This story of how my wife and I came to move to Las Vegas was originally written for Apatheosis, my fanzine for an apa (Amateur Press Association) called Apathy, which no longer exists. In a conceit of the moment, I began writing this story in third person as though it were a sort of fantasy tale, but, as will be noted, I quickly grew tired of the stylistic effort, which I'm sure grows cold for the reader even sooner than it did for me.
A Moving Tale
By Ross Chamberlain
ONCE UPON A TIME, long ago in the early Spring of 1992, there was a couple that, all unwillingly, lived far apart, he on the easternmost coast of the country, in the City of the Big Apple (also known as Gotham, the Summer Ashtray, or even New York, New York—"The City so nice, they named it twice"), and she some 500 miles away, on the southern banks of a great lake in the northern middle of the nation, in a city sometimes called the Big Plum, the Mistake on the Lake, or, alternatively, Cleveland.
The circumstances of this separation have already been told and retold to the point of tedium, so shall not be rehashed again now; suffice it that neither party desired it and, although brief visits were possible at infrequent intervals, they sought fruitlessly for conditions that would bring them back together again on a permanent basis. Now Ross and Joy-Lynd (for those were their names) had once both resided in New York, N.Y., and there, a quarter of a century before, in the context of a strange, subcultural society called Science Fiction Fandom, had made the close acquaintance of another couple, Arnold (known as Arnie) and Joyce. In the latter years of Ross and Joy-Lynd's habitation in New York, Arnie (surnamed Katz) and Joyce, whose maiden name was Worley, joined in partnership with another friend, Bill Kunkel, to create and publish news about what was then a new phenomenon, computerized entertainment. Their firm was called Katz Kunkel Worley, or KKW for short. In a middle year of the ninth decade*, being sorely taxed in the land of New York, the members of KKW incorporated and sought a new locale for their operations in Western Lands where corporate taxation was minimized. They settled in fabled Las Vegas, which in Spanish means The Meadows, after an oasis once held secret by the Native Americans of that territory. Ross, who had earlier been transferred to Cleveland with Joy-Lynd, had by this time returned to New York alone; when the KKW team left, they allowed as how they would send for him once they were established.
It was not until the first year or so of the final decade of the century that they began to think they were sufficiently settled in and their operations successful enough to consider the prospect of putting up the cost of moving Ross and Joy-Lynd westward. Hopes on all sides were building when, disappointingly, a recession, incited by a brief but expensive war called Desert Storm, delayed it by over a year.
Meanwhile, in the period when the hopes for moving westward had seemingly been dashed, circumstances arose for both Joy-Lynd and Ross that pointed to the need to move from the residences they had been maintaining. In Ross's case, his employer had moved across the great River Hudson to the state of New Jersey, and complications recited elsewhere about the incursion of taxes by both New York and New Jersey prompted Ross to follow suit. For Joy-Lynd, too, changes in employment and the impending cutoff of funds supplied by the national government combined with policies at the public housing where she resided to point to a relocation of residence.
She had found a place and was making preparations to move, and Ross had actually physically made his move, when Joyce passed the word that Katz Kunkel Worley, Inc., was 9944/100% ready to bring the two of them to their Southwestern paradise...
[Author's note: Dear reader, at this juncture the primary author wished to get out of third person mode and into first person, which is, frankly, easier. However, the other participant in this tale, then intending to contribute commentary, registered disappointment at this intention. So we shall continue—but perhaps with less of the mythic atmosphere...and, as it turns out, regrettably, no comments from the distaff partner.]
Needless to say, the telephone call from Joyce surprised Ross a little—and Joy-Lynd when she was apprised of it. As already indicated, they had both about given up on hopes for the Las Vegas move, and thought they were facing continued separate existence of indefinite duration.
There had been positive elements for their prospects. In Ross's case, he was now living in a suburban residential neighborhood, with lots of trees and lawns and things, compared to the brick canyon, traffic-polluted atmosphere of upper Manhattan. His room was twice the size of the rooms he had had for the last couple of years; it was, in fact, formerly the living room of a full apartment. The person he was renting it from, one Enzo Matarazzo, lived in the remaining rooms of the apartment, and they shared a well-appointed kitchen as well as the bath.
Enzo, a very pleasant young (28) fellow, ran a pastry and ice cream shop in town, and shared with Ross a taste for good music. The new New Jersey residence was about 2½ miles from where Ross worked and he was making a regular habit of walking it, both ways—a far healthier regimen than he had been used to, though previously he had frequently walked about a mile across the George Washington Bridge to (and from) work.
He was beginning to see progress in an ongoing effort to get his company to install a computer system for desktop publishing, and had great plans for implementing it. Once the moving expenses and old taxes were out of the way (from the first months of 1992, when he was still a New York resident), his income level would have been somewhat better, and he was even working up the gumption to ask for a raise. [raucous and derisive laughter appropriate at this point]
For Joy-Lynd, a friend had promised to make available to her a sizeable and quite attractive apartment at an incredibly low figure per month. This was especially welcome because Joy-Lynd had already started a new full-time teaching job; the salary sufficient that it would have meant a considerable rent increase at the public housing location she'd been living in since shortly after Ross moved back to New York.
So the two were not exactly prepared for pulling up stakes, folding tents, and moseying off into the unknown. Indeed, if truth be known, Joy-Lynd was far less so than Ross. She had not only developed a substantial circle of friends, but also established herself rather comfortably in Cleveland and environs as a computer expert. She's not only a WordPerfect 5.1 maven, but somehow able to help anyone with nearly any problem that comes up.
