Vegas Nostalgia

I wrote both of these pieces a year or two ago, soon after I moved to Miami from Las Vegas. I was feeling rather wistful for a while.

Desert Lights

I shut the blinds on the incessant, high-grade sunlight and lie down. Replaying the night before, I wallow in the remembrance of desire. I drain my Grande Mocha Frappucino, picked up at the 24-hour drive-through Starbucks at around sunrise. Finally, I sleep.

In the afternoon, I go lay out. An unwieldy older lady lumbers around the pool, doing laps. “You’re lucky if you have family in times like these,” she is telling me, referring to the tsunami-like recession sweeping through our city. “I won’t be here much longer.” She’s been laid off and foreclosed on, but I’m fine. Cash covered the carpet in my rented, brand-new, freshly built townhouse at the foot of Black Mountain, with a sweeping view of the Las Vegas valley. A giant park was once planned, but it remains a stagnant wash. The neighborhood is nearly empty, and sometimes I go into — trespass, I suppose — the vacant houses, looking for traces of the strangers who used to be there. It’s like a set piece for a movie, or a ghost town. Except with flawless peach stucco facades.

I sip some wine in the hot tub as the twilight deepens and disappears. This place is only gorgeous at night. Suddenly, I’m awash in a sea of gems: emeralds, rubies, sapphires and diamonds. A familiar but striking panorama of silhouettes: the tall, otherworldy Stratosphere tower; the crisp pyramid with its pure beam shooting into space; the castle spires of the Excalibur, a childhood favorite.

I’m heading that way tonight. Out of suburban Henderson, where everyone has gone to bed, and onto the I-15, which sweeps around northeastward, taking you, eventually, into Utah. My exit is Sahara, up in North Las Vegas. Past the Tropicana, Flamingo and Spring Mountain, which take you to the Strip.

Richard is sitting on his couch, rolling joints, downing Red Bull, blasting Kanye West and half-watching Entourage. He’s mad at me for taking so long. He wants me to buy him a drink.

In Rain at the Palms, I lose him a couple of times. I can’t ever get him to leave. Finally were in the parking lot elevator, and he clutches his chest in pain. He’s had one too many somethings.

I take him home and he immediately passes out. I’m alone on his balcony in the warm, strange pre-dawn. There is a couple arguing on the street below; a homeless person. The corner 7-11 is open and busy. To my right is a pawn shop and bail bonds. To my left, the irresistible lights.

The Bull-Dozed Water Park of Pre-Pubescence

Time moved in a slow daze
the water park had closed last summer
not for renovation, but forever,
due to defecation
floating feces in the wave pool
a resultant mass exodus
or perhaps someone had lept from the Bonzai Bonzai
accidentally or suicidally
I recall the flashes of lime green light as I hurtled
through the Black Hole
Alanis Morisette singing all I really want
as half-naked, ungainly strangers meandered barefoot
over wet cement as if we were an ancient people
children stayed in the shallow end
our coming of age was at the other end
from the top of the slide you could see out
over the dead brown dirt and otherworldly facades
you went down so fast your back got scratched
and every ride felt like it could be your last
Dip n Dots were the ice cream of the future
pastel pink, mint green, snowflake white
melted together in a plastic cup
while you’re too young to care
how your suit makes your ass look
and whose boobs are bigger
I had a rose red one piece with ruffles
over the hips and a brightly colored floral print
that pleasantly deceived butterflies into sitting on my stomach
my cousin’s best friend Alicia would be a beauty queen
but back then she had braces
and the boys in back of us in line at Raging Rapids
told her she would only be pretty without them
at twelve I was invisible, but at thirteen even policemen called me jailbait
but where did Wet n Wild go? Forgotten like a bygone era, an adolescent fling,
a dead great aunt, and now, poor Vegas lacks its oasis.

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