WHAT DO you need? Come on, what do you need?"
Bob Stupak is holding court in a well-padded corner booth at Kelly & Cohen, one of the four restaurants on the premises of his hotel-casino empire. It's shortly after 5 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, but the work of a casino magnate is never done--not in Las Vegas, anyway, and certainly not at Bob Stupak's Vegas World, one of the busiest casinos in town.
"What's the problem?" Stupak asks as two of his associates approach him for a chat. "Is there a problem?"
The pair take turns outlining the problem. Vegas World is in the final stages of adding a second hotel tower to the existing complex, famous for its gaudy casino: an otherworldly encounter with angrily buzzing red planets, gold-speckled galaxies and silvery satellites suspended from the ceiling, piles of money encased in Lucite and mirrors, mirrors, mirrors. Some minor design alterations in the new plans require an architect's approval before work can proceed, but at the moment, Vegas World has no architect.
Stupak stares impassively at the pair of aides. Finally, he shakes his head and says, "I can't believe we're having this conversation. We already had this conversation. I put an ad in the paper. We're interviewing. What else can I do?"
He turns to a visitor and shakes his head again. "Can you believe this?" he asks. "Ten years ago, we had 90 rooms; now we have a thousand, with another 600 on the drawing board. When I started expanding in 1983, there was a recession going on, a gas crunch, and there were five casinos in bankruptcy all at the same time. Everybody was out of work. Now it's hard to even find people to bid for the job."
Stupak's amazement is understandable. These days, it's easier to draw two cards to fill an inside straight than to find Las Vegas architects with time on their hands. All of Las Vegas (and a good part of Clark County) is bursting at the seams, locked in a frenzy of growth unlike anything this perpetual boom town has ever seen.
For starters, there's the Mirage, unveiled last month amid a carnival atmosphere, and a massive traffic jam, as 100,000 people passed through the doors in one day. Halfway down Las Vegas Boulevard--the Strip--just north of Caesar's Palace, the Mirage sprawls across 86 acres of some of the most expensive real estate in the Southwest. The $630-million, 29-story, 3,049-room resort complex is the largest hotel-casino in the gambling capital, but it will keep that distinction for only seven months. Next June, the Excalibur, a $290-million, 4,032-room Disneyland-like castle with 28 stories, will open about a mile and a half away, at the southern edge of the Strip. And MGM Grand mogul Kirk Kerkorian recently snapped up 115 acres across the street from the Excalibur and announced plans for a $700-million movie-land theme park with a 5,000 -room hotel. New resorts and expanding old-timers will combine to increase the hotel capacity in Vegas by 17%--from 64,000 to 75,000 rooms--by mid-1991, with 40,000 more rooms contemplated in the next few years.
Beyond the Strip, in Las Vegas' underdeveloped downtown, Japanese billionaire Masao Nangakui, owner of the Dunes Hotel, has announced plans for a 35-story office building, the first new office high-rise in a decade. And city planners are eyeing a mixed-use development on 300 acres formerly used as railroad yards, a project that could more than double the downtown area.
At a recent city Planning Commission meeting, the agency considered 50 construction projects; five years ago, the average agenda would have listed fewer than 20. West and south of the city limits, residential developments and resort communities--whole towns--are multiplying at dizzying speed. The most ambitious is Summerlin, a master-planned community that will house 20,000 people within the decade, 200,000 by 2040.
The torrid pace of development is dramatic evidence that Las Vegas is becoming a very desirable place to play--and even a desirable place to live. The land of neon and pinkie rings and polyester is being bulldozed by another Las Vegas, a thriving resort that is also one of the five fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country. At least one hotel-casino, Circus Circus, boasted of turning away 1,000 reservations a day last year, and in the past eight years, the population of the greater Las Vegas area has more than doubled, from 300,000 to more than 700,000. Now, about 800 new residents move to Clark County each week. (Less than half of the area's population lives in Las Vegas proper, which is hemmed in by suburbs.) What was once Sin City now bills itself as a chic corporate playground, a magnet for retirees, a town for families rather than a "Family" town.
