Las Vegas, A Sermon  

I went to Las Vegas, and then I came back. My mother was getting married in Las Vegas and I flew down there on Saturday. I had never been before, except for a brief stopover in the airport. American cities, more than any other country in the world, symbolize individual ideas; New York symbolizes dichotomy, high culture and low life. Chicago symbolizes hard work, masculinity, and tenacity. Los Angeles symbolizes fame and glitz. Vegas is the dark mirror, the shadow of Los Angeles. If L.A. symbolizes the lives of the stars, beyond the reach of mere mortals, Las Vegas is the method in which the lumpen elevate themselves to that state. People come to Vegas and spend money like they were famous, for a weekend, four days, a week. As long as your wallet is full, you can be whatever you want to be. And the new architecture of the place plays out these fantasies; you can be a resident of "Paris," "Egypt," Italy." You can briefly construct whatever you wish of your life. Las Vegas is a garden in which every fruit is poison; dozens of spectacular casings and frenzied, gimmicky architecture trying to hide the true purpose of the place; the glorification of the void. It's Auschwitz with minarets. There are two types of void; the neutral void, which maintains a stability on its own, and the black hole, the negative void; the void that requires a constant influx of positive energy to maintain. A constant influx of money. Inside every structure, every maze of manufactured beauty, with pasteboard columns and plywood arches, carefully crafted to be as falsely opulent as possible, lurks the same rows of slot machines and video poker games, the same glassy-eyed stares and hand movements as they justify their presence. And this void is nurtured. It's loved. It is cultivated by the owners of the place. The casino owners, businessmen, buffet-line workers are profiteers in the destruction of the last vestiges of the human soul, to be replaced with a gnawing envy and avarice. The young people walk with pride, wanting to be seen by their fellow spring breakees as "high rollers," owning the unownable, while the older people simply come to escape what has become a towering back-breaking drudgery. But "escape" is futile. The longer they stay in the desert, fingers puffing up from the dryness, the more time that they will have to spend elsewhere, making up for it. It's cyclical, uroborian. Endless. Everything there is dead; it maintains its life by sucking vampirically the life from those who flock to it. Las Vegas is a beautiful tropical flower made beautiful by both its love of and its refusal of death. The void is unavoidable. I went to Las Vegas, and then I came back. I went to Las Vegas, and maybe I didn't come back at all.