a sinner’s impression of sin city

I’ve been going through old emails and files this weekend and purging things, and while I was doing it I ran across this email I sent to someone shortly after my first (and so far, only) trip to Las Vegas in early 2006. It’s a little bit of a change of pace, and I kind of like it, so I thought I’d post it here.


I learned quickly and well that the only thing to do in Vegas is spend your money – preferably all of it, but most of it will do. Vegas goes out of its way to assist you in this endeavor. It’s odd. It’s kind of gross. By the second day I was totally over it.

The symposium I was sent to attend had some repetitive stuff, and I made the command decision on the first afternoon to ditch the late sessions and strike out on my own. This is what I do in any new city – grab the camera, and maybe the iPod, and head out walking.

I was fascinated by and nervous about the guys who stood three deep on the Strip, with handfuls of cards of some kind that they slapped in rhythm. I’ve spent half my life in marching bands (dork alert) and find it impossible to ignore a cadence, so before I knew it my footsteps were matched to their hands. Slap, slap; step, step. I put on my Panhandler and Religious Literature Avoidance Face and my moviestar sunglasses and hoped they wouldn’t approach me – but then, as I walked blocks in time with their hands, I started to get kind of pissed that not a single one of them tried to hand me a thing. Perhaps my P&RLAF was too stern. Maybe my moviestar sunglasses were too cool. Maybe I was gross. Was that it? Was I gross? Why weren’t those sons of bitches trying to force their cards on me?

Out of nowhere I became insecure and found myself looking down at the ground as I walked. Then I finally noticed that the ground was littered with the cards the guys were handing out to, it seemed, everyone on the damn Strip but me. Cards for strippers, and/or ‘personal escorts.’ I didn’t really need a stripper or a personal escort that day or any other day, so I am guessing they gauged their audience (or lack thereof) correctly, at least in my case.

In my mind I kept comparing Las Vegas to New Orleans, where I traveled just about a year ago. In New Orleans I could not walk three steps without being approached by someone wanting to pull me into a bar, or shine my shoes, or read my palm, or sell me a painting or a flower or a string of beads. For some reason that bothered me less than Vegas did – Vegas is full of big generic machines and stores and such with solid, arrogant conviction that people will flock to them like sheep and throw their dollars in. New Orleans, on the other hand, was much more organic – a more personal hustle, if such a thing exists. I don’t know if that makes a lick of sense to anyone outside my head, but it’s the best way I can get it out through my hands right now.

I adored the weather, sunny and warm and beautifully DRY (compared to the mid-Atlantic humidity that I can never get used to, no matter how long I live here), and I was very yokel-assed touristy and in love with the palm trees, which feel like a vacation to me even when the weather’s bad.

5 Replies to “a sinner’s impression of sin city”

  1. The people on the streets slapping those cards and shoving them in front of you drove me nuts and something I could do without. But I have to admit they were good at it because in my head I was thinking “if one of them touch me I’m going to deck them”! and they never touched me so I didn’t get the chance to do bodily harm and didn’t end up in jail.

    It’s true you do need alot of money to visit Vegas, although the water show in front of the Bellagio is free and was the best part the trip. Walking down the strip, seeing the neon lights, the water show and hearing Frank Sinatra piped into the streets was VEGAS to me. I think it was the tenth anniversary of his death, but it felt like he was still there.

    So probably my first and last “official” trip to Vegas, not sure if hitchhiking through counts as a visit, but that’s another story…

  2. Stop sinning in three easy steps.
    Step 1: buy a bible.
    Step 2: place it on your paperwork
    Step 3: Get back to work.

    In this way you will avoid cursing when the wind or a unruly coworker messes up your paperwork.


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