Let the Music Play

Relocating to Las Vegas has given me greater appreciation of classical music. Growing up, many compositions heard today often provided the ambience to my 1960s boyhood in Quarropas, New York.

Besides the expected rhythm and blues records mother selected for our turntable, she also purchased 120 Music Masterpieces. If you’re old enough you should recall John Williams, the plummy English actor not Star Wars movies composer, who pitched them. Classical orchestrations filled this four-album compilation. If remembered correctly, mother usually had these spinning while cleaning house.

For some reason I still hear them best from summertime. Likely being home from elementary school on summer vacation increased these observances. Amazing how she could make and leave me lunch in the icebox before going to work, then return home after a full day of toil and freshen our home.

Now I can fully appreciate her efforts. Then it was simply “normal.” That is if the younger me ever contemplated it. Oh, quite unlikely.

Mine is not a dive into the nostalgia pool. Classical music heard during adolescence has relevance in 2023.

Las Vegas has a homeless infestation. One shared with every American city. Our society needs to ask how did these deadbeats become unmoored and how did so many of them devolve into utter wretchedness?

The usual culprits. Drugs, lack of discipline, lack of purpose, laxity, lackadaisical outlook, and here in the Mojave abetted by an enervating desert sun that further cores out those afflicted, okay, those who’ve self-inflicted themselves, transform streets beyond the zones comprising the Strip and Downtown into human misery parades. These are the creatures responsible parents once conjured when seeking to frighten the bejeez out of hardheaded children refusing to listen.

It worked for my generation, for the most part. I guess it scared our inheritors so thoroughly those who became parents refrained from summoning the same ghouls. They really ought have. “Protecting” their issue allowed too many of them to descend into the subhumans dismaying present society.

Probably the biggest difference between past childrearing and current versions. Parents then didn’t spare their children. Rod or reality. The latter was surely simplified for those younger to gain comprehension. We weren’t shielded as if being kept in the dark preferable to enlightenment.

Our parents would’ve considered that irresponsible.

In my first years here in Las Vegas, when my sight was more acute to such chronically homeless wretches, I’d be curious about how people could plummet so low. In New York, such were anomalies. Not derelicts. The relative few stood out. At least 10 years ago when I left civilization. Nowhere near the flood here, though. Las Vegas junkies have become part of the urban wallpaper. Now who knows? Maybe today shitbags proliferate in New York with similar constancy as those in the Mojave.

It was always going to be drugs that twisted them to our extreme periphery. Drugs which rendered life’s solvable vicissitudes into Herculean tasks. Meth, oxycodone, now fentanyl. Each formulation of mind-corroding mixtures quickly shoved aside common priorities. The ones those of us who haven’t forsaken them still retain.

Steady income. Housing. Regular meals. Maintaining presentable appearances. Things which maintain our humanity, as well as keep us communally connected.

Early on I surmised the shambling or mumbling or blithering wild-eyed stringy and knotted pillpoppers, skin poppers, and inhalers threading among orderly residents had voluntarily retreated into the pitiful states witnessed. With their last shred of conscious these grimy shitbirds judged themselves so far out of orbit they believed themselves denied the last resort of the abysmally self-abandoned.


Who can imagine such circumstances entered that one’s family could refuse providing some kind of rescue for a prodigal whose pursuits mainlined to rock bottom? Initially, at least. If the penitent a constant fuck up despite his/her benefactors’ efforts, well, wash hands then cut that cord.

How on earth does one decide ceaseless roaming in the elements, sleeping on pavement, projecting visages that disgust, preferable to being looked after by your own people? Call it familial duty. Call it making sure the karmic wheel doesn’t shift into reverse. Opprobrium from the most hectoring judgmental invested in righting their wayward family member must be better than crude street living.

Even if the people dreaded reside in Utah or Idaho.

Yet addict “logic” boggles the mind in how it prevails.

Or maybe the waste case somehow managed assessing her/her situation, clearly judged it hopeless, and just decided to ride those rotten rails to their terminus. To such failures is there any behavior then deemed too crazy, too outlandish, too antisocial in their lives?

Easier to take refuge in derangement than trying to climb a seemingly insurmountable height that may reestablish oneself in much less arduous living.

Impossible to say whether the Covid pandemic made our society’s human wreckage more apparent. After all, during the plague’s depths weren’t the streets empty except for them? Amazing how they survived absent of medical care. If any societal segments should’ve croaked en masse, it was them. Streetlife probably made them immune to whatever viruses imperiled the rest of us.

When mankind finally destroys itself, what will survive? Roaches. Sharks. The chronic homeless.

The third become a more persistent presence during our confinement, no? Maybe slower living during the contagion forced a reckoning we’d previously been too preoccupied to fully notice. Or being busy it was easier to ignore their nuisances.

Certainly after Covid the wretches seemingly besieged commercial enterprises. Particularly convenience stores. Their flies-on-shit-like manifestations around such premises turned buying gas, something sweet to stifle a craving, beer, or cigarettes into gauntlets. And every hurried beseech at the door ended in pleas for “spare change.” When these resulted in nothing, always the tender guilt-inducer of “God bless you” followed.

If they’d cleaned up, possessed divinity degrees, and been more insincere what number of alms seekers couldn’t have been mistaken for evangelical preachers?

Whatever inspired the remedy easing the talking, two-legged obstacles was genius. It never would’ve occurred to me or you. Even now we can only be grateful something so simple provides a thorough effect.

Las Vegas franchise stores all once added to noise pollution by playing rock and rap outside the premises. Some upper echelon type likely thought these beats should attract a higher percentage of youthful customers, consumers notoriously known for impulse buying. Get them inside for snack cakes, they’ll buy overpriced sugary drinks then augment these with expensive salty treats.

Unfortunately for low-rung commerce, the same beats drew the self-marginalized. But instead of departing as purchasers did, pop culture music kept the undesired anchored at the stores.

Let us surmise this era’s simple melodies and puerile lyrics immobilized them. Where others hear verbal discord and uninspiring instrumentalization, this aural pap speaks to minds whisked into mush.

Perhaps it’s hoped-for apocrypha. Maybe some behavioral specialist stopped by a mini-mart with Vivaldi blasting from his/her car stereo. Observant as specialists ought to be, he or she notices the music’s effect on the undesirables blackening the store. They put distance between themselves and the vehicle. After making purchase, the specialist drives to another similarly infested store. Here, he or she also cranks the classics.

The same result is produced. It’s a “voila! moment.”

However it transpired, a great many Las Vegas convenience stores refined their playlists. Where indulgent guitar solos, screeched lyrics, or bad raps had predominated being broadcast over exterior loudspeakers, now heartfelt arias or intricate orchestrations chase away our era’s asocial beasts.

The reason? Okay. How about a reason?

Classical compositions disturb the circuitry comprising junkies’ aural-brain networks. They revive long bypassed trails. Rather than discord and disturbance, frenzies which now rule the lives of those leading rough streets lives, classical music startlingly imposes an order they find unmanageable.

Knowing their own lives such piles of crap, they want to escape beauty.