I'm sitting in a restaurant in Las Vegas as I type this, reminding myself that having a touch of heat stroke does not put oneself into the best frame of mind for analyzing one's locale. It is smotheringly hot! I've lived in Texas, Florida, California, and Oklahoma, so you'd think I know how to handle heat. I pushed myself too hard; I know, no surprise there. I'm going to be wearing a hat everywhere I go from this point on, and keeping a drink handy. Keeping that in mind, though… I still don't think I really like Vegas that much.

That being said… I do not think I am Vegas' target audience. I don't drink, I'm not part of a large tour group, and neither the shows nor the gambling really grab me. I'd be happy to try some gambling, but none of the machines have directions printed on them. Why would anyone throw money away in a game where they don't even know what the winning conditions are? I tried watching over the shoulders of some of the players, but what the machines were saying were winning scores didn't make any sense to me at all. The weird thing to me was that none of the players seemed to be having any fun — they were just mechanically pushing the buttons over and over and over. The only time they seemed at all animated was when they were chatting with each other. Even the cocktail waitresses seemed bored, and near-desultory in their serving — as if they had nothing better to do with their time, but still wished they were anyplace but there.

So then I thought maybe the blackjack tables would be more interesting to watch, since there's an actual dealer there to interact with — those, or the one I can't remember the name of, where you roll dice for chips. Oddly, I thought those even creepier — because at both types of tables there was an absolute minimum of conversation. The players used only hand signals to the dealers, and stared fixedly only at the cards or dice — there was no eye contact between players and dealers at all! I even saw one guy's wife walk over and touch her husband lightly on the shoulder as he played — and his response was to lightly tap the chair next to him without looking up at all from the cards. I think he glanced at her once during their entire short conversation. The reason I found it creepier was because the players appeared to be treating the dealers as if they were machines too. It was like gambling turned off one's communicative capabilities or something.

I walked down what I think is called the Flamingo or Flamingo Drive or something — it's the one that's sort of roofed over, so at night they can broadcast more ads on the over-arching ceiling. There's a near-dizzying amount of sensory overload if you're trying to actually take it all in: a constant barrage of smells and sounds and sights. I've been spoiled by California: Nevada allows cigarette smoking in public places, and I'd forgotten how nasty it smells. That, coupled with the slightly sweet scent of some cleanser everyone seems to use, and perfume and whatever it is that men wear, and the constant blare of hucksters trying to call you over, over-sized ads demanding your attention in a constantly playing loop, people laughing and yelling at each other to be heard over the ear-piercing screaming cacophony of several bands all playing simultaneously up and down the street… and then there's the visuals. Everything sparkles and mirrors and flashes and glitters and dances! When everything is designed to attract the attention, at some point I think we turn it all off in sensory self-defense.

The actual businesses are a strange mix. There was a place called LA Bayou with fun Louisiana-styled decorations — that was the first place I walked into, in fact. The girls in the front were giving customers free Mardi Gras style beads and two free tickets to a half-hourly raffle held within. Those two young women, in fact, were the ones who showed me just how elegantly practiced boredom can be — as one of them swiftly regurgitated her well-practiced spiel to me, I felt almost as if I wasn't actually there to her. I suspect if I'd walked up five minutes later she wouldn't have recognized me. Then again, I can see myself tuning out my environment that thoroughly as well, were I stuck there in a stupefyingly dull job in painfully high heels and too-tight clothing, dealing with people who see me as not much more than a stand-up doll.

That feeling of utter objectification has just grown stronger the more time I've spent here in Vegas. In my room at the Las Vegas Club was a little stand-up with a few ads in it, and one was for something called Fetish Pit. The graphic was a photo of a woman's body from just above the waist to about the knees, and she was wearing a black thing that didn't seem to actually be a top, black undies, and a stocking belt with only one strap connected to anything: namely, a garter about her upper thigh. Her hands were on her bare stomach and the black, um, top/thingie/whatever. Was she doing so in order to hold it on, or was the pose supposed to be provocative? I found myself wondering: surely the hotel doesn't think fetishism is about being unable to properly put on naughty clothing?

