Caught up with me old mate Joz in LA. We spent the past couple of weeks exploring some of the natural wonders of the great state of California. Then an adventure in the city that never sleeps…
For me, Vegas perfectly encapsulated my brief impressions of America. We had some good times but it was depressing seeing so many frivolously splash buckets of cash around completely oblivious to the suffering taking place across the street.
My pre-arrival CNN based impressions were of an America divided on ethnic lines. While I am sure tensions do exist due to ethnic differences, what I was most struck by was the divide between rich and poor, educated and uneducated.
Because we caught the Greyhound around, we arrived in the poorer and more desperate side of the town. We stayed downtown about eight blocks from a mass of crumbling casinos built in the 50’s. It is about 8km up ‘The Strip’ to the new casinos. The area around our hostel wasn’t very picturesque or safe but the price was right.
Vegas is a complete fantasy land, people sit in air-conditioned comfort distracted by the flashing lights and the promise of a quick buck while just off the strip, filthy streets are lined with ruined souls stinking of piss and desperate for a bite to eat and a safe place to sleep.
The hardest thing to swallow is the “America is the land of opportunity” rhetoric. Regurgitated over and over by the wealthy and educated. Some self-righteous self-starter will pause between $1000 blackjack hands, look you straight in the eye and tell you that people are only poor because they are lazy. The underprivileged can always work hard and get a scholarship. I guess a few people are lucky enough to overcome poverty through their natural intelligence, but what about those who are born poor and dumb?
I would be interested to hear Joe’s thoughts on that one. Joz and I met Joe at the bus stop, he didn’t want anything just a chat. Told us he had tuberculosis but because he didn’t have insurance, no hospital would treat him. He said to me “Momma said there would be days like these, but she never said there would be this many in a row.” I gave him a couple of bucks then rushed back to the hostel to check how tuberculosis was transmitted.
Spending time in the casinos does have certain perks; everybody who gambles gets free drinks. So Joel and I spent our time debating the merits of a neo-liberalist free market economy while playing 5c slot machines getting shit-faced for free.