An Existential Crisis in Las Vegas

by Ekua on June 3, 2010 in Nevada,rantastic

The first night in Vegas was tolerable enough. We’d had dinner at a fairly reasonably priced Mexican restaurant in the Venetian. Sure, I was thrown off by fake sunny skies indoors at night, but the food wasn’t all that bad and it was washed down nicely with the pitchers of margaritas we’d ordered.

We went to Tao nightclub which I didn’t find to be all that different from some clubs in Downtown San Francisco—if you multiplied the size by ten, let it get really crowded, and allowed smoking inside. We chatted with fellow clubbers who were pleasant and down-to-earth.

But the next afternoon brought on an experience I didn’t know repulsed me—the Vegas pool club party. Upon arrival at Liquid, in a security process that rivaled an airport, we were made to get rid of any outside food or drink. This was no picnic at the beach. Once inside, I had trouble believing that what I saw was really going on.

::Bringing a bit of Jersey Shore to Las Vegas::

Six inch heels at the pool. Jersey Shore-esque hyper-gelled hairdos. Bleached blond weaves and orange tans. Female chests puffed up with silicone and male chests that appeared to be puffed up with the aid of steroids. All dancing in or beside the pool clutching $15 cocktails and $9 Bud Lights. Hit songs pumping through the ample speaker system and vibrating the ground.

Though it was 90-something degrees, there were very few shaded areas. This obviously allows for maximum orange-ization. There were some umbrella covered beds and we spotted an empty one. We asked a guy working there if it was reserved. Annoyed at our naivety, he responded, “If you want to reserve this, you have to pay 1,500 dollars for it.” He sauntered off before giving us a chance to respond.

We found a spot wedged between the beds of two groups of people who were willing to pay that absurd amount. I took out a book and started to read (sooo not cool), but my book couldn’t distract me from the ridiculousness around me. And I wasn’t interested in laying out to get a tan—I obviously don’t need one. So as the group I was with settled into the scene, I slipped away.

A mosquito had bitten me square on the forehead, but that wasn’t the only thing that made me scratch my head. Questions swarmed my brain. A couple examples: Am I crazy for not enjoying this when so many seem to love this? Do I need to move to Europe?

::A themed slot machine::

::Street performer on The Strip::

I wandered through the casinos and onto the strip to see more of Vegas. What I saw was a desperation and depression that was not covered with a thick coat of saccharin like the pool party scene was. Empty stares and repeated button pressing at slot machines. Visitors who undoubtedly think that’s the real effing Eiffel Tower. Dirty sidewalks and poverty-stricken people panhandling or trying to sell whatever they could to make a few bucks in oppressive heat. Tourists stopping to buy a bottle of water from an unlicensed vendor here and there, but seeming to want to hold on to their funds so they can give them away to the Strip’s 6.12 billion dollar gambling industry.

Some places I’ve visited have made me sad, but none as much as the city of Las Vegas. Long drives through Cambodia introduced me to the despair of the fourth world, but I’d encountered many citizens who were charming and funny and anxious to leave a terror-filled past behind as they moved forward. In Bolivia, I’d seen destitute villages in some of the coldest barren deserts, but I’d been impressed with the colorful traditions and tenacity of the people there. Amongst and in spite of sadness, many places offer hope, character, and substance to latch on to.

No matter how obscure it is, I can come up something valuable in about just about anywhere I’ve been. But there on The Strip, I had an inability to find a silver lining in people’s striving for vacant experiences when they have so many opportunities for meaningful ones.

Don’t get me wrong, I love having a chance to let loose, but I am disturbed by the illusion that goes along with the coveted 21-35ish Vegas experience and the city in general. I’d love to say that I’ll never go back to Vegas, but you never know what will come up. I can say that if I do go back, I would be all up on the nature scene I know is nearby, I would check out the food scene I’ve heard so much, and I would explore the artsy scene that I got a glimpse of after my escape from the pool club. More on that in the next post. To be continued…

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Fly Girl June 4, 2010 at 8:54 am

Yuch. That’s the first word that comes to mind. I don’t like Vegas for exactly the reasons you’ve underlined. As for Liquid, it’s a pool nightclub so you get the ridiculous heels and hair, it’s not about actually being in the pool, which is of course, ridiculous in itself. You’re not crazy, you just don’t fit the typical American consumer-focused mentality so you won’t get all of this nonsense. It is sad, so very sad.


Ekua June 4, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Consumerism was the word I was looking for as I was writing this post, but couldn’t seem to find! And yes, consumerism and the all the behavior that goes with it pretty much sums up my distaste for what I saw there. Kinda like, “Spend all your money on this and you’ll be cool/wanted/envied, just like us!” or “We’re so high end that we deserve to charge you such high prices. You’re lucky to have even gotten in here in the first place.” I wish people would think about whether or not that’s actually satisfying in the long run


Candice June 4, 2010 at 10:21 am

Eek! Not a good experience. I thought those kind of people only existed on vacation, hahaha. I think Vegas has its merits though…I’d love to go with a group of girl friends just to party and have fun.


Ekua June 4, 2010 at 5:02 pm

The guy in the picture, I’ve never seen someone like that in real life… usually just on pictures labeled, “douchebag.” ๐Ÿ˜›

Vegas is something I think everyone should try once. I think how you do it makes a big difference. I might have had a totally different experience if I’d been there with people who had more similar tastes and travel styles!


Abbie June 5, 2010 at 12:12 pm

I think Vegas is an experience. An experience that I can’t handle for more than a couple days, lol.


Ekua June 5, 2010 at 6:21 pm

One day would have been plenty for me ๐Ÿ˜›


leslie June 6, 2010 at 5:10 am

damn, girl. i’m impressed you handled it as much as you did. part of being a traveler is being able to admit when a place has NO redeeming qualities, yeah? cause they happen. and vegas is at the top of that list.


Ekua June 6, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I think travelers have a tendency to want to be PC and not say anything bad about the places they visit. Sometimes you’ll have to go along with a custom for the sake of traveling safely and not offending locals, but I think travelers should be allowed to say that what goes on in some places is just plain wrong.


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