Las Vegas, Sin City
Sin City truly is the perfect moniker for Las Vegas. But lest one get carried into the fantasy land spun by TV ads featuring scantily clad nightclubbers or g-string-attired pool-goers, enormous lobsters and filet mignons at the ready, rather than Lust and Gluttony, I think Vegas is more rooted in the sins Sloth, Pride, and Envy.
Lust is probably everyone’s favorite sin. The sin that has now made it off the “7 Deadliest” list and made it onto the “7 Most Desired” list. Everyone wants to be sexy, and this couldn’t be more clear in Las Vegas. But it’s a very plastic sort of sexuality, not at all sensuous or rooted in something deeper like love or spiritual connection, but a very detached, almost robotic sexuality. But this is really just the icing on the cake of Las Vegas, the sin that everyone thinks is seeping out the pores of every person in this city. The TV ads would certainly lead you to believe everyone in Las Vegas is tan, thin, has almost no body fat, and if you’re a woman, is at least a C cup.
Gluttony is a given. The old Las Vegas was a place of buffets, where for one price you could eat all you wanted. Since Vegas has received a makeover, high-end restaurants now dominate (high end in price and execution, not always in quality), but the option to obtain rich, extravagant meals is a 24-hour proposition. Healthy and moderate need not apply: when I asked the conceirge if there was somewhere that I could obtain healthy or organic food, he literally said “hmmmm….” and paused for a good few seconds where he was clearly racking his brain for the answer then said “no, sorry.” Just like that. No, sorry, nothing healthy or organic here.
The Gluttony inspires the Lust, and vice versa. Nothing like indulging in a $25 or above cocktail while sitting on a “bed” poolside, watching all the other bodies cavorting around you. Public displays of affection are nothing here, and become even more affectionate at the topless adult swim lounges, one of which I happened to visit.
But beneath the good marketing genes of Lust and the ability of Gluttony to really tap into people’s insecurities about being last on a dining trend, Las Vegas really churns on the other, less celebrated sins.
Let’s take Sloth. Want to gamble? You don’t have to travel very far. The walk to your hotel elevator, in all the hotels, is through the casino. You can’t get to the hotel elevators any other way. There is an opportunity to begin gambling immediately. Want a drink? No need to move, one of the waitresses (casino floor waitresses are usually older and long in the tooth, Vegas lifers who have grown too old for the stripper pole but still keep their DD artificial breasts to hold their tips between) will bring it to you. Need a meal? No need to leave the hotel! They are all in the hotel. There’s actually no other way to eat in Vegas except in hotel restaurants (unless you go off the Strip). The outdoors is actually superfluous here, as all the action is indoors and Vegas is designed to keep you as indoors as possible. Hotels and casinos are connected to one another by a labyrinth of pedestrian bridges, shopping malls, and walkways. The one sidewalk I did happen to walk on was really not meant for pedestrians, at least of the tourist variety. More for groundsmen to get to the vehicle sheds kept on the outskirts of the property, the sidewalk is really not meant for walking as it is narrow, poorly lit, and runs very near traffic. Sloth does not abide by walking, so just forget about those sidewalks and use the tram instead. It’ll take you to the next casino, where you can repeat the packaged experience you just had in the last casino.
Pride is on full display in Las Vegas. This sin is really at the heart of the Las Vegas experience. There is no sadder site than a bachelorette party where the bacherlorette in question wears a plastic tiara, drinks out of a gold plastic goblet encrusted with bling that spells out “Bachelorette” while kissing her girlfriends on the lips to the delight of all male passers-by. The bachelorette is the star of the show, and the afternoon I observed such a group poolside, any whim experienced by the bachelorette was to be fulfilled. Behaving as though in one of those ads on TV, the gaggle of girls faux-dirty danced with one another, taunting males with their girl-on-girl kisses, exagerrated outbursts of “Whoooo!!!!” and other activities which appeared pointless from my point of view, but surely stoked their imaginations as being celebrities and fabulous for a day (or afternoon).
Pride is also evident in the amount of plastic surgery on display in Las Vegas. 50+ year old women with huge breast augmentations in bikinis I would be afraid to wear sauntering thru the casinos with their obviously rich husbands or man-toys, while the man-toy is scoping the augmented fillie 30 years his woman’s junior. I feel sorry for these women who are still operating from a place of what they offer externally is what makes them desireable. After a certain age, it’s a losing proposition. No matter how well preserved a woman, there will be someone younger, tighter, less wrinkled. Let’s face it! There is no stopping time. But in Las Vegas, the illusion sure exists, and is paraded in front of you on a daily basis.
