It’s a vice town.
Sin City tells you everything you need to know upon entry. Any glance at the desert outside city limits will tell you that nothing belongs here. Fake Venice, Fake Egypt, and fake tits surrounded by miles of real desolation. People drawn to anonymity among displacement. Cynicism can’t kill Las Vegas.
Las Vegas Boulevard fills with tourists ready to reap the unknown from the bizarrely discomforting Circus Circus to the opulent Bellagio. Dust from the construction of a Chinese-funded casino megaplex settles between New York-New York and the Paris Las Vegas – each caricaturizing their locales like Freemont Street lust embodies love. Everywhere the daiquiri breeze blows a place for A-list brands and B-list celebrities.
Inside the casinos people buzz toward flashing slot machine lights like tranced moths. The indistinct noise of lost money bouncing like a pinball off the Stratosphere walls, broken up by the occasional cheer of a winner who’s now down slightly less than they were before. Las Vegas is money’s event horizon. Bachelorette parties, beer bellies, and blue hairs all the way down, looking for their 16th minute of fame.
I’d rather eat.
Messily prepared, delicious Mexican food at Tacos El Gordo is served more hastily than an Elvis-themed wedding. Tortillas dipped into fat drippings are topped with tongue and tripa cuts, slathered with a spicy green sauce that serrates every taste bud. Tacos are flung from a heavily staffed kitchen bombarded by an onslaught of craving customers. Eggslut in the nearby Cosmopolitan serves hangover cures to its own hoard of regulars. Runny eggs cover a long burner top that smells like bacon and smoke. Line cooks crack handfuls of eggs, dishing up breakfast sandwiches that drip a siracha spread.
Food slingers, card dealers, and Uber drivers live here. They’ve called this tourist town home for longer than I expected, my surprise showing every time I heard a stranger say they’d lived in Las Vegas for 10 or 15 years – defending the dogged city for all its flaws and nostalgia. If nothing else, they say, Las Vegas will at least get your attention. And if you’re lucky, it might even let you go.