Leaving Las Vegas…
My first inclination toward Vegas is to call it what it is: lowest common denominator sensualism. Excessive. Gross. Way, way too crowded. Way too smoky. Way too expensive, bright, loud. Oversexed, obsessive. Mindless and meat-headed.
My second inclination is to leave it at that and never go back there. And I probably won’t go back. But I’m glad I went the once.
I went there to reconnect with old friends, and that alone made enduring the excess worth it. As a man of a certain age, one who’s settled hundreds of miles away from his boyhood stomping grounds, the opportunities for concentrated catch-up time with chums from schooldays are few(er) and far(ther) between.
I’m also an American. And a writer. I like to think about our foibles. And our marvels. And I like to think in metaphors.
The thing to remember — maybe even the takeaway — about Las Vegas is that it’s set in the desert. Not just any desert but a rocky and austere moonscape. Drive just a few miles out into it — away from the neon technicolor blare — and thoughts turn to other sorts of marvels. How does that bush, that hummingbird survive here? Yes, the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead — plus, of course, the trompe l’oeil Sin City they’ve made possible — are true marvels of human imagination, invention, ingenuity…but how on this stark and dusty red rock did ancient humans survive and thrive here? Yet they did. With nary a casino in sight.
I believe in God, which means I believe in One Soul. I believe it’s complicated. I believe I don’t understand it, and I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to understand it. Paradox and inconsistency — what we might be inclined to call chaos; what we might label as one form of excess or another (sensuality | austerity), the needle lurching awkwardly toward either end of that strange continuum; what drives us forward, what reins us in…this continuous becoming and unfolding, doing and undoing, gain and loss, gathering, dispersal…
Vegas is an expression of that, full and concentrated. Unapologetically human. If not a celebration of our ambiguous, multifaceted Oneness then at least an opportunity to come face-to-face with it. Foibles. Marvels. Lush, dry. All of it. In all of us. Even — especially — if we don’t care to admit it.