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Lost ... in Vegas (Here it is!)

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A mushroom cloud looms in the distance, past the glitz and glamour of 1950's Las Vegas.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Las Vegas, Nevada. There’s just something about that city. Something not quite right. But I think most of you already know that.

Forty-six years ago, gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson hit the big time with his Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, a remarkable, tripped-out tale of a man and his "attorney" companion embarking on “A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream" Destination? Las Vegas, of course. And the results were as gonzo as you'd expect. 

Looking about in the Vegas casino he finds himself in, Thompson writes: "Who are these people? These faces? Where do they come from? They look like caricatures of used-car dealers from Dallas. But they're real. And, sweet Jesus, there are a hell of a lot of them. Still humping the American Dream, that vision of the Big Winner somehow emerging from the last-minute pre-dawn chaos of a stale Vegas casino."

Savage journey? American Dream? Sounds about right.

OLD GLORY: Hunter (Johnny Depp) reading B. Traven's The Death Ship in 1998's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. (Universal Pictures)

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed my visit to Las Vegas. It's a neat city and I know people out there. But it has a distinctly different culture, one that revolves around gambling, drinking, and entertainment of all kinds. Throw guns into the mix - and lots of government projects and secrecy - and watch out. 

Or, as I wrote in my piece January 2015 Dust Devil Dreams piece "I'm on a wavelength far from home," I note how the hacker character in 1983's WarGames, played by Matthew Broderick, and his girlfriend, played by Ally Sheedy, chose two cities to "target" in a "game" of "global thermonuclear war" - Seattle (where they lived) and Las Vegas. In my article I speculated as to why they chose Las Vegas.

"Sin City. Land of debauchery and greed. Fear and loathing … the underbelly of the American dream. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."

Yes, Vegas has been on my mind – a lot. And now, with the horrific massacre of 59 people (and over 500 injured) at the Route 91 Harvest country-music festival there in “Sin City,” I sense that there is far more to this event than meets the eye, as the investigation continues.

And speaking of eyes, Goro Adachi, at Super Torch Ritual, notes that the shooter, Stephen Paddock, was on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel as the concert took place, under the watchful eyes of the stunning replica of the Great Sphinx, in front of the Luxor hotel (with that black pyramid), and thousands of people listened to event headliner Jason Aldean perform the song "When She Says Baby." 

And amidst all this weirdness is an unspeakable tragedy, one that affected people around the country and the world on a deep level.

So, I guess part of this Vegas-on-the-Brain malady is partly due to the focus David Lynch put on that city during this summer’s mind-shattering Twin Peaks: The Return.

Yes, our hero, Special Agent Dale Cooper, returns from his Black Lodge purgatory and, via an electrical outlet, emerges in an empty house in a Las Vegas subdivision, in the tulpa-like guise of mild-mannered, Lucky 7 Insurance employee Douglas “Dougie” Jones.

"Good Coop" aka "Dougie," shuffles around in a child-like state, barely putting sentences together. But one thing he seems obsessed with is a statue of a classic Western-styled "gunman," located in a plaza near his office.

Dougie can't take his eyes off this statue. Is this statue of a good man? A bad man? Something in between? Regardless, it resonates with what gun-loving Hunter S. Thompson called the "American dream." That of freedom and independence and not having to rely on anyone. A frontier spirit. Something that is now a myth. And now America's gun culture is being put under the harsh spotlight ... and as Christopher Knowles writes: "And wouldn't you know it?  A massive, coordinated gun control effort was hauled out before the sun even came up the next day. "

The gunman statue in Twin Peaks: The Return. (Showtime)

Of course this iconic vision of America's frontier past comes to a head in a place like Las Vegas, and I think Lynch chose to place his protagonist there because of what Las Vegas represents in the minds of Americans - and people around the world. 

And just days before the Las Vegas massacre, I was researching the role of an atomic bomb test in Nevada, not far from Las Vegas, releasing a radioactive cloud that deposited deadly isotopes far and wide, including in Snow Canyon, near St. George, Utah, where, in 1954, Western film hero and American film icon John Wayne was filming The Conqueror. It is believed Wayne and many others involved in the film got cancer from their exposure to the radioactivity present on the Utah set.

This area is just down the road from Stephen Paddock's home in Mesquite, Nevada, which back then was likely enveloped in radiation as well, being so close to the blast site.

And for all the occult themes, feelings of loss and nostalgia, historical touchstones and outright high weirdness, Twin Peaks: The Return relied heavily on social statements. And when I say that, I really think Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost were putting up a mirror. Distorted, yes, but a mirror nevertheless, reflecting our twisted, fucked-up, Trumpsidedown culture.

One where guns are seemingly everywhere. Nearly every character seemed to have a gun or had access to one. If a character didn’t lose most of their head via a mysterious, angry entity from a parallel world, they were getting shot, as Cooper’s evil doppelganger “Mr. C” did – twice.

