Persistence of Vision

These are the years of bottle service and vacant paparazzi smiles and the thrum of recycled music transmogrified by preening men in booths. The glamour of it all is palpable, the beauty of what happens here and goes away instantly. The commercials had it all wrong, right? Nothing stays here. That is the magic of a city built on the sale of shattered steadfastness and wild-eyed evanescent hope. And yet a kind of rootsy nostalgia has risen in the shadow of the millennial strobe-light economy—not the nonsense of the Rat Pack/Bugsy school of false memory, but the soft sting of a half-forgotten Hank Williams melody: recollection that matters because it hurts a little. This is the memory of long-ago bike rides in the sagebrush badlands off Flamingo and Sandhill, of lizard-sightings in the basalt-strewn lots of Old Henderson. It is the Rancho Circle paper route of a kid from the wrong side of the street. It is curly-headed Rebel Glen Gondrezick, launching himself toward the Convention Center sideline in 1977 to swat a loose ball into the hands of his floor general. It is the Helldorado Parade, by the 1980s already the soft echo of a lost cause in a slickening town—and all the more affecting for its lostness. It is what David G. Schwartz, in his feature story, calls “our rodeo soul”—a death-defying thing that brought Helldorado back in the city’s centennial year of 2005 and has sustained it ever since. And it lives in outsize form in the grand ritual of the National Finals Rodeo, which each December descends upon our city to remind us of what we once were—and what we still are.

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