We landed in Vegas and the first thing I noticed, besides an endless sea of slot machines and video poker consoles, was a severe lack of clocks.
Time, it would seem, is frowned upon in Vegas.
It’s an interesting city, but from the street, it’s not too different than going to a Disney theme park in Orlando—only with more nudity.
At night the strip is awash in blinking neon. Seizure inducing, but incredible to see.
I don’t know how Hunter S. managed this town on hallucinogens.
Once the sun rises, however, the city looks different; used and abused, primarily by guests from afar. Litter fills every empty lot and lines the shoulder of most roads. Empty bottles, cigarette butts, fliers boasting the newest breast implants of some young girl with daddy issues—it covers the street like a ticker tape parade of filth.
Vegas by day is best spent nursing your hangover, quietly, in a hotel room.
But at night, it’s truly something to behold.
Like every movie ever made on the subject, the opulence is real. Each casino is larger than the last. Lions and tigers, dancing fountains, roller coasters and misplaced international landmarks—the new strip is an exercise in visual excess.
Our first night was spent in search of the old Vegas. Our good friend Dave and his brother Nick drove over from LA to act as our personal tour guides. They drove us down Vegas Blvd, past the Pyramids of the Luxor and the fountains of the Bellagio, beyond Ceasars Palace and towards Fremont—the original Vegas strip.
The old players are still there; the Golden Nugget, the Pioneer—The giant neon cowboy still stands tall, smoking his giant neon cigarette, overseeing his once great kingdom while the cowgirl reclines across the street in an eternal tease…but the thoroughfare has been closed to traffic, the night sky covered with a roof of animated lights.
It almost felt like a theme park version of the original Vegas.
But this is the part of Vegas where the shadows of the past stretch long—where Sinatra and the like drank until the wee hours of the morn.
And this is where I was going to raise a cocktail in their honor.
Now, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I prefer to gamble with my life, rather than my money.
Before last night, I had never set foot in a casino—anywhere. Neither Vegas, nor Reno—not even in my own hometown.
It’s just not my thing.
Walking through the casinos, you’d think my attitude towards gambling was shared by all—there was an air of desperation surrounding the tables. Nobody smiled. Nobody laughed.
This was serious business.
I imagine for some, it’s a matter of life or death with every hand dealt.
Watching them, it became clear why the windows don’t open in Vegas hotel rooms.
But dammit, man…this is Vegas.
So I found my way to the bar at the Nugget, slipped a fiver into the video blackjack machine and ordered a whiskey sour.
I lost it all before my drink was even mixed.
Another fiver at another bar, another whiskey sour.
This time, I hung on for a while. I never really went up or down too much.
Win one, lose two…have a drink..
Lose three win five…have another drink.
The longer I played, the more I learned something about myself:
I just don’t enjoy gambling—even when the stakes are low.
Even when I win.
I wasn’t even gambling with my own money.
Aside from the potential of a missed opportunity to take a sip from the cup of life—to fully experience Vegas, there were no risks.
And without risk, there’s no big payoff.
Without risk, all you can hope for is breaking even.