Sunday, July 21, 2013

Wandering in Primm

Tonight, I'm at the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas in Primm, directly on the Nevada-California border.

Well, I'm not actually there. Depending on what I'm doing on a given evening, usually when I'm writing, I go to different places in my mind: The Nevada Room and then the fiction section at the Boulder City Library, the Student Union at UNLV, the World Literature section at Lied Library at UNLV, downtown Henderson which is also known as Water Street, the main drag of Boulder City, the Cosmopolitan on the Strip, and even back into my past, such as the shopping center across from Grand Palms in Pembroke Pines, Florida that included a Winn-Dixie and Regal Westfork Plaza 13, as well as the Fashion Bug store that Meridith loved, but which is now sadly gone, just like the one here in Las Vegas.

Tonight, having finished the freelance writing newsletter for which I compile job listings, I'm feeling slow. Not lazy. Just slow. I've got a few details I could research for one of the plays I want to write, but I sit here watching clips from The Hunt for Red October on YouTube, one of the most intelligent thrillers ever made. It's not because I don't want to write this play; it's just one of those nights, especially with the vastly uncomfortable heat in this desert, which has become even more relentless. I don't think I'll get used to it, but next year, I hope to be able to at least tolerate it. And with the heavy rain that roared in last night and Friday night, what can we expect tonight? Anything? I hope not. I'd like to not have to shut down the computer yet again while jagged lightning flashes outside.

Oh, I could finish At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon, the first in the Mitford Years series, which I previously read in September 2010, but apparently hadn't paid as much attention to it as I am now. I'm certainly enjoying it more than I did then. Plus, I want to see what the rest of the series is like. But I'm not quite there yet, to get off the computer just yet and finish it. Nor do I feel like stocking the new 400-slot DVD binder I bought from Fry's yesterday. I had to because yet again, I don't want to haul in moving boxes more DVD cases with the DVDs in them. I don't need the cases. I know what these DVDs are about.

And strangely, I don't feel like going back to the first season of Boston Legal yet, which I checked out from the library, along with two canvas bags full of books, including A Light in the Window, the second in the Mitford Years series. And two books about President Reagan are in there too because it's presidential history, and I like to skip around. Lately, I've been reading about Harry S. Truman. Not wanting to continue just yet with Boston Legal is strange because I could listen to James Spader do great honor to the English language for hours on end, even to the end of time. I love listening to him talk and I proudly place him as one of my major inspirations whenever I'm feeling blah about my writing. Him, and Tony Kushner's screenplay for Lincoln lately, the reason I bought the movie on DVD and the published screenplay. My favorite character in that? The lobbyist W.N. Bilbo, played by...James Spader.

Whenever I go somewhere in my mind, it's just me. No one else. Wherever I go is empty. I haven't felt like writing anything lately because some of the days blend into each other pleasantly here, and what do I pick out first? Or, rather, do I pick anything out or just let the entire block push through, looking ahead to the days following? I've been to Ellis Island twice this month, nothing unusual, just the usual $5 in free slot play, the disappointment being that on my latest visit, someone was on "Montezuma," my new favorite slot machine and would not get off, judging by them playing 40 lines at a time, their takeout boxes from either the barbecue restaurant or the cafe sitting on an adjacent swivel chair. With the $5 in free slot play, I play 90% for pleasure and 10% for more money. My favorite there used to be "Coyote Moon," which remains my favorite slot machine overall, but being that they took out the machine that was the friendliest in payouts and left the one that's tighter than a prostitute's first day, it's not as fun because there was a flow to the other one I liked. Even if I wasn't poised to win a couple bucks, it at least let the bonus round come a little more often so I could watch the coyote approach the campfire near the Indian blanket and crouch down when the fire sparked up with the message about the spirits giving me 5 free spins. I always hoped I'd win the bonus round because the graphic there was the coyote watching the shooting star before the reveal of how many credits were won, and then throwing back its head and howling. I love that.

