Las Vegas-a city of unlimited memories

The post I started for L included Las Vegas, Laughlin, and Lake Tahoe (plus nearby Reno). These are all cities in Nevada, the Silver State, where I spent a lot of time and/or where momentous life events took place.  After some consideration, I dropped the last three cities and decided to limit myself to my Vegas experiences alone because, although the commercial says “What Happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” let’s face it, for many former L.A. area yuppies, as I was in the late 1970s and early 80s, you might carry some baggage/experiences from this other City That Never Sleeps, especially if you move to any other part of the country later in life.

For any reader who has been raised under a rock, I offer the following, and obvious description of this neon lit oasis that rises out of the desert.  Las Vegas is an internationally renowned major resort city known primarily for gambling, shopping, fine dining and nightlife.  Not surprisingly, then, the city bills itself as The Entertainment Capital of the World.   After working on this post, for this place in my life, for just short of ten months now, it finally dawned on me that the subject is just too large, has too much history, in general and also more personally, over such a long period of time and covering so many social and geopolitical touchstones, that I must create a whole series of posts about what I will also abbreviate as LV.

orig dtlv glitter gulch

The Original Glitter Gulch

Part 1 – Semi-Ancient (early 20th Century)History and Development of the Tourist Mecca

The city was founded by ranchers and railroad workers but quickly found that its greatest asset was not its springs but its casinos and proximity to Los Angeles.  This desert metropolis, in just over a century of existence, has been built on gambling, vice and other forms of entertainment.  Where better to experience the rites of passage into adulthood which, in the US, coincides with twenty one years of existence on this planet?  Although the place is over a hundred years old, I’m going to try to limit myself to just the high points of what happened there before I first hit town, and what happened to the place before it started to be overrun by Gens X-Y and Millenials and whatever other names there may be for those who reached the magic age of 21 around the same time as my daughters in this, the 21st century.

The first noteworthy event that kicked off the development of this city as a city occurred coincidentally at the beginning of the 20th century, with the arrival of the railroad linking Las Vegas to the Rockies and the West Coast. The future downtown was platted and auctioned by railroad company backers, and Las Vegas was incorporated in 1911.  The Plaza Hotel and Casino today stands on the site of the original Union Pacific Railroad depot, which must be why I remember it as the Union Plaza, and for a while it was the only railroad station in the world located inside a hotel-casino.

Nevada outlawed gambling in 1910 but the practice continued in speakeasies and illicit casinos. By the time gambling was legalized again in 1931, organized crime already had roots in the city.  Its related embrace of Old West-style freedoms—gambling and prostitution—provided a perfect home for East Coast organized crime.  Another new draw for “the up and comers of 1931,” seeking their fortunes in the middle of the Nevada desert, was the initiation of construction on the massive Boulder Dam (later renamed the Hoover Dam), which drew thousands of workers to a site just east of the city. Casinos and showgirl venues opened up on the town’s sole paved road, to attract the project’s workers. When the dam was completed in 1936, cheap hydroelectricity powered the flashing signs of Vegas’ “Glitter Gulch.”

In 1941 the El Rancho Vegas resort opened on a section of U.S. 91 just outside the city’s jurisdiction. Other hotel-casinos soon followed, and the section of highway became known as “the Strip” named by Los Angeles police officer Guy McAfee, after his (and my) hometown’s Sunset Strip.

el rancho vegas

El Rancho Vegas – Before LV Grew!

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Who will buy…a clock or two? Etsy anyone?

Daily Prompt – Clock

These clocks, and many others, along with candle holders, signs, weather stations, desk sets and now tables, are overrunning all the spaces on the lower level of our split level home.  Spouse  has been creating these works of art at least since I retired two and a half years ago.  Actually he has made more beautiful things and has been making them longer than that.

He made the clock with the San Francisco skyline before we met.  This, along with a beautiful large and heavy clock made from burl wood and a game table made from a large spool which previously had carried electric cables wrapped around it, were part of the decor of his Long Beach bachelor pad.  Making things like this out of wood was a hobby he had developed when he had first struck out on his own, and he’d made a little money off it by selling them at the swap meet.  He had been salivating to get back to it in retirement, and went at it with an enthusiastic vengeance as soon as we were permanently settled in our retirement home.

