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Desert Companion

This Crazy Town

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Crazy Town
Photos by Brent Holmes

A guy hoses down a frozen corpse in a parking lot, trying to thaw it, as the fleshy runoff pools down the street. A business legally evicts seniors from their suburban retirement homes. Prosecutors bend protocols to convict an innocent man, then refuse to yield to exonerating evidence. Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas! Those stories, from Reuters, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair/Pro Publica, respectively, are recent longform reports about national issues (commercial body-part sales, elderly home confiscation, and prosecutorial misconduct) that are set all or partly in Las Vegas.

Anyone who happened to read all three could be forgiven for thinking: Oh, right, Sin City — that place is out of control. A lightly regulated Wild West, where legally sanctioned greed, flagrant rule-bending, and casually handled body parts are all part of the charm. Of course, Vegas has long served lazy writers as an atmosphere-enhancer and insta-weirdness additive. For one recent nadir, just look up The Daily Beast’s post-Route 91 story referring to this as a “city of forever night.” But these are prestige outlets, and their editorial horsepower adds veracity to the absurd notion of Vegas as a place where anything goes.

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