In New York, this demonstration would be a pick-pocket's paradise. At one point I checked my wallet and surveyed the congregation. I had all my stuff and nobody looked suspicious.
My mind wandered to my dad. He was an artist and would have appreciated this five minute show. Hell, even Van Gogh would have turned over in his grave for a better look at this guy in action.
We loved the one he was working on and were tempted to buy it. Only we didn't want to schlep it around and we knew our hands were already full to get back on the plane.
In a final crescendo filled with theatrics, the artist spun and dabbed and etched in such a feverish pace that our heads spun as much as the lazy-Susan. When he stopped, like magic, the landscape was suddenly finished. You'd think he was Salvador Dali when the gallery erupted in applause and whistling.AT NIGHT, BIGGER CROWDS COME TO SEE THE EXCITING LASER LIGHT SHOW SET TO MUSIC, PROJECTED ONTO THE BOTTOM OF THE CANOPY. THERE ARE ALSO TWO SOUND-STAGES THAT FEATURE ORGANIZED (usually free) CONCERTS. THE BIG NEW YEAR'S EVE PARTY THERE HAS BECOME A VEGAS TRADITION.
We stayed four nights downtown and each morning I did my power-walk. You get a false sense of comfort under the canopy because when you get out into the sunshine (at 7AM it was always at least 90 degrees), you want to die. The heat is staggering and with no shade, there's no place to hide.
THE UNBEARABLE HEAT OF PRE-CANOPY FREMONT STREET, (1983). BACK THEN, IN THE STYLE OF "AMERICAN GRAFFITI," IT WAS A BIG DEAL FOR HIGH SCHOOL DRIVERS TO CRUISE "GLITTER GULCH" ON FRIDAY AND SATURDAY NIGHT.
While I was walking east along Charleston Boulevard, I discovered that the slums are still there. Despite the urban renewal adjacent to the hub of downtown, away from the action, homeless people slept in the shade of tattered shrubs, countless drunks wandered around and other poor folks whose Vegas dreams never materialized watched me chug by.
Some desperate people become low-level casino hustlers. They hope for simple freebies like, liquor, cigarettes, food or abandoned slot machine vouchers.
Being a 30-year casino employee, I am sensitive to higher level hustlers. These hucksters/grifters/scam artists etc., look to "earn" a free gambling stake by manipulating the weak or less savvy gamblers. Most use hard luck stories but others sell get-rich systems, are prostitutes, loan sharks etc. Luckily I didn't encounter any of that.
What I did encounter was surprising. Away from the casinos, in mundane places like; stores, parking lots and gas stations, a new form of pan-handling was going on. I guess with the economy in the toilet...unemployment in Las Vegas is at an all-time high...many clean-cut people make up the hordes of a new generation beggars. Very sad.
Later, we went back into the big strip hotels. On our way to the Wynn Casino there was a broad alley between Harrah's and the Flamingo. Similar to the downtown pedestrian mall, this area was crammed with booths selling anything you could imagine. Therefore it was a shock to see another "struggling artist" with the EXACT same set-up, EXACT same prices and EXACT same paintings.
I'm guessing there was some sort of template going on because the painting were NOT similar, they were the same! I'm glad I didn't buy one and I felt dirty for dragging my father's memory into association with that crap. And forget about poor Van Gogh's ear, chances are, he would have cut his head off after seeing that.