There’s something about the State of Nevada. Something about the of gnarled hills the relentless sagebrush flats, the Ghost Towns, Caesars, MGM, the neon, the noise. It feels like the state of Nevada has something to teach me, something important.
When I think of Nevada I think of prospectors and burros, gold and silver, boom and bust, Eureka, Pioche, Tonopah, Carson City, Virginia City, the Comstock Lode. I think of a false-fronted Emporium with empty window frames, sand blowing through doorways, snow drifting over boardwalks. I think of tumbleweed rolling down empty streets, biting winter, scorching summer and the sweet pungency of sage after a thunderstorm.
When I think of Nevada, I think of an islet of light and gas pumps beside Route 50, “Loneliest Road in America.” A sadly heroic outpost hunkered down in the drab, silent land, a shameless spark of life impossibly far from anywhere else on Earth. I think of Corollas, Mercedes, Harleys and semis racing past grimy windows where “Budweiser” flickers and chrome-faced slot-machines beckon like prostitutes.
When I think of Nevada I think of “The Biggest Little City on Earth,” “The Strip,” the Mob, “Bugsy” Siegel, con-artists, and hit-men. I think of the Flamingo, Stardust, Dunes, Sahara, MGM, Caesars, green felt, Blackjack, Roulette, Craps. I think of Lounge Shows, Extravaganzas and bare-breasted show girls. I think of the mawkish kerchunk of slot machines and the clatter of nickels in tin bowls. I think of a million lights winking all night every night, of giddy winners and suicidal losers, of mechanical dealers and bionic pit bosses and the Eye-in-the-sky.
When I think of Nevada I think of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Mustang Ranch the Cottontail Ranch, pimps and whores.
As if feeling overwhelmed by hills rolling on like gray-green velvet over mounds of mashed potatoes, carpets of sagebrush hung hammock-like between decaying stony spines, shimmering heat, killing cold; as if intimidated by the boundless sapphire dome, the Bigness, the Stillness, to buck up our courage, to fool ourselves into believing we matter at all, we turn on the lights, turn up the volume, raise a ruckus. Secretly knowing all the while, the neon, the noise, the clatter, the glitter, the ten million dollar jackpots, the Extravaganzas, bare-chested beauties, the ninety-nine cent ham and egg breakfast, the five-ninety-five steak and lobster dinner, are apparitions in the window of a sad cafe in a lonely outpost beside I-15, I-80, an evanescent fairy-dust mirage in an empty silent land.
The Desert nurtures and consoles me. I absorb the dirt, rock, sage, the jackrabbits and wild horses, the shimmering heat, the stunning cold, the vast dry land, the endless robin’s-egg blue, the stillness. Alone. Emptiness, silence are vital.
Then, suddenly, I yearn for an oasis, the indecent clatter of nickels in a tin dish, the garish light, the noise and motion. I crave a hot shower, air-conditioning, steak and lobster, green felt and One-armed Bandits, pimps and whores, cons and hit-men, Pen and Teller, bare-chested showgirls. I need music, laughter, curses and tears. To survive, to exist, I demand people! Without a café and gas station beside the Freeway I can not survive.
For me the State of Nevada is Yin and Yang, paradox, diametric opposites inconceivable without the other. Think about it, light without dark, summer without winter, noise without silence, solitude without community, male without female, life without death. Inconceivable.
The state of Nevada’s emptiness and glitter fascinate me. Without The Strip, The Biggest Little City on Earth, the lonely parched land feel hopeless. Without the lonesome desert Vegas and Reno are absurd.