Fear, Loathing, & Bodies in Las Vegas

I came to Las Vegas for a wedding. My friend Eric, my girlfriend Thyme, and I drove in on Sunday morning, came in to a pool table and a jacuzzi tub at our two-bedroom suite, made some Moscow Mules, and went out to begin celebrating at the Ri Ra pub in the Mandalay Bay.

An otherwise typical Irish pub, the bride and groom reserve a back room with an open bar and traditional Irish pub food. We get hammered on stouts and cocktails, meet some new people, and eat some brownies provided by the pub. Wandering the strip for a while woozy with alcohol, my friend Hunter, who is in fact named after Hunter Thompson, buys a $40 alcoholic slushy and we go back to the hotel to play pool and finish off the vodka in our room.

The next day the plan is to take psychedelics. The night before we stumbled upon the Bodies exhibition at the Luxor and made plans to see it the next day. But first we need sustenance.

We walk along the strip until we find a decent food court. Four of the group get chicken tikka masala at Indian Masala, but Hunter and I get tacos and burritos at El Dorado Expess. They are a tasty option in the middle of a salty hell that is the Las Vegas Strip.

Then it’s back to the room to begin tripping. I drop acid and most of everyone else takes mushrooms. As my friends begin to trip out, I determine the acid I took was weak and eat some mushroom stems to get it all going.

Before long I’m tripping, the world out our window vast and the desert limitless. The mountains in the horizon are deep purple and red, and I can see the exhaust from the planes leaving the airport trail over them. Most people who take them love the hallucinations on psychedelics, but I love the things it shows me that are truly there. This is one of these moments of illumination that makes doing these drugs fulfilling. For me the reward of rare recreational use outweighs the risk.

We listen to Om, play pool, and watch TV. We stay longer than planned, and don’t let any of our other friends come in the hotel room, but a few of us are apprehensive to leave the room at all. I always want to get out into the world on psychedelics, so I push for that option.

Finally we leave for the exhibit. On the street, Hunter and I are feeling great, talking positively with each other and walking faster than the others. Eric and Thyme can handle their shit so they’re pretty normal, but our two other friends are nervous and having a hard time. The heat waves of the day bend and twist. Every light is its own Universe. The people are brash, obnoxious.

We get to the exhibit and everyone is in good spirits. Shortly after entering, my friend, who shall go unnamed, begins to get anxious about the real human bodies displayed before us. Even though they are presented in a scientific, and even artful way, he can only see the flesh of another, and the inevitable immortality of life.

Most of us are entranced. Facts like “when you are conceived you remain a single human cell for thirty minutes” blow us away, and we are equally disturbed and fascinated by the room of fetuses at various stages of conception. We are melancholy yet comforted about the woman who died pregnant with a baby boy. The detail in their preservation is remarkable. The polymer method makes it look like they could still be living, they are presented beautifully. They don’t gross me out in the least. Which is beautiful.

The visceral accuracy is already too much for my nameless friend, but when sees the body parts and remains of children, he just can’t hack it. Thus begins the worst panic attack I have ever seen.

While the rest of us finish the exhibit, which is full of fairly non-judgmental warnings about your health and the need to take care of your body, I find it hilariously fitting that this exhibit is in Las Vegas. I love it.

My friend does not. He speeds through the exhibit, and by the end, he is nowhere to be found. When he returns, it is clear he is not okay.

To make it clear, this is my oldest friend in the world. When I realized the exhibit, on mushrooms for that matter, was too much for him, I was struck by a primal need to protect him.

I walked with him back to the hotel, but as he encountered more and more living, breathing, poorly-treated bodies, he began to loose it. The tearing at the shirt. The heart beating relentlessly on the inside. Crying and yelling out for help in the middle of the casino, he began to make quite the scene. He felt as though he would never be the same, a common characteristic symptom of panic attacks, and it gets worse and worse. He asks for the ER. He so losing it so much that I even tried to call a medic, but the Las Vegas security was unimpressed by a panic attack. They did just see a tragic shooting, so I understand, but they could have done something.

Instead we settled for a hug in the middle of the casino floor. Back up at the room even, I am afraid he might hurt himself to make it all tops, but the others get back just in time. \

Thyme, the only female, does what I could not–comforts him with a womanly touch. Even later we all talked about how he could only get that comfort from a woman, he truly needed the maternal care that had induced his panic attack in the museum and made him so erratic in the first place.

Finally he calms down, but the night is pretty much over for us. We simply relax and to sleep. In the afternoon my friend who had the panic attack, Thyme, and I go to lunch before the wedding. We talk about everything and slowly but surely my friend comes back into focus.

We eat at Lotus of Siam, culinary ambassador-approved Thai restaurant serving the real-deal Northern style Thai food. If you have my read my blogs from Thailand, you know I love this stuff.

We order laarb, minced meat salad, khai soi, coconut curry egg noddle soup, fried rice, and fried fish with garlic. Thai iced coffees and teas help us recover from our day of tripping.

We return for the wedding, and the reception. We get drunk, merry, and celebratory. We see our friends off into marriage and finish the night off with beers in our swank-ass room.

Later I find out that the bodies at that particular Bodies exhibit may have been Chinese prisoners, which explains while all of them were clearly of Asian descent. I believe the Las Vegas exhibit was the first, and may have had a hard time with the initial push, but I definitely don’t agree with it if that is the case.

Still, definitely go to an exhibit, perhaps sober if you can’t take the intensity of viewing real preserved human remains. I found it strangely comforting, and kind of the culmination of my obsession with leaving a legacy behind. I would just make sure that the bodies in it are ethically obtained, with the permission of the deceased.

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