He still gets a lot of enjoyment out of making this stuff, but that has been unfortunately tempered by our inability to sell any of it.  We didn’t really try to sell them for the first year.  During that time he was having more fun getting wood from our new neighbors, two or three other retired gentlemen, working to return the raw material to them as finished products.  We tried to place them for consignment sale in some local craft shops, but the reception of the owners there was tepid at best.  Finally, at the end of last year, we made a sale at an annual holiday arts show.  We learned from other craftspeople at that show that the place to move this sort of locally produced natural product was in the Great Smoky Mountains town of Gatlinburg, which, like its neighboring cities of Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, is kind of a rustic yet sophisticated, woodsy yet modern, eclectic and airy “mountain resort” in a beautiful natural area that is now, more often than not, crowded with vehicles and amusements  of all types.   This gateway to America’s most popular (probably since entry is free) national park boasts an aquarium, an indoor ice rink and a distillery, as well as a “historic beautiful and peaceful craft crawl” on an 8-mile loop of local roads which has been designated a Tennessee Heritage Arts & Crafts Trail.

It was there, as we walked in and out of half a dozen or so stores that included wood products in their guidebook descriptions, that we were joltingly reminded that nobody uses clocks any more to tell the time; we all do that on our cell phones now.  Still, the clocks that Spouse has made in the past remain beautiful works of art, and I think the tables he is slaving over and investing in now, are even more beautiful and, perhaps now that our eyes have been opened to the facts of modern life, possibly even more functional and salable.  That, at least, is our hope, as we prepare to bring our wares to the local holiday craft show again later this year, and to really and finally join the 21st century sales force, by taking a class together at the local library so we can learn how to etsy, which I think could probably be a verb like google and facebook.

 

 

Depth – Do I have any?

The first thought that came to my mind when the Daily Prompt – Depth showed up in my email (and is now two days old) was related to a story I saw just last night on this month old episode of Botched.  The titleSeeing Double, actually refers to ” the world’s most identical twins”, who clearly have no depth, like many of the “eccentric” i.e. crazy people who appear on these “reality” shows.  Personally, I think they all have way too much money and not a care about how they throw it away on stuff, like plastic surgery, that all of us sane people would consider to be more than wasteful, especially when there are so many unemployed, homeless, bankrupted because they couldn’t pay their medical bills people among us.  See my other post today Happiness is being a carefree Old Fart to see why I don’t care about not keeping up with this and other time filling activities.

No, the part of this episode where the word “depth” really  meant something for me was the story about the fitness enthusiast and nasal spray addict, who needed to have her nose fixed for the past 36 years, since she had broken it diving into a pool at a depth of only four feet as a stupidly carefree seventeen year old.  Even at that age, and probably younger, I at least had the sense not to do something dangerous and risky like that.  What was she thinking?!

Happiness is being a carefree Old Fart

As I was catching up on emails today, I came across this prompt from yesterday.  In the bad old days, when I was working on my last job, being this far behind on emails would have caused a great deal of stress, both internal and probably also coming from Twit and Princess Fairy Dust.  I am so fortunate to be out of that situation and to not feel like I’m required to stay consistently current with friends and family,  because they are all generally healthy, happy and content as possible given the possibility of a Republican takeover of the federal government.  I can say this knowing that most of them are Democrats like me, and if they’re not we’ve already forgiven each other for mutual political lapses, and the RNC ended just last night.

Spouse and I live under the same roof and are generally carefree, content and happy in our retirement home.  One reason for this current state of bliss is that, although we keep different schedules and pursue different activities as individuals, we both seem to feel that it’s part of our “marriage contract” to monitor each others’ well being on a daily basis, and to act accordingly.   Our daily interactions start when he joins me in my “woman cave”, usually bringing his morning wake-up beverage with him.  He’ll come through the door and ask, every day, “Whatcha doin’ dear?” knowing full well that I will be either sitting in front of my computer or reading in my grandma’s pink upholstered rocking chair.  He’ll then sit down on the my other grandma’s pink flower covered couch and we’ll begin our mutual morning status checks on sleep pattern and quality of the previous night and the expected aches and pains of old age.

The pattern this morning, however, was very different.  I got up and initiated my usual morning routine but, after plowing through the second fifty pages of The Big Sleep, I started to feel a little sleepy myself, and realized that I had hauled my buns out of bed an hour or so earlier than usual.  So, I decided to mix things up a bit and go back to bed where, if I was able to catch a few more Z’s, I would probably be a little more energized for all the additional reading and computing I expected to do today.  I did fall back to sleep, and when I woke up I simply restarted my morning routine where I had left off, back in the woman cave.

In the interim, unbeknownst to me, my poor caring Spouse had come up to join me and became a bit concerned to find me not upright in a chair but quietly prone back in my bed.  When he returned to restart his usual morning routine he made a point to tell me that he really to make sure that I was OK since it was so unlike me to sleep during the day, unlike him and most other husbands I know who, for some reason, as a group, feel that a midday nap is a right and requirement to keep their grizzly bear grumpiness in check, especially if if they have been cooped up in the house with their wives all day i.e. every weekend while they were working.

