Double Or Quits

Submitted By carlmom30
Words: 1483
Pages: 6

Frieze Issue 50 January-February 2000 Double Or Quits What can I tell serious art people about Las Vegas? Just this: you should not worry about it. Vegas is a nice town - bland as a biscuit in the sunshine, pastel and dreamy at the edges of the day, and the absolute, incarnate, dazzled heart of earthly promise under the stars. You can gamble here, of course, and glamour is not illegal, nor is the night, but otherwise the ordinary laws and customs of cosmopolitan society are genially in place and tolerantly enforced. As a consequence, only Mecca has more visitors every year. I have lived here for a little over a decade and call it my home because I genuinely like it. I like the weather, the palm trees, the tables, the show rooms, the music, the bars, the restaurants, the fountains, the airport, the house, the people, the pace, and, most of all, I like the lights. In truth, I like nearly everything except the traffic and the unctuous air of social concern exuding from the junketing culturati whom I encounter on a regular basis. 
During the past twelve months, I have spoken to 40 journalists, minimum, all here on assignment from icy climes - journalists from New York, Auckland, Prague, Stockholm, Frankfurt, Montreal, London, Minneapolis, etc. They all insist that they have come because they are ‘interested’ in Las Vegas but they are not. They are worried about Las Vegas. During the same period, I spoke with easily a hundred ‘serious’ architects, recently flown in from climates comparably frigid. They claim to be ‘interested’ in Las Vegas, too. They are not either. They are even more worried than the journalists, and I don’t understand this. I mean, are people being trained to worry about Vegas at the Fun-Police Academy, or is it, perhaps, a self-selecting vocation? It’s a mystery, for sure, but lately I’ve been thinking that maybe it has something to do with the millennium, because, earthly virtues aside, Vegas does have its eschatological moments.
I remember a blue, summer evening about a week after my wife and I came to town. We were cruising down The Strip listening to loud music on the car radio when, kaboom! this operatic desert thunderstorm exploded all around us. The rain crashed down in sheets, engulfing everything. Light from the setting sun continued to banner in over the mountains, spangling through the plunging water. The Strip seethed and sizzled around us like a neon flash fire, colours bleeding on the windshield. Mile-high lightening trees crackled down the blue-black curve of the southern sky, and then, as if to summon up the dead, this heart-stopping clap of thunder… magically synchronised with the opening chords of Pink Floyd playing ‘The Wall’ on the car radio. That, I can assure you, was pretty apocalyptic and pretty exciting, too, but I didn’t get worried about it. All I though was ‘Home at Last!’
But that’s just me. Other cultural speculators, I’ve found, invariably come to Vegas for a reason other than gambling, dining, drinking, dancing, smoking and, hopefully, wandering through the rose-coloured dawn with a roll of hundreds in one’s shirt pocket and a cocktail in one’s hand. These dudes have documentary projects, research grants, and magazine assignments. That’s what they tell you, although I am virtually certain that each of them fears that this is not the real reason for their pilgrimage - that they are, in truth, being lured into the neon cauldron by some deeper and possibly fatal attraction, as Gladstone was drawn to the whores. They step onto the Strip as Gladstone stepped into brothels - hysterically en garde. They will not gamble and they will not tip, because gambling and tipping are voluntary and, after their first act of volition, well, you know: le deluge! Soon they become annoyed that not-gambling and not-tipping is their responsibility - that they could be gambling and they should be tipping and they would be if only… and this flicker of temptation initiates worry about their money.