Vegas Baby, Vegas.  Yesterday’s hyperaggressive site seeing left little room for insidious journal entries.  I’ll leave the reporting of that business to other forums and attempt to keep this a record of emotional distress in the tone of murder mystery…

The cacophonous mating of the ubiquitous slot machines tinkled down the jetway as a dry heat overwhelmed my senses.  Little Jimmy would have expected this, but who was I to know?  One thing was for sure, this wasn’t Capitol Hill.  The terminal was dank, in a dry and stale sort of way.  A circular sixties spectacular with tinted windows.  It looked like a bank sorely in need of remodel.  The kind of bank where only nervous grandmothers and pedophiles do business.

The problem with this tack is that mystery writers don’t mention remodels.  I’ll have to forfeit the genre.  Regardless, it was dark, even though it was sunny.  Thereby revealing Vegas Tenet Number One: Denial of the sun and its cycles.  Life as an act of aggression against the sun.  The sun as a force to be resisted, a beast to be smited, a deviled egg to be eaten.  It seems natural light is nothing more than a sign of weakness, a tie to the given world.  To succeed it must be cast out.  Sent the way of the clock in Wynn’s Utopia.

You must forgive me, as I’ve been venting.  The sun is but a fragment of the larger theme of artificiality.  A theme that generously defines Vegas and makes it wholly American.  A theme that has elevated Vegas to the forefront of culture.  Boy George played in my hotel last night so don’t even play like it’s not Mecca.  I digress.  Artificiality.  Nothing is as God intended.

The air is conditioned, the light artificial, the sound track pervasive, the lawn sprinkled, the art European, the breasts silicon, the artifacts manufactured, the food preserved, the laughter prerecorded, the jousting non-fatal, the flowers silk, the accents rehearsed and the blondes bleached.   I trust you get the picture.  Curiously, the beauty of this surface assault lies in the intention.  It is not, as commonly held, spurious and malicious misrepresentation.  That claim is but an old wives tale spun by virile Scotsmen in vinyl kilts.  No, it is my belief that the pains taken to obscure nature are an effort to improve.

How convenient is it to visit Paris?  To trudge through its streets?  In Vegas you get the Arc de Triumph, the Eiffel Tower and the Bibliotheque National in one casino, pleasantly rearranged to better the composition.  No tour books, painted Parisians, foreign tongues, blue currency or overt culture.  It is Paris bettered with American ingenuity.  Who else but us trusty Yanks could capsulate Paris?  Bite size.  No need to linger.  More about this later but I’ve just secured a ticket to see Wayne Newton.

Let’s talk consumerism.  Consumption in the non-fatal way.  Consumption is conquering.  To have is to own, to have power over, to possess.  Vegas is at the forefront of culture because it is at the forefront of consumption.   It has continuously invented new ways to consume.  For example, I can have a nude oriental rub down less than twenty minutes, guaranteed.  Capitalism in the purest sense.  Customer service Vegas style.  Then again it is nothing new.

What’s new, at least to me, is the sale of zeitgeist.  You can possess Paris for $99 a night, mid week.  It has been simplified for us pedestrian folk but it is Paris nonetheless.  Improved through its reduction.  Plus free drinks if you’re gambling.

It was just about impossible to consume Paris when it was in France.  To experience it fully.  In Vegas it has become accessible.  I can be the big man on campus and king of my castle in one afternoon.   But wait, it would be a crime to limit ourselves to Paris.  An motivated ersatz intellectual could add New York, Venice, Rome and Egypt to his docket on the same working day, ride a roller coaster through the New York skyline, float across the Grand Canal, and stroll down the Champs-Elysees within blocks of his hotel.  A global journey with neon to spare.

You must forgive my short span of attention because I’ve avoided writing while sober.  To me this is a matter of strict professionalism.  As I learned, Vegas is somewhat incomprehensible straight.  Like watching Saturday Night Fever.  In fact, I suspect that no one else is sober.  Even arriving in Vegas unmedicated is to be cautioned against.  A middle-aged woman and her volcanic mother were seated adjacent to me on my arriving flight.  It was 7:25am.  They ordered Bailey’s and coffee.  I ordered juice.  In retrospect, I erred, but such is the way of the neophyte.  No one understood the path to lucidity better than Dr. Thompson, a patron Saint of Vegas.  Of course he’s completely insane now.  Gone the Cat Steven’s route.  He does however, exemplify Option A of coping with Vegas.  Option B is intellectually unavailable although it is worth noting that some people bring their families here.  They can be seen suckling at the temple of consumption and wearing leather bomber lackets.  Option C isn’t an option because fleeing isn’t really dealing.  You may as well show your privates to the Laker Girls.  Option D is what we’re working through here.  The hypothesis being that for some time the origin of culture has been Vegas.  That Vegas is the proving ground of Capitalism.  The burial site of God, Communism and June Cleaver.  We have evolved and Vegas is the festering boil at the edge of progress.  I mean that in a good way.

