welcome to the hotel california. you can check out any time you like. but you can never leave.
they tell you "what happens in vegas stays in vegas."
what they don't tell you is that vegas is the land of the living dead. and the reason nothing leaves is that the city eats your brain.
i know. i saw it myself. i believe i escaped because i was doped up on nyquil the entire time i was there. the medication and my underlying illness lent me the pallor and demeanor and mental acuity of the undead. so i was free to wander, unnoticed.
back in the day i occasionally traveled to las vegas for "fun." to meet some buddies, play some golf, and donate some money to the local economy. also to ogle young women. for the record, as mentioned, this was back in the day. pre-mrs. spaceneedl.
even then, i sensed the undead around me. haggard, disheveled blank-eyed, they'd shamble aimlessly through the casinos, careening from table to table. on the golf course they'd run their carts into palm trees, and spray tee shots into the desert terrain.
(of course, by that standard, i was one of them.)
that was then. now, it's orders of magnitude worse. fabulous temples and monuments to the undead have proliferated across the landscape. expansive casinos, still filled with sinus-eating smoke, lure the living and not-so-lively alike. the dealers and pit bosses, possessed of an evil somnolence, greedily sweep the tables of living (if not livable) wages.
and the customers hand it over, without protest.
i don't gamble often. we can't afford the luxury, and the missus wouldn't sanction it even if we could. but trips to vegas are few and far between, so i don't feel too much remorse over a rare game of craps.
i enjoy the game. thus, even in my debilitated condition, i was ready to throw some money down and throw some dice around.
the undead chased me away.
every table i approached was surrounded by them. people with unhappy expressions, exhaling smoke, mindlessly throwing chips into the void. no one showed any sign of life, let alone any indication they were having fun. the young people looked old, the old people looked dessicated.
i stood there with my stack of chips, taking it all in, vainly looking for an oasis of life anywhere in the pit. at one point, i almost joined in anyway. can you believe it? i was thisclose to knowingly and willingly becoming one of them.
maybe the nyquil wore off at just the right time. maybe a better angel lit on my shoulder at that very moment. maybe there, on the brink, some deeply buried neocortical survival instinct kicked in.
i left the casino, and left town the next morning. i still had my money, still had my passport to the land of the living.
but it was entirely too close.
"what happens in vegas stays in vegas."
yes. of course it does. but not in the way they want you to believe. and not in a way you'll like.