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The Biggest Little City
By Naomi Yung
This city comes alive at night. During the day, though, it’s a barren wasteland of desolation and peeling paint.
It’s August, but it’s raining, and the rain strips away the layers of grandeur Reno, Nevada, “the Biggest Little City in the World,” seems to hold. Without the heavy cover of mysterious night, the neon lights are empty and demure, too shy to reveal their brazen glow. Without the lights, Reno is exposed for all to see, its seedy loneliness laid bare before judgmental eyes.
Reno is veiled in a thin patina of grime and cigarette smoke, of pain and promise and loss and fortune. Desperation is a familiar friend, visible in the lines of the faces of all who walk the sidewalks. Gaudy, expansive casinos crowd the streets, their siren songs running aground tourists and locals alike. These gritty, romantic oases are Reno’s sole ticket to fame.
For me, it’s hard to see the allure of casinos, of gambling, of addiction. But sometimes, if I look closely, I can see it. The glowing lights, the jingle of coins, and the smooth spread of cards upon green felt. The feeling of risk, of hope, of luck. People like living dangerously; in my mind, where gambling is involved, sometimes it’s better to have nothing to lose, because then you can just walk away.
Reno knows risk-takers flock to her like flies to honey, seeking the thrill and magic of the game. I know because I see the pawnshops and loan stores at every corner, offering to trade anything of value. It’s sad, because I’m sure many people have given it all up for a game and lost everything in return.
I don’t understand why people don’t know where to draw the line. I don’t understand how brightly colored machines can steal away someone’s life. I don’t understand how someone could let them.
I don’t understand, I don’t understand, I don’t understand. It’s a constant reminder of my youth, and it’s a phrase I’ll continue to use. Maybe one day I’ll understand the lure, but from my present perspective, it all seems a tragic waste. To keep giving when you know you’re not receiving. To wait and wait and wait for that hazy time when it will all be worth it. To suffer in scarce anonymity, trudging endlessly towards the light of wealth at the end of the tunnel.
Then again, Reno, Nevada comes alive at night.
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