THE INFERNO AND THE INFERNAL

A week ago, the weather here in Las Vegas was such that the “WELCOME” banner that hangs over the Fremont Street experience should have been replaced. The new banner should have used the famous quote from Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy” and should have read: “Abandon all hope, ye that enter here.” The weather was such an abomination that the Dante quote would have been much more appropriate.

As you may know, Dante’s “Divine Comedy” is a very long poem divided into 3 parts: “Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise,” and traces the Italian writer’s  journey through the 3 stages of the afterlife until he reaches heaven. (He’s accompanied on this journey by the Roman poet Virgil.) In the first and most famous section-“Inferno”- Dante lays out a map of Hell that’s divided into 9 circles. The worst of all sinners are relegated to the ninth circle of Hell, where they endure the most unimaginable torture and suffering. Unquestionably, Dante had a highly vivid imagination, especially when it came inflicting human punishment. The problem is that Dante never had a chance to visit Las Vegas in the summer, thus rendering his understanding of Hell incomplete. Had he made such a visit, he would have had to create a tenth circle of Hell, just to accommodate the weather we experienced last week.

Normally the weather here, during this time of the year, ranges between 105-110 degrees. Hot, but a dry heat, as comedians in local shows like to point out, in hopes that the audience will knowingly chuckle. Last week, however, temperatures skyrocketed to somewhere between 117-120 degrees, usually late in the afternoon. Scorching, suffocating, unrelenting, gasping-for-oxygen type of heat. To make matters worse, the air quality in this heat, degenerated from merely intolerable to highly toxic. When temperatures get that high, a stultifying smog always settles over the Las Vegas Valley, and all the toxic fumes being generated get trapped under that blanket of smog. On top of that, the customary summer wildfires were blazing away in the mountains surrounding the valley, pouring out huge clouds of smoke. Because Las Vegas is so hot and dry, random bolts of lightening ignite fires every summer in the surrounding mountain forests. Usually these fires destroy thousands of acres and hundreds of homes before they can be brought under control. This year has been no exception, and the fires continue on even as I’m writing about them. So, between the mind-numbing heat and the toxic air quality, radio and TV news kept up a constant barrage as to how bad things were outside, and that old-folks, (like myself), and people with breathing problems should stay indoors. Like otherwise, everyone would be outside frolicking in the sun. And I’m thinking that I knew LV got real hot in the summer, but I never signed up for that kind of heat. I’m also thinking what a shame that Dante never had a chance to visit Las Vegas, and experience personally, what a real inferno felt like. If he had, he might have rewritten the whole “Divine Comedy” piece.

Of course, all this inferno stuff was a gigantic boon for the casinos. Wether visitor or resident, people get tired of being cooped up in their living quarters. What better place to escape to than the casinos, where the air conditioning is always blasting away , and thermostats are set on sub-artic levels. Being no exception, I too visited the casinos and found wall-to-wall people, only too happy to throw their money away in the slots, as long as it meant escaping from the heat. But one could still feel the roasting ovens of the inferno in the short walk from the unairconditioned parking lots to the casino entrances.

As to the infernal chapter of this entry, first a little background. When people grow old, they often go from having a real life to having a so-called life. Their real-life, in their younger days, usually consisted of having to get up early, battle rush hour traffic, spend long hours in the office or other workplaces, battle rush hour traffic again on their way home, and then put up with their rotten kids once they got home. Making a living, raising a family, paying the bills, doing stuff around the house in their spare time, are usually components of those with real lives. But when you get into your senior years almost all of that goes away. Seniors usually don’t work anymore, or if they do, it’s as a hobby to keep themselves occupied. The kids are now grown up with their own kids, so the raising a family part also disappears. Thus, in order to give themselves a semblance of a so-called life, they frequently move to retirement communities, and get themselves elected to boards and panels, from whence they can regulate and dictate to the other residents of those communities. In retirement apartment complexes they’re known as condo commandos, always looking for the slightest infraction of the rules to harass their neighbors with. In a guard gated community of private homes like the one I live in, they’re just collectively referred to as a pain in the ass, or more affectionately as the gestapo.

They create ridiculous rules and then pounce when someone violates those rules. I’ll give you a for-instance. When the builder was developing this community, he instituted, for some unfathomable reason, a rule that no resident could park their car outside at night. Not on the street, nor in their driveway. I guess he believed that all those multitudes of seniors who were cavorting through our streets at two or three in the morning would be turned off if they saw cars parked outside. When our elected board took over from the builder, they kept this same idiotic rule in force. Thank goodness for that, because it always keeps me awake at night, knowing that someone might have illegally left their car outside overnight. And if you are caught doing this, you’re dragged from your home, blindfolded, and forced to face summary execution by a firing squad at the crack of dawn. Or some such punishment.

The reason I bring all this up, is because I became a victim of one of those ridiculous rules, a few days ago. Rules designed by residents who like to pretend their so called lives, in some way, compensate for their long-gone real lives. But this piece is getting kind of long, so I’ll save the details for another entry. That senior thing, again.

 

 

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