When school starts in a few weeks, there will no doubt be plenty of kids eager to tell their teachers all about the wonderful things they experienced over the summer. These children will happily share the valuable lessons they learned on their visits to important historical places like the Alamo, Colonial Williamsburg or maybe even Washington D.C.
And then there’ll be my kids who went to Virginia City, Nevada and saw a gold rush prostitution museum.
Well, let me rephrase that. They saw their mother go into the gold rush prostitution museum while they sat in the Bucket of Blood saloon with their cousins and watched their grandparents drink beer and their dad play the nickel slots and win $100. We do have some standards in our family. Here they are getting some culture:
Because my mom and dad live in Northern Nevada (Neh-va-duh), the boys have seen quite a few interesting things while visiting them over the years. Like when Sam was two-years-old and my parents took us to a restaurant that supposedly had amazing pancakes. They neglected to mention that the restaurant was located A) in the back room of a gun store and B) 100 feet away from the Kit Kat Ranch. Nothing like eating pancakes with your toddler while two drunk dirtbags at the next table loudly discuss their wild night in the hooker trailer. (Trust me, you really, really don’t want to know what they said about the syrup.)
Speaking of prostitution (which is legal in the majority of counties in Nevada), we passed quite a few brothels and brothel billboards on our drive from Las Vegas to Reno last summer. Meaning we had to listen to the boys yell things like, “Pussy Ranch?! I love pussies! Can we stop and look at the cats?! YOU’RE PASSING THE PUSSIES!” At which point my husband usually muttered something like, “No, we’re not stopping because those pussies have daddy issues and a raging case of sand fleas” while he stepped so hard on the gas pedal that my head snapped back. Frankly, I’m surprised the kids never reported those ranches to the Humane Society.
Which brings us back to Virginia City. The Humane Society would have a field day there, boy. Located about 20 minutes up the mountain from my parents’ house, Virgina City, Nevada is at the top of the Comstock Lode and it was the richest city in the world from the 1860s to 1880s. About 20 billion dollars (in today’s values) came from its gold and silver mines. But nowadays, one could safely say that it’s slightly less fancy. And not just because every time I’ve gone up there, I’ve seen someone walking around in a red union suit for no other reason than that’s what makes them feel purty. Like this guy:
He smelled like moonshine. I smelled like beer.
My parents, who for some reason are up on all of the hot Virginia City gossip, said Yosemite Weirdo here named his mule after his ex-wife because they’re both stubborn. They also said that last year he was found naked and drunk in an outdoor claw-footed bathtub, which I suppose doesn’t make him that different from one of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. At least he makes an honest living charging people $1 to feed his mule a carrot and he isn’t too caught up in the whole “hygiene” thing.
But while it’s definitely a little rough around the rocky edges, Virginia City is actually pretty interesting and I think the kids learned a lot up there. For example, they learned that gambling used to be a lot more intense. In fact, back in the gold rush, men would shoot themselves in the head at the card table when they lost, not just whine and call their mommies on their wittle Bluetooths before drowning their sorrows at the Circus Circus seafood buffet. Now that’s manstyle.
The kids also learned that Mark Twain was born in Virginia City in 1862. Or, more specifically, Samuel Clemens changed his name to Mark Twain in 1862 when he lived up there and worked as a reporter for the Territorial Enterprise. It has to be true. There’s a plaque.
There’s also a Mark Twain museum in town, but unfortunately it’s run by two evil shrews. I didn’t have the $4 cash to pay admission that day, so I tried to charge it on my credit card and they rudely insisted that I buy a minimum of $12 in crap gifts to do so. That led to me (who was admittedly slightly tipsy from a Bucket of Blood beer) loudly saying, “That’s illegal and against credit card regulations!” They then yelled something at me, I yelled back at them, etc., etc., and before you know it I was stomping out the door screaming, “Mark Twain hates your stupid greedy faces and Huckleberry Finn says to go screw yourselves! So does Visa and Big Jim for that matter! Kiss my Calaveras County ASS, dummies.”
I’d like to think that little display will only help my chances of someday winning the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
Luckily, I found that the prostitution museum down the street was only $1 and it worked on the honor system, so I was able to walk to the dusty downstairs and see the many treasures of gold rush hoes. But besides a few typewriters, an antique speculum and this super comfy exam table, there wasn’t much else to see. I guess the sand fleas destroyed most of the sexy artifacts so we’ll never know if prospectors liked their ladies in latex cat suits and gimp masks. What a shame.
Finally, after the excitement of the Hooker Louvre, I headed back to the Bucket of Blood saloon to find my family. The kids were eating popcorn and listening to the player piano and my parents were drinking beer, so I joined Chris to play the slot machines. I was having a lot of fun and almost winning until Jack came over and quietly slipped this brochure he’d found by the front door into my hand:
That’s right, it’s all fun and games until your 9-year-old son hands you the 1-800 helpline number to the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling. I asked him why he gave it to me and he just shrugged and said, “It seemed like something for moms.”
Let’s all hope he shares that story with his teacher.