“We can’t stop here, this is bat country!”
― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
I’m remembering famous quotes from the satirical 1970’s novel while working in Las Vegas this week and it makes me smile. The metaphoric American dream is still being chased by millions who come to Sin City, with or without the profuse drug use, while consumerism and excess are still king.
“No, this is not a good town for psychedelic drugs. Reality itself is too twisted.”
I arrived too early for my reservation at the lavish, sprawling Aria Hotel and Casino so I find a comfortable corner in front of Jean Georges Steakhouse with wifi access and dim lighting. My nest isn’t far from a swinging nightclub where dozens of provocatively dressed girls await entry. Those exiting, usually coupled with an equally inebriated stranger, stagger in my direction, ask something indistinguishable and then wander away.
Down the hall the droning melancholy of slot machines, poker tables and roulette wheels fuse with low lying clouds of cigarette smoke and open-containers. The gambling culture is so engrained that the minute you land at McCarran airport, you can make a bet or continue in a taxi via a video monitor and not miss a beat as you walk into the hotel lobby.
The Aria hotel is a living, breathing organism. It doesn’t sleep so neither do I.
The entrance to the Cirque de Soleil show called Zarkana features high-flying acrobats, aerialists and jugglers. Commissioned works by famous artists like Maya Lin and Jenny Holzer (a Capital Region resident) hang from the ceiling or are projected onto walls. Some of the worlds best chefs and finest restaurateurs grill up dishes with extra doses of quality and innovation.
The Aria hotel opened in 2009 and unlike Fear’s counterculture protagonists – Duke and Dr. Gonzo – these decadent five-star rooms are not something to destroy. When the sun breaks my room is available. It ‘greets me’ when I enter with heavy curtains that automatically part to showcase a spectacular view of Red Rock in the distance and the still teeming metropolis below. A modern touch-screen panel controls the lighting, temperature, tv and music.
I flop onto a super-soft mattress with crisp, mildly scented pillows. Unlike the casino and promenade, my room is perfectly quiet and I let the wired characters that roam freely many floors below melt into the ether. For now, this is my American dream come true.