Sam’s Town

I’m torn on Sam’s Town. I’ve early memories of trips into Darkest California, taking US50 on the long trip up the jagged cliffs between South Shore and Sac. On the trip, we’d stop at Sam’s Town in Placerville[1].

Maybe it was Placerville. People I know throw names of California towns at me as if I’d spent more than a combined thirty days in that awful, awful state. Honestly I couldn’t tell you a Stockton from a Brentwood from a Turlock if you put a revolver to my head and thrust a map into my lap.

Anyhow, the Sam’s Town I know – that I recall from the haze of two decades and a million miles – knew, was one of dollar hot dogs, a smoke-filled bar full of old men smelling of Old Spice, peanut shells on the floor crunching under your shoes and that sound most delightful to the ears if any child brought up in the Reagan Years: the electronic cacophony of FM synth.

Eight bit arcade games were the order of the day at the Sam’s Town of my memories. Namco, Konami and Data East were the names. Sam’s Town was a playground for the arcade-obsessed children and manchildren of the ’80s and my few trips there were memories as cherished as time spent with loves lost and family deceased.

Flash forward nearly a quarter century and again I find myself staring at a familiar Old West-y typeface glowing it’s intense red neon glow against a familiar field of white. Sam’s Town, golden place of my memories, Arcadia Of My Youth, we are reunited.

I navigate into the parking structure and as I approach the elevators, I’m met by, nay challenged by a particular sign, a warning plaque that bears wording every bit as grim as those warning open mine shafts and imminent crocodile attacks: no firearms allowed.

Hey, fuck you, Sam’s Town.

Ha ha. The library and courthouse say the same thing. Difference is, those are Government buildings and carrying there will end you up in prison whereas all private property here in Nevada can do is ask you politely to leave. Fuck off, Sam's Town.

See, I’ve been asked why I, out of all the places in the country, nay the world I could have chosen to relocate, why I picked Las Vegas. And it basically boils down to this:

1: the climate is great. Having lived in Reno/Tahoe my whole life, If I never see another flake of snow as long as I live, it’ll be too soon, and
2: Las Vegas is the craziest, most batshit bonkers place in the Union, full of some of the lamest, most hilarious people of whom to make fun. Vegas basically is a Saturday in The Haight every night. Full of the most interesting, entertaining people to watch make complete jibbering assholes of themselves and
3: I get to carry my firearm.

There are three objects which are never, ever out of reach, my cell phone, my flashlight and my pistol. Whether it’s a J-frame in a pocket holster or a Glock autopistol in a nice leather inside-the-waistband holster, a pistol is never out of reach. And I’m not the only one, practically everyone I know, from a sweet-natured grandmother in her sixties to a hot-headed filipina hustler all carry. It makes us feel safer, knowing that our lives and the lives of our loved ones are in our hands and not someone else’s.

Man how did that get there? Der waffen ist verboten!

Like all martial disciplines, carrying a firearm is no different than studying ju jitsu or learning boxing. You don’t do it to get in trouble, but to learn to avoid trouble, to spot the places where trouble congregates and deftly avoid it. None of us, nobody to whom ascribes to any martial discipline are particularly looking for a fight, but damned if they’ll go into one underprepared if one comes looking for them.

‘sides there’s all that “inherent rights” shit that those who wish to control us wish to strip from our very bones like a school of hungry Amazonian piranha. So fuck the bullshit, up the irons, I carry expressly because you, and fucksticks like the shitcocks that run Sam’s Town don’t want me to.

Entering Sam’s Town, I immediately was overtaken by that sense of foreboding dread, that feeling of nostalgia ruined. The Sam’s Town I remember was a fun place, a delightful throwback to Old West Victoriana, with gilt print wallpaper and rough hewn woodwork and bars with peanut shells on the floor. The Sam’s Town I remember was a tacky tourist trap dive that didn’t seem so cunningly, cynically engineered by a group of market testers and focus groups to meet the requirements of a client looking to build a theme park rendition of what people think the Old West was like, it just was.

This Sam’s Town, the one on Boulder Highway and Tropicana is exactly that. So cold and calculated to resemble people’s half-memories of what they thought Victorian Times were like here in the Old West, which Honestly I find amusing in itself since the architecture design here is more reminiscent of Post-1906 San Francisco than 1880s Nevada – which according to the signage around the property is what they were going for, rooms are named Tonopah, Goldfield, Mesquite, Carson and Virginia City.

Enclosed facade surrounding the animatronics park. All these windows are facade only, there's nothing behind them - a complete photographic metaphor for this entire city.

The casino floor wraps around an enclosed park, skylights overhead let through the dazzling yellow light from the beating desert sun but keep out the soft breeze and occasional gentle desert rain. The park is one depicting transplanted florae and animatronic faunae that (aside from the one lone Bighorn) do not reside anywhere near this casino property. Supposedly every hour there’s a show, but I ain’t gonna stick around in this rutty joint long enough to catch it. Having been involved with lame casino animatronic shows, I can tell that it pretty much involves follow spots moving around, shining gobos through fog machines while the robot bald eagle gives a speech about the majesty of the wide open terrain of the Wild West, completely unaware of the irony of its situation, being completely enclosed within an empty facade.

View down on the park from inside the glass elevator.

Facade. Now I’ve used that word before to disdainfully describe my feelings toward the empty, soulless casinos here in Vegas, and if that word can be used to aptly describe anything, it describes this park around which Sam’s Town wraps.

See, you’d think that all these windows would be the hotel rooms, looking out onto the lame little park below from behind an approximation of the San Francisco-style attached townhouse high rise apartment motif the place is going for, but they aren’t. This entire property is ringed by an empty facade, a fraudulent depiction of success and wealth and business. To think that this tiny casino off on the edge of Las Vegas would be one to house a thousand room hotel is preposterous. It’s as if the owners and operators of this casino knew that they’re smallest of the small fry and they needed to build themselves a big presence to flex their muscles to the rube tourists who blind booked a room on Travelocity and ended up stuck at Sam’s Town. “At least we’re not in a lame small hotel.” They’d lie to themselves.

Sam’s Town is emblemic of why I find this city so distasteful. Style over substance, flash over bang, sizzle over steak. It’s the dead empty eyes of a heroin addicted stripper begging for you to pay attention to her and throw a twenty her way while she debases herself for a pittance of a handout.

There’s no class, no elegance, no refinement or grace, it’s just a shitty dive in a shitty part of a shitty city. Fuck Sam’s Town. The arcade here is a piece of shit too. How come every one of these casinos has the same six games and no Neo Geo MVS to be seen anywhere?

[1] recollection fuzzy, made more so with Dewar’s and menthol cigarette smoke.

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One Response to “Sam’s Town”

  1. Thanks Says:

    Someone with as much bitterness and anger as you needs therapy or is headed down the path to being a serial killer. Scary personality you possess.

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