We have a soft spot for Las Vegas, NV. That was where my husband and I went for our first trip when we started dating. We’ve gone there for a few of our wedding anniversaries. (It’s also where “Las Vegans” live – a little plant-based humor for ya there). It’s a little mystifying to a lot of our friends, but I’ll see if I can make a good advertisement for what we like about it.
Vegas is whatever you want it to be. There’s something interesting going on day and night. On the Strip, you can find absolutely anything except books or clocks. Due to the constant tides of consumer demand, everything is constantly being rebuilt or remodeled. It’s glossy and glittery and glamorous. Some of the best performers in the world are there. You can watch the best show and eat the best meal and stay in the nicest room – in your price range, of course. Everyone is either on vacation or out for tips, so people are dressed to impress and on their best behavior. There’s a perfect photo op around every corner. Vegas is like a microcosm of the world, an amalgam of every major city, and a very broad cross-section of humanity makes it impossible not to fit in. Anything goes.
One balmy night, we decided to walk back to our hotel after a show. (It was David Copperfield, one of the wealthiest and hardest-working men in the world, his fortune and reputation built entirely from magic, thin air, and effort). We found ourselves in a back alley, a smelly netherworld between casinos. There was nothing back there but dumpsters and loading zones and locked doors and tired employees out for their smoke breaks. It was like a weird exploit between levels in a video game. We had to watch our footing.
Spend enough time in Las Vegas and you’ll see its seamy underbelly. People drunk off their asses, briskly rolled out of public view on wheelchairs pushed by stern security guards. Couples and friends having relationship-ending quarrels. Ill-advised quickie marriages. End-stage gambling addicts. A ceaseless confetti of pornographic trading cards blowing down the street. A thousand train wrecks waiting to happen.
Sad to say, we love it anyway.
There are two sides to social comparison. One is envy. We feel terrible when we look at other people and think they have it better than we do. We can feel that way when we watch these gorgeous dancers and acrobats in their sequined leotards and false eyelashes, rippling their muscles like so many jungle cats. We can feel that way when we see the difference between the ritzy hotel up the street and our discount room above the all-night construction site. We can feel that way when we see other tourists walk by in their schmanciest evening clothes, emanating the effluvium of prosperity from every pore.
The other side is pride. We feel pretty great when we’re able to compare ourselves favorably to others. It’s icky, but it’s true. When we hear people shouting at each other in the next room, we can feel relieved that we don’t feel the urge to act that way. When we see people staggering along completely trashed, we can feel a bit smug that there is no hangover in our future. We can remind ourselves of all the tawdry, nickel-slot temptations of this world, and how unappealing we find them.
In this world, there is always going to be someone staying in the high roller suite, and someone getting into a street brawl over nothing. Sometimes it’s the same person. It starts to make our own lot in life more desirable. We find our level. We know that almost everything we perceive around us is a façade, deliberately set out to deliver maximum positive impact in certain lighting and at certain angles. We’re shown what we want to see and denied access to the sticky, sketchy service corridors. We can safely assume that there is plenty going on in the basements and back rooms that we don’t want or need to know about. The only thing we know for sure isn’t an illusion is what we’ve brought with us in our own baggage.
NV is a nice place to visit, but we wouldn’t want to live there. That would take all the fun out of it.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.