Hummingbirds, History and Whores

Leaving Pahrump

I’m about to leave tomorrow. That’s good and it’s bad. I’m a nomad, so the road is always welcome. 230-something miles tomorrow, not counting stopping off at Winco in Victorville to pick up some produce. Extra mile there, I suppose, and maybe a half hour’s time. I’ll try to leave as early as I can so I can get to the next park early in the afternoon when it’ll be warmest and easiest for setting up my RV.

But I’ll also be sad leaving. I like this place for some reason. There’s nothing much here to like, just a bunch of people working hustles in the desert. Something about the atmosphere, I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe sitting on a bench in the park’s garden, tossing food out to the koi fish, playing a harmonica and watching hummingbirds flitting around had something to do with it. I’m not hawking anything here, but Preferred is about the coolest RV park I’ve ever been to.

The spoiled koi of Pahrump. There’s a gumball machine you can put a quarter into and get a handful of food to throw out to them. They know the drill well.
Preferred RV Resort in Pahrump

When I think of a city or an area, I like to relate it in my mind to some basic industry … the engine that drives the rest of the economy. Maybe mining, maybe agriculture, maybe manufacturing, maybe shipping, something. In Las Vegas, the drivers are gambling and show biz, of course, but then there’s Pahrump. In the desert about 60 miles across the mountains west of Vegas, the economic drivers, whatever they are, are less obvious there.

The casinos in Pahrump are a joke compared to Vegas. Basically a bunch of slot machines, and in the biggest one at the center of town, the Pahrump Nugget, I think they have a blackjack table. Or maybe not, I only walked through once, so I’m a little hazy on that point. They do have a huge, fancy bowling alley, though, which tells you right away who lives in the double-wides scattered around on acre-sized lots stretched out as far as you can see across the sandy desert. Remember Sam Elliott, the actor with a big mustache who plays a cowboy in the bowling alley at the opening of “The Big Lebowski?” I saw a guy that looked a lot like him in the Pahrump Nugget bowling alley. Swear to god.

Nobody comes out from Vegas for the casinos or the bowling, but they do come out for the whores, who seem to me the closest thing Pahrump has to a basic industry. There are two brothels, and they sit adjacent to one another where Homestead Road ends at the California state line. One is called The Chicken Ranch and the other is Sheri’s Ranch.

One of Pahrump’s basic industries

There used to be a third, located strategically at the intersection where Homestead takes off from the highway, called the Gentleman’s Castle.

Going by the real estate maxim of “location, location, location”, you would think The Gentleman’s Castle would have killed the competition far down the road. But many years ago I got a haircut from a middle-aged woman in a strip mall down the highway, and she advised me to stay away from the Gentleman’s Castle. “The whores in there are skanky,” she said.

I was impressed that she was up on such things, and I told her I would definitely keep her advice in mind. Apparently, word got around, because now the Gentleman’s Castle is being renovated into something else. Can’t recall what … rug store? Indoor flea market? Something like that.

Castle still there, but no more “Gentlemen”, and no more “skanky whores”

I didn’t get to look around in the chicken place, but a gal named Sol took me on a tour of Sheri’s. As I was finishing my lunch at the bar (Veggie wrap and some white Zinfandel: an excellent combination, I thought), she came up and we introduced ourselves. I reciprocated for her creative name by telling her mine was Sum Gye. I’m not sure if she got it, because it turned out after I laid a big, long verbal trip on her that she didn’t speak English.

The only Spanish word that came to mind at that point was ¿Quando?, but someone, either she or the bartender, communicated to me that the ¿Quando? issue was only negotiated in rooms behind closed doors. And probably with one’s dick out of one’s pants, I imagined, which would put one at a great negotiating disadvantage … which I’m sure is the point.

I did my best to let Sol know that I thought she would be a fine whore, and the only reason I wasn’t going into a room to talk about ¿Quando? was because of my lack of both dinero and un polo duro. Once you get into your late 70s, it turns out, Mr. Marco is no longer a reliable Polo, and even if you take a blue pill it’s a major achievement to turn him into a Volcano. I wouldn’t have wanted to lay that much responsibility on dear Sol, who would have probably become annoyed at how much of her precious time I was wasting after an hour went by and, to borrow the expression Dr. Strangelove muttered in the movie while he clicked ball bearings between his fingers and paced the war room floor in the Pentagon, there were still no “precious bodily fluids.”

Probably they’ve run into this problem before; probably there is a codicil the whores build into their aural agreements that stipulates the maximum time they will be obligated to suck or fuck. I never found out because after the tour I just gave Sol a grandfatherly pat on her arm and headed out the door.

It was a fun-looking place, though. Sol took me down a long hallway, showing me room after room with varying motifs, including one with whips and chains … I shit you not. I’m sure if I was in my 20s and had more money than I knew what to do with, I would do like they do: fly a private jet into McCarran Airport in Vegas and have the brothel pick me up with their limo for the 60-ish-mile trip over the pass to Pahrump. Guy in that situation, he’d probably buy a whore for the whole evening, or maybe get two or three to play harem. I remember such fantasies, I just don’t remember now why they were so appealing.

A mockup of the old train station in Pahrump. When they had trains and thing that needed trains. Things got real slow there at the end.

Another fascinating place is the Pahrump Valley Museum, which is full of cool old stuff, some of which I recalled using as a child or a young man. This made me feel like I should be killed and stuffed and set up in an exhibit along with the other old junk. Thoughts like this are considered by the Veterans Administration to be “contemplations of suicide”, which, according to the message they keep playing while you’re on hold, should impel you to hang up and call a different 800 number … one they keep repeating so often you think if you had a gun handy you would shoot yourself just to shut them up.

