Las Vegas is Spanish for “the meadows.” It used to be a green valley in the middle of endless desert. Now it has become what is considered the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” notorious as a bastion of hedonism, a place adults go to have shameless fun. When others hear that Jason and I are going to Vegas for spring break, they tell us we’ll have an awesome time, half smiling half smirking.
Jason lives in the Vegas suburbs. He wanted to show me the side of Vegas that wasn’t just blinding lights and glittering casinos and flashy dancers. He and his three siblings grew up with the desert hills in their backyard. When he was younger they would go to the desert to shoot airsoft guns. In high school, the desert gave him a quiet place to hike and be surrounded by nature.
He took me to the top of the “ridge,” a tall and steep hill that seemed to be crumbling away. Besides some small cacti, the landscape was comprised of nothing but sand and rock. It was windy. I could see for miles around me. In the distance, perhaps hundreds of miles away, were the shapes of mountains, more and more faded as they receded.
From here, the city looked like arrangement of tiny blocks of different heights. It was small compared to the vastness of the entire valley—the last thing someone would think standing on the strip. As the sun set, lights began turning on until the entire city became a sea of orange. Together, the lights appeared to shimmer. The sky was cloudless. A full moon lit our way down the hill and back to the road.
Photo by Jason Kim.