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I look at pictures of Las Vegas on line and I want to measure up to the festive experience I sense in the spectacular lights and colors but I simply can’t anymore.

My recent trip to Las Vegas, to attend the BlogWorld Conference, has changed my perception of this place irreversibly.  And I am almost sorry for myself.

My staying in Las Vegas was divided into two parallel experiences.  The first and foremost one was of course the conference which meant running from one session to the next one in hope to learn as much as I could.  The second experience was immersing myself in the life of the city to learn about the place as much as I could.

Walking down the Las Vegas Strip at night became a journey divided, again, into two different and parallel experiences.

First, when you look up you see nothing but happiness, excitement, and  fun.  Enormous advertisements invite you to experience the peak of life as enjoyment.  From David Copperfield and his unmatchable magic, through fabulous shows of Cirque Du Soleil to Cher who clearly discovered the secret way, so desired by all, of defying time.

But when you look down, under your feet, you see the different, parallel world of sadness, disguised as a simple and inexpensive worldly pleasure offered to you fast (in only 20 min) for a fraction of the money you are willing to loose in Las Vegas anyway.

Dozens of advertising cards line the sidewalk beneath your feet.  As you walk, you step on young women’s faces adored with long and lash hair.  You step on their breasts with nipples inlaid  with sparkling diamonds.  You step on their half closed eyes that promise you pleasures beyond the experience you can ever imagine.

As you walk, you feel and become a part of the ocean of people walking with you.  Most of them carry their drinks in their  hands, most of them stagger.  Life is good!  We are having fun!  Young girls wear skimpy clothes.  Older men follow them in amazement.  Just to watch their rhythmic swag is enough to fulfill the desire of something long lost.  How painful is it to remember?

As you walk looking down, you see the beggars.  Their faces bruised with time and extensive exposure to the sunlight.  Their fingers stiff like branches.  One shares with his comrades the quarters he has just collected, emptying a plastic cup into his hand.

“Here,” he says extending his arm.

“Thank you, brother.”

The casinos have their parallels as well.

I see frivolous college students inserting quarters into the slot machines with easiness of someone who doesn’t expect anything.  Their faces are freed of unrealistic hopes.  And then I see Indian women in Saris with their eyes transfixed on the screen in front of them.  I see women in their 40s and 50s, adorned with inexpensive jewelry, their make-up running down their faces, focused reverently on the dream behind their eyes as they put another 20 dollar bill into the slot.  I see grandparents, widows, young couples, and finally, little children — in the middle of the night — sleeping in strollers pushed close to the slot machines.

I want to experience the rush of the place and I can’t.  Instead of rushing I become still and I watch.  This is when I become sorry for myself.

And as I watch, new reflections come to my mind:

Why can’t I let go?  And what would it be that I have to let go of?

Why can’t I have fun?  And what would qualify to be described as fun?

Why can’t I be happy?  And what would I have to change in my  simple everyday happiness to make it “more” happy?

Why can’t I be just like other people enjoying themselves on the street?  What would I have to change in the way I genuinely enjoy life to fit the category I can’t even fathom?

Have I always been this way?

Yes, and it all started when I was six years old.

Stayed tuned for the story, coming soon, of how it all had began for me.

20 Responses to “Parallels: Las Vegas, Las Vegas”

  1. Jane Elkin says:

    Danuta, I am with you 100% here. The four days I spent in Vegas were 3 days too many. I saw my cousin for the first time in decades…one of those hopeless middle-aged slots addicts. Wherever I went I couldn’t escape the probing eyes of the beggars, the same as in any city, but magnified beyond all possibility in such a land of plenty.
    I loved our day trips to the desert and the dam. Sweet escape from the 114 degree pavement to the 113 degree sand, where at least the beauty was natural.
    I spent one lovely evening in an Irish bar where we listened to folk musicians and ate the best bread pudding of my life, but how long can you spend in one artificially authentic nook before the rest of the crazy place invades again. I saw “Broadway shows” only to discover they’d been abbreviated to hustle the audience back to the casinos.
    I hated Vegas more than I thought possible. I disdain it and all who worship its artificiality and insensitivity. What I saw in Vegas made me ashamed to admit I’m American, and I’m only grateful someone else footed the hotel bill because I was there on business.

  2. Las Vegas is America written in bright lights and the ching ching from the slot machines.

    The kind of division between wealth and poverty, happiness and sadness, plays out in every American street.

    My wife volunteers at a Free Clinic here in Danville, VA. She helps people who have no money, no insurance, no families, no friends.

    America has two hearts–one dreaming happy and one living sad.

  3. Sherry Tellitocci says:

    That story was very moving. Quite a contrast. I have never been to Las Vegas. I could feel a sense of fascination yet deep sadness when I read your account. I agree with John. I think some people probably visit Las Vegas for the fast life that it offers. I hope they also leave though with the profound sense desire to go back to their communities and help the less fortunate among us, those residing in the loneliness and hopelessness that engulfs the other side of this scenario, the homeless and other unfortunate people that wander the streets.

    I see the homeless here and it is heartbreaking.

    Sherry Tellitocci

    • Danuta Hinc says:

      Yes, Sherry,
      when I see homeless, I always feel we, as a society, need to do something to help.
      There must be a way of solving this.
      I feel we are responsible for each other.

  4. Bell Noor says:

    London at night is not much different, I don’t think any, many capitals or so called developed places are…people including people, sociality conditioned to be…forgotten what really they want to be or perhaps are…! I love the relaxation of emotions, thanks for sharing.

