Las Vegas: Replanted. Living in Las Vegas Ver. 3

By Jake Conlee

Being a Las Vegas native should be worn proudly as a badge of honor. It’s a rare thing to actually come across someone that was born, raised and educated here, and then remains here. I claim to be a resident and life long lover of this city, and this is my third (yes, third) stint here in this magnificent city, and I will probably leave and come back again. We’ll probably always own at least one piece of property here; no matter what the housing market is, it will always be a smart investment. But I will never claim to be a native. I even have a massive tattoo of Las Vegas on my arms, but when asked, “I live in Las Vegas, I’m not from Las Vegas.” That is reserved for just a select few hearty individuals that have been strong enough to see things through.

Las Vegas is tough. Tougher than almost any city I’ve ever lived; New York City included. Las Vegas is frightening. I was a repo agent for a rent to own store that was off of Stewart Avenue and Nellis Boulevard. Certain areas of Las Vegas are as scary as South Central LA, and Harlem. Las Vegas is hot. Hotter than every other metropolitan area, with the exception of Phoenix. Today was the first time in 106 days that it got below 70 degrees.

andriod pics 2733One thing that people don’t understand about this city; is that Las Vegas HAS The Strip. Las Vegas is NOT The Strip. Las Vegas residents know the truth when it comes to The Strip. We don’t have the patience for it. It drains energy and money. Unless we are getting something for free, on special, or a splurge, the only reason we go to The Strip is to work, or see our loved ones. We know that most of the real good in what this town has to offer is beyond Interstate 15 and Koval Lane. We all have “our” places, and chances are, most of them are not on South Las Vegas Boulevard.

Las Vegas is: 20 individual towns with individual personalities. It is a place where both ends of the financial spectrum meet, and coexist, while the rest of the world comes to play. Every year, we play host to (almost) 40 million people a year. That’s the entire population of Australia AND The Netherlands, coming here every single year. And just a fraction of us actually live on Las Vegas Blvd itself. But we all have a connection to it, in one way or another, we just choose to avoid it if possible, and just sit back and enjoy the view; it is, Undeniably Gorgeous.

I learned at a young age, all of the cool stuff that could be found on either Spring Mountain Road or Decatur Boulevard. My parents, intrepid spirits and travelers, brought us kids in tow, even when Las Vegas was much, much less family friendly. The mid 80s was not the ideal place for children, but I am proud to say, I was witness to the final Caesar’s Palace Grand Prix of Las Vegas in 1984. (thanks, Dad). There was something about Las Vegas back then that solidified it as a serious place for adults, and children were not welcome. If anything they were relegated to the North End of the Strip, where Circus Circus and Wet N Wild were.

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The kids here grow up tough. All of my friends, and people I know that live here, started riding the public buses when they are about 10-12. It’s not that way anymore, but not much in this town is, as it was. The kids here learn not to get emotionally attached to places they like. There are only certain places that actually last for more than 10 years at a time. Even factoring profit, once a place has “had it’s run,” or changes management, places seem to inexplicably disappear and then transform into something else.

andriod pics 2478It happens with everything in Las Vegas. My heart broke when the Hacienda, Sands, Aladdin, D.I., Frontier, Stardust, The Landmark, El Rancho, SilverCity, Showboat and even the crappy little Boardwalk came crashing down. It’s strange to know that the Maxim is the Westin, and Barbary Coast is soon to be The Gansevoort LV. It makes me ill to drive by the Sahara. I know it is going to something nice and beautiful, but we were told the same thing about the Echelon and Fontainbleu. Even if something we liked has remained, it has changed hands and belongs to an investment group, or monstrous corporation. Only a few examples were bankrolled by individuals, and if you ask me, these are the cream of the crop. You know which ones I am talking about, and they aren’t contrived or wreaking of stamped out class. Don’t get me wrong, some of the newer, corporately owned properties are exceptional and magnificent, but they don’t have that personal feel that the privateers do. When there is a live finger on the pulse, it makes a significant difference over having the corporate machine stamp it out.

I think that implosions are cathartic and a great way to cope with losing an old friend. Every implosion that has been recorded in Las Vegas has been the end of a legacy. It comes with the thousands and thousands of memories made in each place, and every time a building comes down, thousands and thousands of people bear witness. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of people show up to the site, and within the past 25-30 years, the newscasters all come out to broadcast it. I think the only exception is going to be The Harmon. That 29 story eyesore needs to come down, and I know not a single person that is going to care.

andriod pics 3219People don’t realize that escaping the madness is no more than 25 minutes away. Whether escaping the heat and heading up to the mountains, or even the lake, or even a quick trip to change the scenery, Red Rock Canyon and The Valley of Fire is only a short drive away. We live on the edge of  the area that has the highest concentration of  National Parks in the country. We have, a huge, beautiful Lake Mead with cool, clean water. We have towering peaks that are snowy for five months out of the year, with a great ski area, less than an hour away. We have an amazing automotive culture that finds all forms of Motorsport coming here once or twice a year. We have an amazing downtown area that improves and evolves everyday. We have a fantastic Festival Culture which gets us outside, enjoying all forms of ethnicities, foods and cultures. We have an incredible food scene, with the highest concentration of James Beard and Michelin star rated chefs’ (celebrity and alike) restaurants anywhere in  the entire country. We have amazing hiking trails, off-roading and open land camping all around Las Vegas. We have world class Golfing found in every corner of the valley. We know that all of what truly is amazing in Las Vegas can only be found away from the strip.

andriod pics 2735The Las Vegas Strip is just a pretty face. What is wonderful there is only skin deep. For a select few, the privileged, the celebrity, the media and industry folk, the best of what The Strip has to offer can only be paid for, and in some cases, thousands of dollars. This is out of touch with residing here. We find other means with which to entertain ourselves. We seek out the Happy Hours, the 2-for-1, the Kids Eat Free. We love and support our local businesses and even just our local location of the brands we love. We share these places with our friends and family when they come to town. They are the places that cannot be found in a Vegas Guide. They are the grit and good.  We know, these are the things and places that truly sets Las Vegas apart, what makes us happy and what makes it truly special… and these experiences cannot be paid for. In this town, the best things in life are truly free.

Jake ConleeJake Conlee is a California native that has been blessed with the gift of restlessness. With an undying fervor and passion for what he does not yet know, life is a constant adventure. Truly fearless in implementation of wandering down less trafficked roads, this has led to many ordinary days turning into a treasure hunt. Emblazoned on his arm, the self photographed sign of this incredible City of Sin. He loves this city so much, a mural of Las Vegas is currently under development on his arms. If you need to know about anything in Las Vegas, if he doesn’t know the answer, he will find out for you. He loves Las Vegas, the good, the bad, but mostly the nostalgic. He’s also a sucker for a good hunk of meat. He is, most of all, a father of two girls, 12-year-old “Vern” and 18-month-old “Chuck”

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