I was sitting on the floor of the entry way of a hotel room, the only patch of floor that was tiled instead of carpeted. The light from the bathroom, emanating from a crack I left in the door, was the only thing allowing me to see the can of tuna in my hand that I sheepishly ate from while everyone else in the room slept. I was wearing the clothes I was had on the night before. The spare plastic forks I took from the food court and stashed in my back pocket were burying themselves deep in my ass-meat, but I was too tired and too focused on chewing my canned fish to attempt to alleviate the sharp pain. All I could hear was the light snoring of one of my temporary roommates and the low hum of the air conditioner that worked hard and thankless to make us forget the terrible heat that waited for us outside. As I sat there, pondering just how badly the inside of my mouth actually tasted, I realized something.
This is what Las Vegas is all about.
I know there are wonderful shows and art galleries and chocolate factory tours that never end in some unsuspecting tour member inheriting the factory, but we don’t do that shit. That all involves money we don’t have or don’t feel like spending. When my friends and I go to Vegas, we take the “Viva Las Vegas Discounted Basic Package” which is to eat just enough to survive, drink out in public, yell at or get yelled at by strangers, and lose giant chunks of time to darkness and alcohol induced confusion, all while cramming as many people into one hotel room as possible.
I have an unfortunate curse that makes me not sleep very much after a night of drinking and walking around all night. My friends sleep late. I get to watch the slumbering faces of the rat bastards I love. My loved ones have bodies who understand the laws laid down by Mother Nature, unlike mine. They would be asleep for a good time longer, I figured. I didn’t know how much longer I could be polite by not turning on the tv or pulling open the thick, light suppressing curtains. It was ten thirty in the morning. Light illuminated the boundaries of the curtains in an attempt to gently remind us that it a new day had started, and that in a couple of hours, we contractually no longer had business hanging out in that room.
I washed my tuna reeking hands in the bathtub, seeing as our bathroom sink was still pulling its two-day shift of acting as our own personal bar. Bathroom counter littered with completely or partially empty beer and liquor bottles and the sink cradled ice water and the few bottles of beer that managed to escape the fate of their countless brother’s and sister’s. I quietly decided, “Fuck this!” to myself, and went downstairs to go for a walk.
As I opened the door to the casino to walk out to the street, I was blasted by a wave of disgustingly humid and disparagingly hot air. It was the type of weather that could suck the motivation out of any starry-eyed vacationers. I almost turned immediately back into the hotel but decided against it. There was nothing for me in there. My room was dark and silent, and I had no money in my pockets to play thus making the entire casino floor nothing more than a noisy obstacle course. For the first time in my life, wandering around aimlessly was my best option.
The hot Nevada sun shone brightly and warm upon those whom embraced the tenants of moderation and family friendly desert vacationing. For the rest, us drunken reckless heathens, the desert sun laid down its scorching judgement with the fury of a school full of fire worshiping nuns who are carrying their rulers made of sulfur.
I quietly meandered down Las Vegas Boulevard, trying to not make it obvious that I was only an ounce and a half of adrenaline away from becoming a coma patient. The sun did its best to sear my eyes to a point where I’d be willing to rip them out of my own head. I have to admit, I was almost willing to let my eyes fry because I was too tired to keep trying to pretend the sun wasn’t bothering me. Sight be damned!
Walking down the strip late Sunday morning introduces me to an entirely different class of people than were walking down the same sidewalks not but ten hours ago. Then, under cover of night in a thick mist of hot atmosphere, nothing but idiot drunks. People who got over-zealous of the possibilities that our shared, over-priced oasis had to offer and tried to take in as much as they could, as early as they could, and made themselves spectacles for the rest of us. Drunken zoo animals, free to roam among the crowds, trying to mingle with the onlookers. They are pretending they are one of us! How cute!
I can’t judge them though, seeing as I too have on many occasions played the part of a sauced bear, hobnobbing with the nice party people.
But now the drunken bears and the bombed onlookers were nowhere to be seen. They were all off, hiding away in their resort caves, driven away by lack of funds and prevailing sunlight. Now, just families. Men in khaki shorts and fanny packs. Women guiding their children, who are too busy staring at the giants signs and fake Eiffel Tower to notice the escort fliers being handed to them, which she has instructed them not to look at. Elderly couples looking for the absolute best deal for breakfast. Maybe the buffet at one of the older, hole in the wall casinos smashed in between a couple of resorts? Maybe risk the walk all the way up the strip at the chance at a for a possible $3.99 ham steak breakfast? The world is their oyster for one more hour until lunch specials are now focus of the day, and the cycle of “What and Where?” begins anew.
