I’ve been meaning to post about my and TYG’s trip to the Mensa gathering in Reno. And now I can.
The trip itself I’ll get to next post. Here I’ll cover the effect of visiting Reno itself. As a writer, I read a lot about capturing the setting, making it distinctive—and Reno really did stand out. The kind of differences I’d naturally work into a Reno-set story (not that I have one on tap).
•Gambling. Yes, I know Nevada is full of it, but it’s startling to see slot machines in the airport terminal. And they’re all around the hotels the Mensa gathering was set up in—in fact it was almost impossible to go to a meeting room or cross from one hotel to the next without passing a stretch of casino (not coincidental, I’m sure). The casinos are open to smokers, which is very weird—how many public areas do you walk through these days and smell cigarette smoke?
•The neighborhood. Most big hotels I’ve been in have been in upscale or business neighborhoods or glitzy tourist projects. The hotels in Reno felt like they’d been plunked down in a blue-collar, lower-income shopping district and hadn’t affected the surroundings in the slightest.
•The people. A high Hispanic population in the area. A lot of Asian-Americans in the casino—I don’t know if it’s a particularly Asian area or just that Asian-Americans like to gamble. A much higher number of tattoos than I see in Durham or Fort Walton Beach—I don’t know if that relates to Nevada or to people who like to gamble.
•Drivers are very good about respecting “walk” signals (in Northwest Florida they tend to treat them as optional).

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