Las Vegas Sun

November 18, 2017

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Jon Ralston:

Home means Nevada to me

I give up.

I write this Saturday morning, long before any caucus returns are in, but the results for Nevada already are: We lost.

Over the course of caucus week, the embarrassments have piled up. Caucuses starting at different times in different counties, like staggered shifts in casinos. A “special” caucus for Gondolier Numero Uno Sheldon Adelson and others, taking place hours after every other caucus and at Adelson’s eponymous school. And two of the biggest media hounds on the planet, one national and one local, bounced onto the media stage — Donald Trump, staging one of the most awkward ring-kissing scenes in history with the Romneys, and brothel kingpin Dennis Hof, who, I believe, started Libertines for the Libertarian.

Is this who we are? Is this the real Nevada? Or is it, as the state song, “Home Means Nevada,” goes:

“Way out in the land of the setting sun,

Where the wind blows wild and free,

There’s a lovely spot, just the only one

That means home sweet home to me.”

After days, weeks, years of lamenting and railing about the national derision, the annoying caricatures, the patronizing derision, I have reached the only stage that everyone here should: acceptance.

We are who we are: goofy, flashy, quirky. So be it. Deal with it.

Ignore the national folks and their trite tropes because we know what they don’t know — or they do know and are jealous:

“Oh you certainly will agree with me,

It’s the place of a thousand thrills.”

Where else, what other state could play host to the spectacle that we have seen here just this week? Trump, who is a whore for media attention, and Hof, who gives attention to whores, are the perfect emblems and bookends for Nevada.

Hof, no matter what you think of what he does, epitomizes the best of Nevada’s spirit: brash, bombastic and effervescent. Trump, no matter what you think of him, embodies the worst parts of Nevada: soulless, hedonistic and narcissistic.

Nevadans, like Hof, don’t try to hide what we are. He offends many people — I cannot relate to that — but so what? As opposed to the world of politics, where dishonest is the default and poseurs are like locusts, we don’t try to hide our true nature.

But how many of the national media corps mocking us this week would have mortgaged their homes to be here for the horror show that was Reid-Angle in 2010? How many would have given their eyeteeth to chronicle the bacchanalia that was The Oscar Goodman Era? And how many secretly wish they could spend more time in the state that never sleeps, the state where dull moments go to die, where the political season never ends?

Many of them have discovered this week, traveling the vast expanse that is our gorgeous state, just what a rich tableau we have:

“Here is the land which I love the best,

Fairer than all I can see.

Deep in the heart of the golden west.”

Nevada is not just the Strip sparkle and superficiality, but the incomparably beautiful scenery of Lake Tahoe, Red Rock and points in between. It is also a place where those seeking second chances actually get them and where dreamers come to make a fortune. And it is, alas, a place where the American Dream has been crushed by a bursting housing bubble, where tens of thousands are out of work and may be out of a home soon. This is no unpleasant mirage, no neon nightmare.

Nevada may be an unreal place, but the economic cataclysm here is real, sustained and devastating. The story of how the state that grew so fast and so free but is now handcuffed by slow growth and inexorable constraints is one that will dominate the landscape here for a long time.

But we are used to that. Nevadans are used to ridicule, lampooning and hard times. So:

“Whenever the sun at the close of day,

Colors all the western sky,

Oh my heart returns to the desert grey.”

I came from the East Coast to Nevada in 1984, disdainful of the state and knowing I would be here for two years. I would soon be winging my way back to civilization, garnering some experience in this unreal place before returning to reality.

But my first chance in the land of second chances became the only chance I wanted. The news, the people, the life.

Mock us if you will, outsiders — and you will. But after 27-plus years, home means Nevada to me, and I don’t care what the rest of the world thinks.

So I happily give up. I guess this is what they call sweet surrender.

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