At the heart of the action are the runaway success of what is now called the gaming industry and the appeal of the Sun Belt. As legalized gambling has gained wider social acceptance--more than half of state governments now sponsor some form of lottery--the image of Las Vegas also has changed, allowing the city to market itself to an ever wider spectrum of visitors. And for those who might want to stick around, Las Vegas offers a warm climate, a relatively low cost of living, plentiful jobs and a gung-ho tax and business environment, all at a comfortable distance from rusting manufacturing centers and the usual urban blues. In the full-throttle tradition of western boom towns founded on oil, coal or copper, Las Vegas is rushing to mine America's last great natural resource: good times.
Right now, the Strip, the city and the good times are definitely on a roll. But how long can it last? For the thousands flocking to Clark County, as well as the corporations pouring millions of dollars into the desert, it's too late for second-guessing. The bets have been placed. The stakes are huge. And luck has nothing to do with it.
TOP EXECUTIVES at Circus Circus Enterprises, the company that is building the Excalibur, tend to refer to their castle-cum-casino as "our new store." It only makes sense. The company already operates four "stores" in Nevada, including the original Circus Circus, the first casino to woo the family market by offering circus acts and arcades for kids. And the Excalibur--a Camelot-style resort featuring wandering minstrels, a stadium-sized casino staffed with dealers in medieval garb, jousting knights, 16 theme restaurants and a 5,000-space parking lot--has more in common with a shopping mall than a traditional gambling hall.
"What we do is retail entertainment time to people," says Glenn Schaeffer, chief financial officer of Circus Circus Enterprises. He may as well be speaking for all the new Vegas palaces. "We put together a packaged entertainment experience."
It's doubtful that Bugsy Siegel thought of himself as a retailer. Siegel, the gangster who built the Flamingo Hotel, is generally regarded as the father of modern Las Vegas, the man who shaped a honky-tonk town into a gambling mecca fueled by mob money, showmanship and vulgarity. As writer Tom Wolfe noted: "For the grand debut of Monte Carlo as a resort in 1879 . . . Sarah Bernhardt read a symbolic poem. For the debut of Las Vegas as a resort in 1946, Bugsy Siegel hired Abbott and Costello, and there, in a way, you have it all."
Siegel was gunned down in Beverly Hills in 1947. After years of assassinations, racketeering investigations and convictions for tax evasion and casino skimming, most of Siegel's disciples are gone, too. Thanks to reforms in state gaming laws, most of the major casinos in Las Vegas are now operated by large, publicly held corporations, including respected names like Hilton, Holiday Inn, Bally's, Ramada and Circus Circus.
The new breed of casino boss is more likely to have an MBA than a nickname like Bugsy. For example, the man behind the Mirage is Steve Wynn, the 47-year-old chairman of Golden Nugget Inc. A Wharton School of Business graduate and close friend of junk-bond king Michael Milken, Wynn helped spark the current Las Vegas boom a few years ago by sinking $200 million into the renovation of his flagship hotel and casino in the downtown area, scrapping its flashy neon facade and turning the Golden Nugget into the jewel of Glitter Gulch.
The Nugget's face lift sent a strong signal that Las Vegas was bouncing back from the economic slump of the early 1980s, when the city's image was tarnished by a recession, competition from Atlantic City and the notorious fire that killed 85 people at the MGM Grand (now the Bally Grand). In 1987, Wynn sold his Atlantic City casino and borrowed heavily, with the help of Milken's company, Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc., to finance the Mirage.
Wynn has proclaimed that the Mirage--a tropical fantasy shimmering in the desert heat, complete with palm trees, waterfalls, a massive lagoon, white tigers, sharks, dolphins and a 54-foot man-made volcano that spews pina-colada-scented smoke every few minutes--will be "a wonderment the world will flock to see." To make sure the world won't be disappointed, he paid $8 million for the privilege of presenting the Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran fight earlier this month and signed illusionists Siegfried & Roy to a five-year, $57-million contract. The resort will reportedly cost more than $1 million a day to operate.
The Mirage will cater to a more upscale customer than the Excalibur, but both mega-resorts offer entertainment packages in which gambling is only part of the attraction. Gambling is also downplayed in television commercials sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which tout the city as "the American way to play." The ads feature glimpses of celebrities, scenes of outdoor recreation, night life--but not a single shot of a casino.
