Archive for May 2012

Vegas, Baby!… Six Months Later

May 18, 2012

Suffering a cranky brand of anxiety, the Reasonable Reporter rolled into town at dusk on a mid-November Sunday, just nine hours before the scheduled launch of the Next Big Career Chapter.

Simmering in the mix, there was a possibility the rental agent had failed to leave a key for the newly-changed lock, and a slightly stronger possibility the power might not be switched on until Monday morning.

The Reno-to-Vegas haul had lasted about two hours longer than the cat’s tranquilizer. At Beatty, she’d issued a low growl that evolved into frequent and full-blown yowls before the big city came into sight.  The wrong freeway exit added an additional half-hour to the trip, providing the first of many lessons about getting from here to there in a place where everything looks closer than it is.

Ah, but the key was there, the power was on, the cat ate hungrily. All was well – or as well as it could be for someone whose next task was to unload a U-Haul truck in the dark, and then start a new job without enough sleep.

Vegas, baby!  The phrase had given voice for nearly a month to enthusiasm for new challenges.

It was a mantra, repeated silently each time another Reno friend offered a look of wide-eyed disbelief in response to the news. Northern Nevadans harbor a fairly uniform distaste for Las Vegas, although many fly back-and-forth for business.  They can’t fathom living here, and a few even imagined it must be some kind of hardship –divorce perhaps? –that had driven this decision.

But northerners also know quite well that more opportunities exist in the south than in Reno for the non-native Nevadan. They also grasp that to understand Nevada, one must understand Las Vegas.

(Six months into the Las Vegas experience, here is a reluctant acknowledgement:  After 10 years, three legislative sessions, five election cycles, and dozens of only-in-Nevada stories, the Reasonable Reporter understands about two teaspoons full in the whole Nevada barrel.  Another one:  Events deserving news coverage are more complicated in the south, and more interesting. They are also less covered than they ought to be, which spells opportunity if you’re paying attention. )

But finding one’s way here is hard.  There are practical challenges, not least of which is the sheer expanse of the place, which is not one central city clustered by suburbs, like L A or the Bay Area, but one enormous asphalt grid, stretching out in all directions from the Strip, which is the center of this universe.  There is also the mind-dulling sameness of the landscape that lies beyond the Strip and a few other well-documented attractions

There is the unwelcoming vibe of the neighborhoods, all walled off from street view. Behind the walls sit row upon row of stucco homes, all white, or all tan, or all pink. The more recently-built neighborhood might sport a tightly-controlled assortment of muted hues that surely have names like sandstorm, cactus, and desert dawn. Outside the walls are empty sidewalks. Where is everyone?

Vegas, baby! The phrase lost its luster around month three, as a deep and searing loneliness set in.

The Reasonable Reporter made a manic project at first of running around town collecting business cards from the smartest people who would grant appointments. Despite the appearance of inaccessibility, doors in this desert open quite easily. Some meetings spawned a story, some did not.

On any given day, at an old locals hangout recommended by a 30-year resident, there are a fair number of, um, old locals. They are quite welcoming. The occasional visit at breakfast time can yield valuable exposure to the core culture of old Las Vegas.

(Speaking of which, it is immediately clear why Carolyn Goodman is the mayor of Las Vegas, and why the city elected her to succeed her husband.  At the conclusion of her recent State of the City speech, she spoke briefly with reporters. After a few minutes, former Mayor Oscar showed up at the periphery of the press gaggle, drink in hand, and escorted her to the lobby of the sumptuous new city hall, where well-wishers awaited.  At that moment, they were Las Vegas, and in a way that more or less defies explanation, it clicked.)

Then there’s the daily news. To absorb the headlines is to swim through a tank full of crazy people bludgeoning children; pedestrians wandering like stray cattle into the paths of moving cars; cops conducting traffic stings by crossing busy streets dressed up as leprechauns, or in turkey costumes; and cameras drawn, quite literally, like moths to flames whenever anything – truly, almost anything — catches fire.

There are moments when the whole affair begs to be punctuated with a slide whistle, or a hearty ‘Boing-oing-oing!” and a shot of clowns emerging from a tiny car.  It would not be surprising to see surveillance video showing a liquor store robber poking his dimwitted accomplice in the eye.  Doink! Oops, the gun discharged, and a bystander was shot.  We’ll have more details as they emerge.

This is not to dismiss or denigrate the people who are reporting daily on matters of more consequence. They are here, hard at work, but there aren’t enough of them.

To stay on course requires new levels of concentration, and it’s too early to say with certainty, but that may be the key to success here. Concentrate. Pay attention.  Find people. Stay put, because, they say, a lot of people don’t, or can’t stay here. Exploit voids in the market. (Is it different anywhere else?)

And regarding voids in the market, note to Las Vegas grocery stores:  get some paper bags! If just one of you offered paper bags, the Reasonable Reporter would vow never to shop anywhere else.