Sunday, June 27, 2010

Breaking News: Vegas Eats Man's Soul

"Warm bodies, I sense, are not machines that can only make money."
- Ed Kowalczyk

In one of the legendary wild west towns - Deadwood or Dodge City or Tombstone - they had a sign at the city limits that said something like "Now entering (legendary wild west town.) Leave your guns with the Sheriff." Having just returned from Las Vegas, I am thinking there should be a sign there offering a place to deposit your soul during your visit.

Las Vegas can be blamed on Herbert Hoover. It was the building of the dam nearby that created a huge mass of restless, horny men with cash, and wherever such a huge mass is found prostitution and gambling and other vices will grow. Unlike other western towns where cattle, ore and other fast-money propositions led to rampant growth and manly indulgence (like Deadwood, Dodge and Tombstone, and even my hometown of Joplin, Missouri, which was a lead and zinc mining mecca and noted for it's wide-open nature in those days) Las Vegas did not falter when the initial attraction faded. Instead, opportunists like Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky came west and began to manufacture a black hole of hedonism that thrives to this day.

WARNING: Sarcastic and elitist screed ahead.

What is there not to like about Vegas anyway? It celebrates so many of the family values and institutions we Americans hold dear, such as the hope of getting something for nothing, superficiality with pretentiousness, and all-you-can-eat buffets, all swept along on a endless river of beer. What's not to like about having a wide array of choices in the realm of "entertainment that will not make you think"? And consider how many Americans have been afforded the chance to experience the charms of Europe while avoiding bothersome Europeans by spending their time in faux-Paris and faux-Venice on The Strip while enjoying a refreshing 40-ounce Mai Tai in an attractive souvenir cup?


I know that Vegas and I don't get along because of my frequent difficulty with the simple concept of "having fun" in a common way. Spending the day on a lake riding around in a boat, or at the ballpark, or lying on the beach are all pastimes that only seem to push my pleasure button when I am in the right company. And I admit to a relentless need to learn something when I travel, to come home with some new knowledge, at least, if not understanding. But Las Vegas to me is a soul-free zone where the only learning is a lesson in human nature. A town full of damaged people who debase themselves for money and silence their demons with booze and drugs. A town that is 90% id and 10% ego and leave your superego with the Sheriff.

At the end of a three-day parade of the seven deadly sins, our visit to Vegas was capped with a cinematic moment. Riding in an airport shuttle with heartfelt Christian anthems blaring, the driver pulled up behind a paramedic van parked in front of one of the casino-hotels. As the bags and bodies boarded, a gurney was rolled into our view, and on it was a lifeworn woman who had been given a thorough beating. Eye swollen shut, bleeding from cuts, missing teeth. It was 6 a.m. and likely the victim of a classic Vegas night of drinking and gambling and whoring that didn't turn out to be "fun." She produced a weary smile for the paramedics as the radio played a sincere lyric "Jesus, I give my heart to you."

I'm taking it as a message.

1 comment:

Larry DeGraff said...

Amen. It's like the vacation spot issued to people who have no personal preferences. Was dragged there once against my wishes. I was part of a group and outnumbered. The inane sound of 1,000 slots is still stuck in my head.