Dances With Rex
On Monday, I had to get out of Las Vegas.
I was feeling claustropobic. Same brown mountains, same stifling heat, same gridlock ... I just needed out for a couple of hours. The problem with "getting out of Las Vegas for the day", however, is that there is really nowhere to go. At least nowhere that is not also in the middle of the desert.
When I lived on the east coast, it was fairly common for me to go to a completely different metropolitan area on a whim. Philadelphia for a concert, Baltimore for crabs (yes, Maryland whores are unclean), Boston for the weekend ... whether it was via Amtrak or car, I got around quite a bit.
It is not possible to do this in Vegas. The entire Valley is quite literally an island. A dirt island. 300 miles west, 800 miles north, 500 miles east, 1,000 miles south ... dirt, dirt, dirt, and dirt. There are only two roads in or out, and both of those roads are deserted and creepy.
For me, this has always been a psychological barrier to overcome. I could never live in a place like Hawaii because it's too small and isolated, and Vegas is on the threshold of tolerability. When I drive from Vegas to LA, I rarely stop. I've always wanted to check out Zzyzx Road and the vacant Rock-a-Hula waterpark, but as soon as those places loom in the windshield, my palms start sweating. I have what I would consider to be a real, bona-fide phobia of super-wide-open spaces.
I'm only comfortable around buildings, restaurants, mass transit, taxicabs, high-speed internet, cellphones, black people, and noise. If I cannot hear traffic outside of my window, I feel as if I am in a sensory deprivation chamber. I actually appreciate the fact that I can hear the Sahara roller coaster rumble through the night every ten minutes from my Vegas home.
Anyway, even though there are few getaways from Vegas that aren't small desert towns, I had to go anyway.
This being the case, I called up one of my few friends in this town that have not already beat a hasty retreat (about 80% of the people I knew in 2007 have moved), and I asked for a ride.
"Where do you need to go?", he asked.
"I don't really give a shit", I replied, "just out of Las Vegas".
"I can't drive to LA", he said.
"I don't want to go to that armpit, either", I said, "I just want to get the hell out of here for a couple of hours".
After a bit more cajoling and convincing which involved a large amount of whining and threats of self-harm in drama queen fashion befitting Lindsay Lohan, I won my case. We decided to simply drive for an hour until we could no longer see any part of the Las Vegas Valley and let the chips fall where they may.
At about 6pm, we drove out of Rexville, pointed the vehicle north on I-15, and drove. While riding in the passenger seat, I was obsessed with trying to figure out how to relay my GPS coordinates to Twitter, but it never quite worked out. The reason I wanted this to happen was so that there would be a public record of my last known location should I never be seen again, or so that people would know where to rescue me if I twatted "A man is chasing me around the side of a mountain screaming 'squeal piggie'". This was a real possibility. I've seen Deliverance.
About 45 minutes into the trip, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere, and decided that it might be wise to turn around. We had accomplished our goal of getting out of Vegas, but now we were just wasting time and gas.
We pulled off onto the first exit we found, and what did I see?
"Great, we left Las Vegas and drove to a casino", I said, "this is the worst getaway ever".
Situated next to a smoke shop, and a truck stop, was the "Moapa Tribal Casino".
"Wow, it's an Indian Casino, though. I've never been inside of one, let's go", I said.
My partner acquiesced, and we locked up the car and wallked into the structure. Once inside, I took stock of the place and I was quickly underwhelmed.
I'm not sure what I was expecting exactly. Perhaps men in elaborate feathered headdresses dancing around a fire and large peyote pipes being passed out by cocktail waitresses in foxskin thongs. Instead, I found a small, non-descript room filled with slots and video poker machines. It was disappointing. There was nothing "Indian" about it whatsoever. It was quite ordinary, if not a little more boring than ordinary. If I could describe it in any way, I would say that it looked and felt like a less opulent Dotty's Casino.
There were a few (mostly older) people sitting around hitting buttons on video machines, but for the most part, the place was very quiet. The machines seemed to have okay 9/6 8/5-based payouts, but the actual game machines themselves were pretty old. So old that they still had coin Slots. Actually, that is one thing that I can say positive about the place. They still had cups and coins and this was a nice throwback from the TITO-dominated Las Vegas corporate casinos.
Aside from that, well, I don't get it. With Las Vegas only 40 miles in the distance, I don't understand why someone would stop here to play. I'm not trying to be rude ... I say the same thing about the casinos in 7-11's. The very notion that someone would stop and play in a convenience store with The Strip looming in the distance just seems weird.
Without stressing about the odds, I put about $5 into a Video Poker machine, played a few hands, and quickly busted out. I knew that after I was done gambling, I would drive back to my home which is literally blocks away from some of the world's largest and most opulent casinos. The irony of me sitting in some hole-in-the-wall in the middle of Bumblefuck, Nevada was not lost on me, and I just couldn't get into it. After a grand total of perhaps 15 minutes, we left the small casino and began driving back home.
Even though I didn't exactly drop a wad of cash, I can now say that I have officially gambled in an Indian casino. I rather doubt I will ever go back to this specific one, but I wouldn't mind checking some others out. There has got to be one out there with peyote pipes and foxskin bikinis.
As we drove home, for the first time in a long time, I could not wait to get back to Las Vegas. The isolation of the I-15 was getting to me, and when we rounded the last hill, and the sprawling lights of Las Vegas came into view, I actually felt relief. It's been awhile since I had that feeling.
Las Vegas. It's either heaven or hell, and at this moment, it was heaven.
Later in the night, I decided to stop by Smith's and pick up a few groceries for my home.
It's odd how quickly heaven can turn back into hell.
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