Reflections on a year of living downtown
Among other things, living downtown the past year taught me how to cure a boring conversation: Mention that you live atop a popular local bar that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In fact, more than a few lackluster chats have been resuscitated after invoking my curious digs at Gold Spike. New acquaintances, especially dates, feel compelled to double-check that I reside above a 24-hour bar.
“You live here?” they echo, suddenly all perked up, as if they have stumbled on the appropriate time to poke around for skeletons. Because let’s face it, once someone discovers you live within feet of a gargantuan gathering of late-night revelers, they seem to instantly imagine how convenient it would be to meet a woman in the backyard, hop on the elevator and merrily retreat to your third-floor dwelling. Why else would a single professional live atop a bar?
Turns out there are plenty of non-primal reasons to live downtown. Here are a few I discovered during my first year of living in the area:
When I reflect on the past year downtown, it’s neither the bachelor nor drinking life that stands out, because I’m actually a teetotaler and low-key type. Foremost in my mind is appreciating how adventure is always a short walk away. From the communal kitchen upstairs where random and interesting conversations await with poets, fashion designers and former Microsoft executives to a leisurely stroll to The Beat Coffeehouse or people-watching at the Fremont Street Experience. There is a “What happens next?” suspense wired into every day and I enjoy that.
A major gravitational pull toward downtown and Gold Spike was my quest for minimalism. A tunnel vision of sorts, a sharpening of focus, is made easier when we narrow our world to 237 square feet of studio space. It simplifies thinking and reduces clutter and distractions.
How many major metropolitan areas offer affordable rent in their historic heart? Downtown Vegas towers above the others in this regard. Following a few financially lean years and “What is my purpose?” soul-searching, I had entered a season of life where I thought less was more. When money is tight, the smart bet to keep your sanity and be happy is to grow immaterial wealth and so I did.
I spent many days and nights writing at my desk inside the converted hotel room. I refer to them as “The Disheveled Days,” since my hair was a mess and I was dressed in underwear as I captured my innermost thoughts on paper. Writing songs no one would ever hear, dancing moves no one would see. Creating slogans and ideas for books. Reading Outliers and Thinking, Fast and Slow. In a lot of other places they might have called me a loser, but downtown you can get away with being the disheveled artist who is silently sowing the seeds for an epic comeback.
Most major cities in the world, the popular thinking goes, feature six degrees of separation between the least and most powerful people. I think of downtown as two degrees of separation. It’s a tiny ecosystem where friendliness and a culture of cool rule the day. I’ve never met Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, but his “Delivering Happiness” ethos has caught on here. Everybody knows everybody and most are quick to share their contacts and introduce you to people who might help your ideas take flight.
One of my favorite memories of the past year, requiring not an ounce of alcohol, features me and my 265-pound gumba cousin Frankie playing ping-pong at midnight in Gold Spike’s backyard under a December sky. I hadn’t seen Frankie in years but thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with him, playfully exchanging smack talk and basking in the drama of our close foosball, darts and ping pong matches. So apparently there is more to being at a bar than checking out the long-legged blonde at “4 o’clock.”
These are my people
One of the things I loved about Seattle, when visiting a few years ago, was a feeling that people generally take you where you are, as you are. Similarly, downtown Las Vegas does a good job of bringing together people from divergent lifestyles and perspectives.
A story that illustrates this: One night in a hallway at Gold Spike I observed a staunch atheist and a believer in God engaged in a heated debate, invoking quantum physics, The God Particle and Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance” in a feverish effort to one-up each other. Naturally, neither man persuaded the other to change his views on God, but I was inspired by what I saw the next day: these neighbors bonding as if nothing had happened, sharing business contacts and planning lunch together. I thought to myself, that’s the kind of world I want to live in.
And to answer your question …
No, I’ve never met a stranger downstairs at Gold Spike and brought her up to my room. Move along. No skeletons here.
Frank Curreri is a Las Vegas-based speaker, writer and three time IBJJF master’s world champion in jiu jitsu. He has worked for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Salt Lake Tribune, FOX5 News Las Vegas and UFC. He can be reached at email@example.com