Mar 5, 2010


Monday 1st March - Day 22

Lots of songs make me want to go see a place. I want to see the places mentioned in the song. I want to see what the songwriter saw. That wasn't likely to happen with the song Reno. But I still wanted to go there.

Some of these songs I just love so much it's like a pilgrimage. Bruce's story of a desperado getting laid by a hooker in the poor man's Vegas is one that breaks my heart very time I hear it. The poor john can't help but think about another woman, even as his new temporary girlfriend is going down on him. His 100 bucks (I'm presuming he didn't pay the extra $50 for the ass) didn't get him what he wanted. Not even close. And yet Springsteen doesn't think it could have been any other way.

Somehow all you ever need's
Never quite enough you know
You and I, Maria, we learned it's so

All the lost souls don't end up in San Francisco. Some of the more ordinary lost souls look for temporary relief in Vegas or, if they have less money to play with, Reno.

It's just over 200 miles from Berkeley to Reno. The last third of which took us over the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains. At over 7000 feet high, the roads at the top were lined with snow but it looked like old snow and the sun was shining. The ski resorts were still relatively busy but you could sense spring in the air. We were sure glad we weren't driving this road in the kinds of weather we saw in Nebraska and Iowa.

The eastern base of the mountains marks the border between California and Nevada. Two very different states. Nevada is mostly desert and mostly (86%) owned by the Feds. There are only two cities of any great size and one of them dwarfs the other. There are 2.6 million Nevadans and over 1.8 million of them live in the Las Vegas Metropolitan area. Reno is the next largest city and that, including the surrounding area, has a population of just over 300,000. Demographics like that are behind the reason why Nevada has such liberal laws regarding gambling, marriage, divorce, prostitution and other fun stuff. Back at the beginning of the 20th century, Nevada's population was the smallest of all the states and shrinking. People had come to discover silver in the mines but the barren desert land wasn't much fun to live in. So, just like Wyoming did when they offered women the vote, Nevada decided to offer something that other states didn't. According to historian Lawrence Friedman, Nevada's "strategy was to legalize all sorts of things that were illegal in California. After easy divorce came easy marriage and casino gambling. Even prostitution is legal in Nevada, in any county that decides to allow it. Quite a few of them do."

Folks go to Vegas for holidays but when it comes to Reno "the biggest little city in the world" it's strictly cash and gash. And maybe some meth.

It might look pretty good in this picture... but that's about all there is to it. There aren't that many casinos in town, but they are pretty big. Not that that's helping - one of them called Fitzgeralds has gone out of business. It closed down on November 30, 2008 and yet it still stands like the corpse of a dinosaur on the strip. You can peer through the glass doors and see a cavernous black room full of unwanted machines.

We stayed at Circus Circus and had a good time. We made full use of the 2 hour happy hour when margaritas were just one dollar! We ordered a caesar salad to share and it was too big for the both of us. God knows how America doesn't have an obesity problem. And we joined the casino's loyalty scheme which gave us both $10 to play on slots. Not being gamblers we cashed out as early as we could and walked away with $14. Which wasn't far off being half the cost of the room. High rollers we ain't... though I do have dreams about the slot machine we played.

Is that how it starts?

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