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While We’re Talking About Reno’s Blight & Weekly Motels…

Is “any exposure good exposure” for a city?  That’s the question on the agenda today with news of the filming of the cinematic adaptation of Willy Vlautin’s book The Motel Life going on in town right now.

An article by Forrest Hartman in the RGJ today looks at several examples of how exposure of a city’s supposedly undesirable qualities in movies or TV can generate tourism.  The tone of the piece seems to indicate that the sky is not falling, if people see something a little outside their comfort zone for their own town, they may still be attracted to Reno as a place to visit.

Before we look at the examples, let’s have a quick synopsis of the plot of The Motel Life. Here’s just the beginning of the Wikipedia plot summary:

Frank and Jerry Lee Flannigan are two down-and-out brothers who live a meager existence in Reno, Nevada. Both men are high school dropouts who live in cheap motel rooms, work at odd jobs for money, and drink heavily. One night, while driving drunk during a blizzard, Jerry Lee accidentally hits and kills a teenage boy on a bicycle. Although the accident is the boy’s fault, there are no witnesses, and Jerry Lee is certain that the police will put the blame on him. He convinces Frank to leave town with him and flee to Montana. Along the way, Jerry Lee abandons Frank in Wyoming and then burns the car in a secluded Idaho forest. Both men return separately to Reno.

Pretty grim.  How about the examples in Hartman’s article?  The first example, The Hangover, is described thusly: “The movie depicts a group of guys traveling to Vegas for a bachelor party, getting blitzed and waking up to discover a host of problems. These include a tiger in their suite, a marriage to a prostitute and a run-in with gangsters — all arguably things the average person hopes to avoid.”

Do they become trapped in Las Vegas and start living in motel rooms, committing crimes and running from the law?  Nope.  Las Vegas’ image is untarnished, the place where people who are well-to-do enough to travel across the country for a bachelor party have crazy things happen to them before everything returns to normal and they go home.  Score one for Vegas.

Another example is Love Ranch, a movie set in Reno based loosely on the story of The Mustang Ranch brothel.  A story set in a much busier, more glamorous Reno area, about something that is enticing and alluring to many from outside the area.  Score one for the legendary status of The Mustang Ranch.

How about The Vampire Diaries?  The small Georgia town where this TV series is filmed draws visitors from all over the world who want to see the town where the show is set.  It’s a regular place, and we all know vampires don’t really exist.  Sort of a Twin Peaks effect.  Score one for fantasy.

Willy Vlautin is a talented musician and author, he’s from Reno and he knows a thing or two about his subject matter.  In this case his subject matter is the very real social problem of derelicts and vagrants living two-bit lives out of weekly motels, parked directly adjacent to liquor stores, availing themselves of the resource and becoming trapped in a lifestyle which can only lead to tragedy.  There’s something to be learned in his story, and it’s a good thing it’s being made into a movie.  It’s a good thing the location chosen for filming is the location of the setting.  It will undeniably be a powerful piece of cinema.

So, not to be too much of a cynic, but (here it comes), it seems to this author as if the only tourists a movie like that will attract are the people who will become trapped in the story.  Score one for social ills.  And a big goose egg for Reno.

QRA – Reno Is More Reno on the ‘Net

I recently had an engaging conversation via the Internet.  Sometimes they DO happen.  It had to do with people that I either know or through a friend I know, bringing up this photograph of people in Reno, along with a host of bitchy criticism:

“Steampunk/Victorian Christmas Party”

Reno Folk

The subsequent fun-making was noting how this wasn’t really “steampunk,” or “Victorian.”  I’m somewhat surprised they didn’t note that these people weren’t dressed particularly “Christmassy,” either.  There was talk about this is why people hate this town, and how lame this is, etc etc.   What was interesting, is it came  upon two notions for me to consider.  One is the fact that yes, people can be particularly cruel in criticism, even if it is about someone’s innocent merrymaking.   The other is the strange, huge pedestal people expect Reno to live up to and of course, never does.  The very accepted notion of comparing it to larger cities, or even the world,  as if Reno had the ability to stand on a stage with “greats,” in any realm.  This isn’t to say Reno CAN’T do this, but where and how else are people supposed to try without someone, or should I say, people en masse, quashing their efforts?  And why did it have to come down to Reno, anyway?  Why couldn’t it just be some people that were disliked or criticized?  Personally, at least the dude with the weird arm apparatus pulled out all the stops, and the guy on the far right looks pretty dapper to me.

