The opposite of Hunter S. Thompson’s Las Vegas

I haven’t been outside in three days. The hotel maze has continually redirected us back into the hotel. We went outside earlier in the week to try and find food but were steered back inside without realizing it. It’s easier to stay inside, so we do.

I have no interest in gambling or shows or anything else on The Strip. The rest of Las Vegas doesn’t hold any appeal either. Outside of a couple state parks close by and a sprinkling of jarringly green golf courses, it’s an urban wasteland.  Vegas is a glowing, cancerous growth upon an otherwise pristine desert.

Lobbying by the local taxi cartel meant that we could not grab an Uber or Lyft car when we arrived at the airport.  Instead, we were directed into the cattle shoot of the taxi line and herded along until a taxi was available. Moo… Moo… Move along.

I’m sure some taxi lobbyist somewhere was simultaneously arguing about the superior customer experience of their business.

Check in, get an upgraded room, then off for food. Google Maps reveals that my favorite Vegas taco shop has closed its location on The Strip. Is nothing sacred? It was the only Vegas thing I was looking forward to.

We find an alternative nearby that is decent but overpriced and poorly served. It does provide a good opportunity for conversation and people watching though. Drunks at the bar shout at the football game on TV. One of them throws his hat is disapproval.

I poke and prod my travel companion with questions. I want to know who he is and what we have in common. I’m impressed by his ability to redirect when I touch a nerve or he senses controversy nearby. I am certain that we disagree on many things, but he seems disinclined to embrace ideological extremes. That’s all the common base that any two people need.

Later in the week, I’m put further at ease when he asks me “Who’s Ayn Rand?” after I mention seeing one of her books in the window of a casino bookstore.

“A selfish hypocrite.”

We are in town for a convention that seems close to overflowing the walls of the Sands Expo. The subject matter is interesting, but the food is terrible and every room is uncomfortably packed. They open the show floor for two hours on the eve of the convention for a reception and navigating the clogged mass of humanity slowly rolling through the room borders on frightening.

The me of ten years ago would have abandoned ship after looking into the room or otherwise collapsed in a ball of anxiety and claustrophobia.

I have the advantage of height and can see above the crowd, but struggle to not trample on the shorter people around me. Keep moving and get out of the way.

We settle into a cycle of vendor meetings, eating, walking the show floor, and catching up on work. The day/night cycling of artificial light and sky-frescoed ceilings merge the days together. We are relieved when we discover a route from our hotel rooms to the convention space that circumvents the gaming floor, which is filled with cigarette smoke, sadness, and an ignorance of statistical probability.

In the evenings I stare out my hotel window and work on a presentation I’m supposed to give at the next convention I’m scheduled to attend. Unfortunately, that means I’ll be back in Vegas in three weeks.