Hence, in some ways, when Ross passed the message on to her that the invitation had been made (albeit details to be determined later), it was something of a shock. Not unakin to the jar one gets when one tries confidently to tread on one more step than a staircase actually possesses...
Re-examining the coin reveals a dark side to Joy-Lynd's situation in Cleveland as well; she had increasingly little time to herself. Nevertheless, Ross has, since the moments they actually got under way, discovered a certain mine of guilt over dragging her away from all that. After all, she's had precious little time to be alone since then, as well...
Joyce's call was made in April. She recommended that Ross not give notice quite yet, since KKW's plans were still somewhat in flux; for the same reason Joy-Lynd could not advise the people she was working for right away, either. Both had people they could confide in, happily—people who were supportive about it, if sorry to see them go.
Ross did grab the chance to visit Arnie, Joyce and Bill in Las Vegas over a 'long'weekend, the last weekend in April, paid for by KKW. He and Joyce looked at a number of possible apartments in the neighborhood of the KKW demesne, but all too small for both Joy-Lynd and him and a home office.
He was also introduced to a number of the local science fiction fans at a gala party at the Katz's, that was also a celebration of an anniversary for the hosts. (When Ross and Joy-Lynd eventually arrived in Vegas, they had to be re-introduced, of course.)
To the folks where Ross worked, the trip was assumed to be one of his visits "home" to Cleveland.
As production manager on Quick Frozen Foods International, but with the necessity to give relatively short notice, Ross had to prepare some materials to help his successor take over with minimal personal, interactive help.
Another hat that he wore at QFFI was statistics editor, involving some preparation of tabular data for most issues of the quarterly magazine. But his primary job under that title was to put together the U.S. data for the annual Global Frozen Foods Almanac, a 32-page supplement for the October issue. He'd been doing this for longer than he'd been with QFFI, collecting the same data for the domestic edition, Quick Frozen Foods, from some time in the 1970s. (Who had been his predecessor on this interesting activity? Why, one Arnie Katz, no less!)
Ross had started writing a manual for preparing the Almanac a year or so earlier, on the premise that it would be needed sooner or later. Nevertheless, continually altering circumstances in the approaches required to gather the data forced considerable rewriting, even rethinking, to some extent. The manuscript for this effort wound up quite a few pages long, with all too many topics boiling down to "I can give this much only; the rest you'll have to figure out for yourself."
Fortunately, his successor in that particular operation, one John J. Pierce, is a tenacious reporter and has worked on gathering the international data for several years; Ross has every confidence that JJ will be able to carry it off.
[Subsequent to that writing, as the days dwindled down to a precious few, i.e., 'long about August and September, Ross got several calls from JJ, requesting clarification of some areas. The upshot remained, however, essentially, 'the rest you'll have to figure out yourself.']
The other manual, that for the post of production manager on QFFI, was a pretty straightforward recounting of the things it was necessary to do within the job. Ross did not attempt to write it as a bare job description, but as a kind of chatty how-to-do-it manual, and it ended up at 35 pages, 15 of which were sample documents and forms.
Ross acknowledges that he was quite astonished at how much he actually had been doing in that job!
The company Ross worked for then was a family operation, E. W. Williams Publications Co. Timing for the change was awkward. As it happened, Mr. Edwin W. Williams, publisher, and his son Andrew Williams, vice president (called Andy, but not to be confused with the singer of Moon River), were to be in Europe through most of May. Things were cleared for Ross to be able to give his month's notice on the day before Andy was to leave, a week before his father was scheduled to go. Did I say awkward?
Ross's fears and trepidations about this were, happily, unrealized. Both Williamses took it very well, all things considered, expressing some surprise and disappointment at his leaving, and even concern for his future when he told them that his new post was with a new start-up publication—but no rancor.
In fact, when they put an ad in the Sunday papers (both The New York Times and The Bergen Record), they put in Ross's name as the person to contact. When he arrived at the office that Monday morning, at about 9 (on time, but later than his usual 8:30 to 8:40), he was told that the phones had been ringing off the hook...
He learned fairly quickly how to talk to people who were inquiring about his job, and in fact, he got to the point where he rather enjoyed it. There was no question of actually interviewing them at the office—that would have to wait for the Williams's return—nor was it in Ross's province to give them a salary offer; but discussing what areas of experience and expertise would be required became a pleasurable experience, not unmixed with a degree of insight and pride... and admiration for people who frequently knew some areas and disciplines better than he did.
The senior Mr. Williams returned about a week before Ross's last day—Friday, May 29—but he didn't actually interview anyone until Wednesday or Thursday that week. Ross met only one of the people interviewed, and had a good conversation with her. He had a positive feeling about her and her qualifications, and later learned that she was in fact the one hired.
Meanwhile, back on the packing front, Ross had not been as astute. He had called and received materials from U-Haul, Hertz-Penske and Ryder; Hertz-Penske offered the best deal, with a 10-day limit but unlimited milage, at under $900 for a 14-foot truck, not including insurance, boxes and other such amenities.
Ah, but where Ross had gone wrong was in reading the literature and accepting the statement that a 14-foot truck would be adequate for 2-3 rooms worth of material. What he had forgotten was that he alone had a couple of rooms' worth of stuff in his one room, and that Joy-Lynd had at least five rooms' worth in her two! Not to mention that there was a queen-size bed in storage that should be moved...
And where he goofed again was in not mentioning the size of the truck in one of his nightly phone conversations with Joy-Lynd until it was too late to change it at the local (New Jersey) Hertz-Penske location.
