Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stranded in Vegas

"Vague-ass." "Lost Wages." I'm weathering the last day here coming off Interbike. Call it by any name you want but I don't like this place. Never have.

I got out of the hotel and past the casinos today. Work was finished and I had time to kill, so I went for a long walk. It was really hot but so dry that it felt pleasant. I thought to myself, "I'm gonna find something to enjoy about this final day in Vegas."

I found a local Korean restaurant where I ate my favorite dish. It was delicious. Afterward I wandered down some more sidewalks, empty except for locals, littered club brochures and homeless destitutes. I circled the block past second-tier casinos still trying to live in a heyday of yore. I kept walking, back toward the Strip, revelling in the heat, learning that even the shade of a utility pole can deliver respite from the baking midday sun.

I climbed stairs instead of using escalators. I studied the blown litter and broken glass in vacant lots awaiting new condos, shopping malls and casinos. Perhaps the economy will one day allow "progress" to continue. I quickly learned that perpendicular diversions from the Strip can grant one a bit of solace away from the noise and bustle, to places free from drunken frat boys as well as young and old women alike trying in vain to impress someone whose tastes I'll never comprehend. I thought to myself, "Maybe I've found something in Vegas to enjoy. This is not so bad after all." I was pensive about adopting this conclusion, but I marched on somewhat encouraged.

I walked to Caesar's Palace because last year I found the only spot on the Strip designed for stopping and sitting a while -- absolutely free of charge. It's a small Hindu shrine to Brahma, a modest yet brilliant oasis of genuine spirituality amidst a desert run amok, heeding a quasi-religious doctrine of empty consumption. The shrine's surrounding air is scented with sweet incense instead of fake floral casino stench. I sat and studied passersby. I photographed a few groups who shuffled through to inspect this cultural curiosity in all its preposterousness. Mostly it appeared to represent another quaint photo stop along the way.

The sweat on my back quickly evaporated. Deciding it was time to move on, I shouldered my bag and went off into the crowds again, past cooler toting street vendors offering "ice cold water ... one dollar!" I paced onward, smugly sipping the now warm tap water from my stainless flask and shirking off the cards thrust at me by men whose t-shirts promised girls in just 20 minutes. After all, I had found my Vegas and it was so far above all of this.

Quite by chance I arrived in front of the Bellagio at the stroke of 4pm. The fountain show was beginning. I had never seen it before. Music cued and the jets of water shot choreographed patterns of water-dance across the previously placid pond. Camera shutters clicked around me. I, like all the others, felt this to be a picture worthy stop. Reaching for my own camera I noticed it was not where it was supposed to be. I had little time to panic because I knew right away what had happened. Oh shit, oh shit! I'd set it beside my bag while shooting photos at the shrine. Then I got up, shouldered my bag without looking down and marched away. I left the camera, neatly in its case, in open sight on the step.

I ran back to Caesar's, but five, maybe seven, minutes had passed. My lovely new Canon was gone.

In my Vegas I'd found the one spot I could sit and enjoy absolutely free of charge. Ironically, one could say that slice of peace cost me an offering of $250.

Damn, I despise this town.

1 comment:

Snakebite said...

I know what you mean about Vegas. Plastic. From the buildings to the boobs - fake, but everything costs money.

If / when you go again, and if you have the time, I recommend Red Rock Canyon. Nice hiking trails far from the plastic.