The sun is barely up when I pull on my clothes, tie my sneakers, and get in the elevator at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It’s another day of work on the road for me, even if the locale is one that seduces millions of tourists a year. This morning I just want coffee, and as luck would have it there’s a Starbucks located in my hotel. Ah, sweet, glorious non-fat vanilla latte.
I’m alone in the elevator. It’s too early for even the convention-goers to be stirring. Surely, it’s too soon to run into the guys who woke me at 4 a.m., hooting and hollering in the hallway outside my room. But I have forgotten that in Las Vegas it’s not a forgone conclusion that everyone you see at 6 a.m. is coming from bed. In fact, it’s probably a good bet that the folks straggling through the casinos this early haven’t gone to sleep yet.
The elevator doors slide open in the lobby, and I walk past one of the many in-casino bars. Half the tables are filled already (or still), with girls in skimpy outfits lounging against each other, mascara smeared, hair flat and gnarled. On the tables sit half-empty Corona bottles, limes bobbing at the top of the amber liquid. Two guys walk past me. One of them says, “She moved to the side, and I swear man, her titties were right there in my face! She wanted me to lick them.” As he says this, he checks out my breasts – zipped into a fitted hoodie – and smiles at me. Standing in the lobby, waiting for a co-worker, I watch one woman walk pigeon-toed toward the elevators, stumbling and leaning on her friend for balance. She giggles loudly enough for me to hear her, and swerves drunkenly. It’s almost 7am.
I hate Las Vegas.
I hate that everything smells all the time. I arrive with a suitcase full of clean laundry, and the next day I wake up to a closet full of smoky clothes. I’ll admit that I’m spoiled, living in California where no one is allowed to smoke anywhere. In Las Vegas, it’s impossible to get away from it, even for a second. The cabs reek, the non-smoking rooms pipe in cigarette smoke through the air conditioning vents, the restaurants offer non-smoking sections that are just as hazy as the smoking ones.
I hate that Las Vegas provides a “get out of humanity free” card to the lowest common denominator. Last time I was in Las Vegas, dancing at Babys in the Hard Rock Hotel, some guy whipped out his dick and pissed on my leg because, I’m assuming, he was so drunk that he couldn’t wait to make it to the men’s room. I support the right to have a good time. I support the right to get drunk and act stupid. I do not support the right for men to leer at me while talking about “titties.” For that matter, I hate that I feel uncomfortable walking through the casinos alone, because it means that I will undoubtedly be stopped by a group of men asking me why I’m not having a good time. And, on top of that, I hate that there are women in the world whose idea of having a good time is dressing like a porn star so that guys like that will hit on her. Note that this particular hatred does not extend to all women who have fun in Vegas by getting slutty and hanging out with their friends. There’s totally a difference.
I hate the celebrity whoring that goes on. Did I go to Las Vegas to attend an *NSYNC concert? Yup. Did I stop and watch Chris Kirkpatrick play blackjack at the Luxor? Sure. Did I go dancing at Drais because there was a rumor that Joey Fatone was there the night before? Guilty as charged. I didn’t, however, 1) camp out in anyone’s hotel lobby to catch a glimpse, 2) proposition anyone’s bodyguard to get an introduction, or 3) troll random hotel employees for insider information. I also had enough shame to feel guilty each time my heart raced at the thought of meeting someone I admire in the wild. Vegas thrives on this. Vegas hopes that I’ll get drunk enough that I’ll forget my shame.
Tonight Britney Spears is performing at the Grand Garden Arena. Her afterparty, sponsored by Playboy, is taking place at Studio 54. Everywhere I go I hear people talking about trying to catch a glimpse of Britney. What if she’s at the Starbucks? What if she’s having dinner at Fiamma Trattoria – where certain boyband members have been spotted on other weekends? I wonder if she’ll be at Ghostbar with her dancers later tonight. Everyone is scrambling to get on the guest list for the afterparty which, I’ll admit, sounded tempting for about as long as it took me to realize that everything I hate about Vegas would be present in that club all at one time.
I’m supposed to be in town for work from Thursday mid-day to Sunday night. By Saturday afternoon I am starting to feel suffocated. When I get back to the hotel after a morning event, Playboy playmates are signing autographs in the lobby. Vegas is the only place in the world where it’s okay for them to do this mostly-naked, out in the open where children can walk by. There’s a line of men snaking through the ropes they’ve set up, each of them have a drink in one hand and a copy of the magazine in the other. I’ve been in the sun all day, I am sunburned on the backs of my knees, across my forehead, and in the bend of my elbows. I’m wearing a knee-length khaki skirt, retro sketchers, and a white polo shirt (untucked). A group of guys gets in the elevator with me, drunk, and one of them shows me his autographed Playboy proudly. Another one stares at my chest, and then makes a joke about how he’s just looking at the Nextel NASCAR Cup Series logo embroidered there. Another one mutters to his friend something about how I should be in Playboy with “tits like those.”
I exit the elevator and walk as fast as I can toward my room. A guy walking toward me stops my progress and says, “Hey there,” but I sidestep him and increase my speed towards the door. He says, “Yeah, fuck you,” as he continues down the hall. Two hours later, I am scheduled on the last flight out that night. I’ve made my excuses for missing the following day – I’m sunburned, I’m tired, I think I’m getting sick – and I throw all my belongings into my suitcase haphazardly. I can’t wait to get home.
The airport is smelly and I can’t escape the sound of the slot machines. My contacts are burning in my eyes. My throat is raw and my voice sounds abused. It’s just two hours until my flight. I can’t fucking wait.
I hate Las Vegas.