Monday, March 9, 2009

My Town Monday: Las Vegas Edition

My parents and I once lived in Las Vegas for about two months, the summer before I started high school, so I guess I can claim Vegas as one of my home towns.

My half-brother, Mac, who is fourteen years older than I am, was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base outside Las Vegas when his tour ended, and he never left. The summer between 7th and 8th grades, my parents decided to take a long family vacation from Pittsburgh to Las Vegas to visit my brother and his wife Pat.

Las Vegas was a real eye-opener to a kid from staid old Pittsburgh. I'd never seen so many neon signs in my life, and my brother treated us to a couple of shows on the Strip. I was underage, but allowed in the showroom. We went to the old Desert Inn and saw Flower Drum Song, starring the legendary Jack Soo and another time Frankie Laine, one of my parents's favorite singers. The vacation was a lot of fun. We took side trips to Death Valley (in the summer - what were we thinking?) and to Anaheim to visit Disneyland. The Little Church of the West, the wedding chapel where Mac and Pat were married is still here, though the location has moved several times.

After a couple of weeks, we returned to Pittsburgh, but when school ended the next June, we moved west to Las Vegas. By then my brother and Pat had adopted my nephew Steve and it was fun to see them again and meet the little guy for the first time. (He's well over six feet tall now.) In the evening we'd drive down Charleston Boulevard and the Strip to stare at the lights. Steve's favorite was Howdy Pardner, a huge sign depicting a cowboy that didn't just blink at you, it talked to you.

My dad loved the desert, but my mom and I hated the extreme heat. Dad had been stationed in Utah for a time when he was in the Army during World War II, and he fell in love with the blue skies and wide open spaces. Who could blame him? At the time, Pittsburgh was shrouded in coal soot.

Shortly after arriving in Vegas, we drove into California to visit with a friend of my dad's who had moved to Azusa, a town outside Los Angeles. The weather was typical for June in Southern California: overcast. What we call June gloom. My mom and I were just happy to be cooler, but dad missed the sunshine. On the way back to Vegas, he casually said, "I don't think California is so great. We'll stay in Vegas." My mom and I looked at each other and we both burst into tears. Dad cussed for a few minutes, then agreed that we'd give California another try. We returned a few weeks later to warm, sunny weather, and the decision was made to move to Azusa. It was a decision we never regretted, though we made frequent trips over the years to visit Mac and his family. Of late, the visits have been few and far between. Luckily, he's more likely to visit me in California.

Linda

My Town Monday is the brilliant brain child of writer/blogger Travis Erwin. Thanks, Travis! Go to his blog to read his latest post and find links to the other participants.

Desert picture: © Maxfx | Dreamstime.com

14 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

We're winging out way to Las Vegas on Thursday. Any recommendations? We're not the gambling, big show sorts.

Teresa said...

Interesting post, Linda. We took a couple of trips to Vegas over the past couple of years for conventions and travel club freebies and what-not. I was surprised at how much there is for non-gamblers. There's an art museum, a China town, a wax museum, and of course, Cirque de Soleil. Their shows are expensive, but outstanding.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Patti, if you'll have a car, Boulder Dam and the Valley of Fire are worth seeing. If not, many of the hotels have free stuff. I enjoyed the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, and I'll do a blog about that soon. Here's a link to free attractions: http://www.vegas.com/attractions/freeattractions.html and there are some other not-so-expensive ones, too.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Teresa, I've heard Cirque du Soleil is fantastic, but I've never been to a show. The Phantom of the Opera is currently playing at the venetian. I didn't realize there was a Chinatown, too. I'm home now, but I'm pooped.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Oops, I meant Hoover Dam, though it was at times called Boulder Dam. A dam tour costs $30 though. Things have sure gone up.

Travis Erwin said...

I love Vegas but could never live there as my weakness is gambling.

Reb said...

I am not sure I could live in Las Vegas, but I am pretty sure I could live in the desert. Interesting post, thanks.

bethyarnall said...

Your dad liked Vegas in the summer? Was he ker-a-zy? How great you get an excuse to visit there every once in a while. Vegas is a fun place. Hope you and Janet had a great time!

David Cranmer said...

That's a great story of your dad, mom and you!... I've never been to Vegas but I have a friend who swears by it and has been there thirty something times. Maybe one day I will make the trip.

bookbabie said...

Great post. I didn't think I'd like Vegas before I went, pictured myself more as a country girl. But I liked it, fun city with something for everyone:)

Linda McLaughlin said...

Travis, if gambling is a weakness, you definitely don't want to live in Vegas!

Reb, the section of Henderson where my brother lives is nice and seems like a "normal" 55+ neighborhood, even though Vegas is less than 10 miles away. Parts of Arizona are nice, too. I'm partial to Sedona, but can't afford it. Very expensive area.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Beth, it wasn't so much that Dad liked Vegas in summer; he just like sunshine and had had too little of it in Pittsburgh. My mom and I preferred cloudy skies to heat. And yes, Janet and I had a good time.

David, hope you make it to Vegas one of these days. It really is something to see.

bookbabie, glad you enjoyed the trip. There's lots to do there, even if you don't gamble.

debra said...

I'm a week late in reading this post, Linda. It's been quite a week.
Very interesting post. I was in Las Vegas many many years ago. I was also underage, and don't remember much but the heat.

Linda McLaughlin said...

The heat in Las Vegas is memorable, Debra, but it's a lot more fun when you're an adult. ;)