All posts by rexmerritt

Disconnect

People don’t visit destinations where there are high probabilities of getting sick as a result.

Surprised having read that? If you lived in Las Vegas such an observation will be heard as contrary. Or overblown.

Left to lesser lights living in this Mojave Mecca, the recommendations and precautions taken against Covid never would’ve been instituted. To these halfwits, masks, cleansings, distancing, capacity restrictions, closures, all those measures are superfluous.

Las Vegas should be wide open. Multitudes should cram in. Here, they should congregate in cheek by jowl closeness.

Those sudden virologists simply regard Covid as jumped-up flu. Never mind that thousands of Americans are daily succumbing to “jumped-up flu” in numbers it’d take common flu weeks to record. Or that mortuaries are running out space to store remains. Or that overwhelmed hospitals are having difficulties securing and providing oxygen supplies for acutely-afflicted Covid patients.

And those are no exaggerations.

Real and unassailable as all those conditions are, a good many Las Vegans somehow view this plague for our times on par with a seasonal malady rather than the major disrupter its clearly become.

This blithe blindness also extends into regular life. I’ve stopped being surprised by residents who have no notion how Covid has depressed local employment, ergo the local economy.

The hotel/casino industry directly employs between 25-30% of Nevadans. That percentage vaults when ancillary professions dependent on the properties’ financial well beings are rightfully included.

Unlike too many Nevada employment opportunities, hotel/casino jobs generally pay well above average wages. Until Covid, hospitality or gaming jobs could still lift workers far beyond subsistence levels into what we once knew as “the middle class.” While, yes, living in Nevada is generally inexpensive, compensation in those professions allowed more material attainment towards comfortable lives.

No advanced degrees necessary.

Homeownership was in reach here until Covid. And though residential construction has yet to abate, new homes will be farther and farther outside the reach of blue-and-pink collar wage earners, a decent percentage of them union personnel who form the backbones of the casinos and gaming halls.

Theirs and those of trades and crafts who shape and make the various convention centers function smoothly.

Essential figures conventioneers don’t see, who tourists look through, their dollars juice the local retail economy. Having a lot of disposable income eases purchasing decisions. Left to residents working outside the tourist/convention fields, say, in convenience stores or fast-food franchises, warehouses, big box merchandisers, Las Vegas’ economy would’ve been nowhere near as robust as it was. Those aforementioned places pay shit wages. Their employees have nowhere near the same punch in spending power.

The next several months leading into spring will be particularly trying for the Las Vegas region. Holiday seasons’ upticks have abated. Temporary hires taken on for commercial enterprises seasonal rushes have been let go. Those permanent employees who had benefited from longer hours and overtime pay are now working regular shifts again. As weeks progress none should be surprised if management cuts their hours.

Or them.

What happened in November and December papered over what will become glaringly obvious throughout early 2021.

Before Covid, New Year’s Eve kicks off the city’s heavy-duty moneymaking. In pre-pandemic times, the turn of year festivity attracts some 300,000 revelers. It is a fine way of shaking off earnest Yuletide feelings.
After the party people depart, Las Vegas gins up for waves of weekly conventions, from several thousand attendees to over 100,000. In many weeks these run concurrently.

On Friday nights through Sunday mornings, visitors looking to break their lives’ humdrum flock here to crowd the clubs, restaurants, or discover certain “attractions” in which to indulge, amuse, and abuse themselves.

The above business aspects only subside slightly once the Devil above starts broiling the Mojave and with it makes bodies buckle. Yes, conventions still occur. However, these aren’t the huge ones that transform the Strip into an impassable tangle at times as well as bulge the pockets of local opportunists.

The partying? Until Covid partying never stopped in Las Vegas.

With the arrival of crushing temperatures, the ratio of visitors shifts. During prime convention season it’s rare seeing tourists in town midweek. Prices are habitually jacked up to exploit the expense account set. High-season weekday pilgrims not promoting agendas or touring exhibitions are seldom seen until Friday afternoons.

Once the heat seeps in and hammers the desert, leisure visitors taking advantage of lower rack rates heavily mix in among conventioneers. Sure. Las Vegas is scalding, but with the thermometer reading 115° that suite in a swank hotel becomes almost reasonable.

And certainly several hands of manly blackjack will recoup that outlay in no time. Wink!

In March 2020 all the above routines were interrupted. Almost empty flights into McCarran Airport meant hotels aped the same conditions.

Las Vegas enjoyed a fleeting upswing when stimulus checks and unemployment subsidies restored folding green into the pockets of furloughed or laid off Americans. But when augmented benefits ended, followed by Covid transmission spikes and necessarily stringent restrictions, the Strip dove from doldrums into damn-near depression.

A number of Strip (and Strip proximate) properties have limited their hostelry offerings to weekends, if not temporarily shuttered altogether. What distractions that are available have been severely curtailed.

Ah, but the weed dispensaries remain open and unimpeded. They are vital. Especially when it comes to taking the edge off our times.

It’s been an education in making shit smell sweet hearing booster types and organizations recite hotel occupancy figures. Anyone with capable vision can see the numbers presented in no way jibe with actual guests. This even with fewer rooms marketed. Of course, percentages should’ve been less abysmal given the volume of lodging stricken, but the number of out-of-towners amounts to curiosity-seeking stragglers more than masses in search of unbridled fun.

Oh! To again hear a Las Vegas patrol officer intone to some overserved visitor – doubtlessly a Californian – who still somehow managed exceeding the city’s tolerance for excess, “You are going to jail.”

Strange the things we miss, isn’t it?

However soon that may be, it won’t come soon enough.

Disunion

The American public would’ve disappointed Joseph Goebbels. Unlike Germans crushed by the Depression’s economic vise as well confounded by massive societal upheavals after the Great War, Americans of the last four years did not swallow the big lies. Continue reading Disunion

Persuasion at 24 Frames a Second

Too bad the ancients never divined movies. That way the celluloid art could take its rightful place among the other nine Muses. Instead if old enough in the eyes and opinions of the young and callow, films of certain vintages do not share wine’s ability to age well. Continue reading Persuasion at 24 Frames a Second

Real Horrors

Our Covid-19 nightmare vexes us.

Perhaps if Donald Trump in his ultimate pique against America hadn’t dismantled the apparatus established by Bill Clinton, then improved upon by George W. Bush, then these further bolstered through Barack Obama, the United States’ situation wouldn’t be so dire. Continue reading Real Horrors

Calling Out Contemptibles

Nothing like squeezing some spleen to make the blood gush.

Facebook is becoming worthless. It is a compromised entity. One that finds no problem letting reactionaries summon followers. But let true Americans respond to the menace facing our nation and suddenly community standards are insisted upon. Good Americans need to ask Is Facebook our enemy? Continue reading Calling Out Contemptibles