The Grit beneath the Glitter: Tales from the Real Las Vegas

By Hal K. Rothman; Mike Davis | Go to book overview

Discordant Infrastructure
PETER GOIN

While the spectacle of the Las Vegas fac¸ade overwhelms any visitor's views, the automobile becomes a visual infrastructure. Architecture, social ceremony, travel, conspicuous consumption; all are reflected by the utility and subliminal presence of the automobile. Power lines, fences, gateways, traffic, and even the irony of a commercial lot full of expensive and in-need-of-repair motor boats deconstruct the popular image of Las Vegas. The glitter is an illusion, and visitors ignore the frame of the car window or the truck blocking their view. The ostentatious display of light and power is sufficient. Recently designated a “scenic route, ” the Strip has become a postmodern main street, the ultimate expression of car culture. Nuptial ceremonies are handled by “drive-ups” and celebrated by crudely drawn hearts on darkened car windows. Bob Stupak's Stratosphere Tower, one of the recent additions to the Las Vegas skyline, is already entangled in power lines. The arch, gateway to wealth and progress, now advertises free parking. Freeways are arteries in constant need of repair. The vast number of vehicles traveling through one intersection at night leave a flow of lights and visual marks of constant motion. Airplanes are either adding contrail grids to the desert sky or lying dormant as museum relics or mothballed fleets. Trees are planted in movable containers. Every structure, sign, and view offers metaphoric testimony to the insecurity that mobility implies. If necessary, even the trees could be moved …

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