Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Only in Wonderland

 I do feel a bit like I fell down a rabbit hole sometime Sunday night. Into a place that is all at once overwhelming and odd, frightening and fascinating.

I am in Las Vegas.

It's my first trip to the place that isn't apologizing when it proclaims itself to be Sin City. There is no need to be sorry.  Sin - or to express it less emotionally and more precisely...overindulgence - sells.  Quite well.

There is something for everyone here.  It's one outlandish amusement after another...

Dancing fountains at Bellagio
one extravagantly decorated bar after another...

Crystal Bar (3 stories) at Cosmopolitan
one must see variety show after another...

one gigantic 27-foot ceiling-high chocolate waterfall,

At Jean Phillipe inside Bellagio
 or 25-foot tall flower-constructed polar bear,

or spectacular 10-foot high orchid/peony/lily/red rose-laden arrangements...one after another.

It's five sparkly/fountain-adorned/heated/Olympic-sized/cabana-encircled pools per hotel. It's pricey retail malls (inside each hotel) and world-themed restaurants (inside each hotel) and table after table after table of places to toss your money down that rabbit hole (casinos-inside each hotel).

I'm not judging.  People seem to come in swarms to experience the joy of throwing money around in the name of complete sensory overload.  I am one of them this week.  I have already plugged a dollar into a slot machine and lost it in a matter of seconds, as images that I did not understand spun and flashed and clanged in front of me.  I expect to give up another $50-$100 playing my friend's lucky numbers on roulette before I leave town.  I am not going to promise that I won't stop for a cocktail at 7 AM on my way to the cafe for my morning coffee...the bars are open, people are drinking, and I might just want to say I sat down for a $15 morning martini while I was in Vegas.  I have already spent $150 for tickets to a show I know nothing about - just so I can say I went to a show in Las Vegas.

I am caught up in it all - looking for the nearest exit with one eye but at everything my little heart desires with the other.

What's that all about?

I spent most of yesterday wondering if Las Vegas is the snapshot of America people in underdeveloped nations have of our country. The last time my husband was here on business was September 11, 2001. Leaving Las Vegas in a hurry that afternoon, he had a large rear view mirror picture of why someone might think Americans are unfairly squandering the world's resources on wanton self-indulgence.  

I have spent most of today pondering the woman I saw throwing dice at a table this morning as I walked through the casino for my coffee (every destination, it seems, requires a walk through the casino).  She was what I'd call a "church lady"... middle aged, Mary Kay painted, dressed in a Christmas-themed shirt, with a purse hanging over her shoulder.  She was blowing on her dice.  And blowing on her dice.  I got the feeling this was her last throw of luck-or- loss before she got in a cab and went back to her pristine, Jesus-themed life.  I am imagining she was really, really hoping to make the last throw count.  Perhaps to cover her costs in Sin City.

Yep. It's 7 AM in the casino.
Oh, if only it were so easy.  If only our sins of overindulgence against the planet and one another could be erased with a roll of the dice.  If only our eagerness to spend too much and eat too much and live too extravagantly and love too recklessly was always as easy to see and fix and walk away from as it is in Vegas.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas...?


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