Bright lights of Vegas, illuminate odd parts of society

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 21, 2005

Long before Toby Keith crooned that, "What happens in Mexico, stays in Mexico," it was the desert oasis of sin known as Las Vegas that held that dubious distinction.

But what the old clich\u00E9 doesn't tell you is that what "happens" in Vegas is the neon lights illuminate some of the quirkier sides of our society and that what "stays" in Vegas is more than likely going to be your money.

I, being a small-town boy and never much of a gambler, had never ventured to "Sin City" until last week when a family wedding drew me to the Mecca of money. The wedding was beautiful and the visit was great but, priding myself on being a keen observer, I quickly started to notice things.

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Quite a few things stood out as a tad unusual - and that was after I looked past the 118-degree temperatures. And when someone tries to tell you, "Oh, it is OK because it is a dry heat," don't buy it. It is a real hot heat.

Where else would it be perfectly normal for an overweight, sweaty man with a mullet to serenade passersby on the sidewalks? Only in Vegas, the town that the King helped build. Thank you very much. (Read in you best Elvis impersonation, that is certainly going to be better than mine.)

Only in Vegas do people hand out "trading cards" featuring scantily clad women with names like Trixie and Candy. These solicitations line the streets and sidewalks only adding to the city's, well, questionable reputation.

Needless to say, I was shocked when I looked over well into the morning hours to see a woman that reminded me of my grandmother sitting in front of a slot machine, sucking down cocktails and cigarettes while cursing like a sailor at the machine that had "robbed" her.

And each morning on my way to get the morning coffee I would pass dozens of bleary-eyed Kenny Rogers wanna-bees who are getting their morning alcoholic beverage.

In all seriousness, it was an eye-opening trip that shed new light for me personally on what it means to have gambling in your community.

I am just not sure Ironton could handle the 24-7 madness that goes with the dice, cards and slots. Though it sure would be nice to have one of the maze-like hotels that are much easier to enter than to exit.

So, I don't know about what happens in Vegas but what didn't happen was my wife or I getting rich and what won't be staying is me. And I am not afraid to tell that to anyone.

Michael Caldwell is managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. To reach Mike, call (740) 532-1445 ext 24 or by e-mail at