Gun violence seems to be reaching epic proportions in our country. I've lost two high school friends to gun violence, one of whom was shot and killed when he had a bad reaction to a commonly prescribed anti-smoking drug - he happened to knock on the wrong door that night ... and he was the same friend who shared a love of Twin Peaks back in the day.

Twin Peaks: The Return presents us with a world where drug use is rampant. Where small towns are hollowed out. Where, as I put it in my unsettlingly prescient Dust Devil Dreams piece “Stress test,” folks are under duress in a society where many are just one paycheck away from being destitute. Many are gripping that fragile thread with all they've got.

TAKING INTO ACCOUNT

In the UK Mirror, a story about the Las Vegas shooter, Stephen Paddock, is headlined: “What turned a mild-mannered accountant into Las Vegas shooter and America’s most deadly killer?

Accountant?

This has been the year of the accountant, it seems. And in a post at the Non-Exist-Ent blog, run by a very insightful Twin Peaks fan, he makes a note – in his Peaks-inspired “dreams” – that one must, “for heaven’s sake! – do *not* fuck with accountants.”

We see this with three "accountants" in the season. But "The Polish Accountant" (which I delve into further down), who already seems to be having a bad day, uses a machine gun to blast away some baddies trying to kill Dougie in his eerily-empty Vegas neighborhood - our same Dougie who is obsessed with that "lone gunman" statue there in that Vegas plaza.

The "Polish Accountant" (Jonny Coyne) on a Las Vegas street in Twin Peaks: The Return. (Showtime)

Just last year, Ben Affleck starred in a Warner Bros. action-thriller called The Accountant, a film about a man named Christian Wolff (sync “lone wolf”) who is “diagnosed with a high-functioning form of autism and offered an opportunity to live at Harbor Neuroscience Institute.”

Hmm. Sounds like some sort of mind-control center. Remember previous "lone gunmen" mass murderers Jared Lee Loughner (Tucson, Ariz.) and James Eagan Holmes (Aurora, Colo.)? They both had weird links to neuroscience and what may amount to mind control. And there are certainly other, shocking examples. 

Acording to this "trivia" page on The Accountant, "the fictional Harbor Neuroscience Institute is in Hanover, New Hampshire, the real life location of Dartmouth College's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, one of the leading institutes for the study of the brain and neural activity."

Later in his life, The Accountant's Christian is working as an accountant for a Chicago-area accounting firm where he “uncooks the books” for the highest-level criminal organizations around the world. It's dangerous business.

As the Chicago Sun-Times wrote of the film: “Sometimes Christian’s work involves moving tens of millions of dollars around. Sometimes it involves taking out some seriously bad people.”

Ben Affleck as crack-shot accountant Christian (Lone) Wolff in The Accountant. (Warner Bros.)

It's here that I should note that Las Vegas massacre gunman Stephen Paddock's father, Benjamin Paddock, was a notorious grifter, con-man, bankrobber and jailbreaker, according to this New York Times article. Apparently, the Paddocks spent a lot of time in the Southwest and in 1960, after robbing a bank in Arizona, he makes his way to Las Vegas, naturally ...

"When the F.B.I. finally caught up with him at a gas station in downtown Las Vegas, he tried to flee, nearly ramming an agent, before an agent fired a bullet through his windshield. He surrendered unharmed."

Synchromystically, in that episode of Twin Peaks: The Return, involving the Polish Accountant, noted above, he is "rammed" by the two assassins and has a bullet shot through his car windshield. 

The elder Paddock would be in and out of prison for the rest of his life. And when he wasn't in prison, he was committing crimes and being labled a "psychopath."

The Accountant is an oddball film. And Affleck is reportedly on board for a sequel. In the film, for his work, Christian happily takes payments not only in cash, but in priceless works of art, including Jackson Pollock’s 1946 “drip” painting Free Form, which was his first one in that distinct style.

Free Form by Jackson Pollock (1946)

I have noted Pollock and his art in two recent articles: “The Red Balloon (Yes it is)” and my review of Alvin Schwartz’s autobiography, An Unlikely Prophet. In the former, I note how Pollock  is like David Lynch in that he is an “action” painter, just as Lynch is an “action” filmmaker, with both artists seemingly “tapping into unseen forces to help them create their art.

And in the Schwartz book (he wrote for DC Comics for the Superman and Batman comics in the 1940’s and 50’s), he talks of how Pollock demonstrated his drip style of painting – a style, Schwartz said, where the paint “did not seem to obey the law of gravity” … “splaying outward or sideways as though some other force were directing it.”

As a side note, Schwartz claims our nation's first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton (who is on the $10 bill and has his own Broadway musical), was a tulpa!

Regardless, in this current situation we all now face, "unseen forces" are seemingly involved. To what degree, we simply don't know.

