Saloons Instead of Salons

This is how perception has re-formed amid the Mojave and the Southern Nevada mountains – bands like the Eagles and the Pure Prairie League sound more appropriate here than they ever did down in Arizona’s Sonora Desert and certainly back East in New York. Those guitars and keening voices cut through the Mojave’s harshness.

Although the poignancy of the bands’ ballads further emphasize the region’s emptiness, each offers relief to the barren horizon and the few figures populating it. Hmmm. Figure that out.

People often ask whether I miss New York, and if so what do I particularly miss. My pat reply is usually, “Whatever I miss was already gone before I left.”

Until recently that response sufficed because it was the only truth.

Entering my fourth year of Las Vegas residency, greater clarity and depth have emerged to create a more nuanced regard of my new home. Indeed there are now other aspects of the big city I miss. They’ve only come after the primary considerations have receded to allow the lesser ones to hog the spotlight.

Acquaintances and the places we congregated were the first to vanish. The intimates and close acquaintances which formed my Gotham circles, the addresses we inhabited, made “my” New York. Without them I became the last Mohican.

Yet distance and reflection have informed me of other absences. More feelings and impressions rather than tangible aspects borne from animated flesh which enhanced them among the comforts found inside our favored structures and surroundings.

On New York streets, more so than others, there seemed to have been a constant ambient music that accompanied almost everywhere. Not just from tunes wafting out of speakers and snatches of it caught along walk. That stamped the Outer Boroughs more ethnic blocks. On them, the pavement cacophony made sense. Or this racket solidified identities.

No, I refer to the idealized New York. The one we locals never quite grasped anywhere as well as outsiders who’ve been captivated and drawn to our environs. A lifetime there and I had to leave before I understood what abounded around me. And that only after realizing what else was missing.

Particularly in Midtown after work especially during weekend nights when Manhattan’s money-making drives yielded to far more sociable pleasures. Why, some were even of the soigné variety.

I’m not a big jazz fan but it seemed thoughtful saxophone play ran along the darkened residential Upper West Side, while pianos, traps & snares, and bass joined the brass to further tickle the possible intrigues of those establishments running along the East Side boulevards.

Intrigues there were because New York like other cosmopolitan centers attracts hordes of vastly different people who through social alchemy link together in the most unfathomable manner. Some are seeking. Others are being sought. The swirl sorts and discards; the same force also selects.

They are complicated human ingredients thrown together by the mad chef of fate. The dishes created frequently render interesting relations of the most unexpected personal or communal sort.

The instance isn’t sought nor designed. A condition seldom achieved through human machinations but one more owing to our random interactions.

Forever or simply for a time. Whatever the duration, the sharp, the aware, the perceptive, savor its lifespan, the interlude.

Life is simpler in Las Vegas. Or people are simpler in Las Vegas.

Placed under a New Yorker’s loupe, for the most part the locals are slow and timid. “Hello” and “goodbye” seldom suffice. In the years I’ve been here, how many sagas have I heard between greetings and farewells?

Let’s chalk up Western loquacity to the voids and the paucity of people within them. A holdover from frontier days when seeing others was few and far between. So sure, one would want to chew the fat because who knew when the next occasion to chat might present itself? However, having grown up among tens of millions more, all of us compacted in a smaller space, I never lacked exercising my breeze-shooting reflex.

Then again maybe the Northeasterner’s nature is full throttle.

Below, a story that shows the exact differences between New York and Nevada.

Before driving West in August 2013, I had my car serviced for the 2400-mile road trip. Took the buggy to my long-time mechanic. His shop had recently hired a new guy. Coincidentally the hire arrived from Las Vegas. Just making conversation, I asked how the new man was working out. Although a capable man, his boss complained about his pace. He was slow. With us slow stood one rung above being lousy.

Not a kiss of death. But …

Moreover, if the fellow were slow in summer when fewer cars filled the bays, what would happen after Labor Day when business zoomed? One can hope the new man got into proper gear.

I answer those who claim New Yorkers are pushy, loud, you know, the usual traits boobs and rubes drop on those of us from the Metropolitan Area with, “We’re not rude – just in a hurry. Once you get up to speed you’ll see how polite we really are.”

A joke wrapping a clear observation, the more perceptive listeners understand and laugh. The less-so take offense. As if good conduct only comes in one speed. The critic becomes defensive, an attitude that shreds the basis of the behavior he or she intends exemplifying through example.

Naturally it would be rude of me to point that out.

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