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LAS VEGAS, it is said, is like Hollywood except no movies get made and you end up with gambling debt and an addiction to hookers.

photo by Christopher Chan

welcome, big spender

At least that’s what I said, when I spent New Years Day on the strip during a long layover on my route back home. I had been to Las Vegas before, but not for 10+ years. It was a real treat. There’s no “shame” in Las Vegas – it’s like being Catholic never happened. The indulgence starts the minute you step off the plane, where you are greeted by slot machines and a large billboard that says “What happens here stays here (just a reminder)”. Thank you, Nevada Tourism Bureau. Let the debauchery begin.

Due to time constraints, I opted out of the wide availability of sex workers and went straight to the gambling. Drinking tequilla, eating tacos and playing slots at the Luxor, to be precise. It was the perfect way to bring in the New Year. The Luxor hotel – featuring a gigantic pyramid and sphinx – had all the glorious fake trappings of Egypt that I fondly remember it having. Plus it was a good reminder that I too am living in a dying empire of imperial wealth and opulent greed.

I didn’t do much beyond that – I wanted my wallet to remain fat with christmas cash after all. But the sights were cartoonishly stimulating, and the people watching was top-notch. Dubai – clearly the Vegas of the Middle East – may have taller buildings and more outlandish theme parks, but it still has nothing on Vegas. There’s no pretense of higher culture here, no underlying disapproval of moral permissiveness.

The broad-shouldered Italian fellow I talked to at the Info desk summed it up pretty well. When posed the question – “What’s the difference between old Vegas and new Vegas?”  He answered thoughtfully. “Well, old Vegas was run by the East Coast mob…and the new strip was built to celebrate the West Coast mob taking over”.

Vegas, where shame goes to die.