Most people know Las Vegas for its night life and shows on the strip, but believe it or not, many live there who go about everyday life and rarely go on the famous strip. I spent four months there with my older sister in the summer of 1997. I only saw Vegas at night one time when another sister came and while with her, I ventured to gamble only two dollars in the slot machine as I watched she and her friend play the gambit.
But there is another entire side that most visitors do not see or even think about while in the city of lights and fun. After arriving there, I found a temp agency called Apple One Employment Services. I like to have my own money and thus my own independence. So, I was sent on a host of jobs such as working at a toy company sorting small items, answering phones at a real estate company, helping at a printing company, as a receptionist at Wells Fargo Bank and my longest job was filing medical folders at Sunrise Hospital, where I met a woman from Chicago, who later became my lifeline.
The biggest challenge for me was getting to the job locations. First, it was hot. Second, the buses ran once an hour so if I missed it, ‘Oh well!” My sister helped me figure out the bus schedules and I kept one handy. Her apartment was around Spring Mountain and Wynn which did have a swim pool. I often walked to a nearby Chinese grocery store to get items, or I went a little further to buy fresh bread at a Hostess Bread place.
People were kind and helpful as I traveled in the hot desert. It always felt foreign to me, as a Midwesterner, used to flat land as I looked at the nearby mountains. Two thoroughfares which helped me regain my bearings were both Rainbow Boulevard and Paradise Road. Once, I reached one of those, I could navigate my way back home.
Las Vegas is a piece of Americana that holds different memories for each person. Some see it as a big playground where they frolic, drive fancy cars and live it up as in Elvis’ song Viva Las Vegas. I remember seeing Natalie Cole’s name every day on one the marquees either at The Flamingo or Ceasar’s Palace. I know that it sat on a corner close to Bally’s. Once I ventured into the shops around Bally’s and I saw a white suede pant suit. It was beautiful and it made me want to cry because I couldn’t take it home! That boutique had some memorable pieces, and some had that Native American influence. Also, there was a lot of turquoise jewelry there and I am certain that came from that entire Southwestern region.
To keep myself anchored, I listened to Chuck Swindoll’s radio broadcasts and attended a church every Sunday which was a division of Ernest Holmes’ Church of the Religious Science. It was close to the University of Las Vegas (UNLV) campus which I did explore in detail one day. When I was feeling overly anxious one time, the minister, Dr. Carlo, merely said to me, “God is still creating.” I thought that he was being quite cavalier, but now, all these years later, I see that he was right.
While visiting the friend that I had met on the job from Chicago, I was sitting in her living room, and she descended the stairs giving me the news about Princess Diana. It’s one of those things that you always remember exactly where you were when you received the news. Time froze for a few moments. She was a Buddhist and at her invitation, we both kneeled before her Buddhist altar, held beads and chanted for a period, until we felt calmer.
At the end of the summer, I flew back to Chicago to the Hyde Park area to rejoin my mother. I put Vegas in my rear-view mirror, went on to work in the Loop, catching buses and carrying on. I was happy to once again be on flat Midwestern soil. Yet, I must say, “Viva Las Vegas made me all the wiser!
July 15, 2022