The weekend before he was to move was a hot one, the sun clear and hot, temperatures peaking in the 90s. That Saturday Ross chose to walk down to the North Bergen Hertz-Penske rental location to see if they had yet stocked up on any boxes. Another mistake. On the map it didn't look that much farther from his home than his office. It was, in fact, closer to 6 miles there, and Ross had neglected to wear a hat. (For anyone who has no mental image of the fellow, Ross's forehead and scalp share characteristics with those of Ed Asner and Patrick Stewart.)
When he arrived, Ross found that they had no boxes; Ross, despite knowing he was already in trouble, walked home again, rather than spend a few dollars for a cab. Needless to say, he was not as productive that afternoon and Sunday as he might have liked, and walked into the office that Monday with a crimson scalp—and, despite liberal application of Jergens Lotion with Lanolin and Aloe from Saturday afternoon on, eventually peeled most unappealingly.
On Friday, Ross was treated to lunch at a local Chinese restaurant (his selection) by practically the entire group of his office coworkers. This was both a humbling and ego-boosting event, and while one suspects he did not make the best of it, he did, one hopes, make his gratitude clear to everyone.
He was still packing his office stuff that evening when everyone had left, and in fact did not complete the job until the next day, after he had picked up the truck (a 14-footer; despite hopes and near-assurances, Hertz-Penske had not been able to get in a larger truck for him at the last minute).
The weather was drizzly, and promised to continue that way through the weekend. Saturday night stretched into Sunday morning with Ross still packing. He had hoped to get away about noon Sunday, but midday found him still loading the truck, with a long way to go. In fact, it was not until late Sunday evening that the truck was loaded—about a third full—and his room empty of all but some last stuff to be thrown out. Enzo helped a little at the last and wished him well when, finally, Ross drove away.
Ross had called Joy-Lynd several times during the day, holding off from disconnecting his phone until the very last. They finally agreed to meet for breakfast at a Denny's restaurant in North Olmsted, Ohio; originally the intention had been to have supper there and then drive the truck to a friend's home where they would leave it overnight. Joy-Lynd had long decided it would not be safe to keep it at the complex where she lived.
The drive out of New Jersey began well enough, save that Ross of course somehow departed from Enzo's directions to get to Interstate 80 and found himself driving about 20 miles out of the way before getting onto the proper route. Ross was armed with the last of a couple of 2-liter bottles of soda (Pepsi and Slice) and some iced tea (Snapples), and was confident of driving most of the way without getting too sleepy to drive.
In fact, he was about two thirds of the way through Pennsylvania, or perhaps three fifths of the journey, before he finally decided that it was going to be necessary to pull off the road and nap a bit. And this he did several times over the rest of the trip, stopping behind truck-stop restaurants and in off-highway rest locations five or six different times, totalling perhaps two or three hours' rest, during the last couple of hundred miles through Pennsylvania and Ohio. (For many of those miles he was undoubtedly a significant danger to himself and to all; he looks back on that night and morning with considerable alarm and earnestly promises himself not to get into that position again.)
The last familiar miles into North Olmsted on I-480 West are a bit of a blur to Ross's recollection, but the delight of seeing Joy-Lynd in her booth in the restaurant remains distinct. The two ate a substantial breakfast, then (with the help of several cups of coffee) he, in the truck, followed her in her car through a couple of towns and some narrow streets (be assured—most streets are much narrower than usual when one is driving a large truck!), and into an even narrower driveway, to her friend Melanie's house. There was a kind of concrete platform area where he was able to park the truck without interfering with accessibility by her car or Joy-Lynd's.
Now, for the rest of that day, and indeed for much of the following week, Ross has lost a good many of the pertinent details. The next morning the two were able to upgrade to a 24-foot truck at a local Hertz-Penske location. Ross occupied much of the rest of that morning transferring his junk from the 14-footer, across a narrow ramp between the tailgates. He incessantly bumped his head against the raised door of the smaller truck. However, he was not able to later use these bruises as an excuse to get out of further work.
Melanie's driveway was too narrow for the bigger truck, but to one side there was an unpaved access to the concrete platform, which they used from then on.
Joy-Lynd actually did most of the driving of the big truck. There was a loading platform at the rear of the Senior Highrise (a 19-story building set amidst two-story apartment houses, all part of the public housing complex where Joy-Lynd lived); she ably backed the big van to the platform the first time out, and Ross "let" her continue to prove her expertise on the following two or three days it took to load it up...
Joy-Lynd lived on the 12th floor. The way from the elevator to the loading platform was through the basement. There were only two elevators, one of which was set up to do double duty as a freight elevator. That one could be locked off from general access, so this was done, but it was only possible for a few hours each day, and that had to be between 9 and 5. The street gate to the loading area was locked at 5, so the truck had to be out by then.
Joy-Lynd and Ross did have help. Melanie has an acquaintance, a rather charismatic Texan by the name of Claude, who heads up a small community group of recovering alcoholics who are prepared to do odd jobs for very little money. Two of these offered their services. Ross picked them up in the mornings and drove them home at five in the afternoon.
Tony was quite young, in his early 20s perhaps; Terry was a feisty fellow in his 60s, and both were enthusiastic about their work—
Perhaps over-eager... They would pack anything in sight, including un-emptied ashtrays and at least one bag of trash. Ross had a wide briefcase intended to go with him in the cab of the truck, in which he had put travel stuff, like a new Road Atlas and a camera—it got packed, as did some things Joy-Lynd had put aside for the same sort of thing.
Linda Schalk, another friend of Joy-Lynd's, came over a couple of days to help pack, and she had a friend, Peter, who joined the packing and loading crew.
