My unfiltered thoughts about everything.
Note: Quite a lot of the questions I get about Vegas relate to strippers, drugs and gambling. I’ll answer those up front, just so we can get on with the story:
Strippers: I’ve never been to a strip club. It’s not on my bucket list either.
Drugs: While I’m all for the people doing what they want to their own body, I’ve never tried narcotics, nor will I ever. It’s not out of some “Moral Oral” pretension. I just don’t care to not have control over my mental faculties.
Gambling: I love to gamble. As an extra-curricular social activity, its fun to waste a few bucks. Sometimes you even win. Other than that, there’s not much to say about it. I never played more than few dollars at a time.
I’ll begin with a basic explanation of Las Vegas itself, just to clarify some of your expected misconceptions.
Las Vegas is a lot of things. It’s the sacred hot bed for all manner of old fashioned hedonism, a resort community of the highest order, home to aging entertainers, the homeless capital of America, hot as hell, a good place to retire, some peoples rise, others downfall, and a great many other things you’d never guess unless you spent more than a week in town. If you’ve been lucky enough to vacation there, chances are that you stayed on the strip, likely in one of the more popular casino hotels. That stretch of road defines Vegas internationally. It’s the face of the city, which is funny considering its not technically even in Vegas. It passes through the unincorporated towns of Paradise and Winchester, which are south of the city limits. They don’t broadcast that to the tourists. It’s just more convenient to let people group it all together, especially considering that the average visitor will never leave the strip except to get back to McCarran airport.
When you live there for any length of time, though, the strip becomes merely one aspect of your day to day experience. It’s always in view, the Stratosphere a friendly driving guide if your GPS decides to be testy. But, the truth is its almost like wall paper. One gets used to seeing it. You’re close, but you don’t always feel the need to go. And when you do go, you’re surrounded by people who have been there a grand total of three hours, and look like they’ve just met the Pope. I enjoyed people watching when I lived there. The look of overwhelmed newbies is enough to make anyone crack a smile. It was a friendly reminder that I myself had once been a tourist, gazing up into the neon husks of electric joy like a fly magnetized to a bug zapper.
I was over my tourist level infatuation by the time my wife and I began to seriously discuss moving there. I’d been on vacation in the area twice, and both times had the foresight to at least wonder what the day to day residential existence might be like, especially outside of the vacationers cocoon, in a real world context. I wasn’t naive enough to think that reality carried the same wonderment, not at least when factoring in a job and bills. I knew the base level excitement I’d encountered as a tourist was probably 60% smoke and mirrors, a nice facade on a likely normal community. I was partly right, but in a way I couldn’t have imagined. You can’t imagine the reality of a place like Nevada if you don’t live it for yourself. It has its own aura, a vibe and a personality unto itself. Adapting to the ebb and flow of the environment is a long train tussle to be sure. Frankly, I’m still learning from the experience.
To briefly summarize the beginning of our journey:
My wife and I had come to a landmark point in our young lives, a point where we found ourselves craving a change of scenery, a change of pace, and…well…just change all together. Fayetteville and Georgia had become old hat, the same old same. There was something adventurous to me about leaving the confines of my birthplace and taking on the world. That was how I romanticized it, anyway. My wife was so tired of her job, tired of the monotony. She too, desired something new and fresh. When we began to broach the subject, it wasn’t a hard sell on either our parts. We knew what we wanted. Las Vegas fit the bill perfectly. It was close to California. I’m an aspiring screenwriter. That was a good reason by itself. Houses, apartments and mobile living in Nevada are CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP (granted you don’t live IN Henderson or ON the strip). To top it all off, my then boss and very good friend, Emo, was coincidentally moving out there to manage a pyrotechnic company. Being the awesome human being he is, I got a job offer. As I said earlier, I was aware that living in a vacation spot was very different from visiting a vacation spot. My expectations were based on common sense. I wasn’t worried about being underwhelmed. I knew enough to know the risk was worth it. It was all too easy to take the leap of faith. We didn’t have kids yet, were still young, and we were in love.
Our move had been quietly, painstakingly plotted out for months when it came to time to get out of dodge. We hitched our car up to a Uhaul, said our goodbyes, and left everything we’d ever known. It took me three days to get us there, bumping along at the severely limited pace of forty five miles per hour. We experienced every facet of the motel industry, the good (Flagstaff Days Inn) , the bad (Arkansas Ramada), and the downright hellish (Mississippi Motel 6) . I saw some incredible country side in Arkansas and Oklahoma, smelled slaughter houses for three hours driving Forty West through Texas, and can’t remember a damn thing about Arizona, other than it rained. It was one of those trips everyone should do once, just to say they did. (Truthfully, I’ll never drive though New Mexico again if my life depends on it!) Getting there was the hard part. Waiting for us at Valley Trailer Park was a 28 foot, 1979 5th wheel trailer. It was (and I’m laughing out loud) our first fully owned owned home, bought up front for $2,000. I was proud. I can always tell people we bought our first place outright, even if the details immediately solicit a barrage of sarcastic one liners. Who cares? I’m proud of that trailer.
We set up shop in that confined little space with a shared sense of purpose. We knew the odds might be stacked against our resolve to change our lifestyle so drastically, yet we embraced the unknown in a way I’m not sure I could even now. We became obsessed with trailer and RV life very quickly. We read the magazines, bought products specified for our type and model, learned the “do’s and don’t you dares”, and quickly became enamored with a way of living we’d only seen on camping trips, watching retirees live out their “mobile fantasies”. There was something very Hemingway about it to me. Some people might argue it was more of a Ernest P. Worle move, but I digress. It became home.
Getting that far was the first milestone in our new existence. It felt like starting over, like throwing out the rule book. I looked at it as blazing a personal, spiritual trail into our future. We couldn’t know what Nevada had in store for us, the stories we’d carry with us for the rest of our lives, the friendships, the quiet moments of clarity. It was almost like a dream, a very surreal and emotionally relevant dream. Today, I can write about it in the past tense, knowing the events before I type them. I’ll try to weave something of a consistent story out of it all, ADD not withstanding. Hopefully, you can get something out of these next four posts, something you can take with you.
To be continued…….