Someone inevitably is going to decree “bullshit,” toward yours truly, because I have many times exhaled woes about the mediocrity of the efforts of people in Reno regarding art, business, fashion, music, and the like.   Especially when someone has a show and the art/music/performance, quite frankly, sucks.  Reno CAN come up with good things, and sometimes it fails.  This isn’t something to go on and on about, nor broad brush the entire town to the color of “sucks.”

This was a Christmas party someone captured a moment of and put it on the Internet.  Fair game, I suppose, but…if people are expected to bring their best 100% of the time, then Reno is truly set up for 100% disaster.  It deserves some notation of how extreme Reno can be in some instances, if not for ego, expectation, depression, ignorance, etc.

Meanwhile, back in my Internet conversation, I get a few responses:

I think it’s just Reno. The people here, for the most part, don’t have high standards for anything. :( You should see Halloween around here…it’s painful. …says one.

My god, this is like people going to Fallon and complaining about cows. It’s Reno, yes. Yes. It’s obvious. No slack for the weak and pathetic, I reply, hopefully in humorous response.

I think it’s closer to being *stuck* in Fallon and complaining about cows, says another.

This is where, maybe to my embarrassment, I wished to wax philosophical.

More to the point, the most Reno thing of all is to complain about Reno while being in Reno. To hate Reno. No, don’t try to do your best while here, that’s because Reno keeps you from doing your best. Because of people like these picture…d here. Also, talk mad shit. MAD shit. Naysay, browbeat, criticize. Damn, you Reno. I’m always curious about how much of a pedestal Reno has been put upon just so people can throw shit at it. It’s fascinating. People from real cities love it here, people born here can’t wait to leave and come back, the prevalence of unwillingness to realize personal contributions to community (negative or positive) and the thick focus on everyone around rather than on themselves. Now you know why I DO stay here! It’s truly interesting, I retort for consideration.

Kyle, I hear you–you can only make the best of whatever hand you’re dealt. Blame is easy but ultimately counterproductive.

But with respect to the ‘stuck’ bit, that’s not necessarily just some psychological barrier that we can change if we want. There are people with familial obligations, financial obligations, legal obligations or otherwise that can keep you tied down to a particular location. Those of us who are free from such constraints should count ourselves very lucky.

If you love Reno, that’s awesome. You’ll make it a better place for others with that frame of mind. But often people have very valid reasons for disliking a place due to their experiences which are necessarily different from our own. And just because someone doesn’t like a place doesn’t logically imply that he isn’t volunteering in the community or trying to improve their community.

At the end of the day, people can complain about whatever they want, including people complaining, right =)

This was the point where I realized someone was essentially admitting they’re being counterproductive and defeatist but don’t let this fool you,  they do their part.  This may very well be true, if not confusing.   Nice parry and equal-match about the fact I brought this up  by complaining in the first place–see Internet Rulebook.    QRA:  “You’re just like me, no matter what you say.”   Forcing a kind of tribal affiliation?   Interesting.    It’s an all-too-common Reno attitude.   If you mix that with bad manners and uncouth socializing, well… off we go, darkly.   Nice offer, but no thanks.

The rest of the conversation became a facsimile of what was already being said, and me being the idiot I am, figured “Oh, I’m not making myself clear, perhaps I should find a different way of presenting this.”  It was obvious my opinions weren’t being objectively acknowledged (merely politely complimented), nor was I willing to join “The Reno Sucks Tribe.”  I sensed the conversation barely getting personal, expression I may be angry, the other party internalizing wrongdoing,  further categorizing and rationalizing what I’m saying into a box of cast-aside wonders… hey, I knocked, can’t complain about who answers.

That’s the Internet.   Reno is a real city, and one that I have my feelings for, both good and bad.  I think, like most, Reno has LARGE potential.   As evidenced by my conversations, this not being a unique one at all (just a poignant and recent one) there are smart, engaging, talented and motivated people here.   I just find many of them being misguided, and interested in doing what Reno does often, making excuses, complaining, and seemingly not doing what might be necessary to make themselves happy, let alone something for the town.   It confuses me.  I don’t like being unhappy, unsuccessful or bored.  I strive to change that.  If I fail, then I do the least amount of outward damage as  possible.

