History Is My Love Language

I’m typing all this on my iPad because I can’t find the cord to my laptop. I think I left it at work, but who knows. Yesterday my friend, Lipstick, and I went on an adventure. This is us:

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The Vulgar Historian and Lipstick Go on an Adventure.

She took the picture. She’s the pretty one. I’m the one with the awesome hair.

We did a lot of talking and driving, and one of the things we talked about was our love languages. We both have the same love language – cuddling and history adventures. Lipstick called it something else, like, umm, quality time and physical affection or something. But she prolly read the whole book. I only read about four pages.

We also discussed a much better book, Anne of Green Gables, which we both love with all of our wistful little hearts. And we vowed to be bosom friends forever since we are such kindred spirits. Hopefully that means plenty more adventures ahead!

Yesterday, we kind of had a vague plan to do history stuff since Lipstick likes that kind of thing as much as I do. We heard there were some old buildings in Searchlight, but we didn’t see much interesting. We stopped in and got jerky at Gus’s Really Good Fresh Jerky, which definitely lived up to its advertising. The brisket was amazing. The Searchlight Museum hadn’t opened yet, and we were hungry, so we decided to head down to Laughlin for lunch,

Unplanned trips are the best, and I had never been to Laughlin before. Apparently, it was named after this dude, Don Laughlin, who saw the potential for tourism in the area, and bought up some property and opened the Riverside Resort. Most of Laughlin looks like it was built in the 1980’s, but that’s just a visual observation and shouldn’t be taken as a fact or anything. There was a statue of Mr. Laughlin in town that we got out of the car to look at. The statue had cobweb boogers that needed to be cleaned.

 

Lipstick was in charge of finding a place for us to eat lunch. She chose a place called Bumbleberry Flats, and I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. But she liked the name and it was close, so away we went.

The restaurant was in a place called Pioneer Hotel and Gambling Hall, which actually was built in the 80’s.

When we pulled up, I was even more skeptical. It was very old-west-saloon-and-brothel themed. It had that kind of western Main Street false storefront thing going on. The casino itself was actually closed, but the hotel and two restaurants were open. River Rick is the casino mascot (known as Laughlin Lou by some), and he’s pretty much the same dude as Vegas Vic of the Pioneer Hotel here in Las Vegas. I didn’t get a picture of the sign, but they have a weird rock art landscaping portrait that I did snap a pic of.

 

We went inside, and it was a 20 minute wait to be seated, which was surprising since it was a Monday afternoon. The hotel sits right on the river, so we went outside and looked around while we waited. It was gorgeous, y’all. The river was a beautiful blue-green and there was a cool breeze coming off the water. Lipstick and I sat on a bench and just soaked it all in.

After some time had passed, we went back inside and were seated after a couple of minutes or so. I have never been so happy to be proven so wrong about a place. The food was fucking amazing. We shared a bowl of chicken pot pie soup that was so creamy and buttery that I could barely stand it. And it had a little square of puff pastry on top that was like two orgasms in a row. I ordered the pecan french toast which was just about as perfect as it could be – crunchy on the outside and creamy and buttery and cinnamony on the inside, covered with pecans and maple syrup. Lipstick got cheddar bacon waffles with chicken and Louisiana honey hot sauce. Hers was pretty good too. If you’re ever in Laughlin, stop by Bumbleberry Flats, you won’t be disappointed. While you’re at it, stop at the hotel gift shop on your way out. They have candy cigarettes for fifty cents, which were somehow the perfect end to a perfect meal (since I gave up real cigarettes back in 2012).

After lunch, we headed back north and ended up in Nelson, Nevada. We stopped just past Nelson and did some hiking up through an area that was pretty much a tin can graveyard. We saw some cool stuff – giant sheets of metal on the ground, something that looked like a furnace, and a lizard that was too quick for me to get a picture of. We had so much fun that I forgot that I wanted to visit the graveyard. I’ll have to save that for another day.

 

After we hiked around Nelson, we went a couple miles down the road to the Eldorado Canyon where they have all this old stuff rusting in the desert. They do mine tours and rent kayaks too. It’s private property, but they let you go out and explore if you want. You just hafta stay out of the restricted areas and you can’t take professional photographs or go in the mine without paying.

Signs in the parking lot direct you to check in to the general store before doing anything. We needed water, so that was gonna be our first stop anyway. The lady at the counter was super-awesome. She was really friendly and knowledgable and funny. She told us to watch out for rattlesnakes because they had caught 16 so far this season. She also showed us a binder of pictures of dudes who didn’t listen when she said not to touch the cacti. Yup, she had “binders of men” – XD. She said that women never seemed to come in with cactus spines stuck in them, but it seemed like the lads couldn’t help themselves. For the record, here’s the cacti she was talking about.

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Don’t touch me or the cacti.

The site had also been used for a bunch of films and stuff. There was a book of pics from movies shot there, as well as musicians who had performed there or visited there. There were even a few shots of models from ads that were shot out there.

