Vegas, baby: Pimp Edition
It bothers me that we have forgotten that a few short months ago we suffered the worst act of domestic terrorism in US history. What we do best as a nation is move on to bigger and better things. What we do terribly as a country is move on to bigger and better things. These are important times, and even if we discuss them in a silly remembrance of a time years ago, let's still keep talking, ok?
I spent a whole heck of a lot of time in Las Vegas in 2007 and 2008. Vegas is, simply put, something else. First of all, it's in the literal middle of the desert. Who's idea was that? Probably the same guy who also thought that seafood buffets were a great idea in a place hundreds of miles from the coast.
Vegas is also a hot second from the Hoover Dam, that's pretty cool. Vegas, however, is no where near the Grand Canyon, as my cousin Kaitlyn and I learned the hard way when my rental car got stuck in a sand dune whilst we tried just simply cutting across the desert instead of taking the highway. One bad.
Vegas is the place where I learned a lot about myself, and what it meant to be on my own. I went to shows alone. I ate at crowded restaurants with a notebook and pen for company. I went to museums, and even gambled at cheap machines to pass the time. I stayed on The Strip for many of my trips. It was before my office discovered extended stay hotels, and before I realized that Vegas was lame when you're by yourself.
I have eaten about a thousand Nutella crepes at the Bellagio, I've eaten casual dinners in the NY-NY hotel, and tried pretending I was cultured by eating gnocchi in The Venetian. I've stayed in many a Hilton in Vegas, and more than a handful of Marriott Residence Inns. I've also stayed exactly one night in the MGM hotel after seeing Celine Dion for the second time, and two nights at the Mandalay Bay Resort.
I was working, and it was just until a room was ready at a different hotel...honestly I had forgot all about the place (no offense, Mandalay Bay) until this week. After the millionth hotel room, they all start to look the same no matter where you are, but I will say that there is something impressive about The Strip at night from one of the bigger hotels.
The Strip is sort of too much, (#extraAF, as the kids say) but in that way that you can't help but smile at...like Elvis' jump suits, or Paris Hilton's 2001 baby voice, or Betty White swearing, or all things Cardi B.
It's sort of freeing to be in a place where, by design, you are surrounded by every opportunity to indulge in opulence. At night, it's like the very air is draped in silk. In the morning, your USA Today comes with Advil and a waiver.
You can get felt up at a Burlesque show before dinner, and find whatever God you'd like at a multi-denominational church service after dessert. I'm telling you from experience, and that was before the midnight gondola ride.
Freedom man, that's what Vegas is.
The thing about freedom is that it's debatable. You think it's not, I know. You know what your freedom means, or at least you know what you think it means to have it taken away. We forget that one person's freedom is another's nightmare.
Sometimes we force freedom down other's throats until it chokes us all. Sometimes those freedoms hold us hostage.
I can't speak for you, but my freedoms are holding me hostage this week. It's been a while since I've been glued to 24 hour news, afraid to leave my bed. All because of the thing that I'm being told makes me free.
It's been a while, too, since I've had to think about who I should hate today. It's so ingrained into the fabric of who I am - waking up to see what the color of the terror wheel is today, much like the temperature outside, and deciding how much hate to have for things I'll never understand.
It's so much easier when the color wheel tells me to hate something oceans away, and to hope that the something has a different skin tone than me.
It's a freaking bummer when I don't know what someone's motive was to do something hateful. It's even worse when they look like me. I want to be angry, but I'm not sure where to aim it. I need a motive too.
Freedom is a stickler with its rules for anger. You're only allowed to be angry in certain ways, depending on who's in charge.
Freedom is a truth teller too. The brand of freedom I subscribe to has me finding myself gagging halfway through the sentence, "I was wrong." I think I've been wrong about what I believe, and I'm not really sure what to do about it.
What the hell kind of freedom is this, anyway? I don't think I want it if I'm going to end up, at best, housebound and afraid of my shadow and any noise louder than a mouse fart.
My freedoms are making me question some things lately. My fears are number one on the list.
I'm afraid of being shot for no reason, or for a damn good reason, for that matter.
And I'm somehow simultaneously afraid that my freedom to shoot someone for no reason, or for a damn good reason, for that matter, will be taken away.
Freedom is so complicated, and frustrating, and heavy. I'm exhausted.
In my defense, I'm also afraid that I need a heart transplant every time I'm on the elliptical, and I'm afraid that spiders will come out of my shower head because I saw the movie "Arachnophobia" when I was nine.
Fear is complicated, frustrating and heavy too.
Pushing my fears aside (as I do), the feeling left is one of disappointment.
My disappointment with how we twist events like Sunday's massacre can be overwhelming, and does nothing but provoke the thinly veiled anxiety flowing lava-like below my crusted over calm surface. We've turned something so unprecedented, so devastating, and so sad into a political battleground, where there are two very distinct sides. Again.
