Eager to start volunteer work for Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign, we crossed the California line and headed into Reno, Nevada. Driving into the Biggest Little City in the World, casinos and resorts with a money green glow and pink flamingo blush welcomed us to what was once the divorce and gambling capital of America. Before it was eclipsed by Vegas, Reno reigned as Nevada’s playground for the Hollywood elite. In 1951, Frank Sinatra began performing at the Riverside Hotel in Reno and soon became owner of the Cal-Neva Lodge and Casino (named after Reno’s Club Cal-Neva) straddling the two states in nearby Lake Tahoe. When his son, Frank, Jr. was abducted from the Harrah’s in Lake Tahoe in 1963, Ol’ Blue Eyes holed up with the FBI at Reno’s historic Mapes Hotel to negotiate with the kidnappers for junior’s release. And in the late 1980’s, as his career waned, Sinatra returned to Reno as a headliner at Bally’s Grand Casino. No stranger to politics, throughout his life The Chairman was involved in several Presidential elections, famously campaigning for Democrats and Republicans. Now, nearing the close of an election year like no other, let’s Listen Up with a roll of the dice and Frank Sinatra singing “Luck Be A Lady.”
Header photo above: “Wall Sprawl #4 (Las Vegas, Next to Nellis Air Force Base)” Multiple of Wallpaper by Andrea Zittel at the Nevada Museum of Art
“Come Election Day, journalists and photographers may descend upon Reno like you’ve never seen before. That’s just how important Washoe County could be to the outcome of this election,” said actor and comedian Patton Oswalt addressing the small group of volunteers at Hillary Clinton’s Reno campaign headquarters. There were less than 20 of us, seated on cold metal folding chairs in the back room of a narrow office in a suburban strip mall that smelled like day-old pizza. Campaign stickers, lawn signs, banners and leaflets for Clinton/Kaine, as well as Democratic Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto and other local Democratic hopefuls, were posted and piled everywhere. Bowls of volunteer Snickers and granola bars sat atop brochures and stacked case packs of bottled water rimmed the room. We were the first day canvassers, being rallied and sent forth, anachronistic door-to-door grassroots crusaders. Our mission: to gage support for our candidate – strong HRC, leaning HRC or undecided – and urge people to get out and vote. We were all hoping and praying that we wouldn’t encounter any antagonistic supporters of The Donald. Stories were told of what to expect when the doors were opened: houses of hoarders (no problem); lonely people in negligees (uh, okay); and, women draped with live snakes (that does it, I draw the line, WTF Nevada).
I’d warmed up for the big event by working in the phone bank. Actually, there were no phones, so I took out my cell, grabbed a call list and started calling, while another volunteer decided it was time to vacuum the floors. I think the roar of the vacuum cleaner helped me connect with Alice M. who was in the middle of washing her floor when I called. She hated scrubbing the floor, but her dog had just thrown up his breakfast so, “what’s a woman to do?” Thank you, Alice, excellent entre.
“So, Alice, will you be voting for our first woman President?”
“Well, I just don’t know. I hate that man, he’s just dreadful. We can’t have that. But my friend says I shouldn’t vote for Hillary.”
“My friend doesn’t like her.”
“And why’s that?”
“She says she just can’t trust her.”
“But who do you want to vote for?”
“Well, I was all set to vote for her, but now I just don’t know. I guess I’ll vote for her. I wish my friend hadn’t said she didn’t like her. But I gotta get this floor finished. I don’t want to, but I gotta go.” Click.
I checked “leaning HRC” and hoped I would find a way to convince the next stranger I talked to that doing what your friends want is not how you should vote.
Most people don’t answer their phones, but with the 20% that did, the balance of the conversations went remarkably well. People were enthusiastic. “Sure, she can count on me.” “Wouldn’t have it any other way.” “Can’t wait for this to be over, but she’s my girl.” Uh, that last one came from a WWII veteran, so I let it pass.
