The basketball game just ended on the radio. 85-57. The Rebels won soundly. My neighbor, Michael, two houses down, with the rough but not nearly calloused hands of the woodworker that he is (always a handshake either when we meet up or when I've got to bring one of the dogs back to the house), is either getting ready to go to work or is already at the Thomas & Mack Center, but not necessarily for the game. Maybe he was there that early, deep in the background, not at courtside, not in any of the seats. He, the South Carolina native, is a member of the crew that cleans the arena after everyone has left. He's one of many who tosses discarded food into the trash, who sweeps the detritus, the wrappers, the soda cups, whatever's around that people have either brought with them or bought at the stadium, but leave behind.
Yesterday, while Tigger was with me on his leash, I talked with Michael for a while, about the city, about where he came from before Las Vegas (Playa del Rey in Southern California, and he told me that he misses the beach, being right there, being able to walk to the shore like you'd walk to your mailbox. In our first conversation, he talked about how he misses South Carolina and even though he's been in Las Vegas for only nine months, he wants to go back. But to South Carolina or Playa del Rey, I'm not sure. Something tells me he'll be here for a few months longer at least, because the work is steady, and we all need that in this hoped-for economic recovery), about the hack job the maintenance guys did on the bushes (He trimmed the bushes around his property himself, and he did a far better job than those guys did), about his motorcycle which he won't be able to ride in the cold of winter, and, of course, about the Rebels, lamenting the post-Thanksgiving game in which they lost against Oregon, but becoming hopeful again after their win over Iowa State. We both agreed that the team can't keep shooting three-pointers arbitrarily. They need to have a far-reaching plan for the game, adjustable as the minutes tick off, but only when they're sure they can make the shot, then they should take it. We talk every couple of days, usually sooner after a Rebels game, and that seems to be enough. With him on the graveyard shift, we don't cross paths every day. But it's more than I ever had when I existed in Southern California.
I'm not sure what he'll be driving tonight. It was pleasantly warm today, but he'll probably keep both motorcycles at the end of his driveway, under that awning, since neither come with heat, like a car would. So it'll be whichever car is his, the one that isn't his wife's. But he may be there already, waiting for the crowds to clear out. Either way, he's faced less traffic than he would have much earlier. Or maybe he is there already. Why battle with the traffic coming out of Thomas & Mack after the game? He told me that when he did get to Thomas & Mack after the season opener against Northern Arizona two weeks ago, people were still trickling out because that game had drawn the biggest crowd in UNLV Men's Basketball history. On the day of the game, there were only 500 seats still available in an arena of 18,776 seats.
I haven't been inside the Thomas & Mack Center yet, but I love walking through empty spaces, and I'm looking forward to seeing the cell phone photo Michael's going to take of the inside of the arena after everyone's left, before the cleanup begins. I'm curious about exactly how much of a mess is made, if it's bigger on more crowded nights than sparsely-crowded ones, and if this matches the season opener, which was apparently very messy.
And what still amazes me is that this is only a minute crumb of one evening in Las Vegas. But it's just as interesting a crumb as all the others that make up my city.