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.

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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 sauna-like chapel until I realized that the adjoining reception hall also was not air-conditioned.

Let me tell you – a four layer wedding cake does not fare well in temperatures hovering around 103 degrees.

weddingcake

Whoops! It’s a cakeslide!

The frosting holding the layers together quickly melts and, instead of acting like glue, acts like grease and the cake slides…and slides…and slides.  And that is what greeted the wedding guests.  Slide cake and warm fruit punch.

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 the original “Absent Minded Professor” and thus rarely trusted 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 forgotten the bridal bouquets.

“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 molten plastic tickled the back of my neck. After the wedding I should have removed the pins and washed my hair but instead I flopped into bed exhausted and fell asleep.  I awoke the next morning with my head glued to the pillow case. Strands of hair, which had escaped the plastic helmet my coif had become, melted across my nose, eyes and lips and sticking 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?

 

Teahouses, Madams and Shoes

Teahouse

My Hideaway

Pile of shoes

The Writer’s Arsenal

On to a story of teahouses, madams and shoes.  This is my hide-a-way. It’s really a shed but we call it the Teahouse. Hubby built this shed because he got tired of being hit by a shoe every time he interrupted my writing time.

But something strange happens down at the Teahouse. My mind hovers over my body, refusing to focus on anything but the peacefulness of the setting. Thus not a word has been written down in the Teahouse.

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By the way, the lady in the above photo is none other than Miss Jane Austen (seen in  a better photo to the right).  Hubby bought her for me thinking she might inspire me to write more.  (Or throw fewer shoes – she’s so ladylike.)

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Here is Miss Jane Austen with her friend Vincent Van Gogh, whose detachable ear somehow got stuck on Manet’s nose. They’re a tasteless, vulgar menage-a-trois. Tut!

Perhaps Faulkner was right. The ideal place to write is not a sanctuary but a place with nights of chaos and quiet mornings, like a house of prostitution. Which brings me to madams.

doormat

All that’s left of the Mapes Hotel, sniff.

Prostitution is legal in many counties in Nevada, “legal” meaning that registered brothels are subject to all sorts of rules and regulations enforced haphazardly by eminently bribable officials. I babysat for a madam once. She owned a brothel outside of Vegas with one of those sinisterly cute names like BunnyTail Ranch. She was staying at the Mapes Hotel in Reno in order to visit her grandchildren, ages seven and nine, whose parents were not in the business. At the time, my mother just happened to be working at the Mapes where, when not procuring teenage babysitters for infamous madams, she did the bookkeeping. Now, my folks were respectable sort of folks, but, you have to keep in mind, in Nevada it’s not at all uncommon for people in the sex-trade or racketeer business to hobnob on the golf course with doctors, lawyers, and judges.  It’s an equal opportunity debauchery state.

I babysat the madam’s kids in a suite on the top floor of the Mapes, while the grandmother madam attended a Bill Crosby show.  She paid me twenty dollars an hour (a princely sum back then) and said we could order anything we wanted from room service!  She didn’t even care if the kids hopped on the beds. She had her “man” pick me up at my house and return me long after midnight. He was wearing a gun! Now, how cool was that for a fifteen year old…

The Mapes is gone now. They blew it up to build an ice skating rink. Oh the horror! Best chocolate malts and french fries in the world, all gone now.

I promise, next blog, no more whorehouses.

Why Nevada…

In honor of the fact that FLIPKA can be purchased for only 99 cents for the next couple of days (the Kindle version), I’m rerunning some of my early posts.  The story is set in rural Nevada and I hope these posts will provide you with some proof of the utter wackiness of the state, thus,  if you do read the book you’ll know I’m not tripping.  Well, maybe just a little.

Post #1, published Jan. 6, 2013:

Thanks for stopping by! My name is JT Twissel, call me Jan. I was raised in Reno, Nevada, which I always thought I could put behind me, but…

CowboyJan

The closest I ever came to being a cowgirl!

you know how these things go. Nevada just keeps popping up in my writing, as a setting, a dreaded past, or even as a character. So many other writers have set their novels in Nevada that I did a little investigation to find out how their stories differed from mine. What I found out was, the state has cast its spell on many a writer in much the same way as it did on me.

When you talk about Nevada, most people think Vegas.  And is it true, hundreds of contemporary novels have been set in Sin City (and Sin City North – Reno). Apparently there are more than enough greedy millionaires, soulless gangsters, cunning thieves, pretty heiresses, hard-nosed detectives, and clueless tourists in those towns to satisfy a multitude of writers.

th-3

Set in a “fictional” town in Nevada. Stephen King based the story on a real road trip he took through the state.

However, when writers switch their attention inland to the “real” Nevada,  it’s remarkable how the same themes have prevailed: travelers trapped in isolated desert towns where they are toyed with by evil forces (“Skin” and ”Desolation”), UFO encounters that lead to strange maladies and mental afflictions (“Strangers”), and doomsday thrillers generally involving the military or CIA.

I am no different.  When I think of rural Nevada, all of the above themes seem remarkably plausible to me. I’m certain I ran into the arachnid shift-changers of “Scorpio Rising” outside of Ely, an isolated town near the border of Nevada and Utah.

Of course, I’ve only skimmed the surface of the many fine novels set in that other house. The one I can’t seem to escape.  Apparently, once trapped on one of Nevada’s many endless roads, one can never really escape!

One of Nevada's many endless roads.  It took almost an hour to get to the mountains on the horizon.

Somewhere between Fallon and Eureka. It took almost an hour to get to the mountains on the horizon.

Coming soon:  Whorehouses, giant red-haired cannibals, the many uses of bat guano, and aliens, of course, aliens.  You can’t talk about Nevada without mentioning aliens.