I don’t know if I ever loved Las Vegas, but I used to like it quite a bit. The place is a smidgeon sickening now whenever I think about it, but not because I have a new found sense of morality or something. Everything is shiny when you go for the first few times; it’s all bright lights and boobs and distracting noises. However, a short attention span isn’t only catered to in the city of sin, it’s a prerequisite. After eight or nine visits to the place, the chrome starts to tarnish around the edges. You begin to notice the dead eyes that go along with the boobs and the broken bulbs among the bright lights and that constant cacophony that radiates from all those damn slot machines becomes inescapable. It’s an odd sort of white noise that assails you the instant you get off the plane and chases you as you’re leaving. I was amused by the banks of slot machines in the airport on my first trip but I find them a bit depressing now (almost as much as those odd little glass-enclosed smoking rooms throughout the airport that look like cancerous fishbowls).
I’m sure you could find culture if you looked for it, but it’d be just as ephemeral as the ever changing architecture; even the Guggenheim exhibit at the Venetian was packed up for a better venue in ’08. It’s all superficial, which is fine for a three day weekend, but even that becomes a stretch once you realize that the only thing subdermal in Vegas is silicone. My point is that the town is a dirty place best suited for the young and belligerent, and that’s where my story starts.
I went about eight years ago for my brother-in-law’s bachelor party. I was young with a shiny new credit card and a lack of self control which go together like vinyl and bad taste. We did all the things you’re supposed to do for such a trip. It was like living a cliché but I had one hell of a time. We rented limos and grass huts complete with wet bars and cabana girls. We had beer for breakfast and lobster for dinner and punctuated our time with piano bars and burlesque shows. I don’t know, maybe the place really isn’t that bad because I’m smiling with fond memories as I type this.
I’m not sure if it was the first or second night that we were there, but we ended up at the Luxor. They say that you can see the light coming off the top of that gaudy glass pyramid from space, which I think is more of a folly than an accomplishment because if anyone is looking down from outer space, Las Vegas is about the last place humanity should highlight. There was an enormous flock of retirees blocking the exit and I wanted out really bad so I got a running start, jumped over a handrail, bounced off the wall parkour style, knocked over a trashcan by mistake, and then landed in the street like a ninja. That’s how I remember it anyway; I suppose that in reality I might’ve looked more like an intoxicated idiot than a highly trained martial arts assassin out of legend.
Anyway, as soon as I landed, however it might’ve looked, one of the aforementioned retirees yelled “fucking pick that up!” He was at least sixty-five and pissed. The last five hours he had probably spent feeding a penny machine weren’t as rewarding as he had expected and he was looking for someone to berate. The guy had one of those scrooge like frowns covered with old man spittle and he was actually shaking a finger at me. He was playing the part of the old asshole so I slipped into the role of the young arrogant drunkard and said “Why should I pick it up? Are you an officer in the Depends Undergarment Trashcan Police? You know, the D.U.T.P.?” That’s when he got really pissed and actually came for me flailing his arthritic fists. A few of his friends got in his way to hold him back, obviously aware of the axiomatic fact that a hip was about to be broken, and he gave up after a few more grunts and poorly aimed punches. I just stood there with a dumbfounded look (and a smirk) on my face and then the dude dusted off a truly old chestnut and said “you need to respect your elders!”
Wow. That has to be one of the most antiquated sentiments ever. I can see how “respecting your elders” was a good idea back in the Stone Age, because if someone was old, they had obviously found a way to outsmart saber-tooth tigers and shit so you should’ve probably listened to what they had to say. Nowadays, not so much. From televangelists to terrorists, there are plenty of people older than me that don’t deserve my respect. It’s easy for the elderly to hold on to a paradigm that’s rooted in the ignorance of their heyday, and it’s my belief that respect is something earned; it’s not something you get from me simply because you’ve had a bunch of birthdays.
The image of a geriatric caveman fighting a saber-tooth tiger flashed in my head and I started laughing hysterically and the dude took it personally. He ran (slowly) out into the street and flagged down a cop. Unfortunately, this one had L.V.P.D. on his coat instead of D.U.T.P. He asked me how many I drinks I’d had and I wanted to impress him with my honesty so I answered “twenty-seven.” The cop started laughing, actually patted my back, politely asked me to pick up the trash can (which I did), and then told me to go back to my hotel. I left quickly but I looked back once to see the old guy shaking a finger at the cop and yelling something about “respect.”
I don’t think my friends and I made it back to the hotel for another few hours because there were plenty of distractions on the way that snared us like flies to a humming blue light. I woke up at noon the next day when someone threw a cold Coors Light at my head, and as the previous night came flooding back, I started to laugh again. We walked to breakfast past all those lines of immigrants passing out flyers for “escort” services and then gorged on French toast and mimosas. Our attention spans took reign and we went back to bouncing around Vegas like pin balls.