I don’t really know how to describe what the place was like. Like if the stuff on the walls of Cracker Barrel took steroids and started a resort for other old oddities, it would be this place. It was really jarring and surreal and completely fucking awesome. Lipstick said she could envision an entire season of American Horror Story shot there, and I completely agree. We’ve vowed to return to do the mine tour.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures because I was looking at everything with my for-real eyes, but here are a few.

 

There was this one weird marker that told the story of Queho who was a murderer who had somehow escaped justice and had been found dead in a cave some 20 years after his murder spree. So of course that piqued my interest and I wikipedia’d it when I got home. Queho was apparently a mixed-race Native American who either killed, or was blamed for killing, several people in the Eldorado Canyon area, including his half-brother, between 1910 and 1919. Prospectors found his mummified body in a cave in 1940. I guess the Elk’s Club thought it would be totes cool to exhibit the body one year at Helldorado Days (WTAF Elk’s Club?!?!), but the District Attorney at the time managed to get hold of the remains and give them a proper burial. Here’s a pic of the marker that tells a little bit of the story. Which is interesting for another reason that I’ll get into in a sec.

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Satisfactory! is the best I can hope for.

If you look at the bottom, you’ll see that the marker was placed in 2006 by The Queho Posse Chapter 1919, E Clampus Vitus. Well, friends, I’ll tell you, I didn’t know what in the fuck that meant. So I turned back to my good friends wikipedia and google and found out a little more.

So E Clampus Vitus (ECV) is a historical fraternal organization dedicated to the study of the old west, particularly mining. They call themselves “Clampers.” I got all this info from wikipedia, and you can read it yourself, but here’s the short version… The order started sometime in the 1800’s and a whole bunch of notable white dudes were members. Currently, they all wear red shirts and more pins than a TGI Friday’s waitress. The group seems to be a mixture of serious historical inquiry and drunken mirth-making. It sounds very much like a white-dudes-with-beards thing. I’m not a dude, but drinking and history and fucking around are my jam, so I’m curious. These kinds of things fascinate me, but I’m planning adventures at the moment so I’ll have to come back to this. If you, dearest reader, know anything about it please post in the comments.

The Queho Posse Chapter is the ECV chapter in Las Vegas. They’ve done a shit-ton of historical markers, which you can look up on their website. I peeped their fb group, and the only name I recognized was Mark Hall-Patton, which surprised me not at all as MH-P is a mirthful, bad-assed white dude historian with a beard. Fun fact, I met MH-P through church. Another fun fact, Lipstick had Mrs. H-P as a prof at uni. Isn’t the world small and weird and just as lovely as fuck-all?

Anywhoo, I didn’t mean to make this entire blog post about ECV. I just happen to get distracted rather easily.

After we were done in Eldorado Canyon, I took Lipstick to the abandoned pet cemetery in Boulder City. I’m not going to go too much into detail about that because I’ve previously written a bunch about it here. It was just as hard to find and just as big as it was last time I was there, and we explored a section that I didn’t get a chance to see last time. Here are some pics:

 

I want my grave to read “Fatums” when I die.

If all of that isn’t creepy enough, this grave has a fucking hole in it. Katie Dog, where are you? That’s a good girl….. aahhh fuck, it’s a zombie.

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So, um, yeah, we saw that movie and we knew it was time to nope the hell out of there. Lipstick said she was glad I hadn’t taken her out to the desert to kill her and make her into delicious blood sausage. I could never do that. She’s like one of those really pretty desserts that you can’t take a fork to because you don’t want to mess it up. However, I don’t think she was reassured much by Katie Dog’s possible resurrection, so it was definitely time to go home.

We’re already making plans for a return trip to Boulder City to check out some museums, and I want to show Lipstick the abandoned airport. And of course another trip to Nelson for the graveyard and the mine tour, plus our friend Chewie was talking about an abandoned boat dock which sounds kinda cool too. And we have trips to Lake Mead and LDS Dixie coming up as well. This is gonna be the summer of historical adventure, so buckle up dear reader, it’s gonna be an amazing ride.

History really is my love language. I’m lucky for all the beautiful souls in my life who fill that bucket. ❤

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Segregation in Neon

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I haven’t posted in like a year because I’ve been living this rich, full, super-busy life. By “rich,” I mean we’re always broke. By “full,” I mean I have three kids who always want something. And by “super-busy,” I mean that those Facebook games are demanding, y’all.

I realized the other day that we’re living on borrowed Vegas time. We were supposed to leave a year ago. We got an extension so DivaTeen could graduate (she did, today), and we are supposed to be leaving for the great unknown this fall. We’re hoping we can stay here for a bit longer, but nothing is certain. And there is a lot that I want to get done while we’re still here. So I’ve got a couple of trips planned and I’m gonna be blogging about them for my entire 2 or 3 readers.

