Lost Vegas: 1

In Nevada on June 29, 2009 at 12:00 am

West Coast 2 051

We watched in wonder as a motorcyclist, mounted atop a tiny Motocross bike, revved his engine and jolted forward, then swung back, rocking the vehicle like a pendulum along the frame of his spherical steel cage. Then, as he picked up speed, the rider made a full trip around the sphere, flying in improbable circles, as the 50-or-so onlookers exploded into cheers. After a full minute, he stopped abruptly, idling at the bottom of the cage, and threw out his arms in an expression of victory. The crowd screamed and applauded.

Then a second biker entered, and the act was repeated – except now the riders were dodging each other, cross-hatching the cage at imperceptible speeds. Then a third bike entered, and the trio continued their daredevil stunt, incapable of flinching, pausing, thinking…

Every night, the cage appears on Fremont Street, and new visitors crowd around the stuntmen. I had heard of the motorcycle-in-cage stunt, but I’d never seen it firsthand – much less witnessed three riders at once. Kylan and I swigged our two-dollar Coronas and shook our heads; no words could express our awe, and even if words sufficed, no voice could be heard over the wailing death-metal score that blasted from surrounding speakers.

Above us, a giant canopy loomed – ninety feet tall, about 1,500 feet long, a sheer off-white surface that curved like a basilica’s ceiling. Every few minutes, psychedelic images would project against it, as if the sky were stained with morphing neon paint and two-story-tall go-go dancers. All around us, Fremont Street was packed with people, some of them laughing in groups, others staggering drunkenly, and some even lying on the ground. A comedian interviewed passersby, asking them where they were from, what they were doing in Las Vegas; most of the interviewees sputtered and laughed, but their images were project against that massive ceiling. “The largest television screen in the world!” exclaimed the comedian. Here, we could do anything we wanted. There were no open-container laws. Tobacco-smoking was practically encouraged. Couples posed for $40 caricatures. An artist etched words and pictures into individual grains of rice. The possibilities seemed endless.


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