Rachel Hopkin

Folklorist and Radio Producer

Leaving Las Vegas

9 August, 2014

Today I leave Las Vegas and head east to embark on a PhD in folklore at Ohio State. I’m excited about getting back into research, but I have loved living in this city. I feel privileged to have known it – at least a little – in a way that most people who experience it don’t.

So I thought I’d make a list of some of the things I’m going to miss about being here. I could go on and on, but I’m limiting myself to 20. Therefore, in no particular order …

  1. The Spring Mountain Range. Red Rock Canyon, Blue Diamond Hills, Lovell Canyon, Mount Charleston; these beautiful places – all so close to hand – have been a wellspring of joy, beauty, and grounding. The gift that kept on giving.


    The view on the way up to Mount Charleston peak

  2. Vegas at Night. Love all those twinkly lights.
  3. Las Vegas Passion. The city may be known for transience, but those who choose to make a commitment to this city really make a commitment and build amazing communities. Just as one example, there’s Heidi Swank who founded the Nevada Preservation Organisation last year. It’s dedicated to promoting the appreciation and preservation of Nevada’s architectural heritage through community outreach, educational programming and historic designation assistance.  This kind of enthusiasm is inspiring to be around.

    Fremont Street

    Fremont Street

  4. Fremont Street. Especially the stretch between Boulder Highway and around 8th Street, with all its old motels and signs.
  5. Las Vegas’s longterm residents. They’re special; I feel blessed by the unique people I’ve met here, the fun I’ve had, and the friendships I’ve made.
  6. Mid-mod neighbourhoods. Places like Paradise Palms and Huntridge were built when America was at its most optimistic and you still feel that sense of buoyancy, of possibility, and of expansiveness, rising from the pavements.
  7. Las Vegas artists. I’ve seen some lovely works here, and I have to give a particular shout out to those whose pieces are now part of my personal collection – Geoffrey Ellis, Suzanne Hackett-Morgan, Anne Hoff, Bobbie Ann Howell, Jerry Misko, and Erica Reynolds.
  8. The Strip. Ain’t no place like it.
  9. My Nevada Humanities colleagues. The organisation for which I’ve worked for the last two years gets a hell of a lot done with a small staff, thanks to the commitment of its employees. It’s been a privilege to work with them.
  10. McCarran International Airport. It’s been amazing to me to have had a major international airport only a five mile drive from my house. Even better is that it’s a hub for my favourite airline – Southwest.
  11. Bonjour Bakery’s croissants. Although the ultimate accolade in my “Quest for the Best Croissant in the West” (soon to transmute into the “Quest for the Best Croissant in the Midwest”)  is currently held by Tulie Bakery in Salt Lake City (omigod, I’m salivating just at the thought of them), the ones at Bonjour are pretty darned yummy when they’re fresh from the oven. They’re also served at Sambalatte (though not the branch on the Strip, more’s the pity) and, I believe, at Leone Café.
  12. Vegas tradition bearers, especially the ones whom I’ve had the honour to work with: Hawaiian music and dance aficionados Gary and Sheldeen Haleamau, Tim Blueflint, Ofelia Perez and Danza Del Carrizo, and Mexican embroiderer Romeo Siguenza Hidalgo.
  13. Planet Fitness on Flamingo and Pecos. I’ve paid only $10 a month to be a member here – with no cancellation fees – and for that I’ve had access to a personal trainer (who starts every other sentence “Rachel, I’m not going to lie to you …”) and become part of the regular cohort of early morning exercisers. I don’t know their names but their smiles and waves are gently familiar.

    The Green Goddess

    The Green Goddess

  14. The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Okay, it’s a stretch to say this is something I’ll miss about Las Vegas but I’ve attended for the past two years because of my work in the city and it’s just the most wonderful event ever.
  15. La comunidad milonguera de Las Vegas; it’s small, but sweet, friendly, and not too intimidating.
  16. Sunshine. When I first got to Vegas, I was “what is it with all this goddamn sunshine? Day in. Day out. It’s relentless”. Now, of course, except for the peak summer months. I love it. It’s so cheering and it’s so easy to plan outdoor activities. When I go elsewhere these days, I’m all “what is it with all this grey and rain?”
  17. My pest control man. Once a month Gary Kellogg appears on my doorstep at about 7 am and tells me stories of old Vegas as he wanders around the house spraying for bugs. Just a very nice and interesting man.
  18. The margaritas at Parasol Down. Pricey but worth it; and – if you go after dark – you get a typically over-the-top Vegas Strip light display thrown in for good measure.
  19. The Rainbow’s End Green Goddess sandwich. A day without one of these is a day that’s just a little less perfect than it might otherwise have been.
  20. Being a Nevada resident: it was just a cool thing to be.


    I’m taking a bit of the desert with me