I love this TED talk! If you read my recent blog about Why I Write or watched my presentation at the Inspire Speaker Series in Downtown Las Vegas you know I write poems. I've written more than 150 since junior high. I don't know what made me start, other than an insatiable need to get my feelings out. I felt no one could understand what I was going through, so I wrote it out . . . my feelings, fears, hopes and dreams.
I never intended to share my poems. They were like a diary. Every once in a while when I heard a friend was going through something I experienced, I would share a poem I wrote when I went through a similar situation. My friends loved my poems and kept asking to read more.
As I got older, I felt others could understand me so, as quickly as the poems came, they stopped flowing out of me. A few friends didn't like the fact that I quit writing poetry.
In true poetic fashion, I wrote a poem to explain why I stopped writing poems, called Poets Are Madmen. If you like it, you can find it in my book, Poetic Justice: Lessons of love, life & relationships.
Poets Are Madmen
Poets are madmen
who see visions and dreams
they look inside of souls
and tell you what it means
A psychotic little world
nobody can understand
they bring the strong to their knees
it’s a universal plan
Tears of joy and sorrow
aren’t expressions of grief
as they make the masses wonder
and stare in disbelief
You think you understand
the translation of their words
but if you read between the lines
you might see what they want heard
In desperation they try
merely to fit in
a normal reality
to a poet is a sin
For without experience of places
where most run and hide
the poet can never express
your deepest feelings inside
Thoughts of lust and freedom
tears of grief and joy
the hidden soul comes to life
you lost with your childhood toys
Dare to taste their wine
and drink from their cup
at a table set for one
you’ll never grow up
© Tami Belt
As a 2nd generation Las Vegas native, I’m often asked what is was like to grow up in Vegas. To me, it was normal to attend school with a kid whose parents owned a hotel or had mob ties; expect a prime rib dinner before a show; get comps; know everyone and watch a lounge show from the light booth. OK, I only did that once and it was way cool to shine the spotlight on the performers. Following is my story about growing up in Vegas and my thoughts about the revitalization of Downtown.
I live in the penthouse in Caesars.
This is my standard response to everyone who asked which hotel I live in when they discover I was born in Las Vegas. Since my family has lived here since 1936, I tell them we had first dibs on the Palace’s penthouse. They believe me!
Silly people, residents don’t live on the Strip. Well, Howard Hughes did but he was the exception. Honestly, most residents avoid the Strip unless they’re going to work. Downtown, however, is a different story. It was the hub of the community. Before the Boulevard Mall was built in the late 1960’s, Downtown Vegas was the place to shop, eat and greet visitors arriving at the train station where the Union Plaza now stands.
My Grandparents lived on Park Paseo until I was 9 and my Grandpa’s air conditioning company, Pahor Air Conditioning & Sheet Metal, was on Utah Street so I remember a few things about the neighborhood and the town he helped build. While a lot has changed, some things remain the same.
The Huntridge Theater, which opened in 1944, is making a long-awaited comeback. The old post office still has pictures of criminals on the walls in its reincarnation as The Mob Museum. The corner of Fremont and 6th, which once housed J.C. Penney’s and Fremont Medical Clinic, is once again a favorite gathering spot now occupied by The Beat Coffeehouse & Records and Emergency Arts.
Fremont Street remains a corridor for cruising - on foot instead of in a convertible - and street performers are more prevalent than streetwalkers. For a joke, on Halloween in 1982 a group of friends dressed up as the characters from The Best Little Whore House in Texas and we trick-or-treated on Fremont Street. The tourists loved it! With the growing number of watering holes on East Fremont, maybe pedestrian traffic is better but I still miss driving down Fremont and wish someone would implode the canopy.
Another tradition that returned to Downtown after a brief hiatus is Helldorado, originally brought to town by the Elk’s Lodge to entice Hoover Dam workers and their families to stay in Southern Nevada. My Grandpa was a longtime member of the Elk’s and I remember walking from their house to watch the parade on Las Vegas Boulevard. Today, Life is Beautiful is launching a new type festival anchored in Downtown. Unlike the Strip, which seems to implode the old to make room for the new, Downtown works to preserve some of our city’s history through the Neon Museum and Vegas Vernacular.
I love the energy and optimism that surrounds Downtown today. Pioneers gambled on a little patch of desert and built this city from the ground up. Today, a new group is of trailblazers are betting on Las Vegas. Instead of lumber, steel, asphalt and air conditioning they are relying on Internet connections, community building, creativity and serendipitous collisions.
The one thing I know for sure about Las Vegas is that it is still a small town. I wish I paid more attention to the stories shared by my family . . mom babysitting for a retired mobster who lived next door; the ‘family members’ my dad caddied for on the golf course where he taught for more than 45 years; the notable characters who hired my Grandpa’s company including Rex Bell and Clara Bow, Howard Hughes, Benny Binion, and Jay Sarno just to name a few. Everyone knew everyone back then. They all went to school together and worked together to build this town.
What a coincidence that the number one song the year I was born was Downtown. This historic area is once again becoming a hub for the community, reuniting old friends and creating new connections. A familiar excitement is in the air. I love my town! I hope everyone visits to experience the magic.