Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas: Advice from a Former Las Vegan to the Valley’s Newest

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas: Advice from a Former Las Vegan to the Valley’s Newest

By David Himmel

At the time of this writing, my friend and former Chicago-based poet, model, and musician, Dana Jerman is residing in her new home in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her husband, co-editor of Literate Ape, longtime storyteller mainstay, and man with a complicated relationship with his feet, Don Hall is just three days out from loading up the last vestiges of their Chicago life — forty years between the two of them — into his Prius to make the drive west and begin a new adventure in a part of America Joseph Smith once referred to as a “great place to do anal with child brides and legally take money from the Jews.”

It’s always a bummer when friends move out of the town you share to head to greener pastures. Or, as is the case with Don and Dana, dustier expanses dotted with new construction. If Don had told me that night back in September, or whenever it was, that they were moving anywhere except Las Vegas, I would have been more bummed. But Las Vegas is my home town, sort of. And that brings my friendly heart some comfort. And because so much of Don has (consensually) rubbed off on me, I’m actually excited for them both.

And so, as friends are wont to do, I offer Don and Dana advice as they begin their next adventure to help them survive and thrive in what I once snidely referred to as the Land of Dust and Bad Drainage Systems. 

• There are technically two ways to pronounce your new home state’s name. Only one is the right way. Silver State residents call home Ne-vă-da. To call it Ne-vah-da is to blatantly disrespect your neighbors. It’s the same as referring to your friend Jeff, who just completed gender reassignment surgery, as Jeff even though he’s now Melissa. Don’t be a dick. Don’t be like Donald Trump.

• Do Las Vegas. Like, be a tourist. Not all at once, but sprinkle trips to the Strip to see the tacky shows and the big, ballsy productions. My greatest regret while living there is that I always assumed I’d see Siegfried and Roy someday. But I waited too long and Roy was eaten by a tiger. Don’t ever let life’s tiger eat away at the opportunities presented before you.

• That said, don’t bother with Celine Dion’s show. It’s been sixteen years since I saw it and almost walked out because it was boring and she’s just kind of weird, but there are better, weirder shows to see that cost the same or less. Also, her (late) husband was in his late thirties when he began perving on her while in her teens, and even though they had a long and happy marriage HE’S A SICKO CHILD MOLESTER AND SHOULD BE IN HELL RIGHT NOW!!! #WokeAF #TimesUp #FrenchCanadianTeenageLivesMatter 

• The sunrises are worth watching. Almost always. The mountains are like prisms, somehow.

• You’re going to experience a new fondness for rain. Rain occurs so rarely in Las Vegas that when the clouds gather and open up, the city comes alive in a way that’s similar to how Chicago breaks out in song and dance when the temperature breaks 45 degrees Fahrenheit in February. What’s more, there is no place I’ve been to on this earth with better petrichor than in Las Vegas. Before and after the rain comes, it’s a smell you should cherish. But don’t fall into such a reverie while sniffing, that you lose your cognitive abilities. Rain in Las Vegas dampens down the dust and brings wonderful smells, but it also brings car crashes throughout every major artery. And flash floods. Those are fun to go running through in the greener parts of town, just don’t ever dare to drive through what looks like a puddle. If it’s raining in Las Vegas, the smart bet is that it’s not a puddle but a would-be watery Prius grave.

• If you’re struggling to get comfortable in your new surroundings, give it time. It took me a while, and the moment I relaxed and let the desert do its thing, I found my groove. And it was an incredible groove.

• You’re not going crazy. The red light at Flamingo Road and Decatur Boulevard is, in fact, longer than the green. No matter which direction you’re heading, no matter the time of day, no matter that it’s scientifically impossible, it’s 100 percent true.

• Get out of town. The best part about Las Vegas is its geographical proximity to so much of what makes America a pretty rad country to live in. You’re forty-five minutes from a big lake to the south and a gorgeous mountain to the north; two hours to the Grand Canyon; three hours to Los Angeles; twelve hours to Lake Tahoe; four hours to Mexico and the Pacific Ocean; a handful of fantastic national parks are within an afternoon’s reach. Seize them.

• July and August in Las Vegas are like January and February in Chicago. They can be unbearable and are not designed for too much time spent outside. Even when soaking in a pool.

• Always check your car seats for loose change before sitting down. In the summer months, your car is going to get dangerously hot. A rogue penny will brand Abe Lincoln’s face into your lower ass cheek for eternity. I’ve seen it happen.

• “Flip a bitch” = “make a U-turn.”

• Make friends with Brian Paco Alvarez and Donald Hickey. You do that, you can’t go wrong.

• Take advantage of the cheap flights to and from your new home to and from just about anywhere in the world.

• Spend an afternoon drinking at the bar of a whorehouse in Pahrump.

That’s it. That should get you started. Of course, you can always ask me for additional advice should the need arise. And I may throw some your way, unsolicited, as I fondly remember my life and times out there. Even if the advice turns out to be antiquated, it’s coming from a good place. And it’s how I’ll manage my jealousy because, damn, you guys are going to have fun out there.

Las Vegas is the perfect place for you, and you’re the perfect people for it.

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