Foot to the floor, barely aware of surroundings, I am anxious to get as far away as possible. Highway signs have become a blur, with the thought of escape pumping through my veins. Looking down, the speedometer climbs in response to my desire, leaping much the same way as I left home. My old man's convertible is being tested tonight to an extreme he never dreamed would be dared.
So far, no sirens have threatened to dim hope, no flashing lights to barricade freedom from welcoming me. Nothing in sight but open road, peppered with curves, occasionally sharp, through desert's cooling heart, its soft scent of oncoming winter blowing sweat from my eyes.
Responsive does not begin to express how obedient the machinery is to my commands. It behaves as if an extension of desire, performing whiplash turns, accelerating with the slightest of pedal pressure, mastering this unmarked asphalt. Eighty on rural roads was previously the fastest she ever allowed me to push her, but the last thirty-five degree turn at ninety seemed effortless. No doubt there were some nocturnal creatures scurrying for their lives as we passed. I definitely empathize with them, since that emotion drives me on, scurrying as fast as Dad's Porsche will allow.
Distant lines of the horizon appear as a turbulent ocean, undulating softly as our pace rises, my stallion unbridled, my flying carpet of emancipation, lifting my dreams from caged hopes to promising events. Strands of hair whipping my face do nothing more than massage my goal's libido. Knowing the territory assures me that the last green square streaking by to the right was an announcement that Vegas city limits would be in the rear view in less than 30 seconds. I couldn't get there fast enough. The pedal refuses to go through the floor, no matter how hard I attempt to make it so.
Thank God this is No Man's Land, for any pedestrian unfortunate enough to cross before my mechanical spouse and I would surely be dead before hitting the ground.
Sin City appears before me like a huge balloon inflated to the full in half a second. Reversing altitude is the biggest downer ever, balanced only by arrival's unspeakable joy. Gleaming diamonds of architecture and incandescence sparkle, a beckoning mistress advertising unspoken vows of wealth to all patrons. “And here comes your champion,” my inexperience snickers.
Decompression leaving deep submersion in space or water pales in comparison to the same process with speed. Every fiber in my body feels life surging anew; negative G force mix with anticipation and deceleration. More alive than ever, every synapse explodes with energy, each sensation preserved with photographic clarity. Time itself stalls to a degree dictated by my capacity to capture it in my cerebral recorder, now operating at hyper speed.
Frame One: The Dunes, that monolith of metallic extravagance, seems dwarfed by the magnetic pull it has on my heart. A balcony on the fifteenth floor has just illuminated from within its attached living quarters. A slender blonde leans forward, balancing her slender top heavy frame on intricate railings with talons Cleopatra would envy. Rings on each finger sparkle, miniature beacons echoing that beckoning siren song of easy riches.
Second Frame: Forty five degrees southwest, another balcony is spotlit by what is obviously another silicone-enhanced showgirl, this one sun bathing au naturel, unencumbered by false modesty. She prepares her ritual to the delight of voyeurs and lucky passengers of low flying aircraft with a slow pseudo strip, no doubt learned through years of practice.
Before Intermission, check out Frame Three. Across the street, a glowing billboard gestures silently, an enormous cowboy of at least sixty feet in height, his arms waving an open entry greeting. At his bent elbow, a square man, possibly five foot, (six if you account for the slightly humped back), tends to an unseen calcium deposit donated by one or more aerial graffiti artists searching for perches in this oasis of electric statues. He wipes his brow, steadies his frame upon the scaffolding, then looks wistfully over the terrain of repairs remaining. With a deep sigh, his routine continues, oblivious to numerous free peep shows offered across the chasm of static humanity.
Carnival barkers have been replaced by flashing illumination, both stationary and worn, all louder in gaudiness than the vocal showmen ever were. Mismatched colors, patterns never intended to be clothing, apparel never intended to be worn publicly and intention disguised as promise, all displayed without regard to their pompous deceit. And that is the beauty of it all, I think. Sinful sincerity, obvious deception, ugly fashion and unruly law; all the contradictions that compliment one another so well, that they draw you to the wishing well without warning that this well is forever a bottomless pit of despair and sorrow.
Fascinated, drawn visually, eyes glued to this feature film of frenetic incongruence, my keys float into a pants pocket, unaware of the hands holding them. Drifting into the maelstrom of breathing shadows, I join this sea of visiting sacrifices to the vampire god Money. Enjoying being an unwitting volunteer/victim, my recorder continues on automatic pilot. My mind goes on vacation while my senses are delightfully dulled with the hypnotic stream of entertainment bombarding.
Whatever distraction is allowed in any life, there is inevitably balance in its proportions. My film fare is similar, if you can grasp my process of comparison. There's a standard flow and purpose to each, from beginning to end. The entire event has a sum total of unity, a completed equivalent that reflects what put it all together. Every story has its protagonist, confrontation and conclusion. I am somewhere in that mix, but not quite sure where.
