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The Enthusiast

[The Enthusiast]

Battling for hearts and minds in Vegas, baby

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Photo: Tom Donoghue
Molly O'Donnell

It’s 4 a.m., and I’m desperately trying to remember what I wanted to say. A man who looks like he hasn’t left the slot machine in three days is smoking on me, not near me. My diet has been steadily declining since Christmas, its last iteration consisting of pizza and Pedialyte. And I’m beginning to realize I might not make it to Day 5 of my friends’ New Year’s visit.

At one point, as we’re leaving Frankie’s Tiki Room for the Strip, I beg no one in particular, “If we could just stay here a little longer …” You know you’re in a bad place when staying at Frankie’s seems like the tame option.

This is all made more severe because like Eudora Welty’s character Gloria, I think, “If it’s going to be a case of Saint George and the Dragon, I might as well battle it left, right, front, back, center and sideways.” Meaning not only do I never admit to being bested, I never give up on the idea of introducing visitors to Las Vegas’ cultural and natural wonders—trying to redefine their “Vegas, baby” conceptions by heading to Red Rock, Mount Charleston, the National Atomic Testing Museum, the Smith Center … Anything and everything that doesn’t involve Elvis. Or at least re-imagines Elvis in some artistic way.

But I know I’m losing, because my steps fail on a hike. I lose interest in mushroom cloud explosions. I nap lightly at the lodge on the mountain. And I curse a little under my breath at the people I’m supposed to be entertaining. They’re on a vacation high, and I’m losing the battle, largely because I’m the only one aware that a battle is being waged. I’m the only one devastated by dinner at the Golden Steer as opposed to, say, Triple George or Oscar’s.

Presumably, we’ve all been here, throwing ’bows up to a bar you’re not sure you even like just to order $12 beers for friends who might not even want them. That’s what it’s like to live in a place everyone else thinks is party town. And it’s especially true as each year comes to an end. You think you’re an adult until your friends come to town, and then you know you’re one, because you’re too tired to hang late-night and conjure the energy for the requisite witty dialogue.

But then the predictable happens. Your guests don’t hold grudges over your fatigue or occasional swearing. They generously hug you and say that you made their trip fun. They board planes and leave, and you unload enough recycling to make the lady behind you raise an eyebrow.

And that’s when it hits you: Your friends and family, the people you’re a more interesting person for knowing, will come back for the same reason you thought you spent all week losing: You live in Las Vegas, and they love you for this. So you’ve won the war after all, provided they don’t come back for at least another year.

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