Daily Prompt – Carefree

 

Sometimes good enough is OK

Or is it sometimes OK is good enough? Either way, that’s the best bit of wisdom I’ve ever received. I even remember approximately when and how this sanity-saving advice came under my purview. I believe it was when I had two small children, a near-absentee husband, a full time job and a large new-to-me house. It came in a rather unique format – a Beetle Bailey comic strip, and it must have been a Sunday one because, although I can’t remember the word order of the situation in which it was offered, I recall noticing the vivid colors when I would occasionally catch a reassuring glimpse of it, pinned to the bulletin board above the kitchen trash cans.

Since I so love to reveal my age, and for those of you who have never been exposed to the Sunday funnies in a printed newspaper, I can tell you that Beetle Bailey is an American comic strip created by cartoonist Mort Walker, who still writes it today, at age 92. Today, after more than six decades, Mort Walker’s creation is still one of the most popular comic strips in the world, and is among the oldest comic strips still being produced by the original creator.

2010_bb_beetle3-192x300The title character started as a college student when he debuted in 1950, before I was born, but was converted to an Army Private, as he supposedly enlisted during the Korean War. Most of the humor in Beetle Bailey revolves around the inept characters stationed at Camp Swampy, a fictional US Army military post. Private Bailey is a lazy insubordinate goof-off and straggler who usually naps and avoids work, and thus is often the subject of verbal and physical chastising from his superivisor and nemesis, Sergeant 1st Class Orville P. Snorkel. The characters never seem to see combat themselves, though Sarge is known to frequently beat up Beetle for any excuse he can think of, leaving Beetle a shapeless pulp (one of the most iconic images in the strip) . Sarge is too lovable to be a villain, however.

beetle baileySarge and Beetle seem to share an uneasy alliance that sometimes borders on genuine (albeit unequal) friendship. In this vein, in an exchange between these two comical characters, that is where I first read these memorable and valuable words, though I can’t remember which one said it. Nevertheless, in one brief shining moment, sometime in the mid-1990’s, I adopted this simple five word phrase as my mantra and guiding principle for all endeavors. What a relief that was! Clearly, while neither Beetle Bailey nor Sergeant Snorkel would have excessively high standards or expectations of themselves or others or certainly of the Army, I was struggling to live up to my own unattainable, if not clearly defined, standards as a mom, wife, career professional and neighbor as well as cook and housekeeper and quintessential California girl, which most of my new neighbors were.

Until then, as the eldest and golden child, the first in my family to have received not just one college degree but two, and the sole producer of grandchildren for my mom and dad, I had generally felt a constant striving for perfection. Then, suddenly, after therapy, yo-yo dieting, uncertain dating results and periods as a self-hating recluse, I was miraculously saved by this thought: Why? Why spend all that time and effort to achieve the perfect result when good enough was in fact enough for nearly everybody else but me. It had only taken forty years for me to accept that most of the people I cared about could and would accept what I did as the best I could do and that, therefore, I didn’t have to beat myself to do more or to accept that fact myself.

In my recent research into this topic, I came across an article titled Why It’s Healthy to Sometimes Settle for What’s Good Enough which hit the nail on the head with this statement. “People who tend to obsess over decisions, big or small, and then fret about their choices just cause themselves a lot of unnecessary grief. People who have trouble making the everyday decisions in their lives cause themselves a lot of extra stress and grief. A study from Florida State University suggests that some of their problem comes from an inability to commit. Even after making a choice, some people are never truly committed to it.” OMG, that was nearly me!

The article did cut me a little slack, though, by noting that there’s a little bit of perfectionist in all of us but some people take it to an extreme when making choices. This is what I used to do all the time, and still catch myself doing occasionally. “People who tend to obsess (or in my case stress) over decisions — big or small — and then fret about their choices afterwards are sometimes called maximizers, while those who make decisions and simply live with them are sometimes called satisficers, a portmanteau combining satisfy with suffice.” Thank God, I can now call myself a semi-satisficer. “Whether these differences are a central and stable part of personality or simply a frame of mind isn’t clear. What is clear is that indecisive people cause themselves a lot of grief that those who are more satisfied with their decisions don’t.” What a revelation!

A study of Florida State undergraduates produced results that were interpreted to show that maximizers still could not commit to their choices, even after were finalized. Their decision didn’t bring them happiness, it brought them doubt and caused them to second-guess themselves. The study also found that maximizers place a high premium on the option of being able to change their mind, even after making a decision. They want to avoid commitment.

