Brian Sandford: Books can’t teach everything about Nevada life

This past week marked my one-year anniversary as your editor — and as a Nevada resident. I did plenty of research before coming here, and I acquired some book smarts.

But book smarts don’t prepare people for what they’ll experience when living in a new home. This week and next, I’ll list some of the many things that surprised and fascinated me in the weeks after my arrival.

Gaming, gaming everywhere: I knew about the preponderance of casinos, but it took about a month to get used to seeing slot machines in convenience and grocery stores. It was explained to me that the machines used to accept quarters, and store items were priced so the customer would be guaranteed to get quarters back after paying for their merchandise. Quite brilliant, really.

Pride: I’ve sensed a greater deal of state pride here than anywhere else I’ve lived. It percolates in the form of the Nevada Day Parade, numerous celebrations of the state’s rich history and a fierce protective attitude about the pronunciation of “Nevada.” I wince when I hear “Ne-vah-dah” uttered on a nationally syndicated radio show, but I’ll acknowledge I probably got it wrong more than once years ago.

Independence: When I lived in Tampa, Fla., bumper stickers bearing the slogan “We don’t care how they do it up North” weren’t uncommon. Here, of course, it’s “We don’t care how they do it in California.” Learning about the California/Nevada dynamic has been fascinating, as it’s so reminiscent of what I experienced in the South. Numerous Carsonites have told me stories about why they left California that begin with, “The last straw for me was …” I’d expected to be viewed with distrust as an outsider upon my arrival here, but I must say, people have been extremely welcoming. Speaking of that …

Hospitality: Compared with the Seattle area, where I came from, Nevadans are especially friendly. I noticed it even during my three-day stay here when I interviewed for my job. I ask people why they think that warmth exists, and they often say it’s because of the service industry’s presence. That might be true, but I will say the sunshine doesn’t hurt. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s tough to be in a good mood when it has been cloudy for 15 consecutive weeks. And a visiting friend observed that in a big city, there’s less incentive to be polite to strangers because there’s less of a chance you’ll ever see them again. That’s not the case in Carson.

North vs. South: Perhaps no city outside San Francisco is more left-leaning politically than Seattle, yet central and eastern Washington lean to the right. Oregon has a remarkably similar dynamic with the Portland metro area, but Nevada’s North/South divide is more marked than either of the other two. Las Vegas is the first thing most Americans think of when they hear the word “Nevada,” but I’ve encountered many people here who don’t consider it part of our state. One person described it as “more of a suburb of Los Angeles,” which seems apt.

Nevada has far too many surprising-to-me qualities to fit in one column. More next week.

Editor Brian Sandford can be reached at


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