Monday, March 06, 2006

A few things that have happened to me since I moved to Las Vegas, things that decidedly would not have happened to me in New York:

1. A wild burro stuck his entire head inside my car.

2. My catsitter sent an email to tell me one of her other clients, an exotic dancer, was to be featured on Dr. 90210: "She is having her GIGANTIC implants removed. I am so happy for her. She was always so uncomfortable."

3. Someone asked me if I was an exotic dancer. I was buying lingerie at the time, and I think if I'd said yes I would have gotten a professional discount.

4. I parked between two Hummers in the parking lot at Whole Foods.

Granted, 1 and 4 are noteworthy if only because now I have a car.

I met the outgoing burro in the confines of Red Rock National Conservation Area, where I've taken to visiting most weekends that I'm home. There's a sign heading in that you are entering a "wild horse and burro herd management area," but yesterday was the first time I actually spotted the burro herd. They don't seem so wild, really, when sniffing for snacks around the glove compartment of a Honda Civic.

I've never lived down the street from a magnificent, protected, ecological wonderland before. If you cock your head just right on the balcony of my second story apartment you can see the Strip skyline about 10 miles to the right and the jagged peaks of Red Rock about 4 miles to the left. That's the part I don't think many people really think about when they think about Las Vegas. Sure, it's got the Strip and all the charming ridiculousness and inane excessiveness that that's known for. And sure, it's the fastest growing city in the country, and has been for decades. People know these things. I'm not as sure they know that if you turn your back to the Strip and set your eye level just above the stream of identical two story condo buildings and tightly packed McMansions you can see that you're in this sort of otherworldly, exquisite landscape. No matter how fast and how densely this city is growing it's still hard to stand somewhere and not be able to take in how expansive and wild it is just past the edge of urbanization, and realize that all that urbanization is just a tiny blip in all the vastness.

On points 2 and 3, well, I might have chosen some of the more sensational examples but to me both stories just go to show how service oriented the whole economy is out here, and how apparent that is in nearly every day-to-day interaction. People are remarkably friendly, open, and matter-of-fact about the business they want to do for you. Almost everyone is new and trying to get in on the giant service economy, which means in almost all cases trying to find a way to help -- whether that's promoting your business by sending out friendly anecdotes about your other clients, or having the professionalism and savvy to treat a would-be stripper as a valued, and hopefully repeat, customer.

Point 4 I think I'll go into more another time, because the incongruity in the sentiments gets right at the crux of what I find most fascinating about living here. I still seethe every time I see a Hummer on the street, even though that's dozens of times a day. But at Whole Foods I find it, I don't know, almost touching. Las Vegas, in my brief stint thus far, seems like a Choose Your Own Lifestyle Adventure, a grand experiment in rapid social mobility both up the ladder and down. I can roll my eyes and laugh about it, but then I try to get over my city cynicism and appreciate the spirit of reinvention that led my new neighbors to this spot on this day, even if that means looking on while they load recycled napkins into gas-guzzlers, peace pops into mini tanks.