Wednesday, October 16, 2013

[The Life of Shaun #483] The old stomping grounds

I am two cities into my three-city West Coast trip.  The impetus of this trip was my <muffled noises>th high school reunion, but I decided to extend it to see friends and family here in Vegas and San Francisco, and then to end with a new city, Vancouver.

The reunion weekend was badly organised, but came together overall.  Through the three events (Friday drinks, Saturday dinner, Sunday picnic), I managed to see just about everyone I'd hoped to, which is the point.  The most interesting thing to me at this reunion versus the last is that at the first I recognised who everyone was immediately.  This time around, it took some work with a lot of people.  This was partly due to a different pool of attendees (the first was largely "my group"), but a lot of it was certainly the march of Time, who has worn much heavier boots with some than others.

The internal politics and price points that led to the disorganisation were much discussed, and it was decided the next one will be managed differently.  Everyone seems keen to switch to five-year reunions rather than ten, so my Vegas Returns could remain bidecadal, and considering all my ties here, I am OK with that.  Especially since every trip to Las Vegas...

Vegas has long lacked any focus on non-tourist-oriented planning, especially the arts.  The city is finally starting to change this, in a very Vegas way.  When Vegas wanted a Chinatown, it built a big mall and called it Chinatown.  Now they have deemed a much disused part of downtown the Arts District.  Though far from organic, I applaud this effort as they are reusing rather than demolishing; this is a very foreign concept in Vegas.  I think this area of town has (potential) character as it's one of the few commercial areas of the Valley that is made up of traditional store fronts rather than strip malls.  

Similarly, for all the years I lived in Vegas, between downtown and the freeway (where the suburban sprawl began), lay an enormous (literally dozens of city-blocks) open area of dirt, er, I mean desert.  The city has begun developing this, at first all-too-inevitably with a new mall, but now also a commercial centre, Gehry-designed museum and a new concert hall.  Previously these civic buildings existed only on the campus of UNLV.  While all this would be nothing of note in other cities, it is a seachange for my home town.  It's got a long way to go before it's challenging even modest-sized cities in cultural relevance, but it's great to see a focus - any focus - on enriching the lives of locals.

Part of the revitalisation of the Arts District is "First Friday", when they close off the the streets around the new galleries, set up tents, bandstands and bars, and have a street party.  We mostly just saw the set-up, but as we passed by after dinner, it was jammed.  People socialising outdoors - again, previously unknown in Vegas.

Some friends and me at the reunion after 1/2 a pint each.

The Vegas Strip is growing up and North; the tall tower at the left used to both be much, much taller than anything else in town, and set all on its own.  Now it's merely a climax to the city's expanding tourist heart.

My longest non-related friend, Jennifer Eno Louden, and me at the reunion dinner.  I've known her since fourth grade, when we bonded over Smurfs and Inspector Gadget.

Vegas's version of nutrition and natural/organic.

Ma Petroni and me with Russ's business partner, Dima, at the entrance to Zumanity.

...means a trip to San Francisco!  After a week in Vegas, Russ and I did our usual whirl around the City by the Bay.  Always a delightful time, I left feeling especially enamoured with San Francisco this time around.  I saw most of the people I wanted to, and the combination of them, the bar-hopping and dining (!) was perfect.  That city really knows how to pull things together.  It's still a bit too soft for my tastes, but I appreciate it more and more with each passing 24.

My old 'hood

Castro street art

Russ's uncle owns a restaurant in North Beach, and every year for the Columbus Day - sorry, Italian Heritage - Parade they set out tables outside the restaurant to enjoy the food and parade.  Being family and a guest of family, we got pride of place at the centre table.

Downtown's icon

But of course...

Next stop, Vancouver!


Shaun H. Coley | At large in Las Vegas, NV |

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