Strip It. Strip It Good.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

With the odds stacked against me after my first trip to Vegas, I had to go back to Sin City just a few weeks later. A nonstop flight delivered me safely to McCann International where a silent cabbie took me back to the strip and deposited me at The Venetian where I was greeted by an accordion player in front of a giant gold-leaf fountain underneath a Michelangelo-style painted dome. Welcome to Vegas.

The hotel hosts a performance of Phantom of the Opera every night, so as you're walking to your room under dainty cherubs and elaborate chandeliers, they're piping haunting organ music and Christine's high notes, which you have to believe make those little glass pendants on the chandeliers tremble. And wonder if some half-masked caped stranger will be on the elevator when the doors open.

Business ended on a Friday night at 6, but my nonstop return flight didn't depart until first thing Saturday morning. As such, I found myself wandering down the strip alone, a stranger in a very, very strange land. Determined to make the best of it, I took in the pirate show at Treasure Island - which, for the record, was preceded by Ini Kamoze's "Here Comes the Hot Stepper" on the loudspeaker. The show itself featured two sirens named Cinnamon and Sugar who lure poor Captain Mack and his decidedly hunky crew aboard their siren ship by singing and gyrating in scanty glittered hot pants. After that explosive show came to an end, I headed to The Mirage for a volcanic eruption and then back to the classics at The Forum abutting Caesar's Palace where all sorts of amazing replica statuary lives. From the heart of Italy, I jaunted to Paris and its Eiffel Tower. And no trip down the strip would be complete without a viewing of The Bellagio fountains, which, for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday, were choreographed to Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA."

After hours of being a quiet watcher among the noisy crowds wearing ginormous test tubes of multicolored alcohol and of studiously ignoring casino barkers and those peddling the seedier side of Vegas who made me walk like Mary Katherine Gallagher to keep them from putting things in my hands, I headed back to the Phantom's lair. I captured my journey entirely on my iPhone and assembled my bizarre evening on the strip into a little photo book. Me and Vegas aren't at odds anymore, but frankly, if I play my cards right, I won't be going back any time soon.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Photo: Leo Reynolds
According to Wikipedia, 32 is a happy number. It's also the number of pages in a standard comic book. And the Fahrenheit temperature at which water freezes. Today, it's also my age - a way of marking the passage of time. The last few years, that particular pastime has been full of frustrations at those things that weren't part of the equation. Those things that, in my own mind and heart or in the eye's of others were subtractions. But this year, I choose to look at the math a little differently. This year, I'm going to look at what adds up to 32 reasons to celebrate myself.
  1. Daughter - Perhaps my first role in I arrived almost a full month late for, but when I showed up, it was with a total devotion to my parents that I carry still.
  2. Little sister - It came fast on the heels of daughter, being a sister, and the fierce loyalty and love for my older sister and brother with it.  
  3. Friend - I'm still friends with some of my earliest friends - Sarah, who I've known since I was three; Niki, who's been one of my dearest friends since first grade.  That loyalty thing again.
  4. Loyalty - So let's talk about that thing loyalty. Once I'm won, I'm hard to lose.
  5. Smile - From the earliest pictures, I can see my smile. Even if the baby face doesn't look like me anymore, that smile - big, open, happy - is there.
  6. Laugh - Loud, cackling and anything but ladylike, it's frequent and heartfelt. And contagious.
  7. Writer - I found one of the great loves of my life early in words and stuck with it.
  8. Pictures - My eyes see, and I can show what I see.
  9. Honesty - I cannot tell a lie. Never could.
  10. Hugs - Hugs are little bits of love passed on through a squeeze. I believe in 'em. And I give them out with reckless abandon.
  11. Compassion - No one ever cries alone.
  12. Left-handed - My wronghandedness has always been a badge of honor - especially when I have the telltale smear of pen ink on the outside of my hand.
  13. Humor - I can laugh at me.  That's important.
  14. Courage - When I got to a point in my life when I really needed help, I admitted my frailties and found the strength to ask for help.
  15. Clumsiness - My bruises and scrapes (literal and figurative) have been the reason for many a side-splitting story.
  16. Dandelions - I know they're weeds, but even weeds need love.
  17. Hopeful - Despite the trials and tribulations, I never lose hope that better things await.
  18. Creativity - The inner-workings of my brain are mysterious and magical.
  19. Faith in mankind - While it gets me into trouble from time to time, I have an unfailing (some would say naive) faith in the goodness of man.
  20. Aunt - A more recent addition to my list (four years and counting), I lavish love on my nieces and nephews.  And promise to teach the left-handed one to tie his shoes.
  21. Volunteer - The notion of giving of one's self and one's time entirely for the benefit of someone else carries the power of change.
  22. Adventure - Some would question my inclusion of this...not an innate quality of mine...but a learned one that has led me to push my boundaries and discover the world outside of my comfort zone.
  23. Openness - No mystery here, which I often lament. But you can trust that what you see is what you get.
  24. Simplicity - While I can get caught up in an overstimulated need/want frenzy with the best of them, in the end, I can enjoy the simplest of things: clouds, a particularly lovely tree, a drop of water on the edge of a petal, that you can buy something called Fluff in a jar.
  25. House - The bane of my existence for some time, it's still something I accomplished. Like a grown-up or something.
  26. Nostalgia - All that came before, hazy with hindsight, is precious.
  27. Shoes - What, you say?  How can shoes be on this list?  Because they've evolved into some extension of all the facets of my personality.  A shoe for all seasons.
  28. Grace in the profane - One of my grad school professors used this phrase all the time...and I like to think I've learned how to see the grace even in the dimmest of circumstances.
  29.  Curiosity - Mostly this leads to the accumulation of more useless trivia knowledge, but occasionally, I find a way to turn it into something meaningful.
  30.  Encourager - I will be your cheerleader and your champion.  Your triumph is mine; your failure is a reason for me to swoop in with hugs (see #10).
  31.  Singing - It's a terrible racket. But I do it because it makes me happy - with the windows down and the radio up, and it's one thing that's taught me not to apologize for those things that bring me joy.
  32. Love - In an ever-widening circle of people, from those who have known me for decades, to those who have come into my life in recent years and months, there is love.  I never run out of that.
So that's my list.  Happy birthday to me and all my 32 years.