Las Vegas was my honeymoon — a lune de miel — except it wasn’t. Unfortunately, Heron and I didn’t leave for Europe or Cambodia immediately after our wedding, and we went back to work. I was exhausted after the wedding — we sure smoked it to the filter — and I was still sore from our family football game at the beach (my best man did elbow me, accidentally, in the face). And on the way to Vegas, driving through the Mojave Dessert, I was married and young and alive. It was exhilarating, and it was my first time to Vegas. Before the trip, I balked at the thought of the Sin City; the image of men and women popping quarters into slot machines depressed me almost as much as that dog commercial with Sarah McLaughlin. But I decided to give it a shot, and what I found was I absolutely loved Vegas. Let me explain.
5. The Beatles’ Love
If you’ve been reading my blog, then you know I’m a huge Beatles fan — like most of the world. Ever since I heard there was a show in Vegas built around the Beatles’ music, I’ve almost wanted to go to the city in the middle of the desert just for that. Well, Heron and I stayed at The Mirage, and we splurged and bought some tickets. Well, it was a great show, and there was a moment during “Within and Without you” where a large tarp was flowing over the crowd, and it became clear that the director was trying to realize a deep spiritual understanding, a global consciousness, a Jungian harmony of epic proportions, that I understood how special this show was; it was something more than just a dance or performance; it tried to express the underlying themes of my favorite albums.
Well, people who go to Vegas always talk about the buffets. And I’m not really the biggest fan of buffets; all that food just sitting there, rotting and wasting away in the neon lights and glassed by sneeze bars. So in an attempt to try something new, Heronand I went for it, and we ate the buffet at The Mirage. It was amazing. I ate eggs Benedict, sushi, crab legs, barbeque, pho, wonton; basically I feel like I tasted a little bit of the world. Surprisingly, the food was fresh, and the dessert bar was one of the most unreal displays of gluttony I have ever seen. It was nice to let go after a few weeks of a crazy wedding diet.
3. Opulence, vainglorious, grandiosity, absurd swagger
Honestly, before I went to Vegas, I thought it was just a soul-sucking world where people threw money around like they were making it rain in a strip club; I thought that it was a stain on the country so obsessed with all that was anti-soul, anti-knowledge, anti-enlightenment. Ah, I was so serious. But when I arrived in Vegas, I just started to laugh. All of the opulence and mosaics and sculptures, well, it seemed like a joke. Instead of over thinking the superficiality of Vegas, I just kind of became a part of the joke, the theme, the grand gestures that signified nothing. I let loose and laughed at the computerized murals of Michelangelo. I laughed at the vainglorious attempt to bring joy to the adult world. And I wondered, what the hell would future generations think of this place? Would they call Caesar’s Palace a monument? Would they see beauty in our vanity?
What surprised me — and sort of scared Heron — was how much I loved blackjack. I sucked at blackjack, but I started to read about the game and when to bet. So at one point I was down 60 bucks, and I started to play the game differently. I ended up winning 10 bucks, but I started to enjoy the chances, the calculated risk. And then I started applying these lessons to economics. I began to wonder if the stock market was like gambling. The house always wins in blackjack, but does the house always win in stocks and investment? I’m starting to see myself as more of a businessman, strangely, and somehow blackjack just encouraged a deep hunger of mine — an almost need to put my chips on the table and succeed.
1. Vegas is a science-fiction novel
Of course, Hunter S. Thompson pointed out the absurdity of the city in Fear and Loathing, but I feel like the appeal of Vegas is deeper than drugs and the search for the American Dream. It’s a place that Vonnegut would have imagined for one of his characters; it’s a place where time and location exist in its own world; and it’s absurdity runs so deep that the week before we showed up, a huge gun battle happened on the streets. Think about it: you can head to the Venetian and see Gondolas; you can see a pyramid next to the Eiffel Tower; and no one seems to pay attention to time — as if the city existed outside of any Earthly moment. It’s a place so unique in its wonder and nonsense that it seems to make perfect sense for the setting of a science-fiction novel. And that awesome strangeness is fascinating.