My Day as a “Terrorist” at Primm’s Fashion Outlets


…or “How To Chase Away Your Final Remaining Customers”…

There’s a wonderful moment in the 1981 film On Golden Pond in which a young boy asks Katharine Hepburn’s character “Ethel” why her aging husband (played by Henry Fonda) is so prickly. “Norman’s like an old lion. Sometimes he has to remind himself that he can still roar”.

Well, imagine that you’re an aging security guard in a forgotten shopping mall where most of the stores have closed down and you can count the number of customers on one hand. Surely you’d have to find some purpose to justify your continued employment, right? Well, this Mother’s Day I found myself in the cross hairs of old Security Guard “Norman”. And I’m guessing that after what went down between us, he’s wishing he’d have taken the holiday off to be with his wife.

Back in the summer of 2013, I was a brand new writer for VegasChatter.com. After a successful trial article, I was welcomed aboard and proposed ideas for my follow-up piece. One suggestion was on taking a day trip to Primm, Nevada at the California State Line. I’d grown an affection for that little collection of casino hotels and the Primm Fashion Outlet at its center. The drive through the desert to get there was very scenic and a pleasant escape from the hustle and bustle of the Strip.

This morning, after a miserable week on the couch with a cold, I awoke feeling somewhat better and desiring to get out of the house. With families undoubtedly about to fill the restaurants and buffets for Mother’s Day brunch, I decided to hop on the interstate and revisit that place from long ago. I could stroll through Buffalo Bill’s Casino, grab a quick breakfast at their value-priced buffet, perhaps ride the spectacular Desperado hyper-coaster and pick up some bargains at those awesome outlets.

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                  Seven Magic Mountains  south of the Strip in the desert…

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                        The former Gold Strike Casino Hotel got a little TLC…

As expected, the morning drive was pleasant and pretty. Traffic was minimal and I got a nice view of the Seven Magic Mountains art exhibit along the way. I also noticed that the aging and suffering Gold Strike Casino in nearby Jean had gotten a fresh coat of paint along with a new name – Terrible’s Road House.

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                           Sorry, no valet service today…or tomorrow….

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After stopping at Terrible’s to snap some photos and check on the condition of the property, I continued onto Primm, just a short ways away. It alarmed me that the parking lot outside of Buffalo Bill’s Casino was so empty and the valet service area was blocked off. But the absence of cars made parking by the door quite easy. I strolled inside and headed for the buffet…only to find it permanently shuttered. Damn!

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                          Bye-bye, Miss Ashley’s Boarding House Buffet…

Well, I could still ride the coaster, then hop on their monorail to Primm Valley Resort, the adjacent casino where the outlet mall is. Sadly, the roller coaster was shuttered as well. A staffer told me it had been closed for about five months but was undergoing safety testing for an unscheduled (soon) reopening. Damn again.

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             Desperado roller coaster – closed for five months and counting…

Looking around the rest of the amusement area noticed that the log flume ride had been stripped of its shooting-gallery motif. All of the animatronic figures along the river were gone. There were empty places in the food court and the large ticketing area for rides had apparently been consolidated into what appeared to be a game room. The place was really barren and had gone steeply downhill.

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                 Former ticketing counter for rides and attractions….

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                     What’s left of the log flume shooting-gallery ride…

Alright, let’s roll with the punches…the excursion wasn’t spoiled, just altered. There was another buffet at Primm Valley Resort, just a short monorail ride away. Too bad that was “out of service” as well…and the shuttle bus that runs between the properties is now only available on Saturdays. “Sorry for the inconvenience” the sign announced. Don’t you love that phrase?

                            No working monorails, shuttles limited to one day per week…

At this point I decided to head to my car, forgo breakfast altogether and just drive over to the stores before the crowds arrived. Imagine my surprise when I walked into….a veritable ghost town. Shops were shuttered and papered over, the food court could barely serve a crumb. restrooms and elevators were closed “for renovations” and there was nary a soul in sight.

Strolling through with astonishment and disappointment, I snapped several photos, planning to send them back to friends who’d enjoyed our trips down here in the past. How sad. Eventually I found an open (and nearly empty) store…Old Navy…and located a rack with nice summer shirts at great prices. As I crouched down to look at a pair of shoes on the bottom shelf, a voice right behind me said “Hello”…and scared the crap out of me.

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I spun around and stood up to face a uniformed security guard staring at me with a bit of a smirk. “Why were you walking around taking pictures?” he asked me. Puzzled and caught off guard, I started to say “Well, I like this place and…”. “You can’t be taking pictures” he cut me off.

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Immediately, I was annoyed. I’d heard several complaints from my colleague Scott Roeben (of VitalVegas.com) about how he is continually hounded by security people whenever he takes photos of renovations, construction, etc. He even complained about it recently on a television appearance after stopping at SLS Las Vegas to document their improvements. It’s really aggravating to be harassed when you’re doing something innocuous, and after all the disappointments this visit had already offered, I wasn’t going to stand for this.

