“Plymouth is very plentifully supplied with water by a river brought into it from a great distance, which is so abundant that it runs to waste in the town. The Dock, or New-town, being totally destitute of water, petitioned Plymouth that a small portion of the conduit might be permitted to go to them, and this was now under consideration. Johnson, affecting to entertain the passions of the place, was violent in opposition; and, half-laughing at himself for his pretended zeal where he had no concern, exclaimed, “’No, no! I am against the dockers; I am a Plymouth man. Rogues! let them die of thirst. They shall not have a drop!’”
About three or four weeks ago, I responded to an advertisement from the local university paper and offered the services of “an English Ph.D. Student in desperate need of some extra cash flow.” I never heard back. Whether this was because my plea was too needy, like that of a clingy high school girl searching for a prom date, or because they got their hands on a few of my Gamblers, I will probably never be certain. What is certain is that I have since discovered a brilliant solution to the drought here in Vegas and will undoubtedly consider sending it to the local papers—both school and city—for their review.
As with most brilliant ideas, it came about while I was walking. Notably, I was walking to my car, and the brain, I’m convinced, is trained to think some of its best thoughts before that morbid engagement. Once mind, body, and soul enters an automobile, most productive thought flees, and all one ponders is misery, hate, and death. Thus, before—unless one broods on that forthcoming union—the mind is all joy, love, and life, and mine certainly was on this occasion. I was in this blissful state even despite an event that causes no small consternation among modern pedestrians: the watering of sidewalks. That is, the phenomenon of drenching the sidewalk with water from a lawn-sprinkler. Now, you most certainly have the modern eco-Pharisee who moans and groans and foams at the mouth at such things. “Watering the sidewalk!” he cries. “May as well stick a polar bear on a pike or decapitate a dolphin!” But I perceive most men do not jump to such conclusions. Usually, a man who sees a sprinkled sidewalk either ponders at man’s inability to properly place sprinkler heads like rational creatures, or he has a small conniption about wet feet and obstructed walkways. Some moderns so disdain the foot, that the mere five-foot detour is a cause for tremendous weeping and gnashing of teeth. I confess, I have been in both camps at times, but this was before I lived in Vegas—before I experienced the dry desert heat and felt a small, very small, tinge of guilt for unnecessary faucet drippings or tall glasses of water.
The drought, I suppose, is no doubt an issue for mankind, yet all I ever hear about are the irresponsible Californians and the level-headed Nevadans. Being in Nevada, I think this propaganda makes sense, and I couldn’t agree more. I think most states should have heavily-slanted and biased views of their own worth compared to their neighboring states and no views about the other states. What should Nevadans care about New York? But they ought to look down on Oregon. In any case, the level-headed Nevadans do a fine job, so I’m told, of water conservation, but I think we can do better. At least, those of us in Vegas can certainly step it up.
Now, the way to fix the drought is much the same way to fix other issues in our society. When I was a young boy, I would often approach my father with common boy problems—injuries from sports or climbing trees, etc. I would say something along the lines of, “Father, my elbow hurts when I bend my arm.” To which my father would reply with, “Okay, then don’t bend your arm.” There is profound wisdom in this advice. But our culture is the little boy who would keep flapping his arm like it’s a wing and continue complaining about the pain. It’s not just that we want to have our cake and eat it too. We want every kind of cake and no stomach ache. It is like the silly idea of suburbs. We want the job in the city and the house in the country. But then when we complain about the commute, we never for once consider moving to the city or quitting the job. No. We build free-ways that only get clogged all the more so we can continue our unhappy existence. It is just the same with any other “improvement” or “advance.” A mother is worried she’s losing her poor son to video games. When ridding the house of the television is proposed, she thinks it preposterous. A man, living in Duluth, complains to his friend that it is cold, as if heat is supposed to follow him around wherever he goes, simply because he can get it in his house and car. But, I say, why else would a man move to Duluth but to experience the cold? If a Martian or medievalist heard the way we complain, he would think us mad. We might not be the first group of men to complain about lack of water in the desert; we are undoubtedly the first men to expect water in the desert.
All around me, humans are in great haste to be anything but human. It is the new rage to be anything but a human. Almost everything in society tempts us to zone out like zombies or act contrary to our nature. In the same way, Vegas does not embrace its nature. I don’t imagine the forty-niners made any sort of pit stop in the Mojave for water. I miss grass more than anyone in this town, but I don’t believe I moved here expecting to find any. It seems to me, then, that the drought issue is more fundamentally an identity issue. It seems to me that the most obvious fix to Vegas’ drought issue is for Vegas to stop trying to be Seattle or Portland. That is, if the inhabitants of Vegas are so concerned about having enough water to drink, I find it odd they continue living in a desert. If the eco-Pharisee gives a stump speech on a grassy UNLV lawn, he need not denounce the watering for the wildebeest. No one in Vegas has any real reason to care about a wildebeest. Instead, he should be rallying crowds to live like Tuskens and prophets: to wear garments of camel’s hair and leather girdles, eating locusts and wild honey, predicting the current drought, and fasting for forty days and forty nights.
If we truly want to reverse the trend of the drought, I say we must remake the Mojave into a desert. We must begin by stripping the strip bare—all, perhaps, but the Luxor. A raid capturing Californians will provide us with the manpower to erect a row of pyramids where the old strip used to be. Here will our dead be buried. Then must go all roads and sidewalks, all trees, plants, grasses. Men must be up to their knees in dirt and sand and soot. All the water we save from watering trees and buildings will go to watering men. Moreover, with all the sand in everyone’s shoes and socks, men will desert this land, causing a mass exodus across the quenched Colorado. The few men who stay will then have plenty to drink, even enough for dessert. They will set up a nice, quiet community—a community in the desert with few deserts.
The Desert Schooner I,
Las Vegas, Nevada
February 4, 2016
Painting: “View of the Nile with Pyramids”
By N. Chekib,
Oil on canvas, 1897