The campaign was developed by R & R Advertising, a local agency whose founder, Sig Rogich, is one of President Bush's media advisers. Federal Communications Commission regulations prohibit advertising casino gambling on television and radio; but Rob Powers, director of public relations for R & R, says the ads wouldn't have been much different without the no-gambling rule.
"For decades, Las Vegas was portrayed as a one-dimensional place," Powers says. "Gambling is still our biggest draw, but there was a realization that, hey, we're a Southwest city with great weather. The outdoor recreational possibilities here are practically unlimited. And if we can get people to take advantage of the other amenities we have to offer, they'll stay longer and they'll bring the whole family."
Not that anyone wants to neglect gambling. Industry analysts estimate that Americans wager $240 billion a year in legal and illegal bets, a 50% increase since 1983. Despite competition from other forms of gambling, casinos still represent the largest piece of the action, with $162 billion in bets placed on tables and in slot machines nationwide in 1988. Last year, Nevada casinos reported $4.2 billion in gross gambling revenues, a $340-million increase over the previous year. Las Vegas accounts for more than two-thirds of the state's gambling action. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, 17 million people visited southern Nevada last year: a steady stream of vacationers from the Midwest on three- to four-day junkets; conventioneers representing video software dealers, Southern Baptists and hundreds of other groups; a growing number of foreign tourists, including more than 300,000 Japanese, and millions of regular customers from Southern California, the city's primary market.
Despite the growing revenues, not everyone in Las Vegas is pleased with the changing image of the gambling industry. Bob Stupak, for one
"I think it's a problem," says Stupak. "I was brought up to believe that gambling was a vice. I think it may be getting a little too wholesome."
Stupak is an independent entrepreneur in an industry increasingly dominated by large corporations. He's an outspoken maverick--the kind of guy who once bet $1 million on the Super Bowl (and won) and twice ran for mayor (and lost). While Steve Wynn polishes his clean-cut image (he reportedly refuses to be photographed next to a craps table or slot machine), Stupak allowed Vegas World to be featured prominently in "Crime Story," NBC's short-lived fictional series about Vegas' mob-tainted past. While Circus Circus executives talk about "merchandising playtime," Stupak still uses the word "gambling," not "gaming," in his advertising; games, he says, are for kids.
"I'm against the family-oriented attractions," Stupak says. "I think this should be an adult destination. Kids shouldn't be brought up with it."
Stupak may grouse about the broadening of the market, but he's willing to exploit it. He recently announced his latest contribution to the construction fever: a modest proposal for a 1,012-foot, neon-lighted observation tower to be erected in the Vegas World parking lot. The tower would be 28 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower and three times the height of any other structure in Nevada.
The proposal disgusts some of Stupak's foes in city government--he's wrangled with them over building permits in the past. But local pundits defend him, pointing out that this is still Las Vegas, after all. If Bugsy Siegel could have his fabulous fuchsia-tinted palace and Steve Wynn can have his Hawaiian-Island-on-the-Strip, why deny Bob Stupak his towering, winking-neon dream?
BEVERLY BURNETT first laid eyes on the Strip almost 20 years ago, when she was a teen-ager on vacation with her parents. The memory has stayed with her like a scene from a particularly gruesome horror movie. "I thought it was the ugliest place I'd ever seen," she recalls. "It's like an adult amusement park, and I don't like amusement parks. I was one of those kids who hated the rides."
Burnett still gets "a gut-wrenching, sickening feeling" whenever she drives down the Strip. If she had been told, during that first visit, that she would one day be raising a family in Las Vegas, she would have laughed. But five years ago, the occupational therapist and her husband pulled up stakes in San Francisco and headed for the green-felt jungle. They now have two children, both Las Vegas natives.
The principal reason for the move was her husband's career; Bruce Burnett, an anesthesiologist, had been invited to join a busy practice. But he is quick to list other advantages that are drawing Californians, who make up more than one-fourth of the new residents, to southern Nevada. "Compared to living on the coast, it's much cheaper," he says. "You don't have any inheritance tax. You don't have any state income tax. You can replace your home for probably one-fifth of what you sold it for in the Bay Area or L.A. or San Diego. You don't have the traffic headaches you have in California either."
The Burnetts live in a five-bedroom house on a palm-lined street in a quiet neighborhood on the west side of the city, 10 minutes from the Strip. Their lives revolve around family and work. They don't gamble, and, like most locals, they avoid the traffic on the Strip, which can approach gridlock on a Saturday night.
