It’s a short flight. LAX to LAS in a little over an hour. Enough time maybe to crack open a can of Dejà Blue, the ordinary water with an extraordinarily fancy name, proudly distributed by the Dr Pepper company. I can see myself walking up to the bar at Chateau Marmont, wearing a tailored suit and a skinny tie, waiving the bartender to come over, and tell her in the manliest way I’m capable of: “Dejà Blue on the rocks.” She smiles at me and before she can turn around I add, “And a twist of lemon”. Ding. We’re starting our descent over the Nevada desert and the Fasten Seat Belt signal abruptly ends my day dream. Take it easy with the branding, Dr Pepper, it’s just a fucking water.
I light a cigarette as I’m waiting for a cab in front of the airport. The large thermometer outside the terminal currently needs all three digits. It’s so hot that for the first time in my life I’m happy to get into a Prius.
The concept of time does not apply to Las Vegas. Millions of lights and a constant excess of stimuli make us forget that it’s three in the morning. Despite my outspoken hate for gambling my friends drag me to a craps table. I’m just watching them, but young waitresses in short skirts keep bringing us free drinks. As long as you’re willing to spend money in this town they treat you like a king. More drinks. I guess it can’t hurt to try my luck. I lose forty dollars in two minutes and conclude that I’m very capable of losing $1,200 an hour (basic arithmetic), so I stop playing. Another drink, another cigarette. It’s 4 A.M. and we’re walking to a bar where the drinks are no longer free but the losses are more calculable. At 6 A.M. we go back to our hotel room, which was always just an elevator ride away.
The next morning I open the blinds and look outside the window. The view is strangely beautiful so I snap I picture. Everything seems so calm and peaceful from up here, but as soon as those elevator doors open up to the casino floor, the insanity starts anew.
After another twenty-four hours of sin, I am genuinely happy that my phone reminds me to leave for the airport. I’m convinced that a later flight would have been the end of me. On the way to the airport the weekend flashes in front of my eyes, just like they say you see your life before you die. Las Vegas is a near-death experience, which is why I never spend more than two nights in this air-conditioned desert hellhole.
We have reached our cruising altitude and are already half-way back to the more or less civilized life in Los Angeles. I stop the flight attendant, because this is where detox begins. “Can I get a water, please?”. “A Dejà Blue for the gentleman, here you go.”
Text and photography by Mike Zwahlen.
Mike Zwahlen works for Google and moonlights as a writer and photographer. He is the co-founder and Creative Director of Elusive Magazine and lives in Los Angeles, California.