We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive...” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: “Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?”
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas -- Hunter S. Thompson
When the late Mr. Thompson composed his savagely funny, drug-drenched indictment of the American Dream, he made it difficult for subsequent generations to write anything serious about Las Vegas, at least with a straight face. But I will try.
When last we connected, I was on the road to the great mirage in the desert, to see what the next twist in my story line would be. I was neither light-headed nor seeing bats. But then again, that's probably due to the low-grade acid that was the only thing I could afford at the time.
Otherwise, it was perfect. Here I was strapped for cash, headed for the place where money is a religion and the collection plate is shaped like a slot machine. Here I was, a firm believer that we live in an illusion of our own creation, headed straight for the city that is the epitome of fake.
The drive to Las Vegas from Albuquerque is about nine hours, give or take a pit stop or an orange barrel obstacle course. Unless you are an aficionado of the mesas and volcanic landscape of the high desert, it is a scenically unremarkable drive that veers sharply into ugliness by the time you hit the Mojave Desert.
But once you wend your way through the hordes of lobster-colored tourists at Hoover Dam, past crystal blue Lake Mead and into the home stretch, and see the casinos gleaming in the distance, you must admire those who envisioned this sand-blasted Xanadu in the midst of some of the most coyote ugly terrain this side of Mars.
I arrived at the New York-New York hotel in the late afternoon. For those of you, like me, who have not visited Vegas in some time, it contains not only a casino, but a fantasy version of New York City, meaning it's a humidity-free 68 degrees on a summer afternoon, there are no obnoxious cab drivers and the trash-filled sidewalks that make New York such an aromatic city in the summer are non-existent.
It is truly a magnificent illusion and a dead-on representation of somebody's (mine) idea of what New York City might be like in a parallel universe.
But that's why Las Vegas is not really a city, but a state of mind where anything is possible -- from a threesome with a midget hooker to a slot machine jackpot that changes your life forever.
As much as I was wishing for the former, I came here to face my demons about money, as part of my Busting Loose process and the big payoff weighed heavily on my mind.
I hoped against hope that I could do the Process a few times and then my Expanded Self would deem me worthy of receiving appreciation in the amount of say, 40 grand. Hey, I'm not greedy. But just that thought meant I was judging my current cash-poor hologram. And with judgment, inevitably comes disappointment. Damn. As Robert Scheinfeld loves to point out, to my great annoyance most of the time, you don't do the Process to change, fix or improve your hologram.
On a deeper level, that kind of thinking means that I didn't trust the Truth of my infinite abundance. I was quickly watching the odds against my winning anything go sky high.
What was I doing here? What was the meaning of this trip? Was I just roaming around in a drug frenzy of some kind? Or had I really come out here to Las Vegas to work on a story? Who are these people, these faces? Where do they come from? They look like caricatures of used car dealers from Dallas, and sweet Jesus, there were a hell of a lot of them at 4:30 on a Sunday morning, still humping the American dream, that vision of the big winner somehow emerging from the last minute pre-dawn chaos of a stale Vegas casino.
Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas
So it comes as no big shock that I didn't hit the super-mega-giant jackpot. I know you're all disappointed. In fact, I came away from Sin City a bit lighter in the wallet. (You did know that sin in Spanish means "without?")
In fact, the entire weekend was one long lesson on my stories about money. What did I learn? Nothing that the lot of you who have been to Vegas don't already know. If you're Busting Loose From the Money Game, Vegas is where it'll be in your face.
Whether you have money or not, if you're not Busted Loose, it will bring up every discomfort you have about money, because no matter what you spend it on, somewhere in Las Vegas there is something better and more expensive to spend it on -- bigger pitchers of margaritas, swankier and more exclusive clubs, hotter nightclub acts, bigger-breasted escorts, more expensive hotel rooms and smaller midget hookers.
Unless you're truly Busted Loose, Las Vegas will keep challenging you to really believe in your abundance and express appreciation.
I wish I could say I trusted the Process. But I didn't. I realized, at least for this weekend, I preferred to bleed to death slowly at the 5-cent slot machines, than take a real chance on my abundance. I returned home, somewhat disappointed that I had not only not passed the test, I had not really taken it. I had feared and loathed instead of having the faith to take the great leap.
But it turns out, Expanded Self is going to give me a second chance to trust.
As I was recovering Monday morning from my trip, secure in the knowledge that I still had a roof over my head and an inexpensive place to live, my housemate and owner of the home where I live, let me know that I would have to be moving out by the end of September. Nothing personal, he needed the room for his daughter.
Another great adventure awaits. What can I say?
In the meantime, at least I returned with the satisfaction that some things happened to me in Vegas that will have to stay in Vegas -- and for that I'm eternally grateful.