There's a place across the street from my hotel called (if I remember correctly) the "Golden Goose." It styles itself as both a "gentlemen's club" and "couples friendly." I was watching the huge visual ads above the door, and was boggled to realize: it's basically a strip club! What sort of actual gentleman would take a female friend to such a place? I've been to strip bars, and they're not really what I'd call exciting or enlightening for heterosexual women. Heck, most of the guys there were about as engaging as a slot machine: the girls would dance in front of them and they'd produce money. Similarly, the restaurant in the hotel across the way is called "Oscar's: beef booze broads," and I got a similar 'ick' feeling from it. Astonishingly, the eponymous Oscar is a former mayor of Las Vegas! I'm not sure it'd be any better if the restaurant's slogan was "beef booze beefcake," but as it is, it sure lets us all know with painful clarity where women stand here — if they're standing at all, I guess.

That hotel and the one I spent my first night in are both owned by the same guy. I wonder what it'd feel like to know I was making oodles of money on the sneering belittling and objectification of an entire segment of the population. Does he ignore that fact, or has he no idea of what he's doing? Does he feel that's the "natural" and "correct" way of things? Does he laugh all the way to the bank?

That's an interesting thought: the girls in all the ads I see are beautiful, scantily dressed, smiling invitingly, and constantly alluring. There's an ad for an all-male review here that I spotted, though, and while all the guys in the ad are topless… none of the guys are smiling. Why is that, I wonder? Would it kill the guys to smile and look inviting or sensuous or engaged in what they were doing? Or is Vegas so incredibly strongly a place designed for heterosexual male gratification that even glancing at an ad with an enticing male in it would be too jarring or scary for them?

I'm reminded of the handful of costumed folks along the street during the night, who posed with tourists for photographs and received tips in recompense. There were plenty of nearly naked girls, though I'm not entirely sure they were there to do anything but show off. I was initially startled and then amused at the sight of one young lady's bare derriere — below the waist she was wearing nothing but red heels and a skimpy red thong with an attached devil's tail! I'm not surprised she was there with two (equally interestingly dressed) friends; I'd be leery of unwanted harassment too were I alone and wearing that little — and I'm a lot larger and older than her. There were also a few male-female couples, and one guy dressed as a tourist's conception of an American Indian. That guy was in boots, a big feathered headdress, and an itty-bitty loincloth that looked really nice on him! He was getting lots of happy women posing with him, and he actually looked like he was enjoying himself, which I found refreshing.

The themes of the two male-female couples were piratical and 30's gangster. The pirates had a a nice Johnny Depp imitator for the male (wearing a really gorgeous gold-embroidered coat!), and a large and fierce looking female pirate — they appeared to be getting fewer photo requests but lots of conversation. The "gangster" style couple had a young woman wearing a lace "flapper" style dress, and a dapperly-suited guy with a tommy gun and a grim Italian Mafioso look to him. The young woman was getting plenty of photo requests — but the only request for the guy that I saw was, oddly enough, of a husky young man who wanted a photo where he had the tommy gun aimed up under the gangster's chin! Was a simple photo with the armed gangster just too threatening to the young man, that he had to insist on a symbolic dominance display over the man as well?

I think I understand the lure of Vegas for women, as well as some men: making a ton of money for little to no effort — regardless of how infinitesimal that statistical chance may be. I'm guessing for the pretty women willing to play up to men there's also the pleasure and supposed power of being admired and wanted. Past that, though, the incessant ads are all of lovely interchangeable young women being inviting or provocative; there are no provocative men or inviting normal-looking women. That says pretty clearly who Vegas is for, I think — it'll take everyone's money, but it was originally made for boy-men who need constant reassurance.

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