Friday, October 12, 2007

Hard Won Truce

[Left] Hoover Dam Moonscape
February Sun Behind the Fountains at Cesar's

The landscape surrounding the Hoover Dam is pure science fiction. It draws in the large American rental cars from Las Vegas like a mother ship’s tractor beam pulling back an invading force. Angular lines of steel and concrete rise out of knotted, and seemingly uncontrollable red rock. Architectural outcroppings look out over expanses of desert air cut into slivers by miles of power lines. There is a hugeness that can’t be described adequately on letter sized paper or a screen full of pixels. Nothing but real life will do it’s scope justice.

The heroic scale of the Hoover Dam’s achievement is breathtaking. The clash of rock and cement speaks of a time when strong backed workers braved the elements for dollars a day in the constant blood feud between the natural world and the manifest destiny of the United States. Now those two forces appear to exist in a hard won truce, but only a temporary one. The force of nature will eventually win out. It may not be in this lifetime, may not be the next. But eventually, the pressure of the water molecules against man made surfaces will win out. Time is on the side of chaos. Always is.

The highway leading out of the neon distractions of the Las Vegas strip winds out through glass and moving light into the low slung streets inhabited by check cashing storefronts, taco stands, Starbucks, and electronics stores. Eventually, the architecture increases in size as the hulking prefab Christian churches that ring Las Vegas come into view. Corrugated steel boxes painted in the earth tones of the southwest give the impression of a military installation and not a place of salvation. Opportunity communities. And their placement just outside the largest adult playground in the world is more tactical than coincidental. They are a sort of installation in the war of the self appointed righteous against the vices of the Vegas strip. Much like the Hoover Dam holding back millions of tons of water, chaos will win out. It is only a matter of time. Always is.

With the warehouse churches falling from view, the horizon opens up. The only indication that the Hoover Dam is lurking nearby is the constant presence of power lines. Everything in Las Vegas plugs in. Everything is illuminated on the grandest of scales. Vegas sucks electricity like the tide drawing out before a tsunami. Only there is no crescendo. No wave. The draw is staggering but it is constant. Huge transformer stations route power to where it is needed. The grid holds strong against the demands of Danny Gans, Wayne Newton, and the Blue Man Group. Their counterfeit reality burns bright, night after night at $100 per ticket.

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