Nonphenomenal Lineage

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What I Have Learned During This Year of Living in Las Vegas

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There it is, that mean and wondrous wench. The best place and worst place in America, a place where dreams come true, where people are destroyed, a place that doesn’t care about the past, and is a vision of the future, where capitalism is displayed in all its glory and horror, where everything and anything can be bought, sold, traded or stolen, where some of the smartest and most ambitious people in the country come to make their fortunes, where some of the absolute worst and most despicable people in the country come to make their fortunes. It is corrupt, dirty and disgusting, and in five hundred years its massive buildings, thought of as garish and ridiculous, will be considered marvels. It is a giant carnival devoted to the glory of money and everything money can do, both good and evil, and there is plenty of both. -James Frey

Today, September 15, marks one whole year that I have been living in Las Vegas. And what do I think of Las Vegas, what have I learned? I have learned that it doesn’t matter from which part of the world you hail before you arrive in Las Vegas. Las Vegas runs on its own clock and calendar. Screw Greenwich Mean Time, it’s Las Vegas Mean Time.

Las Vegas is the melting pot of the melting pot. The culture of Las Vegas exists purely as an amalgamation of the best parts of all other cultures, rebuilt not as testaments to history or architecture, but rather simply to put a sparkle in the eye of the consumer, be they ham-fisted mouth-breathers or the elegantly refined. The vision of the Las Vegas strip creates a particular brand of euphoria generated by the collision of several world wonders mimicked and re-purposed, their charm and grandeur simmered and reduced in order to prick and bleed pure glee out of the public.

It doesn’t matter where you were or who you were in your life prior to moving to Las Vegas. Once you move here, you have to suck it up and get into a long line of other newcomers, as many as 4000 coming in a month, where you wait to arrive at the door of a proverbial nightclub. At this club, the bouncer may or may not let you inside, depending on who you know. If you know the right people, it’s high rolling and great business opportunities and free everything. And if you don’t know the right people, you’ll quickly find yourself trapped in a circular room which has walls lined with nothing but locked doors.

Since I have been here, I have made friends, enemies, gotten hired and fired. I’ve had smoke blown up my ass, and probably blown smoke up other’s asses as well. I’ve had to reevaluate everything I have thought, known and expected about myself and my talents and skills, and put it all on the line for a chance at an unsatisfying job in a notorious market. I am happy to say that I am beyond that now. Even though my job is barely paying me enough to get by, at least I am happy being there.

I still have so much to learn here. I still have so much to experience and see in this town. There are infinite new experiences in Las Vegas. James Frey was dead right when he said that Las Vegas doesn’t care about the past and is a vision of the future. This town is never static, never still. It is the moving, changing beast whose growth continues to increase exponentially every year. It’s shape is carved by the Collective Entertainment Desire of America. Will there be a breaking point? When the greed finally spirals out of control, what will happen to Las Vegas? Will it empty out like so many other ghost mining towns in Nevada?

People keep building hotels, people keep coming here. Lake Mead is draining by 8 feet every year. Las Vegas is a thirsty, hungry, horny town that isn’t replenishing what it’s taking from the earth. But people want their grass green, and their palm trees high, and their daily showers, so we keep eagerly feeding them what small amount of water we have. I’ve got news for you, deluded citizens of Las Vegas: we live the desert. It’s hot and it’s dry. There are over 100 days out of the year where temperatures are in the triple digits. Trying to maintain a lush and verdant environment is a waste of time and resources. It’s nothing more than a comfort to those not used to the starkness of rocks and dirt and sand.

And while I do admit it is nice to see patches of green now and then, I moved here knowing I was planting myself square in the Mojave Desert, where it rains less than four inches a year, where it rains about 6 times in a whole year. Paradoxically, if it wasn’t for the desert, I would not still be here in Las Vegas. Parks such as Red Rock, Valley of Fire and others have been my sanctuary. They have been the quiet center I can retire too when my mind is whirling from neon and noise and the pressure, pressure, pressure. Pressure that Las Vegas puts on you to network with executives, to drive fast, to become successful, and to spend, spend, spend. The pressure can be unbelievable. This city is a pressure cooker.

Is Las Vegas everything critics say it is? Is it an unhealthy glorification of excess, a heedless abuse of natural resources, a hole of wanton corruption, and an enabling mecca for dirty sex and dirtier greed? Is it simply one giant slot machine with the entire planet frantically trying pull down the great lever? I can only answer this question by first asking another: Is there not something about our collective humanity, while it may dismiss Las Vegas as the hot little center of sin, which also secretly embraces it as a haven for absolute hedonistic freedom and a much-needed abandonment from responsibility?

Is Las Vegas a town which we are unwilling to admit we ourselves have enthusiastically created?

In closing, I must say that, despite what I have written above, I do like living here. There is no city that even comes close to being like Las Vegas. It is a crazy town and I am certainly proud to say that I live here. If for nothing else, but for the stories I will be able to tell at some distant point in my future life. While others around me recount their various experiences in cities and countries, I will be able to say, with a giant smile on my face, that I once lived in Sin City.

Who are these people, these faces? Where do they come from? They look like caricatures of used car dealers from Dallas, and sweet Jesus, there were a hell of a lot of them at 4:30 on a Sunday morning, still humping the American dream, that vision of the big winner somehow emerging from the last minute pre-dawn chaos of a stale Vegas casino. -Hunter S. Thompson

We’re half-awake in a Fake Empire. -The National

Written by pocheco

September 15, 2007 at 7:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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