These people weren’t here for the same reason I was. Pressure of succeeding or failing in the life is so demanding, it’s a wonder more people in the world don’t just say, “FUCK IT!” and spend as many waking moments as possible in Las Vegas. Or become wandering troubadours. Either or. The biggest issue with real life is that it is way too fucking real. Some people find they can glide right through it. Some people (*such as I*) have issues with it. We aren’t as naturally inclined to get through this mine field with as much ease as others. It’s hard for us. We try, no one can say we don’t, but we just lack that spark that some others keep incessantly burning. And yet, we still do better than that last bunch. People who can get through nothing at all.
You can only try for so long with no real results until something has to give. Some people take up a hobby. Some people convince themselves that they must take a gun to a public place and bring everyone down to their level. Other, slightly saner folks drive out to the middle of the desert and risk deadly dehydration via vast amounts of intoxicants, all for the purpose of forgetting the fact that life seems to suck more than it should. Vegas is always the go to “Forget me” option when one can get there by car in the same time it would take to watch a Lord of the Rings movie.
Or who knows? Maybe these people are out here for the same reason. Maybe the family is tired of suburbia and needed a weekend of lights and glamor. The kids can get their first look at life outside of school and home. Where, when they grow up, they will come with their friends and blow off steam. Someday, these kids will be the drunken bears. Maybe the elderly couple… I don’t know, enjoy arguing with ever-changing scenery. Next week, San Francisco Bay. Week after, Sequoia National Park. The world is theirs to bitch as they please and pay as much as they’d like for ham. Anything for a change.
But for all of us, this isn’t permanent. It was actually time for me to go back. Time to go get my things. Time to see if my friends had fared worse or better than myself. Time to get back to real life.
Las Vegas is a movie. Go and have your fun. Wallow in everything that is created for the sole sake of entertaining the masses. But when the movie is over, and everyone is tired, it’s time to go home. First, I have to get back to the hotel, and in the process of thinking and stepping, I stepped a lot farther away from the hotel than I realized.
Fuck. I had a long trek of breathing hot air and stepping over titty cards directly ahead of me.
Somehow, my legs played ball and got me back to the hotel room, where I found my trip buddies were finally up. We all took turns playing minor league games of “freshening up” in the bathroom, got our stuff, and went downstairs to check out.
The lobby was full of other folks destined to leave the city at the last possible moment. A mad rush of hung over zombies, all dressed in rumpled clothes or pajamas, looking only as conscious as needed, trying like hell not to get charged late check-out fees, cursing the heavens for making them stand on their own two, very tired feet. It was nothing of not absolutely hilarious.
A luggage in the car version of Tetris, followed by a somber breakfast, and we were off. At least kind of. Turns out, if you live in California, leaving Las Vegas on Sunday, right after the apparent city-wide check out time, is a catastrophic idea. Everybody, and fucking seriously EVERYBODY, is trying to leave the city at the exact same time. It was the first time I’d ever seen a traffic jam in that city. I’ve never been a fan of traffic jams, and this was certainly no exception, but I took a little solace in the fact that we were now no longer slinking our way out of the city, but more putting off the inevitable as much as possible. That’s all it was though. In a matter of hours, now more than originally planned, I was going to be right back in the thick of it. Same life. Same Crap.
I watched Las Vegas take it’s time as it inched it’s way towards fitting entirely in the rear-view mirror. I was sad as I watched the city shrink down until it finally disappeared behind a desert hill. The city was gone, and so were all the temporary good times that came with it. All that was left was soreness and the promise continuing through the days without the carefree vigor that Las Vegas seems to thrive on. At least from what I remember, it was good times aplenty. I’m sure I’ll be back to visit that place. The only city I can think of where drunken bears and vacationing families can co-exist. I’ll have my fun, and hopefully, I will be a stronger person so that I don’t leave the city as tired as I felt. More so, hopefully I can get my shit together here at home so that next time, I won’t miss the good times as much when I leave.
That’s what Las Vegas is. It’s a temporary high. It’s an escape from the dregs. I’m not fooling myself about it, nor does the city expect that it is fooling me. But what that city doesn’t realize is it is also doing one more thing for society, or at least for me. It makes itself a barometer. I know, thanks to that town, just how much fun I know I can have, and, more importantly, how great I can feel about myself and my surroundings. Now all I have to do is try, like really REALLY try to bring some of the amazing feelings a big patch in the desert brings me back to California. If I can do that, maybe next time I’ll leave the city feeling less like I’m going home kicking and screaming and more like I’m being sent off by an old friend.
An old friend that seriously enjoys getting me drunk.