In July, at the official start of steady heat, my next-door neighbor's sliding glass door would be open, and when I was outside towards midnight, either having the dogs do their business in the patio (remember, the pebbles that cover the ground there are a good simulation of the desert terrain in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, where we'll likely live soon enough) or in the darkness at two in the morning staring at the risen mountain with all the houses dotted across it, I'd hear him snoring. He's heavy enough that I think he sleeps downstairs, in the living room, so he doesn't have to trek upstairs every evening. His wife likely sleeps upstairs. I'm not about to speculate on that marriage, but I think they've gotten used to this as a piece of the routine of their lives.
When I heard him snoring in July, forgetting yet again that he did that last year too, I took it as a comfort of the neighborhood. Granted, this isn't my neighborhood, I don't feel like I belong here, but for the time I'm still here, I felt like I needed markers of what I'd perceive as this neighborhood just doing what it always has. And maybe that's the problem. Now, in August, I don't feel that way. It's not so much annoying, it just makes me worry that this is what life might be. No, that's not quite right. I know I can change my life. I know I look forward to changing my life once I'm done writing this book. Right now, I'm so frustrated over it, but I put faith in the experts and authorities that I still need to talk to, that maybe there's some things in those future conversations and e-mails that will inspire new beginnings for the essays I'm not confident about yet, or that will change what I've stuck to all this time.
But it's not the book that's rotting my thoughts. It's looking back on six years in the Santa Clarita Valley, in Los Angeles County and finding very few events that I could describe as special, enlightening, memorable. I want more and I need more. At least there are lots of happenings to be found in Vegas, lots of personalities that you can count on to be different every day. The man in the open shirt, jingling change in his right pocket, limping a little as he looks for a slot machine that he hopes will do a magic disappearing act with his debts may be at the MGM Grand or at Hooters today, but tomorrow, he could be gone. He could be a resident of Las Vegas who visits a different casino every day or every week, or he could be a tourist, on his way back to Chicago in the morning. There is life in Vegas. There's not the same snoring every night, the same routine. I'm not looking to try to convince my next-door neighbor to change his life, to maybe snore differently after doing something utterly satisfying, because first, I don't care. But secondly, I don't know what he likes and I'm not looking to know. I want to know more about that beautiful barista at that Starbucks off the Strip in Vegas. I want to know if there's ever a time when that pit boss looks less imposing, even for a moment. I want to know where the Vegas historians are, because I'll gladly join them. Las Vegas is the only city I've ever felt close to right away, because it's honest. It knows what it is, on the surface it doesn't try to hide its many facets, even the individually unsavory ones. You want poker, you want blackjack, here it is. You don't want poker, you don't want blackjack, there's all the shows on the Strip for you. You don't want any of that, you just want to walk the Strip and see what energy you can feel, there's that too.
My neighbor's snoring only does enough to remind me that I have another night here, another night to think about my future, another night to work on this book, another night to wait and wonder. But when I get to Vegas, those nights will become the exploration I've always craved, those moments where I see other people, not at all for snoring, and I can sense at least a little bit of what they're after. In Vegas, you have to know what you want. You can't wander too aimlessly. Those are my kind of people.