It Eats You Starting With Your Bottom: Or, The Curiously Popular Brand Of Emotional Blue Balls Being Peddled In Southern Nevada

• The highways cutting east through the San Gabriel Valley become congested even earlier in the day than normal on a Friday afternoon, as if the commuters who work in L.A. but lay their heads in the 'burbs can't wait to get out of Dodge. A sense of exodus permeates even the most casual drive in this direction at this time of day on this day of the week, but it's compounded something like nineteenfold when the destination is that dirtiest of holy grails, that most joyfully desecrated of all America's cities, that dull black rock in the center of Lady Liberty's battered crown: Las Vegas.• Vegas, it should be pointed out, is America's own personal whore. • It seems like everyone just calls it Vegas, and that it's been that way forever. The casualness of the address belies the dangerous intimacies on tap in Sin City herself, which works (as everything always does) in the house's favor. • People usually use "tragic flaw" to mean "unfortunate personality trait," as in "Randy's a raging cokehead. Drag." Or "It's a total bummer that Jennifer has to make small cuts on her thigh to achieve physical pleasure." This quaint, aw-shucks dismissal of anything that could be amiss with someone as nothing more than a minor setback is at best shortsighted, and at worst a horrible, horrible mistake. Because a genuine tragic flaw is that darkest, purest, most ruinous desire that not only ensures the hero's undoing but also defines who he/she is. Las Vegas birthed itself from the desert based on the concept that the hero is nothing without the flaw that will lead to his/her eventual destruction, and the city is determined to offer anything and everything a man or woman could want, not merely as recreational activities, but as a brutal means to a quick, messy end. • Seriously, avoid blackjack. • About that whole "America's personal whore" thing: There's a reason Vegas thrives in the desert. The city wouldn't be able to exist in a place that received a lot of natural traffic or attention. Its being out in the desert (a) furthers the sense of otherworldliness, of isolation from any and all responsibilities that will come screaming back into your life at 8 a.m. Monday, (b) tests the resolve of those who travel there, making you crawl through boring stretches of desert along the 15 just to see those bright and deadly lights, and (c) creates an extreme geographical and emotional distance from the rest of the world allows us to do whatever we want there and to basically leave the money on the not-always-metaphorical nightstand. And Vegas accepts this, her wide grin displaying a row of stained, cracked teeth, as she takes our money. We don't go there to bury our sins, or wash them away in some mystic river; we go there to celebrate them, to breathe the dusty air of the desert into their bones and awaken them to all kinds of potential reckless adventures. • You can yell anything you want on Fremont Street — and I mean anything — and no one will care. • Drunk cowboys who've been gambling and losing all day are pretty pissy dudes, but their not-incidental level of danger is balanced by the unintentional humor they create. An angry fortysomething guy with a buzz cut and blue polo, topped off by sharply creased Wranglers, is an endlessly entertaining poker companion. • You need to accept the fact that you will not "be up five hundy by midnight." And cocktail waitresses there do not look at all like Deena Martin. Again, the sooner you accept this, the happier you will be. • If early evening is the best time to make that drive — the dying sun and looming darkness a reminder of the eternal Friday night you're heading for — then dawn is the best time to make that languorous trip back home. The moonlit fields of Primm actually qualify as moonlit, no poetic license needed, and the pale sun on the bleached sand manages to put the guilt and everything in perspective. Most of that drive doesn't feel like California or Nevada; it doesn't feel like anywhere. desert3.JPG zzyzx.JPG road1.JPG lights1.JPG road2.JPG cowboy1.JPG mannequins.JPG dustin3.jpg card.jpg desert2.JPG desert1.JPG couch11.jpg • It's about doing stupid things precisely because they are stupid. And about accepting that.