Thursday, October 8, 2009

so you see, this story has a happy ending.

James and I were in Las Vegas last weekend with some friends to celebrate a year of 30th birthdays (not mine!). I was there once before, last December, and I enjoyed it in a surreal sort of way, but this time the city left me feeling really cold.

It's hard to put my finger on what gave me this skeezed-out feeling, but one night we were walking along the strip from one hotel to another, past a construction zone, so the pedestrian path was created with huge plastic barriers. There are all these people standing next to the barriers handing out shiny cards with pictures of prostitutes on them, and these cards are being dropped and carried in the wind and they are swept up against the plastic barriers like snow and getting ground underfoot. I know I have always probably seemed like the type of person who would enjoy having "GIRLS!" delivered to their room in 20 minutes, but I was shocked to find out that I am, in fact, not. The whole experience gave me this overwhelming sense of sadness. I get this feeling sometimes that I am experiencing my life in a meta-way, as if I were watching a film of my experiences and having the reaction an audience member would have. As Meta-Jocelyn watched Real-Jocelyn walk through the drifts of hooker cards, the song playing would be Just Like Honey by the Jesus and Mary Chain, or maybe something by Air. You know? Not a happy moment. My life is not something I really want to get away from, and if I did want to get away from it, Vegas is not the place I would choose. Everyone else's problems seem much closer there, this maudlin sense of loneliness--or perhaps this is just what the voiceover would say.

Plus the whole city seemed to smell like cigarette smoke and there were these pretentious bars everywhere and I think both James and I felt like it would be nice to be able to order a reasonably-priced drink in a normal bar not full of 97-pound silicone-pumped women in tiny cocktail dresses, teetering on 6-inch heels and being flirted with by guys in backwards baseball hats. (Before the silicone they presumably weighed 94 pounds, for the record.) The bar in our hotel, for example, featured this band that played an extraordinary medley of only the hooks from Top-40 pop songs, and as a result I walked around with the Beyonce song "Single Ladies" in my head for 5 days afterward, and the Long Island Iced Tea I ordered was $14. The whole experience was bizarre.

We went to see the famous fountains at the Bellagio and the song they were synchronized to, on this particular night, was Proud to Be An American. On any other occasion this might have seemed funny, but maybe the hooker cards had left a bad taste in my mouth--because the six of us stood there feeling, I don't think it's an exaggeration to say, profoundly uncomfortable. The reason why is a topic for another blog entry (and also something I can't say I understand completely myself), but suffice it to say that this added to the surreal sense of the whole day. Afterwards we were contemplating how much we would have appreciated, say, some Beethoven or Vivaldi, under the circumstances.

Oh, and then on Saturday I became very ill, with a viral cocktail of some or all of the following elements: exhaustion, sunstroke, flu. And I spent that night in a kind of panic because I had terrible pain in my left arm, like the normal kind of muscle pain you get from the flu only magnified and only in one part of my body and also in a hotel room, with only Tylenol obtained from the store in the lobby (and soup from room service) to make me feel better. It was scary the way mystery illnesses are always scary, but with an extra side-serving of scariness due to being in a foreign country and our flight home being scheduled for the next day and I was thinking thoughts like, how am I going to carry my luggage? and what if I have to go to the hospital? (Ironically, Canadians also fear American hospitals. I think it must be the absence of death panels, it makes us feel uncomfortable. Or perhaps we're afraid of having to pay for something, you suckers.) And we were on the 16th floor and the wind whistling by our room sounded like a wind tunnel. (It was very strange! At one point a security guard came to tell us to close our window, and it wasn't even open. Such was the noise. It felt like the end of the world--in fact, much like the last time we were in Vegas.) So anyway, it wasn't a pleasant night and I woke up feeling exhausted and ready to leave Las Vegas and never come back.

Whenever I come back to the Edmonton airport, the free luggage carts erase all misgivings I might have had about coming home. Edmonton is not a glamorous city. It's not sexy. Its appeals are substantial but not obvious. And of course the weather is a disaster. (Approximately half the Facebook and Twitter updates I've read today from Edmonton are observations about last night's snowfall.) As a beginning gardener, few things depress me more than Zone 3A. I think when most Edmontonians go away they probably feel some version of this panic on return, the sense that now I am going to be stuck here again. But in spite of all that, being able to take my luggage to the car without swiping a credit card inevitably warms my heart. I may not "know I'm free," but I know the effin luggage carts are free-- and I'll probably take option b, actually, thanks.

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