Las Vegas is the dude capital of the world. It’s where men go to be men, to tuck in their golf shirts, put on their white ball caps, and hit on women half their age and out of their league. It’s where they gamble, and over-drink, and over-spend, and for a weekend they live in excess, as celebrities, in a dreamscape fantasy of marquee-lit reverie.
They chant the mantra, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, and for the most part this rings true, unless you get sideways drunk one night on shots of Jack with a guy you met at the craps table and end up getting an MGM Grand waitress pregnant, in which case Vegas follows you for the rest of your life.
But beyond the bright lights of the Vegas strip, the Sinatra tunes flooding its sidewalks outside the Bellagio, its cocktail waitresses with ready smiles and easy drinks, there is an excursion that is truly a dude’s game, truly an entrance to the world of musk and manhood. Just off the strip, and framed by the cityscape and the Rockies, is Dig This! Dig This! calls themselves a “Heavy Equipment Playground”, and it is most certainly that. For a small fee you can spend the afternoon driving and operating bulldozers and excavators, digging holes, teetering on mounds of dirt in real Cat equipment. The experience is most certainly authentic, the only thing missing is a shifty union rep, whistling misogynistic catcalls at young ladies as they pass by, and the iconic silver lunch pails of the working class.
After a brief introduction and orientation by the genial and affable Dig This! staff, you’re taken out into a backfield dirt lot that looks like any underdeveloped property. Without hesitation, you’re thrust into a ‘dozer, and you’re dropping the shovel, and raking the pick. At first, the ordeal seems mundane. Sure, you’re driving a bulldozer. An activity you witness every day on the commute to work. But within moments, your inner child awakens, and your Tonka trucks of yesteryear come to life with you at the helm. Within moments, the natural male instinct to bask in the glory of power tools comes alive, and the digging becomes not a chore, nor a task, but an obsession. The controls feel born to you, they feel second nature, and the ‘dozer feels like a woman you once loved just right.
Of course, this is not to say the Dig This! experience is just for men. Upon moving over from the ‘dozers to the excavators, it was immediately evident that the quiet touch of a woman was not just required, but requisite. While the ‘dozers were all about hard thrusts and conviction, the excavators were about delicate strokes. While the men in my group were being thrown around like ragdolls in the mouths of rabid dogs with the lack of grace in our attempts at excavation, the women had the excavators dancing from task to task with an ease that was both admirable and, well, exciting.
I’ve been turned on by some weird shit, from Asians in fur boots, to being slapped around and called Janie, to a role playing game my ex-wife used to call “do our taxes then catch me in bed with Randy from Home Depot.” But until you’ve seen a beautiful young woman tenderly operate a two-ton construction vehicle with the calm and ease I can only liken to ballet, well, you’ve never truly had a sexual fantasy border on reality.
I have a newfound respect for anyone who drives these pieces of heavy equipment for a living. Eight hours a day, forty hours a week must do hellish things to your back. And I’m sure that they would laugh at the notion of people out in the desert’s adult playground paying good money to do their job for an afternoon. But it is within the context of that newfound respect that the joy of Dig This! is found. As you become more comfortable at the controls of the beastly vehicles, you become lost in the reverie of another life, of a fantasy of displacement. For a moment, you’re a not a writer, or a lawyer, or an accountant. Instead you’re a bulldozer driver, or an excavator, a life most unlike your own, but yet strangely gratifying and familiar. That moment of displacement, at the helm of a monster of a machine, is what makes Dig This! worthy of a visit the next time you’re in Sin City, and need a little break from the sin.
The thing about Vegas is this: It’s the worst place on earth. It’s smells like cigarettes and regret. The beautiful women abound serve only to mask the sadness that hides in the dark recesses of their dance revue failures. Every third dude who walks by is certainly destined for the drunk tank. Every bachelorette party will most certainly be scarred by the image of the bride and maid of honor doubling down on a stripper named Raoul. Every smile in victory at the table is matched by six defeats leading to bathroom tears and pity cocktails. It is, as noted, the worst place on earth.
But I never wanted to leave. Not because of the debauchery — no matter how fulfilling. Not because of a pixieish girl named Hannah who was to marry me in an Elvis chapel before I misplaced her in the lobby of The Cosmopolitan. And not because the hangovers there were cured miraculously by the bliss of guilt-free afternoon cocktails. No, the wonder and splendor of Vegas exists in an experience like Dig This! Dig This! is the most fun I’ve ever had on four wheels, and I made a promise to the staff that as soon as my 6 year-old nephew turned of age, I’d bring him down to Vegas to drive ‘dozers and excavators, to live the real-life dream that every boy and girl has scooting Tonkas across the sandbox.
Only in Vegas.
Mike Spry is the author of JACK (Snare Books, 2008), which was shortlisted for the 2009 QWF’s A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry, and he was longlisted for the 2010 Journey Prize. His most recent work is Distillery Songs (Insomniac Press, 2011).
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