It must be why I'm thinking of Las Vegas
Why it's more brighter than the sun is to me
— Cocteau Twins
Maybe Vegas is Heaven.
I'm trying to get my head straight on this point, but the lady won't play fair. It's been glitter-plastered on my brain like pancake makeup on the face of a cheap whore walking the fringes of Las Vegas Boulevard at two in the morning. Pussy pink, baby blue, clown white, blood red, and the inevitable money green. Can't get the fake on fake on fake to get out of my burning, bloodshot eyes, or the incessant dinging of slot machines out of my ringing, bleeding ears. This is the city of the Great American Dream, dripping with 24/7 everything. The old Vegas of yesteryear with Frankie, Sammy and Dean, mob casinos and the "Sin City" nickname is being torn down and fed into a Walt Fucking Disney-brand meat grinder; it emerges like a throbbing sausage: an exquisite wax museum corpse wrapped in a sequined American flag, with sparkler nipple pasties and a Hello Kitty strap-on hidden under wraps so the kids can't see. It's the fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror of the national '57 Chevy, up on blocks in the front yard of our hillbilly collective consciousness, with Elvis's gold lamé jumpsuit at the wheel and Jayne Mansfield's head in the trunk. This town is the outer fucking limits. BEAT THE HOUSE. GET LUCKY. WE COMP GAS! ASK INSIDE. You bought this ticket with that last mouse click, stranger... might as well take the ride. Welcome.
This is not a joke. It's a bright shining lie some 2,030 feet above sea level. Check the map, I promise you it's there. A desert paradise for the deluded, poisoned, brainwashed, vapid American nobodies who schlep here by the millions. Every three minutes, nearly 24 hours a day, another jumbo jet full of First Class, Grade-A suckers lands at McCarran. PLAY WITH YOUR BOARDING PASS AND WIN $150,000! Welcome to a tripped-out oasis of power lines and neon lights, right smack in the middle of a wasteland so barren, at night you might believe you were on another planet. Indeed, there is nothing much earthy about it; almost nothing grows here naturally. The very rocks nearby have been on fire for millennia. The daylight sky is a sky blue so brilliant that it induces blindness and hallucinations. If Hell Proper were ever here, surely it would have moved out in 1947 because it wasn't willing to pay the rent. No Hell equals Heaven, right? Bugsy Siegel was clearly insane. Hunter S. Thompson wasn't so much. Who wins or loses? Just shut the hell up and show me the money.
The roads that take you to Vegas from the City of Angels run through some pretty sweltering territory. The Mojave Desert is one of the hottest places on Earth. Death Valley has that name for a reason kids, and it ain't just to sound cool. You think you know from hot? Las Vegas will fuck your tiny preconceptions of "hot" like a curling iron enema. The Spanish called it "the meadows," or "the fertile valleys" by another translation. They must have been high on mescaline. It's hotter than two rats fucking in a wool sock. Step outside the airport or the casinos, and it's hell everywhere. That infamous "dry heat." You can't escape it. It sucks the breath out of you like a blunt, bruising punch to the gut. It's like standing way too close to the camp fire, but the camp fire surrounds you for 360 degrees in every dimensional plane. Go fry an egg on the sidewalk - goddamn simple. Brew a pitcher of sun tea that boils itself. Dry your own tomatoes or buffalo jerky in nothing flat. Flash fry your retinas. Shut your eyes and you'll burst into flames. The valley is a widowmaker in the plastic form of a toxic pink flamingo on acid. "Do not approach the cacti, Dorothy, for they are made of fiberglass." Fearsome and loathsome to the wise; exciting and intoxicating to the stupid. The desert takes no prisoners. You pays your money, you takes your chances. Welcome.
Or maybe Vegas is Hell.
