June 17, 1999
VENICE VERSUS VEGAS
In the spirit of tax write-offs everywhere and a nod to putting my money where my mouth is . . . I recently checked out Veniceas in Italyto see how it compares with our faux Venetian hotel in size and substance. Yes, I spent 14 hours in the air and 14 days in Italy, just to educate you about the cultural differences between the real thing and our expensive fake on Las Vegas Boulevard. Okay, not really, but thats my story and Im sticking to it come audit time . . . anyway a few days strolling around the Piazza San Marcothats Saint Marks Square to all you squares out thereconvinced me that our two cities have more in common than either of them would like to admit. Both Sheldon Adeson and the Italian mayor of Venezia should take a moment and do a reality check the next time either of them gets their ego in a bunch over the fabulousness of either enterprise.
What both have in commonand at least here in Vegas we have the guts to admitis a shameless exploitation of tourism as their sole reason for being. Venice, Italy is an aquatic Euro-Disney so crawling with tourists that whatever real life exists there is obscured by waves of stupefied fanny packers. Sorta sounds like someplace we all know doesnt it?? No, place on earth tops Venice in over-priced restaurants with menus printed in five languages. This tradition of the tourist gouge was invented by the Romans and Venetians about 500 years ago and we are the cultural heirs of this not-so-proud tradition. The scale of the real Venice is truly awesome and it is prettierin spite of the Germansbut our Venetian is cleanerso I doubt Shelly baby will ever let a foul stench rise from the small moat encircling his hotel. Imagine a moonlit night in Northern Italy, surrounded by palaces and medieval streets as you gaze across the Venetian lagoon outward towards the Adriatic Sea. A warm breeze blows as you dine al fresco amidst waves that gently lap and caress your dining verandathen, just as youre enjoying a huge bite of the sweetest and freshest shrimp in the worlda blast of raw sewage hits you in the facemetaphorically speakingand lingers tableside for the rest of the meal, now thats Italian, but it aint Vegas and Im thankful for it.
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