Las Vegas: Loving2Hate

Sometimes I simply love to hate. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve caught myself saying this regarding various subjects in my life. The latest resurrection of the phrase likely came about because I traveled to Las Vegas with a couple of friends for the SEMA car show, and Vegas is certainly a place that I love to hate. In fact, I love hating it so much, I couldn’t wait to get there.

There’s much to hate about Vegas if one just thinks about it—especially from my rural setting of Wyoming. So, I always look forward to the newest Las Vegas particulars to hate that I never expected or considered. So, beyond the usual overcrowded and loud casinos, overpriced tickets for washed-up entertainment icons, and the ubiquitous, supersized LED displays, I was pleasantly surprised to add a couple of new things to what I love to hate about Las Vegas—all on the last full day of my stay there.

SEMA Fest
On the second day of SEMA Fest not long after the gates opened, I was turned back at the entrance by security personnel because I had a “professional grade” camera with me—a modest Yashica Electro 35 (mm) film camera. At first, I thought they were just having me on because I had a camera that was built in the early 1970s. But, when I realized the security staffer was not joking, I reached around in my back pocket and pulled out my iPhone X and said, “You should be more worried about this camera.” The staffer didn’t budge only to tell me that the iPhone was permitted, while assuring me that I could not enter with my threatening 50-some-year-old 35mm, f1.7 fixed 45mm lens rangefinder camera.

I was sure there was some mistake, but once I realized they weren’t going to relent, I gave up and walked back to a friend’s car to squirrel away my humble Yashica. During that long walk back to the car, all I could think about was how ignorant the organizers of SEMA Fest must be when it comes to cameras and photography. I felt like I had been transported back to the entrance gates of Northeast Ohio’s Blossom Music Center in the 1970s. And so, it was during that walk back to the car and once more to the SEMA Fest entrance that my love to hate Vegas came screaming back like a Tom Brady, game-winning offensive drive in the final seconds.

With my film camera receiving a red-card by the SEMA Fest photography police, I realized that whatever photography I would attempt that day would be limited to my iPhone. Now I had a new mission thanks to SEMA Fest’s draconian photography policy—I would shoot to my heart’s content with my iPhone and eventually submit images from the day to whatever paying, professional publications I could find while making sure that the SEMA Fest photo nazis get notified of my supplemental income from that day—with my iPhone!

I’m never very confident when it comes to my own photography, but spite can be a powerful thing, changing a person’s outlook in any given situation. 

Circus Circus
It’s not a stretch to predict that the next major casino to be razed on the Las Vegas Strip will be Circus Circus. It was a dump 20 years ago. Today, it is nothing more than an ugly and smelly eyesore on the life support of desperate, low-stake gamblers.

Because SEMA Fest was in the shadows of the crumbling 35-story Circus Circus, we walked over to the 50-some-year-old rundown infestation in search of a modest lunch. What a mistake that was as I was reminded of shopping at a crowded Walmart on Black Friday—not to mention the healthy menagerie of trashy and gloomy patrons filling up its corridors, restaurants, and gambling locations.

Further, while walking around in Circus Circus, I was certain that its dystopian interior and unhealthy-looking patrons was surely the place I would contract a bad case of COVID-19.

Lastly, like most of the other casinos in Vegas, Circus Circus is no different in its tolerance and accommodating environment for smokers. Say what you want about the casino high-tech ventilation systems, when I returned to my room that evening, I felt as if I had been walking through the smoke-filled 1970s all over again. It’s been a long time since my clothes smelled like a crowded bar full of smokers.

Curing mental illness vs. gun laws with teeth

“This American carnage stops RIGHT HERE, and stops RIGHT NOW.” —Fuckface von Clownstick. (And the people clapped)

It’s been well over a week, so it would seem now is good time to start talking about gun laws—before another mass shooting shakes the country to its core again. (Never mind the everyday mass shootings that injure and kill only a handful of our fellow citizens.)

As authorities in law, psychology, and other professions sift through the evidence more than a week after the Las Vegas shooting, everyone remains dumbfounded in the case of Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter. Even those closest to him (family, the gambling and gun-selling communities) are clueless and never had a vibe regarding his character of darkness that he kept from everyone so well. He certainly was an anomaly, but that’s how distant we are to addressing mental illness as a solution to mass murders. Think about it: its been over a week after the Las Vegas massacre, and we still have zilch.

Its odd that those who advocate curing mental illness is the solution to preventing mass killings, have no particulars when it comes to how we get there. It’s just this vague, clouded idea—much like asking for directions to a location and your told, “Yeah, I know the place, but I’ve never seen it, but if you go up the road a distance, I’m sure you’ll find it.”

This seems like a good place/time to ask why gun violence is always linked to mental illness? I think our society has a tendency to make the two synonymous. As to say, gun violence is the result of mental illness and mental illness is the result of gun violence. One thing to keep in mind—based on research—the overwhelming majority of people with mental illnesses are no more violent than the overwhelming majority of people in general.

Simply stated, the mental health discussion to a safer community that carries firearms is nothing more than a smokescreen for the gun advocates of our society. It’s simply a diversion with an impossible solution that keeps as many people away from talking about real solutions. This is a quintessential example of “kicking the can” down the road.

Can you imagine what advances in mental health it will take to reach a point where outward-appearing everyday guys can be found-out before they reach their inward critical mass to do the unthinkable (which has materialized far too many times)? It will be nothing short of placing mind-readers in gun stores, the workplace, and the homes of everyone who is suspect.

And how far do we go in lumping the various attributes that lead to violence with mental illness? Most agree that things like schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, and major depression can fall under the mental illness umbrella, but what about those with a history of child abuse, binge drinking, or simply being male—because those things are also linked to violence. Then there are those who have experienced resentment, revenge, social isolation, a tendency to externalize blame, a fascination with violent video games, and a passion for weaponry.

The immediate answer to reducing the number of mass murders in America  isn’t in wrestling and sorting out the far-off mysteries and fuzzy-logic of mental illness, but rather in implementing concrete, extensive and tougher gun laws that mirror the requirements of other dangerous operations such as the various levels of licensing in the operation of a vehicle.

When it comes to mental illness warning signs, it seems fair that anyone who has over, x-number of guns (a number agreed upon by a rationale-minded group) and a bunch of ammunition is a candidate for some kind of mental illness screening. And, short of legitimate gun collectors, those who possess vast arsenals of guns and ammo, might this passion be an extension of their army-playing days in their youth. (If that isn’t a form of mental illness, I don’t know what is.)

Should we make drastic improvements in mental health that allow us to identify a mass-murderer before they act, then we can talk about the elimination of gun laws. For starters, if you want to stop mass murders, require every person who has x-number of guns and ammo, or owns an “assault-style, non-hunting” gun to get regular screening.

Getting a driver’s license, a car license, and insurance is a true inconvenience when it comes to driving. However, it doesn’t prevent us from securing our right to drive, it’s just a precautionary to ensure that we can carry out the task without being a great risk to society. And so, owning a gun should be the same kind of inconvenience for anyone wishing to possess a firearm and/or ammunition. Besides, if you’re a “good-guy-with-a-gun,” you shouldn’t object to a little inconvenience, right?

Despite all of this, I’m reluctant to believe that if the day should come when we can identify people with mental illness quickly, the NRA-gun lobby will likely still resist anything that prevents people from getting their hands on guns.

For the time being, America has long since disqualified itself when it comes to “greatness” in its tolerance for continuous massacres of its innocent citizens. Any great country would have addressed and solved this problem by now. Australia… now there’s a great country. New Zealand… another great country. Japan… yes. Etc.