Sunday, July 13, 2008

Las Vegas

Summertime means travel time. I'm lucky when it comes to travel. I've seen many of the world's landmarks up close and personal. Places like the Eiffel Tower, The Acropolis, Vatican City, Ayres Rock, Franz Josep Glacier, Norte Dame and Big Ben. For the next few postings I want to share some lesson plans I use for my students as I present some of America's outstanding landmarks and places of interest. So get your luggage packed and gas-up your mental car because we're off. Today, let's go to Las Vegas:

Las Vegas is the largest city in Nevada and is an internationally renowned resort city for gaming, shopping, and live entertainment. The city is called The Entertainment Capital of the World. It is famous for its lavish casinos, and adult entertainment. Once officially called Sin City, Las Vegas is also a popular setting for films and TV programs.

Las Vegas (English: "The Meadows") was named by the Spanish who used the water in the area while heading north and west along the Old Spanish Trail from Texas. In the 1800s, areas of the Las Vegas Valley contained artesian wells that created green areas or meadows (vegas in Spanish) and so the name Las Vegas.

John C. Fremont traveled into the Las Vegas Valley in 1884 while it was still part of Mexico. He was a leader of a group of scientists, scouts and observers for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In 1855, after the Nevada became America territory, and Brigham Young sent 30 missionaries for the Mormon Church there to convert the Paiute Indians to Mormonism. A fort was built near the current downtown area, serving as a stopover for Mormon travelers between Salt Lake and San Bernardino, California. Las Vegas became a railroad town in 1905, the same year the first city charter was written-up. It was also a staging point for all the mines in the surrounding area, especially those around the town of Bullfrog, that shipped their goods out to the rest of the country. Las Vegas became a city in 1911.

It is the American mafia, especially mob figures like Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky that found a way to use the money they were making in bootleg liquor, racketeering, and brothels to finance the first casinos built in the city after gambling was legalized in 1931. The Hoover Dam, which was finished in 1935, helped the city to grow too by providing a source of fresh water to the desert town. Bugsy Seigel’s Flamingo Hotel was built on what would become The Strip in 1946, and the future of the city was sealed.

Today Las Vegas has become the most populous American city founded in the 20th century just as Chicago was in the 19th century. The city includes much of Clark County that surrounds the city, especially the resort areas on or near the Las Vegas Strip. This 4.5-mile (7.2-km) stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard is mostly outside the city limits, in the unincorporated towns of Paradise and Winchester. It is the 28th most populous city in the U.S. and one of the fastest growing cities in America. Tourism. Gambling and conventions drive the economy. Last year 8 million people visited Las Vegas and analysts estimate that revenue on the Las Vegas Strip in 2006 was about $6.5 billion. Find out more at:

Research info gathered at:

Now, here's one of my poems you can bet on:

Ten Frames Later

Dear Samantha,

Want to experience a Kodak moment? Listen to this.
My chair no longer purs and for the first time ever
I realize that the sky never really was blue on cloudy
days. It's rained a month now and the chair just sits
at the living room window staring out all day. Last
week I had it re-upholstered in a flame-stitch pattern
using colors taken from the rainbow but it still remains
non-committal with wobbly legs. I suppose there is no
way of ignoring the fact that we miss you. You had a
way with dental floss and you made a perfect dance
partner. A wind almost out of breath. Moss without the
ability to grow lips. Grasshoppers trying to out run the
lawnmower. Everything is topsy-turby. Please come
back and polish my silverware. Spend a trial weekend in
the life of my undergarments. You can stay longer if you
like. The chair won't mind and that sky passing for blue
may turn out to really be grape-flavored. If it is, we can
drink some on the patio using the cups of martyred saints
and then when we've finished, sell their bones like pretzels
from a makeshift stand out in front of the house near the
curb. Let me know your thoughts. I wait for the smoke signal.

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Poem copyright 2008 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.

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