Friday, April 5, 2013

Sometimes a Neighborhood of Grace

While I do feel that I'm finally home here in Nevada and particularly in Las Vegas and Henderson and Boulder City, I sometimes forget what it is that makes me feel at home. It's not anything that I believe that causes it, but rather what happens around me.

Last weekend, during the day, the house to our left exploded in argument, and since we're so close to it, we could hear everything that was being said. There was shouting inside, and someone stormed out, got in the truck in that driveway, and started the engine, then gunned it out of there. And then diagonally from us, there's a house that routinely erupts in fights, usually between the eldest adult son of the household (that is if there are any more children than just him, which I'm not sure about, and I don't ever want to make sure) and his girlfriend. A few weeks ago, it happened right outside and I could hear the whole thing from my window. Of course I listened from on my bed, where I was reading. I'm a writer, after all. But I don't like any of this. This mobile home park isn't necessarily so bad on this side all the time. I hear stories about drug dealing going on on the far opposite end, and the occasional squatter, and conflicts elsewhere in the park. At least it doesn't happen every day, but it's still jarring when it does. You startle, and then you settle. Just another day in the neighborhood, hopefully far removed from the previous day that it happens.

Las Vegas is a jittery city. It's the 24-hour lifestyle. Anything can happen at any hour of the day. There are separate blocks of time for different people. For example, my street is populated with those who have day jobs. They're sleeping right now and they'll get up in a few hours, do what they need to in order to face the day, and then go to work. The middle of the mobile home park are where those who leave for work at 2, 3 in the morning, live because there's not much of a risk of waking anybody up, being that those houses on each side face the pool area, the playground, and the basketball court.

And yet, there is balance. Sometimes the scales are tipped in favor of anger and shouting and recriminations, but eventually, there is grace. Not always from the people, but at least from the pets. The cats. The dogs.

At night, the cats on my street walk from one end to the other, uninterrupted, unruffled. They're used to whatever they've seen in their lives. But I feel sorry for some of the dogs. Not in Southern California, and not in Florida, did I ever see dogs simply walk away from wherever they live, probably needing a break. Many of the dogs in my street are mostly outside, behind tall gates or behind smaller, squat gates placed at the top of front-door stairs so they can't get out. But some do.

For example, yesterday afternoon, when I was walking Tigger, a small, furry, off-white dog walked from wherever he lived, a perpetual grin on his face. Maybe he had done this before. I didn't know who he belonged to, and especially where those people were. Wouldn't they notice that their dog was missing? Probably not. It's just that kind of neighborhood. He came closer to Tigger and I and I knew I had to pick up Tigger because I didn't want to deal with these neighbors beyond their dogs, whoever these neighbors were.

The dog simply looked at me, smiling. Was it a smile of relief at being away from whoever he lived with, or just at seeing someone new? I don't know. However, he looked like he knew where he lived, and there's not much of a chance of strays here. None can get in with the front gates and walls there are around the property. The dogs and cats here do belong to those who live here.

I didn't feel so much worry for the dog. Mild concern that it had gotten out, but understanding that some people aren't fit to own dogs, and maybe his owner wasn't. Some people may like dogs, but they don't know how to take care of them or care enough to take care of them.

I liked the look on the dog's face, contentment that you don't see often in Las Vegas. That's not to say there isn't pleasure, but you won't see many of my kind in a casino. I walk around, feeling completely at home, despite the cigarette smoke, depending on what casino we're at. For example, at the Rio a few nights ago, I looked down at the banks of slot machines from the second floor and yet again couldn't believe that I'm a resident here. To me, it's a waking dream all the time. But most want to win. They think a casino is a bank and they can withdraw money accordingly. Faces furrowed in concentration, hoping that the slot machines hit that magic combination, that the cards at the blackjack table are the ones they wanted when they got here. I'm fine with it because that's our economy. I must be the exception and also persona non grata to the casinos because I don't gamble as much as I did when I was a tourist and certainly not as much as I did in our first few months as residents, which is to say not much anyway, but I still put in a dollar or two or more. Now, unless it's free play given occasionally because of having a casino club card, depending on the casino, I usually have a book with me, and I read while Mom, Dad and Meridith are at the slot machines. I'd rather save my money for books and other important things. (That reminds me that not only do I have to deposit the check I received yesterday from the school district for the day I was a substitute library aide at Dean Petersen Elementary three weeks ago, but I also have to withdraw $10 to give to Mom for the newspaper fund we all contribute to in order to keep up our subscription to the Review-Journal. $10 monthly to cover the months already in progress and to have a little extra to renew the subscription when it comes time.)