Who does that? Seems like if I were serious about killing myself, the last thing I’d want would be to get on the horn with the VA. I’m kind of busy here, okay? Call me back after I’m dead, and then you can put me on hold as long as you want.

Pahrump Valley Museum. The tower in the background is the water tower they used at the cotton gin before the cotton farming industry collapsed.

Sorry, I was talking about the museum, wasn’t I. So anyway. The museum tells the European story of coming into the land and “settling” it. The word gives me the creeps nowadays because I equate it with Israelis bulldozing Arab homes and vineyards for the same reason: “settling”. And when you start to look into it, it’s not all that different. Apparently, the Paiutes who lived here for centuries were doing much the same thing as the “settlers” … agriculture, mostly, except they did it much less intensively so as to make it sustainable. “Settling” basically involved stealing their land, running them off and then planting cotton so intensively that it raped the land and left it the desert it is today.

I asked the lady running the museum if any thought had been given to inviting the remaining Paiutes to tell their side of the story. She advised that they had invited them to do so many times, but they always steadfastly refused to have anything to do with the white-man museum. What’s their problem? All we did was steal their land and herd them up into reservations! The nerve! You’d think they’d gratefully accept an invitation to add value to a museum run by the progeny of their land thieves and kidnappers!

There’s whole big room in the museum about the Yucca Mountain radioactive dump site. Yucca Mountain sits maybe 50 miles to the north, just off Highway 95. Well, it’s not radioactive yet. The Federal government spent, I don’t know, billions of dollars, I suppose, digging this humongous cave deep inside the mountain, the idea being that trains would carry radioactive waste from unsafe sites where it’s now being stored all around the country, and they would encase it safely, we are told, thousands of feet below, where it would sit until its half-life reduced it to safe levels in, oh, I don’t know, a hundred thousand years or so. But not to worry, they’ll keep armed guards at the door the whole time to prevent anyone from going in and frying themselves.

100,000 years, got that? One half-life for plutonium 239 is around 24,000 years, and I don’t know how many times you’d have to halve it down for it to be safe to be around. I just made up the part about 100,000 years, basing it on four half-lives; maybe it would take many more than that. In any case, keep in mind that 100,000 years is around the same amount of time that has passed since our hunter-gatherer forebears painted pictures of animals on cave walls.

But the Federal government promises they have figured everything out; they’ll keep watch over it for however long it takes, and they never, ever lie. Tell that to the remaining members of the aboriginal nations who made treaties with the Feds in the 19th century. If you want to watch people snort with derision.

For some reason, people don’t trust the government like they used to, and Yucca Mountain remains just a big, empty hole. The argument is that it would be much safer to have all that highly toxic material in one place rather than scattered around the country, and that does make sense. Too bad the politicians pushing for nuclear reactors in the 50s and 60s didn’t bring up the waste problem. But, hey, they didn’t want to say anything that would get in the way of “progress”. There was big money in those reactors and, what the hell, the politicians knew they’d be dead before the toxic waste problem became an issue.

The “fuck the children” modus operandi, I guess you could call it, which would be shocking if it were employed by anyone other than politicians … who are known to be the lowest form of humanity. They don’t have to stoop to anything, no matter how base or vile, because they already live there, and no matter how evil something is, they can manage it standing upright.

But that was then, and now it’s all different. Now the politicians use their corporate media pals to assure us that half of them are wonderful. They want only the best for us, and as long as we take care at election time not to choose the other half — who are flaming assholes, we’re told — we can comfortably sit back and allow them to order us around.

But there I go again. Where I was I?

Oh yeah, the museum. You won’t see any discussion in the museum about how long it would take before Yucca Mountain would be safe for living creatures to re-enter. As slick as the exhibit is, it seems pretty obvious that Federal money went into setting up and maintaining the propaganda show, so you should just take it for what it’s worth.

But don’t let any of this deter you; the museum is a cool place. They’re even working on a brothel exhibit, which should be open by now. I was hoping they’d have it open in time for my last visit, but alas, the woman who was building it had caught the flu. I didn’t ask the lady at the front desk if they would be using a talking sex doll in the brothel because, well, if they did, that’s something you’d want to see for yourself.

Dixie’s Ranch House should be open for non-business by now.

Update: I made it safely out of town the next day. Down the highway to the tiny village of Shoshone at the southern portal of Death Valley, south past Tecopa Springs, where pools of water sit unexpectedly in the middle of the baked desert, and past the road to China Ranch Date Farm. I drove out in the car a few days earlier and purchased some delicious dates from China Ranch. Another amazing place to visit: in the 19th century they laid a railroad down the steep grade into the narrow, water-fed valley, and because the grade was so steep, the first time they tried to bring a locomotive down, it got out of control and crashed, killing the engineer. The laws of physics were apparently less well understood in the 19th century. Or maybe not; I’m gonna assume politicians were somehow involved.

On south to Baker, the home of what is said to be the world’s largest thermometer, down the 15 freeway, past Barstow (which name I could never remember until I started mentally calling it “bar stool”), off the freeway as planned at Victorville, and across the desert on State Highway 18, getting hit with some light snow on the way to Palmdale. Snow in the desert? I know, but there it was.

Listen, I don’t know why you’re still reading this, but since you are, I think you’re supposed to click the hand-clappy thing a bunch of times. And if you hit the Follow button you’ll somehow get alerted the next time I come out with more politically incorrect, if not downright offensive drivel.

Nomadic writer, realist, voluntaryist, nudist, singer, drummer, harmonica and recorder player, composer, gadfly, runner, troublemaker, survivor so far.

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