As I’ve written before and will remind in the future, Las Vegas is a metropolis churning with transients. Unlike elsewhere few people are from here. Roots are so shallow hydroponic growths probably have greater depths than the majority of human flesh and emotions calling Las Vegas “home.”
Home. What a loaded word.
For this post’s purposes, let’s just deem home a refuge from the outside world. Which I guess taken to semantic extremes makes a decent percentage of us with mailing addresses here refugees.
Fact is there are refugees here. No. Real live ones. Not to be confused with those in the metaphoric sense.
Cubans are beginning to comprise a loud presence in Las Vegas. Cubans from Cuba itself, not Cubans of Cuban heritage who’ve fled Miami. Funny. Native-born Cubans don’t waste a second bitching about the island’s system. How unlike their thoroughly Americanized cousins, generations removed from Cuba, people who’ve never set foot on the island, knowing only what they know from relatives who bet on the wrong horse in the Batista-Castro Derby.
Listening to them, one might almost believe Fidel still smoked cigars and rolled out hours-long speeches haranguing Western imperialism.
I like the Cubans here in a way I never could’ve the revanchist Caribes back in South Florida or around Metropolitan New York. Rather than immerse themselves among familiarity somewhere along the Eastern Seaboard, these Cubanos struck out to Nevada. Night and day as far as nurturing ease and comfort.
Maybe when their hesitancy and shyness further dissipate (both traits practiced around Americans, loudly joyous among themselves), and we get past nervous cordiality, I can actually plumb what behind their leaps of faith that landed them in Nevada. In any case, as any prospector, no, adventurer could recognize, they’ve gone hell for leather into this strange land.
Compared against most landed Americans, Mexican/Central American migrants, Pacific Islanders who’ve come to Las Vegas to make their score, the Cubans just aren’t going to find satisfaction in 30 years of hotel/casino industry sinecure and homeownership. Naturally, they want those or goals proximate but more as well. The Cubans possess the sharpness and hustle former residents from the Northeast and Industrial Midwest recognize and appreciate.
Those are rarely observed qualities throughout this part of the Intermountain. Given the power/economic structure here, the masses occupying the substantial lower rungs remind of organisms who survive through responding to stimuli. Their next thought will be their first one.
Covid must’ve served as the best means of advance for the less ambitious throughout the Big Mayberry. Employees whose water had found its level at menial jobs suddenly got their minimum wages almost doubled when suddenly desperate employers saw labor shortages draining warm bodies from store counters and market aisles. Thanks to the scourge, mopping spills, stacking boxes, as well as scanning purchases rose from drudgery jobs to essential positions.
Occupying the cat bird seat now, and thoroughly satisfied with current gains, the above workers aren’t bothering to strike while the iron’s hot. Employers must love the contentment and satisfaction their presently overcompensated personnel show. Rather than employees taking the upper hands they have and using them to construct further beneficial nests, bosses await the economic ebbtide that will enable them to claw back the goodies which kept their businesses staffed.
The Cubans, though, they’re putting it all together piecemeal. They have aspirations, surely. Careers as clerks in national chain stores aren’t goals, but steps in the plan. Methodically. After suitable for the moment jobs and housing what’s next here? What’s essential in Nevada? A car.
Sure. Could go out and buy an oxidized hoopty belching oil or coolant fumes. Easy enough. Cheap enough at first if one discounts the imminent headaches and costs inherent in part-swapping repairs and inconvenient breakdowns. Or do as Cubans have done.
Buy the junker that has been labeled unsalvageable by an insurer. Have the forfeited wheels towed back home and parked. Then devote whatever idle time making the heap roadworthy again.
Escaping from a society where manufactured goods are scant when not outright obsolete, they come to our shore knowing how to refurbish or repurpose items. Seeing junked Benzes and Beamers coated under desert dust lined in tow yards to them must be akin to sprinters hearing starters’ pistols.
Oh, wouldn’t it be illuminating to have them share their views of profligate Americans’ easy attitude towards waste?
Over the last several months I’ve watched top of the line cars previous American owners must’ve used to challenge bridge abutments restored. Junkyards have been scoured. Bumpers and quarter panels have either been banged out or replaced. Automobile guts have been delved into and revived part by part. These are not overnight operations. There have been numerous occasions when what ought have worked in theory fails in practice. Okay. These are not deterrents. Just higher hurdles.
Since this is Las Vegas, a place where facile and superficial are highly esteemed, showing up in a flash car can open gates to a lot of possible paths. There are first impressions, then there are subsequent ones from which to project charm. From there it’s easy steps to competency and responsibilities that can enrich.
Landed Americans – black, Anglos, Latinos – demonstrate little of the same initiative. At least in Las Vegas. Perhaps we’ve advanced so far that drive has been bred by plenty at hand out of us. Meticulous planning whose results are rewarded by sometimes hard physical labor must be entries in history books used as doorstops.
Sort of like the opposite of a sculptor who can envision David emerging from a granite block.
Just motoring around Las Vegas neighborhoods or patronizing stores – convenience stores especially – present more examples of sloth than hope.
Not that I do this intentionally while driving, but I can’t fail noticing the inordinate number of vehicles with flat tires. Now, no thanks to the spiritually abandoned (a less brusque label for the two-legged vermin who make parts of urban America abysmal, a k a, the chronically homeless) that find some kind of physic release in smashing bottles on asphalt or clumsy do-it-yourself types who believe picking up screws or nails they’ve dropped beneath them, Las Vegas roads are constant hazards for tires.
In 2013, when I settled in the Mojave Mecca for better or worse, the incessant number of speed bumps made me wonder about opening a front alignment shop. The years since have redirected that thought. If anything, I ought have partnered with some esses. We could’ve opened un negocio de las llantas. And we could’ve fixed flats, too.
All we needed to have done was patch tires to have made a killing. The prevalence of spiky hazards claiming pneumatics here is no joke.
Often, I’ll pass a home whose driveway is crowded with listing cars because the bottom of one or more tire rests pancake flat upon the parking surface. Other times I’ll see a big ol’ pick ‘em up truck stranded against a curb, its owner possibly prostrate with the vapors; so incapacitated he can’t jack up the vehicle, pull the tire off, take that rubber to a repair shop to have it patched then return home for remounting.
Of course, a roadside service technician could perform all that right there. But foresight and the prudence of annually budgeting the pittance necessary to maintain labor saving peace of mind remain unknown to vast segments in this part of the Intermountain. After all, those few dollars could be better spent gambling, buying smokes, or several cans of marked up brew at any nearby convenience store.
Our “American Way” of today.