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Hipster(ish) in Suburbia

Illustration by Delphine Lee
Illustration by Delphine Lee

That feeling when you live in a place you don’t quite belong, but can’t quite live in the place you do

I don’t belong in Summerlin. This idyllic suburban setting disturbs me. The silence, while pleasant during the day, unsettles me at night. Every creak and rustle in the dark conjures images of a tiptoeing intruder. I fall asleep with the TV on to mask the eerie quiet.

It’s been 11 years since I traded my love of Manhattan for the ease of Las Vegas. When we moved here, it didn’t seem as though there was an area that could measure up to the Washington Heights neighborhood we’d left behind. So we stayed close to my in-laws, here in Summerlin, where not a single soul stirs when I walk through manicured parks, unnaturally green — grass should not be this color in the desert. Here in Summerlin, where the sky is uncluttered by buildings or clouds. It stretches on, infinite, from horizon to jagged mountaintops. I feel small. That diminishing is further enforced by homeowners’ associations that relish governing through arcane rules decreed in hundred-page tomes. They don’t seem to grasp that twinkle lights are pretty year-round, leaves turn brown in the winter, cars sometimes leak oil on the driveway. These are ordinary facts, and should not be punishable with ridiculous fines.

No, my life does not fit into the neat master-planned community. I’m a youngish, tattooed writer who listens to music on vinyl. I post pictures of my food on Instagram. I am married but have no interest in children. The conclusion is obvious: I’m a hipster.

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For us hipsters, the residential enclave of choice is fairly clear: Downtown. An array of made-to-look-old restaurants and bars with reclaimed-wood décor, Edison bulbs, and patrons smelling of beard balm is all the proof you need. At Container Park’s Oak & Ivy bar, you ingest two shots of earthy whiskey simply by walking in. There is a palpable buzz east of the Fremont Experience that is missing in the suburbs, an excitement born of people like Chef Natalie Young. People creating a community and setting building blocks for a more vibrant future in our city — recalling the home I left behind 11 years ago.

Downtown’s housing options also speak to my hipster proclivities, and I’ve fantasized about them extensively. The renovated bungalows at The Pioneer have clean, contemporary lines and just the right amount of retro charm. Silence would definitely not be a problem in an open-plan apartment at The Ogden. Or perhaps a trendy tiny house in Tony Hsieh’s Ferguson’s Downtown would better suit me.

So what am I still doing in Summerlin, bereft of ironic T-shirts and upturned handlebar mustaches? Why haven’t I packed my record player and locally sourced honey and moved into one of those dream homes?

In some ways, the answer is simpler than I’d like to admit. Part of me likes Summerlin. Running errands or grocery shopping is effortless and brimming with options. It’s actually a pleasure, since on a clear day, the auburns of the landscaping cut into the blues of sky, conceiving a contrast so beautiful no Downtown mural could compete. Going to the bank has never looked this good.

Yes, Downtown features the new and exciting — alongside the derelict and desolate. The two seem to inhabit the same space independent of each other, a dissonance more unsettling for me than the uniformity and conformity of suburbia. Therein lies the complicated part of the answer. If the Downtown of today existed when we first came to Las Vegas, I would have embraced it. But barring the appearance of a time machine in my spacious living room (another perk of suburban living), I’ll never be able to test that statement’s veracity. Witnessing the onset of evolution can be exhilarating. From the store my husband and I operated for several years in the Arts District, I watched as the area around Fremont changed from a place I considered inhospitable to somewhere interesting and almost inviting.

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Almost. Because evolution is also frustrating, as, by definition, it takes generations to accomplish. The me of 2018 just wants to skip to the end, to get to the best version now. Urban pioneering just isn’t my cup of boba tea.

What this may mean is that, tattoos notwithstanding, I’m less a true hipster than a hipster hybrid of sorts. A person cobbled together from too many disparate experiences. This sense of geographical ambivalence is a symptom of an identity that, for better or worse, continues to change unexpectedly. The people I prefer to spend my time with aren’t hipsters, either, come to think of it. None live Downtown. Even the most artsy-fartsy of the lot chooses a Henderson residence. But I’m also not a suburbanite — I can’t think of anything that would make me feel truly at home out here.

My interests and lifestyle may pull me toward Downtown, but comfort and beauty keep me in Summerlin. Maybe I belong in both but feel at home in neither — for now, at least. If you have any suggestions for an area that splits the difference, I might take you up on it. I could use a new place to hang up my slouchy beanie and infinity scarf.