Saturday, June 4, 2011

laden with an infinitely shabby portmanteau

Abandoning the machine in Arizona with its rush and mush we've moved to Las Vegas, "The Meadows," where I open the windows and the sounds of machinery outside, cars and planes, irregular rumbles or hisses, take their chances with the songs of birds in the tree exterior. (One branch ends only a few feet from the glass. It's almost knocking. In storms I will try not to remember Poltergeist, the scared boy in the bedroom, rain, lightning, the tree outside gone mad and beating its branches through the wall, water thrashing in, the stuffed clown disappearing from the wooden chair -- arms around the throat -- screaming boy -- etc.)

I went to the library and found Virginia Woolf, who had also gone to the library. "We went on to the London Library; & as we walked down the steep street someone came ambling and crouching up to us -- Bob. T. -- laden with an infinitely shabby portmanteau -- full of books, I think" -- and my mind goes to Coleridge, coming into the Wordsworths' cottage with "a sack full of Books, Etc., and a branch of mountain ash." There are many homeless people in Vegas, ambling and crouching, and M. has spoken to one named Charles, who wears a crown and a macramé owl, and says that poor folk don't like him, but lawyers do; also, young men today are ignoble; he divides the world, and could hold a conversation about it with Ruskin. "All grief that convulses the features is ignoble," says Ruskin to Charles, who points out that the imitation Roman statues at Ceasars are serene. "The sorrow of mortified vanity or avarice is simply disgusting," adds the Englishman, and walks up and down the Strip, turning down the offer of a free margarita, a six-foot lobster, and a coupon to see the Mac King Magic Show at Harrah's. "The use and value of passion is not as a subject of contemplation in itself, but as it breaks up the fountains of the great deep of the human mind," he declares to the men who hand out illustrations of naked women on those little cards that are slightly smaller and thinner than the cards in a playing deck. A carload of frat boys from California go by screaming, "Vay-gaas! Aow!" at the casinos and palm trees, but this is a normal event and everybody ignores them.

The Barking Dog Man and his shopping cart seem to have disappeared. We used to see him here years ago, but now no sign.

Coleridge enters from Dorothy Wordsworth's Journals. "He had been attacked by a cow."


  1. I like the fountains at Bellaggio in Las Vegas - they are programmed to dance to the accompaniment of Dean Martin (or someone [Tony Something or other?]) singing 'Luck, Be a Lady Tonight'. For some reason the spectacle struck me at 2 am some ten years ago as marvellously manipulative.

  2. I think they cover "Hey Big Spender" as well. I appreciate the Bellagio -- it's the only casino in town that held on to its art gallery when the recession hit. You have to pay to get in, but at least it's there. The whole Strip is so nakedly eager to grab your attention that it has a sort of grotesque sweetness, what with the musical fountains, and the Eiffel Tower, and the volcano going off (at timed intervals, so that nobody misses out, which seems so considerate), and the women on the pirate ship in their bikinis, and the massive obsidian pyramid that lets you get your bearings at night by shooting out, allegedly, the strongest beam of light in the world at 42.3 billion candlepower, whatever that means.

  3. 'a grotesque sweetness' - the words I've been looking for ever since I was there.

  4. It reminds me of a ceramic pot (I don't remember if it's supposed to hold tea, or soup, or what) in the National Gallery of Victoria, a baroque pot, with multiple faces, breasts, feet, hips, and arms, and different-coloured glazes wiped over all of them, the whole object so overblown that it's endearing, like a puppy with five legs.