Las Vegas: Between the Hammer and the Anvil
March Madness Kickoff weekend and Vegas: two superstorms colliding into a maelstrom of madness. While Rome may be the Eternal City, Las Vegas is the Eternally Daft City. A true Sodom isolated in a desolate landscape, this oasis of debauchery is the creator and destroyer of dreams, and all within the blink of an eye. This is the American Dream incarnate. So tempting. So close. So…bullshit. A velvet promise that you can get something for nothing, while an iron gauntlet reaches through your pockets and wrests your soul away.
I arrived Thursday evening for my brother’s bachelor party, and not really relishing the thought of losing money in some defiant dis-acknowledgement of the very nature of probability. When you make a pact with the Devil, it is only a matter of time before he collects. Staying at Mandalay Bay, my first impression was of a labyrinth of slots and tables, no clocks, and hyper-attendant free cocktail waitresses ready to serve you potions of oblivion. Oh, how easily to get caught in some monstrous whirlwind, as evidenced by that obese middle-aged man in the khaki shorts. Study him closely. He starts small with a host of strategies, but soon loses by attrition. Oh wait, he gains some of it back. Yet instead of acknowledging his losses, he suddenly sees the small win as a massive gain. He is not down the $150 in objective reality , but ahead $70 in his own hyper-reality. A few more losses, and the betting gets greater, just to cover the defeats. Until…nothing left. But never fear, ATM’s are everywhere, and there are free drinks. Shit, fat khaki man doesn’t look so happy anymore.
Friday dawns upon us. Up for some NCAA action, and a little taste of gambling with my cousin. Shit, I’m up. Cash it in. Don’t look back. Go fuck yourself, Vegas! The bachelor/bachelorette party soon arrives, and we party in The Hangover Suite. I’m plastered by 10 pm, and wander around the casino until 5 am, drunkenly confused as the labyrinthine walls close in. By some miracle I reach my room without giving in to the nearly irresistible siren call of the tables, and spend 15 minutes trying to open the hotel room with my driver’s license. Then sweet oblivion.
Saturday begins with a colossal hangover, and a heartfelt promise never to drink again…well, not until 6 pm. We take a few wrong turns away from The Strip and end up in the true Vegas. Shithole Par Excellence. 40% foreclosures. Widespread destitution and disrepair. A financial vacuum created by the money-siphoning boulevard just a few blocks away. Ignoring all that, we return to The Hotel at Mandalay Bay and head to Del Fresco’s for an $1800 meal. Fantastic food, but we are all sweating a bit. $150 each, just for a fucking meal. WTF? But Jonathan gets up and makes an announcement. $50 were left over from the Hangover Suite, so he and a few guys threw it down on the roulette table. It was the 19th, so…$50 on 19. Holy shit, 19! We won! $1400. And so the meal was only $400. Shit man, I just gained $100.
All right then. Into a ridiculous Hummer limousine, and to the Playboy Club. Cigars. Booze. Dancing. All into the early hours of the morning. I can barely hear myself think, but then above the din, a sweet voice, that once nearly irresistible siren calls to me. “You are up $150, so fuck it. Fuck these people. You can win a bit extra at Black Jack. You are so talented. After all, your strategies are working ridiculously well. Look at this, I told you so. Up $80. Keep gambling. I bet you could really win big if you keep playing like this.” Alas, I blink a few times. Blink 1. $60. Blink 2. $30. Blink 3. $10. Shit man, I better just throw the rest down then. $0. Ah, fuck it. I am still doing okay. Off to bed.
Sunday arrives. No hangover, and I have a ticket to redeem, and a little money to collect. I see everybody off, and decide to cash in my money, and get the hell out of this place. But…what if? No, man. You know how it works. You’re just going to leave $100 poorer. Okay. How about this? I spend $30 of it, and stop there. You’re going to…shut it, man. That’s not unreasonable. I could win a bit. I’m telling you man…you know what? Fuck you. I’m here. I might as well give it a shot. 45 minutes pass. Fuck! $20, I mean $0? I have a bit more money. Perhaps I can earn some of it back. No fuck you, Matt! Get the hell out of Vegas! Mr. Probability. Mr. Discipline. Just get the hell out!
10 hours of living hell on the I-15, and I am finally back in LA. But you know what? I’ll take that living hell any day over another in Vegas. For I consider myself very lucky that I escaped only $150 in the hole. Others fare not so well, dreams shattered into a billion pieces, and trampled underfoot on the Strip. Las Vegas. The American Dream. The American Nightmare. Ready to smash you to pieces on its sun-baked anvil.