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Las Vegas, Nevada

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Las Vegas, Nevada
The road to Vegas is straight. As we approached it, I first had an impression of smallness. I saw a cluster of electric dollhouses sitting in a giant, lonely sandbox at the end of a black path, slowly becoming life-size as our car drew closer. Though Las Vegas appeared childlike to me, I knew that few children came to this city. I imagined that a pulse of electromagnetic energy surged from the dollhouse metropolis and into the surrounding desert, and a radioactive glow engulfed the synthetic city.

Once inside the city, my first impression of smallness was immediately assimilated. Tall, imposing buildings stared down at me and questioned whether I would be a worthy visitor. Though the buildings appeared large and commanding, they were false. “Are there any real metals in Vegas,” I wondered, “or is everything made of Styrofoam and plastic?”. Vegas is a haven for artificiality. Metals are plastic. Wood is cardboard. If the wind blew strong enough, would the all the clubs and hotels reveal that they’re actually Styrofoam and stumble away like tumble weeds?

Alone
Las Vegas seemed like such a lonely city to me, because it sits unaccompanied in the desert. So where did it come from? I think Vegas was immaculately conceived. It sprang from the rib of the desert. That’s why there are no antiques in Vegas and everything is new and modern. Vegas must be lonesome. It's like a player piano that fell from the sky.

Paris
I find it sad when something tries so hard to be real and alive, but only succeeds in becoming artificially alive. The Paris hotel wanted very much to be Paris, but could only be a large, round room. The ceiling had been painted like the sky—it tried to be genuine, but was only disturbing because it was counterfeit. There were fake buildings inside “Paris,” but when you went inside them, you found vendors from Texas or New Mexico selling key chains and mugs with images of the Eiffel tower etched into them. In a way, “Paris” was sheltered from the real world; it was a closed system. You can’t afford real France, so why not go to “Paris”? You can pretend you’re in the beautiful city in France, and be safe; you are closer to your real home. Everyone speaks English. You can still eat your hamburgers and apple pie instead of frog legs and escargot.

Money
Las Vegas thrives on your hard-earned cash. The spectacular lights of the slot machines say “Spend! Spend! Spend!”. The luxurious brand-name stores invite you in to buy. Everywhere I went, I heard “kaching!” and the sound of coins being spilt onto a counter, or into a person’s hands. In the hotel I was staying at, I witnessed people gambling for the first time. Gambling is a lonely sport. I felt oddly human watching all the faces lit with neon light stare expressionlessly at screens, their eyes bright but emotionless. They were zombies to the glowing greed of the screen. Their hands held the cold levers like the delicate wrists of a young daughter. I did not want to be slave to the screen. I did not want to think that a cold, dead machine could bring me any contentment.

Rome
Caesar’s Palace is a vaguely powerful work of architecture. It’s tall and made of pseudo-stone that may just be porcelain. Statues of this material adorn the entrance. Nothing is authentic. Everything is made from a mold of the original. When I entered the “palace,” the thing that struck me the most was a particularly large fountain. It could have been beautiful and real, but water did not flow from it. Green, orange, purple, and blue sprang from the tap—turning it into a fountain of mystery-flavored CoolAid. The lights lit the stone Naiads from below so that the bottom of a nymph’s nose and chin glowed purple. The blank eyes of a Roman goddess statue reflected the neon green lights. They were disco gods dancing in the technicolored water.

Out of all the places I visited in Las Vegas, Caesar’s Palace was by far the most unfamiliar. Lavish stores aligned the Roman hallways. They sold purses-- starting at $5,000. The goddess Fortuna was telling you to “Buy! Buy! Buy! Give your money to the disco gods!”

Home
On the way home in a taxi, I saw Las Vegas in all its neon glory. The Eiffel tower was lit, the Luxor pyramid had a column of light rising from the top like an inverted UFO, flashy ads were everywhere, and car lights shined in your eyes. It was like seeing a big multicolored flame. I hoped that I would see one of Vegas’ “ladies of the night.” Would her royal metallic skirt be hiked up past where it was polite? Would her tiny midriff-baring shirt have magnificent gems and sequins? Would she be a regal, but artificial blonde? Unfortunately, I was never able to see my stately prostitute. Better luck next time.

As we drove away Vegas slowly dissolved back into a huddle of Barbie doll playhouses. I wondered, “who the hell owns this city?” and I imagined a ringmaster. He was not a person. He was Greed, and He cracked his whip at my taxi—the Ringmaster always wants you to stay forever.





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