Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why I hate Vegas (it's not what you think)

Vegas and I don't see eye to eye.

We were destined, from the beginning, to exist apart from one another. For me, Vegas' role will always be the acquaintance kept at arm’s length rather than the hot fling she is for everyone else.

Vegas embodies everything I dislike. It is not because I'm opposed to gambling - I think gambling is fine, in and of itself (and, quite frankly, each time someone writes off my feelings for Vegas as an issue I must instead have with gambling, I kind of write off their intelligence.) Vegas has an identity that runs deeper than gambling. Everyone knows what the issues are; few take the time to name them.

So, in the interest of clarify, here's my critique of Vegas:

·         It’s fake. The lighting is artificial. There are waterfalls falling out of and into nowhere. They pump oxygen into the air. (While I’m at odds with just about all the Vegas properties, it should be said that The Venetian’s “always-3 pm sunlight gondola” gives me some serious heebie-jeebies.) To be clear, I do know that, for many Vegas visitors, the charm lies in the fantasy. People often try to win me over by saying: “it’s like Disneyland!” (Often they emphasize their point by adding “…for adults!”) And yes, I can see the similarity, but that fact would carry a lot more weight if I liked Disneyland. But I don’t. (That shouldn’t surprise you – again, I too see the similarity...)

·          It's maliciously deceptive. This is deeper than artificiality alone. I know that the people around me are being seduced and duped, and I don’t like that feeling. It's like sitting in a bar and watching a nice girl fall for the good-looking, charming guy who dresses well, smells nice, and tells her what she wants to hear. It’s a sinking feeling to later watch her leave with him. She sees him as the materialization of a dream. He sees her one of countless girls with whom he plays out this choreography every single night. And to suggest that she “knew what she was doing" - just like Vegas visitors - while it may be true, doesn’t ease my discomfort that she’s being had – just like so many people who make mistakes because they’ve “fallen for” the casino environment. Knowing this is happening isn't "part of the fun" for me.

·          It's creepy. The "Big Brother" element weirds me out. Folks marvel at the sophistication of Vegas hospitality. I sleep in until 2 pm and the maids will never once knock on my door. The moment I leave my room for more than 5 minutes, though, my bed's made when I get back. That's not "cool." It's creepy.

·         There is no community. Nearly everyone in Vegas is either transient or paid to be a part of the experience. There is no feeling of depth, and there are few genuine "locals" who can actually vouch for anything without being paid to do so. There are no roots and no relationships. (In other words, everyone may “know your name,” but it’s from a place of showmanship rather than sincerity.)

·         There is no substance. Sure, gambling is obviously the biggest revenue for Vegas. The second biggest, however, is conventions and conferences. If your second largest economic driver is empty space, you don't have a soul. Plain and simple.

·         I don’t like the way it makes me feel. Women aren’t regarded very respectfully in Vegas. We don’t just get checked out by men; we get “valued.” Money buys you a lot in Vegas - to most of the guys strolling the casino floors, every woman is there to be paid off, and they have no qualms about eyeing her accordingly. I don’t like that.

To be brutally honest, my sentiment on Vegas is that it’s a place to escape the real world when the reality you’ve built isn’t good enough. And because I so deeply value the process of investing in a rich reality for ourselves, I will always be incompatible with a place that stands for escapism and emptiness.

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