Without these wonderful people, it would have taken much, much longer, if Ross and Joy-Lynd could have done it alone at all. Much appreciation is due all of them, but more than that, they were good people, and when all that could be done was done, and they left for home for the last time (Linda in her car, and Pete taking Tony and Terry), they were missed.
The residents, of course, were not happy about the elevators being tied up. And there were even members of the building security and maintenance crews who would occasionally steal away the elevator while the flatbed dolly was being unloaded at the platform.
Anyone who has ever moved knows that feeling that the process of packing will never end; that things somehow continue to spontaneously generate in rooms that should be looking emptier as the effort continues. So it was that after all the helpers had left for the last time, Thursday, June 4, Ross and Joy-Lynd were still packing stuff.
They had hoped to get her car attached to the tow dolly the next morning, and then be on the road— but all they could do was keep packing... They were still at it when the time came to pull the truck out of the loading area; a frantic call to the Hertz-Penske rental place got the word that someone would still be there to help with the tow dolly by the time they arrived there. Ross, driving Joy-Lynd's '86 Chevette, tried to follow her in the truck, but lost her at a red light and darn near got lost. Fortunately he was well-enough acquainted with the destination area that he arrived not too long after she did.
It took three or four tries to find a tow dolly whose rear lights would connect to the truck's system and with undefective tire-shackles that would hold the car firmly, etc., but eventually that was done.
Joy-Lynd and Ross parked the truck across a row of parking spaces back of "their" Denny's for a farewell-Ohio supper, then returned to her place and parked on the street outside the complex. Ross stayed with the truck (yes, it was, and is, that kind of neighborhood) while she went in to pack up a last few things and do a last sweep-up.
It was about ten o'clock Friday evening when they rumbled for the last time through the streets of Cleveland's west side and headed down to I-480 West... They drove past North Olmsted, where they'd first lived when they moved to Ohio in '82, and then kept on going.
They didn't get out of Ohio that first night, but stayed in a Best Western motel somewhere off the Ohio Turnpike (I-80) near Toledo. It had originally been Ross' intention to seek out Motel 6's, due to the radio blandishments of Tom Bodette (sp?), but in fact prices at the Best Westerns turned out not to be that much more, and both Joy-Lynd and Ross have (almost) always had excellent experience with the accommodations at Best Westerns. They stayed with that motel chain throughout the trip. [End commercial.]
They had and used a Triple-A Triptik for this journey. It provided some interesting details about what one may see along the way, such as "level to rolling farmlands devoted to grain, hay, livestock and varied industries" and the like. This was, in fact, their typical surroundings for most of the first day, Saturday, as they continued on I-80, transferring from the Ohio Turnpike to the Indiana and, eventually, to the Illinois toll roads.
The cab of the big, yellow van required a substantial step up, but once inside, it had a comfortable bench seat. Centered on it between the travellers they placed a cooler for soft drinks and the like. On the lid Joy-Lynd had attached base grips for covered travel cups she had acquired at a Cleveland Dunkin' Donuts. Experimenting with a couple of other techniques for carrying beverages out where they could be handily reached proved inadequate; the cab jounced and bounced enough that liquid usually found a way to splatter.
The cab was provided with an AM/FM-stereo radio that supplied pleasant music for most of the trip. In most areas they discovered "oldie" stations, playing pop music from the 50s, 60s and 70s; there was an occasional classical music station, but in general the latter's longer pieces would start to break up as the travellers passed out of range, rendering them unsatisfactory listening. So in the long run they stayed with stations offering lighter—and shorter—fare.
Before the trip ever began, Ross had initially hoped to be able to drop in on some people he'd gotten to know on the phone while working for QFFI. The typesetting and prepress operations for E. W. Williams were done at Typehouse of Iowa and American Graphics Service, both located in Cedar Falls. But it turned out that that town was well off I-80, by something like 70 or 80 miles, which would have meant a 150-mile detour at the least. And, besides, it was Saturday, and while it was possible, it would be unlikely they'd be working that day, and if they were, their primary interest would bein getting done with it and home. So Ross kinda waved in a northerly direction as they rumbled between Iowa City and Des Moines.
Ross and Joy-Lynd had thought to stay overnight in or near Des Moines, but it was not to be. It seems there was a Pork Convention in town that weekend, and all the lodging for miles was taken. Sounds like one of those classic humor bits, doesn't it? 'Twarn't funny, McGee...
They learned this at the first Best Western they inquired at, on the east side of town, hoping to check in. The manager tried to help and called around, and in fact he actually found someone with a room available; but Ross and Joy-Lynd thought they'd go on for a while and see if they could get one further west of the city.
Joy-Lynd and Ross stopped at a fine truck-stop, and got some good help from an employee, a woman originally from Ohio.
Long before finding a motel, however, our weary travellers reached a point that they had to stop at a highway rest stop—pulling in next to rows of semis and huge 18-wheelers—and nap for a while, before continuing.
Within a mile after returning to the road, they saw a billboard for a BW motel, only a few miles ahead! Turned out it was also full, but the manager called another one, via CB, that was some 30-plus miles further yet, and that one had a room available. The travellers got directions—it was in a town called Atlantic, some five miles (they were told) off the interstate. That turned out to be reasonably accurate, perhaps, as the crow flies... The road getting to it was longer. Needless to say, they slept well that night.
High Plains Twister
Before the trip, Ross's Iowan acquaintances had warned him that traveling across Nebraska would be a mind-numbingly dull experience. "There's miles and miles of nothing," he was told. This turned out not to be quite accurate, but for reasons probably not anticipated by his advisors.
