I’d almost suicidally exposed myself to the risk of being mugged, stabbed, shot and abducted by staying amid the socio-economic quagmire of South Las Vegas Boulevard, between The Strip and Downtown. But, it was an excellent vantage point from which to emerge from the worst Vegas had to offer and into the best (which fucking ain’t saying much), by walking the 18 mile round trip up through The Strip and back. A nine mile shrine to decadence, depravity, excess and indulgence, is The Strip. Even the bums had evolved to Vegas’ unique ecosystem. Though there were of course the regular pan-handling for change types, there were also many more others handing out flyers advertising mostly Latino women of questionable gender and sexual hygiene who you could call directly to your room for a pittance. I baulked at this. First of all, I’m not a huge fan of Latino women. Secondly, I prefer to be sure when getting intimate with a woman, that I won’t suddenly find out she is not, or has not always been, a woman. Perhaps out of homesickness, I found myself at the MGM Grand’s Outback Steakhouse for lunch. Ate an enormous steak and drank a reinvigorating Scotch and Coke that were unfortunately more expensive than everything else in Vegas was, on average. I took it easy with Brazilian Estefan that first night. I felt the need lower myself cautiously into the cesspool Vegas was, rather than diving blindly in. We visited the Stratosphere Casino Hotel and Tower. I won 20 paltry dollars on roulette. We rode three thrill rides clinging precariously to the top of the tower and wandered The Strip while quite sober. I was reassured by the fact that, and I believe I expressed this to my new South American friend, during my time at each place I’d been so far not only had I found a partner in crime, their genders had varied chronologically from male to female. Eric the German dude in Los Angeles; Clara the beautiful French chick (even though we didn’t come nearly as close as I would have liked) in San Francisco, plus Tom the Hawaiian dentist and Marco the Italian dude in the same city; then Sarah the gorgeous biology student in Eureka/Arcata, northern California; Steve the bitter expat PhD graduate Yank living in Vancouver; and Mary the lonely dog-loving north of Squamish, British Columbia, deserted campsite cabin-dwelling chick. An incredible list of gathered associates for an introvert like me, and the Brazilian was by no means the least of these personalities. After only a couple of drinks, and amazingly without any gambling losses – yet – I was asleep by 1am. Fred the poker player was nowhere to be seen. I would have paid good gamblin’ green to have known what that crazy bastard was up to.
Maybe it was yesterday’s still digesting red meat and hard liquor; maybe it was homesickness anxiety; or perhaps it was just in general an itchy trigger finger earned through my time within the gun-loving United States of America and many hours playing shooting PC computer games. Whatever way, soon after lunch I found myself across the road from behind the Circus Circus Hotel Resort and Casino, at the Battlefield Las Vegas shooting range. I swear those imagined reflexes gained from playing World War Two games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honour kicked in to almost have me ducking and weaving as I approached the “Battlefield”, which really did look like a modern military base under siege from the surrounding hostility of Las Vegas. Several Humvee armoured vehicles and camouflaged barrels and sandbags surrounded the Battlefield’s main building. One car backfire or actual gunshot was all it would have taken for me to throw myself behind the nearest cover. But things went a lot more straightforward than that. I recall, while studying journalism at Queensland’s Griffith University, I had once looked into visiting Southport’s Gold Coast Pistol Club for a few study-steam-blowing-off shots with my Indian housemate. When I enquired, the pistol club required police checks and waiting periods and all sorts of things that would have frustrated my patience. Battlefield Las Vegas, on the other hand. Well, I basically swaggered in, thankfully not too wild-eyed or hungover, filled out a short form, followed a ‘soldier’ in to the shooting range and was successively and successfully handed both a Glock pistol and AR-15 assault rifle I’d requested at the front desk. I took aim at the unfortunate humanoid shape on the paper target positioned about 30 metres deep within the range in front of me, and began to squeeze the trigger. Shot, after shot, after booming shot. It was just like being in a video game. While not perfect, I could tell the sergeant or whatever he was standing watching was kind of impressed with my accuracy. In fact, he probably thought I’d wielded a deadly weapon before. After emptying the Glock’s magazine almost without deviation into the target, I stuck the AR-15 on my shoulder and launched even more accurate rounds into the poor paper plebeian. Even after my attendant military man had adjusted the rifle to shoot semi-automatically, most of my multiple bullet bursts still hit the hapless human-shadow-poster-target. Poor inanimate bastard looked more like Swiss cheese than a large piece of bullet-riddled paper, after all my rounds had been expended and GI Joe had retrieved it from the ceiling-bound track. What a fucking rush! I laid the rifle on the table in front of me, exhaled noticeably, thanked my camouflage-covered comrade and wandered deliriously from the building with an unexpected souvenir on my person – a bullet casing I’d stepped on with and gotten lodged in the tread of shoes I’d bought earlier that day. As far as mementos went, it certainly beat a shrapnel fragment to the face or casino security beating to the stomach. I must reassure you though, that I am in very few ways a fan of guns. And believe the fact that, in the 21st century, you can apparently privately own weapons of war such as assault rifles in some US states to be an ongoing criminal act by legislators. For anyone in Australia reading this who disagrees with my gun-control views, I’ve got three words for you: Port. Arthur. Massacre.