Last Days In Las Vegas
The Apocalypse will begin in Las Vegas amidst a sweltering heatwave.
By Ruby Thelot
The End Times is a column cataloguing the omens of the Apocalypse as they occur in culture.
It’s all salt and heat. It was 110 degrees in Las Vegas this week. And every year, it gets worse. I drove through the desert for hours to get to the American Oasis. A city of Sin in the midst of the desert is ripe for divine retribution, such a natural target.
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat.
At night, the street signs shine like stars. A million Alpha Centauri beckon me as I walk the Strip of Paradise. Ads made celestial. Decorated sheds line the street with the imagery and symbols of temptation.
Girls direct to you
The only respite is found inside the sheds, where the cool mechanic breeze of freon boxes refrigerates the interior of casinos. On the vast floor, thousands of grey-haired iPad babies sit enraptured in front giant screens clicking away as bright images of half-baked games illuminate their faces. The dry chilled air is mixed with the suave scent of cigarettes being smoked inside.
Where the fun never sets
Joan Didion said that “Las Vegas is the most extreme and allegorical of American settlements, bizarre and beautiful in its venality and in its devotion to immediate gratification”. Indeed, Vegas is not the anomaly, it is the very manifestation of American hubris: a mixture of crime, lust and gambling loosely cobbled together atop unceded land.
Years of open-air nuclear experiments have left the earth rattling with radiation. I missed the good old days, when you could gamble away your child’s college fund and see mushroom clouds all in the same night. Simpler times. The Helldorado Days.
You can really see the end from here. Every year gets hotter. Vegas will melt and soon after all of America. The air conditioning will fail, the doors will lock, and we will gamble our remaining savings until we die of heat exhaustion, dreaming of —
As Coney Island to Manhattan, Las Vegas is the incubator for America’s wildest ideas, a playground for experimentation, nuclear or otherwise. Just like Coney Island in 1906, the last grand idea is the construction of a giant sphere, the largest on Earth, allegedly. 875,000 square feet of spherical area all devoted to entertainment which should, God willing, open to the public in September of this year. Its predecessor The Globe Tower at Coney Island was never fully built and ended defrauding investors of their money. Should this experimental sphere be successful, more identical ones will appear across the world. London is next on the list. As Rem Koolhaas notes in his manifesto “Delirious New York”, “The sphere appears throughout Western architectural history, generally coinciding with revolutionary moments.” The giant Vegas globe, formally known as the “Sphere at The Venetian Resort”, and its future sequels, forebode a time of change, a revolution, perhaps our last.
Deep below Atomic City, a thousand bombs still lay dormant. Aroused by the hellish heat, they will enter a chain-reaction which will ignite the End of Times. The rapture will begin as a mushroom cloud engulfs Paradise.
No one knows the day and hour.
You can’t tell time in a casino.
I continue my pilgrimage. I map to Caesar’s Palace. 48-minute walk, 8 minutes by car.
I think to myself, like Maxim Gorky, that “Hell is very badly done.”
I want to be the first to go during the Apocalypse, so I plan to be in Vegas for it. I will not leave. I will stay. Enjoying the end in the most American way possible, right smack in the middle of it. Like Lot’s wife, I’ll be staring the evil city right in its eye. I’ll be all salt and heat.