Ten Years Forward

No way I ever saw myself relocating from New York to Las Vegas. But that’s why it’s called “life,” not “sure thing.”

As I’ve written elsewhere, after cushy foundations in New York fell apart, I needed a nice soft spot to land. Ten years ago in August, Las Vegas became that new cushion.

My original Plan A was lasting in my hometown of Quarropas at my former career until 65. Then Medicare would begin. Beyond that I’d uproot myself to Southern Arizona. There, I’d enter a phase between part-timing or some kind of active retirement.

If you’ve read Green Venom, a fictive version of the collapse that eventually drove me 2400 miles west, then you’re aware how once ideal circumstances can just crumble; how the otherwise industrious can be made collateral damage by extremely careless employers.

By February 2013 there were no reasons for me to remain in Quarropas. Besides my ex-employer for 24 years having self-destructed in October 2011, the last of my revered relatives, mother, joined the rest of my most trusted and esteemed family members 15 months later. All my remaining nearby relatives were tertiary. They were distant aunts, an uncle, cousins. People from whom I’d drifted apart during adulthood.

To have remained in Quarropas would’ve been dissatisfying economically as well. Then, I was in my early 50s. In America, we’ve developed the wasteful habit of immediately discounting and, if possible, discarding working people who’ve reached certain ages. This despite their proven abilities and innate knowledge. Two traits which intimidate younger prospective bosses as well as youthful potential colleagues.

That may be an indication of the decline in American character. Being a “protégé” or mentoring one have lost their values. Hard to believe gaining peerless knowledge or imparting it have gone out of style. Probably explains why too many younger generations are mired where they are, whining.

Moreover, with no vital family members extant, I would’ve been tending the memories of ghosts. A keeper of the flame? Okay. Ghosts? Dealing with flesh-and-blood beings is tough enough. Therefore, after some reconnoitering and adult numbers crunching, Southern Nevada became my new “home.”

I wish mine had been a reluctant decision.

Yes, Southern Arizona stirred in the mix of possibilities. But in 2013 Southern Nevada still bent under the weight of the Great Recession. Unlike now, real estate could be had for a whistle. And this being Las Vegas, there’d be a need for people to fill positions. There’s always a need for bodies here. Brains? Eh, not so much. Maybe not lucrative prestige positions. Just salary to keep lobos away from the door.

Mine was a job search where ego took a backseat to necessity. All I needed was a job that sustained me. It had to pay my bills then leave me something through which to play.

Until 65. Upon achieving that milestone in March 2024, I’ll conjure a new age/situation appropriate Plan A. Early thoughts? If I’m part-timing, then three- or four-day weekends.

One of the advantages of being in your 50s. The power to see coldly, clearly. Tough being a romantic in your 50s. At least being an ardent romantic.

I landed in Las Vegas at a most opportune time. Especially now through hindsight I can reflect and further evaluate. Indeed, I could’ve remained in Quarropas or gone to my true heart’s desire, Tucson, Arizona. But life has been easy for me here in the Mojave. Much easier than had I stayed true to New York; easier than it might’ve been had I migrated to the Grand Canyon State.

During a May 2013 scouting trip, its June follow up, I did not let grass grow under my feet. I bought an apartment in July. Out of pocket. No back and forth with loan officers. Cash on the barrelhead to a seller who, as Realtors love saying, “was motivated.” I have no idea what prompted his rush. Never asked. He was just desperate to sell. Then vamoose.

After making sure I wasn’t buying a pig in a poke, I did not look his gift horse in the mouth. By the last of August carpet had been installed, furniture delivered. About that carpet. It’s green. People here who see it never fail commenting on what’s underfoot inside most of my place. This being the desert, the usual motif, the expected motif, would adhere to the surrounding color scheme.

Endless tans. Relentless grays.

For a lot of new Las Vegas residents, particularly those who’ve arrived from four seasons regions, accustoming themselves to desert “monotony” isn’t easy. While none miss raking leaves or shoveling snow, the familiarity of change guided their lives. Our lives. Living in the Mojave can be a conveyor of sameness. Of one day after the next with little, if any, deviation.

My carpet is deep green, as are my blackout curtains, because green is a constant tangible reminder of Quarropas. Too bad some innovator has yet to invent pilling and threads which can change hues seasonally. Russet and orange for autumn, brown for winter, and sprightly green for spring until deepening back into the materials’ original forest glade tones.

In an aside, a Hawaiian transplant presented me a calendar featuring islands’ vistas. Besides the scenery, the most notable factor on those leaves? No seasons are indicated. Exactly. Why should there be? No need for seasons in paradise. Just two tickets to get there.

I settled in Las Vegas at the right time. This city’s past continues making it a beacon for what Americans consider “wholesome” licentiousness. Its siren songs lure to garish lights, crooners, clubs, games of chance whose risks award fortunes or deliver destitution. There are adventures in this city unimaginable within the strict safe confines of Elsewhere USA. Many of the aged whose long-ago scut work still gives Las Vegas luster sought by today’s visitors hoping to bathe in it have spoken their own knells throughout my 10 years here. Be assured none of those farewells were wistful. Lightly regarded worker bees who earned at best meager accolades during their careers toiled as spearcarriers or waterbearers during a remarkable cavalcade.

Except for a few – Tony, Wayne, Debbie – the marquee names were already long gone by 2013.

Those casino retirees who remained had been waitresses, waiters, bellmen, housekeepers, showgirls, male dancers whose unconventional sexuality made no never mind in Las Vegas, gofers, and sparring partners. Among so much high wattage they became indistinct among the dazzlers.

That stated, they followed the former rules for any on celebrities’ peripheries. They kept their eyes and ears open and their mouths shut. At least during those decades in backgrounds working towards pensions.

Isn’t the above impossible to imagine in our social media age? Not just practicing discretion but also getting pensions.

Few structures remain of their Las Vegas. The small palaces where they toiled for decades are dust. Mega all-inclusive resorts have replaced sites inside which mid-century entertainment legends captivated. Today’s Las Vegas – at least on the Strip – makes touring memories hard.

Throughout these 10 years here, it’s been edifying listening to retirees of long-gone gaming houses. Unlike increasingly more locals, they aren’t reserved about patronizing today’s Kubla Khan-like pleasure domes.

We should regret that no one in Las Vegas thought former longtime casino workers’ remembrances rewarding enough to collect, a la, the 1930s Works Projects Administration’s oral histories compilations. In America, what don’t we waste?

Of course, it helps in the exchanges to have grown up in mid-century America. The historical figures discussed with elders today played roles in my parents’ and their contemporaries’ lives. Mostly by listening and learning through the enthusiasms voiced did we inheritors understand those idols important, if not somehow essential.

Indeed, thanks to mother and father, Frank Sinatra became essential to me.

Again, Las Vegas casino pensioners are as distinct from retirees whose careers in the city consisted of jobs away from Nevada’s main industry as they themselves differ from out-of-town retirees. Yes, there is a hierarchy.

The first group burned brightly for the longest into their eighth or ninth decades. The second lack the luminance of the first but knew the city away from the perceived glamor. They can recall the city as a Big Mayberry before it expanded into the Mojave megalopolis of now. The third, after the initial excitement of leaving behind everyone and -thing family and lifelong friends encompass to retire in Las Vegas, have more in common with apparitions.

The first two amalgamations have stories whose tiles add to the city’s mosaic. The last contribute nothing in that respect. Nearly exhausted upon arrival, they’ve fully exhausted whatever time granted them here to shine.

I’m likely to retire in Las Vegas. Glad I worked here first.