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Bright Light City, can you still set my soul on fire now that the Jell-o shot days and voluntarily sleepless nights of my 20’s are firmly in the rear-view mirror?
Las Vegas is a city on which most travelers have strong opinions. Either you find the excess revolting on all levels, or you revel in the belief that the city makes anything possible, at least for a couple of nights, and with the right amount of cash.
I’ve always had strong opinions on Vegas, but now in my mid-30’s I find myself a bit torn on my love of the sparkling lights. I grew up with “family” trips to Vegas in the 1990’s when the city thought attracting families like the Griswold’s was a good idea.
There were theme parks, arcades, and hotels built like castles, pirate ships, and a circus tent. I loved that Vegas. It was certainly a bit gaudy and over-the-top, but that made it more fun. It had something for me as a kid, and it had the promise of more behind the curtain waiting for when I was old enough.
I counted down the years until I was old enough for the full Vegas experience the way teenagers count down the right to drive the car. Going to Vegas on my 21st birthday was a no-brainer, and I proceeded to hit a royal flush that very night playing video poker. Vegas and I were made for each other, and I was hooked. It had waited as long for me to drop my quarters into the slot machines as I had waited for it.
My Vegas luck held out as my husband and I got married there in 2008 when prices in the city were rock bottom and comps were being handed out even to relatively low playing fish like us. After our wedding ceremony, we went down to the casino in full wedding attire where I proceeded to roll craps for quite a while, resulting in big wins for almost everyone at the table. Since I was the “lucky shooter” and in a wedding dress, strangers at the table were even throwing chips at me as wedding presents. What could be better?
In those years I was in my 20’s and working an extra job in large part to have “Vegas money”. Every few months we would enjoy comped rooms, and put our second-job-cash on the line at the craps tables, blackjack tables, and even on my old video poker friend.
The free drinks came frequently, and I was too young to care what type of alcohol was in my whiskey sour. It didn’t taste cheap when you were dreaming of winning big. We supplemented time at the tables with visits to the pool, shows, and to great restaurants that tasted even better when you were a bit buzzed from the City of Sin.
We would come home from two or three nights in Vegas exhausted, somewhat hung over, but missing the City of Allure before our plane could even get over the Spring Mountains. A few days of rest, and a few months of working the part-time gig, was all it would take to be ready for another visit. In truth, we actually won money on many of those trips, which certainly helped our love for the city grow. My gosh, we even took our “first family photos” in Vegas it was that big of a part of our lives.
We got boring. We grew up. We are exhausted with the demands and schedules of life before we ever go down the escalator at McCarran and into the sea of lights and slots. Call it whatever, but the end result is the same. We drifted apart with the city we loved. It stayed the same, we changed.
For us, Vegas in our 30’s has become a city more associated with work conferences, name badges, and chinos than with table games and little black dresses. The two hour time difference from Central means we are yearning for bed in Vegas at dinner time, and by the time we push through the meal we are way too exhausted for a show. We have fallen asleep in the dark theaters during KA and Britney not because they were boring, we were drunk, or we were just catching a few winks before rallying to head to a club. We were just too tired to Vegas any more.
That may have been more depressing of a realization than realizing we spent the last $20 for the trip in the slot machine.
We work too hard to really enjoy wagering money on the pass line at the craps table the way we used to. Room rates and flights aren’t the virtual freebies they once were, and the pull to spend that “travel money” somewhere else as a family is strong.
I still love that city. My city. The restaurants, the lights, the sounds, the excitement, the entertainment, the possibilities. My wedding certificate will always say Clark County.
But I don’t love the way my feet feel after a night going through the casino in heels. I don’t like how my eyes water from the smoke. I don’t like being conflicted about gambling and potentially losing money that could have been better spent on almost anything else. I don’t like having to pay $100 to get an umbrella by my chair at the pool. I don’t like leaving tired since Lord knows there is no time to crash on the couch when we get home.
The Vegas of my 30’s isn’t anything like what it was in my 20’s. I’m not yet to the point in life where I can put on my sparkly red and purple hat and join the Wheel of Fortune Grandmas for a night of fun at the slots, but I am certainly passed the decade of being easily seduced by cheap whiskey and sparkling lights.
Have you ever grown apart from a city you once loved?