Fear and Loathing at Shot 2023
About forty thousand feet into the Oklahoma firmament, Sarah gave me a can of Pringles. A foul mouthed, red haired German in her thirties, she was happy to share her Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas tattoo, her utter disdain for her home country, and photos of her on Mount Rainier in the snow and a thong. It was going to be that kind of week.
To hear Sarah tell it, German Pringles tasted totally different than American Pringles because every ingredient in American Pringles is banned in Europe. I couldn’t tell you as I don’t speak German, but it seems to me they must have discovered a combination of chemicals just as perfectly awful and identically tasting.
Sarah hated her countrymen because Germans don’t tip, among other general symptoms of what she believed to be a larger overall problem with the Kraut social zeitgeist. She lived outside of Ramstein Air Base and had quite a few American friends. Spent all her vacation flying to and from the states.
“We don’t have guns in Germany because we don’t need them, but if I lived here I’d have them because everyone else has them too.” I’d argue they do need them, of course, but at least she understands Game Theory Nash Equilibria better than half of Americans. She’ll fit in fine once she finally gets knocked up by a jarhead.
The next morning I don a partially camo Polo pullover, carefully chosen to exact the appropriate social signals. Not poor. Not interested in pretending to be rich. ‘Merica. Accessorized by a press badge that says “RECOIL.” My “signal false importance through appearance” game today is strong.
Mexican twins in their 50s run the Bally’s lobby coffee stand. I’m sure their story is every bit as intriguing as last night’s Uber driver. Everyone in Vegas has a story. Uber driver’s been in Vegas 28 years, moved from California just like everyone else around here. Moved because of the cost of living, just like everyone else around here. Frustrated about all the new Californians moving in driving up the cost of living. Just like everyone else around here. It’s not that Vegas is great, it’s that it’s no worse than California and California costs four times as much to live in. I make my twentieth mental note not to move to California.
The morning at Range Day starts with a ride in the most SHOT Show vehicle ever conceived, driven by my buddy Tom, Archmage Emeritus of The Firearm Blog. The interior gives me Millennium Falcon flashbacks. We stop to take occasional photos of dwindling Lake Mead and of anti-gun virtue signalers carpeting the route to the outdoor range with political signage soon to turn to unprocessed litter debris, protean signals tumbling like tumble weeds, lodged by the desert wind in some Bureau of Land Management scree pile at the base of the River Mountains. Liberals never clean up their trash.
I ride Tom’s coat tails through early check in despite being on a media pass because I’m “part of his crew,” which it turns out entails moving a folding table five feet and putting a tablecloth on it. TFB isn’t doing anything interesting at Range Day this year, but everyone thanks them because they provide the free WIFI. I wonder if they do it because Tom doesn’t trust anyone else to do it right.
An exercise in curious desert weather ensues, the morning hours sustaining twenty mile per hour cross winds bracketed by rain showers. I shoot guns. Practice AR-15 transitions with some outfit that makes fully ambidextrous lowers. Dick around with some belt fed fully auto stuff. Ding a gong at 1000 yards on the Rise Armaments trigger group despite the cross winds, settling solidly on my next Gucci rifle purchase.
My daughter calls me to say a hawk went after one of my chickens. Buy some bad food truck spring rolls and catch a bus full of media Fudds back to the Venetian before the lightning starts.
I’m pretty sure nobody from Venice works here. I’m not convinced the architects ever visited either.
The Venetian is a microcosm of Vegas itself. It’s overpriced, lowest common denominator kitsch. Shopping malls with hotel rooms slapped on top, dressed up as resorts, the only design consideration being to vacuum up as much money as possible from a continual stream of low-grade suckers, and the suckers stand in line for it because they love their money to be vacuumed. But it’s cheap to throw a convention here, so the suckers keep flying in and lining up.
Hunter S. Thompson won’t leave my mind since the flight. I dwell on Fear and Loathing. Is the town he saw then still here now, somewhere under the stucco? If I were to take a splitting maul to the pressboard walls downstairs at the Bally’s casino, would I find the secret underbelly of beautifully corrupt True Las Vegas? Crawl through an Alice in Wonderland axe hole and find this town’s soul, long since papered over with teardowns and remodels and land development deals? Were Hunter alive today, could he carry me off on a tour through the rabbit hole to see what he saw, or would he bemoan that the city has lost it’s Fear and Loathing? If he were, would I follow him through the looking glass or would I chicken out? I’ve got two kids and a job. And chickens. At least for now. Maybe the reason Las Vegas seems soul bereft is I’m too busy or too afraid to find it. If I did, what would it be?
It’d be the Crye Precision party.