Not from Around Here

Vegas can irritate and bedevil the newcomer. This writer happens to have a list

Lissa Townsend Rodgers

The little things are hard to get used to. I moved to Vegas from New York City six months ago, resigned in advance to the heat, the beige-ness, the meth heads, the lack of high culture and edible pizza. I was even ready for my borderline-Amish reaction to garbage disposals, swimming pools and the whole car thing. But, like most recent transplants, I find myself vexed by unexpected annoyances—some are locals' irritations, like the dearth of schools, hospitals and art-house cinemas—but most of them are things longtime residents (i.e., more than 18 months) probably take for granted.

1. U-Turns, U-Turns Everywhere

Hail the feng shui sadist who engineered a city where you cannot turn left where you need to, but cannot make a U-turn back either, and find yourself half-past Henderson before you're allowed to turn back and, by then, you no longer care and simply want to stop and have a goddamn drink. Which will, of course, involve making a U-turn.

2. No One Reads

The decline in American page-turning has been much lamented recently, but nowhere does the disdain for the printed word seem to be as intense as in the land of infinite neon. I was once sitting quietly at the bar in Bellagio and had the manager ask if I was OK, and the only unusual thing I was doing was reading The Short Stories of Vladimir Nabokov. It's not like they just pass on the snotty big-city books either—there's no Harlequin novels on the bus or true-crime paperbacks at the coffee shop, either. Maybe reading is the one thing you're not supposed to do in public in Las Vegas.

3. The Crying Lounge at Caesars Palace

Past the sports book, below the blackjack, next to the shoe shine, is the ladies' room with a designated space for quiet nervous breakdowns. There's your typical marble-and-gilt, stalls-and-sinks setup, but on the side is a small, mirrored room with abundant Kleenex boxes. It's intended for lip gloss and gossip, but one also sometimes encounters a solitary female, sitting alone in the corner, sobbing quietly. In a town of excess, it's nice that there's an emotional triage ward, or at least an improvement on weeping behind the nickel slots or on a curb outside Walgreen's.

4. The Music Scene, or Lack Thereof

From punk bands in vans to new-on-the-charts MCs or reunion tours from Kiss to Sebadoh, the good people of Las Vegas will be passed by.

Smaller towns like Tucson, Cleveland and Atlanta get plenty of gigs, but the tour bus rarely stops in Nevada. Not that there are many places to stop: Venues are constantly closed or closing or undergoing renovation or sitting dark for 29 out of 30 nights and local bands seem to either hang together for three gigs or grind along for seven years of Saturdays. All I know is I once lived in Poughkeepsie and we had more shows to look forward to.

5. Ghost Towns

Every city has its abandoned buildings, but here seemingly habitable homes, motels and offices lie empty. If it weren't for the chain-link fences, you'd swear people were still sleeping, working and, of course, gambling within. Consider the blocks near McCarran, where every pink-and-stucco house from Queen Anne Street to Princess Amy Court sits behind "No thru traffic" signs in post-nuclear stillness. Or motels from the Glass Pool to the Peter Pan, fading mid-century design, ringed by empty parking lots punctuated with discarded bedroom furniture, and creepier than any abandoned saloon out in the desert.

6. Those Accursed Little Shiny Things

I cannot imagine how installing tiny round reflectors in all the roads is more efficient than painting lines between the lanes. Yeah, it's cheaper than embedded neon, and the bump and grind awakens the drowsy driver, but they make your CD player skip, inconvenience your bicycle and they're hard to see in the sun. F--k, everything is hard to see in the sun.

7. The Friendly Punk

Las Vegas is one of the few cities where a square can go to a hard-core show in a small club and not get hassled, glared at or frozen out. Here they're downright welcoming of any potential new blood. Of course, given #4, they need it.

8. A Cadillac Kind of Town

It certainly is, from the latest, biggest Escalade, replete with hearse-tinted windows, Sprewell spinner rims and a multiplex's worth of DVD screens, to the last generation's rumbling Coupe de Ville, with primer-and-sunburn finish, held together only by the dashboard Jesus and the sacred miracle of golden-age GM engineering. Let us not forget Mom's late-model tan Sevilles or the flaming Eisenhower-era Eldorados of Viva Las Vegas, for the abundance of Caddies is one of the few ways in which this place lives up to its rep.

9. No-Kicking Zone

I know this is one of the ways in which NYC egregiously spoils one, but it is damn-hell difficult to find a decent pair of sneakers in this town. I'm not talking about the replica Jordans or Rastafarian Reeboks or the K1X CG Rucker Mid featured in the consumer-wank pages of Slam Kicks, but some simple Converse Jack Purcells or Adidas Campus ... well, as they say, no dice.

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