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All things to all people
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We're all here with you, Vegas! In these tough times, Vegas needs a little pep talk
Story by Juan Martinez and Illustration by Chris Smith
I know things are tough, Vegas, and I know that most of the resolutions you made a couple of months ago have gone out the window. I know you took a long hard look in the mirror, told yourself it was going to be different, it was time to make a change, you really meant it this time, and now you're pretty much back to doing what you've always done.
Which is bad. Because some of us have bailed on you, and those of us who have not bailed on are all, "No, Vegas, you've bailed on us."
I know that - right now - you are not terribly keen on us. We've disappointed you. We've let you down. We said we would stop building things and behave like reasonable adults and - next thing you know - we've built like 56 more unreasonable projects on your flank and are busy with all these plans that we're pretty sure are going to work, even though they're plans we've tried before and which haven't exactly worked for the last few years.
Look, we're like that kooky couple in that romantic comedy you like! The one partly filmed on top of you! You know the one. We can't remember the name right now.
But you can't remember much either, yes? None of us can. We are all having a hard time remembering how your strip malls look when they're full of actual stores and not so full of signs promising a half-year's worth of rent plus three Himalayan ponies just to agree to maybe think about stopping by and talking about how we'd totally put a supermarket in there. We've all agreed to not talk about the weird creepy caved-in burned-out Burger King on the corner of Tropicana and Pecos. When we are feeling kindly we call that Burger King your beauty spot.
Vegas, things are bad. Things are tough.
Bette Midler apparently did not disagree when someone said that performing on you was like performing on the Titanic.
The Titanic! You! You've got a Titanic artifacts exhibit! And a Titanic showgirls-tribute that pops up at a pretty incongruous moment in "Jubilee!" If performing on you is like performing on the Titanic, Bette would be singing "Wind Beneath My Wings" while a tiny model of the ship hits a tiny iceberg, just at the exact moment that you hit the actual iceberg.
But there is no iceberg, you are no Titanic: The hard economic realities you're undergoing (which are not to be denied and which really do suck and which have put some of us, even those of us who really like you, through the wringer) are one thing, but it may help to remind you - to remind us - that we were never in it for any sort of economic reality. We never bothered to do the math because we knew none of it actually added up. You are a fever dream, a burst of light and sound built on sand and chutzpah, even if you've got an actual bit of a fever right now. It will pass. You will come out of it and shake it off and forget all about it, because that is what you do, because that is what all of us help you do.
And you will do all right. This is how I know: I was in Florida in December (you had the shivers, you were so cold, and Ft. Lauderdale was not), and passed a billboard that claimed that what happened in Vegas also happened in Seminole County. But you know what? It happens everywhere now, what happens on you, in you. But you are still you: you run on the idea of you, and others borrow your lights, borrow your chutzpah (I'm looking at you, Macau), but they are not you.
Vegas, for all your troubles, you are bigger than yourself. You are the idea of yourself, and you keep going because the idea refuses to stop thinking itself anew: you're still here, still loud, still bursting at the seams, still terribly bad at math, and we're still with you, because how can we not be? You're too much fun. Get well soon. We're all here with you.
Juan Martinez's McSweeney's Internet Tendency satire, "Karaoke Don Quixote," will be performed March 26 as part of the Selected Shorts 2011: Delicious Fictions series at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
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