Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Ghosts of Boulder City

Last Saturday, a friend of mine, a resident of Boulder City, my favorite city in all of Southern Nevada, showed me around. We went to TuTu's Books, which you have to climb stairs to get to, and I learned from Mom later that the block that TuTu's is on is actually houses that were divided for businesses to move in.

I want to move into TuTu's. The next day, I thought about where the biography section was, overlooking another block of stores, where I saw a man and a woman walking a dog below, and I wanted to replace the biography section with a bed for myself. I wouldn't need as big a TV as I have now. Just one to bring in Jeopardy!, The Big Bang Theory, and How It's Made, along with a DVD player for my movies. But being that I would have not only the books in TuTu's, but also my own collection, plus being within walking distance of the Boulder City Library, I don't think I'd watch TV all that often. Not that I do now anyway. For example, I Tivo'd Monday Mornings on TNT last night, which I want to see because it's based on a novel by Sanjay Gupta that I really like. I still haven't gotten to it.

We went to Goatfeathers, which is the largest antique store I've ever seen, with two upstairs areas, one of them for dishes and mugs and other kitchen supplies. And we went to another antique store where they've got a good handle on furniture, armoires and sturdy squat bookcases that I'd be hard-pressed to find in such good condition at the average furniture store. Later, we went to the Boulder Dam Brewing Co. for dinner, where I had an excellent blue cheese burger and the fries were pretty good, too.

But all that paled in importance, though refocused itself later, in comparison to the parking lot behind the Bureau of Reclamation building, where I was led to see the view of Lake Mead from there. I saw houses stretching to the lake, mountains cradling the lake, and I found the meaning of life. I felt such inner peace that I don't think I've ever felt before, not like this, not as pronounced. The other time I did, though it was far less than this, was every Friday in Pembroke Pines, in our development at Grand Palms, when I came home from school, and the sunlight through the trees, golden on the sidewalks, made it feel like the universe was aligned.

Then came the biggest discovery of all: Finding peace on Earth. We had bumped into my friend's former co-worker at that Bureau of Reclamation building, and she took us up to her office to see the view of Lake Mead from her window, which was also spectacular, but I always need the air around me in order to appreciate that view. I chatted with her for a few minutes, and then it was time to go, since she had work to do, even though it was a Saturday. But she had the right idea since there was no noise in the building, it was totally quiet, and certainly you could get a lot done that way. I told her that when I was in middle school and my teachers made us get in groups, I hated it because I always knew I could get the work done faster on my own. Ironic that those teachers were promoting socialization, yet would always tell us to be quiet and get to work.

We walked downstairs, back to the entrance/exit of the building, pushed the door open to the outside, went out, and went down the short stairs that rise to, and fall from, the building. In front of us was the half-bowl shaped park for dog walkers, joggers, and people like us, just strolling and looking around.

We started down the lip of the half-bowl, down that hill, and even though I couldn't see the sunset happening at that moment, I could feel it. The streetlights had come on, no sickly orangish glow here. Pure, gentle white lights. I looked at those lights in the park, and across the street at other buildings, and I felt peace on Earth. As my friend's former co-worker reminded me when I exclaimed my love of Boulder City, it is a unique situation. And she's right. Boulder City was created by the government to house the workers building Hoover (then Boulder) Dam, because they didn't want them living in Las Vegas, getting caught up in that debauched (their perception) lifestyle, and proving unreliable. A city manager was appointed in Sims Ely of Arizona, who ruled with an iron fist while sticking to the strict letter of the rules (no madness for power in that head), and there was no liquor, no gambling, and no prostitution allowed. I'm not sure yet if there was a curfew on the reservation, but there must have been. Actually, I think there was, because workers could go to Las Vegas, where they invariably did to spend their paychecks and have fun (those without families, of course), but if they were late getting back, they weren't allowed back on the reservation until the next morning, and I'm sure Mr. Ely had a few words for them.

Long after Boulder City passed from government to municipal hands, some of the same rules have stayed. There is alcohol now, but there's no gambling and no prostitution. That's mainly what helps keep the peace in Boulder City, that and the overwhelming friendliness of its residents and those who work there. I'm not sure if I would move there yet. For one, I'm close to becoming an employee of the Clark County School District as a library assistant, but I need to establish myself, and I could only get there if I know of a vacancy in the elementary school library there, and that I could transfer into it. But I need to accrue time working in the district.