SYMBOLS

Christopher Knowles, at The Secret Sun, in a piece titled "Heaven Upside Down or Las Vegas" (a double reference to both a new Marilyn Manson album and a 1990 Cocteau Twins album) mirrored many of my own thoughts and insights as he examined all the evidence with a discerning eye ... (the whole Marilyn Manson side story, involving a "double-gun" prop falling on him, a few days after Hugh Hefner dies - who will be buried in a crypt next to Marilyn Monroe - and on Sept. 30th, the 62nd anniversary of James Dean's death ... well, I'll leave that to others for now).

"And this Las Vegas thing? None of it makes a damn bit sense to me. Not psychologically, not logistically, nothing. It all feels off, like no one is even bothered to present a coherent narrative to the rabble anymore. Because why should they? You can neutralize any competing narrative with the press of a button these days.

Or maybe it's just the punch-you-in-the-face, kick-you-in-the-groin symbolism that's bugging me. 

This entire shooting episode all took place under the watchful eyes of the Luxor sphinx and its illuminated pyramid. This is symbolism a child can grasp.

The shooter was said to have 23 weapons and have been shooting from the 32nd floor, which is actually the 33rd floor when you count the hotels mezzanine.

It's said Paddock fired for 9 to 11 minutes after the first 911 call.

We also have the obvious Vegas connection to Twin Peaks: The Return, which also had a machine-gun toting accountant in Las Vegas. 

Who kills two hillbillies.

Paddock is the surname of the Devil Incarnate in the X-Files episode "Die Hand Der Verletz."

That's right. I knew that name sounded familiar. And with a "paddock" essentially being a fenced-in area, the innocent people at that concert were just sitting ducks with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

Back to the Route 91 Harvest concert ... I had the chance to interview Jason Aldean about a decade ago. He was promoting his latest album, Relentless. I recall us talking about the single he had out at the time - "Johnny Cash" - a song about a guy fed up with his job and life and deciding to jump into his car with his best girl and high-tail it to Vegas to get hitched, all while blasting the music of Johnny Cash.

Sings Aldean:

"It's four hundred and sixty-seven miles to the outskirts of Las Vegas
What do you say we go get married by a preacher man who looks like Elvis?"

On this current tour, "Johnny Cash" has typically been the third song played in Aldean's set. 

People who read Dust Devil Dreams know I have a weird sync connection to the "Man in Black." And linked to Memphis, home to another pyramid. 

This eerily reminds me of some weird things I noted following the November 2015 attack on the Bataclan theatre in Paris during an Eagles of Death Metal show, something I noted in my piece "Dance into the fire." That band had covered Duran Duran's 1982 hit "Save a Prayer." Coincidentally, the day of that attack, Duran Duran was across town, at the Eiffel Tower, performing a concert. 

A year before, David Lynch, yes, that David Lynch, was part of a Duran Duran concert film, Unstaged, which Lynch directed. You don't often hear that little bit of trivia mentioned for some reason. Maybe Lynch needed the money at the time?

STRESSED OUT

Will we ever learn the truth about what drove Stephen Paddock, a wealthy partier and big-time gambler, to commit mass murder? That's the big question mark in all of this. His girlfriend, who was in her native country the Philippines at the time of the attacks, is presumably being interviewed by the FBI. That Philippines connection brings to mind Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols and that he spent a lot of time in that country in the years leading up to the 1995 bombing here in OKC - then, the deadliest terrorist attack in American history. Just as the Vegas horror is the worst mass shooting in American history.

Looking through the "gates of time" at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

This, like so many of the other "mass shootings" we've had here in America, gave me that awful feeling in my gut and a wave of sadness came over me. It just seems like things in Trumpsidedown America are spiraling even more out of control. Other people tell me they are feeling the same way. 

In the meantime, will wait and see what comes out on Paddock's girlfriend.

In any event, it was nearly a month ago that I wrote a Dust Devil Dreams post titled “Stress test” that our society seems to be approaching a “boiling point.”

In the piece, I began:

People are under a lot of stress, Bradley.”

So says Vegas casino operator Rodney Mitchum (Robert Knepper) to his brother, Bradley Mitchum (Jim Belushi) after both witnessing a “Polish accountant” (Jonny Coyne) shoot up a van which included Chantal and Hutch, two hillbilly assassins who were waiting to take out Dougie Jones/"Good Coop," outside his Las Vegas home on Lancelot Court.

How apropos, with Las Vegas's international notoriety as "Sin City" and just down the road from where atomic bombs were tested and secret projects were/are conducted. The stress mounts.”

Later in the piece, I continue: “Unresolved crises. The threat of nuclear annihilation. Gangsters using technology for evil purposes and ill-gotten gains. Good, hard-working people being screwed by sinister forces too immense for them to understand. Heroic types trying to right wrongs, as Cooper attempted, only to be thwarted again and again, caught in some karmic time-loop, where the same mistakes keep being made over and over again.

See why we're all feeling a bit stressed? A little tired? Rodney Mitchum hit the proverbial nail on the head with that simple statement” – “people are under a lot of stress, Bradley.”

And so here we are, as (quite synchromystically, I presume) Shawn Colvin’s cover of Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas” (from the new Twin Peaks soundtrack) plays in the background.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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