Saturday, January 16, 2010

Crass and Tawdry in Los Vegas

After my first trip to Los Vegas, I came home and bore my testimony about how if there can be a beautiful, holy temple in crass and tawdry Los Vegas, any of us can keep ourselves pure and unspotted from the world. Unfortunately, all anyone remembers of that testimony is that I used the words "crass" and "tawdry." The guy in my ward who's from Los Vegas still gives me greif over it.

But you know what? I'm sticking with crass and tawdry. A couple of girls in DC got asked to drinks at a nightclub after repeated (and falsely) insisting that they were 17-year-olds from Arizona. Another person in our group was asked if she had an ecstasy to share with her interlocutor. The streets here are literally paved with porn and I can't begin to describe the t-shirts they sell here. Even the things that are beautiful--the Bellagio fountains, Caesar's palace, the rainstorm in the middle of the Miracle Mile Shops--are all facades, spectacle built on and supporting of greed, lust, and selfishness.

But I know that there's a lot of good here. Here's something: I got a temporary henna tattoo at one of the storefronts out in front of the Travelodge from a guy that I'm willing to describe as "sketchy." He wore a straw-snakeskin cowboy hat and had tattoos (real ones) snaking down his arms and crawling up his neck. In his garbage were several empty cans of alcopop and I could smell in on his breath as he leaned over my shoulder to trace my bird in ink. He kept muttering, giving low, repeating groans, and, while I can't prove that they were track marks, he definitely had a couple of dots of blood over veins on the top of his arms, which I know from physiology is a next step once your inner arms are scarred up.

Yet, maybe it was the fact that he was working on a part of my shoulder that few people see, much less touch, but I really felt a deep kinship with this guy. I could even say I love him, in that vague, undirected, love-of-humanity kind of way. What I really want to do is tell him that he's a son of God, who lived in the presence of God and was sent by God's love to earth. I want to tell him that he will live forever. But this is crazy stuff--this is what street preachers do. I don't even have, for example, a Book of Mormon to give him, not even a passalong card. I kind of have in my mind that I'll write him a thank-you note for the good job (and free touch up) he did on my temptatt and drop in there how loved he is of God but I don't even know his name. And I am scared.

But all of these people here, even the crass and tawdry ones, down inside, they have souls. That's pretty wonderful.


Margaret said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Margaret said...

Dave and I just finished watching The Soloist, and had a bit of a discussion about homeless people. We have some awesome friends, the Gees, who really do love and befriend and take care of some crazy, craaazy people. We really respect and admire that. And I found myself wondering, as I watched the movie and as I've talked with the Gees in the past - do some people just feel more comfortable with craziness and sadness and sickness than I do, or should I be manning up (excuse the sexist expression) and trying to love the dispossessed?

Beth Hedengren said...

What a sweet, good, wise woman you are, dear Mary.

Be careful, though, about preaching to the sketchy. As you mother, it makes me nervous.

Though I admire your goodness.

Makayla said...

I also have a deep and abiding distaste for Las Vegas generally speaking, although of course individually speaking you've made the point right on. :)