"Montezuma" is my new favorite there because of the theming, which is not IGT, my favorite slot machine company, this time. It's Williams, which used to make pinball machines before deciding that slot machines would now be more profitable. Aztec theming, with temples and feathered headdresses and eagles and gold. I love this one because as the roulette-like wheels that indicate the forthcoming bonus round come up, there's a drum boom that sounds and the machine vibrates. I love that drum boom, as well as the Aztec music that plays during the bonus round, although I wish it would play throughout the entire game. There's no music during regular play, not like there is with "Coyote Moon." That's my only problem with "Montezuma," but I can just sit at that machine and stare at the theming and imagine different stories, or even use it to think about my own writing. That's really my only motivation for playing slot machines anymore, and even so, I don't use my own money if possible, such as with that $5 in free slot play. Only if it's a machine that I absolutely must play and there haven't been those in quite a few months. When you're a tourist, gamble all you like. But when you're a resident, you can't keep up the same tempo. It's taxing on the energy and wallet, and if you don't keep a regular schedule of some kind or have strong aims for what you want to do in your life, this city will eat you up. It nearly did me when we first moved here in September and there were those first five nights sleeping on the floor, when we moved in and before our custom-made mattresses were delivered.

Ok, so maybe there are things to write about even when the days blend into each other. After all, if you can't find anything to write about in Las Vegas, quit. It's not that I can't find anything to write about, but I haven't felt that driving need lately. So I wander. Let's wander.

One side of the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas has a red, wavy metal sign that juts out steeply in the middle, like a flag flapping and then freezing mid-flap. The letters for "Fashion Outlet" undulate on it.

To the right of that sign, almost poking into its doorway, is the Welcome to Las Vegas center, with guidebooks and ads and flyers and history all around in framed pictures, and people there who have either lived in Las Vegas for a very long time or have lived there all their lives, which is how it was when we went back here two months after we moved to Las Vegas. To me, it's closed tonight because I can't top the guy I met behind the counter who not only knew so much about Las Vegas because he was a native, but he remembered the UNLV basketball team when it was coached by Jerry Tarkanian, who led it to a national title. What Las Vegan wouldn't remember that? But then, this guy was clearly into his city, and not just for the sake of a paycheck. You can tell who's really interested and who's not when they talk about Las Vegas, and this guy was, going all the way back in its history through our conversation. Besides, in these wanderings, I walk alone.

Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas is closed, but all the lights remain on, and select stores are still open for me to peek into. Pass the Welcome to Las Vegas Center, and you find the entrance that my family and I have used the times we've come here. Walk in, and you find that it's in-the-round. Start in one spot, walk all the way around, and you'll return to that exact spot.

To the left is Williams-Sonoma Marketplace, the discount outlet for the chain, and it's open for me because I want to see if they have any new mustard. I love mustard and I still want to write extensively about it. Plus I like to see if there are any interesting condiments. The only thing I have with me, though, are quarters, and those are for the food court. No mustard I haven't seen before anyway, but I hope they get something new in, being that they're on the Nevada-California border, and that invites a lot of interesting possibilities.

Walking out of Williams-Sonoma Marketplace, I notice again the shiny grayish flooring, which actually doesn't mar the mixed-up style this mall has. There are tall electric lampposts throughout, right inside! And the floors are nothing more than utilitarian. After it closes for the night, it's an easy buffering, ready for foot traffic again. Who comes out this far? You'd be surprised, but since there are so many bargains here, they come, by car, by hotel shuttle, by bus, by taxi. People stop by on the way in from California, like we once or twice.

If I go to the left now, I pass Coach and Tommy Bahama and Cole Haan and the Gap Outlet, and I eventually hit the entrance to the Primm Valley Resort & Casino, which is not where I want to be. But if I go to the right, I reach the food court and the arcade buried inside it.

So I take a right. And I pass by that entrance, which has, on each side, huge swimsuited statues of a man and a woman holding up white globes. Then the Banana Republic Factory Store (bargains for everyone, as you see), and Fossil, Inc., the Old Navy Outlet, Le Creuset, the Ann Taylor Factory, and so on. There's no straight line here. It curves. And it eventually leads to the food court, which includes Subway, Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen (which never looks so fresh), Hot Dog on a Stick, Kelly's Cajun Grill, and the family favorite, Tea Zone, which offers all kinds of boba teas and smoothies and slushes. To the right of that, a little further, in a near-cubbyhole next to the restrooms is the arcade. There's a basketball throw game and a racing game which may be The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, but I don't remember, so that's what it will be until the next time I actually go back.

