Reflections of Vegas

Enough to choke the whole goddamn town, I'd wager.

Posted by Jack Chester

Wasted and wounded,
It ain't what the moon did.
Got what I paid for now...

- Tom Waits

I'm on my way back to Seattle from Vegas. It was an interesting weekend. Interesting. Now there's a powerful descriptive. I guess that's all I've got left. I'm rather weary from lack of sleep and run down from general mistreatment of my body. Strangely, I found the airport to be far less threatening than usual; or maybe the exhaustion has caused my guard to drop. I'm never comfortable in airports. My presence often carries with it at least a few inherent felonies and any size handful of misdemeanors. And with all of the pseudo-authority figures in a place like that, I'm bound to be uncomfortable at the least and highly paranoid on the far end. I don't want to be the victim of some rent-a-cop who decides to search my person and belongings because he can't identify the various electronics in my bag through the x-ray machine. Supposedly they're only looking for weapons and/or explosive devices, but if they take the effort to search, I'm sure they'd be thrilled with whatever they think they can pin to me. It's nothing a good lawyer couldn't get me out of. But I can only afford the cheap ones and who needs that kind of hassle anyway?

This plane has a very heavy sullen feel about it; it's this mass of people leaving Las Vegas- the Devil's Eden. In one way or another they've all taken the beating of their lives- which is not to say that they didn't each enjoy themselves thoroughly. Let's not forget that this place was built by the Mafia which explains why it's so effective at draining the mind, wallet, and soul all at once. On my way down the jet-way to the plane, I overheard two men discussing the paradox of how having so much fun can make you feel so miserably bad. In Vegas you pay handily for the beating you take; and you smile and say, 'Thank you sir, may I have another.' The sheer excess and gluttony of it all clouds the mind far more severely than any drink or narcotic; of course, those things don't exactly sharpen one's perception either- and there is a readily available ample supply of both.

Thompson once said that Vegas is not a good town for psychedelic drugs because the reality itself is far too twisted. I disagree. Of course Phish wasn't rolling through town for a debaucherous two day Halloween stint when the good Doctor made his famous pilgrimages. That town is perfect for any altered perception precisely because the reality is so twisted. The trip just can't get any weirder. In fact, having the mind at least slightly bent helps to make the insanity of it all the more apparent because when the shit wares off almost nothing has changed.

Speaking of Thompson, I had an awful realization while in Vegas. Perhaps realization is the wrong word; it was just another nail of cynicism in the proverbial coffin of my faith in humanity. My first night in Vegas was spent primarily alone, gambling, drinking, and the like. I rolled up to my room three hundred dollars richer and significantly impaired from all the free Irish whiskey and the usual green haze. I laid my wad of fresh bills on the night table and settled down onto my soft hotel bed to catch some late night TV. Letterman was interviewing Hunter S. I sat up and gaped at the TV blankly as Thompson ashed his cigarette on Letterman's desk and plugged his new book which he originally wrote while living in Puerto Rico slumming for the San Juan Daily Star many many years ago. The segment ended and I looked around the room blankly for someone with whom to share the horror of the moment. Perhaps it was better that I found no one there as the absolute irony of Letterman and Thompson sitting face to face on national television stands on it's own and requires nor accepts no off-handed commentary from the likes of me.... Not that the Doctor's appearance in any way detracts from his greatness as observer and social commentator; it merely further queers the line between image and reality.

It's an exciting time in the world of literature. Not only is Thompson's Rum Diary finally being published, but Tom Wolfe's new one is out as well. If the excerpts published in Rolling Stone are any indication, Wolfe's book will be a gold mine of wildly astute social commentary. But I digress....

The point was Vegas. It's a whole country worth of vices, empty desires, and false promise that's been so excessively sanitized and commercialized and aggrandized that the inherent seediness of the beast is understood only at such a minor level that it is almost completely obscured. That is to say that the whole damned town is the country's seedy underbelly and it wreaks of greed. But it's all been so glossed over and scrubbed clean daily that the stench doesn't offend anybody enough to notice as it's all been banished from the strip.... I wonder how many pawn shops there are in that town; how many unmarried forty year old cocktail waitresses and fifty year old ex-stripper cigar peddlers. Enough to choke the whole goddamn town, I'd wager. What kind of odds do you want to give me?

'Reflections of Vegas' is a previously unpublished excerpt from globetrotting writer Jack Chester's upcoming Warren Machine Company release, None of This Would Be Necessary If I Could Only Play Guitar.

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