The most profound spiritual experience I’ve ever had was when, on my first visit to Atlantic City, I entered Trump’s Taj Mahal casino. 1 Louis C.K. recently recalled the devotional nature of some of the great man’s following – all great poissons have groupies:
“I saw this thing happening where buses were showing up from all over the country but with little old ladies from places like Ohio and Tennessee to Atlantic City … and they filed in to the Trump casino. They take what little they have. They have nothing! They take that nothing, the little tiny scraps, and they turn it into chips and they pour buckets of money into his machines. Then [Trump] showed up and he just walks around,” C.K. said, making a face like Trump surveying the scene. “And it wasn’t like, ‘Hi, folks, thanks for coming.’ It wasn’t like that at all. That’s not what he represented. That was what was fascinating to me. He didn’t say, ‘Thank you’ to anyone. He just walked around miserable-looking. And when I was in the elevator with him, I looked at his face and he just looked miserable. And everyone’s like ‘Donald!’ So excited to see him. And they’re giving him everything, and he has everything, right? And they’re leaving on the same bus with nothing, just ruining their lives. I saw this as a reverse charity, like a weird kind of charity. These old women, they don’t need anything. … They live in a shitty place and they have two dollars, and they’re like, ‘Eh, I don’t need it — it’s OK, he needs it!’ If he looks in the mirror, and he has 10 dollars, he’s going to kill himself. He has a $10 billion deficit in his heart. So if he doesn’t have that much money, he’s nothing. So they were like, ‘Donald, you take this!’ They come from miles around to give to him because they’re invested in his happiness. It’s so big, this desperate hole that people come from all over [to fill it].”
Louis misses what is perhaps the crucial element in this popular American Buddhist ritual: the wall of sound, ever changing, never changing. Friends, can up your ears, play simultaneously the following slot-machine videos, shifting volumes up and down to simulate the full walk-around experience, and you may then inkle something of the day my brain changed for ever:
The aural bath I’ve had that comes closest to the all-embracing profundity of the world’s megacasinos is Stravinsky’s portrayal of the Petersburg Shrovetide Fair in Petrushka, inspired in part by Grigorovich’s 1843 essay, here in my version for barrel organ:
Steve Reich tried to achieve a similar effect, but it’s Jesus’ temple post merchants, moneychangers and dove-traders: po-faced and predictable, and there’s no (implicit) bar:
Grigorovich on the Petersburg organ-grinders:
The Italian’s passion for his noble art often goes so far that he will spend entire months improving the barrel-organ; he plasters it with assorted vignettes and ornaments, to its sides he attaches a triangle, sleigh bells, cymbals, and a Turkish drum, he hangs on a larger bell, and, setting everything in motion with a cord tied to his leg, he looks smugly at his brethren, imagining himself owner of the eighth wonder of the world.
Страсть к благородному искусству часто простирается до того, что итальянец проводит целые месяцы на улучшение шарманки; он облепливает ее разными фигурками, украшениями, прикрепляет к сторонам ее треугольник, бубенчики, тарелки, турецкий барабан, навешивает колокольчики и, приведя все в движение веревочкою, привязанною к ноге, самодовольно посматривает на своих собратий, воображая себя обладателем восьмого чуда в мире.
Donald used to say that his Taj Mahal was the eighth wonder of the world, and maybe he was right, so we’re having duck tomorrow.
- Disclaimer: My spiritual experience was slightly different when someone explained to me the funding arrangements and the fact that TTM was set up to compete with his smaller casinos there. ↩