Monday, September 30, 2013

Farewell Detroit in the Desert

I was barely in my old hometown five months and now, because of economic necessity, I'm heading back to the Pacific Northwest (at the start of monsoon season).

It's bittersweet. On the one hand, I felt socially and culturally stifled here. What with all the 'SAVE AMERICA, KILL OBAMA' bumper stickers and the bizarre, enraged disposition of about 35-percent of the white-male population. On the other hand, I kept bumping into transplants from the PNW, from SoCal, etc., who always defended Reno, Nevada the same way: "It's so much better HERE, than where I'm from." So much less traffic or so much more sunshine.

Secret Cove, Lake Tahoe, NV Sept. 2013

What an odd way to decide on a community. I'm pretty sure Indiana and maybe even St. Louis are a step up from Los Angeles. I think Nebraska might be too. Tampa and Los Alamos are surely held in higher regard. One has tropical weather and beaches, the other some of the prettiest desert in all the American Southwest. So pretty one of our greatest living writers, Cormac McCarthy lives in Los Alamos.

Past and present Renoites touchy about my criticism of northern Nevada would be surprised to know I spent 15 years living here. I originally moved here in August 1988 at age 22 after finally breaking free of the comfortable shackles of Elko. I stayed here until 1995, that's seven years; an eon when you're in your twenties. I moved back in late '95, then left again, for another job in summer '96. Moved back in spring '97 and stayed here until early 2003 when, spurred on by my first trips overseas (England and then Australia), I got the hell out of Dodge.

A lot of stuff happened to me in this dusty, blusterous town on the edge of the Great Basin. Some of it was good. I had genuine friends like Louie and Angela and Cody. I had sworn enemies too. But a lot of super bad stuff happened to me here too.

I buried my mother here in September 1993. I buried a failed relationship-slash-engagement here too. That's almost a cliche as so many women came here in the 1950s and 60s to pitch their wedding rings into the Truckee River.

In the end, I think this place is too rough for me, too raw. It's all glassy-eyed tweakers and gasping yuppies gunning their enormous pickups for the next stop light, the next party, the next sale at Walmart.

Nevada, especially Reno, is a place that even after a century of existence, still can't define itself, still can't pick the right things and say "these are important, these matter."

It's too much like the rest of middle America. This is why I'm leaving and going back to the self-analysis and geeky introspection of the cloudy Northwest. There's time to think under all those big trees.


Nola said...

I did not find the shackles in Elko all that comfy..... I have to agree about the Northwest in general; although it's a lot more conservative here than I am, it's a great deal better than Nevada.

Erica Swantek said...

Sometimes it takes leaving a place to really appreciate it. Sounds like the PNW is home for you. I wish you well in Portland!