the awesome/terrifying freedom

out here, somewhere, figuring it all out.

oh the desperation

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so i drove out to vegas this weekend. in summary, all i can really say is that vegas is not my kind of place. driving in, seeing it, experiencing the concept of it, the execution of it, the excess, the greed, the depravity; it depressed me. it made me insane. it made me want to run down the street waving my arms screaming 'what the hell is going on here!?!?! are you kidding me with this shit!? why did you come here?? someone please tell me what the attraction is?!?!'

i was there to see my friend laura, who was in town for an optometrists convention of sorts - oakley and other manufacturers liquor up those who run glasses shops and try to get them to carry their wares. laura had been there a couple days already, and was pretty much partied out by the time i arrived friday night. i met her at the sands convention center after getting lost in a horrifying indoor reproduction of venice.

the indoor environments are designed to trap you, to keep you from seeing the outside world, to make you lose track of time, so that 2 hours feels like 20mins and 2k feels like 25 cents.

i stayed with laura at her room in the bellagio, which is one of the nicest hotels on the strip - it's one of the nicest because it is basically the only hotel that actually focuses on being a nice hotel instead of spending their 200% profit margin on a theme (egypt, morocco, paris, venice, rome, new york, etc..). friday night we went to a party at the flamingo, which was a big cement U of hotel rooms encircling a throng of drunken people stumbling through the pool area eating jalepeno poppers.

i love getting together with laura, because the conversation always gets philosophical. we've each been through so much, both together and apart, and it's fantastic to converge and compare the various lessons we've learned in life.

we watched an elvis impersonator on a mini stage in the pool area as we scarfed down our poppers (my only dinner that night), and noticed that there was a camerawoman charged with filming the impersonator, so that he could be projected onto a screen not more then 15 feet away, essentially making a projected image no bigger than the actual thing happpening right in front of us. oh, and it was an incredibly expensive camera. also there were lasers and a million other absurd expenses

anyway, as we stood around, watching the insanity swirl around us, i was telling laura, that i've come to a understand a few things about happiness:

1- that i really do have to pursue the things that scare me - it's a phrase that's been spouted at us since childhood, but i think finally i'm beginning to understand it. whether or not you're successful, there is immeasurable joy to be found in having confronted the thing.

2- the ability to say, first to yourself and then to other people, what it is that you truly want. and you must say it without apology, reservation, or a simultaneous 'i know, it's kinda stupid right' tone of voice. you have got to own it. and that has been so fucking hard for me my entire life. 'yeah, i'm an "actor" hahah, i mean, sometimes i'm an actor, when i'm acting, which isn't right now, and may never be ever again ha ha.'

3- to really look at where you're are at, what you've got to work with and what you have control over, and to tell the future story of how you will get the thing you want. and the story must start from where you're at now, not acknowledging or apologizing for things you don't have, that are stacked against you, or that you haven't done yet but should have.

it makes me think of the best scene in 'apollo 13,' when the ground crew must figure out a way to repair the ship using only a box of random parts identical to those lying around on the orbiting ship. do what you can with what you have, where you are. (roosevelt said that, laura sent it to me).

how stupid and simple does it sound? soooo stupid! soooo simple! and yet, working on those things, it's the first time in my life that dreamed of things once unreachable feel within grasp.

we left the flamingo, wandered around caesar's palace and got lost in the maze of fake outdoor ancient rome. the pool at caesar's was closed because of weather, but the doors were open and no staff was manning it - so we wandered out and had the entire glorious disgusting area to ourselves. i wish i'd had my camera. oh well.

saturday we had brunch at the hotel restaurant, where, at the table, you could play keno. (david tells me you can play keno from any table in vegas).

see, there's screens all around the restaurant so you don't have to stop gambling for a single solitary second!

they even had special keno crayons! (notice the dollar sign banding)

laura decided to play, as an experiment, to see if it (and by extension, all gambling) was thrilling. the keno girl was wearing a miniskirt as tiny as her makeup was thick. she looked like a mannequin.

