Life in Las Vegas Essay

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Life in Las Vegas

Hell is expensive. This is my first thought as my plane lands in Las Vegas. The
Luxor hotel's glass pyramid seems dangerously close to the runway's edge, as do its chocolate-and-gold sphinx and rows of shaved palms. I wonder if these rooms tremble when jets land. Behind the Luxor are mountains kissed by dust the hue of bone; to its left lies the Strip, where color is so bright it looks like it has died, rotted, and come back as a poisonous flower.

I have been forewarned. First, I am told flying in at noon is "not the way to enter Vegas." Correct entry is at night. This way I would have the full treatment of neon and glowing sky. As a child, I was taught not to buy into anything at night. The spoiled,
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"There's a small but steady amount of suicides we call 'jumpers,'" states Sgt.
Bill Keeton of Metro Police. "They're generally tourists. Some jump off an overpass, even Hoover Dam, but casinos are first choice. Balconies. The hotels wised up. Roofs stay locked."

Las Vegas has other names for its fatalities. "Snowbirds" are retirees from the
Northwest who settle here or come to gamble their pension funds. "Downwinders" are former Utah residents fighting cancer who lived downwind of radioactive breezes in the fifties and sixties. Nuclear testing was only one desert valley away; like the airport now, it was so close hotel rooms shook.

"It's not necessarily gamblers," Keeton goes on. "Just people who've planned one last fling. We used to get a lot from Los Angeles. Now it's people from all over the world. We had a young man fly in from Ireland. On his immigration card, it said he seemed either on drugs or depressed. He came here and went to a pistol range, shot targets for a while, then took his gun into a bathroom and killed himself. His family in Ireland kept asking, why Las Vegas? At that same pistol range, a man from Japan shot himself in his shooting stall. It's strange."

I hear other stories. Of a wealthy man from Malibu, in the computer business, who committed suicide with sleeping pills and a plastic bag, in a luxury suite at the Mirage. His body was found next to the room's baby grand piano. He had bad relations with his ex-wife.
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