Monday, November 21, 2011

The Center of My Universe is Becoming Whole Again

I have fond memories of riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World, and I watch videos of it on YouTube, as well as the current incarnation with the sound turned off, since the new narration blows Mickey ear-sized chunks.

I remember the pervasive peace of Flanagan High School's 9th grade campus, all portables, not only because of my first crush, Sara, but because it felt like the world and everything in it was aligned, even in the general chaos of going from one class to another.

All that are just memories, though, even though I use the latter often when I write. I wander those grounds, thinking about if I've written what I've wanted to write in the way that I thought about writing it. In my mind, the campus is empty. I remember old acquaintances, I sit again where I used to have lunch occasionally with Sara and her friends, but I sit on those wooden walkways, managing my writing life at my own speed.

I apparently decided a long time ago that I needed a tangible center of my universe, even though I've just discovered this now. For the past few months, I've Googled "Hacienda Hotel and Casino", pulling up the website for exactly that in Boulder City, or, rather, east of Boulder City, since there's no gambling allowed within city limits. It's on Highway 93, and it's my new Walt Disney World.

That seems strange, considering how much the Strip offers, but I don't need the Strip all the time. It is merely part of the awesome freedom Las Vegas offers, a never-ending pursuit of hedonism that I fully support and hope to live by once I'm there permanently.

I first became attached to the Hacienda Hotel and Casino because of the view that takes your breath away. It truly does. There's a cliff near the casino that you can walk and with your back to it, you see a vast ocean of desert. To me, it felt like all the dreams I ever had in my life had combined to create this view.

I like the casino itself. It's 2,000% smaller than the average high-end casino on the Strip (My math isn't what it used to be, which is to say it never was, so I could be wrong), but there's a comfortable feeling to it. There's a small screening room with chairs where you can watch an old federal government film about the building of the Hoover Dam, which the Hacienda is near. I love that there's this little piece of history right there, footage of FDR dedicating it, and then when you leave, there's the card tables and the slot machines all around.

The one thing that makes the Hacienda the center of my universe is Lakeview Cinemas, which is located on the second floor and has been open and closed a few times since we were there. I've never been there, not yet anyway, but I love that here is this small two-screen movie theater, near Hoover Dam, and try finding any other movie theater location like this anywhere else. I wonder if any distribution people at any of the movie studios have ever thought about their reels going there, right in the middle of the desert bigger than anyone could ever imagine, right near an important piece of the nation's history.

It apparently closed a few months ago, maybe not doing decent business, maybe for renovations. I'm not sure of the story, and I'm not going to speculate because I love this location for a movie theater and I'm just happy to see it's opening again on Friday.

Every couple of days, I went to Lakeview Cinemas' website (, and back in September, I learned that there was a new ice machine put in. In October, new projectors and refrigeration. I always looked at the old movie schedule from June. Nothing ever changed on it since it was so buried in the past, but I marveled again and again at this movie theater, to which I'm sure people from Boulder City and hopefully other areas came. This movie theater seems to be just about the movies, nothing like the corporate chains push. You come in, you buy popcorn and soda, or a hot dog, or a cheeseburger, or White Castles, or pizza, or soft pretzels, and you go see your movie. That's it. Nothing simpler.

Generally, the movies that come to Lakeview are at that second-run point. Happy Feet 2, for example, is coming there some time in December. There's no rush here. The movies in the multiplexes right now will come, but at a cheaper rate for Lakeview. And I don't feel a driving need to see many movies on opening weekend (The only final one for 2011 for me is Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), so this place is my ideal.

Occasionally, Lakeview gets prints of old movies, and one page of the website promises a "Clint Eastwood Film Tribute," though it doesn't say what movies will be featured, and promises "Coming This Fall! To the Hacienda." The theater was closed during most of the fall, but even if it doesn't happen, the owner, Gary Bouchard, seems to pride himself on featuring old movies on an equal plane with recent releases.

I've never met Gary, so I don't know personally what kind of guy he is, but I do like his honesty on the website, not only his updates on the progress of the renovation of "Theater 2" for example, but also the misspellings sprinkled throughout the website, such as the offer of a "Whole 14 Ince Pizza" on the menu pages. An egregious error to some, but I don't mind it. The theater will still stand. The movies will still play. However, I do want to try an "Old Fashioned Rootbear Float." Gary might be on to something if he put, say, chocolate gummy bears into the root beer float, or found bear-shaped glasses for the root beer floats. To me, the misspellings give a sense of personality, and in the desert, there needs to be a lot of personalities. It's why I can't imagine being a writer anywhere else.

On the Hacienda website (, I look at the entertainment schedule and the food specials, which never change. There's one ad I like on the site ( that's obviously Photoshopped, but that's what it looks like, and it's part of what feels like home to me in Southern Nevada. You walk in, and there are many stories to be told right away, just like when you drive the Strip and you see all the people walking the sidewalks and you wonder where they're from, why they're there, what they want from their vacation. I go further with the casinos. I wonder about their construction, who built them, who was in charge of what, even who designed the bathrooms. The stories never cease, and that's how I like it.

I'll inevitably check the Lakeview Cinemas site again to see if a schedule was put up, and especially what movies are being shown. I'm not home yet, so I've got to get my taste of home, which also reminds me that I should be reading more back issues of Henderson Press, like all of them since I've only read the first issue so far. I've got to get to know my future hometown a lot better than I do right now. I know some street names, I know what surrounds our future apartment complex (A few supermarkets, restaurants, shopping centers, all good things to explore), I know the policies of the Henderson libraries, as well as the stores that are in the Galleria at Sunset, but more. Much more. When I finally get there as a resident, I want to feel like I've already been there for a while. This is the best way to start.