Friday, October 2, 2009

What Happens In Vegas...Ends Up On This Blog!

Yup, that's the High Heel Car, one of the more delightful sights from my recent trip to Las Vegas and the Dallas, Texas area. My trip was a fascinating one, in which I discovered how the LGBT community lives and thrives in a notoriously homophobic state (Texas), and in a city (Vegas) where almost anything goes. The Dallas-Fort worth area made news last summer when the the Rainbow Lounge Gay Bar in fort worth was raided by police, leaving one patron severely injured. In the aftermath of this raid, Fort Worth police used the "gay panic" defense" to justify their actions. So the Rainbow Lounge was definitely a place to visit, and so I did.

There was a big show of solidarity among the normally discreet LGBT community here. Texas is a state where, although the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that states may not prosecute gay sex between consenting adults, homosexuality is still criminalized. This particular raid, which left a patron fighting for his life in a Fort Worth hospital, galvanized area gays and lesbians to rally, making sure this incident would not be repeated. Homophobia is rampant in this part of the country (I was reminded by several people not to walk holding hands with another man, definitely no gay public displays of affection, and my host emphasized particularly no wearing of Pride or LGBT-related clothing, unless I wanted to provoke a beating, or worse, arrest under Texas' notorious "public decency" laws.

Even with all of that, I came away with the impression that Texas' and the DFW area gay community is steadfastly determined to overcome the homophobia of their neighbors. Everyone I spoke to said they would keep fighting the good fight until true equality and freedom was won. I think, like all great struggles for LGBT equality, from Harvey Milk to Stonewall, to today's other LGBT struggles, the gays of Texas will gain their well-deserved freedom from persecution.

After a few days in DFW, where I did a lovely book signing before a very enthusiastic crowd, and visited the Sixth Floor Museum, overlooking Dealey Plaza, site of the assassination of President Kennedy, it was on to Las Vegas, where my family lives, and home of the world-famous Strip. Besides being an entertainment center where people go to lose their money, Las Vegas is also home to one of the engineering wonders of the world, Hoover Dam. During the Great Depression, an artificial lake was created on the Nevada-Arizona border, Lake Mead. This lake was situated on the Colorado River, and is the source of the dam, a structure so massive that concrete is still curing in it, over 70 years after its completion.

The dam now provides the Las Vegas area with hydroelectric power, and Lake Mead is the source of Vegas' drinking water. I'm used to New York City tap water which is known to have psychiatric drugs in it, so Vegas' tap water always tastes funny to me. But this project made the modern city possible, so I tip my hat to the thousands who worked--and gave their lives--to "make the desert bloom". Vegas does have a considerable LGBT community, with an LGBT Center just like the one here at home. Like Hoover Dam, a city like Vegas would not be possible if not for its gays and lesbians, who literally operate the city's many casinos and entertainment venues. Of course, we need our own entertainment as well, and so I walked around the corner from the Strip, onto Sahara, to check out The Entourage Gay Spa, which is so much more than just a "gay gym". They even have private rooms for rent, and the staff works extra hard to make the experience a pleasurable and unforgettable one!

After all, the thing to do in Vegas is MISbehave! The Entourage was another highlight of my trip. (Look for an upcoming review of the spa in a future blog post!) I would be remiss if I didn't mention the great casinos and hotels along the Strip (Las Vegas Blvd.), including the Bellagio and its "Dancing waters" display out front, as pictured above. There's also the fabulous Wynn and Encore, a mammoth twin-tower casino and hotel at the north end of the Strip, whose elegance and style must not be missed. I just about broke even playing penny slots and a few hands of Blackjack, so I was cool with that. It was with a heavy heart that I headed home to NYC, after spending time with my family and relaxing, but the miles traveled were worth the experiences!

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