Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Money You Bring to Vegas, Stays in Vegas

I just came back from a whirlwind weekend trip to Las Vegas with my mom and sister. It's the first time we've gone away, just the three of us, or at least the first time in recent memory. We go out to dinner together occasionally, but not as often as we used to now that my sister has an 18-month-old daughter.

Vegas was a total trip. It was fun to see all the lights and crazy expensive hotels and the chaos of the casinos. We stayed at the Luxor, a hotel built to resemble various Egyptian artifacts, including a gigantic Sphinx overlooking the main drive. You could just barely see some desert mountains from our hotel window, and the contrast between their ancient calm presence and the frenetic activity of the Strip was something to ponder. I would sit in the hotel window, looking at the light changing on the hills in the distance, and wishing I was out in them. I love the desert. Lights and music and crowds are interesting to me for about ten minutes, but the earth never loses its mystery.

At one point, on the second day, when my sister was napping and my mom was taking in an Imax show about the Nile, I went outside to try and get some peace and quiet (and actual air). I sat out by the pool (or should I say 'pools', since there were three pools and I think three hot tubs out there) on the grass and tried to rest, but the piped-in 80's pop music left my brain frazzled. When there was a pause in the music, I could hear birds and crickets, and I wanted to listen to them, not to U2 tunes that were popular when I was in college, and a country-western song about Jesus saving some woman from crashing her car.

I had a similar thought about Vegas that I did when I went to Burning Man about 4 years ago: We are not supposed to be out here. The bright expanse of reddish yellow desert that stretches in all directions from the city seemed like the real world; all the lights and explosions, sequins and velvet curtains, fake architecture and bumper-to-bumper traffic seemed not only false, but actually damaging to the planet. Not that I refused to participate. I drank, ate expensive meals, saw some extravagant shows (Cirque du Soleil's 'Love', using music from the Beatles, was fantastic!), took pictures of the lights, rode in a gondola at the Venetian, oohed and ahhed over the Bellagio's water show, bought souvenirs. And I enjoyed it all, too. It's just that in the end, the red hills constantly changing color and form in the sinking light kept tugging at me from the corners of my eyes. They were so much more beautiful, grand, and expansive than the seven-zillion-watt Vegas Strip, all the cacophony of the gambling machines, and the flashiest chorus girls on any stage.

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