Not only that, though. There is TuTu's, and there is a Vons supermarket at the edge of town, and restaurants, and those antique stores, and the Boulder City Library, but if you need socks, or shoes, or jeans, you have to drive to Henderson, or Las Vegas if you want to go that far. But it's not that difficult because my friend's former co-worker lives in Las Vegas on Windmill Lane, and commutes to Boulder City. It's much calmer there, which is probably what attracted her to it. However, you're obviously using gas to get to where you need to go from Boulder City, 14 miles out, however many miles it is to where you want to go (and there's also no movie theater in Boulder City, but the nearby Hacienda Hotel and Casino has a two-screen theater. For anything more extensive, there's Henderson or Las Vegas), however many miles back, and then those 14 miles back into Boulder City. But I'm gauging it based on where I currently am in Las Vegas. In Henderson, which we're moving to in September, it's closer to Boulder City. Five or so miles are shaved off of the drive. It may not be for me for now, but I'm still considering moving there when I retire.

Getting to the title of this post, there's always a hullabaloo in city history about ghosts living in the Boulder Dam Hotel, and it's likely true. My friend said that when she stayed there for six weeks to learn a new job within the Bureau of Reclamation after two years with the Bureau in Yuma, Arizona, she heard noises all around, and it wouldn't surprise me because the Hotel has changed ownership so many times and gone through so many iterations that it's never able to rest. But when my friend and I walked through Boulder City, I felt like there were more ghosts than just those in the Boulder Dam Hotel. I noticed them there, too, when I was with my family, going to the Boulder Dam Museum on the second floor, way in the back. I didn't hear the noises, but I could sense that the building was steeped in enough history that there were more figures wanting their stories told. I would be more interested as to why they ended up in the hotel. What keeps them there? Is it a kind of purgatory unknown to us? Or do they feel most at home there? I don't have a hardcore belief in ghosts, but I think that with some towns' focus on its history, like Buena Park where Knott's Berry Farm is, where its history hangs so heavily, there is a better chance that ghosts are around, wanting to be noticed, wanting their stories to be told.

Goatfeathers is where I began sensing those ghosts. Not sensing like ghost hunters do, but a feeling about it. I know that antique stores are fertile ground for ghosts anyway because of all kinds of things left behind either by death or by not needing them anymore. They all have stories. Sitting in front of me is a model of a 19th-century Victoria house in Charlotte, North Carolina. I bought this because it's the kind of house I wish I had if I didn't mind, and could afford, upkeep, and I had more money than God on a Wednesday. It's not only that this house was of the 19th century. It's that this sat somewhere in someone's house, maybe someone who collected models of houses like this one, who explored the different styles of houses, tracing them through history, trends based on the time period, perhaps.

In fact, when I looked around in Goatfeathers, I had this overwhelming feeling of wanting to tell stories about so many items there. Take, for example, some of the glasses I found. I could write a short story about the glass, either in a cupboard, or where it might have come from, or who used it. If I could find out where it had been, it would be eerie if I found out that the short story I wrote was accurate. It's not only that Goatfeathers encourages you to look around, but it also invites you to sniff out potential history of all that it stocks. We'll never know what the history was, but we can tell stories from what we feel about the history of those objects when we look at them. I think there are ghosts of sorts in Goatfeathers. They want their stories to be told. I don't think they care if those stories are accurate, which they're not meant to be. They just want to be noticed.

Down that hill, into the park, the ghosts were there, too. An old turbine from Hoover Dam sits in one section of the park, and it's part of it, but it's the same thing with those ghosts in the park, too, the ones who have lived there as humans, who have loved it: Find the story you want to tell, and that's acknowledgement enough for us. Even if it's just the atmosphere, that's good enough.

The history of Las Vegas is there, but you really have to dig for it. In my mobile home park, I sense its history only when it rains (as it will on Friday), and the sky remains gloomy with the threat of more rain. Otherwise, you have to dig. The Strip doesn't offer any time for reflection, but then, that's not the point of it. At least there are books that reveal all. But in Boulder City, the present and the past co-exist as peacefully as the landscape.

It's 4:49 p.m. The sun is getting ready to set here. But in my mind, I'm back in Boulder City, in that park, waiting for the streetlights to grow brighter as the sky gets darker, feeling so at peace that that's where I want to be forever. We're going back on Saturday, during the day, so Mom can see what Goatfeathers is like, and to eat wherever we're going to eat. There are so many restaurants in Boulder City, that while I thought of Mel's Diner because they have patty melts, which I love, Mom bookmarked the tripadvisor list of Boulder City restaurants, and I spotted Boulder PIT Stop, which also has burgers. So that's another one to consider. And Dad and Meridith haven't seen the list yet, so they may have other ideas too. It's great to have these choices again! But no matter if we decide on something that's far off from my original thought of Mel's Diner, I will have the Boulder City I love. It looks even more beautiful at sunset, but during the day, there's that same peace. No tension. Just history and the possibility of so many stories to explore. And the ghosts. They're always happy to know you're there. They want you there. So come in and wander. The peace will touch you too.

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