For one thing, this was the beginning of the high plains. The land was flattening out from Iowa's rolling farmlands, true, but for Ross, at least, it was new country. He had a sense of narrowing horizons, as though there was a great drop off just beyond the low ridges that surrounded them. Sagebrush was just beginning to be a part of the landscape.
The elevation, though neither Joy-Lynd nor Ross yet quite understood it, was also beginning to affect the running of the truck, so that a peculiar racing, howling sound, signalling an apparent loss of power, that had occasionally been heard even back in Ohio, now seemed to be a regular feature.
And as they approached North Platte and Ogallala, the sky became increasingly... interesting. The radio reported a tornado watch for the panhandle area, the northwestern section of the state above Colorado's northeastern corner. Later reports described a fifteen-mile-wide front, with thunderstorms, moving into the Ogallala area. And the western sky ahead of the truck was turning dark.
Dark? Well, this was different from anything Ross had seen before. He'd seen advancing rain clouds and thunderstorms before, and indeed this trip had provided several vistas including such, most passing harmlessly off to one side. But though they were now driving through partially cloudy sunshine, before them was rising something like a great dark dome, illuminated from behind and to the sides. There were normal clouds before and around it, suggesting its vastness. Ross thought it looked like an enormous flying saucer; Joy-Lynd compared it to the spacecloud surrounding Vee-jur, the planet-sized space probe from the first Star Trek movie.
As it came closer, its smooth forward edge surrounded by boiling clouds from Stephen Spielberg's special effects department, its interior seemed composed of a vast grey nothingness in which lightning flashes silently struck, played, disappeared.
Over the years, Ross has had dreams of being surrounded by enormous natural disasters—volcanoes erupting, tidal waves imminent or meteors roaring down from the sky, or, yes, tornados tearing up the landscape—awesome, dangerous powers, but somehow incurring less a sense of helplessness than of presence at events of immense significance. This was the kind of feeling he had now; the big truck, the highway, and even the wide landscape about them irrelevant to that which approached them.
The normally suppressed consciousness of mortality recurred to him and the age-old question fleeted through his head again and again—"Is this it?"—together with the usual ironic, "Now? After all this trouble getting here?" He kept a lookout amongst the clouds for that seemingly innocent little probing point of darkness that could signal the beginning of a funnel...
And then the edge was overhead, the sunlit sky was behind them, and the rain began to fall. Some concern about maybe being hit by lightning remained, but the sense of awe turned into shakes of the head, and "wow, that was something, wasn't it?"—And they were simply driving in the rain.
They soon turned off from I-80 onto I-76, heading south into Colorado. The clouds eased away, and far away, purplish with distance, mountain skylines appeared.
Roadsigns advised trucks to drive in the left lane, flouting all familiar instructions from the Eastern part of the country. The sun set—and set—and... The sunset lasted forever, it seemed, as the two drove on and on toward Sterling, Colorado, where their next scheduled Best Western motel awaited them.
On Monday, they discovered that they were paying higher prices for gasoline. (The truck required standard unleaded gas, not diesel or other exotic fuel.) The wheezing and howling became a regular noise from the engine, and normal grades were noticeably more effort for the truck.
They reached Denver a little before noon, turning and twisting through a maze of connecting roads to transfer from I-76 to I-70. Once on it, they turned their faces confidently toward the mountains. But the truck didn't seem to want to cooperate. Slower and slower it ran, howling and straining. They stopped once, on the shoulder, to let it cool down, and when they started again, after discouraging a wood-be hitchhiker, it seemed to want to go okay for a while.
But the truck was soon back to complaining bitterly, and they exited the highway, stopping at the crest of a hill near a phone, where they called the Hertz-Penske 800 trouble number.
Initially they were told that their truck wouldn't take the altitudes they were approaching at all, and that they would have to change their route south, by way of Albuquerque and Flagstaff. Aside from the possible opportunity to visit Ross's sister Elinor this didn't sit well with either of them, but fortunately, they were finally connected to someone in the Denver office who said he'd come out and check the truck.
They had to wait some time for him to show up. Where they'd stopped had a spectacular valley view—to be overshadowed by later ones, but delightful then. Ross found a pizza place nearby, in a little upscale-rustic shopping center, and got slices for the both of them. Later he took a picture of Joy-Lynd at the truck, using her disposable Panorama camera so as to include as much of the view as possible.
When the Hertz-Penske rep arrived, he drove the truck a little way (Joy-Lynd following in his truck), and pronounced the truck okay. It would make the passes, he told them, including the Eisenhower Tunnel which is at some two miles' altitude, but they'd have to expect the truck to be slow in taking the grades. And while the automatic transmission would handle the upgrades, they'd have to shift to the low gears while descending, taking it as easy going down as they'd been forced to going up.
And thus it was that they got back on their way through the Rockies. Thank all the stars in heaven for the building of the Interstate highways across this grand country of ours. Ross shall be ever grateful that there were none of those dreadful highway stretches where the road is fifteen feet wide with cliffs on either side, one up, one down...
Long, steep downgrades were occasionally outfitted with sandy spurs called "runaway chutes," where trucks that have lost their brakes have a chance of stopping safely. Our travelers made it through without requiring their services.
There were occasional sprinkles of rain enhancing (or interfering with) the sunlit views of green and golden valleys, towering conifer-covered walls (some silver where some blight had passed within recent years), red and silver stone... Ross, who had never previously passed this way, was continuously filled with the awe and delight of visiting these wonders.
