Friday, June 24, 2005

Don Quixote, the Man of Las Vegas

Art and Life continue to molest each other:

I brought Cervantes' Don Quixote to read on my recent Las Vegas trip, a four-day bachelor/bachelorette feista for my good friends Nate and Sarah. As I lounged by the pool of the Hard Rock Hotel (a fruity drink in one hand and my Cervantes in the other), a found compelling evidence that Don Quixote was indeed among our party in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is a world of illusion. It is the solidified and actualized mirage in the desert--the one mirage which you can see and touch and drink from and get arrested in. The boundaries between illusionary and real become blurred (and as you drink more fruity drinks almost everything becomes blurred). In a way, when you travel to Vegas you become mad. Even now, less than 24 hours back, I find the strong urge to tip people wherever I go. Of course, Don Quixote's madness was focused; he saw himself as a knight and his surroundings were adventures to be had. This specific madness is the kind you feel in Vegas.

When you sit down at a blackjack table, you are seeking that moment of your destiny. You know you are destined to win--why else would you play? You may try to trick yourself into believing you play Craps for the free drinks, the comraderie or just for the thrill of it--but the deeper truth is you long for that moment when you go "all in" in Texas Holdem and rake in the chips; it's not about the money; it's about realizing your moment of glory, the moment you've always known would come to you.

Las Vegas, of course, feeds this belief that you are in a land of fairydom and magic and power. Scantily-clad cocktresses lean towards you to accept your gracious tips (you're like a king bestowing gifts really), carriages in the form of taxis are just a whistle away (and you will never have to do the whistling yourself), and you return to a bed fluffy and well-made by Latino-like elves (who also perfume your bathroom and remove the unpleasant remains of last night from the waste-can).

Like Don Quixote, you rush headlong into this dream. You are a knight! And you will be known! And more often than not, you are beaten about the head, body and soul. You step up to the Craps table and within 15 minutes you've lost 300 dollars. And even if you win, you party so hard that you fall down an escalator and tear open your knee. You lose your wedding ring. You get sunburnt and a hangover after 6 pool-side Margaritas at $13.50 a pop. After your fourth drink, you go for a swim with your cell phone. That night you spend $57.00 tipping the topless dancer waggling your two new silicon friends in front of you; you are certain that the two of you have made a "connection." She doesn't call...either because she threw away your number or because your cell phone is broken.

Some might say your "knighthood" is a joke. And you probably agree as you return to reality, broke and broken in spirit. I'm only partly through Don Quixote, but I doubt he will ever return to reality. And the final tragedy is that you never will either. That part of you that knows you are fated to achieve your destiny (whether that means hitting a jackpot or finding the three girls of your dreams) is still there--and it will be fulfilled the next time you go to Vegas and BY GOD THERE WILL BE A NEXT TIME!

Perhaps that isn't a tragedy but just human nature. And perhaps the joke that you are is the joke we all are--and the joke is not mean but joyful. The moral of the story I suppose is to follow your dreams wherever they take you--because you can't help but do so. And where else but in your dreams can you see your friend Nate dancing to "Planet Rock" alone on the dance floor of Cleopatra's Barge, doing what appears to be a bizarre rendition of "the robot?"


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