While Diva Teen was applying for scholarships, she had the opportunity to do some community service. We prefer to do things for organizations that benefit local people and don’t get a lot of money or funding elsewhere. We try to stick to smaller, community-based organizations. She does a lot of volunteer work already, but we aren’t great about keeping track of what we do. And the scholarship wanted like actual records and signed sheets and other unreasonable, boring shit. So, we reached out to a couple of friends in the community and were directed to a group called the Rights Society that was working on a community garden project. She also did stuff with Food Not Bombs, Showing Up for Racial Justice, and Nevada Desert Experience, but I wanna talk about the stuff she did for Rights Society today.

The Rights Society is a local Human Rights group that works on a variety of projects here in Vegas. They’ve worked with voter education, criminal justice reform, mental health issues, food distribution, and direct action, just to name a few. I peeped their website and they do SO MUCH STUFF. The folks we met were really great, too, so if you haven’t checked them out yet, do so immediately. They have a website, and they’re also on Facebook.

 

We spent two days at the garden learning how to lay irrigation pipe and filling up planter boxes with soil. It was a lot of fun, and I feel like we learned a skill that will be helpful in the future. The guy who taught us how to lay pipe could probably have done it a thousand times faster without our “help” but he was really patient and just super freaking awesome. Biggest thanks to everyone we met there!

The place where the community garden was being installed was Harrison House in Historic West Las Vegas. In its heyday, Harrison House was a boarding house for Black entertainers during the 1940’s and 1950’s. At this time, casinos on the Las Vegas strip drew high-profile Black performers, such as Pearl Bailey, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, and Sammy Davis Junior. However, the strip was segregated, and Black performers were not allowed to stay on strip properties. After they finished their performances, they would come to the Westside, relax at one of the Black clubs and stay in boarding houses such as Harrison House. Fun Fact: Las Vegas was referred to as the “Mississippi of the West” because of segregation. Which is not a fun fact at all. It’s a super-shitty fact that’s all-too-common in our country’s racist history.

 

In June of 1955, the Moulin Rouge casino opened in the Westside. Its hotel was the first integrated hotel in Las Vegas. It was extremely popular and drew many notable performers, both Black and white. Unfortunately, the owners filed for bankruptcy after about six months. The Las Vegas strip, itself,  remained segregated until 1960, when widespread threats of protest forced hotel owners, city officials, Black civic leaders, and state politicians to meet together to discuss desegregating the properties. In March 1960, the then-closed Moulin Rouge casino was the site of the Moulin Rouge Accord, which ended segregation on the strip.

There are tons of great articles on the Moulin Rouge Casino. Check out this one from Smithsonian, this one from LasVegasNow, and this one from the National Parks Service.

Another fun fact (this one is actually fun): The Moulin Rouge sign was designed by Betty Willis, a designer who worked for Western Neon. During her time there, she also designed another famous sign, the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign that stands at the south end of the strip. The Moulin Rouge sign currently lives in the boneyard of the Las Vegas Neon Museum, which I happened to visit with my parents just yesterday. It’s hard to get good pictures of the sign because it’s SO HUGE, but I managed a few shots. You’re welcome.

 

After segregation ended in Las Vegas in 1960, Black boarding houses like Harrison House became unnecessary. Genevieve Harrison, who owned Harrison House, died three years before the Moulin Rouge agreement was signed. The home fell into disrepair in the decades after her death and was ordered to be demolished by the city in 1983. Somehow, the demolition never occurred, and it was purchased by Katherine Duncan in 2011 who deeded it to Ward 5 Chamber of Commerce. Harrison House is now a community center and a museum – with a garden.

You can find out more about Harrison house on their website or Facebook, or go in and talk to Ms. Duncan if you get a chance. She is an absolute treasure trove of information. I can’t find their hours online, but their contact info is on their website, and I know they are open most days for tours.

I write these blog posts and I try to wrap them up with some kind of little message or insight or whatever, but I’m kind of struggling here. It’d be really cool if I could be like, “And that’s why segregation is bad, thank goodness it’s over.” But I can’t. Because this shit is still happening today. Like right now.

I mean, sure, people of color can legally go places and rent rooms (unless it’s an Airbnb, I guess, then the neighbors might call the cops on you if you’re not white enough). They’re allowed to go into cafes and eat with their friends (but not Starbucks). Neighborhoods have been desegregated for years, so it’s totally normal to see a mixture of folks in your average suburban neighborhood (okay, maybe not in Las Vegas neighborhoods). Recreation segregation is definitely a thing of the past – people of color can absolutely have access to public recreation spaces (oops, not in Oakland).

And that’s the point, you know. We don’t really have de jure segregation anymore. Like, our laws don’t typically mandate segregation (although I would probably argue that our entire fucking country was founded on white supremacist ideas, which is woven into all of our societal systems, including our system of laws). So instead of saying, “It’s illegal for you to be here, non-white person,” we just say, “You don’t belong here. You don’t belong in our restaurants, or our public spaces, or our neighborhoods. And if you are here, we’re gonna call the police to make us feel safe. Even though it might mean that they kill you. Because we don’t even really mean ‘All Lives Matter.’ We just don’t like it when you say ‘Black Lives Matter.'”

I don’t really know how to wrap all of that up into a neat little message, you know?

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