So, I'm in Las Vegas for what feels like the hundredth time in the past five years. Whenever I tell people I have a booking in Vegas, I hear the same predictable responses:
"Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
And, of course,
"Hey, remember: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!"
Fact is, what Bugsy built here holds very little for me in the way of fulfillment. Las Vegas is fun to me for about half an hour.
Half an hour is about how long it takes for me to blow my limit on the slot machines.
Half an hour is about how long it takes to consume a fat laden, overpriced meal here.
Half an hour is about how long a good alcohol buzz lasts for me. After that, it's hours of feeling like a total slug.
Sorry, Dr. Thompson, but I would've made a lousy shotgun rider on your seminal wicked voyage through this desert in search of the American Dream. As your attorney, I advise you to drop me off somewhere around Reno.
So, rather than look a gift horse in the mouth (this is, after all, a great project that I'm working on while here), I'm looking at this city of neon and nanosecond gratification as a place to flex some Zen muscles. For two meals thus far, I've sat in a relatively quiet Asian restaurant reading Dzogchen Ponlop's terrific new book "Rebel Buddha". I've accepted that the time change will have its wicked way with me and am trying to use those early morning hours to meditate (not going so well) and to take an AM run (going better).
For its glamorous disposition, I find Las Vegas to be sort of a depressing town. So, the final act of Zen rebellion I am trying for the next few days is this: to make everyone I see smile. On the long walks from my room to Starbucks, the convention center, and the rehearsal spaces, I literally pass hundreds of people on each trip. Some are here to party, some look like they are here to play their last hand. It's a real mix of high spirits and wounded souls. Taking a page from the aforementioned "Rebel Buddha", I'm going to do what I can to nudge a spirit or two. Not with card tricks and handshakes, just simple eye contact and a smile. Of course, in Vegas, that could land you in a world of trouble, so I plan to keep moving, always.
Don't get me wrong. This isn't an act of pure beneficence. It's actually quite selfish. It's designed to help me get through the 14 hour days, as well as the lack of oxygen I tend to feel whenever I am in Las Vegas. It's turning a place that feels like it was built on broken dreams and fake boobs and digging for a little of the Nirvana that is bound to lie underneath the sin and silicone laden surface.
And, maybe - just maybe - that's something I can take back from Vegas with me, so I can be a bit more of that kind of person on my home turf.
Wow, imagine developing a good habit in Sin City.
For once, here's something that could happen in Vegas that shouldn't stay in Vegas.