December 16, 2014
“Sucks to be you.” I said that to Kim Jong-un. I was standing to his right on the plaza that overlooks the undersized gondola pond by the Doge’s Palace at the spectacular Venetian Hotel and Casino Resort in scenic Las Vegas, Nevada.
To his left was an an enormous black bodyguard who was poised to snag me by the collar and jerk me back to reality.
To the Shining Sun of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea I said, “There are cameras everywhere, including thousands of smartphone video cameras. Do you really want to cause an international incident? Does anyone even know you’re here?”
The short, squat man gave the tiniest wave with his left hand and that was that.
Christmas at the Venetian is everything you’d expect from Vegas – more than nothing and yet still far less than enough. There’s a smallish ice-skating rink, just like Rockefeller Center – only much, much smaller and engineered with no real ice. There’s an enormous Christmas tree composed of breathtaking bulbous lights – and no actual tree. There’s live music and piped-in music and faked laser snowflakes projected onto the many faked walls of the perpetually-unfinished Venetian/Palazzo complex. And there’s Kim Jong-un, the last and most pathetic of the pretend leaders of the pretend peoples’ revolution, Great Successor to the mantle of chamber-pot valet to the world’s most depressing shithole, North Korea.
“I can’t blame you for wanting to get away,” I said, “especially at Christmas.”
He was pretending not to hear me, of course, but that schtick is nothing new to me.
“I would think Christmas has to break your heart, every year. You grew up on Swiss Christmases, after all. And even if everyone pretended to keep it from you, Christmas is irrepressible. It’s not just lights and cookies and hot cocoa, it’s that proud confidence in the Spring to come, that investment in the future by people who know that the future will be better and better, every year. That’s what Christmas was for you when you were a boy. And that’s what Christmas can never be for you now.”
Despite himself, he turned to look at me, wonder and wariness in his eyes.
I said, “Yeah. I do that to people.”
I had spotted him an hour before, at the Fashion Show Mall across The Strip. I was in-and-out, a day trip to a trade show that was all show and no trade for me, but I can’t go to Vegas without picking up a little something for the missus. I had spotted the Brilliant Comrade wandering from store to store, taking in all the Christmas displays. How did I know I was seeing his nibs, the Great Sun Born of Heaven? Portly-short asian men with awful haircuts are thick on the ground in Sin City, but only one of them has a retired NBA power-forward for a bodyguard.
The man is soft, to say the truth. Had he been permitted to grow into his true nature, he’d be the cheerfully reliable gnome in the accounting department, the genial guy dressed in a sweater vest who always has a cache of sweets stashed away in his desk. Instead, he is forced to parade around all day in risible, ill-fitting military regalia, masquerading as anything other than what he is: The old big-boss’s dumbass son.
Anyway, I followed the Supreme Commander all through the mall and across Las Vegas Boulevard to the Venetian. It was all about Christmas for him, as it is for most of us this time of year. Christmas in Vegas is a long weekend that lasts about nine days, but we were early for the big rush, the crowds of Jews, Muslims and empty-nesters who flock to America’s Playland to get away from all the festive festivities back home. Even so, the town was already well-lit with cheery lights and well-lit revelers. The flabby aging cocktail servers wear floppy santa hats and the busty young gold-diggers wear red-velvet bustiers and, in one way or another, everyone is looking to get his stocking stuffed. Truly, it’s the most wonderful time of the year – even in Vegas.
“Can’t be easy,” I said to the Peerless Leader. “For the first thing, you only got stuck with this horrible job because your older brother got caught trying to sneak into Disneyland. And now you have to put on this Great Dictator act all the time, when all you really want to do is masturbate and play video games, like every other slacker your age. And meanwhile, right over the DMZ, the blaring lights of Seoul illuminate your every failure. Everyone knows Marxism is a criminal scam, even more transparent than this scrimmed-up hotel tower, but you alone have to pretend that you’re something other than a paper-tiger gangster living in fear of his own family.”
The Great Defender bared his tiny yellowing teeth. “You should take care in choosing your words.”
I smiled at that empty threat. “I have a photo of you sitting on Santa’s lap. Shall I post it to Instagram?”
There was real fear in the Glorious General’s eyes, so I said, “Relax. I’m not afraid of you, but I do pity you. Of all the prisoners in North Korea, you’re the only one who can never hope to escape. I hate what you do, but you’ll get what’s coming to you in the end. I don’t need to soil myself trying to hurt you.”
The Beloved Benefactor was visibly relieved, like a house slave who’s been spared a whipping.
“Marxism promises to steal from the rich to give to the poor, but we all know how that works. You can only devour invested capital once and then it’s all flushed away as shit. But what Marxism actually wants to steal are those things that can never be stolen: The pride of genuine accomplishment, the honor conferred to persistent excellence, the love won by heartfelt goodness, the knowledge acquired by relentless study. Marxism claims it wants to steal wealth, but fixed wealth is just the cypher of virtue, and virtue cannot be shared, borrowed or stolen. You adorn your body with comical uniforms and undeserved medals, and you plaster your name with ridiculous titles, all to make up for your fundamental emptiness. You live your life as the empty puppet of an empty doctrine, and everyone in North Korea – everyone in the world – will love you best when you are assassinated by your own Glorious Successor.”
To this The Peoples’ Great Savior said nothing, but I thought I saw the hint of a sly grin on his bodyguard’s face.
“As I said, it sucks to be you.”
He responded with silence. What could he say, after all?
I shrugged. “You should defect while you have the chance. Las Vegas is a good town for a Korean fluent in English, and Lee’s Liquors is always hiring.” That was a jab, but I’m not sure he heard it that way. “Anyway,” I said, “have a Merry Christmas.”
And that brought the most beautiful, beatific smile to his little round face. He spoke quietly, confidentially, his voice barely above a whisper: “Merry Christmas!”