I imagine how painful these marraiges or relationships of convenience must be, where both parties are clearly disconnected from one another, and probably relating to one another solely on what they can offer each other, or what their score card is, rather than from a place of true love, compatability, or spiritual growth.
Envy is right behind Pride in being the true engine of Las Vegas, Sin City. Smaller and smaller bikinis are donned, to the point of them not being worn at all in the topless pools, because the race is on not for enjoyment of the sun on bare skin but for who can take it all off!, shake the most junk in the trunk, or be the most outrageous and outlandish and garner the most stares from the men who pay $20 or more to attend the topless pools to watch such antics, which predictably go down, every day, all day. If you’re wondering why I went to the topless pool, it was to see what went on there and my prediction was thoroughly fulfilled, and because I knew it would be quieter as no kids are allowed there. The beach chairs were of higher quality, there was more space, and it is even better situated to the sun than the family pool (which is also enormous and loud). I enjoy a topless sunbathe whenever I can, but I was not interested in joining this race so I kept my top on. I’ll find a quiet and secluded beach where removing my top is about being closer to the sun and the earth and all that is divine about our world, and feeling that bake through my skin, not about being closer to a guest spot on Girls Gone Wild.
Envy was on full display at the topless pool, also in terms of ordering the most bottle service, being the most sexually provocative in the pool, and doing the most outlandish poses poolside. I wondered how the security staff and lifeguards of this pool (all of three feet deep at the deep end) must feel after working this post after a while. I think I’d go nuts. I couldn’t do it. The fact that people work in this sort of atmosphere day in and day out for months and years on end reveals how divorced we have become (as a generalization about modern people) from our divine heritage, or simply from the spirituality behind our sexuality. There is nothing but base, exagerrated, ego-driven displays of tawdriness here. I am sure I could catch some flack for this, but I don’t find it sexy at all.
Envy is also alive and well in the hundreds of shops in Las Vegas. If you came to Sin City without a wardrobe to keep up, you can buy one here, at a (very inflated) price. I had a few hours to kill before my hotel room was ready and I thought I’d get a pedicure. At $75, I reconsidered. Coming from NYC where there is so much clothing and style from which to choose, I balked at things marked $150 and up for what I knew would fetch half that or less in NYC. But for those who if they can’t beat em, must join em, the outfit is available in Las Vegas.
I came to Las Vegas for work. This is probably my 4th visit to this city (or 5th, I can’t remember) and each time I visit, I like it less and less. It is a surreal place that is not even meant to exist. It is in the middle of the desert. The amount of water consumed by Las Vegas is astronomical and it’s predicted that soon the water in the region will dry up, turning Las Vegas into a ghost town. Clouds and sky scapes are painted on the ceilings of the indoor mega-malls to give the illusion of being outdoors in the afternoon, at any time of day. Artificiality is the name of the game here, from the faux volcano outside my hotel that erupts nightly on the hour, to the gondolas inside the Venetian that cruise on “canals” of 3-foot deep water for $36 a ride through a mall painted (and lit) to look like an Italian plaza.
After 24 hours here, and being massively resistant to everything (especially the lack of fresh food! My body did not like it!), and making myself quite miserable in the process, I looked for what the lesson was for me here. I knew intuitively that I was being challenged by Las Vegas and there was something in the challenge for me to learn from. I saw how it was my resistance to Las Vegas that was making me miserable, so I decided to give up my frustration for what was not here (fresh healthy food, a quiet atmosphere, substantive communication with other human beings) and accept what was, flowing with the experience instead of resisting against it. There can be a thousands things that challenge us on any given day: the check-out line at the supermarket, a crowded subway train, Las Vegas. I just got hit with a way bigger practice than I normally do on an average day. But what good is a practice if we can not use it when we most need it? This was also interesting to see.
I am grateful for my work that allows me to occasionally experience things out of the ordinary like travelling to another city (not to mention pay my rent and allow me to eat, pay my bills, and do all the other givens of living in society), and struggled also with the idea that I could not find a silver lining in this somewhere. I did asana in my room all week to survive this surreal place, which truly is a metaphor for America today. But no matter where we find ourselves, and no matter what our likes and dislikes do to create imbalance within us, we can choose to simply be with what is and allow the experience to emerge, instead of always trying to manufacture the experience to fit our desires or expectations (as Las Vegas does so expertly).
Perhaps when Sin City runs out of steam as a marketing concept, Las Vegas could try renaming itself Samsara.