Friday, September 15, 2006

My 24 hours in Las Vegas...or...America all covered in mayonnaise and diamonds

I just returned to Philadelphia from my cross country trip, and I will spare you the details, which are great in number, and the paeans to all things American, real and imagined. Instead, I'll merely focus on but one place and time that struck me profoundly- my 24 hours in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. It was, indeed, an extremely fucked up journey to the heart of the American dream.

Let me begin only by saying that Hunter S. Thompson was immensely courageous to consume psychadelic drugs in Las Vegas. Doing such a thing would surely sear the brains of even those with the most steely mental complection. Las Vegas has no stairs, just escalators and elevators. There is a gigantic fake New York. It is full of the most terrible charicatures of a broad range of Americans, bubbling with idiotic joy at the unending opportunities to blow their money on nothing.

Vegas is a robbery inside a pitch inside a shill inside a lie. Behind every curtain and around every corner, somebody is ready to take your money by making you think you'll enjoy giving it to them. It's pretty galling that a mini-economy exists based on the premise that the experience of spending money is actually a service rendered to the spender.

The place creates an illusion of luxury. Shiny things are everywhere. There are more fake tits than you can shake a stick at. All the drinks are expensive, the staff wears bow ties. When you are confronted with real luxury, you're supposed to sip vodka martinis with the naked daughters of industrialists on bearskin rugs, peppering your speech with French phrases, right?
Wrong. You're supposed to act like you are at your own party where you can act impossibly shitty and get away with it.

And what better place to have this party than in one of the world's most inhospitable and unforgiving deserts? Wait, you can't live there? Fuck it, flood some priceless natural wonders and we'll get some resevoirs where we can drink Coors on pontoon boats with satellite reception. Fucking hippies, with their Glen Canyon and their Colorado River and their wild animals and their ass hair.

I'm often accused of being a terrible cynic. I don't want to sound so overwhelmingly negative, so I think it's necessary to add that the Monte Carlo played that Rockwell song with Michael Jackson in it over the muzak once. That was pretty tight. But seriously, the one silver lining I saw in Las Vegas was that casinos, for all of their inanity, provide a hell of a lot of jobs. Whether casinos provide a net benefit to a community or local economy is a complicated question which I won't venture to answer, but I think my stance on their societal value is pretty clear.

So, in sum (to quote Ron Isley), back in the game now. I have plenty of knowledges saved up to bless yinz with... hold tight.