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Desert Companion

Tourism: We are well-traveled

You can’t have a travel issue without some kind of nod to the curious fact that we ourselves live in Las Vegas — one of the most visited, blogged, reviewed, navel-gazed, philosophized-upon and Facebooked destinations in the solar system. And among those clamoring hordes: Writers! With Important Thoughts! Even in a flatlining economy, Las Vegas continues to be a subject of fascination, commentary and, yes, howling ridicule. In case you missed them, here are some capsule takes on recent high-profile travel pieces about — aw, shucks — little old us.

Paul Carr, author, columnist, “The Strip Diary”
Premise: Acerbic Brit and fledgling teetotaler spends a month in Vegas — sober. He stays one night in each Strip hotel, from low-end to luxury.

Outtake: “The town is the living, breathing embodiment of the phrase ‘only in America.’ Frankly, no other country but the USA would have the solid brass balls required to build the place; to see a patch of desert and declare ‘what this place needs is a bunch of casinos, hookers and a big, glass, Egyptian-themed pyramid with an American flag suspended from the ceiling!’”

Grade: A-minus. Carr takes on the typical tourist institutions with biting candor and a gleeful penchant for exaggeration. On the Trump International Hotel: a “glittering monstrosity.” On his room at the trapped-in-time Riviera: “A phone next to the toilet! Such opulence!” On the escort profession: “It involves fewer old, fat people than you’d think.”

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Matt Gross, New York Times travel writer, “Lost in Las Vegas”
Premise: Introspective travel scribe, long suspicious of Las Vegas, gives the newly humbled city a shake after the economic collapse. He discovers — surprise! — soul amid the slickness and true community taking root.

Outtake: At N9NE Steakhouse at the Palms: “But then I found out that the bartender, A.C., had a daughter a week older than mine; we showed off iPhone photos of our kids, and the thaw began. ... Very cool. Even here, deep in Shays territory, conviviality ruled, stereotypes faltered.”

Grade: B. Gross’ sojourn is shoegaze-inflected rummage through the Las Vegas that locals know well: Downtown, the Pinball Hall of Fame, Red Rock. Sure, Gross scores bonus points for getting under our shiny skin, but loses an equal amount for a prose style that’s workaday and vaguely glum.
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If you’ve enjoyed this read, wait until you get your hands on a bunch of these reads from contemporary voices mining the good stuff from Las Vegas — all laid out in a gorgeous design experience. Subscribe. It comes to your house. For real!

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