Craig Shoemaker


Heaving Las Vegas


“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

Er, no.

I got news for the Nevada tourism board – my chapped lips came back home with me. Your town might be wet with excitement, but that air could chafe a waterfall.

I spent last weekend in Las Vegas. When I say, “spent,” I mean it in every definition of the word. All five senses appeared to be under attack, and days later I’m still recovering. My eyes water from the sand storms, my nose bleeds from the arid climate, and I’m still trying to get the taste of bad taste wiped from my memory.

I didn’t touch a natural textile once, and my feelings about myself are lower than worm sweat after the beating I took from the video poker machines. The slots ringing and binging to temp you into putting money in them should be replaced by the sound of a toilet flushing.

There doesn’t appear to be anything real in the land of fake believe. No wonder so many magicians find work beyond kid parties in this place – everything there is an illusion.

If organic is what you seek, Las Vegas is certainly not your spot. Extended consciousness is not on the buffet menu. If you sat on a rock there to meditate, there’s a good chance the boulder is actually a plastic speaker pumping out hip-hop. I dove into a pool and I was forced to hear Brittney Spears underwater!

I think the vibe in Sin City parallels much of what our country has evolved into, and I use the term “evolve” loosely. So much posing and posturing, when I see little genuine laughter or joy on the faces of the revelers. There are countless photos taken of the wild night on the town, but putting your arm around your buddy and drunkenly yelling, “woo!!” at the top of your lungs doesn’t scream happy to me. By the way, to call it “Ladies Night” is a real stretch too. Few of those I saw are likely to be mistaken for Dame Judy Dench.

When I observe today’s pop-culture it appears as though we’ve become a shallow land of computer-generated unreality. It’s all about self and getting noticed, as if that will give rise to the esteem. There is a non-stop drive to get to the right party in a rented limo, as if the next place will lead to the answers we seek.

Somehow I don’t think “being in the light” means the neon variety. You can’t put “soul” into a search engine and find yours.

Silence is not golden in Las Vegas, and you would be hard pressed to find a place where your eyes and ears are more consistently bombarded into whatever local marketing genius decides you need to feel.

It’s MTV’s Jersey Shore without a boardwalk, although you can most likely find a replica of one. It makes me wonder what future generations will think of us when they unearth a casino Roman column made out of polyurethane with a fake fingernail imbedded in it from the teen with a fake tan got busy with a guy pretending to be The Situation, who seduced her with a date rape drug. I’d like to jump ahead in time and hear an archeological assessment of this place and period in time. We went from the Industrial Age to Bustier Age. Implants may be this Age’s dinosaur fossils.

I went out to a popular nightclub at the urging of my horn-dog buddy, who wanted company for his attempts at meeting ladies. It was akin to being witness to an execution. He tried to speak honestly and intelligently to the girls dressed as if they were attending hooker fantasy camp, but he was dead man talking. Words are not for these birds. As Elvis was meant to croon, “Diva Las Vegas.”

I’m so glad I’m not single. I’m not of prime age for going solo anyway. Unattached is for the youngins, not the middle aged and middle-girthed.

First, I like to eat a lot, which is okay if I’m part of the 99-cent daytime all-you-can-eat crowd, but not good for ab-mirers. If I have to watch my stomach muscles to entice a woman, then I’d rather live in a monastery and play Sunday volleyball with fellow friars. Then, no one has to know what kind of belly I’m hiding under my robe.

Another reason I’m so happy to be far removed from the dating scene is I feel as if my choices are about as good as a guy in Death Valley looking for a keg party.

The crop of eligible girls out on the town are either the age of my friends’ daughters, or a pack of 40-something cougars looking to collect their own Ashton Kutcher. Sometimes I want to scream at these ladies-in-denial, “Wake up! You don’t look like Demi Moore!” Plus, she’s a multi-millionaire megastar with a personal Botox injector on speed dial, and even she couldn’t prevent him from being Ashton Poacher.

The lusting ladies find out the hard way, when her overnight paramour observes her under a hundred-watt bulb. Wait till he sees her BP oil spill of makeup smeared on his dorm room pillowcase. Bye-bye Demi-glaze!

Somehow, the system of dating has evolved from going for someone around your own age, to grown women dating a guy 500 days evolved from being a teen. A guy who can’t afford rent on a studio walk up is now hopes to walk his 45-year-old date up a flight of stairs without her breaking a hip.

There are now actual “Cougar Clubs” and conventions, where women celebrate their victories over the young pups, and share info on good places to prowl for fresh meat. It’s so popular; they actually have a show on ABC called “Cougar Town.” Presumably the male equivalent is “To Catch a Predator!”

I did the math. For a cougar to prey upon me, it would have to be Betty White (I’m not saying I wouldn’t be willing – she’s heavily insured. But I am married, so Betty’s not an option.)

If I had a cougar supporting me, she’d likely do so by cashing her social security checks. Pretty much, if an age appropriate jungle cat were to check me out and be turned on by the thought of hooking up, there’s a good chance her ogling would be followed by a cane-assisted walk across the dance floor to do the “Watusi.”

I’m not operating under a double standard either. I believe men, too, should look for a mate who is close in age, for some day she will control his fate.

If you are a 50-year-old man with 22-year-old arm candy, how attractive will you be to her in ten years when she’s in her prime and you’re crossing the border for cheap bulk drugs to treat your anal warts and urinary tract infection?

There is a point where you go from mature and graying at the temples, to sporting a dome with thin, white wisps of hair accentuating the orange age spots. Before she can max out your credit cards you’ve gone from “distinguished” to “extinguish.”

Women tend to be more tolerant when good looks begin to fade, but only to a point. There’s a limit to how much body hair she’ll endure, or how many teeth she deems too few. When it gets down to carting Sasquatch to his ninth root canal, suffice to say molars won’t be the only thing missing. And, like teeth, she ain’t coming back.

I’m retired from the single scene now, and all too happy to share my life with a singular, age appropriate and enriched woman. Plus, considering the climate in which single young people act so rude and entitled without giving relationships the time they need to grow, it certainly doesn’t call me to enter that arena of self-obsession and short attention span.

A Kardashian sister wannabe who communicates in emoticons and text speak is surely not going to lead to sustainability, unless you consider a 72 day marriage a long-term commitment. Like reality TV, it’s about popularity over substance.

Then again, ratings for phony fare dominate our landscape, so maybe this is why folks flock to Vegas to recreate “The Hangover.” I used to aspire to see my name in lights on the strip, but now it holds about as much luster as winning an online bid for a Nano. And when you share the marquee with a Craps announcement, well…the symbolism is obvious.

I’ll stick with my own life, which to me is “the shit.” Dreams come true every day for me, where the only gamble of consequence is when I take the risk by telling my wife the pants do indeed make her look fat.

And that stays right in my home sweet home.

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