Lonely Lights

Recently, I spent four days with my family in Las Vegas. We drove home through the desert, as the afternoon simmered on the horizon and the twilight rose like a cobalt steam. And eventually the stars would appear, like coy diamonds. They linked into constellations, creating parures that glittered in the sky.

We gradually approached the outskirts of towns – Chino, Ontario, Barstow – touching by buildings that were the colorless victims of the dry, stirring air. They were all square; cubes with points that jutted into the night – products of a geometry that was dull and unimaginative. Their names were written in paint but such identities were swallowed by the dark. So they remained large and ominous: untitled and unknown.

They were also unlit, except for the white, lonely lights that shone in the corpse-like doorways and illuminated the empty parking lots. Their poor efforts seemed to emphasize the isolation. The lights were weak, and beyond the white cones of radiance they created the black air – uncorrupted by neon, by cities – cut like a knife.

The darkness was so profound, that it inspired a fear that was almost childlike – a fear of monsters, of loathsome things that lurked in unknown caves, beyond unrecognized corners, beneath the unplumbed sea.

Suddenly, though I was safe in our car, I wanted safety; to be – like a cat – curled within four confident walls. And since we were hours outside of the light and loud of Las Vegas and only 2 hours from Los Angeles, I found myself longing for home.

But Scary At Night

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18 responses to “Lonely Lights

  1. So primal, isn’t it, that kind of darkness… ! And “crossroads” doesn’t exactly evoke a sense of security.

  2. I used to live in Northridge and my in-laws still live in Vegas. My husband and I have made that drive many times. Lovely town, Barstow. We’d always stop at the McDonald’s there to use the restrooms and leave as fast as we could. Even in daylight it’s a weird place.

  3. Ooo, this definitely brings to mind Stephen King’s “Desperation”. Great shivery descriptions! I’m glad to be home! I hope you are too by now!

  4. From the Probably Irrelevant Files:

    There’s a singer named Jay Farrar who wrote a song called “Barstow”. One of the lines goes, “By the time we make it to Barstow, we’ll be more than halfway to hell.”

    I wonder which direction he was going.

  5. “the afternoon simmered,” “cobalt streams,” “coy diamonds,” “parure”…. sure you’re not a poet?

    otherwise, my only previous encounter w/ barstow was via ms. crowe’s “Leaving Las Vegas.” RT

  6. Barstow is scary any time of day. Looks even sadder under the sun.

  7. The desert darkness is astounding.

  8. I used to love going to visit Mr FD’s parents when they lived on a property (large farm) in western New South Wales (and not just because they were far, far away the, but it did help). At night there was no sound, and no lights and it was as though you were alone in the world. Even during the day it was as though the rest of the world could cease to exist and you would never know.
    I would have to run screaming from Las Vagas. Too much sight and sound.

  9. Las Vegas appears like the American dream turning to a nightmare hell to me.
    I guess it must be hard to find a decent bookshop there selling Greek philosophers, not only the covers to put a film in. A tacky evil spot.

  10. Wow, that sounds completely dark and scary. I can imagine it. We almost never experience such a darkness anymore, do we.

  11. the darkness of the desert sometimes freaks me out – my mind starts imagining hidden twists & turns in the road, and that I’d drive off into the unknown.

    i think it’s interesting that so many people mentioned Barstow. I’ve been through there a billion times but am currently having zero recollection of the place.

  12. Isn’t it funny how annoying cars are until they suddenly become a place of safety? A few times I’ve been caught out in a lightning storm and my car becomes my favorite place on the planet.

  13. JP – ‘crossroads’ kind of implies ‘confusion’, doesn’t it?

    Stefanie – we drove through Barstow in the night looking for a place for dinner, found a Denny’s and were grateful for it.

    Lauri – it was the sense of desertion in the desert! One couldn’t believe people lived there.

    M—–l/Kzinti – if it was during the summer, I’d lay all bets that it was towards Los Angeles.

    Music&Meaning – I’ve written two poems (as far as I know) in the past 30 years!

    fatcatfromvox – thank you!

    LT – even at night you can get an impression of its daytime dreariness.

    alleycatadventures – thick and all absorbing; astounding, really.

    FD – Vegas is most definitely an acquired taste. More and more the city is being occupied by the Youth Element, dressed like inefficient whores. Amusing, really.

    anthiphonsgarden – actually, in one of the new hotels I found a fabulous bookstore – Assouline – with titles dealing almost exclusively with art and fashion. I bought a charming little book on Poiret.

    Freedom Smith – true, also – there were so many stars! I see none – NONE – in the city.

    leendadll – ‘zero recollection’ – a very telling observation!

    Emmy – even when I was a little Aubrey, riding home at night was such a comforting experience.

  14. Hubby and I love Vegas…and it’s because of the FUD!!! (and wine)

  15. aubrey…Lets never give up hope!

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