"It's not part of our life," Bruce Burnett says of the tourists' Las Vegas. "How often do you get down to Fisherman's Wharf if you live in San Francisco?"
Surprisingly, the Burnetts--with their careful distance from the Strip--are like most newcomers. The gambling boom has meant a massive increase in resort employment: The gaming-hotel-recreation field created 5,800 jobs in fiscal 1987-88. But the same year also saw the addition of another 12,000 jobs not directly linked to the resort industry. Tourism is, however, acknowledged as the primary building block of the Las Vegas good life. It's the main reason personal taxes are low--the state is heavily subsidized by mining interests and casinos; gaming tax revenues alone account for 40% of the state budget.
Even Bruce Burnett's practice is indirectly tied to the excitement of the Strip. "Because of the casinos," he says, "the medical community is bigger here than it would be otherwise. I took care of one tourist who had a great poker hand. He looked at his cards and got a crushing chest pain. We ended up doing emergency heart surgery."
Bud and Marilyn Ward are two more life-style refugees from California. The Wards, who until last year had lived in Southern California virtually all their lives, decided to seek "new horizons" after Bud retired from his executive position with a supermarket chain in Los Angeles. The couple spent more than a year inspecting communities in Arizona and California before settling on a home in Spanish Trail, a high-walled, security-patrolled resort community with 1,000 homes and three nine-hole golf courses, five miles from the Strip.
"Las Vegas has the best of everything," Bud Ward declares. "Everything" includes low housing costs and utility bills, inexpensive restaurants and entertainment, quality medical care, friendly service and a host of other amenities that have made the city popular with retirees. Of the estimated 40,000 new residents who moved to Clark County in 1988, 17,000 were 65 or older, a 30% jump in the senior-citizen population in just one year. Las Vegas' appeal to affluent retirees with time on their hands and money to spend is one reason Nevada leads the nation in personal income growth.
"I'm basically a city kid," Bud Ward says, "and there is always something to do here. This is the only town I know of where you can take dancing lessons five nights a week for free, and you can dance for free."
The new Las Vegas promises to offer settlers far more than free dancing lessons. In the suburbs, residential developers are scrambling to put together a more permanent version of the Las Vegas "packaged entertainment experience" for newcomers like the Wards and the Burnetts--and the biggest package of them all is Summerlin, a huge multi-use development taking shape on 39 square miles on the west side of town.
The project is the brainchild of Howard Hughes Properties. The reclusive billionaire picked up the land dirt-cheap in the 1950s but could not decide what to do with it. By the early 1980s, it had turned into prime property, and executives at Hughes Properties were taking a long, hard look at the factors precipitating growth in southern Nevada. They began to sell carefully selected parcels around the perimeter of the land to other developers, letting them beat a path, so to speak, to Summerlin's door. Now the first phase of 1,000 homes within Summerlin, a Sun City retirement community erected by Del Webb Corp., is nearing completion.
Summerlin is another startling example of the combination of aggressive marketing, corporate savvy and poker-faced brazenness that is fueling the Las Vegas boom. The development, named after Hughes' maternal grandmother, will be a city within a city, with its own walking trails, schools, golf courses, office parks and transportation system. While long-term plans for building 85,000 homes remain tentative, Hughes Properties has already developed rigorous guidelines for signs, lighting and the 16 basic colors of homes that builders may choose from.
If this instant-city concept sounds like something lifted from the recent history of Southern California, it may be because Hughes executives have studied other master-planned communities the same way Mirage executives scouted theme parks. "We've identified all the elements we want to have present in Summerlin, all the amenities necessary for living and working and recreating," says Philip Conway, senior vice president of Hughes Properties. "It will be the closest thing in the Las Vegas valley to Irvine and some of the better master-planned communities in Southern California."
One hurdle the developers hadn't planned on involves the precarious health of the Mojave Desert tortoise, the official state reptile. In recent months, residential and highway construction in Clark County has been slowed while federal officials figure out how to protect the endangered tortoise, whose territory is threatened by Summerlin and other projects in the valley. City and county officials are confident they can resolve the problem by collecting a fee from developers to establish a refuge for the tortoise. Refuge or no, the smart money is on the developers. In Las Vegas, given a choice between continued growth and sentiment--even sentiment for a state reptile--look for growth to prevail.
