The conversation is fairly predictable: So, where are you from? Las Vegas. Really? That must suck. Actually, I love Vegas. You love Vegas? *Why*?
It never fails, that incredulous, sometimes even appalled final question. Why do I love Vegas? What could there possibly be to love about this place, and what kind of person would actually fall for it? (For the record, I have been getting this same reaction lately whenever I’ve told people how I’ve fallen in love with D.C.) I can’t even start to count the number of times I’ve been asked this, the number of people who have stared at me in disbelief. But why? Why Vegas? Even my own mother, half of the party originally responsible for uprooting me from Southern California and planting me in this desert chaos almost 13 years ago, doesn’t understand why it’s so hard for me to think about the inevitable day some years down the road when I’ll move away.
Why do I love Vegas? I don’t have a good answer. I never have, and I’ve been actively trying to come up with *something* these past few months, but after hours and days of mulling over the question– still, nothing. Nothing coherent. Nothing I’ve been able to put into words.
I could go on ad nauseum about all the things that are wrong with Vegas, about all the reasons most people can’t stand the place, about all the justifications for people not wanting to move here or for wanting to get away. It encapsulates every vice ever imaginable, a breeding ground for greed and gluttony and debauchery and deceit. Two years ago, I described Vegas as:
Fickle, intense, full of vices, forever changing and perhaps never for
the better. Seemingly tolerable, but deceptively so. Only short-term
value, devoid of long-term worth. Full of glamour and glitz, but it’s
all just a show. Never sleeps, and you get the feeling that one of
these days, everything is just going to burn out, shut down, implode or
explode– or all of the above, simultaneously. People valiantly try to
justify it and defend it and argue that it has potential and charm and
a lovely character all its own, but really, who are they kidding? In
the end, it’s just a desert trying desperately to be something,
At the time, I was comparing Vegas to myself, with the argument that we were exactly alike. And while I’ve since come to hold a much kinder opinion of myself, I still can’t escape this idea, that one of the reasons I’m so attached to Vegas is because I empathize with it and I feel like it empathizes with me.
Before I get into this more, an excerpt from something Noah Grey wrote in 2004, on Alice’s and Dorothy’s choices (and even desires) to leave Wonderland and Oz, respectively:
…How do you go from color back to black-and-white without… losing
something? You spent your whole life wondering about what was over the
rainbow — and once you got there, why, oh why, you damned stupid girl,
did you ever want to come back?
And now I finally get it: because it is
home. Home doesn’t sparkle and shine the way the Mad Hatter’s teacups
do, but it’s the place that takes you back in when the tea party’s
over. You can only live in a wonderland by becoming part of the wonder;
but home is the place that will let you keep being yourself. Home is
where you have stability, where you have acceptance, where you have the knowledge of where you belong and who you truly are — and you do not, cannot,
appreciate the value of these things until you are without them. And
this, I finally realize, is what Alice and Dorothy knew — what they had
to leave home to find out, and why they had to come back. (full post)
That’s why Vegas is home, has been home, because that’s what Vegas has done (and continues to do) for me. It takes me back in when all my rambling travel adventures are over– and more than this, it’s the place that lets me keep being myself, my true self, good, bad and everything inbetween. Vegas understands me and accepts me, and vice versa. It’s hard not to love a city where you never feel like you have to pretend. Vegas, I’ll say, I’m really struggling with my life. I don’t know if I can do this or if I’ve completely missed my window of opportunity to do great things. I feel like I’ve messed everything up irreversibly. And Vegas shrugs and touches my shoulder. Honey, tell me about it. Have you seen my school district testing results lately? And don’t even get me started on the water situation. Hang in there, though. We’ll make it. No platitudes, no empty promises of better times ahead. Because it’s not impossible that better times won’t be ahead. But there’s the hope, the faith that they will be, and in the meantime, Vegas is there for me through thick and thin.
And beyond this– there’s a quiet beauty to the desert. I’ve written before about lightning storms in the desert at night, about our ethereal sunsets and sunrises. There are the mountains– Sunrise, Mt. Charleston, Red Rock– that were here to see the dinosaurs off, circling the valley in their calm, imposing silence, the very essence of "the tranquility / of struggle stretched beyond the brink of time" as they stand guard. Because it’s such a rare occurrence, the few times it does rain out here, there’s an ephemeral, fleeting quality to it, making rainy days that much more lovely. And any astronomer worth his salt will tell you that "high and dry" (i.e., deserts at higher elevations) is where the stars come out in dazzling droves for the human eye to gaze upon in wonder and awe.
Still. These are all just things to love about Vegas; none of them are my reason, or even part of my reason, for why I love this place. The truth is, there is no real reason. I love Vegas simply because I do. It’s a part of me, and because of this– yes, I care deeply about its future, its viability, its sustainability. When I leave, I want to know that I’m leaving it in good hands, and until that day, I want to do what I can to help it to heal and grow.
And, I don’t know; I’d like to believe that’s the best kind of love– the kind that doesn’t need reasons, the kind that doesn’t require validation or recognition or understanding from others. So, you see, I don’t have a why— but I have a how. This. This is how I love Vegas.