They came. Thousands of years ago, they came to the Pool of Bethesda – the lame, the halt, the deaf, the blind, the disabled, the paralyzed, the unwell, the sick, the dying. It was said that from time to time an angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one into the pool would receive a miracle and be healed.
And now, 2000 years later, they still come with their wheelchairs, walkers, canes and crutches, with their hearing aids and oxygen bottles, with their white canes, service dogs and black glasses. No, not to the pool at Bethesda, but to Las Vegas. In seeming isolation they sit by their own personal pools, waiting for the angel to stir the waters and line up 3 of a kind, for the bells and whistles to jangle and shriek, for the coins to clatter into the tray.
Who are these thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands roaming the streets and casinos of Las Vegas? They are all ages, all sizes, nationalities, colors but there seems to be a universal search for something. All are subjected to the same ear-blasting, pumping cacophony of music blared inside and out. All are exposed to the same cigarette smoke and alcohol-induced gaiety. All weave or stumble through the apparently endless ebb and flow of this river of fun-seekers and risk-takers.
Everything is for sale here from high-end deluxe goods and tacky souvenirs, from the practical batteries and tissues, to the “signature cocktails” (glass included) and overpriced mediocre entertainment. But most of all, people come to buy the illusions of excitement, fun, sex and riches.
I see multigenerational families – Asian, Indian, Arabic, Hispanic – and I wonder what the old grannies think of all this hub-bub. I see young couples, some seeming under the voting age, with dad carrying a toddler on his shoulders, mom with the newborn in a pack on her chest and each of them taking a turn wheeling the in-between one in the stroller. Are they really having fun in the midst of the noise, the smoke, the frantic pace? Are the children having fun, exhausted and over-stimulated at midnight?
I see the groups of young girls? young women? in their tanks or tube tops and miniskirts, tottering up and down the 5 mile long Strip in their 4 inch platform heels. Are they working girls? Did their mothers never tell them to cover up and keep warm or they’d catch a cold? Or are they normal young women chasing the dream of finding love, wealth and/or fame?
Woven among these groups are the young men in their low-riding pants, baseball caps and falling apart shoes. They seem to travel in packs, usually carrying adult beverages and punching each other randomly. They seem harmless but then can you ever really be certain with pack animals?
And then there are the “click-click” men. These are usually short, stocky, swarthy, hoody-wearing guys, thrusting cards at you offering “GIRLS!!!!!! Direct to You in 20 Minutes!!!!!” They target the men tourists. Some take the cards; others cling to their wife’s arm more tightly and avert their eyes.
People come to Las Vegas for many reasons. Some come to see the shows. Some come to find that elusive something. Some come because it’s on the way to somewhere else. Most come to gamble. But maybe everyone everywhere is hoping the angel will stir the waters and give us a miracle.