Dangerous Compassions

Las Vegas

Once upon a time, there was a small town in the desert.  It came about as a result of some springs, las vegas.  I think the Native people would be here in the winter, and then in the summer, they would move to a higher elevation.  The valley gets so hot, it makes no sense for people to be here in the summer.

Some people began to stick around more, and use technology with electricity like fans, swamp coolers, and air conditioners.  So then people could stay here more comfortably, depending on the person’s bodily needs.

Then there was a Mob, and things changed.  Like anarchy in the desert, but no, not the anarchy I enjoy.  Gambling and alcohol became important, and it stuck.  Entertainers, drugs, huge gap between the haves and have-nots.  Powerful rich people using whoever they could.

So then middle class folks wanted to come from all over the country, the world.  It became adult Disneyland, a land of enchantment for people who like money, risk, glitz, strip shows, spectacle, and different norms from their usual.  They pretend they can come here for freedom, not realizing that freedom is always in our hearts.


People love it, or hate it.  Many don’t understand it’s got the strip, but regular places also.  Las Vegas is a strange city with unique problems, but it’s regular too.  And so many poor, homeless, and hungry people.  There’s a lot of work here, to love the victims of capitalism, racism, drug addiction, the drug war, violence, misogyny, and other harm.

I love the Chinatown, Ethiopian places, Korean places, the sparkling broken glass of our Vegas Heights neighborhood.  Lots of vegan stuff.  The mountains are amazing.  It’s a very special valley.

Please don’t dismiss it as fake and sick.  Right, there’s that part.  But our neighborhood is beautiful, exquisite.  What you see is what you get.  I study the trash with guttermancy, and I smell the clouds of weed smoke as we walk by our neighbors.  Would I test positive on a drug test from that contact?

young rich Asian

Ok, now I got to the part I wanted to talk about.  There was a young rich Asian.  He had a powerful shoe company and wanted to “revitalize” downtown.  Hmm, what does that mean?  It means more money for him!

So he made this previously free place sort of privatized.  His own rules–new cops.  He made his own goon squad.  They’re not real cops, but they’re cop-like.  I had a friend from Food Not Bombs who hated this shoe mogul with a fiery, burning passion.

I think the mogul got way richer, but then suddenly he died.  He was still young, and it was strange.  What happened to him?  What happened to his fortune?  Was he evil, like my Food Not Bombs friend believed?

Ming and I were walking downtown.  For some reason, we felt like walking around lawyer land.  We got the idea that Ming could get a fancy donut.  So we walked from lawyer land to Donut Bar, and I got some delicious juice.  I saw an electric box painted thusly.

las vegas

I couldn’t stop looking at it.  The young rich Asian’s facial expression, the halo, the quote.  Thanks for telling me to have fun, Tony Hseih!  Some people can afford more fun than others.  The homeless people that his goons push out of downtown, maybe not having as much fun.

I remembered the llama thing.  Oh yeah, was he responsible for Container Park?  It’s not a park–it’s a mall, where the stores and restaurants are made of containers.  There’s a courtyard in the middle.  I love courtyards.


I feel very lucky that I’ve lived more than six years in Las Vegas.  Truly, it’s an amazing place.

I’ve spent significant time in the Bay Area, mostly Berkeley but Oakland and a little San Francisco–enough to know something about the varied, dirty, edgy, gritty, exciting, busy, crowded, complex, foggy feelings.

I’ve been to Portland, Oregon for several days, three different trips–a friend, a zine fest, a pass through on our way north to Canada.  I got a sense of that place.

Los Angeles is vast, rich, and confusing.  So maligned, and so amazing.  I couldn’t say I have a grasp of what LA is, but maybe to know I don’t know is a start!

I’ve been to the twin cities in Minnesota.  That seemed like an important place, but I was mostly in a small town outside of it.  I don’t know much about it.  Phoenix and Tucson, I know a little about.  Albuquerque seemed amazing, but I was sick with a sinus infection and mostly stayed in the room of our hostel, resting.

I’m trying to think any other big cities I’ve known.  Seattle I barely dipped a toe in.  Sacramento I love dearly, and I have a good grasp for it for living there around a decade, but I don’t think of it as a big city.  Hmm, maybe I’m mistaken.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas is the big city I know best.  And I love it like crazy.  It’s surprised me, confused me, hurt me, delighted me, stimulated me, overwhelmed me for sure.  Disappointed me, and nourished me in strange ways.

“Why would you go to Las Vegas?” my mom asked, nearly horrified, mystified why this city would deserve my love.  Becoming a citizen of Nevada did freak me out a little.  I’d been a Californian my whole life, and it suited me.

I’ve never been to a show; I don’t gamble or drink alcohol; I don’t strip or dance for money, or watch such.  As for weed, I don’t work at a dispensary or partake.  I’ve never worked at a hotel or fixed slot machines for a living, or helped run the vast computer networks that a casino requires.  Never have I worked for a spa or visited one as a spa-goer.

what I do

What I do here supports the victims of militarism, capitalism, racism, entertainment industry, injustice, violence.  And I support the people who resist.

I’ve fed hungry and homeless people, fed protesters, done jail support for arrested activists, helped plan big interfaith peace events, and helped run the Las Vegas Radical Mental Health Collective and street medics.

Mostly I’ve made zines, written blog posts, made art, and written letters.  Danced and rode trike.  Slept, took care of myself, and somewhat took care of Ming.  I could do most of those things anywhere.  Being disabled is a great gift, to ally with Ming and make a life together where we can put forth truth, feel pleasure, and help people in homegrown ways.

Las Vegas

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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