I love visiting Las Vegas as much for enjoyment of some of its many excesses as for cultural observation. It has also occurred to me that I might, in the same way, be the “observee” in the eyes of other another tourist. Though my trips there are usually for participation in an annual reunion of a group of close-knit friends who no longer all live in the greater Chicago area, I also like to take one afternoon to branch off by myself with my camera. I feel as though my sense of what constitutes the “real” Las Vegas has mostly eluded me, as most places at which my friends and I have stayed or visited are, admittedly, tourist traps.
There’s comfort in knowing that the Strip and historic downtown areas generally have lots of security and police presence, which makes sense, given that tourism is a huge economic engine for this region. However, I am always curious about the everyday lives of everyday people, in places away from the popular destinations. My dad had been a professor of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Michigan. I suppose the interests of this apple didn’t fall far from that tree.
On one such afternoon foot-trek, I found myself in Huntridge Park near the historic Huntridge Theatre. This beautiful Streamline Moderne-style building has been closed to the public since July 31, 2004 after having been open for close to sixty years. It remains my hope that it will get the renovation it deserves. I took a few photos of it before ducking into nearby Tacos Mexico (housed in an old, Googie-era former Denny’s) for some of the tastiest inexpensive tacos I had eaten in a long time.
While walking near the main intersection of East Charleston and Maryland Parkway close by, our featured truck appeared in traffic. Between my delicious lunch and the sight of this old Ford, it was at this very moment that I realized I had just experienced some of the realest Las Vegas since first going to that city four years prior. I was simply on an extended Superbowl Sunday weekend vacation with my friends, but there were, indeed, people hard at work on the job on a Monday.
Of course, all kinds of work happens around the clock, everywhere and all the time. To further clarify, I suppose it had dawned on me even moreso in those fifteen seconds while this Ford passed by that there are many people in Las Vegas who work at jobs that aren’t glamorous (not that my insurance work is remotely sexy and/or exciting), far from chasing lightbulbs, stacks of chips, glitter and martinis.
This F-250 seemed to embody the kind of honest blood, sweat and tears of manual labor. I might have mentioned this in a previous post, so please forgive me if it sounds like the needle is skipping on the record, but I worked as a groundskeeper and landscaper at two different golf courses off and on for about five years, starting in my late teens. In addition to tending to fairways, greens, tees and approaches using various, specialized riding mowers, planting trees and shrubs, and using hoes, shovels, and other gardening hand-tools, I also occasionally operated a tractor and front-end loader (reasonably well, I might add).
That job remains one of my favorites of all time. There was something so satisfying about doing something with my hands (besides typing), and seeing with my own eyes the finished result of something I had diligently worked on. There was also the fresh air, the sun on my skin, the smell of newly cut grass, and the sound of wind rushing through the trees. I would come home fatigued often times, but cracking open a cold beer after work has never tasted better since those days.
On particularly warm and sunny days at the office, I often wish we could open the windows instead of being sealed inside, being held hostage to the HVAC system in our glassy, geometric box of a building. I will concede that air conditioning is a blessing, as it can get very hot in Chicago during the summer, even in that northern city on a gigantic lake.
I suppose the sight of this truck, which looked like a real, honest-to-goodness work truck – complete with a replacement hood sans side marker lights, reminded me of several things. Firstly, I was fortunate enough not to be at work that day, and to be employed at a job where I could afford to take a trip like this in the first place. Also, it takes all kinds of work and workers to make the world go round. Everyone’s craft is important, each and every one of us, no matter what it is we do. Lastly, age is inevitable. This old F-250 looks like it has been worked a lot. It could be said that long after one’s youth, vigor and looks have begun to fade, one had still better be good at doing something.
Las Vegas, Nevada.
Monday, February 8, 2016.
- From Ed Stembridge: Curbside Outtake: 1970 Ford F-250 Sport Custom Camper Special;
- Jim Grey: CC Capsule: 1970 Ford F-250 – Montana To Indiana Or Bust; and
- Jason Shafer: Curbside Classic: 1970 Ford F-100 – The Driving Force of an Addiction.