After Patton Oswalt’s pep talk, I scanned the clip boards on the folding table. The next day it was due to rain, so I hoped I could find just the right list to canvas. A packet of names with all the same address surely belonged to an apartment building. I took my list to one of the leaders for further instructions and bingo! Steven and I would be canvassing student housing near the University of Nevada Reno.
The next day the cold rain and blustery wind would have sent even the most hard core Hillary volunteer packing. But list in hand, we set off to find student housing. The beauty of student housing is that even if no one answers a door, people are coming and going all day, so there is always someone to talk to. Surprisingly, about 25% of the doors were opened. Think about it, if two middle-aged people dressed in black, holding a clip board, showed up at your door when you were in college would you have opened the door? But this generation was trusting, fresh-faced, welcoming and ready to vote for Hillary. Except for that one guy. There’s always one. He didn’t open the door until we put the Clinton/Kaine door hanger in place and turned to walk away. The door opened, a snarling, beefy young man in boxers ripped the literature off the door, huffed and puffed, then threw it over the balcony toward the swimming pool. We got the point, no need to be so dramatic. “I guess that means you won’t be voting for Clinton?” Steven asked with faux-innocence.
As we drove out of Reno, rain changed to sunshine, and then it rained some more, sometimes so hard that we couldn’t see the road in front of us. But in the end, a rainbow appeared and our passage home through a beautiful stretch of America was fresh and clear and bright. And we’ll just let that be the moral of this story.
Because it remains a casino town, Reno hotel rooms are fairly affordable. We were happy with our choice of the Silver Legacy Resort and Casino in the center of downtown. The resort connects with the Eldorado and is next door to Circus Circus. Everything in downtown Reno is an easy walk from the hotel. Less than five minutes away is the National Bowling Stadium, topped with a silver geodesic dome and housing 78 lanes as well as the Bowling Hall of Fame. Unless you’re part of a tournament you won’t be able to bowl at the stadium, but they do have bleacher seating so you can comfortably cheer on the professionals. Crossing over the Truckee River and Reno’s River Walk, you’ll find the Nevada Museum of Art, a fantastic four-story contemporary art museum with a series of unusual, beautifully concise exhibits. Their compelling group show, “Tilting the Basin,” introduced us to a selection of exceptional Nevada artists. (The show has closed now, but may move on to another location in 2017.) On the ground floor of NMA, Chez Louie is a fresh, inviting French-inspired café for lunch, Thursday night dinner or weekend brunch. Our favorite food destination in Reno was the new Old Granite Street Eatery (just a few blocks from the museum). The cocktails are excellent and the food is a modern take on fresh, absolutely delicious, comfort food. Old Granite Street is a true find for lunch, dinner or weekend brunch.
At the moment, downtown Reno has a considerable stock of midcentury buildings with great signage that are inexpensive motels, serve as weekly rentals, or are closed up. If anyone is looking to refurbish a ‘50’s lodge into a cool boutique hotel or renovate for another adaptive reuse, this could be the moment to consider Reno. But don’t hesitate too long, two motels are already set for demolition.
The 2016 election circus is coming to an end, but it’s not too late to jump into action to help elect Hillary Clinton. Find out how you can help at HillaryClinton.com.
There’s always something new on Zippertravel’s Pinterest. Inspired by Reno and Steven’s favorite movie, this week we take a fresh look at “Casino Royale.” This is Zippertravel’s 200th Pinterest board!
And while you’re on our Pinterest page, browse through some of the other 199 terrific boards dedicated to travel, architecture, fashion, politics, and design, along with some original photography by Elizabeth and Steven. You don’t have to be a Pinterest member to view Zippertravel’s boards, but if you enjoy pinning you can do so by clicking on the button in the upper left hand corner of this page or selecting the Pinterest icon below. It’s just that easy.
Zippertravel can also be found on Instagram with daily, real-time travel postings.