It’s a displeasure crossing paths with certain kinds of ex-Metropolitans in Las Vegas. Not those who’ve self-exiled themselves to Nevada rather than Florida from the Bronx or Brooklyn after careers in the trades, lifelong housewives in tow, both of whom lovingly lament forsaking “their New York City,” yet on a dime can recite chapter and verse complaints about how the modern boroughs now resemble strange worlds populated by aliens.
That group has earned its loud plaid pants, white shoes and belts, as well as teased-to-giggling blue rinse coifs. The vast majority of them are to be revered. Their generation raised mine.
Pampered as we growing Boomers were, especially compared to parents who endured the Depression then won World War II, they also gave birth to the consumer society by indulging us their children. Nonetheless what gift can replace any nurturing parent?
Instead, the former New Yorkers referred to who cast lousy reputations against the hardy brand are younger, therefore immature and verging upon ignorance.
Two weeks before Christmas, I had the misfortune of crossing paths with the sort of people who would’ve barely registered in Gotham. Or would’ve left shallow impressions, the kind fully earning serious side eye. But here in Las Vegas they were beacons. Dull beacons.
Let’s call them Louis and Marie.
Seated apart inside a nighttime aerie lounge with the Strip stretched into a luminous panorama before us, we drank cocktails. Mine were enjoyed. They took refuge in theirs.
Louis and Marie had spent a considerable amount of their evening drowning slight sorrows. That is if having flash jobs which paid big boodles, provided swank lifestyles, and ensconced in what locals mistake for rarefied heights may be seen as burdensome. Despite the apparent advantages of their elevations, dissatisfaction had settled upon the Nevada versions of Dick and Nicole Diver.
If ennui were a faith, then on this night Louis and Marie officiated as its high priest and priestess.
A young man who ought’ve been on the cusp of true confidence, Louis was lean, fey and wan. Balding, he’d shorn his skull whistle clean. His head glistened, though his eyes were dim. A purely status watch failed confirming his place in the firmament.
Marie shared Louis’ comportment, complexion. Her long blonde hair couldn’t decide between lank and frowzy. She reflected plenty of spa visits but okey-doked the Pilates. Accessories thickened her wrists. These also collared her.
So unless Marie wore caftans, I expect she made few dayclub visits during Las Vegas summer.
Good living aside, something indistinct and indecipherable chaffed both. They sought either meaning or relief in alcohol. The copious kind which only numbs.
Each whinged. What was that old Saturday Night Live skit? The Whiners? Different ethnicity, less grating, but same regrets.
Of the pair Marie held the money. Louis pushed their ambitions. Such as they were. By demonstrating interest he had her.
Their chatter drove towards clever, maybe even arch. It didn’t get far, face-planting on bitchy.
Marie came from New York. Well, she stated herself a city girl. Allegedly she’d been spawned and raised in one Manhattan’s platinum zip codes. She spoke loud enough to be intentionally overheard. You know, to influence and impress listeners having zero idea of the true pecking order.
If Marie just wasn’t blowing smoke, then her folks wasted a lot of time and money in providing private school education and refinement lessons. This chick’s gilded gloves got soiled quick.
Louis was some Californian (Hello, Hemet!) who’d escaped East for education. One can only imagine the sights and sounds and freaks he encountered below 14 Street at 4 in the morning. Surely no peyote inspired desert visions had anything on them. Likely brusquely denied entry into the circle he must’ve admired Louis nevertheless glommed several of its least admirable traits.
Marie first among them.
Kindred through being shunted onto the periphery, I don’t doubt for a second this the basis behind their seal.
In certain Manhattan or Greenwich precincts those two lightweights would’ve been exposed and taunted instantly. And likely had been. Hence hightailing West. In Nevada, didn’t they find reprieve as well as enthronement? Here, the standards, what little exist by comparison, are so loose as to be untied.
Marie affected a debutante on the way to dissolute party girl shade. One who nested in a not very taxing career. The kind that sufficed until being rescued by a worthier métier. Something esoteric, like, I dunno, something. Current co-workers ranged beneath her. Including the fellow signing those checks she cashed. Especially that signatory. She made that point quite clear.
Louis’ days involved a field requiring imagination and tact. This being Nevada and him absent both, lying convincingly and inflating small bona fides furnished his cushy spot. Give him this: eviscerations of his colleagues, limp as they were, had more tang than hers. And here I always thought women were bitchier than men.
Speaking taxed them. (Listening to them expel hot air taxed me.) As if the accumulation of thought, the accretion of words, their arrangement, then the actual effort behind expulsing them laborious. So they spoke in downbeat choruses.
Hearing the non sequiturs meandering between the couple might’ve further amused had they not spoiled it by flinging snarky darts at the staffs of seemingly almost every emporium they’d visited and contaminated that night. It’s sad when those who having somehow deluded themselves into senses of superiority then lash out at others mistakenly regarded beneath them.
Of the two only Louis had known real labor. If Marie knew about toil it was in the abstract.
No stretch guessing Louis saw himself beyond what passed for him as early menial living. Even as a caterpillar, Louis envisioned himself as a monarch. That he possessed aspiration recommended him. That he never appreciated those rising times, now failing to empathize with any whose currents station hovered low, or may’ve been detours or a roads along their upward rises or even represented plateaus, exhibited a selectively blotted memory.
But then who among us doesn’t edit his or her past?
Nonetheless a left turn rather than the right one taken, the closed elevator door which forces a stair climb, and perhaps Louis’ present career involves servility and not cracking weak about service. Sometimes we all ignore that dumb luck is often our most rewarding skill.
Having had the pleasure of working for a living, I admire anyone whom fortune has bestowed with wealth or privilege knowing how good they have it. That they are aware vast majorities of others actually must scuff. Blind, Louis and Marie stood outside that circle.
Most jobs aren’t prestigious. However, any honest job executed capably and competently bestows dignity. What recompense surpasses that?
Only the small and insecure must lord it over “inferiors.” Poor Louis’ and Marie’s world must be a dreadful state.