I know people are having fun in their own ways and that's all I expect from those who visit. But I mean pure contentment, not that mixed with intense concentration, hoping to break a casino for all they're worth. It's interesting to me that the first time I really saw it was on the face of that dog. Maybe the dog has an inkling that he's in Las Vegas, but his Las Vegas surely isn't as detailed as my Las Vegas, and that's probably better for him. There's already enough troubles in this city to wade through and choose what matters to you and discard what doesn't, not out of heartlessness, but survival. I don't mean to say that Las Vegas is a dangerous expanse of rogues and slot machines, but, you know, it can be strange at times. Sometimes a good strange, sometimes the concerned strange such as in my neighborhood. It's not necessarily all over this valley, though. You just do what you can, and find where you feel you belong, and make good on that. In Santa Clarita, I used to be so frustrated with everything that was so awful about that valley, and it was, what with there being absolutely nothing to do, and you could try to find things to do but they soon ran out. In Las Vegas, you learn to let things go. If not today, then tomorrow, and if not tomorrow, then some other time. Of course, that doesn't apply to the rent and your job, but to mostly everything else, it does.

And then, before American Idol began, Mom told me that she killed a snakelike bug in her bathroom that was silver. I knew exactly that it was a Silverfish, the third most common Nevada pest. I hate hearing about these things, and Mom said that I would have to spray for bugs again. I thought about waiting until later today to do it, but it's been warmer than usual this past week, and it's obviously cooler at night, so what better time? I took the Raid Max Bug Barrier spray out of the cabinet below the kitchen sink and went outside. I sprayed around the back door, then went down the three steps, opened the gate to our rock-and-pebble-laden backyard and sprayed around the house, including around Mom's bathroom window, hoping that this would do it. I circled the entire house and suddenly, a dog approached me, a shaggy dog at that. Unlike the dog from earlier in the day, I didn't have a clue about who this one belonged to. I guessed one of the houses further up the street, toward the front gate, and it was apparent that this dog needed a break. It was friendly as can be, and went up on the section of rocks under my window and Meridith's window and peed a few times. It trotted off and then I went back to the back door area, planning to go back through the gate to look at the high-up electrical wires a couple yards away, from the backyard, but then I looked down and the dog was right next to me. I couldn't go back inside because I didn't want it to follow me. I didn't shoo it away, because I'm a dog lover and I don't do that. But what could I do? What did this dog want? I gently told it to go home and it trotted away, to the front of the empty lot to our right, and that seemed to be it.

Two dogs approaching me in one day. Am I well known among dogs in this neighborhood and I just don't know it? Do they somehow know about Tigger and Kitty and how well I take care of them when they walk them and they want to meet me or something? I've walked the rows of my mobile home park before, and whenever a dog barks at me behind a screen door or behind one of those screened gates at the top of the stairs, I always say hello to it or them. I figure it wants to talk for a bit, so why not? It may be suspicious of me, but perhaps curious too since it probably doesn't see many other people. But I never saw those two dogs before. Well, maybe the white one. I think that may be the dog of the neighbor directly across from us, kept behind that looming gate in the back. They don't seem like the sort who let the dog in all that often. So maybe that's why the dog took to me: A friendlier face and one not likely to be so stern about where they belong. But since we have Tigger and Kitty, I can't do very much for those dogs anyway. Not that I'd want to anyway because everyone's business here is their own. I do feel sorry for those dogs, though, if they got out because they needed a break from where they live. Obviously they're back in wherever they came from because when I walked Tigger and Kitty over two hours ago, I didn't see them around, and I'm sure they would have gravitated to me yet again had they still been out. Could have been the warm weather, though. With how bothersome it's been this week without the cool of Spring, it wouldn't have surprised me if those dogs got out because they needed to move around, needed to feel some air as they trotted about. It's halfway stifling if you're sitting in one place.

So at least there are the dogs, a balance provided after those overheard arguments. There are bad situations in Las Vegas, yes, but there aren't only bad situations. Not that I thought there were only those, what with the creativity that this city has inspired me to want to achieve in my work, but sometimes a gentle reminder is necessary of grace existing where it doesn't seem possible. And yet, in some cases, the further you get from Las Vegas, the more easygoing people are. I think of our new apartment complex in Henderson where we'll be moving in Henderson, that interpretation of a wispy, whispery forest with all those thin trees. I think of Boulder City where people are happy because they're living the lives they want to live, pursuing the passions that wake them up every day, and finding their ideas of peace. But then, it's the same of any major city. I disliked every minute I was in Santa Clarita, but it was quieter than it would have been living in Los Angeles. It's said that the closer you live to the Strip, the higher your insurance rates are. When we move to Henderson in September, the car insurance rate and the renters insurance rate will drop because we'll be further from the Strip, but it'll be no less accessible to us. One thing I really like about Henderson right away is that we'll be closer to Boulder City than we are here. Closer to home for me.

A few minutes ago, during that previous paragraph, I heard sirens outside our neighborhood, sirens that echo in our immediate area, stretching from the Rebel gas station at the intersection, to Sam's Town. Police sirens or ambulance sirens or both, it doesn't rattle me. It happens every night. It's balance. Bad with the good. I don't know if I'll see those dogs again tomorrow, but they are a cheerful reminder that this isn't so bad. And what makes it unpleasant won't be of concern much longer anyway. I wish I could take those dogs in because they obviously deserve better homes, but just like this mobile home park, there's a two-dog policy at our new apartment complex. I hope for the best for those two dogs, and I also hope that the dogs I'll see in Henderson are better taken care of than what seems to be the case here. For some. Not all.