Politicizing events like these is not only inevitable, it's as boring as it is predictable. Whatever. No matter what I have to say about it, that's going to happen. People make money off of this stuff. I'm not saying that cynically. It's actually someone's job to put the lit in politics.
I don't have answers, and even if I thought I did, I could never find it in my heart to hijack this type of collective grief with rhetoric.
All I'll say is that we can do better. I just know we can.
We are a vibrant cohort of freakishly creative minds. We put a man on the moon. We created Hot Pockets. We have a registered trademark on DeFazios. It's just too bad that we can't find inspiration enough to find the catalyst behind what created this country to begin with.
We were pissed and scared and #woke then too. We were just more creative. I'm just disappointed that fear and money run the show now. I have enough of fear and money running things in my own mind, thank you very much.
All that said, I know that Vegas is a weird, tough ol' Broad. It's why I liked her so much. She left me ruffled and kind of confused, but I think deep down she gets me. Some of the best stories of my life have come from my time in Vegas. That's the Vegas I'm going to choose to remember until she gets back on her feet, holes in her pantyhose and all.
The stories, man. I'm not going to change the past with commenting on politics or guns or mental health in a blog. But I can remind you that we have the ability to laugh, even now. And that's where stories help. To wit...
Handling insurance claims in Las Vegas was everything we all hope it would be. I saw that brothel with the mannequins (see several blogs back about 2007). I ripped my pants on a church roof. I had the lady who thought her neighbors were peeing on her trees.
I think Vegas told me exactly who she was one hot afternoon on my way home from a long day of walking on roofs. Well, I say hot day like it could have been anything else. It's like saying the ocean is wet. If I ever visit the Southwest during anything other than a drought and a heatwave, I'll be actually shocked.
On this memorably dry and scorching day, I was driving a particularly wide rental car, which reminded me of the old Chevy Caprice my grandfather had for years, bucket seat and all.
I had pulled up to a stoplight, turning onto The Strip, sort of down near the airport. I was trying to turn right, which I remember well because the very first Hummer limo I had ever seen was on my left, and I couldn't see past it to take the right on red.
I inched forward more and more. I remember being so thirsty. And this was a time, for the kids, when thirsty actually meant I was dehydrated. Anyone older than 34 should Urban Dictionary what the word means now.
Thirsty and impatient, I inched up more.
And that's when I heard it.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
"HEY! Are you freaking kidding me? You almost ran me over to twit!"
Wondering who would yell such a thing (you can take the girl out of Troy, and all...), I straightened in my seat. I was tired and hearing someone start a fight perked me right up. I looked around, and adjusted my rearview mirror to catch the action.
Nothing. I must have missed it. Oh well.
I inched up again. Those long lights are a killer.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
"JESUS! Are you blind AND stupid? Where the hell did you learn to drive?"
Geez, I mean it sounded like whatever was going on was right around my car. I looked all around again. Heat exhaustion and a propensity for carny violence always gets me.
Nada. Maybe I'm imagining things, or it's an outdoor show somewhere nearby.
Inching up again, I really put my back in it...I was sweating through my company-issued polo, and there's only so much AC can do for this girl.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
"ARE YOU F$@*ING KIDDING ME??? BITCH! I'M MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS HERE! JESUS CHRIST! YOU DUMB BROAD WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? IF YOU WERE MY HOE, I'D KICK YOUR ASS......."
As the rant faded into the movie roll of my thoughts, it dawned on me to look across the comically large front seat, while my hands gripped the bus-sized steering wheel. I turned my head to the passenger window, and took one of those extra long blinks when something doesn't quite fit our assumptions.
All I saw was a pair of eyes, ruffled hair, and fog on the window from the mouth which - although unseen - was, one assumes, the very mouth that had been screaming at me for the last minute straight.
I stared at this lovely little man as he continued to berate my clear ineptitude, interjecting fist blows on the side door every so often to emphasize not only his displeasure, but his insistence that I was, in fact, the worst person on earth.
I was mesmerized by the amount of fog one could produce on such a hot day on a car window.
And as I turned, finally, as the light became green, I turned to watch my new best friend continue to gesticulate wildly on the corner, one middle nub of a finger in the air in farewell.
I still don't understand why someone would wear a suede suit in the middle of the summer in Vegas, but I do know that he was the smallest pimp I had ever seen.
I hope he's still out there, giving everyone hell who can't see him over their stupidly giant rental car hoods.
Those are the people that help Vegas dust herself off again. The micro-pimp, and the madam at the brothel, and the cross-dressing clown that grabbed my boob during a Cirque du Soleil show, and the guy who pee'ed in the Bellagio fountains because it was better luck than throwing in a penny...these are what freedom means to me. Not only what some piece of paper written hundreds of years ago tells me makes me free.
Well, that and drive-thru weddings. Can't have freedom or Vegas without a drive-thru wedding...