Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Back From the Land of the Dead

Metaphorically speaking, on more than one level...

What can I say? Sometimes you just don't have anything, well, pressing to say. Sometimes you step back for a while. Take a break. Evaluate. Mull. Ponder. Ask yourself  if perhaps it's time to quit one thing and move on to some new thing. Everyone does it, of course. Some come back to the old thing. Some go on to a new thing, leaving the old thing a silent, forgotten ghost town, or a collection of dead links.

I don't know how many blogs I've followed over the years, blogs that are now long gone, their creators - utterly unknown to me save what they've chosen to share - simply disappearing, moving on. Ephemera.

Not quite there yet. Not quite.

I don't know why not, really. Hell, no one blogs any more. Too slow. Too antiquated. Too quaint. Too 2001. Everyone tweets, or YouTubes, or Facebooks, or Instagrams, or Vines, or whatever. I don't do any of those other things, so I guess I'll keep doing this for a while.

Speaking of the land of the dead, unavoidable business took me to Las Vegas last week. The first time I experienced Vegas against my will (and that is how I will always experience Vegas, against my will) I invoked Sartre. Hell is other people, indeed.  That was several years ago.

And now here I am, back again. Every day I walk around in the bowels of a giant building teeming with thousands of other people who - inexplicably to me - have actually chosen to be here, indeed paid good money to be here, all of them rapturously flowing along the aisles like frenzied swarms of krill: We must see STUFF! We must buy STUFF! Look at all this STUFF! Gotta have me some STUFF!

I am not immune from the allure of STUFF! No one is. And if you are, or think you are, the sheer power of all that concentrated STUFF! in one place will hit you over the head, mercilessly pummeling you into submission, until battered, beaten, and broken, you, too, will come to covet STUFF! It is our way. Most of the STUFF! I am forced to covet has keen blades, or gorgeous wood melded into engraved metal. We all have our vices. Mine, thankfully, are mostly unobtainable. Poverty doth have its rewards.   

 At night I take the taxi back to my hotel, that undulating, light-bedazzled, glass-skinned coffin. On the drive I strike up conversations with the cabbies. All are from somewhere else: Armenia. Russia. Nigeria. Texas. Iowa. California. Vegas is a city of people from somewhere else. One cabbie tells me that it's useless trying to get to know your neighbors, because they will all be gone soon, anyway. Next year, he is moving.

I get out of the cab, walk into the hotel and through the casino filled with desperate, haunted souls. I ride the elevator up to my room, fall into a chair in front of the big bay window, crack open a beer, and watch the evening sun slowly fade away on the mountains stretched out beyond this temporary, doomed artifice. I wonder about those mountains and the desert beyond; if they have desert quail, if they have hidden places few people visit or know of, if anyone in this crowded, transient place ever longs to escape there, as I do, or if those mountains and deserts are merely a static backdrop for the overwhelming hustle of this wholly synthetic place. 

Surrounded by two million people and all the glitz and folly a person could want, and I am dreaming of lonely, ruined places. It's just what I do. Because I'm a weirdo and a misanthropic, anti-social bastard. No one's perfect.

I drink a few more beers, watch the epileptic lights of the city for a while, and read a bit. What am I reading? Some of the Dead Are Still Breathing. Apropos. Then I go to bed. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so we're told. But I don't think anything stays here for long. I know I'm sure as hell not.

When the plane takes off I can see the sprawling fairytale land in all its smog-hazed glory; the verdant green of the golf courses, the resorts, the casinos, the housing developments, the pulsing, arterial roads. A bit beyond that I can see the desert, the bathtub ring around Lake Mead, and impending reality.