In 1971, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson & his attorney Oscar Zeta Acosta took a trip to Las Vegas to cover the Mint 500 race for Sports Illustrated. In Duke fashion, the pair conducted drug-induced business, and the story evolved into something else entirely. The hopeful essence of the 60s had been butchered by the introduction of the 70s, Thompson’s words depicted an America in decline. This famed notion of the ‘American Dream’, was now threatening to become a fable.
I was given an assignment to write a reflection on one of the art pieces in the Palm’s hotel, which houses many prestigious works of art; Banksy, Basquiat, Warhol, KAWS, etc.
I drove from Colorado to Vegas in Gonzo style: vibrant Hawaiian shirt, pack of cigarillos, white sneakers, overt sunglasses, and an array of….
After a musing on the art and a few drinks at the bar, I sat in the food court, pulled out my notebook, and lit up a cigarillo for company.
The music and neon lights served as constant stimuli, encouraging the carousel of corpses to remain in motion. Sleep, an old friend you no longer keep in contact with.
An all turquoise man sits mummified in deep contemplation. He’s at that stage- the later part of life with a look that says why am I still here??
Vegas has him and will not let him go. He refuses to blink, shuffling the four hotdog wrappers on the table like playing cards. Perhaps these dogs are the telltale sign of grief.
No somber songs, constant thump of euphoria. Vegas is a formula, inflate the atmosphere to increase the energy further. This slab of lights is a 24/7 access to destruction. At its core, momentary distraction from death. Time is suspended, it’s like one of those movie scenes where everyone is frozen but the chosen protagonist. These casinos were invented for escapists, alter the present to forget the future.
The strip is a zoo. The allure of lights threatens to induce epilepsy. This is where you go to decay or attempt a revival. The walls serve as a memento of all aspiration. Hollywood’s cousin, the delusion of dream. One can kill and bury themselves here without protest. A pendulum of highs and lows. My subconscious is fed the promise of sex, art, action, liberation, drugs, profit, and damnation simultaneously.
How do escorts make a living? I am approached by hundreds of night prowlers, every corner is an advertisement of flesh. The strip is Russian roulette for the soul. Pull the trigger! No one will do it for you.
Maybe these cynical vibrations have entered my bones and taken over this pen I clutch like a weapon. It’s not all bad. Here you can rebrand- you can be anyone. Talk, dress, walk, and sleep in character. Scum, CEO? Magician, musician, stripper dancing for tuition? What will it be? I introduce myself as a single syllable. I have no name just this character, a concoction of childhood remnants, warped pop culture, and the ghost of a scribe who blew his brains out.
Do whatever it is you desire, all that is required is the universal lubricant- portraits of deceased politicians.
Circus Circus is a swamp. It gives me the fear. All these carnies, hordes of people swaying about, paralytic drunk or high off substance. The majority inhabitants embarked to the mecca from Nevada trailer parks and SoCal hoods. All walks of life are present for Vegas is a promise that change is possible. Slot machines just might be God.
Dialogue distorts my train of thought as a woman approaches a group of polo boys.
“Extra cigarette… none of you have an extra cigarette?”
They say nothing.
“All of you are sharing one cigarette… okay.”
I pretend to play hero and offer her a PrimeTime.
“That’s a really brown cigarette- you’re scaring me.”
She walks off.
The clowns and funhouse mirrors threaten me with a mental breakdown, I head towards Caesar’s Palace
What is there to dream for in America?
Is this the land of opportunity or the property of the opportunist?
The palace has gone to shit. All are on the quest for the unattainable. This is lotto lunacy. Everyone’s fingers are crossed. My lungs abandon me. I’ve treated them like a chimney. I am nobody and everybody here.
Is there still a story?
Claps, yells, boos and mother fuckers emitted like musical notes throughout the casino. Too much energy here to even think of sleep.
As I make my way to the Flamingo, I am surprised to see that Donnie & Marie are still alive. They certainly must be holograms by now.
At the blackjack table, everyone is in disguise. My favorite is the gent wearing earbuds and shades at 1AM. He must be an eccentric type to still be using earbuds. Society looks at you like a peasant if you do not yet have earpods. One man is riding a wave, a crowd has surrounded him, he fist pumps, shouts, and kisses all who lend a cheek. Will he sustain this luck, or will it turn on him?
Acid heads dance and melt into the pink and turquoise patterns of the casino. A portrait of Chef Ramsey makes me uneasy. My eyes resemble puddles of oil, flesh looks like it aged 50 years in 50 seconds.
One man places his arm around his wife and says, “Let’s go to Cuba and forget our shitty life.”
I smoke more to calm the nerves, each drag a bullet to the chest.
When the mind has become a cocktail, it tends to forget water.
Only when the throat becomes glass do I call for relief.
$4 for this magic elixir, I pray it revives my soul.
In Vegas, you forget you are in Vegas
or you can’t escape the fact that you are in Vegas.
In no other place is sin so readily available, as easy as an inhale or exhale.
Buy the ticket, take the ride aye, Duke?
This is all an attempt at something bigger.
At the Wynn, I must play hopscotch around the cleaning crew who buff the floors, adjust the lights, get on hands and knees to scrub away the filth. I smoke in the bathroom just to say I did it. Seems like the Vegas thing to do, there is an ashtray next to the toilet. Surviving relic from a time when everyone smoked regardless of the space or company.
If Vegas were a drug, it would be speed or heroin.
“Spend, spend, spend!!!”
A street hustler promises that he can take me to the finest strip club.
“They’ll be all over you.”
I say no, I know the game of strip clubs and do not wish to play.
“I don’t know why people come to Vegas if they aren’t gonna throw down money.”
It’s a status symbol. Once feet have touched down on the strip one can say they’ve done it, they’ve made it, and by some miracle, they survived.
Around 4:30 AM, I head to my room.
There is a patch of torn carpet by the bed. The previous guest had tried to dig themselves out of here.
Strange, strange vibrations.
This would be the perfect room to have sex in. There’s a mirror on the ceiling and a decent sound system.
But I decided to order in and attempt to write.
Social interactions caused me to become further out of touch.
All these people run to their predetermined places, a magnet society with a fetish for the opposition.
We will one day run into each other.
Until then, cannibalize for these capitalistic ideals.
The American dream is to devour.
Resources and people are disposable.
Don’t believe me? Turn on the news.
We self loathe and chase the material to shape a false sense of happiness.
Momentary highs in this melodrama.
My delirium causes me to mistake the delivery man as an Alexandrian.
I believe to be under attack, so I throw a towel in his face and bolt the door.
YOU WILL NOT TAKE ME ALIVE!
Eventually, sleep takes me hostage, and I dream of a woman in Hollywood.
evade the darkness
chase the light.
They all say, ‘go’ simultaneously!