Las Vegas : It is so Extra

There is something about this city. It draws millions every year. There is more to it than neon, gambling and (legal) prostitution. Those are usually the first things people think about when you mention you are planning a trip here.

For the introvert looking for a quiet relaxing vacation Las Vegas is prob’ly not going to be a first choice. There aren’t many places to “get away from it all” if you stay on The Strip. And yet I love coming here. Granted, it is always only a long weekend, and also every few years. The last time I was in Vegas was just over 2.5 years ago.

I was thinking about this current visit today while walking, well, everywhere. This contemplation began during a walk to a drug store this yesterday morning before breakfast. It included climbing and descending no fewer than 120 stair steps, one elevated pedestrian bridge, dodging hundreds of people walking, stopping, standing, panhandling or busking, taking pictures, taking selfies. There was a line of 30+ waiting to get a table at Denny’s, a dozen or so bodegas hawking everything: discount show tickets, alcohol, tobacco, cheap souvenirs, electronics accessories, hats, shoes, clothes. There were people trying to make their wages by handing out coupons for Uber or Lyft first ride bonuses, and several dressed in knock-off character costumes who will pose with you for pictures for a few bucks; Hari Krishna, or some other Eastern religious order wearing amber colored robes, passing out cards to help find your inner peace. The “Slappers” pushing cards for hookers and brothels don’t start coming out until late afternoon. There was one street evangelist encouraging us all to repent. I saw 3 ambulances, one fire rescue truck, 4 motorcycle cops, 2 patrol cars/SUVs. There were showgirls wearing next to nothing, and the destitute with next to nothing.

How far did I walk? About 0.8 mi (1.3km), making it 1.6 mi (2.6km) round trip. This city is stimulation overload. It gets busier, and worse, on the weekends.

I tried listening to my favorite Third Day worship album. I made it as far as the mezzanine above the casino floor before having to turn up the volume to the point my phone practically shouted DANGER! at me. I should clarify, that was out the room, down the elevator and a span of a few hundred yards through hotel ‘filler space’ (past open lobby areas to ball rooms, restrooms, coffee and souvenir kiosks, some public seating and two restaurants I can’t afford). My Vivofit tracker counted almost 1,600 steps from the room to the front doors. Huge is an understatement. And yet, this particular hotel is one of the smaller ones on The Strip.

This makes me sound like such a rube. I’ve been to Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco. I would go back to any of those, but I jump at the chance to come back here. The kicker is I don’t come to gamble. I mean, I’ll lose a few dollars on the slots. I could gamble at the tribal-run casino that’s about 40 miles from my house if I wanted. I’ve never been. And I won’t go. Addictive personalities and casinos don’t generally mix well, ya know?

But this city! The little bit of extrovert in me adores talking to all the people, engaging in conversation with absolute random strangers at the most random of places and times. Sweat Pea is here with me and more than once she’s said, “Calm down. You don’t have to talk everyone.” I wouldn’t say she’s mortified; it’s a side of me she rarely, if ever, has seen. After all, I did warn her she would see a side of me that doesn’t come out to play very often. Hmm, maybe that’s why I like coming back.

The day before yesterday I realized how empty and disconnected the atmosphere is here, and how much I’ve allowed to get pulled, sucked really, from me. With 100,000 people wandering, shopping, commuting up, down and across Las Vegas Blvd I felt a pervasive spiritual emptiness. There are churches growing and thriving here, I’m sure. I doubt any of them are planning to build the next Crystal Cathedral or Willow Creek on the vacant 22 acre parcel at the south end of The Strip though. This emptiness is what had me walking to the drug store with Third Day cranked up. I needed my heart fed; it got a little nibble. I needed a moment to recharge.

The drug store jaunt wasn’t enough to refill my introvert self, and that was the reason for the middle of the night soak. Headphones were at the ready. They became dampers to the white noise of a hotel: hvac fan, three others sleeping twenty feet away, the bathroom vent rattling the steam away, room doors closing loudly as all hotel room doors do. I got very little sleep, and don’t entirely care.