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There will no laughter today at Primm Valley Resorts. Sorry for any inconvenience…

“Are you kidding me?” I challenged him. “This is a tourist town. People take pictures. What difference does it make to you?”. “Well” he stammered “you could be a reporter or something, You were taking pictures of the empty stores”. “Yeah, and what if I was?”. Oh, if he only knew what was going on in my mind. This article was already writing itself.

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Officer Norman had nothing else to add, so he turned around and left me alone. I went back to my shopping, decided against the shoes and gathered my other items to pay at the register. But Norman had returned and was heading right for my face again. “Make sure you don’t take any more pictures!” he demanded, blocking me from approaching the cash register.

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“Are you kidding me?” I roared. “Why are you harassing me like this?”. And here came the answer to beat all answers: “Well, you never know, there are terrorists and…”. Okay, this just turned ugly. “You’re calling me a terrorist now? I look like a freaking terrorist? Or maybe I’m just a shoplifter who enjoys paying for their stuff” I said as I held up my merchandise on hangers.

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Norman replied that he was just doing his job and that his boss had sent him after me. “Where is this boss? I want you to take me to him. Better yet, bring him here since he’s been keeping such a close eye on me”.  Turns out that I’d caught old Norman in a lie. He fessed up that his boss was off that day and that some employee in one of the corridors had mentioned my photo-taking.

I paid for my things, arguing with this guy the entire time, and as we exited the store, a golf cart pulled up with two more gentlemen inside. They’d apparently heard about our loud exchange and were dispatched from their mysterious base to put the fire out. I demanded to know their jobs (“we’re from engineering”) and I let them know how absurd this whole embarrassing scene had played out.

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“Are you guys bored? Nothing better to do than to chase away the last few customers you have? No wonder this place is dead”. With that I headed down the corridor and towards my car, Officer Norman keeping stride with me for most of the way. I told him to stop following, left the property and was absolutely furious at how this morning had turned out.

It’s really a shame that some of our fondest memories of Vegas are being chipped away by bad attitudes, poor business choices and a disregard for the courteous service that put Vegas on the map. No longer are tourists welcomed as guests, but treated more “like walking wallets” (as a colleague so eloquently stated recently)…and annoyances that have to be dealt with for a paycheck.

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TSA agents (of which McCarran Airport has the surliest and rudest I’ve ever encountered) and security teams in particular need to be held accountable for their behavior. Rarely are terrorists actually stopped at airport security checkpoints, but hundred of thousands of dollars worth of our personal belongings disappear from our luggage annually.

Las Vegas probably has more security cameras and facial-recognition software than any other place in the nation, yet there seems to be little rhyme or reason as to how it’s utilized. Roeben and I get hounded for snapping smartphone pictures around casino grounds, but a madman can hoard a stockpile of guns and assault rifles in a 32nd-floor suite and pull off the largest massacre in modern American history. Vegas has become like the S.S. Poseidon….upside-down and sinking fast.

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We’re in the midst of a well-documented decline in tourism here. Shows, restaurants, attractions and entire hotels have been shuttered, all due to the failure of today’s business model and a complete lack of sensible decision-making. It’s time that we as human beings open our eyes, step outside of the characters we play on the time clock and guide ourselves with simple common sense. Carrying out stupid or harmful acts just “because my boss told me to” isn’t acceptable anymore.

Is Sin City Determined To Drive You Away?

I’ve only lived in this city since last October, yet in that time I’ve seen massive layoffs, skyrocketing rates and predictions of the impending collapse of our tourism industry. You might think that my small incident in an outlet mall has little to do with that, but does it really? Let’s see how well Downtown’s Fashion Outlet Mall fares a year from now since they’ve decided to gouge shoppers with parking fees.

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There are plenty of places other than Las Vegas where people can go to spend their money. Those of us who reside here depend upon your continued visits to keep our economy alive. If we as locals don’t strike out, speak up and protest what’s happening to Sin City tourists when they open up their wallets, then ours will soon be empty, too.

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                      This is the face of a terrorist. Run for your lives…

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Sin City Skydiving – The Ultimate Vegas High


That time when I took a flying leap for my birthday celebration…

This article previously appeared on another website…

 

Most of us have experienced the thrill of viewing Las Vegas from the air. But how many of you have seen that memorable skyline from a free-fall at 12,000 feet? I did just that on my 54th birthday at Sin City Skydiving a few weeks ago, and it truly was the ultimate Vegas thrill.

Before you say “No way in Hell!” –believe me– that this writer was once of that attitude. Friends have teased my lack of risk-taking and for always playing it safe. But when 2017 rolled around, I decided to make this my “Year of Adventure.”

Step number one was to take my first trip to Mexico…and a solo one at that. It was quite a saga, filled with mishaps, excitement…and lots of scratches to the bucket list. So January was a terrific start.

February is my birthday month, and I always celebrate it with festivities in and around Las Vegas. This time, my New Year’s resolution required a little more oomph than the ordinary nightclub-and-hangover debauchery. Not long after returning from Cancun, the idea to sky-dive hit me while sleeping. So I woke up, ran to my computer and did some research on skydiving services around the Las Vegas valley…at 3:30 in the morning.

