From the window of my hotel room at the Rio, you can see from the Strip all the way to the mountains. Vegas as a city seems noticeably bigger every time you set foot in it, though the current economic clusterfuck has carved shrapnel-wounds into the whole town. The vast suburban sprawl to the north seems a bit worse every time, but the Strip itself seems to erupt from from the ground like magma from a fissure, hardening into one new hotel after another almost while you watch. Every new tower is bigger than the last; from the vantage point of a hotel room a mile away and three hundred some odd feet in the air, the giant hotels of a mere decade ago seem miniaturized in comparison. Every tower makes a statement of one sort or another, and that statement is always "look the fuck at me." It is not subtle.
Among the newcomers, the Trump tower, in particular, is noteworthy. In a city of screaming architecture, the Trump tower stands out as the one most likely to have been designed completely by its namesake, and drawn out on a cocktail napkin sometime during the very first planning session in order to save further design fees. "I want it to be really goddamn big" you can almost hear Donald saying, "and I want the whole thing to be the color of GOLD. Write that down. GOLD. With my name written on top." The result is a gigantic tombstone of a building, massive, sharp-edged and piss-yellow. In a mini-metropolis dedicated towards the outrageous and oversized, it manages to make the simple utilitarian rectangle insulting. Next to it, the lipstick-pink Thunderdome-ish bubble of Circus Circus seems positively sedate in comparison.
Christ, though, America is good at this.
This is a town that messes with your head. If want it to really mess with your head, you can take the usual, predictable paths; drink until you're half-blind, when the whole town suddenly looks more earnest, or dump as much money as possible onto tables and into holes, after which it all looks a lot more fake again. But you don't need to do any of it, because you can just walk two blocks sober and you'll know your place in the world. On the Strip it is concentrated to 500 proof or so, and you'd have to be a in a coma to miss it. You, my friend, are krill.
Stay a day or two, and you begin to absorb the town quickly, and if you stay sober you begin to see the same sleight of hand, the same card tricks, the same style-over-substance and market-tested loudness in everything else your vision touches. Vegas is Vegas, after all; it's meant to be what it is. But those same damn piss-yellow headstones are being put up everywhere else, these days. Everything in politics and culture is being Vegasified. It's bigger! It's less sincere! It's TEN TIMES LOUDER now than it was before!
You want to see the hep new Trump International of political discourse? See Beck, comma Glenn, and his nationally broadcast Chalkboard of Imminent Goddamn Pants-Wetting Nightly Terror. You want to see a banker's dream, a golden obelisk of privilege and excess that shines, gigantic and conspicuous and piss-yellow, down on the rest of us? We called it TARP. You want to see pointless tombstone-slash-buildings erected simply for the sake of putting someone's name in thirty-foot-high letters at the top of them? God, welcome to freakin' everything in politics. You thought our vaunted discourse couldn't be louder, before? Oh, were you wrong. You thought you had seen the most epic heights of politics-as-screaming-nutcase with the Ann Coulters of the world? You were so wrong.
Oh, for that simple world of yesteryear in which the craziest damn nutcase in politics was only Ann Coulter. Now we've got people nuttier than that in our Congress. Now that level of batshit crazery is the minimum bound for being elected in a Republican primary.
Now Obama is a racist, a Muslim, and a Kenyan who's come to take our guns and ban our ammunition, institute Sharia, intentionally cripple the Great and Glorious Bush wars, who controls everyone from ACORN to the New Black Panthers, indoctrinates our schoolchildren via stay-in-school messages, is going to shut down the patriots of conservative radio, is going to keep you from buying your precious gold, is going to cede the west back to Mexico, blah de blah de freakin' blah. Thank God our discourse was so civil when we were only discussing war, torture, espionage and economic con jobs. Thank God we saved our national voice for this, for these things that truly matter.
Whenever I see the Tea Partiers, outraged and belligerent and absolutely convinced that the American apocalypse is just around the corner if we, say, dare grant our own citizens basic access to healthcare or the like, I say to myself: why? Why would you go out of your way to demonstrate to the world that you're nothing but an easy mark? It's like a group of slot jockeys all getting together to demand the casinos dump on them a bit more. A movement demanding that their well-to-do hosts abuse them just little more, when feeding their money and their lives into the grand American machine.