The sun is up and a new day of crowds and sounds has begun. In 37+/- hours I’ll be home again. My usual introverted self will relish a good long sleep. Until then I have one last day to let the Extra that is Las Vegas take me in.

Advertisements

Seen of the Street #4: Flashback to My Youth

I got a distressing call yesterday afternoon from Sonny Boy. “Mom, I just rear-ended somebody with the car.” I was tending my flower beds that are starting to get out of control from all the rain we’ve had lately, and the crab grass shoots are trying to take over again.

My parental freedom flashed before my eyes. My head started swirling with thoughts, the first was ‘he’s going to get a ticket and lose his license, then I’ll have to start driving him all over the place again, along with driving the girls because I can’t send him.’ In no particular order came: how am I going to tell his dad about this, was anybody hurt, how much damage was done to our car or the other guy’s. I told him I’d be right there– he was right in front of Girlfriend’s house, which is a couple of blocks away. **Sigh** I’m dirty, smelly, in old flip flops, my hair’s in a bandanna to keep sweat from dripping in my eyes, in clothes which don’t “go together” and now I get to walk through the neighborhood.

I called the non-emergency number for the police as I walked and learned the accident had already been reported and that a car was being sent. It took the dispatcher three attempts before I finally understood his question about gas leaking from the vehicle. [Mental note to self: get hearing in right ear checked. Blast all those loud concerts in my youth. Wait.. that blasting is probably what did my hearing in. Double-drat!] I called Sonny Boy back to say I was on my way and would be there in a minute or two. Just before he hung up I could hear the him and Girlfriend talking about finding the owner of the car, and heard an unfamiliar male voice in the background. Sonny Boy was explaining he had just run into his car…then, nothing. He was gone.

At the scene I find the two of them and the owner of the Unfamiliar Male Voice standing in the street surveying the damage. Sonny Boy introduced me: “This is my Mom.” I may have asked what happened, or maybe not, or he just started talking. “We just pulled out of the driveway, and since there wasn’t anyone parked across from the end of theirs I pulled out really wide because I had room. I looked down to grab my drink and when (Girlfriend) reached for it at the same time I let go so she could have it and looked up and there was the back of the car. I ran into it before I had a chance to stop.” He was saying he was going maybe 5 MPH, and the more he told the story, the faster he got. It went to 10, then 15, then 20. I was ready to tell him to stop telling the story or he’d end up with a speeding ticket by his own admission!

We sat in the shade on the sidewalk, and I idly pulled up weeds next to the short retaining berm we sat on. Sonny Boy sat with his face in his hands, and asked “Are you mad?” I wasn’t–honestly, I wasn’t– disappointed, yes; mad, no. My disappointment wasn’t even in what happened, just that it was so much sooner than I had expected. To avoid answering I started pouring water into my mouth and mumbled “My mouth is full, I can’t talk.” Girlfriend started to laugh. ( I have to explain. In our home, if you get caught talking with your mouth full, you get your hand smacked– parents included. To avoid answering a question any one of us has, on occasion, popped something into our mouth.)

“Am I grounded?”

“Yep, probably.”

“Well, it was fun while it lasted–having my license.” (He got in two months ago.) We both were waiting for a ticket to be issued, which would end his driving until his 18th birthday; so says Michigan law. Which made me think again about having to be Chauffeur Mom.

He was going over what happened aloud again and again and he couldn’t figure out how it happened. He had his hand on the wheel still, but we need a front end alignment, and when the rear wheels went over the speed hump slightly crooked it must have lurched the car to the side. That’s the best we can figure.

While I’ve been playing this whole episode over in my head it made me think back to the first accident I ever had. I was 16, a Junior and it was winter. I was driving home from a basketball game still in my cheerleading outfit, and had two other girls with me. They lived near to me and was driving them home. One of them had a crush on some guy, and we decided to follow him home. I didn’t care, there were two ways for us to get home, and this was one of them. We were about 50 yards behind them when I hit a patch of black ice and slide from the left lane across the right lane and into a snow bank. A man in his 50’s, I’m guessing–he looked older than my parents– hit the rear end of Mum’s now snow-bound car. To this day, I can’t say for sure if he even had his head lights on, but I think not. I got a ticket for “Improper Lane Usage” and 2 points on my license. I dreaded calling my Dad.

