Las Vegas Stinks... of Possibility
I pull up the Zillow listing for the house on Alpine Road In West Las Vegas.
“This is where we will live in a few months. Mark my words. This is the one,” I declare with the certainty of someone who has never been disappointed by expectations thwarted.
“Do you really believe that or do you just believe if you will it to be so, it will be?”
“It has a pool in the back yard, fucker. We’re buying this one. Trust me.”
When we pulled up to the house on Alpine Road, I tried to maintain my unshakeable optimism about this specific property. But after about five minutes in the building it became abundantly clear how miserably wrong I had been. This place was a fucking dump in direct contrast to the deceptive photos on Zillow. Alpine was a 75-year old, 350-pound woman with facial scarring from botched Botox treatments who presented herself as 30 years and 250 pounds ago.
The place on the corner of Treasure Avenue was unassuming but had a huge yard, a giant African oil palm tree and a garage that had been turned into a one-bedroom apartment on top of the three bedrooms in the main house. It was far better than advertised and we loved it.
One of the most asked questions I’ve been fielding lately in this new pursuit for a home in the Mojave is “Why Vegas?” Proffered in the same way one would ask why I was wearing that gold sequined tube top to church or why I got that Joey Laurence neck tattoo.
The simple answer is opportunity. Lately, I’ve found I have plenty of opportunities to create and make a living and to make art in Chicago, but they are the same opportunities I’ve been recycling for twenty-odd years. Time for something new, some fresh challenges, different problems to solve. Sure, I could accomplish all that by becoming a nursing student, a carnie or opening an adult bookstore in Pilsen, but moving to Vegas seems a lot more practical.
So two weeks prior to Christmas, Dana, our friend Matthew, Joe Janes and I found ourselves driving a rented KIA SUV along the Las Vegas Beltway with Bob, a 72-year old Harley-riding real estate badass from Henderson, chasing down leads for the perfect Vegas home.
To clarify, we are buying the place with Matthew who presented us with an idea that was just too good to pass up. He had just sold his home in Chicago and wanted out of town. Dana and I have been talking about a move for well over a year now. We sat down, crunched numbers and realized that buying a larger place together was more advantageous than going it alone, so we joined forces and finances to find the perfect nest in the heart of The Meadows.
Leading up to the trip, we did a ton of research on homes we could afford and were big enough. By the time we hit the ground, Bob had our list and we rocked through all of Vegas. I did most of the driving mostly so that I could get used to the landscape and traffic patterns. We saw ten houses over three days — some were immediate Nos once we saw them but most had huge potential. We were so organized that at one point Bob commented that he loved showing us places because he didn’t have to do most of the work. This was key because we had four days and I had a few other things to accomplish while we there.
About six weeks before we went out, I got a phone call from the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Nevada. They had seen that I was looking for work in Vegas, checked my online resume, and wanted to know if I was interested in interviewing for an events position. I told them I’d be in town on the 18th, so we scheduled an appointment. Soon after, MGM Grand Hotel and Casino asked the same. I booked an interview with them shortly after. Then Caesar’s Palace called. So on Tuesday, I threw on my jacket and tie and spent the morning interviewing for jobs that pay more than I’ve ever made to-date in a fiscal year.
The first was pretty standard and it turns out I’m in the running. Lots of travel but I’m cool with that. The second was a walk-and-talk throughout the casino with eight people interviewing me. Apparently, with regard to the immensity of responsibility, the modern way is to actually have employees whose job it is to vet one’s social media presence. And they still called me in. The third was super laid back. The initial question was “Why do you want this job?” I replied “I don’t. You called me, remember? Tell me what the job is and I’ll tell you if I want it!” And we both laughed.
It was invigorating. It was exhausting. Given I hadn’t even applied to these places, it was a portent of good things to come. Honestly, I don’t anticipate getting any of these gigs. Some things really are too good to be true. I did, however, find value and a certain thrill at being invited.
If there is sort of a Big Takeaway from our trip (you know, beyond looking at houses and the anticipation of a brand new life) it was the number of people I met who made some sort of comment to the affect that I was exactly what Las Vegas needed. From the Big Events folks to the underground arts scene, I was pretty much bombarded with good will and affirmation. Vegas seems to be welcoming me and that feels damn good. It’s exactly what I’d hoped for without even knowing what to hope for.
On top of all that, I finally got to meet one of my writing heroes: Eric Wilson of Literate Ape’s American Shithole column. Eric is one of those fuckers who writes so well and with such laser wit that he makes me want to be a better writer. Monday night I sat in a pub with three of those types who force me to really try when putting my thoughts on a page: Dana, Joe and Eric Motherfucking Wilson.
I also got to swing in to Gordon Ramsay Burger and eat at one of my man-crush’s restaurants. I’ve grown to love Ramsay, his television persona and his offline good works. It was the best hamburger and fries I’ve ever had. Hell, the woman next to me had a Gordon Ramsay veggie burger and practically moaned as she ate it. Even a vegetarian like the magnificent Joe Janes could enjoy Ramsay’s standards of cuisine.
Speaking of Joe, who could ask for a better friend than he? Dude cashed in his vacation trip to come to Vegas, hang out and go on house-seeking excursions. Sure, he saw some shows and ate at Guy Fieri’s (not as cool as Ramsay’s but whatever) but his reason for coming was to help me out. There’s something special about Joe coming out — he was my best man a little over four years ago right there on the strip. Before we left, he sent some links of attractions we could see but, man, I was all business on this trip.
Himmel and I figured out that there was no real Live Lit scene in Vegas and that it was my challenge to bring it. He hooked me up with Ryan Pardey at The Bunkhouse Saloon so we arranged a meeting there for Tuesday night. Right off the Old Vegas Strip on Fremont Street, The Bunkhouse resembles The Empty Bottle in Chicago and there’s a vinyl record shop, 11th Street Records, right around the corner. Within about five minutes of meeting, we got the first Vegas BUGHOUSE! booked for Tuesday, April 9, 2019 and our newest Ape, Erik Lewin, has agreed to be a part of it.
I did a tiny bit of gambling (I’m lousy at it and after declaring so earlier in the week, Wilson commented “That’s why you work so hard.” Which is probably true.) We ate at a buffet at Green Valley Ranch Resort Spa & Casino, and rounding out my Vegas experience, I was propositioned at 6 a.m. by a couple of prostitutes.
Standing outside the Cosmopolitan, a pipe and a Vente Dark Roast from Starbucks, two ladies dressed for maximum “Check Me Out” approached.
“Just say Yes!” she said.
“Wanna hang out?”
“Nah. I’m just waking up.”
“I’ll take your clothes off… it won’t cost much…”
“Hmmm…in another life, maybe. But…” and I pulled up the picture of Dana and I at the Chapel of the Bells on my phone. “I’m really married and not into anyone but her.”
And for five minutes, I shared the romantic story of Dana and I as these two ladies of the night — er… early morning — coo’d over the story.
We made an offer on the place on Treasure Avenue and the seller accepted. As in all things, it isn’t a done deal until the ink dries but things are looking right.
That’s the thing about this move. It could be Alpine — deceptive promise with hopes dashed to the ground. It could be Treasure — all possibility and anticipation. We’ll certainly see in the new year which one it is but for right now, Las Vegas stinks… of opportunity, potential, possibilities undreamt of, and a genuine sense of something different for which to look forward.
I haven’t been this excited since I packed up my Blue Bronco II in 1989 and drove north, randomly seeking a home and ultimately landing in Chicago. That was easily one of the best cliff leaps I’ve made in my life, so this bodes well.