Sin City Skydiving

Narrowing it down to three finalists, I decided to go with Sin City Skydiving in Jean, Nevada. There were various reasons to select this company, including very positive reviews, a nicely-kept Facebook page, the convenient location of their office and the lowest overall price (the regular rate for a tandem jump is $249, but mine qualified for a seasonal special of $199).

The short drive (20 minutes) from Vegas to Jean is pleasant and scenic. Sin City Skydiving is very easy to find off of Interstate 15 at exit 12, near the grand old Gold Strike Casino.

Sin City Skydiving

As you might expect from such a risky undertaking, there are certain health requirements to meet…and LOTS of paperwork to fill out in advance. While it isn’t stated in the official literature, you should not be afraid of heights or prone to panic attacks, IMO.

Jumper Requirements:
All jumpers must be at least 18 years old with a photo ID, weigh 220 pounds or less and height/weight proportionate, be in good physical and mental health. You must be 100% Alcohol & Drug-Free — absolutely no alcohol or illegal drugs may be in your system when you arrive for your jump. Every jumper needs to bring a government-issued photo ID with them — NO EXCEPTIONS.

A free shuttle can be arranged to pick you up at your hotel if you wish. Jumpers must arrive at the office no less than 30 minutes prior to their jump time…this is to sign waivers, receive instruction and suit up. Jumpsuit and goggles are provided – it’s recommended that you dress for the temperature and are required to wear lace-up shoes (I wish I’d brought gloves, too). You’ll be put through a variety of physical maneuvers, shown an instructional video and given a one-on-one lecture on do’s/don’ts and an opportunity to ask questions.

Sin City Skydiving

From there, it’s just a short walk out to the runway and into the plane that will lift you high over the desert. The plane itself is very small, and you will be tethered to your instructor the whole way. He will be recording the entire experience via a high-def GoPro camera. You can purchase pictures and/or video to take home with you on a data DVD (I sprang for both for $99….after all, it IS a once-in-a-lifetime event…maybe).

Sin City Skydiving

My instructor Jake was very charismatic and made me feel at ease the entire time. A seasoned police officer, he now works full time at Sin City Skydiving, doing what he REALLY loves. His confidence and professionalism were quite reassuring…I never felt uncomfortable or in danger.

Sin City Skydiving

The ride to 12,000 feet was wonderfully scenic. As we climbed to the jump altitude, Jake pointed out the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Charleston, the shimmer of Lake Mead, an astonishing array of solar collectors…and of course, the beautiful Las Vegas skyline. Below us, I spotted the landing area we’d be heading for, along with Jean Airport itself, which now seemed so tiny.

Sin City Skydiving

Although the day was clear and sunny (February 23rd), it was surprisingly chilly…especially once the jump door was opened and I swung my legs outside. The cold air hit my face like a blast of ice (and stayed numb for several hours afterward).

Before I realized, we were already in free fall. It’s nearly impossible to explain the number of thoughts and emotions that crossed through my mind as we plunged towards the Earth. But one thing stood out: This was REALLY happening! From the whim of an idea to actuality in just a few short weeks, I was doing something I’d never have imagined trying before.

Sin City Skydiving

I’d kind of expected to have a shocking jolt to my body once the chute was pulled, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, I had to look up to confirm that we were now gliding. Jake gave me the straps to hold onto for awhile; then he steered us into spirals and swoops as we headed towards the landing spot.

The adrenaline rush was somewhat overwhelming….I may have shed an emotional tear or two, although the expression on my face looks more like terror in the photographs. It was actually a combination of the wind, cold and pressure…I was never once afraid.

Sin City Skydiving

As the ground drew closer, I spotted my friend, taking photos of us and the other tandem pair from our flight. Two crew members were near her, waiting to safely guide us into place and detach us from our chute when we arrived. The landing was amazingly smooth and peaceful…a sharp contrast to the jubilant pumping of my own heart.

Sin City Skydiving

The drive back to Sin City Skydiving was brief but exhilarating. My friend, who’d flown in from Pittsburgh to witness the jump and celebrate my birthday, was almost as giddy as me. Despite having little sleep in the hours leading up to that morning, I found myself unable to nap that afternoon or easily fall asleep in the evening. The imagery and adrenaline came back every time I closed my eyes…and I didn’t mind it one darn bit.

Sin City Skydiving

As a regular visitor, I’ve experienced many thrills, memorable moments and once-in-a-lifetime adventures during my stays. But nothing can surpass the thrill of leaping from a plane over the Mojave desert. Sin City Skydiving truly is the ultimate Las Vegas high.

Sin City Skydiving

Sin City Skydiving operates 365 days per year (weather permitting). Gratuities are accepted (this writer tipped 20%). Located at 23600 S. Las Vegas Blvd in Jean, Nevada. Call 702.300.8508 or toll-free 877.727.5867 for reservations or more information.

Photos: Sammasseur, Jake at Sin City Skydiving