There is a simplicity to the Vegas religion that is striking.  Money is good.  Money is power.  Money is a buxom blonde with all her teeth.  It’s out there.  All you have to do is win it.  The path is literally immaterial.  The existential hunter of the psyche is set free.  The end justifies the means and of course the sword cuts mightier than spilt milk.

Drinks are free while one is gambling.  That’s what we call hyper-capitalism.  Equal parts Karmic and Darwinian.  $1 can get you pretty well tight at the 5-cent poker machines.  The point being Vegas can be massaged as long as you don’t get drunk or eat any fried food.

I think some day Liberace will be deified for his evolutionary work.  He’ll be seen as the precursor to the New World Order.  A Bacchanalian Mother Teresa.  First off, he possessed abilities usually reserved for superheros.  His costumes weighed up to two hundred pounds.  He never frowned.  He had a ring for every finger and a Rolls Royce for every occasion.  He could take John Wayne behind the woodshed and show him what it was to be a man.

Everything about Liberace was custom.  He had a piano completely covered in rhinestones to match his rhinestone cape which went impeccably well with his rhinestone covered Rolls.  He was excessive in ways never before imagined.  This is the essence of Vegas.  Inventive over-indulgence.  Gluttony as virtue.

There is a certain violence inherent in visiting Las Vegas.  The result of the time continuum ripping.  This fracture is a tax you pay for visiting the edge of civilization.  It is a  Siegfried & Roy Clockwork Orange Christmas Special.  There is no easing back into the present.  Where are the dancing girls?  The soundtrack?  My complimentary drinks?

In departure I have found nothing but the bitter self-doubt of non-conditioned air.  The impossible unpredictability of the sun.  The chance rain may fall.  And not just at the climax of Wayne Newton’s Ultra-tan Denizen of Love Medley, which he does only for special crowds on special nights.  But I digress.  The placeless absurdity of air travel does that.  No sites to see, only destinations.  They won’t let me drive, inefficient you see.  No stopping at the Reptile Petting Zoo, we’ve got connections to make.  Captive, linear, emotionless.

Airline travel is a perfect example of where this Vegas thing starts to falter.  It’s a chink in the armor of progress, a seam in civility.  The kind of crease that brings the Vegas ethos into question.  The measure of our evolution will be the faux finishing of these cracks.  The gentle acceptance of vice.  The decentralization of gaming.  The resurgence of style.  Tom Jones wouldn’t lead us astray.

On a barely related note, I am not quite sure what is illegal in Vegas.  Jaywalking appears to be allowed.  I know driving without an open container is frowned upon, but I believe it to be legal.  I’ve seen drugs confiscated but nothing that leads me to believe they are illegal.  Prostitution is heralded more than criminalized.

Again, in the judicial arts, the progressive nature of Vegas is revealed.  Victimless crimes have been decriminalized.  Why prosecute Pee Wee Herman?  Because he loves himself in a theater?  Why pester Marion Berry?  Just because he smoked a little crack with a prostitute?  It’s all so draining.  In Vegas they’ve got their priorities straight.  They’re to busy building our cathedrals to punish narcistic homophobes burning through a touch of China white.

Back to the story line.  I was in San Francisco for a good part of that last paragraph.  It looked a lot to me like Cincinnati or Dallas.  No matter for we are now Seattle bound.  It will be an untidy Seattle for sure.  The Space Needle will not straddle the Pike Place food court.  I won’t be able to watch a Kurt Cobain look alike posthumously cover Nevermind at Fraiser’s overlooking the Hiram Chittandum Locks.  The Pioneer Square mall will not have hourly reenactments of Chief Seattle’s proudest moments, whatever they may have been.  There will be very few pyrotechnics.  Sixty years behind the times I reckon.  Unimproved.  Rainy. And incurably real.

That’s all I’m going to say about Las Vegas but I’ll leave you with words of wisdom from the chief Wayne Newton: “It costs the same whether you enjoy the show or not, so why not whoop it up?”

Leave a Reply