Monday, February 19, 2007

(untitled 135)

(written from McCarran Airport in Las Vegas on Friday, February 16.)

I knew something was wrong as soon as I landed.

The entry into Las Vegas was pleasant enough. Every once in a while, my mind goes into stream-of-consciousness mode; thoughts and ideas came rushing into my head as we soared over the Vegas cityscape. It was all I could do to jot some of them down above my Daily Universe crossword. There were just too many of them.

The city looked like a giant Light Bright set, all laid out in perfect geometrical patterns. Even at only 7.00, the sun had already gone down, creating a stark contrast between the light and the darkness. It was almost as though the city was made of a million candles floating in a sea of darkness, adrift, yet staying in flawless formation. The Shins - whose concert I would have been at had I not been en route to your wedding, fine print - softly sang "Kissing the Lipless" in my ears over the insistent roar of the jet engines.

I wouldn't have had it any other way. It was beautiful, perfect and beautiful, and it fit in with the ridiculously good mood I'd been in for the past few days. (Anyone who knows me can guess why I've been so happy; those who know me well understand how long it's been since I've been happy at all.) I had a big grin on my face as I stepped off my plane and into the ironically yet aptly named McCarran Aiport.

It took seconds for my mood to turn on its head.

Welcoming me to Las Vegas was a gaudy, skin-deep and loud woman demanding that I look into getting a free souvenir T-shirt from her tawdry kiosk. Being a savvy traveler, I know better than to even approach people like this, but something about her commanded my attention. Her insistent demeanor and callous indifference to my fellow traveler who asked her for directions stood in sharp relief to the serene view I'd just had of the city. Everything here is loud. Everything here is superficial. I hate this city, and if I didn't know that I had to fly through it on my way back home, I'd swear right now that I'd never set foot in it again. (note, 2/18/07: I got to fly home through Phoenix, saints be praised.)

I walked past row after row of eager and seductive slot machines, their screens prostituting themselves, their brightly colored wheels spinning and creating a nauseating blur. Gambling has always struck me as a hopeless and bleak exercise. I've seen too many people lose their humanity to slot machines, sitting and pulling the lever until they become soulless automatons feeing in dollar after dollar. Seeing so many slot machines seemed to tug at my own soul, filling me with a misery that I've become all too familiar with over the last year.

I thought I'd left all of that behind. So help me, Las Vegas, if you steal my hard-earned happiness, I will never forgive you for it.

I sat down to eat something during my two-hour layover, still feeling ugly inside. I shook ketchup packets back and forth, driving their contents to the bottom and catching a fleeting image of myself doing the same thing the night before, sitting in a Taco Bell, safe, secure, and loved with Genuine Draft, krebscout, and Yellow. My heart hurt just a little bit more. I would have given anything for any of those three to have been there with me right then (and probably in that order, too, with my apologies to Yellow). I tried to think of someone I could call. Anyone. As I went through my list of phone numbers, though, I realized that anyone I would have wanted to call was either travelling somewhere or was famous for having her phone permanently set to "off."

It's just as well. It would have been an embarassing phone call, and writing all this down is cathartic, anyway.

So here I sit at gate B-10 in McCarran Airport, waiting for forty more minutes to go by so I can leave this awful place. I never want to come back. I'm just going to sit here and write, sheltered by my protective iPod bubble that shields me from the outside world. I've listened to My Bloody Valentine's "Sometimes" so many times tonight I've lost count. "Sometimes" is my song for when I feel alone in the midst of a throng of people; for when I want to feel lost, cast off in a black sea, and having seen that black sea covered by a million candles as I gently descended into this city, I should have expected it.

(note from 2/18/07: I realize this sounds really, really dark. I promise I had a good time. I'll temper this with my next post, honest.)


lanada said...

dark? a little, i suppose, but honest. and beautiful. and refreshing, in a way.

krebscout said...

I've heard Light Brights mentioned twice in the past twelve years, both times from you.

Tolkien Boy said...

I hate Vegas. It makes me feel oily. And I am already oily enough.

(And maybe, if we don't end up as teachers together, someday we should end up as writers together.)