Last week, I returned to New York City after an eight day stint in sunny Las Vegas. Yep, eight whole days. Did I make it back whole? Yes and no.
It was a great trip. I went extra hard. So hard that I lost a day while I was there. So hard that I’ve spent the majority of the time since my return battling a fever, excessive night sweats, and alien abduction dreams, and I may not ever regain full capacity in my lungs after hacking up some portion of both. In short, it appears that my sins in the sultry heat of the Nevada sun shaved a day or two off of my life expectancy almost as quickly as I shave a day’s worth of stubble from my perennially bald head.
This is the part where a lot of you are screaming, “Fucking Vegas!”, shaking your heads, and pointing your metaphorical fingers in the direction of the 702 area code as if it’s somehow to blame for it all. If you’re one of those people, I gotta tell you that I don’t agree. No, I can’t condemn Vegas for my fuckery, and neither should you, because while Las Vegas may indeed be worthy of its notorious nickname, it’s we who bring the sin to the city, and not the reverse.
That’s right: the bad thing about Vegas is you.
Now, I’ll freely admit that the powers that be in Vegas make it super easy to get up to no good. There are probably more casinos there than schools, churches, and hospitals in the whole of Clark County, the alcohol flows freely (literally, when you gamble), and the gentlemen’s clubs will chauffeur you right to their front doors. For those who’d rather pay than play, the escorts get their sophisticated party on with you at Rehab, Tao, and XS, and while they may not be the ones you take home to momma, they almost always are the ones you’d want to stunt with on Instagram. Of course, drugs are easy to find for any who don’t think the Vegas experience is quite surreal enough, and if you’re lucky, you might even get high for free. Yep, Vegas happily supplies all of that.
But whether they’ll admit it or not, the real draw of Vegas for most people is the other boys and girls who are there to forget themselves, refilling their clear plastic cups at the cabana table while they scope the scene to stagger towards their next bad decision. This misremembering, this stumbling, is only for pretend of course, because what one does in Vegas is either something one has been curious about for a while, something one has fantasized about doing, or something one always does. You don’t go to Vegas to forget who you are. You go to remember.
There’s a poetry to the fact that the Strip, the locale that people envision when they think of Vegas, isn’t even a part of the place whose name it has made so famous. In point of fact, it exists outside of the city limits, and this detached being is fitting for a place with such an otherworldly, almost extra-dimensional character. The people’s Las Vegas is a 4.2 mile long singularity created by the overwhelming pressure of countless desires, both uttered and unspoken, manifest and masked; its potent gravity attracts all who bend their ears—if only for a moment—toward that still small voice imploring them to “do what thou wilt.” It’s the geographic equivalent of Halloween.
The famous saying, which doubles as a warning, goes that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. If you were paying attention to anything you just read, you know that that can’t possibly be true. After all, you brought all that greed, gluttony, and lust with you when you arrived in America’s desert paradise; it’s going right back in your Ferragamo weekender when you head home to your so-called real life, waiting to inhabit you the next time you feel safe enough to be more like yourself.