“This city is advertising all the wrong things,” I tell anyone who will listen, and now read. When is the last time you saw a triple rainbow bridging two piles of mountain, hung in a dusky orange sunset, with a twinkle of city lights below? How often does your mechanic welcome you to his home parish, or your landlord, who happens to have moonlighted as a Hawaiian dancer, leave you hand-crafted quilts?

Like one coming of age with too much concealer, Vegas insults itself with over display. “You get sick of it soon enough,” my mechanic advised. Life continues with surprising normalcy outside the strip.

As a relative newcomer, I presume to offer you my fresh perspective on all you are, Vegas, and all you could be. Because, to persevere with weak analogies, like an adolescent with more lip liner than legging length, you seem to have forgotten your true value.

Maybe what Mayor Goodman meant by a recent comment that “the feminist revolution has gone too far” is that the thing has turned back about on itself like the Greedy Python, and begun to munch its own tail. As Nathan Harden writes in Sex and God at Yale, “It’s hard to be a randy sexpot and a deobjectified feminist at the same time.” City nightlife does little to inspire contemplation of the dignity of woman.

Downtown, billboards for cheap divorce keep company with insta-chapels. Disrobed men and women of all shapes leer for your entertainment. The glitter of slot machines illuminates homeless quarters. Numerous colleagues express concern about the prospect of raising children here.

And what beautiful children you have to raise, Vegas. Take a glimpse inside one of your preschool classrooms. You may hear, unsolicited, “One time my sister threw up in my mom’s TV! I’m seeeeerious!” and, “It’s a crabby patty! Uh, I mean, a crab,” and, naming animal puzzle pieces, “Horse, cow, goat, chicken nugget!”

My students tell jokes like, “Knock knock. [Who’s there?] Nanna. HAHAHA!” and finish rhymes, “Peter piper picked a big jar of pickled pizza.”

They want to be fish, pirates, doctors, princesses, scientists, and fire trucks when they grow up.

When asked about school, they say they like teachers “because they make me happy I like tracing things.”

When asked at the end of an interview if there is anything else they would like to share, they respond with warmth, “Yes. Toys. Share and care about people. Paper, people. I live with my mom. And I love my mom so much I could hug her.”

These are the hearts you’re molding, Vegas.

From the meat locker of Notre Dame to the crucible of Las Vegas, self-advertisement is a question all cities must examine.

I am not sure what will replace your obscene display–that is not for me to say. The question is far too complex, not just politically and economically. You are a grown city. There is human failing and free will and all that jazz involved. The attention won’t be an easy habit to kick.
I do know you underestimate your own beauty. I do know your residents have the heart for this evolution—they have shown a newcomer enough kindness, hope, and personality to power a cultural revolution.

This one’s for the tykes.

Katie Petrik invites young Domers deciding their future residences to join 600,000 Catholics in calling this city home, and visiting Domers to invest themselves in the mountains, in literary events, and in cafes. As some Mother must have said, ‘How do you change the Vegas? One by one by one.’ Contact kpetrik@alumni.nd.edu.