Tens of millions of people migrate to Las Vegas each year for a long weekend in search of it. We certainly have more than our share, and there’s no question our local economy has endured through the decades in large part because of it.
Get your mind out of the gutter: I’m not referring to sex. I’m talking about the heat that is on the rise this week into the low 80s. But in four months, probably sometime in August, I promise one of your neighbors will peer at you from under a sweaty brow and say something akin to, “Ya know, I think this is the hottest summer we’ve ever had.”
That neighbor is convinced he’s right. This pronouncement will come shortly after his sprinkler system has gone on the fritz and what’s left of his environmentally incorrect front lawn has turned the color of French fries.
Or maybe the utterance will occur after he left a six-pack of Mountain Dew in the back of his Hummer, and the reflection off the rear window exploded the plastic bottles and left his faux-leather upholstery smelling like an incontinent cat.
Of course this won’t be our hottest summer ever. That’s because before we laid down all this turf and bulldozed all the caliche to make room for the thriving megalopolis we inhabit today, it used to get seriously hot in Las Vegas. Like 10 or 15 degrees hotter than now, and that was with no air-conditioning or SPF 30 to slather on for protection.
I can only imagine that early settlers in our town walked around six shades darker than George Hamilton and with skin the texture of Naugahyde. A kiss on the cheek in downtown Las Vegas circa 1920 must have felt like putting a lip-lock on a coconut.
But sure enough, come middle October when the days become as warm and comfortable as your favorite sweater, and the evenings cry out for a salty margarita as you sit on the front stoop or by the pool, that same neighbor will peek across the hedge and say, “This is why we live in Las Vegas … what heavenly weather!”
We all need to learn the hard way how to respect the summer sun in Las Vegas. I was no different. Coming from the distinctly un-balmy Pacific Northwest, I didn’t have near enough schooling in the ferocity of the desert when I arrived in the mid-1970s. I just knew that having a suntan was essential if a guy was going to compete for debutantes against the lounge lizards that hung out in the nightclubs of the day, places like Dirty Sally’s and Diana’s Bananas.
So I logged my share of pool time and quickly learned that Hawaiian Tropic Red Label was the surest way to look like Julio Iglesias (note to younger readers: he’s Enrique’s old man, only better looking and without the pretentious stocking cap and mole).
That first summer, I went for the Greek-god look, albeit with the body of Napoleon Dynamite. I would lie by the pool at my apartment building and grab an hour of midday rays before reporting to my swing shift dealing job in the bowels of downtown.
One day after I night I wanted to forget I was basking at my pool wearing a swimming suit that was tailored more like baggy boxing trunks. Significantly, the suit was without that important stitched-in netting that is so essential to decency in male swimwear. Remember, I was from up north. You wouldn’t have caught me dead in one of those banana hammocks that posers wear on Venice Beach or the French Riviera.
I soon fell into a deep slumber. I was awakened about an hour later by a gentleman who suggested I was perhaps getting too much sun. As I gathered myself up, I noticed that my trunks hadn’t covered everything they were meant to, and I had a searing ache in an inconvenient area.
If you think of the classic holiday song about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” you’ll have enough information to understand my predicament.
Now when a man has second-degree burns down there, he’s about as incapacitated as a fellow can get. Your gait is dramatically altered, your ability to stand upright at a blackjack table over an eight-hour shift is nil, and any thought your bronze-god-like tan can result in an amorous embrace is completely eradicated. The only thing you want to snuggle is a vinegar-soaked cloth.
I missed the next three days of work for an ailment I described to my shift boss as “sunstroke.” My understanding and respect for Vegas sunshine has never wavered from that day forward.
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