Within Reach, Beyond Grasp

Happy New Year!

At the airport, ran into a woman who confided in me about the obscene amounts of ready cash coursing around Las Vegas. She didn’t bother swearing me to double-dog secrecy either. Guess I must wear an honest face.

Indeed the promiscuous currency swirling here between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City causes loss of senses, self-esteem and propriety. Not that any of those attributes were firmly tethered in the first place.

Better than watching them make water run uphill is seeing how plentiful dollars in every denomination can torque human bodies and the consciences into cartoon shapes. Forget 5 o’clock. The possibility of a worthwhile tip rouses the dead quicker.

Thankfully for my boundless cynicism, an indecent percentage of local Las Vegas half-steppers and the mamelukes serving them understand the power of money to cloud service workers’ minds. Isn’t there some silent movie which uses a tracking shot showing Daddy Moneybags and his spouse Momma Got Rocks purchasing hotel staff loyalty by creasing every outstretched palm with a bill on the long stroll towards a magnificent hotel’s reception desk?

If there isn’t, shouldn’t there be?

The other night in Las Vegas I watched and listened to indiscriminate money in action. Back in Quarropas even the crassest parvenus maintained certain restraint. More from peer pressure, if that’s what it can be called because really the level they aspired to truly beyond them.

In that New York region where urbanity slides into suburban splendor then canters into horse country, money only confers wealth. While the person with the biggest pile is acknowledged, the admiration received isn’t necessarily commensurate with the account balance.

When I still lived east of the Hudson River, I loved reading stories about some freshly-made Midas who tried buying prestige by forking over a sizable donation to whatever fashionable “cause” left the biggest splash. There’d always result in an instance of disappointment when the check failed permitting instant rise into the level aspired.

Accustomed as these people were to instant gratification after littering money, returning to incremental steps must’ve seemed unjust. Good.

The smart ones understood the process a gradual one. That if acceptance were extended it would be eventual. Those who were impatient instead funded their own cachet-breeding entities. Briefly impressive, these efforts at self-esteeming plumping quickly became so much cheap perfume against the noble label brands.

Las Vegas is awash in cheap perfume.

Skip higher aspirations. More than probably almost anywhere else, cash is king here. Maybe not excusing, it certainly glosses over the worst behavior. And although plenty of other locales bear the same relationship, at least elsewhere some slight modicum of shame leaves its residue. Here, even that is wiped away.

One late December night I witnessed a fine example of this.

A burly young man whose father had done all his heavy lifting caromed through evening accompanied by a petulant female cousin and her equally crabby BFF. These three feckless specimens joined us adults in a lounge.

For a night out on the town, the trio wore the labels and symbols braying status. The flipside of bold and confident, he was brusque and ambivalent. Only an ever-present cell phone guided and a bill roll anchored him. In turn, he steered the two women.
He loved pulling out and waving his roll. Perhaps the habit a tic or his binky.

This trio shared jumpy eyes. The quick twitch glances which rapidly scanned whether someone important around to call them on a whole host of deficiencies money just couldn’t conceal or lessen the odor.

He and his retinue had no idea what they wanted but only knew they wanted something at that moment. Loud and insistent, they were the sort who when shown having acted wrong let a bill peeled off his roll suffice for apology.

This being Vegas, neither the contemptible nor the put-upon leant any meaningful weight on the transgression or its contrition. Contrasting what occurred here against how it would’ve played out back East was easy.

Despite frequent instances of unearned money bestowing undeserved entitlement there, eastern service industry workers aren’t burdened with the same expectations of servility as their western counterparts. Furthermore, all but the densest of new money knows how to treat those believed subordinates. Moreover, plenty of the former aren’t all that far removed from themselves or relations who’ve recently risen above or still perform menial duties.

Distance has not yet transformed right from wrong into a lofty conceit.

In the West there is that remove. Rather than remember origins, Westerners dash from the past. Unlike Easterners, history isn’t behind Westerners but beneath them.

Likely explains why there are fewer preservation efforts in the West than East.

Same evening. Four stylishly attired, shapely, long-limbed young women loosely stalk through nighttime Las Vegas on mile-high heels. Taking little seriously, enjoying the perks of their youth, energy, and looks, their attraction draws approval.

If overheard correctly, each of the four was a Middle Easterner. In Las Vegas because families’ wealth kept them beyond the region’s turmoil; here because America offered safety and everything else otherwise tenuous in their home countries.

Americans take our advantages for granted. Smart foreigners don’t.

In the lounge, during some transaction a service staff member committed a mistake. Admittedly a bonehead mistake. Who hasn’t made them? But still. At most, and even this is a stretch, it’s a nuisance.

Rather than accept it as such, the burly young man, feeling grievously sinned against, nearly melted down in anger. His vocal hammering almost prostrated the server. Few in the room noticed the precipitating incident but his reaction to it gained rapt interest.

Aware of the darkening focus upon him, the increasing disdain being earned, the aggrieved abruptly shackled his mouth. In a big gesture solely intended to demonstrate generosity, the former fuse reached into his pants pocket and yanked his wad. Maybe he showcased the horsechoke a second longer than necessary before unfurling a Jackson and letting it land on the wary server beneath his glare.

Cheesy as it was, the act satisfied those witnessing. Whether the twenty mollified the staffer just humiliated immaterial. Decorum had been ruffled; now it had been restored. What else mattered?

The trio further huddled in their banquette, one which seemed to shrink from the room under dimming light.

On this slow winter evening, the only other people around worth watching didn’t disappoint. This lounge merely served as the quartet’s planning pit stop. After a round of overpriced, over-presented drinks, they’d then swan onto somewhere substantial for some serious seeing and being seen.

To a woman, the four were gracious. Rather, their comportment struck grace notes. That alone distinguished them from Americans. Rare would be any contemporaneous Yankee sweetheart who could exhibit such style. This generation has a surfeit of technical know-how though next to nothing regarding social skills; the ones which civilize us. Cold and aloof would be steps up from their common obliviousness and extended precocity.

The quartet didn’t so much flirt with waiters and bussers pulled into their gravitational fields. Nor did the women tease. Both sides engaged in genial playfulness each knew impossible to proceed beyond. The four women understood their allure. Instead of feigning repulsion by the attention, they agreeably accepted the tribute.

Despite the ego stroke delivered through appreciative male gazes, same-age American women might’ve gotten into snits about such due.

In that case why get glammed up and attend conspicuous places? Being considered is the desired intent, no? Otherwise stay home. Or wear burkas. The Middle Eastern women would’ve been wasted visions inside burkas.

But then likely a step ahead they probably knew that better than all others inside the room.