They stopped in one small town in one of the valleys to eat (the rustic-themed restaurant had impossibly salty French onion soup, but was otherwise pleasant) and to acquire warmer clothing than they were currently wearing— This was one of those areas where the enthusiasm of the packers in Ohio had overcome the intended prudence of the travelers.
They passed through a couple of the famous skiing resort towns, notably Vale and Aspen. They were running low on gas when they neared Vale, and exited there, hoping to find a gas station. They made one leetle wrong turn, and found themselves driving through tiny streets unable to locate a gas station or even a side road they could navigate; it was very frustrating. Probably even if they'd made the right turn at the start it wouldn't have helped—the truck's 12"1' clearance almost certainly would have been more than any gas station's canopy in that town could have accommodated.
They finally escaped from Vale—as Ross pointed out as they were leaving, their visit there had been to 'no avail' (the good reader probably echoes Joy-Lynd's groan)—and succeeded in locating a gas station a couple of towns further on down the road. There, by driving up alongside the station's canopy, they could reach the gas tank from the pump. These places seem to be designed to discommodate truck traffic.
Indeed, over the course of this trip, Ross and Joy-Lynd actually became fairly adept at maneuvering that big truck together with its '86 Chevette in tow. Ross has learned considerable respect for the drivers of the even huger semis and 18-wheelers.
The landscape gradually changed as the day and the road wore on and they found themselves barreling through lower Colorado and, eventually, upper Utah. Mesas and desert plants appeared, notably sagebrush and joshua trees (which Joy-Lynd thought were cactus and Ross—trying to hark back 45 years to Reg Manning's What Kinda Cactus Izzat?—mistakenly identified as yucca).
A large section of the trip was alongside the Colorado River, some of it through canyons and very scenic passages. In Utah, they went through the Grand River Valley, but by this time it was getting too dark to see much of the surroundings. Some very spectacular and massive highway construction projects were underway along this region. They were running late that day, delayed by the stop outside of Denver and slowed by the truck's oxygen starvation, and did not arrive at the Best Western in Green River, Utah, until very late, about 2 a.m. They actually had to ring the night manager out of bed, and he was understandably not overhappy about it. It was fortunate that they had secured their reservation.
The last leg of their journey to Las Vegas came on Tuesday, June 9. There was about a 100-mile stretch after Green River where there were no services available; this was through some more spectacular landscape—wonderful movie-western desert and rocky canyons, including some considerable ridge elevations (the road atlas calls it the San Rafael Valley and the San Rafael Swell). They stopped at one of the numerous viewpoints, on the edge of a red and golden canyon, where Ross tested his acrophobia, and Joy-Lynd blew a bit of their budget on Indian jewelry—some really beautiful pieces that she would be able to describe better than this writer can.
They reached I-15 toward midday, and drove south through so many miles of semi-desert and Western-style landscapes that they almost became inured to it. At one gas stop they found a Subway Shop, one of Joy-Lynd's favorite food sources in Cleveland, and the first they had seen on their travels. They tried out some of the new 4" round sandwiches, which had not yet been introduced in Ohio when they left.
[Subsequently, her taste for Subway sandwiches has been stifled by stale stuffings; on such occasions as she cares to purchase a sandwich, she gets them at a chain called Port o' Subs that sports fresher makings.]
I-15 passes through a small corner of Arizona, but that corner was enough to rouse the awe again in Ross and Joy-Lynd's nearly jaded visual centers. The highway, built alongside the Virgin River, is cut through some of the most visually stimulating canyon landscape this side of the Grand Canyon, with stone walls of all colors looming incessantly overhead. It was both a relief and a disappointment when, a few miles before the Nevada border, they emerged onto (relatively) plain desert.
Ross compared the last miles before Las Vegas as reminiscent of L. Frank Baum's fabled Deadly Desert surrounding Oz. It seemed interminable, though they were already fascinated by the number of resorts and casinos built out in the apparent middle of nowhere, not to mention the billboards advertising attractions in the city. They'd actually been seeing the billboards since fairly far back into Utah.
At last they broke through the edge of the mountains surrounding Las Vegas. It was a shame in some ways that they had not timed it for dusk—Joy-Lynd had been reminiscing about how, the first time she had driven into the city at night, and well before seeing the city, the sky looked like day. When she'd come through the pass, the blaze of lights stretching for miles and miles across the valley floor was wondrous and amazing.
[They have since made the trip out of town especially for the view, which is properly awe-inspiring. Happily, because their present home is on a considerable elevation, there are areas nearby where excellent, if not quite as extensive, views may be found; the Strip is gloriously glittering in the early evening!]
On this Tuesday afternoon, there was a slight haze across the city, whose subdued glitter came only from the sun on windows and cars. But its extent across the valley ahead of them was indeed impressive.
They had directions for finding the home of Arnie and Joyce Katz, and thus got their first taste of Las Vegas streets and traffic... Different in a variety of ways from that in other towns or parts of the country, such as the width of the streets, which is typically western, but not in any real essence.
There are arrogant drivers everywhere, I suppose...
Arnie and Joyce made them welcome, took them out to dinner and put them up (or up with them) until they found and moved into their new apartment.
The truck and its appendant vehicle were meanwhile parked across the street from the Katz's lovely home, no doubt a blight on the residential neighborhood—but apparently nobody complained.
The next morning, Joyce, Joy-Lynd and Ross went to a realtor (Joyce driving) to get a listing of three-bedroom homes. There weren't that many—Vegas is crazy about two-bedroom domiciles. The city has literally hundreds of apartment and condo complexes, most containing two-story stucco quasi-Spanish style buildings within walled-off blocks. But the realtor was only able to find about three that had three-bedroom apartments available.
