Las Vegas: I drove through the night to get here. I left LA at two in the morning which is the best time to leave for Vegas; the air is cooler through the passes and your car is less likely to overheat. I tried to time it so that I could watch the changing colors of the mojave as the sun rose. I fucked up, though, and drove too fast or calculated it wrong because when I arrived it was still dark and I ended up sleeping on a lounge chair by the Tropicana pool until it was late enough to check into my room.
The sun is hotter and brighter here. The sidewalks are almost too white.
Later, I find relief in the casino: a blast of cold air against my damp skin, the smell of cigarette smoke, old lady perfume, alcohol. I pause by a giant slot machine while my eyes adjust to the darkness. When I can see clearly, I move quickly away from the doors, navigating the maze of the machines to find the bar. I need to be where there are no windows, no sweaty tourists, no street noise. I want to sink into the endless gambler’s night; it’s not 3pm outside, it’s not ninety degrees in the shade. In here I am buffeted by carpets and conditioned air and overly solicitous cocktail waitresses.
If I close my eyes I can hear better: varying tones while the reels spin, cherries and diamonds lining up, electronic bells, coins dropping into the metal tray or plastic bucket. Some of the machines play a recording of coins falling and just spit out a receipt that you can exchange at the cage for cash. Whoops of joy or laughter. There’s not much drama here, no one’s fighting or crying. The whole focus is on the machines, the tables, the money. No one has time for reflection or sadness or jealousy.
The most satisfying machines to pull are the ones that click as you pull the arm down. You can pretend it’s the noise of the mechanism, that there’s no electric plug. Bugsy Siegel-style.
Eventually I can filter out the machines and hear the people. I open my eyes. As the alcohol flows more heavily, the jokes get louder, the chip stacks get shorter, the tips get bigger.