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The Fine Art Of Hemorrhaging Money

It’s a little silly given that I have a honeymoon to deal with first–including those dick-twisters who create the nonsensical airfare bafflemazes (aren’t they supposed to be going broke, for Christ’s sake?)–but I’ve been feeling a jones to get back to Our Nation’s Most Appealing Cesspool, Las Vegas. It’s a little hard to write about a place that was seemingly covered back to front by a certain Mr. Hunter Thompson, but hey, that was thirty years ago, and goddamn it, I love the place, even while I fully understand that the whole thing is a glutinous, cynical, cardboard fuck-factory that eats the weak and picks its marquee teeth with the bones.

The last time I was there was about a year ago, when I went down with about a dozen friends for a birthday jaunt. So we threw our Antabuse pills into the dumpster and hopped on America West (aka Afterthought Airlines) for a couple of hours before being kicked out into McCarran Airport’s cheerless smoke ‘n wait ‘n slot desmesnes. Then a quick taxi-cram to our hotels (Paris for the birthday boy, Bally’s next door for the rest of us), hurl our shit onto the bed and off to the Strip we scampered.

I can understand why people would object to the atmosphere of–or even idea of–someplace as fundamentally perverse and crass as Vegas, but I still maintain that if you can’t get over it long enough to even have a tiny bit of fun there, you’re just being obstinant. At the very least you can people watch: the racked-out trophy dates (or brides); the loutish, appalling white trash tourists; the horrid old-person-shaped giant funguses rooted in front of the slots. You can at least enjoy these things ironically, can’t you? Hey, is that a really attractive hooker? Or a pretty showgirl? Or a knockout cocktail waitress? Answer: it is a man in drag.

Over the course of our visit, we of course went all over the place. I always like to visit the desperately terrible Excalibur casino, if only to walk into the joint. Entering visitors “enjoy” (when it’s working) a moving conveyor belt while your ears are entertained by actors with awful plummy Olde Englishesque accents trumpet nonsense about the “MERLIN’S MAGIC!” being on your side as you gleefully yank the nickel slots. Meanwhile, on either side of the belt are two concrete alleys: these are for people leaving the casino, on foot, not as the Vegas Gods intended, which would be in either a limo or an ambulance. No, people exiting the casino in such an ignominious fashion not only walk out on their two sad loser feet, they walk past the glorious soon-to-be-winners who only have to stand there and be whisked inside without any perilous effort at all. Nothing else in the town for me sums up so succinctly what I think of as Vegas’ unspoken credo: LOSERS WALK.

At one point, a bunch of us decided to take a walking tour of wherever we led ourselves, with the idea that we’d just grab drinks wherever we were moved to. Unbeknownst to me at the time, a couple of them had some ecstasy, which they had gulped down (because yeah, in Vegas, you need heightened senses to pick out the subtle details, like the twenty-foot tall billboard showing a winged, double-dicked incubus sportfucking the Barbii twins on top of a Humvee). This led to trouble for one of our merry band; we settled down in some piano bar in the Venetian, and K. seemed jumpy and tense, and it was a little odd that he was wearing sunglasses, but whatever. We’d been carousing for two days, and we were all feeling kind of soul-mashed anyway. But what was going on with K. was, the ecstasy was warping his perceptions, and he kept catching a sideward glance of this tiny Asian woman at a nearby Pai-Gow table. She was enthusiastic about the game, and loud as hell, and she’d toss the dice in the shaker and wave it over her head and scream “PAI-GOW!” K., we found out later, was under the impression that she was staring directly at him as she did this, and that the screams of “PAI-GOW!” were some kind of terrible tooth-baring threat, and the dice sounded like bones rattling in a crypt, and that every time she screamed afresh, she was implacably inching closer and closer to him. K. held himself together all right, but I can still make him flinch by bugging out my eyes and howling with menacing cheer, “PAI-GOW!”

In the end, we naturally lost all of our fucking money–especially heart-tugging were the losses of C., the birthday boy, who went bottomlessly broke so quickly that the process seemed to require the employment of tachyons–and when we finally hit the airport to return home, we looked and felt like wraiths. “I feel like death’s chilly asshole,” I moaned when I hit the seat. “Me too,” said the fiancee. “I can’t wait to come back.”

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