As a Renoite, people from larger cities respond, “Well, duh,” if I proudly announce my self-initiative.   It’s no big deal in other places.   Obviously, it shouldn’t be here, either.  Unless that’s the hive mind speaking.   I’ve never been good at being in a hive.

While I consider myself somewhat akin to the complaining part at times, it’s where I’m taking it that is key.   At times, I like to present Reno to itself in just the fashion it is familiar with:  criticism…which isn’t all bad, just like Reno.  It’s just how it is used.  My main criticism is probably no better than the original subject:  Reno tries too hard.  Whether or not this is a failing or a feature, something to be encouraged or trashed, is up to the individual.

I’ll close with one thing I said that perhaps sums it up best:

[This] may just be the same template of expectation that Reno does habitually: establishing something grand or with potential in a universal light, blaming the seedling for not simply being a solid tree… perhaps crush it, stamp its efforts, or dilute the power behind it.  When the seedling makes itself known, it’s a hard thing to accept in that case.

(forgive my lack of photo credit to the individuals here, please, feel free to make yourselves known in the comments section below)

QRA- In a Thrift Store, yo!

If you’re like me, you spend a lot of time in thrift stores. Quickly scanning the aisles for janky old keyboards, or rad Janus films in the bargain bins. To the layman, you spend an inordinate amount of time sneering at garbage with a bunch of other jerks. This would be fine and dandy if it weren’t for the aforementioned ‘other jerks’. Case in point being that most of them have little to no respect for unhindered paths, or aisles. Much to the chagrin of their fellow shoppers, they will block whole aisles by extending their bodies, shopping carts and children. In such a manner that enemy soldiers could take cover behind their brood.

This is the tale of one such occasion.

It was shortly after 2010, in the future world of 2011. I think it was Tuesday. I was walking through the Goodwill on Oddie, in Sparks [booo-hisss].

As I approached one such obstruction (a mother with a cart and her teen son) I noticed the son placing an unwanted shirt on a lingerie rack (snicker).
I stopped to stare at the discarded Elway jersey with a slight but noticeable grimace of disdain. Having made my point, I went to pass the 5′ 2″-110lb kid, who instead of moving slightly to be considerate, decided instead to engage me in a staring match that included a quick, jerky motion from his arms and upper-torso.  The kind of motion that is referred to as “fronting” in middle schools; thus intimidating other insecure males. So, I stopped and continued to stare at him until he broke eye contact and walked away. Which all-in-all was a good thing, being as I’m not usually in the mood to be punked-out by a twelve year old with a pretty blue earring. When the path to the electronics department is sealed off, I tend to develop super-prison-laser-eyes(tm). They worked in this situation, but the next victim of Skyler’s “fronting” might just turn his neck into a sprinkler.

Now this QRA may seem minor.

“Oh, they were just blocking an aisle. Go around them.”

There was no ‘around them,’ two people and a shopping cart managed to fill the aisle, and set up a pretty good check point. Being as there are two main arteries in the store, it could be argued that they were creating a fire hazard. I didn’t have any matches.

QRA: What in the Reno is “QRA?”


About two weeks ago, a truck driver came to my work to pick up freight, as happens on a semi-regular basis here.  Upon walking in my dock door, he had this angry, “Don’t mess with me,” attitude, but overcompensated to the power of ten.  He did his job, and he didn’t say a word, but it was the look in the eyes, and the way he trounced about my warehouse.  It must have been a territorial thing, or a “I’m a dog in a new house,” tail-stiff-as-a-board, haunches shaking and teeth ready to go.  I had never seen this guy before, and since I’m in my warehouse, I have little to fear from this guy, as his nature was defensive more so than anything.  At work, I’m typically a focused, direct, organized and no-bullshit kind of guy, and on top of it, I’m normally very easy to get along with.  Ask anyone who has worked with me.  Overall, I wasn’t afraid of this guy, there was no need to be.  I’ve seen dangerous people, they don’t “look like,” anything, they just give off this electricity.  This poor truck driver just came off as… upset.

I treated this guy as I do most people who act like this, especially in a professional environment, I simply ignored the attitude, talked with him, pried a bit of information out of him, and eventually it lightened him up.  Evidently, he and I both worked at UPS at the hub in Sparks at similar times, and that really made a difference to him.  Off he went, me none the wiser.