A marble brunette figurine poses on a seventh floor landing, features flexed, a mimicked mime escaping its box. Faulty incandescents draw the silhouette with smoky strobes. Kinescope movement at best, its nearly colorless incongruity with glamor town sucks in my attention. One hand on car door handle, another shading eyes from electric sunlight, I witness the waltz minus music as it unwinds. Mesmerized by the slow serenade of motion, my own movement becomes a suggestion of progress, each attempt at locomotion laboriously negative.
Framed in a topless ensemble of questionable fashion, undeniable assets outweigh whatever flaws might be revealed in close up. Suggestively moving, she charms any bipedal spider that might be unfortunate enough to surrender to the allures of her flytrap. Open arms entice the unseen audience, shadows stretching impossible shapes across the valley of neon below.
Distracted by her wispy images, sirens approaching register almost too late for avoidance. Nearly toppled by turbulence from the speeding ambulance, I gain sure footing mere seconds before it halts scant yards away. Carried by a burly duo of scruffy ambulatory lackeys, an unfortunate highway victim is carted out of the rescue vehicle, apparently immobile, on a stretcher. As its wheels are unfolded for quicker mobilization, its once ivory sheet reveals the true nature of its occupant's exigent circumstances, as it blooms with rose petals and flowing auburn ribbons. Whisked from sight of public view prior to notice, the trio enter an inconspicuous alleyway leading to a door marked with letters of gold leaf.
Unleashed from whatever astral magnetism formerly captured me in slow motion, my hands and legs make up for lost time in following my curiosity. Between two gaudily embellished doors to temples of throwing money away, what should have been a wino's hideout or a stray dog's cubby hole, stands the aforementioned doorway. Barely able to occupy a wallet, it confounds me how two medical personnel carried an occupied cart through. I stand in awe, puzzling this and where my car keys went to, and before wonder can settle comfortably, I am vacuumed into the space. I can see the golden letters in reverse, wondering what clinic would name itself “Rainbow Bridge”.
What should definitely be an absolutely tight fit surprises with more space than the streets outside could compete with. Certain that my experimentation with controlled substances is giving me a cohesive dream, I accept what can not be real, doing my best to observe and report.
Illuminated by moths, fireflies and low hanging lights wearing shades skimpier than a prostitute's final evening wardrobe, sight is allowed only between edges of what their spotlights accentuate. Dribbling into audible range are tatters of conversation, some human and some filtered through electric transmissions.
Crackling amid invisible bug zappers, I hear someone asking for surgical supplies, and what must be a telecommunications operator frantically rounding up outside support. “Why these kids can't curb their appetites for destruction, I'll never know,” an exasperated skin seamstress whines.
“We need more room, there's too many for us to work on, and not enough to work with.” A tall surgeon, wearing more dried intestines than clothing, wipes the fresher sweat from his greasy brow, and shouts to the radio operator, three spotlights away, “Can you get through to anyone?" Not waiting for a reply, he returns to the newest arrival. “Dammit, I'll never understand this. Such a waste." Sniffing with disgust, more at his calling than what he is now called to do. “So young." His right arm unfolds, his hand extends symbolically to an assistant, who instinctively places a tool in it. Shining steel almost makes me forget that it is a saw of sorts. It looks short and brilliant in its beauty, but still a cutting tool. Mumbling incoherently, the patient's grunts indicate the tool's arrival. As the blade cuts through human material, I turn to avoid what is sure to make me vomit. I try to eavesdrop again.
“Seventy five, yeh, I let 'em go seventy five or eighty most the time. But, damn, a hundred twenty, even in the sands, good grief . . ." Hurriedly starting another statement to cover a long overdue belch, he adds, “Sure wasn't much left to pick up. Damn sorry sight, too. That car could have gone for a pretty penny at any auction. Heck, I'd trade anything just to ride in that roadster." The highway patrolman sat down to continue scribbling his report. “Some kids have it all, and don't even know it."
Grabbing the officer's attention, the radio operator shouts,"Positive hit. NCIC comes back with report of stolen vehicle. It's our man. Stolen just tonight." Handing the teletype over, neither exchanges smiles. They seem to have been through this more often than the complaining doctor.
“Amputation may save his life, but don't ya wonder? What quality of life does an eighteen year old . . ." The hovering electric monitor interrupts any further syllables with its own vocabulary. Several bursts of synthetic barks, then one extended screech tell them all they need to know.
The police officer speaks as machines are shut down, and an exhausted surgeon shuffles toward a waiting seat. “Doc, you did all ya could.” His hand gently resting on his associate's shoulder, a sigh shared between them, and a stare of hopelessness.
Then they look at me. And they say nothing. They don't have to. I'm supposed to look at the patient.