The Balancing Act of Las Vegas

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZojKsOL8Qs&w=560&h=315] It was too much. The juxtaposition, you know. Of Keys to Freeze, of finding ourselves two days removed from Zion national park – this celebration of our natural world – to walking the strip of Las Vegas.

I had lost all my money, that forty dollars I’d walked out the door with in my right pocket, bringing nothing else but my ID and a head of fresh-combed hair. The money I once had was gone, twenty to penny slots, the other in thirty seconds to a vicious blackjack dealer with an underbite.

I was hungry, and tired, and overwhelmed. The neon was a succubus, some tarantulesque burden weighing on the senses, pushing me into the mass cavorting on the sidewalks.

Vegas reminded me of Bangkok. Both are cities of opposites. The balance of absurd and concrete, nonsense and reality, hedonism and loathing. But Bangkok was real. It felt so. Vegas is a lie. Mostly. The money is real. Yet New York New York, Little Paris … facades of the city. A psychological game. What makes the customer spend the most money? We are pawns in the great game, one called “the redistribution of wealth from the lower class to the upper class.” The great casino curse.

And I’m not just sour that I lost forty dollars. I didn’t go to Vegas to win big. I’m not that stupid. Close, but no – it’s that I felt as if every move I made, every game I played, every interaction I had was one calculated by the casino that would bring me one step closer to fiscal ruin. Last night I was a rat. But I was perfectly happy in my role. I kept getting free drinks at the penny slots.

What an experience to walk the strip and see everyone milling and spilling about. It was a Friday night, one day away from the “Fight of the Century, Manny Pacquiao vs Floyd Mayweather, Jr.” The streets were packed. We saw the freaks, the geeks, the sheiks. The families walking around with their children while women with nipple stickers stood posing for pictures as they walked by. We saw the water show of the Bellagio, and the entrance to Caesar’s. We walked the strip. We saw some sights. We saw enough.

There was this weird moment of realization for me. It came in the bathroom.  I was at the urinal, peeing onto a cigarette butt that had been dropped onto the urinal cake. As I dashed the tobacco out of its wrapping a thought popped into my head. “Wow. This is the most fun I’ve had all night.” Pissing onto a cigarette butt in the New York New York casino bathroom.

This realization was too much. We left shortly afterwards, all of us broke, all of us ready for bed, all talking about Death Valley and the coming two weeks before San Francisco. This desert oasis was too stark a difference from our past two weeks and our next to come.

Vegas, Vegas.

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