Tag Archives: Nevada

Seven Magic Mountains

It is as if they sprung up from nowhere. Unnatural bright colors in unnatural formations framed by the natural vastness of Nevada. You can see them from the freeway. You almost can’t not see them.

Ten miles south of Las Vegas, in that stretch of nothingness between there and LA, is an art installation only planned to be there 2 years. It opened May 2016 and is now more than half way over.

It is worth a trip to nowhere.IMG_8998

It was built by the Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone with a commission from the Nevada Museum of Art. I like it more than I like Vegas.

Which isn’t saying much thanks to how I feel about Vegas, which was kind of the artist’s point.IMG_9011

The installation, called the Seven Magic Mountains, is a human construction in a completely unnatural place for no other reason than human entertainment.

It is a pile of rocks and I think it has ten times more meaning than Vegas.IMG_9004

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Death Valley, the part that died: Ghost Town

The stretch between Baker California and the Nevada side of Death Valley is as barren as barren can be. some people still live there but mostly the area is scattered with places where people used to live. There you will find a town called Rhyolite.IMG_9338 (25)

It is really a town, but it used to be. Founded in 1905 the town grew thanks to a mining boom and within a year it had a population near 5,000. That is a lot of people when you consider that times lack of highways and its eternal isolation from anything else that could be considered remotely hospitable to human life.
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Now the place is a ghost town which is how its advertised and it probably sees more action now as a tourist destination than it ever did as an actual city.
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There are abandoned buildings of varying types, a quirky art installation that includes a 15 foot tall female nude made to look as if is made of Legos, and a residence built entirely out of bottles. It is your basic American ghost town.
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We poked around a little, took some pictures, then hopped in the car and headed back to civilization.
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It is hard to say where exactly civilization begins in this case. Beatty is near by, then Baker, but I think the population of people sitting in traffic on the I-15 numbers more than that 100 mile stretch of land has had over the past century.
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Death Valley: What’s Grandma Doing at the Dunes?

“Looks like there’s a lot you don’t know about her” is Uncle Rico’s reply to Napoleon Dynamite’s query upon finding out his grandmother had broken her coccyx whilst four-wheeling at the dunes. IMG_8969

For those of you whose only interaction with sand dunes is watching movies like Lawrence of Arabia I can now testify that what I always thought were actors trying to look heat exhausted and parched, isn’t acting at all. It is simply humans trying to walk up small mountains of sand that do everything in their power to imitate the experience of walking up the down escalator. What looks like heat exhaustion and thirst experienced by those lost for days in the Sahara is just as easily thigh burning frustration that ramps up to miserable in less than two minutes.IMG_8972

Miserable is too strong of a word, I was being dramatic. Really the dunes are beautiful (not being dramatic) and my biggest regrets are that 1. we shared the experience with hoards of other tourists, and 2. We didn’t bring a snowboard or some other device with which we could slide down the dunes, rewarding ourselves with fun for the effort it takes to scale a sand dune.IMG_9023

While crowds can be a nuisance when looking for desolation, they can also provide entertainment in the middle of what would otherwise be solitude (boredom). We saw numerous photo shoots in progress, mostly of girls in formal dresses and guys in tuxedos, and we saw this guy. This guy and his eagle were brought in as a prop for one of said formal gown wearing women photo sessions… because a sparkly dress in the middle of Death Valley really needs an eagle to make it interesting.IMG_8990 (5)

I do have to admit the eagle was pretty cool. Owning an eagle is akin to owning a tiger, just a little bit more American.IMG_9014 (7)

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Vegas

Doctors and scientists agree that an elevated body temperature is particularly dangerous in that it can cause permanent neurological damage. If a human body reaches 100.4 degrees the person officially has a fever and should report to the nearest hospital for treatment. It was 106 degrees yesterday in Las Vegas.IMG_5563

At nine in the morning I step through the plaster facade of Paris onto the sidewalk but have to stop short to avoid colliding with a shirtless man drinking something red from a fishbowl.

IMG_5567He was walking by himself but he was in no way alone. There were plenty of strange objects, all of them large, filled with colorful liquids being carried and sipped from, by all sorts of partially clothed people. The people came in all sorts and all ages and in large numbers. They were speaking German, Spanish, and drunken gibberish.

IMG_5565“Yeeeeeeeeah! Duuuuuude. Check em out broh!” “Heeeeey, whoooooooie! Yeah watch me drop it!” “Whoo-o whoo-o! Whoo-o, whoo-o!” Such poetry being shouted by middle aged divorcee’s or twenty somethings from Ohio State sounds pretty much the same. No matter how it looks or sounds, the prevailing impression is that those saying it are sweaty.IMG_5555Nine in the morning or nine at night it doesn’t matter. At both times it is 106 degrees outside and everyone is either drunk or trying to get there. Inside it isn’t quite as hot.

IMG_5564I was there to have dinner with the Teamster’s. When I arrived I was shown to a table with two six foot tall blonde women who said they were sisters, a Jewish lawyer whose father was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, and an Ex-Mormon who worked in the dairy industry. No one thought our grouping remarkable in any way.IMG_5566After dinner I walked back through the maze of lights and bells towards my room. Groups wearing sashes and tiaras, or red hats and teddy bear sweaters, or suits with black shirts all gathered around various tables and machines shouting.IMG_5569One grey haired man sat at a machine holding a lit cigarette down at his waist. He was staring off toward nothing doing nothing and saying nothing, but everything around him was lit up and making noise.IMG_5570

Everyone there is trying to have a good time. I know this because the shouting, the billboards, and the gauntlet of salespeople are telling me so. They offer me free drinks, free admission to a striptease, a chance at winning $100,000. IMG_5572After the fifth encounter I simply stop responding. I just want to watch the fountains dance in front of the Bellagio or listen to some live music with something more than just a bass line.IMG_5571

A bunch of guys wearing bespoke suits are pausing to take pictures with women wearing sequined g-strings. I wave my hand aside as one of the ladies moves to step in front of me. I smile at her and shake my head no.IMG_5574

I’m in Vegas and everyone is here to have a good time. I’m ready to have a good time. Business is done so now its time to play. I’m not against fun. I’ve never thought of myself as boring or a prude but by ten o’clock I was headed for my room. I didn’t feel bad about it. I was ready for fun.

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