Come Out & Play

We have arrived in Vegas!

November 20th, 2016

Woke up a few times in the middle of the night. Went back to bed. Moved to my side. Rearranged the covers. And with time, 8 or so hours passed by. Zake and I just spent a complete night sleeping in the car. We were in the parking lot in front of a church in a small town off the highway. I woke up energized, ecstatic that the night was over and the day was about to begin. Not so bad. Success.

Hopped out the car and Zake redirected my attention. We had a flat tire. URG. This was going to slow things down. We called Enterprise & roadside assistance, a man came and helped us with putting on the spare tire. Enterprise recommended that we drive to St. George, which was about an hour away, so that we could exchange vehicles for a different one.

On the spare tire, we couldn’t drive faster than 50MPH. We were on an 80MPH road. The drive was slow. And I couldn’t help imagining what would happen if this tire failed on us as well. But we made it.

Zake & I are now at the St. George airport waiting for the next available car (currently they don’t have enough cars on the lot). A slow morning thus far, but the goal here isn’t speed. It’s adventure. And unexpected road troubles. That’s very much contributing to the cause : )

Back on the road. Started a new book called Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, who is a comedian that makes me actually laugh. He’s got a funny style. Just a few hours from Las Vegas. By this point, I was getting a little tired. Lots of driving, without anyone else to share the responsibility.

We arrived in Las Vegas around 4:00PM. The sun was starting to set. We drove through the main road, getting a glimpse of what Las Vegas looked like. At the start, we observed areas of extreme poverty. Yea, this definitely was not Boulder. This is real world.

As we continued, so did the wealth of the city. The city is much larger than I expected. I imagined Las Vegas being one small strip, where everything happens. But it’s much more than that. According to Google, the population is about the size of Baltimore, 600k or so. Pretty big.

Downtown Las Vegas. That’s where the big buildings are. The flashing lights. The casinos. The fancy stores & restaurants. The HUGE water fountain. The tourists. These attractions are amazing.

On one corner you are in New York, on another in Paris, and another, Hershey world. Las Vegas seems to have condensed worldwide attractions into its city, and then built casinos around them. As a tourist, you better come prepared to spend some money. It’s pay to play. Brilliant business model.

Zake & I parked at Enterprise, where we knew we could get free parking. Time to walk around & explore. The lights, the buildings, they were more impressive up close. Everything was so big and bright. I felt like a kid in an amusement park, following wherever looked most fun.

Street artists performing, showcasing their incredible talents. Dancing. Playing. Singing. Painting. All on public show. The artists, they are the ones who are really hustling in this city.

As tourists, Zake & I experienced the “FREE” version of Las Vegas. Walking around, taking in the views & experiences without paying to play. Passed many people, many bars, many restaurants, many shows, many opportunities to spend a nickel or two.

After walking around for a few hours, I was finally ready to gamble. I have gambled in casinos just a few times in my life (Vina Del Mar, Chile & New Orleans, Louisiana). The rule is simple. Loose $20 max.

So that’s what I did. Went to a blackjack table. Minimum bet $10. I played two hands. And I was done. Quick. Yay!!! So much fun to lose money so quickly, I can’t think of a better way to spend my money and time.

I did keep a $1 poker chip token as a souvenir. This memento strangely meant a lot to me. It said “come out and play.” This little poker chip reminded me, this world really is run by money.

There’s people on the streets without homes, in the clubs without protection, and in the casinos with money to gamble. It’s a strange dissection. As people, we’re divided. We’re not connected. One person serving another. Selling thyself to strangers, all in the name of money.

This brings me back to my Political Economy class. The commodification of labor. A fictitious commodity. Placing a value on life itself. What is the value of human life. And why is one life more “valuable” than another. When price is put on labor, we damage our sense of self along with our capacity to empathize. It’s not fair.

Money. Not inherently good. Not inherently bad. But a piece of the puzzle that makes the world go round. How money is used. How it is exchanged. How it is distributed. These are questions for economists, policymakers, and yes, everyday people.

$1 poker chip from Vegas. Hmmm. This will serve as a powerful reminder for me to continue learning. Continue learning how this world can become a more fair, just, and happy place for everyone to play.

We walked back to the car and drove 20–30 minutes out of Vegas, on the way to the Red Rocks. We found a nice parking spot, with other cars, vans, and RVs. They were camping in their vehicles for the night too. Parked. Set up shop. Got the covers in place. Headed to bed after a long, tiring day.

3 Things I’m Grateful for today

  • Being born with such privilege so that I can take a trip to Vegas & play
  • Only wasting $20 in Vegas
  • The street artists in Vegas, you guys are awesome!

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