The Mighty Truckee’s Finer Ladies

Spring is really the best time to visit Reno Nevada.  The snow is just beginning to melt, meaning that the Truckee River is wild and dangerous and beautiful.

Above is the RiverWalk, a popular place on a sunny day.  As you can see off in the distance, there’s still plenty of snow to melt on the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

These two kayakers wisely chose to paddle to shore instead of attempting to run the set of engineered rapids downstream used for professional kayaking competitions.

Along the river some of Reno’s older and more interesting houses have managed to survive the ravages of the Mighty Truckee.


The building above was once an elementary school and now serves as a art center.

The Lear Theatre may not look like much but it has an interesting history.  It was designed by Paul Revere Williams who famously lamented that most of buildings he designed he could not enter. You see, he was the first African American to be honored by the Architectural Institute.

Before it was a theatre it was a church attended by the Moya Lear, the wife of William Powell Lear of Lear Jet fame. Besides being the wife of a brilliant man, she was also the daughter of vaudevillians and apparently thought the need for theatrics more important than the need for church and bought it. Unfortunately this building is not in the best part of town and they’ve had to surround it with a chain link fence to prevent vandalism.


Across the river and high on a hill sit decaying mansions once owned by the town’s prominent citizens. A few have been extensively remodeled but today people with money prefer to live far from Reno’s squalid old town with it’s pawn shops, casinos and bail bondsmen on every corner.

Above, for Norm Frampton’s ThursdayDoors extravaganza, is the one door I was able to get a clear shot of.

This rather gloomy building always brings bittersweet memories.  It is Saint Thomas Aquinas Cathedral where for years my best friend’s mother attended Mass every single morning and then wandered the streets ministering to the drunks sleeping it off in alleyways.  She spoke for God whose language she alone knew.

Here’s a better shot from Bing Images. It’s not Notre Dame, that’s for sure but then it’s not in Paris.  It’s two blocks from the El Dorado Casino and the heart of Sin City North (Reno’s nickname).

Voting from the Great Beyond

I haven’t been posting lately because I’ve been trying to finish the latest incarnation of Flipka into which I’ve rolled a sequel. Will the sequel answer many reader questions? I don’t know.  Will it be less wacky than the first of which one reviewer wrote:

 

The wacky, utterly unbelievable plot is, however, merely the vehicle for JT Twissel to demonstrate her enviable skill set.

All I can say is, I tried. But how can I write “believable” plots set in a state that elects dead pimps to govern? By a landslide, I might add. 

 

Meet your new legislature Nevada!

Was the other candidate so terrible that the fine citizens of Pahrump are going dig up a corpse and send it to the Nevada legislature?

 

According to this tweet, Dennis Hof, who wrote The Art of the Pimp and was known as the Trump of Pahrump, is going to vote from the “great beyond.”

I know Republicans in Nevada got massacred tonight, but my man Dennis Hof crushed his opponent from the great beyond in AD-36 & we crushed the anti-brothel initiative in Lyon County by about 80%. So pardon me, but I’m celebrating.

Fictional whores celebrating their dead pimp’s glorious victory!

I know those tea party folks have a few wacky ideas, like believing that Donald Trump is the second coming of Jesus Christ, but do they really think the Nevada legislature is going to allow a ghost to vote?  And, how am I going to fit this twist into one of the unbelievable plots of which I am so enviably skilled?

 

The Beatles’ Slept Here (or not)

Last week I wrote about the legendary Mapes Hotel in downtown Reno Nevada. Well, if you cross the Truckee River and walk down a block you’ll run into another landmark hotel, the Riverside.

The Riverside. Today, low cost artist lofts and studios.

The Riverside. Today it contains low cost artist lofts and studios.

As you can see, it’s a good, solid structure, almost boring in design. However, at one time it was more notorious than the Mapes.  Not because it was a rocking, rioting fun place to stay but for a different, almost more scandalous, reason.

