My column in today’s Greenville News.

 ‘Las Vegas ain’t the place to be.  Beach living is the life for me.  Sand spreadin’ out so far and wide, keep your drunk gamblers just give me the ocean-side!’

https://www.greenvilleonline.com/article/20130728/OPINION/307280015/Ed-Leap-vacation-game-beach-trumps-Vegas?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Opinion|s

I was out of town this Spring to speak at a medical conference in Las Vegas.  After a long day in meetings I decided to venture outside for some rest, relaxation and sun-induced Vitamin D.  What better place than the pool, I ask you!

So, I put my post-winter pale body into swim-trunks and headed pool-side.  It took me all of five minutes to realize that it wasn’t the pool for me.  I showed my key, grabbed my towel and rounded the corner to pool-side when a voice inside my head said, ‘we ain’t in South Carolina anymore.’

The pool at the Las Vegas Encore Hotel (I didn’t pay for it, or I’d have been at the Day’s Inn) was a meeting place for beautiful people.  And young people.  (And if the shops, like Dior, Cartier, Chanel, Ferrari and others were an indication, wealthy people.)  It did not seem like a place especially suited for a mid-life South Carolina physician, husband and father of four.

I walked around a while, searching for some collection of people who had been afflicted by biscuits and gravy like myself, scanning for a sign that said ‘ya’ll regular folks hide in here,’ or ‘fried chicken and sweet tea!’  (Be still my heart…)

Instead, I felt as if I were touring an exotic spa meant for those who drank from the fountain of youth. One of the smaller pools had a sign.  ‘European bathing pool.  No cameras.’  Holy Monkeys, what had I got my Baptist self into?  I knew that if I stayed around long, my eyes would fall on something they ought not; confessions to follow.  And there would be self-loathing to endure as I compared my not insignificant mass with the cast of models, cheerleaders, body-builders and assorted athletes who moved with grace and ease all around me.

So, like any confident Southern male, I threw my unused towel into the basket and headed upstairs to my room where only I could see myself in the mirror and I could call my wife in quiet, who would tell me I’m still the best looking man around.

Las Vegas is always an adventure.  It’s a great place for conferences and has been designed that way; it’s easy to fly in and fly out, and opportunities for entertainment abound. In years past, it was an inexpensive locale, with cheap buffets and alcohol meant to encourage gambling.  Besides, I’ve tried gambling.  My brain doesn’t work that way.  (And really, who actually understands Craps?) The gambling remains but almost everything is costly.  I had difficulty convincing myself to eat in the hotel. When I found ‘Tacos El Gordo,’ a cheap little taco shop near the hotel, I nearly wept in my salsa.

Don’t get me wrong.  Las Vegas is a sight to behold.  And there are some very nice people in Las Vegas, as there are everywhere.  For all that it can be base, it can be elegant and amazing in scope and technology.  It is a testament to the power of the dollar.  But it’s not for me.

In the end, I’ll take our South Carolina beaches over Las Vegas anytime.  There, I can wear my bathing suit with pride.  I can plop down wherever the sand is unoccupied.  On our beaches, I feel at home with men and women who share my values, and who (with occasional exception) behave like civilized human beings.  My kid won’t pick up calling cards for escorts or strip-clubs and a pizza for dinner won’t cost $55 dollars at the hotel gourmet restaurant.

At Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, Edisto, Folly Beach or any of the other wonderful, sun-soaked destinations of our coast, I can enjoy the view as families and children play together, laugh together and let their stresses ebb away with the tide.  It’s a far cry from frantic Vegas.

I can smile at young parents and grandparents.  I can take my lovely wife on walks or bike-rides without crowds pressing in on all sides.  And instead of titanic neon ads, the flashing lights in the evening will typically be from a board-walk, fireworks fading into the surf, a ship far out at sea or the moon in the sky.

I’m always up for an adventure; or a new topic for a column.  But Las Vegas just isn’t my kind of place. South Carolina is home, and the beach is our family-room.

And for my part, beach trumps casino every hand.

 

 

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