Leaving Las Vegas, an Epiphany Strikes

ImageNew York is not the city that never sleeps. Las Vegas is.

At 4 o’clock last Saturday morning, I left a nightclub inside Mandalay Bay, and while the casino wasn’t quite as busy as when I had walked in a few hours earlier, neither was it silent. Commerce continued; the lights were on. Had my middle-aged body not been reminding me with each exhausted step that I no longer have any business staying up until such hours, I might have thought it was a quiet Tuesday in the early afternoon.

But I’m 43, and there’s no way around that, and while Las Vegas has plenty to offer those of us no longer in the full flower of youth, its more hedonistic charms now exact an ever steeper price.

So: Indoor skydiving, driving dune buggies across the Nevada desert, and enjoying an hour at the blackjack or poker table? Perfect. World-class meals at wildly acclaimed restaurants? Yes, please. Sparkling customer service delivered by competent and pleasant professionals and not surly teenagers? ‘Bout damned time.

But: Clubs whose only decent beer is Sierra Nevada? Smoky bars packed with Jersey Shore rejects? Saying yes to the extra beer, the large helping of dessert, and the fries instead of the side salad for a fourth straight lunch? Staying up–and dancing, mind you–’til 4 just because IT’S VEGAS, MAN, AND I HAVE TO HAVE FUUUUUN?

Can’t do it anymore.

I’m 43 but have spent the last several months living as if still in college. My body bears the scars of this misguided activity. I weigh more than at any other time in my life. My clothes no longer fit properly. I am chronically sore and perpetually tired and shamefully logy. I don’t feel sharp mentally or emotionally.

I could continue on this path easily. Inertia is hypnotically powerful, and I’d hardly be the first fortysomething to wave the white flag and let myself be rolled into another 40 years of sloth, clogged arteries, a bloated gut, and dulled senses. It would be so goddamn easy.

Yet as I flew home a week ago today, with Vegas’s excesses still fresh in my mind, I realized that I wanted my middle-aged travails to serve as a reminder–a painful one–that I can choose a different path.

I must choose a different path.

I don’t want to be a wheezing 60-year-old who can’t make it up the stairs without getting winded. I don’t want to be a glum 70-year old who realizes he could have done more, so much more, had he gotten his ass in gear, worked his body, challenged his mind, channeled his creativity, and gone after the life he wanted. I don’t want to be a failing 80-year-old who is doing nothing save waiting for the inevitable.

Vegas may never sleep, but I’m going to. There’s a hell of a lot more living I can do as a rested and healthy 43-year-old than as a bleary-eyed, sagging sack looking elsewhere for the life that’s right in front of him. | DL

Image: Paul Martin Eldridge, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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