Life Is For Winning: My Las Vegas Tattoo

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In August 2016 I got a tattoo to represent the popular American holiday destination Las Vegas. It was created on the top of my leg by tattoo apprentice Stephanie Melbourne from Solihull (UK) who had been tattooing just a few months at the time. Steph’s now been tattooing almost a year and her work gets more incredible by the day. I urge you to go check out her tattoos on Instagram here.Better late than never, I want to now blog about why I love this tourist spot so much that I felt the need to put a representation of it on my body forever! I’ve been to Las Vegas three times in the last 2 years and am heading back out there in a few weeks for a friend’s wedding. The truth is that even before my first visit I felt an unusually strong connection to the welcoming resort.

I Grew Up In Blackpool – A neon graveyard of rickety rollercoasters, vintage carousel horses and sticky slot machines. As a kid I spent most of my weekends high on sugar, navigating my way through herds of stags and hens and at the end of the day watching illuminated signs brighten the dark roads home. In my head I’d pictured Las Vegas to be (yes, much more glamorous and modern than a tired English seaside-town but nevertheless) a place in which I’d revisit some of these sensations.The Rimmers are big gamblers and my dad’s side of the family have been visiting fabulous LV, Nevada for years, before I was born, even.I wish my grandma was still alive to recount stories herself to me that I’ve now heard through others. Her reluctancy to sleep or do anything but play bingo in a place where (I remember her saying this to me once) “you don’t need a watch on your wrist or clocks on the walls”. In Las Vegas, it doesn’t matter what time it is because the concept of time doesn’t exist.

I wish So Much That I Could Go There With Her Now

When I first stepped off the plane and onto ‘The Strip’ I was quite overwhelmed. Whilst Vegas’ buzzing centre is a place of colour and sound, you still sense the silence of the vast desert around you. Vegas is a tiny, glowing spec on a map of emptiness. Its isolation makes it all the more surreal – a disconnected, dream-like playground for adults in which anything is possible and the real world really does seem like galaxies away. All you have to worry about is which (free) drink you’re going to order next. I could attempt to list all the things that make Vegas so special for me: breathtaking views, epic food, exceptionally strong drinks, friendly (and interesting) people… but deep down it’s an inexplicable sense of nostalgia that draws me to return time and time again. A nostalgia that I felt deep in the pit of my stomach even on my first night there. Each time I smiled at a drag queen at the bar or put another load of coins into a rusty slotty, it felt all too familiar – a sensation not just inspired by childhood memories but a previous life, perhaps.

Were the screeching tones of casino machines and the quiet shufflings of playing cards passed down to me in my DNA? As I sipped my fifth complimentary glass of mimosa that next morning, I decided that I wanted to humour this notion and accept America’s ‘Sin City’ as my second home. A tattoo would be the next necessary step in celebrating my ancestors and their love for this place of pure indulgence. Most people think that gambling is for fools and it’s difficult to describe why it’s such a thrill for those of us who partake. Yes, we are aware of and embrace its irrationality but we try to put aside the negatives and thrive on the positives, the magical things that can be present when you’re taking risks. We’re not getting high on the unlikely possibility of becoming a millionaire, but on some fucked-up perception of hope. There’s something quite special about sitting amongst hundreds of other people who feel the same thing under their skin. We lift our glasses to a determination and acceptance that life is actually just one big gamble – undoubtedly at its most exciting when you truly think you’re going to win.

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