Feb 102014
 

Kevin D. Williamson’s The End of Sex, on pornography and legal prostitution in America, is up at National Review Online this morning. It’s eye-opening, if a bit depressing. Go check it out.

Whatever prurient fascination I had with this world lasted about as long as college did, I suppose, or maybe a whisper longer. I was certainly over it by the time I visited Las Vegas for the first (and quite possibly last) time at the age of 29.

vegasVegas was just like I expected in some ways. It’s definitely a loud, exciting, boisterous, flashy place. I was there for three days, and enjoyed myself. I lost $500, but at a satisfyingly measured rate. I saw Lance Burton at the Monte Carlo. He was amazing.

It was also much darker and sadder than I had imagined it would be. Futility. Desperation.

Superficially it’s like Walt Disney World, or maybe the biggest, fanciest birthday party anyone ever had. But it’s utterly soulless. I’ve never seen, before or since, a busier place with so little joy. Far too much of the experience felt like I was surrounded by people taking one last moon shot at happiness, and realizing “hey, guess what? Turns out it’s not here either, so we might as well have a drink.” How much of that feeling was really there and how much I overlaid on it myself, I couldn’t tell you. But I don’t think the former was insignificant.

It was fun, but I was also glad to leave. I have no desire to return. I’d go in a group with a plan, I suppose, but my own initiative is unlikely to take me back.

What reminded me of the trip upon reading Williamson’s piece was that it was my closest proximity to prostitution. It’s not legal in Las Vegas, but it’s not a long drive to where it is. So if you’re walking down the street after dark, you’re going to encounter folks distributing literature inviting you to visit the various “ranches” awaiting right outside town. They pace you for eight or ten steps, holding a pamphlet just inside your personal space—maybe six inches in front of you? If you don’t take it, they move to the person behind you.

If you do take it, you are mobbed.

I know, because I did. Because I was curious.

I was not a potential consumer of the advertised services, but I suddenly looked more like one than anyone else on the street. So instead of two or three guys standing in front of me with literature, there were ten or twelve—within five seconds. I don’t have any idea how they converged so quickly. “Excuse me, gentlemen! Excuse me!” restored my ability to walk, and we were back to normal in another ten yards.

It was a perfect microcosm. In terms of drawing larger conclusions, my trip suffers from the same anecdotal limitations as any other with such a small sample size. I went once. I had only my eyes to look through. But looking back on it, I have the same conclusion now that I had then.

I was truly blessed to go to Las Vegas as an explorer and not a seeker.

Photograph: Lasvegaslover

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 Posted by at 7:25 am

  4 Responses to “What happened in Vegas…”

  1. The first, last and only time I set foot in Las Vegas was 1979. The legendary hotels that hosted the Rat Pack were still standing; the theme-park-ish behemoths that sprawl across the landscape hadn’t even been planned yet, and my parents were aglow with memories of their last trip — their honeymoon — a scant 11 years previously.

    I thought it sucked.

    Now granted, I wasn’t the target consumer. I was ten. My tour consisted of walking up and down the strip to see the lights and eating at a Denny’s with a slot machine on the table. But as our family left the next morning to continue our trek toward Yellowstone, I remember thinking to myself, “THAT was Vegas?”

    I’ve had no desire to go back. Even though it has changed since then — markedly — I have never wanted to return.

    I don’t gamble, I rarely have more than one drink at a sitting. The shows… meh. Overpriced and overhyped. For those who party to excess on a regular basis or have money to blow, sure — go and enjoy yourself. But for me and mine, I’ve other places to spend my money.

  2. Your exposure was a little different than mine. We went with 3 other couples for my 40th birthday a few years ago. We saw a David Spade show (he’s fantastic live, BTW), ate at a couple of 5 star restaurants, saw the Beatles’ Love Cirque de Soleil show (really, really fantastic), did a little gambling and a little shopping. We didn’t see anything sordid or sleazy, but maybe it’s because we weren’t paying attention. I was mainly trying to distract myself from the reality of turning 40! But we do agree on one thing – a little bit of Vegas goes a long way. I would like to go back sometime, but not soon. I think I need about 5 years in between visits.

    • Jenny, you’ve raised in me the interesting possibility that I might have seen it very differently with another decade of wisdom on me than I had.

      I did enjoy the Lance Burton show very much. And I don’t like magicians.

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