The current structure was built in 1927 reportedly on the spot where the city of Reno was founded in 1861.  During its heyday (1930 to approximately 1950) its select clientele stayed in two or three bedroom suites on the upper floors which were equipped with kitchenettes and had been designed specifically for them.  Generally they were women traveling alone or with children and servants in tow.  Many books and movies set during that time contain references to the Riverside including the “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand and the movie “The Women.”th-4

Another clue to the hotel’s notoriety (if you haven’t guessed yet), the old courthouse is virtually right next door. 

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Lobby of the Riverside from Historic Reno

After the women no longer needed to trek to Reno for its special services, the hotel went into a tailspin and by the time I knew of its existence it was a moldy though dignified and staid sort of place where one’s grandparents might stay.  Finally it closed in 1987.  But, unlike the Mapes, preservationists prevailed and the building now serves a community of artists and has an organic coffeeshop in the lobby. What an interesting life that old gal has had!

As to why the Riverside has a place in my heart, well, according to a popular urban myth the Beatles once stayed in one of those multi-room suites on the sixth floor. Only, I know it never happened. It was just the mind fart of a couple of silly girls that somehow got out of control, resulting in an assault on the sixth floor of the Riverside.  Unfortunately the word got out at school and for years after I was the butt of many jokes.

I left Reno shortly after high school and only returned for short visits with my family thus I rarely saw any of my old classmates. So when I found out at my 10 year reunion that the kids who’d made fun of me now firmly believed (and supposedly had evidence) that in October 1965 the Beatles hid out in the Riverside Hotel, I felt like I was on an episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  Even when I told them it was hokum, they stuck by their stories. I, the instigator, was irrelevant.  The story had a life of its own and was now entrenched in the minds of people who wanted to believe. (I fictionalized the whole thing a few years back on Wattpad.)

So if you haven’t guessed the Riverside’s claim to fame, here’s one last clue: For many years the phrase “I’m going to Reno” meant only one thing and it generally wasn’t something any man wanted to hear.

#ThursdayDoors: Reflections

 

CasinoDoors

Typical casino door, Reno Nevada. Many are designed to look classic, old world and decadent. Emphasis on ‘decadent’

The following is my submission to Norm Frampton’s Thursday Doors blog challenge.

For the past three days I’ve been in Reno, Nevada wrapping up my mother’s affairs so that she can transition to her next phase of life.  I’ve been doing this basically since June.  I have to admit, I’m no saint.  Things get tense.  I’m a planner; she’s a “free spirit.” (This hasn’t always been the case. She was an accountant. But at her age, planning a busy day is confusing, tiring and so she refuses to participate and becomes irritated with me when I insist we stick with a plan.)

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Reflections from the pool where the lifeguards are statues of Greek gods.

I was raised in Reno so you’d think I’ve spent a lot of time in the casinos. But the truth is, unless employed by one, most Nevadans steer clear of the clubs except to see a show or eat out.  However, because this trip was bound to be arduous, we decided to splurge and stay at the Peppermill Resort which is famous for its pools, spa, and restaurants. The casino is gaudy, bizarre and everything in between but the pools were heavenly and the rooms quiet, roomy and luxurious.

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It’s impossible to return to your childhood home without many reflections, some warped yet strangely beautiful.

 

 

 

The Girl Behind The Window

Cartrights

Pa (Ben), Adam, Hoss and Little Joe Cartwright -not the dudes most people associate with Halloween but I do!

Dear Readers – I wrote this post a few years back to honor Nevada’s 150th birthday. which was on October 31, 2014. Yes, arguably the nation’s wackiest and most haunted state was admitted to the union on Halloween.  Happy Birthday Nevada.


One of the best things about growing up in Reno was we got Halloween off from school. If the 31st fell on a Saturday or Sunday, we’d get the following Monday off.  If weather permitted, we kids would run down to the main drag (Virginia Street) to see the Admittance Day parade hoping to get a glimpse any celebrities who happened to be in town and there were generally quite a few.  Among the many I saw were Red Skelton, Wayne Newton, Bertha and Tina (performing elephants), Bob Newhart and Shari Lewis (with Lambchops, of course.)