The need for a third bedroom came from the fact that while Ross was going to be working for KKW, he was presumably going to do so largely out of his home. It would be necessary to set up one room as a legitimate home office. The extra rent, it seems, could be more than offset by the tax benefits.
It came down to two of the three locations. All such apartment complexes have rental offices, staffed by people who can describe the benefits and requirements for prospective tenants. At the third complex they visited, located in an exclusive area unaccountably called The Lakes, my dear, this office was manned by an officious and persnickety little snot of a man who must have been hired simply to keep people away. It certainly worked with our protagonists.
[Actually, there are a lake or two of sorts, there, centered in some of the developments, with docks for all the houses on it—I say!!]
Of the remaining two, one was a tad more luxurious than the other, with rent to match. The reader must understand that, to Ross and Joy-Lynd, although the rents being asked were at least double anything they had ever had to pay before, what they were getting would have cost thousands per month in the New York or Boston metropolitan areas, and maybe even in Cleveland.
Closer examination showed some advantages to the "cheaper" one, such as a larger patio, gas stove in the kitchen rather than electric [this has to do with what they call "balanced" energy], built-in microwave, etc.
So the one they selected was the one called Canyon Lake Apartments, located at 2200 S. Fort Apache Road. It's next to The Lakes, actually, several miles west of the center of town (as with the roads of the ancient Roman empire, in Las Vegas all things are measured from The Strip).
Bypassing here the mundane process of making the arrangements to live there, the next trick was to actually get moved in.
After getting Joy-Lynd's car unhitched from the truck, and Ross began the process of getting some first things out of the truck and into the apartment, Joyce and Joy-Lynd sought out helpers. There are parts of town where one may go to find unemployed people who do this kind of work.
They came back with a couple of guys, both very pleasant. One looked like a former football player, with a great scar where he'd evidently had knee surgery at one time. Claimed to be a musician, though... said he expected to have a rock band one day.
They knew their stuff, and helped get the truck unloaded in only a few hours.
As of this writing, over a year later, Joy-Lynd and I have still not completely unpacked, and occasionally look for missing things that are hopefully only still in boxes.
The job process was complicated by the lack of a second vehicle. In the mornings I go to what, by day, are the KKW offices (at night, they turn into...ta-daa!...the Katz's home!) to do some work there, and to pick up materials to bring back. When I took the car this left Joy-Lynd without transport for varying portions of the day, which led to some cabin fever.
So until the end of July now she had been driving me to work, while she sought regular employment and needed to have her car available during the day. I mulled the idea of bicycling the 8 miles to the Katz's... Neither Joy-Lynd nor Joyce Katz were sanguine about this idea, suggesting that it could prove fatal under the Las Vegas sun. (Not to mention the weird ideas some folks around here have about driving.)
For a while, the prospects looked good for her to do some teaching at Southern Nevada Community College, starting in January, but cutbacks in state funding apparently put the kibosh on that. But after a lot of tutoring jobs in WordPerfect and an unfortunate start at a full-time teaching job at a private business school (lost to incompetence at the school), Joy-Lynd finally has a new, paying job as Executive Assistant and Volunteer Coordinator at a non-profit watchdog organization called Citizen Alert. She's absolutely delighted with it, and all indications are that they're delighted with her.
With the advent of Joy-Lynd's new job it became highly desirable to acquire means of separate transportation for the both of us. Arnie and Joyce decided that KKW Inc. could help out with a loan for the purpose, and friends Ron and Raven had an 'extra' car that, with some reluctance, they thought they could part with.
A white, four-door 1978 Pontiac Grand Am now sitteth in our parking spot looking genteel, if a bit shopworn. Raven insisted on having some work done on it before letting it go, but there are some repairs, both cosmetic and otherwise, that we will need to take care of ourselves. We will be paying for it all for a while...
Joy-Lynd will be driving it, while I take over the grey Chevette, but I have no problem with this at all. The major hassle of having a second car (not counting financially) is that in this apartment complex, each apartment has but one assigned parking spot, and the Grand Am will go there. Thus I will be reduced to scrounging one of the relatively few unassigned spots every time I take the Chevette out.
For some reason, despite increasing familiarity, there's still little sense that Las Vegas is "home." As we drive back and forth, the surrounding mountains, while scenic, are alien. So are the occasional palm-lined streets, the walled communities with their ticky-tacky stucco, and the downtown glitz.
For a long time, except in or immediately approaching the Strip area, no matter where we drove we had the sense of heading out of town! This got me lost a couple of times when we were first getting acquainted with the area.
The much-vaunted "dry heat" of the area has in recent years been yielding to higher humidity levels, owing to the enormous influx of population and its concomitant building boom—including pools, both swimming and decorative, along with waterfalls, fountains and other ornamental uses at the exteriors of casinos and luxury developments. In my first visit, a native resident told me that he remembered the humidity averaging around 5% and hardly ever reaching above 10% or so (presumably in summer); in contrast, this summer and last it seldom got below 10% and frequently reached into the 30's. Over the winter and spring, it frequently reached well up into the 50s, 60's and more even on clear days, and we had some periods of heavy rainfall in February and early spring.
When you're talking about temperatures in the upper 90s and, for a period in late July and early August, regularly reaching over 100 and often hitting 110, it can become debilitating when it's necessary to go outside. Even at lower humidity levels, driving with the windows open in such weather is reminiscent of pointing a blow-dryer at one's face.