“What this all suggests is that maximizers would be happier if they brought a little more perspective into their life and learned to accept minor decisions as final after they’ve been made.” Well, there it is. Sometimes good enough is OK, and sometimes OK is good enough for me these days.

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Old Farts like stockpiles

Thanks to AGMA, a fellow Old Fart blogger, I have reblogged her multi-faceted post Under the sink strategery on which I can expound for what I hope will be a thoughtful and thought-provoking Independence Day Old Fart Friday, even though I didn’t actually do it till Sunday.  Old Farts hate schedules.

First, let me confirm by Old Fart bona fides by confessing that (1) I knew what NPR was before AGMA explained it and (2) I am comfortable in concurring that Walter Cronkite, who has been off the air since 1981, would indeed have been proud of this masterful reportage.  I must also confess that my Old Fart bona fides may be somewhat tarnished as I have been remiss in embellishing my aged intellect;  I don’t even know what the local NPR station is, let alone listen to it.  Perhaps that will be a 2017 New Year’s resolution, if I remember it six months from now.

I am also in agreement with AGMA’s attitude towards “expiration date control” and the efficacy of the multiple meds stashed in my bathroom drawers as well as under the sink.  I have practical proof, though, that expired (by at least a few years) Benadryl, still works on my allergy to horses and other furry creatures to which I am not exposed on a consistent basis.  We’d dragged our kids to a rodeo from which I emerged barely able to breathe.  May have been mind over matter or just distance from the source, but I contend to this day that the expired Benadryl I downed ASAP after leaving the rodeo saved my life and now I don’t leave home without them even if I’m just going to visit my sister and her dog or my daughter and her cat.

Where this post really got me, though, is right where I live, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, AKA The Secret City or, more appropriately here, The Atomic City.  My safety concern would of course center around radiation hazards in addition to biohazards.  That’s in addition to as opposed to instead of.  As I’ve learned in the five years that I’ve lived here, if the potential exposure to uranium and other radioactive materials stockpiled in nearby federal facilities wasn’t a big enough concern, then potential exposure to chemicals and other byproducts of research and development projects undertaken at any of the local government facilities certainly could be.

I won’t bore, or frighten on my behalf, any of my very few but hopefully also very interested readers, by providing ALL the gory history and details here, but suffice to say you all should be able to get the picture from this summary.

In 1942, the federal government established the Oak Ridge Reservation (ORR) in Anderson and Roane Counties in Tennessee as part of the Manhattan Project to research, develop, and produce special nuclear materials for nuclear weapons. In 1989, the ORR was added to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) National Priorities List because over the years, ORR operations have generated a variety of radioactive and nonradioactive wastes that are present in old waste sites or that have been released to the environment. Since 1992, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has responded to requests and addressed health concerns of community members, civic organizations, and other government agencies by working extensively to determine whether levels of environmental contamination at and near the ORR present a public health hazard to communities surrounding the ORR.   ATSDR scientists have completed or are conducting public health assessments (PHAs) on iodine 131 releases from the X-10 site, mercury releases from the Y-12 plant, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), radionuclide releases from White Oak Creek, uranium releases from the Y-12 plant, uranium and fluoride releases from the K-25 site, and other topics such as contaminant releases from the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Incinerator and contaminated off-site groundwater.

AGMA, bless her little Southern (lives in Atlanta, I think) heart, also expressed concerns about which antidotes to stockpile in the National Stockpile. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there is no antidote for any of the nasty things that could occur in a body if exposed to unduly high levels of radiation.  That’s a potential concern for as there are only ten miles between this Old Fart’s retirement home overlooking beautiful Melton Hill Lake and Y-12.  What, you may ask, is Y-12?  It is part of a National Nuclear Security Complex and is, among other things, responsible for the maintenance and production of all uranium parts for every nuclear weapon in the United States arsenal.

Located somewhere on the west side (the side closest to me, of course) of Y-12’s 810 acres is this lovely and inviting building, the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility (HEUMF), a 110,000-square-foot, fortress-like storage facility which may very well house the world’s largest inventory of bomb-grade uranium at a single location.

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According to a local scribe who for the last thirty five years has been, in his own words at Atomic City Underground, “Piecing together information from multiple sources until a story took shape. Challenging the system — the federal government — to do what’s right…given its size and the scope of work and the security that surrounds it (and he should know since he’s actually been inside and lived to tell the tale), the HEUMF has maintained a fairly low profile over the years.” Many thanks to the very recently retired Frank Munger for that bit of reassuring news, along with this bit from one of his last articles summarizing the results of a Department of Energy (Y-12’s owner) assessment of the site’s, especially its WWII era buildings, criticality accident alarm system.

