Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What Las Vegas Will Be Mine?

For this lamentation, I'm tempted to pull out the argument that mediocrity reigns while the creative minds go broke. But that implies that the creative minds didn't do enough to promote themselves better, and more inventively than the mediocrity. It's just not true, especially since the economy is the runaway locomotive streaking over everything.

There's a bookstore in Henderson, Nevada, near Vegas, called Cheesecake and Crime. Or there will be until February 28th when, after a year, they're closing because of the economy. Cheesecake and Crime (http://www.cheesecakeandcrime.com/) is billed as a "Mystery Book Shop and Cheesecake Joint." Books and cheesecake are enough for me to quickly drop whatever I'm doing and revel in both. I don't read mystery books often, but from what I had read about the bookstore, it sounded like the staff was so knowledgeable about mystery books that they could have easily led me toward the right beginning, if not for how far I unfortunately am from there.

If you live in the desert, you know what you're doing and know exactly why you're there. It's not the kind of land you wander aimlessly. It breeds some unique things and this bookstore was one of them. I could see myself going there often, perhaps even working there if there was room and if I was in the midst of my online courses from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. But distance and incentive preclude that, since my dad still hasn't gotten word from the Clark County School District of Las Vegas about any business education teaching positions opening up. That district is dealing with the same problems as districts all over the country and it's hard, because on the last trip we took to Vegas, I knew it was home. I was more relaxed inside the Office Depot we went to for a few things not stocked in Santa Clarita. A lot of the buildings we passed on the road, I felt like could never get tired of seeing them. Getting back to Santa Clarita after that trip, I felt a depression duller than the last night we spent at Hooters and then the Luxor. Sitting poolside at Hooters that night, I knew I didn't want to go back. This was home now. But I would never leave my dogs behind and so my family and I returned here, a valley that suffocates you as soon as you come from a trip, refreshed. The same thoughts curl into your mind, the same boredom, the same brief disgust at how incommunicative people are here and then quickly getting used to it again. Right now I've got that concern again about what would be if we went to Vegas again, believing that there is stability to be found here instead of over there, which hasn't been the case since we had to evacuate for a day because of wildfires in October 2007. Yes, we have a house and all, but there's nothing to do here. You have to go to the San Fernando Valley for that, to Burbank, Los Angeles proper, and the distance goes on and on, but always as far from this valley as you can get. At least in the Las Vegas area, you're never far away from what you might want to do.

We plan to look deep into Henderson the next time we go, to see if there are any houses that interest us and if it looks like home. Already Las Vegas feels like home, but we want to find the house to match. And yet I wonder what Las Vegas will be mine when we hopefully move there soon. "Soon" would be nice, but who knows, when it all hinges on the school district? I'm already a little discouraged with Cheesecake and Crime closing. But I hope that Blueberry Hill (http://www.blueberryhillrestaurants.com/), a local chain of family restaurants, will remain. I still need some of those personal landmarks gathered during three trips to Vegas.

The Strip has changed. More buildings are being erected, ventriloquist Terry Fator is now at the Mirage while Danny Gans, the former resident performer at the Mirage, is at the Wynn, and I can live with that. But even with the relatively little time I've spent on the Strip (even though it's been mere hours combined), it's hard to imagine it without the Folies Bergere show at the Tropicana and La Cage at the Riviera. I never went to either show (on our second trip to Vegas, we went to see The Amazing Johnathan at the Sahara (he's now at the Harmon Theatre at Krave at the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood) and a Russian ice skating show called ICE: Direct from Russia at the Riviera which is the most boring show I'll probably ever see in Las Vegas), but it's just having those billboards on the Strip, and on the marquees outside the casinos that gives a sense of stability, makes you truly feel at home. Well, at least me. And I know that acts will change at each casino, but there's the hope that they'll remain long enough to not to be totally jarred when new acts come in.

Then in the Las Vegas Sun came the rumor that comedian Bobby Slayton might be leaving the Hooters Hotel and Casino soon. He had a role as the host of a hard-news TV show in the movie "Bandits," and I've heard some of his comedy. All good. One of the taglines used for his show is, "Sit. Roll over. Play married." I like his acidic humor, but right now, it's hard to imagine anyone else being there, since he was the first headliner for the casino when it opened. I was impressed to find Hooters in this form that first time in Las Vegas, off the Strip (we stay at America's Best Value Inn, which is adjacent to Hooters), and at the time, I liked the coffee shop diner they had there. Cheap prices and the food was good. I was especially proud of my second time in Vegas because I had three steaks in four days. When in Vegas, indulge deeply in your personal pleasures.

The diner closed because I'm sure it wasn't bringing much value to Hooters at that point. They replaced it with a country-western bar, and it fits. And the management expanded the Hooters restaurant there, so it all works out. I briefly mourned the loss of the diner the last time we were at Hooters, but it's not so bad, considering all the other choices for food on the Strip and elsewhere, also in Primm, located just behind the state line.

Las Vegas obviously thrives on tourism and that's what worries me. If this stimulus package takes proper effect, it's going to take time for things to stabilize and I've a feeling it's not going to be an explosion of sudden energy. But even so, people are looking to turn their lives right side up and Vegas doesn't sound like a priority. Not only that, but even if the economy can be stimulated, there's all those people who have lost jobs. They're looking and they're hoping, and it's not the time to be spending a few days in Vegas.

But I want Vegas to succeed again. I want it so badly because I've finally found where I belong. I know it and it's taken years to find it because of all the times we've moved within Florida and then to Southern California and the Santa Clarita Valley, and then one more move across the valley. It was bad enough when, after our second trip to Vegas, the Clark County school district enacted a hiring freeze in response to the district's dwindling budget. Then came the economic freefall and here we are, still waiting. I don't want to wait anymore, and I've got the feeling a lot of other people don't want to either. We want our money to be good again, we want steady jobs, we want a lot of things that are tied into this economy. I just hope it works out enough to get my family and I to Vegas. My mom likes it because there are always things to do, whereas here there's nothing. My dad likes it because since Vegas is a cluster of service industries, business education is crucial. Or should be. I'm not sure what the consensus is toward it right now. My sister likes it because her future educational institution is there: Le Cordon Bleu, the cooking school. She wants to one day work at the Mesa Grill, Bobby Flay's restaurant at Caesar's Palace.

Me, I love it not just because of all that I've described, but because I would also like to work at McCarran International Airport one day. It feels like my kind of airport, one that is neutral to all the people that fly in and out, the big winners and the big losers, the casual gamblers and the hardcore poker players, the newly-arrived tourists and the 28th-time veterans. All I want is to work near the planes there. For me, that's happiness.

Soon. I hope for that every day.

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