Gone Shadows

Autumn stretches a lighter hand across the Mojave than she does upon the Northeast.

Although the desert days shorten and the shadows lengthen as well deepen earlier, the chill which accompanies these shifts lack the same heralding of great changes which will occur in New York.

Except in the dispatch that follows.

Before nearly universal air conditioning chilled Las Vegas, a swimming pool was a vital necessity in the city. When haven’t summer seasons scalded here? Certainly not so much during the temperate months. Those eight or nine months are idyllic. Yet once summer starts her relentless crush in June, a sentence that hopefully abates sometime in September, what might pass as maintaining a somewhat sane presence in Southern Nevada demands pool access.

The most garish Strip hotels and down at-the-heels off-Strip motels share one feature – a pool. On the airport guide path few daytime arriving passengers fail noticing the profusion of glinting blue splotches breaking up the desert dun below.

Shouldering added costs, wise private multi-unit developers furnished pools with their complexes. A prestige amenity that justified goosing rents or purchase prices.

In these shared complexes it’s a famous bet the opening dates for such leisure facilities never open early enough. They certainly close too soon. Mercury in the Mojave begins tickling 100° weeks before June. Waiting for pools to open on Memorial Day weekend makes sense if one vacations or lives in the Northeast. Here it’s just torturous sweaty tantalizing.

There, both the school year and serious pursuits resume after Labor Day. Here, school restarts mid-August while frivolity just continues. Furthermore, and this can’t be emphasized strenuously enough, the Mojave still broils and will for weeks on yet.

Nonetheless, after that first Monday in September pools will have hosted their last laps, final splashes until next May. No need to cover the pools. The pool skimmer really has little use. Fallen leaves are hard to come by in Nevada. Few, if any, land and float on the water’s surface.

Although throughout eight years of residing here I seldom used any of this co-op complex’ four pools, melancholy at their seasonal closure has affected me. Frankly it enlivened summer mornings and middays hearing the neighboring children and their pals loudly cavorting. Or listening to their mothers converse, okay, gossip, while seated at tables under umbrellas around pool deck. Then, in afternoons, see men and women who’d gotten off from work shed some of their occupational stresses with turns in the water. These they’d break up with smokes and cocktails while casually lounging on the pool edge their forelegs dangling and lightly roiling the pristine surface.

Not seeing the above after Labor Day seems to me a gift that has been snatched away. Particularly at night, when neighborhood quiet lets the muffled churn of filtering water reach ears and the pool lights illuminate it spectrally.

That became past tense last week.

Last summer, management had discussed ripping out the pools and filling them in. They cited usage. As in low. Only people who weren’t here often could state with certainty rental residents used the amenities infrequently. A better, more obvious claim? Eliminating them would mean less liability.

For owner-investors who don’t reside at this address that decision must’ve taken nano-seconds to achieve. That part of our liability may not sink much but with the pools out premiums won’t soar.

An owner who resides in his unit, I’m conflicted by the aesthetic-financial tug. The pools added livability to the place. These watery playpens lifted kids off couches, away from video screens, outdoors where they stretched muscles as well as lungs. The same rectangles also lured stay-at-home parents beyond their four walls and let them engage with neighbors and friends.

Sociability enhances our humanity.

Nevertheless, the profit reptile in me also understands this cold hard fact: ours is an increasingly litigious society. Attorneys’ billboards and TV ads throughout Las Vegas must stir the otherwise lazy imaginations of potential litigants. After all nothing is our fault – especially if it is all our fault.

My favorite strike it rich through one’s own irresponsibility advertisement? It’s sponsored by a firm specializing in representing visitors who’ve had accidents inside their hotel rooms. Sure. That assembly line of cocktails throughout the evening didn’t hamper your motor skills nor did trying to cheat the “girl to your room” out of her fee and making her “manager” effect proper restitution create the injuries your mouthpiece wishes to blame on hotel negligence.

Much as the pools’ removals displease me, doing so has become necessary. Necessary. My new catch-all for unpleasant actions our modern lives require. As in Covid jabs. Dislike them as I did, they were necessary.

Draining the pools then demolishing their ledges towards filling in and paving over the hole will also vanquish Donna and Billy. If their spirits still lingered at this address, the last tangible remnants which hold any presences of both will be erased.

Donna and Billy were my longest neighbors here in the Big Mayberry. They were two Californians who’d absolutely fucked up their lives. Nothing tragic about his demise or her decline. They were just fuckups.
Drugs and alcohol the culprits. They took him. Through them she must’ve found the wrong kind of refuge on the streets.

Before they spiraled, though, it wasn’t hard to imagine this couple as what those of us outside of the Coast envision as a once golden Southern California pair leading glorious lives. They fit that winner stereotype long before they became Las Vegas losers.

Easy access to Los Angeles basin beaches made Donna a beach bunny. A blonde one naturally. If Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics could’ve been a beach bunny, doubtlessly she would’ve been Donna.

Despite the toll Donna self-inflicted, it never took much to see her as a once cute hellraiser.

When we met, she already had a lot of miles on her. During that term as my neighbor, damn if she didn’t flip her odometer again.

Even in her plummet she retained vestiges of the body that must’ve made boys’ heads turn. A contemporary of mine, Donna could still wear a bikini and almost look like something in it.

But drugs and the responses to her misbehavior on these substances ravaged her face. Whatever Donna took would’ve marred enough. But her attitude, belligerent, combative, occasioned however many beatings. Those results had given her a boxer’s face. Some of those blows had rearranged her teeth.

Donna’s long-time associate, maybe still lover, certainly companion, Billy, on the other hand, maintained a good deal of his physique. He gathered the world through the eyes of a much less lumped-up mug.

Unlike too many other older guys who’d gone to pot and ridiculously tried affecting a younger image through age-inappropriate hairstyles, Billy kept his clipped neat. He threw Wayfarers across the bridge of his nose. Classic Ray-Bans, his hair brushed back, the combination made him look boss.

How apt. In youth, during his absolute fullness as a man, he’d been a surfer dude. A buff one.

Endless Summer was his religion. He was devout. Shredding waves. Party melons. Firepits on the beach. Steady supply of chicks who dug his magnificence. Until Donna maybe remained his church’s other true worshipper.

Thing is, though, drugs robbed Billy of agility. Then cancer seeped in. It stole his flexibility and mobility. Increasing immobilization left him existing instead of living. Which snuffed his existence.

After the pool had been emptied, the initial demo completed, chunks of rubble lining its bottom, I last saw Donna and Billy in my mind’s eye. From some typically sweltering Las Vegas afternoon about two summers ago.

Both wore beach wear.

He’d probably recently returned from visiting this doctor or that, or having left some innumerable IRS appointment after futilely trying to straighten out his IRS mess. She, well, who knows what the hell she did off this property? Donna didn’t work, that’s for sure. Donna roamed. If there’s such an occupation, that was hers. If she’s alive, maybe it remains so.

Having taken a dip, the couple sat on a bench in the late afternoon lee of building shade. Both murmured disjointedly in low tones. Between cigarettes, her utterances he often let hang. She filled his silence with sighs that might’ve trebled into moans.

Might a casual passerby had seen theirs as respite? Likely. But having seen and heard plenty from Donna and Billy across their time next door I regarded this as welcome inertia. Theirs. This moment required no thought, nothing from them. They could just be. Be by the pool. As long as the pool beckoned, they could be there.

Now with our pool gone, Donna and Billy can longer be here.