MOST PEOPLE GO TO LAS VEGAS in full conscience that they may leave and come home empty handed, maybe even broke. At the very worst, you lose your house, your wife, and the kids all in the preceding divorce; that would ensue weeks after you thought I'd be a good idea to bet it all on the Russian dog races at the book in the MGM Grand. This trip was different. This journey was already scarred from the start with the surreal realization that, indeed, you can lose everything in Vegas, even your life.
It had been two weeks since the infamous and horrific mass shooting. A city in where it is understood that everything in life has a cost, is a gamble. This understanding of how short, how fleeting life can be, spurred our desire to depart once again to the very place that allows freedom and it's mistress named Vice, to dull the sting and pain to which modern society inflicts on everyone, daily. An escape from the cubicle wars, the wage-slavery, the complete inhumanity of it all, for just five precious and glorious days to indulge in our God-given senses.
We had taken the earliest flight out of the most destitute city in the nation: Detroit. A once great city now in ruins, a city from the future apocalypse. The four hour and change flight proved to be the quietest; with resting faces, snoring doting husbands, kindle readers, and some pre-drinkers. It's hard to sleep when you're in a potential steel coffin, zipping through the sky, passing over millions of people who are just about to start their day, while at the same time, realizing that you've been up since 3am EST.
America seems so at peace from 32,000 feet. You can't see the car accidents, the break & enters that happen every minute or so. The poverty and the desperation. You are completely oblivious to the hatred of most who are realizing that they have to wake up soon for another day of the same,meaningless meaning. The same carousel ride that never ends. The music may stop for twelve hours or so, but eventually everyone is forced on again because the bills and the mortgage said so. The kids you can't afford, said so. The concrete jungle, said so. You can and will be eaten if you don't move. You need to keep moving, need to keep buying things. You need to slow down. You need to realize that this is all a dream.
While waking up in seat 14D I had realized that I missed the snack cart due to my stupor;faintly wishing that it had knocked my elbow and woken me. Our one flight attendant was cute, Spirit Airlines cute. Not Delta or United cute. Doesn't matter, though, we have started our descent and would be clear for a final approach into McCarren in about thirty Mikes.
When the eagle lands there is thunderous applause. This is the usual for an inbound Vegas flight. People are happy to be here. And why wouldn't one be? Your wallet is full as fuck! You have the itch, the bug. The will to take a chance on luck. To take a shot at the extreme and on yourself. Here you can be whatever, or whomever you wanna be. This is the city of weird, of talent, culture and fame. It's for the renegades, the fringe, the hustlers, the bold, the bravest, the loons, the desperate. A lust for life. The city of the sleepless, hopeful drunkards who don't know when a good bedtime should be. The clock is destroyed here. What is time now? Time is no longer the Master, but it is still the enemy lurking. Gnawing at your brain.
It's only the first day. You can't see it's evil face yet, but it's there waiting. Waiting for you to realize that it will soon be time to leave paradise and embrace the retched claws of him. Death is time and the time of your death is closer than you think it will be. It will happen in the now and forever present. Now is always, now you're alive. And soon, now will be the end.
For now, you are your own Master looking for a mistress. The temptress, lady luck herself. The tease of time, of all time. The thrill of the pull, the press of her buttons. The symbols of her promise; diamonds, spades, hearts, and clubs. Find the joker in you, for you will learn to laugh at her when she ultimately fails you. Take it like a man, you made a bet. Honor it with dignity.
On the way to the Luxor we pass the skeleton of the Route 91 festival. The stage still stands, and everything inside has been left as is; chairs, garbage, evidence. FBI and Metro police guarding the entrances, still investigating. Our cabbie doesn't say a word, we don't either. It is all understood. There is no need. We all have eyes, words can't speak the horror anymore. Mandalay still shines gold in the backdrop, aside from the two windows that have been boarded up. Dents in a dream. Reminder of ugliness. Specks of dirt on the glamour.
This place sounded and looked a lot different two weeks ago on that cloudless night. The street we are on would have been filled with a stamped of the confused, the panicked, the bloodied, and the LVPD. The air would have been consumed with screams, cries for EMT's, a parent thousands of miles away. Hot lead would have been sprayed over the 400 foot distance. Snaps and cracks from the bullets blowing through the sound barrier, mistaken for fireworks or bottle rockets. Anything that travels that fast through the air will sound harmless, because your ears and brain aren't capable of processing something so devastating and terrifying, until it hits you.
We get the morbid stuff out of the way after check-in. In front of Mandalay Bay is a type of shrine. A young woman takes her boyfriend's hand and cries when she sees it. She stands there for a second, then looks up at the boarded up windows 32 stories above and then back down again. It's unbelievable what took place here just a short while ago, and yet, the story is now completely out f the news cycle. Like it never happened.
Life goes on for Mandalay Bay on the casino floor. It's busy. Business as usual. There are cameras everywhere here. If you are counting cards at a table, God will know. If you farted at a slot machine, God will know. When you step inside any casino in Las Vegas, God already knows who you are and what you are doing.
Where was God two weeks ago and what did he see?