I went to Las Vegas last week to present my session on creating effective error messages at the WritersUA conference. Though I really did intend to check out some of the other sessions, I wound up going only to my own, the networking lunch, and the networking mixer thingy that took place the first evening.
This left me plenty of time to explore the city, which I did, both on my own and with my friend Marcus (a Vegas native) as my guide. LV can be described in any number of ways, including "totally overwhelming," "oddly compelling," and "human civilization in microcosm."
What can you say about a city where legions of Latino immigrants line the streets to hand out colored business cards offering STRIPPERS DIRECT TO YOUR HOTEL ROOM 24 HOURS A DAY, where every other person you pass on the sidewalk is openly carrying an alcoholic drink of some kind (more often than not in a gargantuan, whimsically-shaped container, such as an Eiffel Tower full of daiquiri), where both cigarette and cigar smoking are allowed pretty much everywhere?
What can you say about the fake rainforest, the fake Manhattan, the fake Paris, the fake Venice, the fake Caribbean, the fake ancient Rome, the fake New Orleans? They're utterly disturbing and utterly quaint at the same time. (I admit that strolling through "Paris" made me really want to go back to Paris--the real one, that is.)
And what can you say about the fact that, when you go out for drinks, as we did, first to a few local bars, then to the Westin, then to whatever run-down $5-ante casino on the strip we wound up at, you can stumble back to your hotel at 2 a.m. and swear for all the world that it's not a minute past midnight, as everyone still seems to be awake and everything still seems to be going full-swing? Only, I suppose, that it's like real life suspended.
But like anything suspended, it eventually comes back down. So when I left the city on Tuesday evening feeling like I'd been drinking fiberglass juice (so raw was my throat from inhaling endless smoke) and aching for a week of recovery, I was slightly bummed to be going but, truthfully, fairly happy to return to my quiet world in which other people's cigars don't figure and the only thing I generally see at 2 a.m. is the inside of my eyelids.
I'll go back, to be sure, but not until I've had the chance to detox my liver, clean out my lungs, and remind myself of what's real.