the only thing that i found absolutely distasteful and unforgivable about the bellagio was that every damn printed thing in the hotel was in TRAJAN.

i filled out the keno cards with my own special message and replaced them in the box.

we were well into our brunch by the time we realized that the keno game had ended and laura had lost her money. no suspense, no buildup. so not thrilling.

we spent most of saturday at the bellagio pool, which was completely (disturbingly) sheltered from the insanity of the street. it was quite lovely. i saved my keycard, so if i ever go back (that's a strong if), i can hang out there.

there was an apparent epidemic of not knowing what swimsuit is right for you.

here's me, managing a smile while drinking a $12 corona.

here's laura, overwhelmed.

we had a fantastic room - crazy detail: the minibar was on a computerized weight system, so if you even touch that bag of potato chips, the $8 charge appears on your bill instantly.


after visiting the half price ticket booth, we got tickets to the show "V," which stands for 'variety.' looking at the poster you'd think you were seeing a cirque de soleil show, but no, this is a minimaly produced variety show with the most basic of production values and like everything else in the town, boasts an enormous profit margin.

it was at the aladdin hotel, but it wasn't even really in a theatre space - i'm pretty sure it was the back room of a restaurant, and the seats were straight back stackable chairs. a couple of the acts were pretty good, but we pitied anyone who paid full price.

i just love themed fonts. the aladdin was interesting. basically deserted, and half under construction to becoming a new planet hollywood themed resort. are they going to replace the fake outdoor morocco with a fake outdoor los angeles?

it did have the best fake sky, domed and higher than the rest. what an achievement. after the show we headed back to the bellagio to watch the much touted fountain show, which surprised me with how beautiful the execution and choreography was. i guess sometimes all that money does get spent well.

some religious fanatics were busy screaming at the crowd.

it was the first time i actually kinda related to them a bit.

this was in the paris hotel. i took it because it reminded me of 'the shining.'

laura and i took the opportunity to leave the strip, and drove out to a local in-n-out burger, which is a california institution.

the craziest thing was that just driving literally two blocks away, you could be in any city in the rural united states.

i wasn't aware that tiny bibical references were hidden on their packaging until laura pointed it out.

before we left we did need to do at least some gambling. blackjack has always been the game of choice for us. i think it's also the game of choice for those who are statistically minded. i enjoy playing it because it isn't entirely passive. i at least get to make some choices - i get to play. we waited a long time for a chance at the $5 table.

but it wasn't going to happen. there were only two $5 tables at the bellagio, and the lines were long. we settled for 25 cent video blackjack.

behold the atari-era technology, still taking your money after all these years. i set my limit at $25, and managed to make it last for an hour. after that, i was done.

so there it is, vegas. i maybe didn't have the ideal trip, but really, it's just not my kind of place. it hurts my soul to see that kind of money spent and wasted and dumped away so casually.

on the drive back, i was a bit concerned that artoo might not make it, but he pulled through. i passed 4 accidents and numerous stranded people whose cars either broke down, or they ran out of gas (or perhaps like my favorite scene in wild at heart, could not find rock music on the radio). it was kind of scary. the worst accident had traffic stopped on both sides of the highway, two flipped trucks across the median, ambulances and stretchers. on the radio i learned it had been fatal. ugh.

dear god, please ensure that i do not die going to or coming from las vegas. thank you.

2 responses to “oh the desperation”

  1. Blogger Marissa 

    joe -- i love your thoughts on happiness. I so totally could not agree more. awesome photographts ... i love that you're posting more recently. makes me feel like im there with you (and holy shit, i wish i was!)

  2. Blogger l 

    i've already started using your start-from-where-you-are philosophy in your everyday life. i'm convinced that you will soon have your own nine step program. glad i could share the travesty of lv with you. i wouldn't want it any other way.

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