EVERY BOOM CARRIES with it the specter of a bust. What happens in a dream city if the dream turns sour?
It's early in the afternoon on a sunny day in October. On the main floor of the Golden Nugget, business is good: Throngs of tourists pump quarters into video poker machines and sling chips onto felt, purchasing a few moments of "entertainment time." Upstairs, in one of the Nugget's plush banquet rooms, the fourth annual conference of the Nevada Council on Compulsive Gambling is picking up steam.
William Sherman, a slender, sandy-haired man with a mission, braces his arms on the lectern and surveys the crowd of about 100 doctors, therapists and hangers-on. He leans toward the microphone. "Compulsive gambling," he says, "may become the addiction of the 1990s."
Several of his listeners nod in unison. Earlier, a panel of psychologists and psychiatrists had described compulsive gambling as "an impulse control disorder" that can be treated with hospitalization and therapy, much like substance abuse. Two members of Gamblers Anonymous, a self-help group patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous, offered their confessions. Yet Sherman seems to be drawing the most attention--with good reason. He is the only casino executive on the program, and he is as conspicuous as a bootlegger at a temperance meeting.
"Certainly gambling is an exciting, socially acceptable activity for a good part of the American adult population," says Sherman, associate general counsel for Harrah's, a company that operates six major casinos in Nevada. "But with increased popularity, there's also an increased awareness of the problems that go with it."
No one knows the scope of those problems in Nevada. Studies suggest that 2% to 4% of adults in the United States may be compulsive gamblers; the figure is thought to be twice as high in areas that have legalized casino gambling. In other words, Clark County may have as many as 40,000 gambling addicts. Sherman estimates that the rate among casino employees may be as high as 10%.
But research and treatment programs in Nevada are still in their infancy. Unlike its better-funded counterparts in New York and New Jersey, the Nevada Council on Compulsive Gambling consists of a handful of volunteers, assisted by modest donations from two or three casinos. Harrah's has recently agreed to finance and publicize a toll-free hot line (with ads reading: "Before you put it all on the line, put them on the line"), the first such effort in the state. Las Vegas is home to 27 chapters of Gamblers Anonymous, but combined attendance at the weekly meetings averages only 130 people.
"We have been floundering," concedes Dian Edwards, executive director of the Nevada compulsive gambling council. "It's not a problem people want to talk about. The recognition and treatment of compulsive gambling are about 20 years behind alcoholism."
The problems facing the new Las Vegas extend beyond compulsive gambling. Like other resort towns, Las Vegas has more than its share of prostitution (illegal in Clark County but thriving) and drunk driving . The city has drug-selling gangs, air pollution, traffic congestion and a substantial population of homeless, but not to the extent experienced by other urban areas. While sociologists are still debating the negative effects of legalized gambling, it has certainly contributed to Nevada's high rates of divorce, bankruptcy and suicide--and earned the Silver State the dubious distinction of being cited, two years running, as the most "stressful" state to live in by researchers at the University of New Hampshire.
And even the most enthusiastic boosters complain about Las Vegas' unsettling lack of community. They point to a downtown that is made up of only a few hotels and office buildings, surrounded by motels and adult bookstores, and to the sprawl--strip malls and subdivisions marching unchecked across the desert.
To Bud Ward, it's a problem of transience. "The turnover in this town is incredible," he says. "If you're young and don't have a lot of self-discipline, you're going to leave fast because you're going to discover in six or nine months that you're always busted."
Beverly Burnett laments the lack of parks and cultural amenities. "Our museums are rinky-dink," she says. "They've tried to develop a few playgrounds, but the equipment gets so hot in the summer my kids can't use it. I've come to believe that, in Las Vegas, even a shopping mall on the corner is an improvement because they landscape it."
Landscaping represents one of the biggest problems facing a city caught up in a "what, me worry?" approach to growth. You would never know it from the greenery, moats, lagoons, waterfalls, golf courses, artificial lakes, kidney-shaped swimming pools and water slides around town, but Las Vegas is running dry.
