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. 


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



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.




Five Weddings, No Funerals

Weddings are such interesting affairs….

New friends

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

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, his friend who decided to play professional wedding photographer 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. 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?

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

Wedding disaster #3: My daughter decided to get married in Hawaii.  Also during a heat wave.  When it came time to get my hair done, I begged the stylist to pull my unmanageable mop up and off my neck. Because my hair is so fine, 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. Loose strands of hair had formed a sticky spider’s web across my nose, eyes and lips. 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.

At my son’s wedding, in tiny Hudson New York, it was a different sort of heat that gave us grief.  The day before the wedding,  the cellist, who’d come out from the west coast, 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.

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

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


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.


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.)


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.


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…

I was raised in Reno, Nevada, which I always thought I could put behind me, but…


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.


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.