually win)?
I wonder how hard it is to stay sober for those who choose to do so while living in a seemingly booze-soaked place like Las Vegas. For those in the hospitality industry, maybe regular exposure to patrons who have overindulged, or even persons sitting or lying down on the sidewalks, is enough of a deterrent to let things go too far, personally. That’s not judgement coming from me, but rather a hunger to understand more about the human condition. My 2021 stands to be the first, full calendar year since the ’90s in which I haven’t had one drop of alcohol.
I find both the Escalade and S-10 to be compelling vehicles, in different ways. Once upon a time, a big, new, shiny Cadillac was what Las Vegas seemed to be all about. This black Escalade is a modern interpretation of this idea. The S-10, however, felt more like an old friend or acquaintance I might have run into on the sidewalks of the Las Vegas Strip. It was like another Midwestern transplant, just like me, going about its everyday business early on a Sunday morning. Still useful, still working hard, still looking healthy, and alive to see another day as a result of good care and someone / Someone looking after them. I may have been in Las Vegas to feel a little bit like the Escalade for an extended weekend, but I was definitely the S-10 at heart.
Las Vegas, Nevada.
October 10 – 12, 2021.