However, the Cartrights (from the TV show Bonanza) were the only regulars. I suspect their appearance was mandated by their publicists to prepetuate the myth that the show was actually filmed in Virginia City and not LA. However, the Cartwrights really did know how to ride horses. Little Joe, the cute one, always rode a pinto (and who cared about the other Cartwrights.)

They’re all dead now and probably no one under 60 remembers their show. But Halloween will always mean the Cartwrights riding down Virginia Street.

Bowers

Bowers Mansion

There are many haunted places in Nevada as it has over 80+ ghost towns, however, my favorite is Bowers Mansion.  It was built in the valley between Reno and Carson City by Sandy Bowers, a man who struck it rich during the mining boom and his eccentric wife, Eilley. Rumor has it that their daughter, Persia, who died tragically at age twelve, haunts the children’s playroom on the second floor. However it could be Eilley, who, after her husband died broke, told fortunes and had seances in the mansion. Eventually she lost her home to debtors and moved to San Francisco where she died penniless and desparate. Nevada is full of tragic boom and bust stories like hers.

munch

Girl in the Window, Edvard Munch

To the right of the mansion is a county-owned picnic ground and swimming pool where I spent many an afternoon within view of the children’s playroom, Sometimes I could feel Persia Bowers watching me, always hungering for the life I lived. If I felt brave, I’d walk up to the tiny graveyard which holds the remains of the Bowers family.  Strange things are said to happen up there: cameras refuse to work and a chill air prevails all year long. But it’s the overwhelming sadness of the place that always gets to me.

Okay, just to embarrass my children, here are some my favorite ghouls:

BooBoo

Bridget as ???

DemonsandAngels

Demon with funky angels

Girls

Keisha, Flapper Girl and Maitre’d?

Pinnochio

Pinnochio

PanchoVillaKatie

Katie, the babysitter, as Pancho Villa

Five Weddings, No Funerals

Weddings are such interesting affairs….

girls

New friends

Sometimes you meet new friends. Sometimes you act silly with old ones.

sillyjane

Old friends

But, something always goes wrong, despite all manner of planning. And let’s be honest.  Don’t we all attend weddings hoping to see something go awry? Thinking in our evil little minds how cool it would be if the best man got drunk and said something wildly inappropriate in his toast!  And aren’t we just a wee bit disappointed with weddings that go exactly as planned?

At my brother’s first wedding, the amateur cameraman inserted the film backwards, thus there are no pictures of the event, which is just as well. It was such a hot day that two bridesmaids fainted at the altar. I was the only one left standing in my fuchsia frock, sweating like a pig.  I couldn’t wait to get out of that chapel until I realized that the adjoining reception hall was also not air-conditioned. Let me tell you, a four layer wedding cake does not fare well in temperatures hovering around 103 degrees. The frosting melts and it slides.

My sister got married in a church in Virginia City Nevada.  Virginia City is known to old-timers  as the hangout of the Cartwrights, owners of the  Ponderosa, a cattle ranch just outside the town as depicted in the 1950s television show “Bonanza.”  Of course, as any Nevadan can tell you, there are no large cattle ranches outside of Virginia City, especially any which also border on Lake Tahoe!

If the Cartwrights actually owned that much of the north shore of Tahoe they would have been able to buy Switzerland.

The Ponderosa. If the Cartwrights actually owned that much of the north shore of Tahoe they would have been able to buy Switzerland.

My father was in charge of  transporting three things up to Virginia City: the bouquets, the bride, and the matron of honor (me).  My father was absent-minded  and therefore rarely entrusted with important tasks, however, my mother thought this to be an assignment even he could not bungle. Ha! He fooled her. He arrived at my mother’s house a little early with a bottle of chilled champagne he thought would relieve the stress of the upcoming event and we drank it. Guzzled would probably be more accurate.

