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April 14, 2017

Meaning of life material in a place devoid of it


Despite the foul winds of hell that blow through town from time to time, that strangest of American cities, Reno, Nevada, remains a city of trembling leaves as the title of the Walter Van Tilburg Clark novel set here a century ago described it. Seth Meyers reported Reno’s death on SNL years ago and the undead of this place surprisingly took offense to it. Today a grittier modern version survives as Willy Vlautin writes about it in two of his novels. I ran into Vlautin after he played at the Nevada Museum Of Art and we ended up taking a cab to the Cal-Neva to eat. We were going to get an awful-awful at the Nugget Diner downtown but couldn’t get to it because of a sea of police in the streets. A rapper had just been shot. I suddenly thought of David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty disappear, subconscious imagery for the dramatic loss of liberty on a grand scale, in a place where it happens every night. So many things smack of addiction, slavery and spiritual imprisonment here that it should be considered a city of hell. It made me want to read Frederick Douglass as soon as I got home. It makes you want to read period. The microclimate created by the bars, casinos, strip clubs and liquor marts could be disheartening. But out of that downtown nightmare came the otherworldly baseball stadium that resembled the mothership landing scene out of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind blinding the lesser neon lights of the casinos and causing the homeless to shield their eyes and sing unintelligible songs of praise and liberation. And the aliens are minor league baseball players. A giant baseball sings Take Me Out To The Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch. I along with everybody else join him in singing with great passion in what’s regarded as a hymn now, second only to the national anthem. Afterwards, this spherical god who had been appropriated by the home team disappeared from whence he came down below and what had passed for normalcy quickly returned. Immediately I found myself kind of missing slightly horrific Mr. Baseball and making nicknames for him like Ballhead. I know that if I’m patient he will return. Beneath him are the homeless. Right on the other side of the train trench in a surreal Gitmo enclosure. I wonder how many baseballs got hit into their world since the beginning of this one? At least they get something from this world of haves once in awhile. I think about the homeless in places like this often because in this economy there is little more than a trench between them and the gainfully employed, as they continue to struggle with the worst unemployment rate in the country.