Well, we’re back in Las Vegas, for one of our annual or slightly more frequent forays in search of sunshine, neon lights, desert hiking, good food and the wackiest city culture to be found in the United States.
I’ve long been a fan of Sin City, even though gambling bores me to tears. They do things right here, and not just those of the X-rated variety.
So here are a few things that Eugene — and particularly Eugene’s arts world — could learn from our wicked sister city to the south:
1.) On the Las Vegas Strip, you can walk down the street between clubs and casinos carrying the cocktail of your choice. This is legal. I don’t know how they worked it out with the state liquor control people or anything about the multitudinous liability issues that any lawyer could tease out of this situation. But it works.
In Eugene, on the other hand, during the First Friday Art Walk, you dare not carry your wine out of the Jacobs Gallery and go across the street to visit White Lotus Gallery or the Schrager and Clarke Gallery. You’ll be breaking a law of some kind, you’ll incur the wrath of some stern civic deity, and if you run into a police officer, you’re certain to annoy him (and, yes, in Eugene, it’s almost always a him).
Speaking of police officers:
2.) In Las Vegas, the police are friendly. At least they seem to be generally friendly to tourists so long as the tourists are not actively robbing banks or pointing guns at one another. You see people carrying those open cocktails (see point number one, above) having civil, friendly discussions with the police who are policing the Strip. I’ve chatted with cops myself, though not with a drink in hand. The police make you feel like they are there to help you. What a concept.
The last time I tried talking to Eugene police officer on a Friday night downtown, I feared I would be arrested, if not worse. It was during the Art Walk, and I saw a cop astride a bicycle talking on a cell phone against a white brick wall, all lit magnificently by the late afternoon sun. It looked like a great photo. He didn’t seem especially busy or distracted. He might’ve been talking to his wife about dinner. I held up my camera to indicate I would like to take a photo. The cop snapped his phone off and yelled at me. I shrugged and walked off, not wanting to risk any further discussion. I hate to imagine what would have happened if I’d been carrying my wine from the Jacobs Gallery.
That was actually the last time I tried to talk to Eugene cop on duty, having had plenty of irritating previous encounters with them when I was working as a reporter. (On the other hand, Springfield cops seem to get the simple concept of civility.)
3.) In Las Vegas, the answer always seems to be “Yes.” Could we get a room on the other side of the hotel? Well, let’s just see. Could we get that order of fish with salad instead of potatoes? Of course! Would it be possible to keep the rental car an extra half-day? No problem.
The whole city seems to be crafted around the idea of relaxing and having fun.
In Eugene, as we all know, the default answer is “No.” (See the police officer encounter, above.)
This rather Calvinist attitude may have something to do with the climate here, which causes people to walk around with hunched shoulders against the rain, fog and cold — even during the entire week of summer. We’re so morose we’ve even given up on the Eugene Celebration.
I’m sure the easy-going Vegas cheerfulness has a lot to do with the vast amount of money that circulates through the city. Look up at any time night or day, and there’s a line of jet airplanes stretched out as far as the eye can see, all waiting to land at McCarran International Airport. Every one of them is full of money, coming to town to be spent.
But perhaps we could change things. We can’t start printing our own money, though I suppose that would be one approach. Bit Coins, anyone? But we could try to lighten up. Let’s start by sending all Eugene cops to Vegas for a week of vacation, er, training, and then put them back on duty only if they step off the plane on their return to Eugene with a smile.
Meanwhile, let’s all lighten up in the arts world, too. More enthusiasm, less stuffiness. More smiles, fewer committee meetings. More vision, less policy. And, certainly, more great concerts like this one.
Okay, time to stroll the Strip. Maybe I’ll buy an umbrella drink and then walk outside and chat with a cop.