Thursday, April 19, 2012

An Historical Las Vegas Document

On the final evening of our latest visit to Southern Nevada, January 22, we left the Galleria at Sunset mall in Henderson and began to drive to the Nevada/California border. Despite the departure, it was our final evening because it took us a while to get from the mall to the border since there were stops at two Henderson apartment complexes that Mom wanted to see.

Before reaching the border, we stopped at the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas in Jean. Pedantically, they're not technically the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas, but without Las Vegas, there would be nothing in Jean, so indeed they are the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas.

I want to include the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas in one of my books, the wide-open atmosphere which is nearly no frills. This outlet mall has been quietly designed, with a few globe streetlights on inside the mall. At one of the exits of the mall is a tall model of a woman on the left side holding up a white globe and a tall model of a man on the right side holding up a globe, wearing what looks like a thong bikini. It's my favorite kind of mall, not screaming all available sales at you, no huge signs touting any stores, and not much noise. This is a mall for tourists arriving in and leaving Nevada through California. If you fly into McCarran, you could certainly drive to it if you're curious enough. But it's mainly geared toward the traffic on that road across from it.

On this night, we were there because they have a Williams-Sonoma Marketplace, which means outlet store. Discounts. Meridith wanted to see what they were selling for cheap and I was only looking for mustard, which I found, a dijon imported from France for $3.99. 12-oz. jar, and, as I found out some time later, overly vinegary, and I don't think it's because it sat for a while. It was sealed anyway.

We were also there because there's a souvenir store called Viva Vegas, where I hoped to find a bookmark. They had playing cards, and magnetic poker chips, and shot glasses, and naked lady pens (Turn it upside down and the bathing suit "melts" off), and disappointing Las Vegas t-shirts, mainly ones with "Las Vegas" emblazoned across the front. I know it's to be expected, but I would have preferred one of the Strip in an artist's rendering. And I would have worn it with pride.

Near the register was a small flatscreen TV showing footage from a DVD and Blu-Ray being sold of a half hour tour of Las Vegas. It looked like high-definition filming, and got very close to the fountains at Bellagio, to where you could see the nozzles poking out of the water and then retracting after they were done for the moment. I went back and forth on whether to get it because I know the Strip. I know where every casino is, I know what every casino offers. Why would I need a DVD of what I will soon see all the time?

I nearly changed my mind when I saw the hotel tower side of the Flamingo. They have a large wrap against the windows of the main act currently in their showroom. On the main tower, you'll find Donny & Marie. On the side tower, there's one for magician Nathan Burton. In this footage, there was Toni Braxton, which meant this had been filmed in 2007! I was looking at an historical Las Vegas document. But I didn't think of it as that at the time and left Viva Vegas without buying it.

Over the past two weeks, I've thought about that DVD. I still have space for a few more DVDs in one of my DVD binders, and besides having what I believe is the most realistic modern-day Vegas movie in Lucky You, despite a crappy script (The most realistic Vegas movie from long ago is The Las Vegas Story from 1952, starring Jane Russell, Victor Mature, and Vincent Price. I will not delete it from the Tivo until it's time to move and we have no need for DirecTV anymore), I should have Vegas as it actually was in 2007. Seeing Toni Braxton on the side of the Flamingo shows that they don't film these DVDs often, so there's obviously none for 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. No yearbook of sorts.

Plus, the footage was excellent, getting that close to the Bellagio fountains and making the Strip look as comfortable as I know. And I would have a piece of Vegas history, including my own, since we first visited Las Vegas in 2007.

I found it on a website called Las Vegas Gift Shop. And on YouTube is apparently Part One of the video. Part Four has some of the Bellagio footage, but sped up. The footage that I saw may be on the DVD or it may not, and if not, I don't feel screwed because I get plenty of Las Vegas to look at, to study, to imagine the stories that were going on while the people walking by were being filmed. It'll be continually useful.

It's not Viva Vegas again, and I'm paying shipping now in addition to the price, but I'll have it in my collection and that's what matters to me. I think I'd still watch it even living near there because there are angles in the footage that can't be seen at ground level, and certainly not that close to the Bellagio fountains.

