What Freedom Feels Like

I went running early this morning in Red Rock Canyon in the mountains west of Las Vegas. It was, in short, as beautiful, peaceful, and awe-inspiring a place that I’ve been to in months. It was stark contrast to the faux-opulance I’ve been taking in here in Vegas, but the entire experience helped me better appreciate the giant neon flags waving over The Strip.

As I drove back to my hotel amidst the startling blue western sky, past the sandy buttes and deep crimson, Pete Yorn playing full blast, I think I finally got it; I think I finally smelled, finally saw, and finally remembered just what freedom feels like. And I think I finally do get what we’re fighting for.

Which comes with added irony here and now: I’m in my room 350 feet or so above The Strip, the sun is setting, the Treasure Island pirate show is booming below, and on MSNBC they’re reporting that Saddam may be dead. In a way, I couldn’t be in a more American place, for better and worse.

Las Vegas is the American Dream. It is a city built from nothing. It is a city that for all intents and purposes — save for the inginuity of man’s engineering wit — shouldn’t be here. It is a city that promises the possibility of instant wealth; instant transformation, where a poor kid from Tupalo, Hoboken, or Roanoke can put on a pinky ring, grab a mic, and make good. I honestly don’t know what to make of it all.

At the end of the day, I’m still shocked and awed at the utter grayness, the complete complexity of life.

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