Hello from Reno

It’s two days before thanksgiving, and I find myself in a deluxe suite at a casino in downtown Reno, which is roughly like staying at the standard room in one of the third-tier off-strip places in Vegas, but it’s not bad. Reno’s like a 1970s Vegas, one you can traverse without a car or fear of heatstroke, one where all-you-can-eat buffets are still a novelty. If you need a social and economic barometer to the climate here, this hotel has a free wifi connection that did not require me to provide an email address, retina scan, or colonoscopy to log in. It didn’t even ask me to check a box saying I agreed to their terms. That’s saying a lot, although I don’t exactly know what.

I ate dinner at a strange Basque restaurant that looked like a tavern in a gold mining town, where a heavily tattooed woman didn’t even ask for our order, just started bringing out trays of food. We’re here to see relatives, my wife’s relatives, but also to escape the ghetto and enjoy a few days of different scenery, a different bed, a different set of cable channels. There are no real plans, aside from the usual caloric marathon, and I will probably end up at every pawn shop downtown, looking for that elusive vintage Fender bass that someone’s accidentally priced at twenty dollars, which will never happen.

I haven’t been writing lately, but I’ve been playing bass almost constantly. I’m not any good, but the fingertips are toughening, and I feel like I’m more serious about it this time around. During my first tenure on the four-stringer back in the late 80s, I don’t remember ever practicing like this. I log the hours, use a metronome, play the scales, do the chromatics, stretch the fingers. F to A#. 123-234-456-654-543-432-217-1. Over and over and over. I’ve been playing Rocksmith, playing on Songsterr, playing through an instructional book. I want a new bass, but I’ve told myself I have to keep at it to justify the purchase. Until then, I cycle through eBay incessantly. This holiday will mean four days away from it, which seems like four days too long.

When we get back, a month of 2012 remains. I am maybe halfway through the next book, still untitled, still chipping away. I didn’t bring the book with me, didn’t bring my computer with me. I’m chipping away at this on my iPad, with my little bluetooth keyboard, which actually works well. I might try to free-write some of the crud out of my subconscious into the little screen while I’m here, and maybe something worthwhile will land here.

I’m avoiding the casino, not that much is happening down there. It’s very quiet, almost nobody around. A skeleton crew works the floor and the front desk, bored kids stuck in town, acting far too nice and being far too helpful. I think we paid $40 a night to stay here. It’s newly renovated, very modern and corporate and not at all like what you’d expect from an old Johnny Cash song about the place. Most of Reno has that look to it, that sense of despair, the motels with weekly and monthly rates, the beat places that will loan you enough money to do your laundry if you sign over your car’s pink slip. There’s a lot of “the dream is dead” if you travel a very short distance from the neon of downtown, but of course the scenic view of the river from the deluxe rooms screens that away a bit.

Anyway, it looks like it will be an interesting turkey day.

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