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…