We didn’t plan on going to Las Vegas to celebrate our 35th anniversary, it just happened. (Yeah, they all say that.) Once the possibility arose–the calendar dictated that we begin our road-trip vacation on our anniversary, and our route passed very near Sin City–it gripped our imagination. We decided to stay in the Venetian, just to do the thing in the most un-Stafford way possible.

I’m glad we went. For an amateur anthropologist like me, Vegas is fascinating.

Nothing is rooted in the real world: not even the buildings. And none of it pretends to be. The Eiffel Tower is not meant to be mistaken for the real thing. It is a sort of constructed dream. It relates purely to itself, and you can’t take it elsewhere. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

It’s an act of American imagination, created out of nothing in the middle of a desert. Vegas is constantly evolving and anything is possible if you can think of it, yet this wildness is rooted in an unchanging, grubbily pragmatic drive to extract money from customers in a way that makes them keep coming back.

A friend suggested that we walk the Strip at night. We saw the breathless girls in their short dresses and high heels, anxious for fun; we saw the pot-bellied, Bermuda-shorts-clad tourists of either gender, trolling for ice cream or caramel corn. It was Prom Night mixed with the County Fair. These coexist with pimps who line the edges of the sidewalk, snapping their lewd cards at you in a caricature of temptation.

If this is the American dream, how would Freud psychoanalyze it?


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One Response to “Vegas”

  1. James Says:

    We took our kids along the Strip one night last summer. They enjoyed the dancing fountains, and the floral and stained-glass displays at the Bellagio. One of them enjoyed the volcano eruption at the Mirage; the other was terrified. Both enjoyed the Darth Vader impersonator.

    Sarah (age 5 1/2) said, “Mommy, that woman is naked!” She was pointing at a stone sculpture.

    I had never been there before. My lasting impression was that the people at the slot machines in Las Vegas appear to be some of the unhappiest people in the world.

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