A Change of Life
“It's really nice here. People are really respectful,” Derek Bray says of the Castaway Inn.
The small motel room Bray lives in is cramped with possessions, including family pictures with children.
“I was married for 30 years to a good Mormon girl and after the marriage I wanted to see what it was like to be me, you know, because it was always against the rules to show anything feminine inside of me because I was born a boy and a girl. I've had surgeries and to show that to anybody, it's like, would be disgraceful and I understand that. But being single it’s like I'm just me. I'm not gay. I'm a boy and a girl, you know, that's what I am. But people misunderstand that. I tried to explain it to them, but I don't think they believe it or something, but if I get right down to the point where I have to show them my scars and stuff like that, I would do that.”
Working at the MGM Grand and Feeling Reno’s Magic
Bray got married in 1980 in Lake Tahoe wedding chapel and then after moving to Reno, went to work at the MGM Grand, the predecessor of the Grand Sierra Resort.
“That was spectacular,” Bray remembers. “It was so exciting to come here to Reno, making five bucks an hour. That was just like big money, you know, but going into that MGM Grand for the first time, it's like God, it was just like being in a movie. It was just amazing. Every day I went to work it was like that. It's still like that from me now. Even in Reno, it just has that magic about it. It just doesn't have the fruit trees along the side of the road or any of that, but there was that magic to it, to just like, it's hard to get away from it, you know?”
Helping in Churches and Avoiding Gambling
Bray lives on disability income and helps at local churches.
“I have brain damage and they call it bipolar but it's brain damage. I have short term and long term memory issues remembering things,” Bray said.
One downside of Reno, Bray talks about, is rampant gambling addiction.
“I see people going to shelters and stuff and I see people living at the river, but I see people with addictions and the biggest one seems to be gambling,” Bray said. “That gambling stuff just destroys them. I didn't realize it was such a powerful drug, gambling. With some kind of programs around that kind of thing, it would make a big difference for them because I see it all the time. I see my friends going from friends to just like robbing you and stuff because they need to put five dollars in the Cleopatra machine or something. It's like, I don't understand. That doesn't make any sense, you know.”
Seeking Simple Pleasures
”I'm going to talk to the owner within the next couple of weeks about getting like a bigger place,” Bray said. “A place over here that's got like two bedrooms and a bathtub. I haven't had a bathtub in like three years. I would like to soak in it. It It’s gotta to feel so good. It's been a long time.”
Before we left, Bray also talked about having more space to cook. “My favorite dish would be biscuits and gravy with sausage and strawberry shortcakes.”