When I told him what happened, he surprised me by not flipping out, or yelling. He first asked if everyone was okay, if the car could be driven home. Then he asked me something that took me completely by surprise and has stayed with me ever since. “What did you learn from this?” he asked.

What did I learn!?! That was crazy! All I could think to say, and this is still my opinion some days: “Don’t drive in winter in Michigan.” What on earth kind of question is that to ask your daughter after she’d been rear-ended. I could never figure out why he asked me that, ..until yesterday.

The officer arrived. It wasn’t a very long wait, but long enough, like waiting for the executioner’s axe to fall. You know it’s coming, and you know it’s unavoidable. With a prodding of “On your feet sir,” he was up, getting his papers off the hood of the car. Office asked to see it all, asked about what happened. The Unfamiliar Male Voice said Sonny Boy came to find him and then admitted he would have driven off if it were him. Officer lifted his eye brows and cocked his head– he was impressed. He could have driven away, but instead stayed to face his Driver’s License Executioner.

In that moment, I was proud of my son. The Officer found him at fault, but did not write him a ticket. Sonny Boy and I both know he should have gotten one, and deserved to. The dread washed from behind his eyes. He’d received an act of mercy, and he knew it.

We were talking later that night about what happened that day. He’s been waiting for the Parental Axe to fall, too, and wanted to know what sort of trouble he was in. I asked him what my dad asked me: What did you learn from this today? The look on his face must have matched my own all those years ago. He wasn’t expecting that one at all. I wanted him to remember that taking your eyes off the road, even for a split second, can have very serious consequences. I pointed out that it was just a parked car, but suppose it was someone’s child who ran into the street to chase after a loose ball, then what? I’m not sure the gravity of that possible scenario has sunk in.

What did I learn, after all these years? Parents have lessons to give, and a child can learn from them, even 23 years after the fact. And, if we don’t learn from our mistakes, and teach that to our kids, we all shall be doomed to repeat them.

On the Street #3

A bumper sticker which read:

Ignore the Conventions

Obey the Commandments

And another:

The Ten Commandments are not multiple choice

Who was it that said the Commandments weren’t “suggestions”? I mean, besides God..I think it was a recently retired TV journalist-turned writer Tom Brokaw.  (Correct me if I’m wrong, please)

With the recent wranglings over having the name “God” written anywhere, and the placement of the Ten Commandments in courtrooms and courthouses across the country, it would seem opinion of said documents is not all negative.  There are some who still believe they have a place in our country.  Personally, I’m glad they aren’t just going to roll over and go away.  If people with faith stop living what they believe, we soon won’t believe in much of anything.

Using the US $1.00 Presidential coins with the motto ‘In God we Trust’ moved to the coins edge rather than its obverse or reverse side as my example, in some arena’s it was presumed to have been done so the words would eventually wear off and not be seen at all; in effect wiping out God completely. I don’t know if that is entirely true, but they have definitely done away with convention on that one.

COMMANDMENT: a divine command, an authoritative direction or instruction to do something

CONVENTION: General agreement on or acceptance of certain practices or attitudes

Seen on the Street

Introduction

Every once in a while something grabs my eye, and it leaves an impression. It’s one of those things that just make you stop to think, not good, not bad, just “Hhhhmmmm” and wonder what they must have been thinking when they said/wrote/went/did whatever, and I was a witness to it.

Seen on the Street #1

Homemade car window *thing*, hanging in the rear window for all the world to see. At first I thought it was one kind of societal dig; turns out it was another:

War in Irag: 4,000 dead in 5 years

9/11: 3,000 dead in one day

Abortion: 3,000 dead per day, for the past 35 years

Abortion is killing America!

I just did a quick calculation, and that comes to ever 38 MILLION babies in the United States since 1973. I guess when it comes to making a life and death decision, one female and one child it, it becomes my own decision, and no one can stop me. When it becomes one President, one Dictator and peace and stability for a nation oppressed, it must be stopped.