Average water use per person is reported to be about 350 gallons per day, double that of such other desert communities as Tucson and Mesa, Ariz. Las Vegas, with an annual rainfall averaging 4 inches, relies heavily on the state's allocation of Colorado River water and dwindling supplies from wells and surface aquifers. Officials estimate that, at the current rate of use, Las Vegas has enough water to sustain a population of 1 million to 1.2 million; the area could top the million mark by the year 2000. Oddly, they say that most water waste is caused by homeowners with lush landscaping, not hotel-casinos with pools and showy fountains.
"It's a sad fact that Las Vegas has one of the highest use-per-capita figures in the country," says Allison Newlon, president of Aquavision, a coalition of southern Nevada environmentalists and business and government leaders who are studying the water problem. "We want to make sure water is not the limiting factor to our growth."
Newlon is confident that the city can stretch its existing supplies by educating the public about conservation practices common in other cities and updating sprinkler and irrigation systems to make them more efficient. Aquavision members also hope that research will lead to the mining of a vast underground reservoir in eastern Nevada that could help ease the water crunch--for now.
Some in Las Vegas are less worried about running out of water than about gambling fever's drying up. Newspaper columnists have argued that the country's fascination with legalized gambling is nothing more than a fad. When it passes, they say, a house of cards like Las Vegas will collapse. Casino owners tend to dismiss such talk, but even the most confident still have vivid memories of the last economic downturn, in 1980-81, which threw hundreds of people out of work.
Bob Stupak is concerned that the success of Las Vegas could inspire other states to legalize casino gambling. He is cheered, however, by the problems in Atlantic City, which opened its first casinos 10 years ago and has since been mired in economic doldrums and political scandals. "That's a break for the industry," he says. "It will keep other locales that are toying with the idea from legalizing gambling."
Even if other states stay out of the business, competition within Las Vegas is bound to increase. The building boom has already hurt some of the motels in town. Wall Street analysts have predicted that the mega-resorts will lure business away from older, more marginal properties.
For years, the city's leaders have complained that the local economy was too dependent on gaming and tourism; yet efforts to attract other industries to the area have been thwarted, largely by the stigma of casino gambling. In the 1940s, for example, Howard Hughes attempted to persuade Boeing Aircraft to move to southern Nevada, but the deal fell through after "both Hughes and Boeing apparently became concerned about the prospect of 10,000 aerospace workers cashing their paychecks in casinos," writes Eugene P. Moehring in his book, "Resort City in the Sunbelt: Las Vegas, 1930-1970," published in October.
As the social stigma of gambling has begun to fade, the Nevada Development Authority has lured several light manufacturing and service companies to the area, including Ford Aerospace and a Citicorp credit-card-processing center. Yet the attempt to woo high-tech companies from California has fallen short of expectations, and even the successful efforts at diversification are revealing. Reasoning that it wouldn't look right for its cardholders to mail their monthly payments to Las Vegas, Citicorp insisted on its own ZIP code and mailing address--The Lakes, Nevada. The company managed to move to Las Vegas and divorce itself from the place at the same time.
"The stigma is still here, but it's more part of the mystique of Las Vegas rather than the reality," says Brian Greenspun, president of the Las Vegas Sun newspaper. "The generation of the 1960s and 1970s is looking at Las Vegas as a desirable place to live and work."
No one in Las Vegas seems to take predictions of doom and gloom seriously. Newlon of Aquavision is relentlessly optimistic: "We still have a lot of room to grow here," she says. Glenn Schaeffer of Circus Circus says confidently: "The trend in Las Vegas has been one of the stronger operators getting stronger and the weaker getting weaker. The strong ones are building right now."
Greenspun, whose father, the late publisher Hank Greenspun, built a media and real estate empire in the valley, puts it like this: "The naysayers have been saying the same thing for 30 years. According to them, Las Vegas is continually overbuilt and headed for a fall. But we've been in a boom for 40 years. Except for a couple of years every decade when we had a downturn in the economy, you could go back and see steady growth from 1950 forward.
"The important issues are starting to be addressed now, and hopefully they're being addressed in time. People are becoming more aware of what brought them here in the first place. And they don't want to lose that. We couldn't be a no-growth city. Las Vegas isn't made that way. Las Vegans have come from places like that. That's why they moved here."
When you're betting on a city as flush as Las Vegas, you can't let doubts get in the way. You've got to let it ride.