I do not like it here.
Part of is personal. I'm not interested in gambling. I don't like crowded noisy places. I can't stand the sensory overload of the miles of casino floor one has to walk through to get anywhere. Flashing lights, loud music, along with the random bells and alarms of slot machines, crowds and smoky air combine to make me want to curl up in a corner and cover my head. But then, I tend to be somewhat easily overwhelmed, especially when I'm tired, and I can see how other people might find the atmosphere here exciting and intoxicating.
Atmosphere is not the thing that's really bothering me though. I was going to write a flippant piece about how many times I've heard in the last few years that Vegas has really become a family-friendly city that also caters to people who have no interest in gambling or wild nightlife, and how that's perfectly true and you should definitely bring your children here to see the dancing fountains if what you want them to learn from this family vacation is Boobies! Boobies! Boobies!
But I'm too sad to make (much) light of what I've seen here. The emptiness in this place is sickening and heartbreaking at the same time.
I'm not sure what's worse- the desperate people who are trapped here, working and trying to salvage a better life for themselves without being sucked in and destroyed, or the ones who come voluntarily. I know not everyone here is an addicted gambler/alcoholic/prostitute. You don't have to tell me that plenty of healthy, well-balanced people come here to have a little harmless fun and then they go back to their healthy, well-balanced lives. It still makes me sick to my stomach. Because the people here? So many of them do not fall into that category. And the ones who do? Must be willfully blind, hardened enough to see the suffering around them and blithely ignore it in pursuit of a good time.
I want to curl up in the middle of the strip and cry for this city; for all those caught in the grip of this soulless beast of greed and lust and indifference that swallows anyone too weak to resist it.
For the ones; young, and old, male and female, rich and poor, desperately trying to fill themselves with momentary pleasures and material things, temporarily appeasing the misery they don't understand how to escape.
For the innocent-eyed young girls I've seen, freshly scrubbed and obviously well-off, walking around dressed like a dirty old man's idea of what a naughty schoolgirl should look like, oblivious to what really lurks behind the stares they draw.
For the unkempt man stretched out, half-conscious, in front of a storefront, ignored by the hordes of people jostling along the sidewalk.
For the blank-eyed people I see sitting in front of slot-machines in every casino. They have different faces but they all wear the same hopeless expression.
For the man on the street corner with the Bible, shouting at passersby about redemption, and not understanding that assaulting people with the gospel is just as bad as assaulting them with anything else, and worse, because if you beat someone over the head with something good, they'll turn way from it afterwards even when it's offered gently. Even when it's the only thing that can save them.
I want to cry for them because each and every one of them is no more nor less than a person. They are my brothers and sisters. They are myself. And they are suffering.
I am in Las Vegas for the first time and I do not like it here.
But I feel guilty for wanting to leave.