Today happens.  I get a visit from the same guy to pick up some freight, except this time, he is practically elated to see me.  He rushes over, maneuvers the dock plate, grabs the freight with my pallet jack, bullshits with me like we’re old pals, fills out paperwork and is just a gem of a truck driver.  He really wanted to linger around and shoot the crap, talk shop, all that, which I really didn’t mind, but in my head I’m thinking… “…what in manic Reno hell?”   It was quite funny, but at least the guy was a bit more relaxed, if not just as overcompensating.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had this happen in this town.  Really, similar instances happen far too often.

We have a concept here at Burncards we like to call “QRA.”  It stands for “Quintessential Reno Attitude.”   You can thank Ken Manz for this concept, adapted from “TCB,” or “Typical Cracker Behavior,” the stereotypically-sad instance wherein white people repeat specific activities, notions or…behavior.   Like TCB, the QRA end of things is aimed at a group of people (Renoites, mostly) that seem to represent a stereotypical attitude toward just about anything.   Some notable examples are, in my experience:

1)  Spitting on new things, art, windows and the mirrors of bathrooms.

2)  If male, spitting in an overly tough manner when passing by another male on the street, doubly-effective if putting a bounce in your step while doing this.

3)  Yelling “faggot,” at pedestrians, while in moving cars, through the open windows.

4)  Avoiding and talking about the Citifare bus system as “The Shame Train.”

5)  Witnessing something totally unacceptable in public and not doing a thing about it (call cops, tell them to stop, inform security) and then complaining to everyone else who won’t do a thing about it, either.

6)  Finding just about any excuse NOT to do something about anything:  It’s too hot outside/it’s too cold outside, it’s too new/it’s too old, it’s too corporate/it’s too small, it’s downtown/it’s not downtown, it’s boring, I hate the people who go there, it’s not local/there’s no selection, blah blah blah.

7)  Using the roads, highways and byways as a place to enforce your personal philosophy about speed, who-owns-what-lane, freeway merging, and who should or shouldn’t be in front of you.

8)  When making a free right turn, honking obnoxiously at people in the crosswalk when pedestrians have the right of way with the little lit-up walking dude.

9)  Going above and beyond, way, way, way beyond, for not purpose or goal, but a over-the-top way of getting noticed/attention, making your point, or stating your general existence.  See this video.

10)  Being tough.  Looking tough.  Talking tough.  Spitting tough.  Doing so in groups, at dog parks, at bars, in public, wherever other tough people might be.

What this gentleman expressed in my place of business both two weeks ago and today are prime examples of “QRA.”  I’ve noticed similar attitudes in towns of the same size and general demographics as Reno, but not quite as strong as here.   Let’s face it:  We’re a bunch of edgy folks, very territorial, with something to prove, unwilling to suggest alternatives to anything that sucks, and yet the first to bitch when there’s a problem.  When we do this in public for all to see, we’re committing QRA.

In a way, the QRA is a study of Reno, and there’s probably a multitude of reasons why Reno does things like this.

In recent discussions, a lot of people have genuinely found Reno becoming a less safe place to be.  Violent crime has gone up overall, I’ve heard of rapings, muggings, and robberies increasing.  This is serious stuff, folks!  QRA be damned, at one point we used to be a pleasantly safe city, perhaps with a lot of misanthrope attitude and unmerry passers-by, but when people start really having problems in their own town, it’s time to put that shit aside, especially when there’s no real reason or root cause for it.  Our fake toughness, ignorance, whining and being scared ain’t going to cut it if we don’t become a community.

QRA as a label is intentionally funny.  It really doesn’t hurt anyone, it’s just an embarrassing part of why Reno tends to be a drag-ass city when things are trying to get someplace, culture to be established or status to be gained.   Much like the guy who stopped by my warehouse on the first visit, realized I didn’t play dice and then turned it around the next time we saw each other, maybe we can think about this when we’re being straight up assholes, whiners and defeatist/obstructionists out there.   This from is someone who both loves and loathes this town, has been here long enough to know better, and gets sucked into QRA with the best of them now and again.

Until then, allow us to post future instances of QRA: we encourage you to share your own instances of QRA either via e-mail, video, pictures or comments here at Burncards.com.   Hell, extra points if you recount yourself doing it!

Perhaps while we’re addressing the issue of QRA we can have some fun with it as well.  Which, incidentally, is a little QRA in itself.