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Circus, Circus

Circus, Circus

A visit to Las Vegas shows up the seductiveness of illusion, and reinforces that there is no place like home.

by

I always thought that the most mind-numbing, "kosher," out-of-reality experience was shopping.

When life is getting you down, chocolate provides temporary relief, but shopping will gain you a few solid hours –- hours when your world narrows its focus and everything outside the store or particular item within your immediate view fades away.

Nothing else has any reality –- not your family, not your friends, not your job, not your life goals, not even the bills that will await you. It's very powerful; and I thought there was nothing like it.

Until we went to Las Vegas.

A MIRAGE

Summer vacation, the hotels were cheap, and we were assured it had been transformed into a family town. So on the spur of the moment we hopped into the car. Okay, so a family of eleven doesn't exactly hop into a car, let's say we loaded the car with our minimal needs (don't ask!) and headed out.

It was around 8:30 p.m. when we left LA and we drove for hours through black desert. Very dark and very flat.

All of the sudden, there arose shimmering out of the night sky, this bizarre vision of neon, Thomas Edison gone mad.

All of the sudden, there arose shimmering out of the night sky, this bizarre vision of neon, Thomas Edison gone mad.

No wonder they call one of the hotels "The Mirage." I was suddenly struck by this uncontrollable urge to click my heels together whispering "There's no place like home, there's no place like home."

And we weren't there yet.

We arrived at our hotel –- Circus, Circus –- at about 1:30 a.m., worn out and tired, expecting to greeted by some weary desk clerks and a few stragglers like ourselves.

Instead we entered a city of noise and light. Chandeliers were twinkling, slot machines were whirring, hundreds of people were milling about (the hotel's 4,000 rooms were all full!) and time was turned on its head.

THE TOWN THAT NEVER SLEEPS

This is the town that never sleeps. How can it? With all that artificial light, with no windows, no view of the sun or the moon, everyone has lost touch.

My husband sunk into a disoriented stupor from which he never fully recovered while our children's heads twirled round and round like pirouetting ballerinas, unsure where to look first.

My husband sunk into a disoriented stupor while our children's heads twirled round and round like pirouetting ballerinas.

Was there any balance available?

For two days we immersed ourselves in the scene. We toured gigantic hotels, palatial-size complexes containing entire shopping malls (shopping too -- a double whammy), amphitheaters, restaurants, zoos, casinos, arcades and traveling circus acts.

We adapted to the rhythm of the place (all too easily), and our body clocks responded as expected to the blackout curtains.

HOLDING ON TO SANITY

Our sanity briefly resurfaced when we made our way to the one kosher restaurant in Las Vegas for dinner.

Here chaos of a different sort reigned, this being the only kosher dining spot trying to satisfy a mob of hungry vacationers.

We saw acquaintances from Los Angeles and, desperate to reach out and touch someone, treated them like long lost friends. We felt a surge of health flow though our veins. We had community. We had values. We had a relationship with God. We had stability.

But not for long.

We had to be back for the 9:15 "flying trapeze" act, the 10:00 acrobatics and the 10:30 jump rope special.

We needed to see the pirate show at Treasure Island and the white tigers at The Mirage (a brief respite to admire God's creations).

We had to tour the Coca-Cola factory where we were reminded what the truly "real thing" was.

We had to tour the Coca-Cola factory where we were reminded what the truly "real thing" was, we had to see MGM Grand and Caesar's Palace. We hadn't spent a nickel in a slot machine, hadn't gone near a roulette or blackjack table and we were dizzy and exhausted.

CRAVING HOME

We had planned to stay for Shabbos near the local synagogue but we needed home. We needed focus. We needed friends and family and community. We needed to get our bearings and ground ourselves. We needed reality.

So we came home. We rested and were refreshed. We spent Shabbos lunch at the home of people we care about, we shared the wisdom of the Almighty's Torah, and we reconnected with our Creator.

My husband's face regained its normally intelligent expression and the world was familiar again.

How easy it is to get disoriented, to lose our bearings; how important to get quickly back on track.

How easy it is to get disoriented, to lose our bearings; how important to get quickly back on track.

With renewed energy, now that we're awake and refocused, we think about the fun we had. But the illusions can stay there; I'll take the good-old-fashioned reality of home any day. Hmmm, I just saw this great deal in the paper...airfare to Las Vegas and 2 nights in a hotel at a very low price...

Published: August 26, 2000


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Visitor Comments: 2

(2) Shawna Parker, August 28, 2000 12:00 AM

Enjoyable View of Las Vegas

I grew up in Las Vegas and still live here; I actually love Las Vegas and think it's a wonderful place to live (but don't tell anyone - they'll move here!) It's been 12 years or so since I've lived elsewhere and come back to Las Vegas with "fresh" eyes. Ms. Braverman's article reminded me how I felt when I first came back from college - as if I'd entered some strange time-warp into an alternate reality. But after a while, you get re-adjusted to this reality.

Las Vegas can be (and is) whatever kind of reality you want to create. When I want to lose myself and become a tourist, I take a mini-vacation in a suite at the Luxor and play tourist. It's like a completely different world.

Next time you come to Vegas, Ms. Braverman, I would be happy to take you on a tour of the real Las Vegas; maybe you can last longer if you have a dose of reality in the midst of your vacation.

(1) Anonymous, August 27, 2000 12:00 AM

This is so sadly true

I have 2 children that work in casinos, they don't know day from night most of the time. This article is great and true, I know.

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