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.

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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…

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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.

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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.