I’ve lived in this town for six and a half years now, that’s about forty-five dog years and over half my life. I’m still just a newcomer to those locals who’ve spent their whole lives watching the dramatic changes unfold right before their eyes, and I’m an old timer to the brand new folks who may think traffic has always been like this. I’ve been here long enough to remember sitting in the dark quiet of the night on the veranda seeing all the yellow twinkling lights from Henderson laid out before us like a galaxy of golden diamonds. You could almost reach out and touch them. We watched the planes come in and could see the Tavern with the green neon light over on Blue Diamond. Blue Diamond was a safe road then if you can imagine. Southern Highlands was merely waves of desert heat, a mirage that materialized into a city within itself when no one was paying attention.
There are houses all around us now behind a wall, big new ones lit up all-important like Cinderella’s Castle at Disneyland. Their palm trees aglow with spotlights and twinkling strings of little white lights like thousands of tennis bracelets stacked upon each other, it looks magical, but I always appreciate trees. We can’t see the things we used to see but I do welcome that whole neighborhood, it’s a wonderful windbreak.
I remember driving up Warm Springs into town being the only car on the road and actually doing the 35-mile an hour speed limit. Horsin’ Around had a big apple green fiberglass Quarter Horse lofted atop their front door. We thought it would always be there. We’d stop for Mrs. Pasture’s horse cookies a favorite of our little old mare Olivia.
We thought she would always be in our back yard. They are both gone now. We saw Elvis beside us at the light by Boot Barn in an old Dodge colt with duct tape holding the door closed. We saw him pumping gas at Fast Eddies on the Boulevard and delivering Pepsi at Albertson’s. I saw him coming out of Gold’s Gym once without a T-shirt and he looked like Hercules! That Elvis gets around.
What used to be desert on the corner of our block is now a neighborhood park, a mini Knott’s Berry Farm with a windmill, a horseshoe pit, and covered wagons in a circle each with a picnic table and barbeque, the restroom looks like an old General store and there are native plants and Wisteria blossoming everywhere. It’s a delight. A designated horse’s trail passes through the back of it to the ten acres of desert across the street from us and will be a horse park by sometime next year.
We’ve watched at least four hotel implosions on the news and saw the most magnificent complete rainbow of our lives stretched out in a perfect arch across the southern entrance to the valley welcoming everyone from California. We sat numb the week the sky was still, no airplanes coming in to land at McCarran Airport like a string of pearls into the night sky. With each breath our hearts hurt more than the last. The whole country was hurting but we lost our best friend that very September afternoon too and knew nothing would ever be the same again and it hasn’t been but it goes on. It all changes. I love my life here. Change is good.