We were pleased to find that, apparently, no roaches succeeded in making the transit to Nevada, and ecstatic to find none awaiting us—though this may be a happy function of the location in a "luxury" community, where maintenance is assiduously attended to. Silverfish, which I hadn't seen since living in Texas, are a nuisance, and last summer Joy-Lynd found the constant chirping of crickets an annoyance. This happily did not recur this year.
Electronic Games, meanwhile, is doing fine. The first issue, dated October 1992, went on the stands at about September 1, on schedule. There were a few glitches in the premiere number, not the least of which was that 'September 1992' appeared on the masthead/colophon column. We are working on the October 1993 issue now, and while it hasn't grown as much as we'd hoped, it's maintaining a steady sale. All in all everybody's pleased with the way it has been turning out, and the word is it's doing okay on the newsstands...though not on enough of them, to judge by reports from various quarters that people aren't finding it.
I had some interesting times not just learning how to use the Macintosh, but plunging right into QuarkXPress, one of the major desktop publishing systems. I am getting more comfortable with the computer itself, though its flexibility and power, and those of Quark, seem to come at a high price. Literally and figuratively.
Not all of my time has been spent working in the monthly deadline crunches, though it sometimes seems like it; sometimes I almost miss the quarterly schedule we had at QFFI! Arnie and Joyce hold monthly "socials," gatherings for the numerous friends they've accumulated in their four-plus years here—not just science fiction fans, but also people who have gravitated to them through the electronic gaming world and the process of friends-of-friends who find the gatherings congenial.
The local SF fan club also recently hosted a small regional convention, with well-known fans from as far away as northern California attending. I've never been wholly relaxed with large fan gatherings, but on this occasion I think I probably had the best time of my entire involvement with the fannish microcosm! This was in no small part because I was actually introduced to the crowd as a well-known fan, right along with others whom I've heard of for many years but never met! It was a very flattering and egoboosting experience!
Joy-Lynd, meanwhile, has garnered a considerable circle of friends and acquaintances, some of whom overlap the fannish circles, like Ron and Raven, but many of whom we've met through the local PC Users Group. We go to monthly gatherings (I less frequently, actually), and she has some special interest group meetings that she particularly likes to go to and which I tag along to now and then. This summer she actually took over the SIG on WordPerfect and did quite well with it.
Her new job may interfere with this occasionally, since it sometimes involves evening meetings, but on the whole this is A Good Thing for both of us.
There is more news, but it's past time to get this printed and away. Au revoir!
Many things have changed since then, with Electronic Games subsiding after three years to the Old Magazines Graveyard (the Chicago-based publisher decided to take it in-house, change its name, and succeeded in improving it right out of existence). Arnie and Joyce are doing well now with the Collecting Channel online, but the pace is far beyond my capability (I didn't really do all that well with EG, if truth be known). Joy-Lynd reluctantly left Citizens Alert under circumstances all too frequent in non-profit organizations: office politics. We've lost track of the PC Users Group, though we see one or two of the people from there every once in a while. WordPerfect has gotten out of hand, and while Joy-Lynd and I still use it, as part of WP Suite 8, she no longer attempts to tutor anyone in it. We moved from the apartment complex which, when we moved there, was almost literally at the edge of town; it's now been swallowed up in the Valley's expansion, with one of the nicer shopping centers across the street where there had been empty land. The "Grande Dame" too is gone, as is the Chevette, both victims of the desert heat and, in the case of the Chevette, my inexperience with auto maintenance. They've been replaced by a Ford station wagon and a Hyundai. So, as Kurt Vonnegut once reiterated, it goes. — RC 6/99 Our house is a couple of miles from where Arnie & Joyce lived. The Collecting Channel pretty much succumbed to the "dot-com" bust, and was acquired by another organization. The above link may still work, I hav't checked recently, but Arnie & Joyce, and the staff of writers they headed up, including many of our friends from fandom, found themselves no longer affiliated with the site. So just this fall, Arnie & Joyce, too, have moved to another lovely home, but one less expensive to maintain. And we're still pretty glad we moved here. So far, so good, as I reply to everyone who asks how we're doing...
Update 10/25/03: About the time that last update was written I'd started working as a customer service rep for a company called Edison Security, which was later acquired by ADT Security Services. I lasted with them up to this last September. In the meantime, however, using as down payment the large part of a legacy, we bought a house. It has a pool, several rooms, in a pleasant, lower-middle-class neighborhood. Our mortgage is quite a bit less than we were paying for rent, but although I've reached retirement age we can't afford for me to "stay" retired, so I'm looking for work again. The station wagon is gone; I'm driving a two-door Sentra now that gets much better mileage.
And as of 4/4/13, nearly ten years later than the last update, I've been working for over nine of them at Fry's Electronics, though the future of that, in the current economy, is also in flux. We're down to one Hyundai, a newer one; due to her health Joy-Lynd isn't driving any more. The pool is defunct after we were screwed over on the last attempt at maintenance. Arnie & Joyce are still where they moved to, and so far are still hosting fan gatherings twice a month, which is about as often as I get to see them.
Our house is a couple of miles from where Arnie & Joyce lived. The Collecting Channel pretty much succumbed to the "dot-com" bust, and was acquired by another organization. The above link may still work, I hav't checked recently, but Arnie & Joyce, and the staff of writers they headed up, including many of our friends from fandom, found themselves no longer affiliated with the site. So just this fall, Arnie & Joyce, too, have moved to another lovely home, but one less expensive to maintain.
And we're still pretty glad we moved here. So far, so good, as I reply to everyone who asks how we're doing...