|Taken with my iPhone while waiting at the intersection of|
Tropicana & Las Vegas Boulevard
Driving around Vegas is a test of stealth and endurance.
Getting from Point A in Boulder City to Point B off of Charleston and Decatur involves a mashup of different freeways, The Strip (otherwise, known as Las Vegas Boulevard), and surface streets. All of which add up to a special brand of fatigue that explains why every other commercial on local Vegas television is about ambulance chasers or prescription drug law suits.
"Have YOU been injured in a car accident or by medication that your doctor prescribed?!! You may be legally entitled to jillions of dollars worth of compensation! CALL US"
It is the throbbing, relentless drumbeat of Las Vegas: Free money. Come and get it!
I got to see honest-to-gawd street walkers on my way to the house this morning. No kidding, at 11 o'clock in the morning, they were out in force working in groups of three along Tropicana on the skankier backside of The Strip. Lovely. I miss the neurotic San Francisco East Bay suburbs.
I take Tropicana because Charleston from US 95 to Decatur—despite its time-traveling, urban decay, circus tent appeal—scares me. 11th Street just off of Charleston was my neighborhood-of-origin. My earliest memories include the beautiful blue rotating angel above the Blue Angel Motel. Once a Vegas icon, it now stands boarded-up, abandoned, and dilapidated. It's depressing to see.
North 9th Street School is where I went to Kindergarten and got a polio vaccine that left a permanent scar on my left arm. We lived in a tidy little housing development called Kelso-Turner, originally built for Nellis AFB families. It is where I learned to look both ways before crossing the street. It is where I learned to chase down a popsicle truck with a nickel in my hand. I learned to ride a two-wheeler on the big grassy lawn that ran through the middle of the development. Fifty-two years ago, it was a safe place for young families with children.
These days, it's a really good place to get robbed at gunpoint. Don't go there. Don't even look at it unless you want to spend the rest of the day grappling with ethnic guilt. I've heard that the City is taking steps toward cleaning up West Charleston in response to years of complaints from residents and businesses. I hope they get it done because it would heal and restore an interesting and important piece of Las Vegas history.
After 4 weeks of radon-infused driving in Vegas, I am weary. See, it's the mixture of radon and cigarette smoke or whatever concoction of chemicals that are seeping out of every crevice of this town that causes drivers, and people in general, to lose focus. What's one more red light at a major intersection when your eyes have been bombarded with flashing billboards and glittering prostitutes? Wait, is that woman standing on a traffic island in the middle of Decatur about to jaywalk in front of me or is it someone advertising tax services dressed as the Statue of Liberty?
Gotta stay sharp on the mean streets of Las Vegas.
I have two more long drives into Vegas. Sunday, to clean out my dad's shed, and Monday to meet the floor guy. It's an hour commute each way, so I might as well make the best of it and enjoy the scenery, even if it does fry my brain a little bit. I will greet the gleaming MGM lion and belt out, "New York, New York, it's a wonderful town!" while I wait for the light to turn at the intersection of Trop and Las Vegas Boulevard.
After that last commute home, down Decatur to Tropicana, over The Strip, past the old Liberace Museum, then onto US 95 South and past the offramp to I-215 West...through the pass, and finally onto Veteran's Memorial Drive...into my peaceful condo...
I will finally exhale.