My wife and I are often asked why we chose Las Vegas as the place for us to live and raise our kids. After all, we’re both from the east and besides, Las Vegas is more the place you think of to get away from your family! To be honest, even my wife felt that way, but let me back up.
What first brought me out to this desert paradise, was my dad - he was a great man – hard working, good family man, but he had one vice, he loved to play craps. He was first introduced to the game when he was in the Marine Corps and he started taking us out here in 1972, when the hospital where my mom worked offered a “junket” (remember those) to Las Vegas. Every year from then on, while other kids went to Disneyland, my brother and I grew up on the south Strip - Flamingo & Las Vegas Blvd. He would give us some money and say, “I’ll see you guys in the lobby at dinner time.” We loved it – total freedom. I’d go in the resort’s pool (we always stayed at the MGM Grand, which later became Bally’s), hang out in the “penny” arcade and SWENSEN’S ice cream parlor, and oh yeah, when I found out that my Dad’s “comp” allowed me to order room service, I ordered a steady stream of tuna sandwiches and Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry sodas, but I digress…
From the time I first visited Las Vegas, I wanted to live here, so when I met my wife in 1996, I immediately took her out here in hopes that she may share my enthusiasm. We spent four days having a great time, partying, seeing shows and dancing the nights away, but when I asked her if she’d like to move here she said, “NO WAY! The school’s are the worst in the nation and look what we did while we were here – we drank, we gambled and we partied around the clock… that IS NOT how we are going to raise our kids!”
Ouch! Okay, so we didn’t move here in 1996, we ended up living in my apartment in Brooklyn for a few years and then built a house in central New Jersey, in a place called Manalapan. We lived on an acre of land, on a cul-de-sac with only eleven homes on it surrounded by hundreds of acres of farm land. For two city folks, we thought we were in Kansas, but we had the greatest neighbors, most of which are still good friends of ours to this day. It was really a “dream-come-true” for us ...but then came September 11, 2001.
We lost a lot of friends on 9/11; the dearest of which was our neighbor and friend Danny Afflitto. His wife Stacey remains one of my wife’s best friends and mine (love you Stacey, if you’re reading this). 9/11 was the end of Camelot for us there. Lisa also lost her brother in the same year. I have never seen anything sadder than a pregnant woman with tears of sorrow in her eyes; Lisa was pregnant with our third son Jordan, so we named him Jordan Daniel, after our friend Danny Afflitto. Lisa’s grief became too much, so by March 2002, she finally said to me, “Find us a home in Las Vegas.” By July, we closed on a beautiful home in the foothills just southeast of the strip, in a place called Green Valley Ranch. We love the foothills and we love our home. As for the school systems here, they’re the worst in the nation, for the most part – but we solved that by deciding to homeschool our kids. Though, that’s a story for another day…
We love living here and so do our kids, it’s a beautiful place to live, raise a family and visit, so hey, if y’all do visit Las Vegas, let me know! If I’m not on the road, the first round’s on me! ‘Till next time… Peace!
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Dean Wesley Smith