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22.04.2009 Feature Article

Ato Kwamena Dadzie: Postcard from 'Sin City'

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I knew it wasn't supposed to be a vacation but I didn't expect it to be this hectic. First the journey was long – way too long. I've done the six-hour flight to Amsterdam several times and so it wasn't much of a surprise. But the 12 hour flight to Los Angeles was the most arduous journey I've ever undertaken. It seemed like it was never going to end. But when it did, I had to jump on another flight – to my final destination: Las Vegas!

My managers at Joy FM had been kind enough to sign me up for the Radio and TV News Directors Association (RTNDA) seminars in the Sin City. The RTNDA seminars form part of the annual conference of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

I came here with Israel Laryea (also of JOY FM) and Efia Pokua from another member of the Multimedia Broadcasting Group, Adom FM.

We all suffered the stress of long journey to Vegas but we've had very little rest since we arrived here. It's been very hectic and for me, it seems the jetlag still has a hold on me. Having to walk from the Excalibur Hotel for about 30 minutes every day to catch the monorail to the Las Vegas Convention Centre (where the conference is taking place) has put a lot of physical strain on me. I tried to stay up to write after Monday's sessions but, like they say, the soul was more than willing but the body was weak. That's why I've not been able to put much up since last Friday. Today (Tuesday), however, I feel quite feisty to be able to sit up and put down a few words about my experiences in this city.

My overall impression so far is that I don't like Las Vegas very much. This is my second trip to the US and I've visited several states. Las Vegas is the one I like the least. I don't think I'd like to come to this place again. It's a very strange place and it seems too much of an 'artificial' city to me – everything I've seen so far (especially in the area they call the 'Strip') appears to have been deliberately built for gambling. I have no problem with people gambling and I am sure by the time I set off for the return journey to Accra, I would have tried my luck on some of the slot machines. Who knows, I just might hit the jackpot!

But it really saddens me – almost to the point of depression – that most of the people I have seen in the casinos are old men and women (mostly fat) who should be at home attending to their grandchildren. A friend of mine up north in Canada told me that they are “unemployed and unemployable”. I think this is not the right way for people to spend their twilight years. Yesterday, while walking through the MGM Grand Casino after our RTNDA sessions, I saw an old woman walking around in her 'pieto' (the sort of panty our ladies refer to these days as 'parachute') and blouse. It was such a shocking sight which, however, is testimony to one of the great things about America: you can do anything you want, but make sure you don't break the law! So I laughed and moved on.

In my hotel room I've been very frustrated by the terrible internet connection I have. I never imagined that an internet connection will be so bad in America of all places – and to think that I've paid 35 dollars for such an unstable service really makes me sick. Sadly, I have no one to complain to. I am reluctant to go to the hotel managers to complain because I bought the service over the internet from travelocity.com. This was after I had decided that what the hotel had on offer (30 dollars per night) was outrageously expensive. I pay about 70 dollars per month for my home connection in Accra and it didn't make sense to pay half of that per night. So I settled on 35 dollars for the seven days that I am going to be here and so far I have only been left with nothing but frustration as my link is up one minute and down the next.

My frustrations with the internet and the smoke-filled casinos notwithstanding, I have been impressed – and very much so – that a group of human beings built this city and all of its flamboyance to make it the largest gambling paradise on earth. The fact that it is right in the middle of the desert and surrounded by mountain peaks is yet another sure sign that there are human beings who think thoroughly and work hard to see their plans through. In the case of Las Vegas, they decided to make it famous for one thing: gambling – and they succeeded in every imaginable way.

When I get out of this place on Friday, I will very quickly like to forget about the smoke-filled casinos and the old women I've seen trying so hard to hit the jackpot. But amongst the things I'd never forget about this city is its monorail system. It is a driverless train system that transports thousands of people every day along the 'Strip', zigzagging through the city's skyscrapers and giving passengers magnificent aerial views of the city.

I wish the 'Asoprochona' train service was like the Vegas monorail. But then, when John Kufuor was commissioning the service, he seemed quite content that he had built for Accra a rail service that would, in his words, “take us back in the day”. So who am I to complain? The first time I sat on the monorail, I felt very sad that instead of building a modern efficient system, our former president chose rather to “take us back in the day” with a crappy contraption which just doesn't work. It makes me wonder: when shall we start to look as far into the future as say 50 or hundred years? When shall we have an efficient and dependable rail service? At this rate, I doubt if it will happen in my life time. But, I can't stop hoping, can I?

Finally, being here in Las Vegas has gotten me reminiscing about my years of 'innocence'. Those were the days when I used to sit on the bare floor in the rooms of neighbours to watch Azumah Nelson and Mike Tyson beat anyone to pulp who dared to stand with them in the boxing ring in places like Caesar's Palace and the MGM Grand. Being here doesn't exactly qualify as an achievement per se but for a 'hustler' from Essikado, I feel I've really come a long way – and it's not just because I flew 20 hours to get here!

>>> COMING UP: when I ate the desert before the main dish at the NAB TV Luncheon!

Source: Visit Ato at his page.


Ato Kwamina Dadzie
Ato Kwamina Dadzie, © 2009

The author has 146 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: AtoKwaminaDadzie

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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