    • Danuta Hinc says:

      Sadly, Bell, it seems that you are right.
      You say: “conditioned to be forgotten” and I think of how much it says about us, humans.
      Think of all the countries “conditioned to be forgotten.”

  5. franciszek śledź says:

    Zacytuję Cię Danusiu :

    …”Moja ostatnia podróż do Las Vegas, do udziału w Konferencji BlogWorld, zmienił moje postrzeganie tego miejsca bezpowrotnie. ..”

    …”Po pierwsze, kiedy patrzysz, widzisz tylko szczęście, podniecenie i zabawy. Ogromne reklamy Zachęcamy do doświadczenia szczyt życia przyjemności…”

    Jak idziesz, czujesz, że możesz stać się częścią oceanu osób z Tobą. Młode dziewczęta chodzą w skąpym ubraniu. Starsi ludzie są zdumieni…

    Dlaczego nie mogę się dobrze bawić?

    Dlaczego nie mogę być tu szczęśliwa?

    Dlaczego nie mogę być tak jak inni ludzie bawić się na ulicy?
    ……………………………………………………………………………..
    Cóż, Danusiu. Byłąś tam gdzie 99% nas Polaków nigdy nie było i nie będzie. Piszesz o czymś co znamy z filmów, jednak?… czy coś tracimy? Z tego co tu opisujesz myślę, że nic a nic nie tracimy. Powiedziałbym więcej być w Vegas to tak jak posiąść męża koleżanki. Jest przystojny, ma styl, ubiera się świetnie więc zapewne i w łóżku jest super, a jednak co nam pozostaje gdy prześpimy się z “nim”? Myślę, że większość z nas Polaków z Polski marzy o tym by odwiedzić Vegas, by tam być, by zagrać w kasynie, może zaliczyć “panienkę” pozdrawiam Cię Danusiu i dziękuję za pamięć,

    • Danuta Hinc says:

      Franku,
      dziekuje za wpis!
      Powiedz mi skad wziales to tlumaczenie. Czy to Twoje slowa czy jest to z Google translate?
      Pozdrawiam rowniez.

      • franciszek śledź says:

        cóż Danusiu, posiłkowałem się tłumaczeniem Google oczywiście, angielskiego jeszcze nie znam na tyle by samemu dojść to tych słów. Dlaczego jednak pytasz? Czyżby coś w tłumaczeniu nie wyszło? Szkoda, piszesz tylko w języku, którego jeszcze nie znam, więc pewnie wkradną się jakieś przekłamania. A pro po, języka to właśnie zapisałem się do dwuletniej szkoły angielskiego. Jakie będą tego efekty pewnie przekonamy się wspólnie, a na razie??????? chciałbym poznać Twoją twórczość…więc gdybyś znalazła troszkę czasu to mogłabyś poprawić jakieś rażące błędy bo przecież tylko Ty naprawdę wiesz co chciałaś powiedzieć prawda?
        pozdrawiam Franciszek, marian albo…b…

        • Danuta Hinc says:

          Tlumaczenia sa zawsze bardzo trudne (tak jak juz wczesniej to uzgodnilismy ;-)
          Mysle, ze Google jest najlepszym rozwiazaniem. Tez z tego korzystam gdy tlumacze z jezykow, ktorych nie znam. Good luck in learning English! ;-) ))

  6. Stuart Aken says:

    Danuta, I have never been to Las Vegas, have no desire to visit, and probably never will. But your description of your emotional response was so fresh and well-expressed. It has, in many senses, confirmed my opinion of the place as formed from TV programmes and documentaries. A place entirely about appearance and the false value of money. A place where life is lived superficially and for the moment and where values and worth have been replaced by price and cost. The accountants must love it.
    I was particularly taken by your description of the discarded ‘business’ cards of the many prostitutes who serve the base lusts of those who have no knowledge of love or respect for their fellow human beings.
    I don’t think you lack the ability to have fun or enjoy the simple pleasures. I think you simply saw beyond the tinsel, the glitter and the plastic smiles to the reality of the poverty and degradation that permits such a place to exist. Any place built so obviously on the misery of others can hardly appeal to those with the soul to see it for what it is.
    And, now, everyone who’s been there and enjoyed it will hate me. Oh dear!

    • Danuta Hinc says:

      Stuart,
      I felt people were trying to find happiness but didn’t know what happiness really meant for them.
      It’s like walking through a dark forest in hope of finding light.

  7. Cathy says:

    I’ve NEVER had the desire or need to go there. I’m quite content, here. Surely, I would see what you had.
    What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas….. interesting advertising and does it really, stay there?

    thank you for sharing your visit :)

    hugs

  8. The problems of Vegas are the problems of the entire planet. The question Vegas raises is what will you do to make things better.

  9. [...] as I was saying “it” all started when I was six years [...]

  10. ypatton says:

    I will stay tuned for your story. However, I myself also find Los Vegas amazing and yet sad. I have never wanted to spend more than a day or two there. Too much ding-ding-ding connected with images of poor grandmothers in huge smoky rooms, stooped in their stools, clutching their buckets, spending all their nickels all for the escape of a few hours of the possibility of winning something better. Surely the shows are amazing–I never had much money to see any when we lived on the West Coast, and certainly we enjoyed the un-ending night life–though already in our early thirties we were embarrassingly tired by what we were used to as the 1:30 cut-off. Nevertheless, overall I think Los Vegas is depressing–which is why I am definitely against slot machines in our own state.