12/02/2009 07:45 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Snapshot of Las Vegas Today


As always, Las Vegas is an interesting place to live. If one were to take snapshots of life here today, there would be some interesting pictures.

For example, the couture floor of a very high-end department store a few weeks ago featured the display in the photo above. Clearly, it is of a woman dressed in her couture finery who had so much to drink that she passed out. How festive is that? And how elegant?

2009-12-03-birthersign.JPGThe photo of the sign here was taken a couple of months ago. It speaks for itself and, apparently, for lots of citizens of our fair city. One birther told me that "any online copy of the Obama birth certificate was photoshopped to make him an American. If you know anything about photoshop you can tell just by looking." Well, I do. And I can't tell.

A snapshot of this city -- Las Vegas -- today is one of sharply etched contrasts. There are the party people who think nothing is wrong with portraying their customer passed out from drink. At the other end of the spectrum are the very conservative citizens, still insisting that our president is not an American.

If one were to take snapshots elsewhere here there would be different specific photos, but the themes would be constant. For example, ride along the I-15 highway behind The Strip and you could take photos of billboards advertising a gentleman's club. This may be next to one saying simply, "GOD." Then there are -- and this is true -- the ads for the firm calling itself "Half-Price Lawyers."

In the background of some photos you would see City Center, the $8.5 billion resort that MGM Mirage is in the process of opening with considerable financial help from Dubai World. There's a certain icky glee in the way many members of the press are predicting its demise while the builders and their supporters say it will save the city. After all, about 12,000 people are being hired to work there.

There is, in short, a constant tug-of-war between the city's excess and some residents' idea of what is right and proper. Now, I don't live on The Strip. I live in the 'burbs. I love going to The Strip (except on Friday and Saturday nights) but I am very aware that there are a lot of people who live almost their entire lives without going there. This can be, in fact, a family city.

But, just as these photos illustrate, this is a city on the brink. The question is, are we on the brink of renewal and revitalization? Or on the brink of disaster?

Your guess is as good or mine. Actually, it may be better than mine because, really, I just don't know.