Dangerous Compassions

why I love Las Vegas

Hello from the undisclosed location.  We went to the beach, trying to figure out a place our friend could spend some hours, then realized there was no shade, and maybe it was a bad idea.  Our friend had no hat.  It was a longer walk to town than we remembered.

But unexpectedly, we were at this special beach.  I couldn’t help but get out of the car and walk to the water.  I was supposed to be with my relatives.  It seemed a bad idea to make them wait, but it also seemed a bad idea to be at the water and ignore god trying to heal me.

I was having memories of that cemetary, that drive, that beach.  When I was 17 and got my mom’s Mustang stuck the sand.  My friend who lived in that town and would run to the beach and back for a day’s run.  He was a poet and my teacher–the runner part of him I never saw, but knew about.  He moved away.

The waves were crashing a lot, many at the same time.  Some brave surfers risk their lives, but humans being in the water isn’t advised.  I think the water gets really deep really fast.

Cute plovers walking very quickly on their tiny legs made me laugh.  The wind blew my hair a lot, but being there was helping me.  I wanted to stay there, but as the moments passed, I was feeling conflict about my responsibilities.

At night, we saw an old friend.  We toured his warehouse then went to this gas stationy Mexican place.  There was a mural on the wall–part of it depicted a beautiful little kid and some monarch butterflies.

I think I know the message of those butterflies–no borders.  I couldn’t agree more.  I wanted to take a picture.

Our friend ate tacos.  I’ve known him around 27 years?  Ming and I shared a breakfast burrito that was delicious.  I asked about our friend’s sister, his kids who are now young adults.   His hair used to be brown with a gray spot–now it’s grayer everywhere.  But his hugs still feel the same unique squeezy kindness, and he still wears a product with a sharp smell.

We spoke of therapists good and bad.  Dance Safe, some psychedelic support stuff at Burning Man.  The green dot rangers and their ideology.

He found a special place he loves, and so did I, but a different place.  He still thinks I should go to Burning Man–he tried to bring me there many years ago.

He’s wildly creative and brilliant with technology, getting tons of machines to do desirable things.  Some special machine he got at an auction for less than $200 that has a laser on it worth $26k.  Did I hear that right?  He would tell me a number that would amaze me, and I would see the number in my mind and make sure I had the decimal point in the right place.

He had these cute pillows that were made to look like tomato slices.  They were part of a strange gift related to a made up holiday.

A long time ago, my friend and I were talking about some drugs.  He was talking about how they should be regulated.  He was a libertarian at the time.  Last night he said something about regulating prostitution.  I said something about being an anarchist.

I don’t know how to explain Las Vegas.  People hate it a lot.  Yeah, I noticed the gambling, commodification of sex, racism, exploitation, economic disparities.  The flashing lights, bad music, expensive buffets, ding ding ding of slot machines.

There’s stuff to hate.  I see friends bringing their issues to it.  They like to watch a show, and that’s it.  I’ve never been to a show.  The gambling is gross and other aspects, the excess and cheap hedonism, the repulsive contrast between capitalism with its happy face on, and then the other side of it.  Both places, human beings are being used and treated like trash, but in the casinos, they come on purpose and pay hundreds of dollars for it, while the homeless people near where Ming and I live are being treated like trash in another way, dying on the sidewalks.

I can’t explain why it’s my city now–maybe just that there’s a lot to help with.  Or it started being my home kind of on accident, and I want to see it through for a while.

Ming and I drive down these terrible roads in our neighborhood, where the city is too cheap to repaint the lines or fix the bumpy asphalt texture.  The words are peeling off the yellow signs until those black letters are curled up entirely and blow away in the wind.

I tell Ming for the fifth or tenth time how Las Vegas should be rich on all the taxes from the tourists.  Dystopianly, those tax monies are making some rich person richer, rather than paving our streets with gold.  Should I really be surprised by that?

We feed the homeless, protest nuclear war at the test site and drones at the air force base, vigil for peace at the federal building some Thursdays.   We try to build community with the people we’re trying to love, helping the helpers.

Las Vegas has segregation, huge wasteful spreadoutness, corruption, the way homeless people are treated, bad cop behaviors.  I have affection for different streets with their different personalities.  McMansions are being built more and more at the edges into creosote land, while my part of town is full of abandoned buildings with boarded up windows.  Broken glass is glitter; dogs run around free.

How can I explain why I love it.  What do you want your city to be like?  I need diversity, good Indian food, some city energy, a lot of choices.  I don’t need some fake ass liberal pretending, gentrification so I can go to an overpriced record store to buy things marketed specially for my demographic, some overly artsy downtown boutiques making money off putting a bird on it.

Pigeons are ok with me, and if we’re going to do dystopia, let’s do it.  I don’t want to pretend anything.  Late state capitalism is here.  Las Vegas isn’t hiding it.

My good friend who told me about respect being basic, a baseline to require–I’m still trying trying to figure out what they mean.  If Las Vegas has taught me anything, it’s that capitalism respects no one, not even the winners.  I guess interpersonally, one on one, I could try to expect respect and ask to speak to the manager, but what would that really accomplish when I’m expendable and considered pretty worthless by the system that’s under everything.

If I weigh 340 pounds, do I deserve a chair that will work for me?  What if I weigh 840 pounds?  Or if I need a bunch of accommodations for having sensory sensitivities, or being crazy.  Are they going to turn off the tv for me?  Let alone the music, the kitchen music, or having soap in the bathroom that doesn’t make me feel sick with its perfume.  I would never expect any of that.  My weird needs aren’t pertinent to most conversations.

Even the regular needs like clean air and water are considered extravagant.  Or to live without violence against me.  Violence is normal, isn’t it?  I mean public advertising trying to hurt me so I’ll buy something, or breathing the exhaust of the truck in front of me.  The convenience of fast travel is more important than having ok air go into my lungs.  Or weird stuff in the water being perfectly acceptable.

Oops, I guess that was a tangent–I needed to talk about that.  Thanks for listening, reader.  I gotta get up and live tomorrow also, is the idea.

“Ah, you’re wearing my clothes!” I told Ming.  He got up half asleep and put on my moon shirt.  “Are you trying to delight me?”

“Mm hmm,” he said and went back to bed.

“Well, it worked,” I said.  Leaving Las Vegas and coming to the coast a lot, I see how things are different, here and there.  This country is pretty weird.  Canada was weird too, so I’m guessing that’s a thing.

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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