It wasn’t until the organist began the Wedding March that I realized we’d forgotten something.  I had nothing to hold in my hands. I wiggled my fingers together a few minutes before it dawned on me – we’d left the bridal bouquets in Reno, a forty-five minute drive.

“Psssst! No flowers!” I whispered to the folks sitting at the rear of the church. Giggling they passed the “pssst” up to the front, alerting my mother to the catastrophe. She hastily pulled a few daisies from the arrangements at the altar and brought them back to us, all the while scowling at my father.  Did I mention my parents were divorced?

hairdo

Me getting “done” for my daughter’s wedding.

Wedding disaster #3: My daughter decided to get married in Hawaii.  Also during a heat wave.  Thus, when it came time to get my hair done, I begged the stylist to pull my unmanageable mop up and off my neck.  Of course, it refused to cooperate.  It took several thousand hairpins and three cans of ultra strength hair spray to get it into shape. During the wedding I could feel melting plastic rolling down the back of my neck. After the wedding I should have removed the pins and washed my hair but alas I flopped into bed drunk and exhausted.  I awoke the next morning with my head glued to the pillow case. Strands of hair, which had escaped the my coif formed a spider’s web across my nose, eyes and lips which stuck to my skin like crazy glue.  I couldn’t hear a thing.  Thankfully none of the many geckos running around our rental house fell unto my head during the night otherwise I would’ve looked like a lizard-headed Medusa.

Mayberry

Mighty suspicious looking sunglasses, son!

At my son’s wedding, in tiny Hudson New York, heat was not a problem however the day of the wedding the cellist, who’d come out from the west coast to play at the wedding, was arrested and taken to the police station  (think Mayberry RFP) apparently because the sunglasses he wore matched the description of a pair worn by a local robbery suspect. Luckily the cellist had a day job back in Reno.  He was a fireman.

Anna

Anna in front of the factory

During the reception the skies let loose.  Thunder and lightening shook the old factory where the wedding had taken place, followed by a hard rain from which the sieve-like roof provided little protection.  Luckily it was a brief downpour.

All in all my brother’s wedding in Reno went very smoothly.  Mother was a bad girl, of course, refusing to sit where she was supposed to. But everyone expects a bit of bad behavior from Mother.

 

 

Win a Prize! Or take a ride…

The answers – along with links (in some cases) to more details.

1. At the end of WWII which group of pilots unnerved German infantrymen so badly they were called the Nachthexen?

Bi plane

WW II plane responsible for disrupting the sleep of German soldiers, the eerie sound of the guide wires as the planes glided over head, called “The Whistling Death.”

a. American Red Tails
b. British RAF
c. A group of barely trained Russian women flying crop dusters.
d. Aliens

2. Who owns 84% of Nevada?

a. Federal Government
b. The casinos
c. Howard Hughes’ estate
e. Aliens

3. Prostitution is legal in Nevada (this is a trick question).

a. True
b. False

Giant Red-haired cannibals

The Indians force the Giant Red-haired cannibals into the Lovelock caves and burn them alive. Image from http://thehivedaily.com

4. The legend of the Giant Red Haired Cannibals is no legend at all according to :

a. The journals of legendary scout  Kit Carson
b. Life Among the Piutes by Sarah Winnemucca
c. Mark Twain’s autobiography
d. Aliens

5. The Giant Red Haired Cannibals are theorized to have been:

a. Russians who migrated centuries ago across the Bering Strait and kept going south until they found a hospitable climate
d. Yetis (Big Foot, Sasquatch, etc.)
d. Aliens
e. All of the above

6. Halloween is important to Nevada because:

a. Pumpkins are its major cash crop.
b. On October 31,1864 Nevada was admitted to the union.
c. It’s Alien Appreciation Day in Nevada

7. Bat Guano is used in the following ways:

a. Fertilizer
b. Explosives
c. Laundry detergent
d. All of the above
e. What the heck is bat guano?