Against the left wall, in the back is one of those Namco arcade machines that offers, together, Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga, my Valhalla. This is the reason for the quarters. This machine is far better maintained than the one at the Pinball Hall of Fame and thus far the only reliable one I can find in Southern Nevada. This is the one on which I finally got past level 10 after losing there every single time. I worship this machine for that and also because I love playing this. I love coming up with potential reasons for this alien bug invasion in outer space, or where they come from, or what kind of war this is. I always wonder.

A couple of games, 20 or 30, since I also have unlimited energy in these mental wanderings, and I go out to the food court to sit down for a bit and enjoy the peace. I wish there was a library here, which I know is impossible because it's a tourist attraction. I don't think I could live here, and it's a bit of a drive so it can't be done as often, but if they had a library with deep enough armchairs, with one always reserved for me, I'd go for it because there is a shuddering kind of peace in Primm. There is such transition because of the Nevada-California border, people coming and going, people shopping on the way in and shopping on the way out, people you might never see again, and you probably won't. It's a bit of a jolt at times, but then things always settle. You wander through this shopping experience--and yes, I consider it an experience--and you can browse with ease because it strikes a kind of balance between high-end shopping and then shopping for the rest of us. There are the ritzy kind of stores and then there's the Viva Vegas souvenir store, where I like to be, to see if they have any worthwhile shirts and magnets. The last time we went, no. But when I went to the Viva Vegas store at Las Vegas Premium Outlets South, I found a magnet with the Cosmopolitan on it, and you bet I bought that. I'll bet the next time I actually go to Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas, I'll find that same magnet there.

I get up from the table at the food court, and walk back the way I came. I don't need the Discount Smoke Shop, or Wilsons Leather Outlet, or Bauer Fashion Eyewear, or Silver Post, or even Crocs. I could go to the Character Outlet Gift Shop just off the food court, but they don't lean as heavily toward Disney stuff as the Character Depot in Las Vegas Premium Outlet South's annex property, on the same land. The last time I went there, I found a gray Walt Disney World t-shirt with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, and Pluto in front of Cinderella Castle, and Tinker Bell above, and naturally it had to be mine. The time before that, it was the Tron: Legacy junior novelization and a sticker book that included a sticker of Kevin Flynn, which, to me, was a sticker of Jeff Bridges, one of my heroes, and where else would I find a sticker of Jeff Bridges? I don't think I can wait for the The Mirror Has Two Faces sticker book, after all.

This is the end of my time here. I've done what I've come to do. Just down the street, adjacent to the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas, is the Primm Valley Lotto Store. Since there is no lottery in Nevada, this is just a whisper across the border in California. In fact, here's something really cool to do: Stop your car just past the stop sign on the way into the parking lot, or on the way out, if you want. Your back tires will be in California. Your front tires will be in Nevada. Or just get out of your car after you park and do the same with your feet. Doing it at Hoover Dam, one foot in Nevada, one foot in Arizona, is cool, too, but you're at the Lotto Store. It's not as large, but it is quick. Back in May, when the Mega Millions jackpot was $600 million, a lot of people did just that, though further back, as the line to buy those tickets was monstrous.

Now I'm back in this living room, in this mobile home, eight miles from the Strip, and 44 miles from Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas. It's not like going back to boredom after having so much fun, like it was going back to the Santa Clarita Valley from anywhere during those years. Everything is interesting in Las Vegas, even the small things, because they may portend a bigger, more detailed story. However, I don't go to Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas as often in my mind as I do the Nevada Room at the Boulder City Library, or the main drag of Boulder City, especially the half-bowl-shaped park located beneath the Bureau of Reclamation building, or the UNLV campus. You'd think my love of Galaga would trigger more visits, but there are still a whole lot of books in the Nevada Room that I haven't read yet, still a lot of titles to linger over. And, when I need to write, what better peace for it? But I still do appreciate Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas, because I'm not like my parents, who went between Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York so easily. I never knew close borders like that when I lived in Florida. That's why that Nevada-California border is so fascinating to me. California's jurisdiction ends right there, and Nevada's begins. Just like that, just by that border marked so with those signs. It isn't just how smooth the roads quickly get when you drive into Nevada, though that does show an interesting difference in state governments. It's that there is my past, and here is my present and my future, so close together. I will not revisit that past by going back, but whenever we're at Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas, I like to look out at California, relieved that that part of my life is over, that there is no such thing as boredom here in Southern Nevada. There is always something to see, something to hear, something to smell, something to taste, something to touch, something to know. And then the stories come. And the mental journeys begin again.