Living in Los Angeles puts me in close enough proximity to Las Vegas to take an occasional drive out to the city of sin and usually at the urging of a friend. I actually don’t love Vegas but I like the drive and it’s bearable for a night or two. That’s about how long the spectacle of lights, people and shows can distract me from really taking in all the despair that also stays in Vegas. For a night or two I’m in the city the Rat Pack built. After that I’m in the city with slot machines in the super market and cocktail waitresses who should be forced into retirement.
So when I booked a week long gig in Vegas I knew it would be a challenge for me. When I learned that the gig was actually not on the strip but in “Old Vegas” I feared the brushes with sadness might be too much even for me.
Old Vegas is pretty sad. Like a minor league team but literally in the shadows of the big league team up the street. In old Vegas it’s much harder to convince yourself that Vegas is anything but a city built on gambling. It’s fun and nostalgic, well it could be if the people didn’t all look like they escaped from 1987. When you think Vegas, 1950’s Frank, Dean and Sammy is nostalgic. 1980’s mullets and acid washed jeans are just sad and wrong. I actually had to eat in the employee’s cafeteria. An hour in the bowels of any Vegas operation must be like a week in Seattle drizzle.
But nothing trumps the 2 mile area between Old Vegas and New Vegas, aka The Strip of happiness depletion. It’s a wasteland of pawn shops and tattoo parlors. You can feel a discernable dip in your endorphin level as you drive through it. It’s literally where dreams go to die. I would suggest anyone visiting Vegas to go there first. Get a good visual swig of Rock Bottom before you go into the casinos with delusions of grandeur. Look at all the folks before you who got stuck in the proverbial moat.
That place in between The strip and Old Vegas is like a traffic school video for life. It’s like going to a place where everyone has one eye because they didn’t listen to their mom when she said “you’re going to poke someone’s eye out if you keep this up.” Imagine how much more heed you would have taken to your dear old mums words if you got a glimpse of all the one-eyed children who didn’t listen. Next time you’re in Vegas take a gander of the place a little south of the action. But for the love of God man, do so from a moving car.