Just A-Wanderin'

Facing all the books I want to read that are in stacks in my room, I decided that I will not be on the computer if I absolutely do not need to be, and I have stuck to that for the past week. Because of that, I was able to write two DVD reviews yesterday instead of one:

I, Claudius: 35th Anniversary Edition

The Getting of Wisdom

The Getting of Wisdom was posted this morning. The only DVD I have right now to review is the new Titanic miniseries by Julian Fellowes, lately famous for Downton Abbey, which I've not seen yet, though inevitably I will, just not as quickly as others seem to have flocked to it. I know class distinctions were commonplace in that time period, but I'm never fond of people looking down on others. Of course, I could be completely wrong about Downton Abbey in that respect, but still I'll wait. With the books I have going, including my own, as well as the few things I watch on TV such as Jeopardy!, The Big Bang Theory, and occasional episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it might be nicer to watch Downton Abbey after we've moved to Henderson. Something to check out of my new local library, whichever one it might be, on a weekend.

I originally Tivo'd the Titanic miniseries, but when I learned that it was available for review (though in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack that only has the audio commentary for the first episode on the DVD, which is fine with me because it's less to do), I grabbed it because now I won't have to fast-forward through commercials! I get it all right away.

My decision not to spend so much time on the computer came at just the right moment. The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O'Neal was released on Tuesday, and I received my copy today, along with The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. My love of O'Neal's The Secret of Everything, which continues to motivate my intent to travel throughout New Mexico in the years to come, spurs me on to read The Garden of Happy Endings at first, and then I'll read The Presidents Club not only to learn of the relationships between sitting presidents and former presidents (such as Truman and Hoover, which starts off the book), but as research of my own since one of the presidential history books I want to write involves former presidents, though not how Gibbs and Duffy have done it. That they've hit upon this topic shows that I need to get moving on my own because someone else is bound to think of my idea soon enough. I want to write this particular book.

Last night, I wrote what may be the beginning of my novel about the artist with an unusual interest. I'm still not sure what this artist wants, what the reason would be to write this novel. I'm not giving up, though, because I want to follow this guy, to learn about his approach to art, what he gets out of it, what he hopes his art will do for others. I don't see him as the sort who thrives in big cities, who wants their art in as many galleries as possible. He's passionate about what he does, but he's not in constant pursuit of glory. That's all I know so far. I would like to include a few of my favorite places in Southern California as a thank you for helping me keep my sanity during these eight years. I'm not sure if these will be direct tributes or pieces of the places included in other places this guy goes to. I do know that I don't want to use Las Vegas for this novel. First, I'll be spending my time after I arrive exploring every single inch of that valley and ransacking the Nevada history sections. Second, I want to write a book about a certain aspect of Las Vegas history, and would rather keep the novel separate. And third, as I've found out living in the Santa Clarita Valley, it's more of a challenge to create if there's nothing inspiring around you. However, this guy finds inspiration often because he looks where most don't, even if there's nothing remarkable around him. This novel should be about him, not always the city that surrounds him.

Even as I spend less time on the computer and more time reading, I want to listen to more chill music, more than I hear on the XM Radio in our house. I want to listen to more Schubert, more Gershwin, and I want to explore bluegrass music. I've always been curious about it, I've heard a bit on The Bluegrass Mix, but it's not enough. I want to learn its history, the pioneers of it, what it had back then that it retains today and what's different today. I think it stems from the soundtrack I heard waiting in line at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World all those years, and, of course, O Brother Where Art Thou?. I know bluegrass music is more than just that revival, and I want to know. That would involve spending more time on the computer in order to learn. Well then, I'll just keep a book with me if I have nothing to do on the computer and just want to listen.

Once I figure out where I want to go with this novel, then there's all the music I want again. It may even inform my writing.

For now, I've got nothing else to do on here, and The Garden of Happy Endings is sitting on the dining room table. That's not where it should be. I've got reading to do!