I went Hanukkah shopping at CRYSTALS MALL in CITYCENTER last week. Didn't find much within my price range, but I did find a $440 paperclip. I mean, technically it was a paperclip shaped money clip...but doesn't that just make it a paperclip? The mall was very pretty, though, and the space was unlike anything I've ever seen. Kinda reminded me of an MC Escher picture. Anyway, you can read my REVIEW OF CRYSTALS MALL by clicking RIGHT HERE.
In 28 days, I’m taking the Illinois Bar. I plan to practice personal injury law in Illinois.
But not right away; first I’m going to write this one other book. I sold my second (yet-to-be-written) book to St. Martin’s Press, and the working title is Fool’s Paradise: Finding Hardcore Reality in a City Built on Lies. Here’s the introduction:
I lie a lot.
Okay, that's not really true. I do lie a little bit, though. I'm a memoirist—really—and every now and then, in my writing, I change small details of my life to make my Pulitzer Prize-winning stories sound more impressive.
Every night I walk to the bookstore, type up two or three pages of half-truths, and then I page through men's magazines that promise me six-pack abs in 30 days and mind-blowing sex with supermodels. Sometimes I browse non-fiction bestsellers that teach me how to cure cancer with milk and how to use the "Law of Attraction" to control the entire universe with my thoughts.
On the walk back to my apartment, I pass dozens of homeless people asking for spare change. I say that I don't have any, and I say it extra-loud so they hear me over the sound of the spare change jangling in my jacket pocket. When I reach my building, my doorman asks how my night was and I tell him it was good even if it wasn't, because I don't want to start a discussion about whatever happens to be wrong with the lie I sometimes add an “f” to and call my life.
I arrive at my apartment, watch a satirical news program or two, and eat three or four low-fat cookies, which, due to their added sugar content, have more calories than their regular-fat counterparts. Then, if I'm lucky, I drift off to sleep, which, as far as I'm concerned, is just an existential deception.
Deception consumes my entire existence—my work, my play, my friendships, and most of all, my love life. Two years ago I dated an art gallery worker who turned out to be a drug-dealing stripper and a twenty-two-year-old who turned out to be eighteen. Four years ago I joined MySpace and fell in love with a Japanese model who spoke choppy English, lived in Chicago, and turned out to be a guy.
But I'm not bitter. As a storyteller, soon-to-be lawyer, and former professional magician, I appreciate that I brought this life of deception upon myself. Only now, at the age of twenty-five, as I study for the Illinois Bar Exam and complete my transition into the place my parents refer to (though not ironically) as “the real world,” the line that separates reality from illusion is starting to blur. I'm beginning to doubt my faith, my friendships, my relationships, and myself. And while this skepticism gives me a cool, ironic detachment that serves me well in my writing, at cocktail parties, and on first dates, whenever I'm given the chance to make a meaningful connection with somebody special, I second-guess everything, question the unquestionable, and deconstruct my surroundings until I’m alone again.
René Descartes, the father of modern skepticism and my philosophic hero, constructed a method of uncovering undoubtable truth. He began by clearing his mind of everything he knew so that he could be sure none of his future thoughts would rest on false presumptions. He then constructed an entire belief system from the ground up. I'm not a philosopher—this according to my undergraduate philosophy professor—I'm a storyteller living in a culture of deception. Whereas for Descartes, the quest for truth was purely professional, for me, it's personal. That's why I want to turn Descartes's thought experiment into a life experiment. I want to construct a life of truth from the ground up. And to do that, I have to start from scratch. I have to travel to a place where absolutely nothing is true.
That place is Las Vegas.
Everything in Las Vegas is fake, from the celebrities at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum to the motion simulation rides at the Caesars Palace Forum Shops. From the beach at Mandalay Bay to the St. Mark’s Square replica at Venetian. From the 50-story Eiffel Tower at Paris to the 1/2 size Statue of Liberty at New York, New York. From the volcano that erupts every hour, on the hour, at a hotel named—what else?—Mirage to the showgirls who paint their faces, pin on blonde wigs, and simulate lesbian sex in Luxor’s topless review show, which is called—what else?—Fantasy.
Everybody in Las Vegas is a liar in one form or another, from the pawn brokers to the illusionists. From the card sharps at the blackjack tables to the celebrity impersonators at the hotel showrooms. From the casino hosts who tell high-rollers that they’d “be happy to” oblige their most obnoxious, demeaning requests to the gambling addicts who tell their spouses they don’t have gambling problems.
I should fit right in.
As a storyteller, I’ve learned to tell people exactly what they want to hear; as a law student, I was trained to tell one side of two-sided stories; as a magician, I mastered the art of deception. In Las Vegas, I plan to put my unique expertise in storytelling, persuasion, and dishonesty to work, only I don’t want to perpetuate the city’s lies and illusions—I’m trying to construct a life of truth, after all—I want to expose them.
I want to learn how slot machine designers and casino managers turn convention goers and soccer moms into human ATM machines. I want to see how the Luxor’s Fantasy showgirls look when the desert sun comes up and the makeup and wigs come off. I want to compare Bellagio’s $399/night guest rooms to the homes of the people who are paid to keep them clean. I want to interview and befriend professional deceivers; I want to find out whether card cheats use magician’s tactics, how card-counters avoid getting caught, whether celebrity impersonators secretly wish they were the people they pretend to be, and whether strippers ever develop feelings for their clients.
And then there are the personal questions. Which of my Midwest friends will fly across the country to visit me, and when they do, will they be more interested in catching up or partying it up Ghostbar at Palms? Will my parents be genuinely happy that I’ve been given a once-in-a-lifetime shot at self-discovery, or would they rather I drop the writing charade, hang out my shingle, begin my legal career, and enter the real world? Will the magicians I befriend view me as an equal or as a Vegas squatter and fake faker? Will I fall in love with a Vegas showgirl, and if I do, will I love her for who she is or for what she represents, the pinnacle of human sexuality in the Age of Amusement? Do I even really want to make new friends and fall in love, or do I just want to meet people so I can exploit them in my writing? And if the latter is true, is my whole life just one big lie?
Ever since I began writing about myself, I’ve been wondering about that last question a lot. While I don’t know its answer with 100% certainty, I do know that if I can discover something meaningful about friendship, love, and my life in a city built on false promises of fortune and fake breasts, it’ll be the closest thing to undoubtable truth I’m ever going to find.
------------ So there it is.
IN OTHER NEWS, Lawyer Boy: A Case Study on Growing Up comes out in just FIVE MORE DAYS.