If it is, sign me up for the war hell ride. "It's all about the bullshit, Dorothy." Las Vegas embodies, in reality if not perception, everything detestable about Contemporary American Culture™® to the fullest degree imaginable, and then some. And yet, I really don't give a flying rat's ass. If Vegas did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it. That's what actually happened, of course. And we are all the richer and poorer for it. All hail the stupid, vulgar, greedy, ugly American death sucker... it's fucking obvious! If we didn't build a shrine to shameless exploitation, legalized theft, celebrated debauchery, unbridled greed, crass materialism, conspicuous vulgarity, alcohol and drug abuse, mafia power, prostitution, corporation lies, and the general decline of Western Civilization... and then convert it all into some kind of fucked up theme park for children and families, surely nobody else would have ever done so. Let us celebrate our greatest weaknesses as human beings. A city that defines America's love for masturbation and selfishness like a concrete necklace. Heaven on Earth for the poor ignorant bastards that can't see the forest for the trees. A blind man's utopia. Xanadu for Dummies, in living color and stereo sound, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Behold the orgasm, on a popsicle stick. Welcome.
Some people think heaven is white and air-conditioned. Time does not exist. A place where everybody is beautiful, happy and having fun forever. Take that white trash trailer park fantasy and add free liquor, restaurant buffets scaling far beyond historical precedence, virtually unregulated indoor smoking, endless poker and craps tables, parimutuels, Bingo, Keno, and a million billion trillion screaming slot machines. Now throw in the ugly, elderly, obese and invalid, put it all inside an overpriced shopping mall that never ends, and put it all under the influence of powerful pharmaceutical-grade anti-depressants, then you are approaching the Vegas experience. In RPG terms, it's a platinum +7 vorpal dildo of debasement, coated in white chocolate and studded with rhinestones, clutched by a mad grinning Orc who's only got eyes for you. ALL PRICES INCLUDE NEVADA STATE SALES TAX. PLAY MAX CREDITS. Pure consequenceless adulteration? No so fast. Picture if you will the three year old boy, passed out from exhaustion on the nasty carpet beside a row of slot machines as his parents mindlessly feed his college fund into the pockets of billionaires, hoping to strike it rich. I was there! I saw it! White teeth and red gums, like a lady grinning soul. The poor drunk bastard at the end of the bar holding a cigarette in his trembling hand, blearily tapping away at the touch screen video poker machine in front of him. DEAL/DRAW. WIN A NEW LEXUS! He motions for the bartender, a Mexican national with a green card working stateside for bar tips. WHEN THE FUN STOPS, 1-800-522-4700. PROBLEM GAMBLERS HELP LINE. The bottle-dyed redhead hooker in a leather skirt and satin blouse, high heels on her feet and track marks down her arms, hanging on to the lamppost on the corner of Tropicana and Eastern. Her gay pimp cloistered in a high-rise suite at Bellagio, doing lines of crystal meth off a 14 year old boy's bare chest like a low-rent Michael Jackson. LUCKY SEVEN. INSERT TICKETS OR BILLS FACE UP. Faster and faster, hand over fist, luck over love, flash over substance, and non-stop power, corruption and lies. Love your enemies. Pucker up. The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
"Oh for Christ's sake, Dorothy! Here's a quarter, call someone who cares." Count your blessings. Got twenty bucks? Or don't you gamble? I guess Uncle Bill said it best. "Consider an apocalyptic statement: Nothing is true, everything is permitted." If by everything, you had pride, avarice, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth at the top of your list, then you're missing one. Don't worry, wrath comes later. MALFUNCTION VOIDS ALL. INSERT BILLS OR COINS. "So I heard you hit the Big Time last night!" "Well, I didn't hit the Big Time. But I did turn $200 into $1000." "You're a winner! You got money back!" Day and night, black and white, Heaven and Hell. It's all in what you make of it. The turn of a friendly card. There are no easy answers. Draw your own conclusions. DRAW THREE. ROYAL FLUSH NO DEUCES. I'm not the messiah. Mine is only to sit at the bar and drink my watered-down whiskey, taking notes on the cocktail napkins, like an eye in the sky. It's better to burn out than to fade away. PLAY 5 COINS. 0 CREDITS. GAME OVER. Welcome to Planet Motherfucker.