Sitting in seat 19E on Spirit Airlines flight 711 from DTW to LAS, cruising somewhere in the vicinity of 550mph at 39,000 feet, typing this blog in the trusty Notes app on my iPhone5. Spirit is always the cheapest direct flight between my original home and my current home. If it wasn’t, there’s no way I would continue to cram myself into these squashed rows whenever a trip was in order. I think about that, but then I often remember that Louis C.K. bit about how we need to appreciate the miracle of flight and be thankful for the ability to even travel at all. It helps a little.
I spent 3 weeks in Michigan. The first week was a unique one. 1800 miles driven in a massive MI roadtrip with my younger brother Jonathan, stopping in breweries located all over the mitten. There are over 100 such businesses in the Great Lake state, and while visiting every last one was an impossibility, the trip was a massive success. Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, Sault St. Marie, Copper Harbor, Marquette, Oscoda, Port Huron… Plus a dip in (freezing) Lake Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes, and a glorious 3 hour hike at a heavenly and appropriately named Lake of the Clouds. Our first time visiting the Upper Peninsula, and the timing was perfect. Michigan in the summertime is unbeatable. Michigan craft beers, also top notch.
So top notch that I likely had too many of them, and probably not enough sleep, which resulted in a brutal cold infecting my body and knocking me out of commission for the entire second week. Super lame.
The third week was spent as a combination of doing housework (standard for any time I visit the parents) and attempting to see a few people I don’t get to see enough of these days. Impossible to see everyone in such short time, but an effort was made.
My return to Las Vegas feels very bittersweet. I haven’t seen my beautiful fiancée in 3 weeks and couldn’t be more excited to do so. I’m super lucky to have found someone who loves to be around me as much as I do her, yet is also as independent as I am and is supportive of my travels. I could go on the most massive of all downswings and still come out ahead in the life game thanks to the run good I had in finding her.
That’s the sweet side. The bitter portion is a result of what seems to be a potential start to being over Las Vegas life. Often when I’m playing a poker session into the very wee hours, I’ll see people with suitcases checking out of the hotel, presumably returning to their respective homes. When I first moved to the desert, and for several years thereafter, I would be so thankful that I never had to check out. That I could stay as long as I wanted in this fantasyland of a town, keep to whatever hours I felt like, leave for a short time if I desired but always return. I felt a little bad for them, perhaps condescendingly, that they hadn’t figured out what I had: You could actually live in the place you love visiting so much.
Las Vegas has been home base for 6.5 years now. For some that’s a really long time, and for others it’s a fraction of their time spent here. I arrived at the exact moment all economic hell was breaking lose. I didn’t really know it fully, because I was too busy soaking in all the fun that was still available at all hours. But I will never forget what a particular billboard just off the I-15 had proclaimed that the Stratosphere was offering at the time:
“Wager 1 green chip [$25] and your room is free.”
Since then, Vegas has evolved and returned to glory in a couple of ways. It is currently the Ibiza of North America, which may or may not mean anything to you, but I personally think is really cool. Casino revenue now accounts for less than half of all entertainment spend by tourists. Downtown, an incredibly impressive number of new businesses have opened up, funded and led by the experimental Downtown Project and Tony Hsieh. If you are interested in startup businesses, the entrepreneurial types and that culture, then DTLV is fascinating and super fun.
The problem for Las Vegas, for me, is this feeling of being disconnected from, well, everyone. An island without water, aside from the Bellagio fountains and a shrinking Lake Mead. The dry desert, inhabited by those here to hustle, whether that’s to launch a business and bank on low taxes or hawk bottle service or play better GTO poker. You can easily get away from the strip and forget about monolith casino companies, but you’re still in the desert.
Does that matter? It could be so much worse, right? It’s not like you’re in the fucking Syrian desert, man. Too right. The cost-of-living-to-
But so are some other places. Portland is awesome. California is beautiful and fun and diverse. Austin is supposed to be great. Chicago is a fantastic city.
I don’t know what the next move will be or when, but I do know that when I feel more and more jealous about those folks with their suitcases in the early mornings, it’s clearly time to start thinking about it. After all, the games in Vegas are the toughest anywhere.