I remember that lost New Year’s Eve of my youth, staring amazed out of those tinted hotel windows into a vast night littered with raging starbursts and glittery, gunpowder salvos.
They scattered their sparkling ashes out onto the sandy, Vegas floor like some kind of coveted salute – a ceremony held more often there than perhaps anywhere else in the world, but far more rare in its poignance than my childish mind could ever have comprehended.
Through the glass I could see the last remnants of what was once The Hacienda casino, or as I’d eventually understand it, a lingering monument to the days of yore when kids weren’t welcome on The Strip and maturity meant being old enough to bet your entire savings away in one bad hand of blackjack.
I didn’t know it then, but it was approximately 11:45 that late December evening when I was touched by what could merely be described as the specter of my generation’s future – a ghost all parts Hunter S. Thompson and Mortal Kombat, coupled with years of internet addiction and spiritual neglect.
It is only now I realize how the phantom of Raoul Duke himself came to me just before the blast, whispering in my ear the sad disillusionment from his own mythical Vegas journey and the fact how drugs aren’t always needed to see the true distorted mayhem being peddled as facts in front of our bewildered faces.
For it was on that day one of the last true pieces of old Vegas would be blown into oblivion, taking with it a generation of corrupted dreams and frivolous excess that paved the way for decades ahead, ushering in an era of fallen debris mistaken for useful parts called the post-9/11, Millenial wish.
It was what my generation would inherit, what I am forced to sift through daily and contemplate as I mock the shattered pieces of what they claimed would be a future, now no more indistinguishable than the broken smithereens of an aging hotel long past its prime.
They said there would be jobs at the end of our pointless schooling. They wanted us all to work. They guilted us when we failed. Our efforts never seemed enough.
They believed it would be easy, and if it was wasn’t, we were always lazy.
The children of perpetual debt – “snowflakes” far too precious or fragile for the world around them which they agreed was best kept mad.
Or unjust, as times have proven, with innocent blood still lining the streets – men killed from bias and arrogance, both two things our forebears loved.
None of us wanted to gamble with these lives so wracked from evils built on bricks bad fathers told us would sustain what house they left.
Slot machines stacked against us were our options chasing happiness, choosing chance and probable misery over dreams we’d barely earned.
Sadly, soon, our odds grew worse.
I’m not sure their hope was worthy of enduring months gone missing among plagues such guilt has wrought.
Before The Hacienda fell, there was 15 minutes of waiting – a quarter of an hour spent thinking somehow none of this seemed quite right.
Perhaps it was just the lull before bombs brought down that building, or the notion somewhere out there those loud echoes would continue to ring.
Like they have until this day, deep inside my mind so weary from awaiting God’s good fortune so my words might still be heard.
I’ve traded every verse for the hands my wife provided, what true solace fate has gifted while instilling fear towards death.
It’s that panic which insists I should keep these memories naked, write them down and claim significance where I fear there might be none.
I stand by what that winter trip has provided me in hindsight.
The smoke I watched spread thin from the suite my parents rented had dispersed and left me visions of our legacy burnt too soon.
We didn’t even stand chance.
On top came another hotel.
I’ve visited Vegas since, but nothing trumps that memory where today and tomorrow whimper while they clash with continuing sins – an ongoing penance mentioned through its scene of spectacular chaos, an image of collective demons being traded for ones much worse.
We went from champagne toasts and controlling demolitions to fake news with dangerous rumors fueling deaths by pulled-down masks.
I’m still wandering that dark desert with my eyes half-closed in horror, hearing cheers of countless people so oblivious to what comes next.
There I shall dwell confused, without closure but explosions – remaining sick and surely doubtful while my faith’s oasis dries.
Forever yesterday’s neighbor – noise eternal beyond those borders.
Nevada 96’. One hell of a place to be.
- J. Pigno