Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lost Vegas

I spent my entire weekend with my mom in Las Vegas trying to decide whether to like the city or not. It is a unique place, a revoltingly fascinating place. Vegas doesn’t intrigue you with its history of ancient days or noble founding fathers. It doesn’t romance you with stories of heroes and epic battles. And it certainly doesn’t charm you with timeless landscapes, natural wonders, or breathtaking beauty. It's not a city that will woo you; it just wants you. It won’t whisper sweet nothings into your ear; it will only scream, “TWO FOR ONE COCKTAILS!” or “LOOSEST SLOTS ON THE STRIP!!” It’s a city that will assault you with its noise, colors, characters, and demands.

Las Vegas demands your attention the same way that your trouser-yanking sticky-faced little cousin does at family Christmas parties. The cornea-burning LED signs are read forced and reluctantly, like eviction notices or paragraphs on reading comprehension exams. And all those lights—spastically flashing at the same rhythm as car lights on panic mode. It’s a dizzying and disorienting place…a place that kept me on edge all weekend. Young girls were shrink-wrapped in tiny tubes of 100% manmade material and yelled “’SCUSE YOU!” when they bumped into each other in their inebriated states and spiky heels; young men had shiny foreheads and smelled like they were wearing cologne with names like “Growl” or “Stallion.” Profanity-spewing tools were inescapable, traveled in frat packs, and playing their broken records: “WOO!! VEGAS, BABY!!” The corner card-clickers sounded like the aliens from Signs and District 9…and what they had to offer disturbed my heart more than seeing a real alien would. Morale was eroding by the second, debauchery was celebrated, sin was embraced…devoured.

I’ve been to a lot of incredible cities, and can appreciate places for their uniqueness, history, and personalities. But Las Vegas…I don’t get it. It definitely has wonderful things to offer, but overall, I just don't get it. (And I don’t fit in, either...pearls and a wool blazer made me feel like a prude…and maybe I am one.) But to be fair, I appreciate that I find myself faulting Vegas—Sin City—for being too, well, Vegasy—too flashy, sparkly, sinful, busy. But it’s a city without pretense, and all that glitz and glam, class and trash…it’s exactly what keeps people coming back.

Now that all of my Holden Caulfield angst is out of my system, I really did have fun (that post is next). I liked Vegas. But I liked it the same way I liked popping the giant blister on my pinky toe Sunday night—my souvenir from hoofing it through those casinos all weekend: It was a little painful and took some effort, but in the end, it satisfied my curiosity. And, weirdly enough, I’d do it again.

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