The currently used suite of accident detectors located in the building were uranium is still actively processed, as opposed to just stored, at Y-12 were purchased and installed in the 1990s, according to the DOE’s report, which went on to say that “Overall, the operability of CAAS (criticality accident alarm system) is adequately being maintained and is verified through routine completion of surveillance testing requirements defined in (safety documents)”, though there were  “deficiencies that indicate that there is some amount of uncertainty in the CAAS detectors’ ability to perform its functional requirements specified in the safety basis.”

“The coverage area for the installed criticality accident detectors in Building 9212 — the main processing center for bomb-grade uranium — is not in compliance because of the shielding inside 9212 and possibly some adjoining buildings.”  Fortunately, the “intervening shielding” in some Y-12 buildings is greater than what’s assumed in the safety documents that establish the area covered by the accident detectors.  The report said the assessment team also identified other deficiencies “with a lower level of significance.” Among those was that Consolidated Nuclear Security — the government’s managing contractor at Y-12 — has not adequately responded to issues related to a backlog of maintenance on the criticality accident alarm system. That backlog is reportedly growing.

You might guess that, like AGMA, this Old Fart has some concerns about the efficacy of our government’s stockpile for this radioactive stuff, especially since our feuding representatives up there in Washington, D.C. can’t even agree that terrorists who can’t fly here should not be allowed to purchase guns here.  As she is concerned about deployment plans for some good stuff- getting the stuff from the warehouse to the people who need it – I might be equally concerned about the contractors who let three protesters — including an 82-year-old nun — make a mockery of Y-12’s security by cutting through multiple fences to reach the uranium storehouse in the plant’s forbidden zone, if they hadn’t already been replaced.  I might also give a small thought to other, occasional news stories about the uranium storehouse, including a report that cracks had developed in the exterior of the mammoth concrete structure.

In conclusion, like AGMA, at this point this Old Fart has already decided that, in the event of local momentous bad news, I would probably kiss my sweet Aging Gracefully ass goodbye, get a bottle or can of beer of something-or-other from Spouse’s beer fridge, as opposed to AGMA’s bottle of champagne from the wine fridge, dive under the bathroom sink and start popping open expired bottles (or cans) of whatever I’d found.  AGMA gave and accepted for herself a 50-50 chance. This Old Fart will also take those odds.

Aging Gracefully My Ass

Raiders_Of_The_Lost_Ark_Government_Warehouse_newPhoto from Google Images courtesy of Steven Spielberg and Indiana Jones

Yesterday, AGMA heard about her worst nightmare. Okay, that may be a bit dramatic. Redo. I heard about something that caused my head to pound and my eye’s to glaze over.

Not that far off of a typical morning for AGMA.

NPR’s Morning Edition reporter Nell Greenfieldboyce did a segment on the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS).

Does that sound like an oxymoron to anybody else?

For AGMA friends across the globe, NPR stands for National Public Radio. It’s non-commercial, not for profit, as close to unbiased media as you can get in the U.S. It relies on a combination of listener contributions, corporate donations and some public monies for funding. In other words, it’s independent, fact-based journalism at it’s best. Old school stuff.

Walter Cronkite would be proud.

So evidently there are these six huge (double super WalMart sized)…

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Heading South?

It’s on my “to do” list to write a post in response to Daily Post One Word tag “South.” Now I can check that off thanks once again to one of my favorite bloggers! Note that this post also contains a “funny” for my sort of weekly feature, Old Fart Friday. Look for it as you read these thoughts about the dual meaning of “Heading South.” For me currently, South means the part of the US where I now live, in Tennessee. This state, however, is not in what we would call “the Deep South” for which I am forever grateful as otherwise I might be more openly attacked for my continuing support for Democrats in general and Hillary Clinton in particular. I still want to head farther south from here on vacation sometime, as I’ve yet to dip my toes in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and see for myself the trendy Florida Gulf Coast beaches I’ve heard so much about since I moved out here from the West Coast.

A Momma's View

Interesting what very different meanings the word “South” can have. Meaning in the sense of how it can make us feel depending on how it is used. For one there is the “let’s head South” thing. Most probably for all of us related to go on a vacation. For me it most definitely was when I was living in Switzerland.

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Claw_Foot_Tub_and_Shower_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_090521-153983-149048“Life is like a hot bath. It feels good while you’re in it, but the longer you stay in, the more wrinkled you get.”

– Robert Oustin