GAH. This is the third time I’ve started this post.

This, I think, is my problem: Hunter S. Thompson.

Yeah, thanks, Hunter. Because after you, any account of Vegas will simply form itself into an absorptive wad in an attempt to mop up any of your leftover excitement.

During my recent foray into sin city, I neither trashed a hotel room nor had visions of anthropomorphic desert animals. The latter might have been fun, but I also didn’t have any mescalin. I did, however, experience just a little of what good ol’ Hunter was after…the ever-elusive solace in excess.

The road from Los Angeles to Las Vegas blows through desert and dust and constant mirage. C has descended straight from driving heaven and pedals us the whole way there. I’m allowed to gaze out the window, whine about how loud the talk radio is, and fall asleep lolling against his arm.

I’ve been looking forward to this trip for about a month…in my LA-bloated state, somehow LV seems like a panacea. I have no idea why – I don’t frequent the place, but I’ve been there enough to know that after the first night, I’m kind of over it. I’m the person who really enjoys the Chihuly glasswork in the lobby of the Bellaggio. I’m profoundly not the person who goes clubbing until dawn.

But you know what? I packed a dangerously short dress and by god, I wore it. More on that later.

Part of the reason this trip was appealing was that it was a gift. Someone else bought it for us, and all we had to do (as I learned when I called just before the expiration date) was participate in a timeshare presentation. Sure, no problem. Couple hours scoffing at the brainwashing techniques, then back to lying poolside with my Studs Terkel book.

Sidenote: No one brings a book to the pool in Vegas. No one except me and C. More on that later.

So the morning of the second day, C and I growled out of bed, got coffee, and growled over to guest services. We joined a group of about 30 people who got name tags (I HATE nametags), filed onto a shuttle, and were driven 15 minutes south of the strip to get sold the vacationing lifestyle.

They promised it would be a two to three hour presentation, “depending on the level of interest.”

(If you ever find yourself subjected to this procedure, under “Income” write “Weekly allowance from Mom and Dad if I do the dishes,” and this “level of interest” thing will be a non-issue.)

FOUR-AND-A-HALF hours later, we knew the intimate details of Kathi’s life – that for a brief period she suffered from seizures (brought on by stress) and cannot remember huge swaths of her own life. Her kids show her photos of vacations they took, family fun, and she says she just smiles and agrees when they say didn’t we have a good time?

C and I had a brief recon before the presentation – we considered pretending that we didn’t speak English. We decided the best strategy would be polite indifference.

“OH MY GOD,” we chorused, horrified, when Kathi related her various tragedies. “THAT’S TERRIBLE.” We shook our heads and clucked and at one point I touched her arm. I do that. I’m touch-y. I can’t help it, goddammit.

We sat in a huge room filled with little square tables. At each table perched a sales agent and, usually, a tired-looking couple. Corey munched on one of the free sandwiches, and I sucked down lukewarm coffee. A clearinghouse of con men and their captive audience.

“You’re lucky you’re not in one of the group rooms,” Kathi chirped. “You gotta sit there for 96 minutes. They keep it real lively, though, of course.”

“OF COURSE,” we agreed in unison, seemingly a Greek chorus. I found myself scrambling to cover dead air, becoming intensely curious about how long do you train? what’s your success ratio? how many of the agents own timeshares?

What’s fun is how much faster everyone walks once you’ve told them, for the third time, that you don’t want to buy the timeshare. At the beginning of the presentation, Kathi ambled us around the property so we could ogle the pool, the dual kitchens, the 800 thread-count sheets on the king beds. At the end, after four arduous hours, after I finally said “LOOK, IT’S NOT THE MONEY. IT’S JUST MY PHILOSOPHY RIGHT NOW” the pace definitely quickened and we found ourselves shunted into a nondescript waiting area, then an airless cubicle, then back to the shuttle. I don’t think they train the agents to deal with anyone’s philosophy.

But you know what we got for our time? Two tickets to Criss Angel Believe. Upshot: I don’t.

Here’s what we ate while in Vegas: Dinner buffet at the Spice Market at Planet Hollywood (endless crab legs, natch), mojitos, turkey club, philly cheesesteak, seasoned waffle fries, lime beer, three-egg omelet with hashbrowns and wheat toast, coffee, coffee, coffee, red wine (me), 10-year scotch (C). I spent at least a third of the time moaning about feeling bloated. What?

Poolside in a small, zebra-print bikini and bloated aren’t good friends. Luckily, I had my large book, which made me feel even weirder. C read David Foster Wallace, so between the two of us, we must have appeared to be pale college professors let out of the pen.

Much later that night I put on the aforesaid small dress, a good deal of eye makeup, decently high heels and tottered into the night. Like Halloween. Strangers made me feel like $100 and my husband made me feel like a million. We gambled some amount in between and cashed out quickly.

I realized that I’m almost desperate writing this post. I’m frustrated and itchy. I think I’m allergic to Vegas.

One of the definitions of Vacation is “The action of leaving something one previously occupied.” I’m taking a vacation from my vacation. Back to my non-800-thread count sheets, my two disinterested cats and a kitchen floor that needs swiffering. Thank god I’m home.

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