Tuesday, June 19, 2012

On the Road--Doc Visits Las Vegas

     "What? You've never been to Vegas?" My husband and I have been asked the question so many times, it's become borderline embarrassing to answer it with a humble shake of our heads. It seems we are just about the only people in our family, church and  . . . our hometown that have never been to Vegas. Even my best friend manages to fly there at least 1-3 times a year. Although she's invited us several times, the timing has always been off. So Las Vegas was added to our imaginary vacation Bucket List. 
     "Hey, guess what?"  It is the last few days of our vacation and my husband's eyes are focused on the computer screen. "Vegas is just 3 hours from our campsite. Let's go." With the sights of the Grand Canyon fresh on our brains, we pack up the next morning and head for Las Vegas. Since the rest of our family-party has already been there, they opt to take a second look at the Grand Canyon.
     I guess my first hint that we were "not in Kansas anymore," or Texas either, came at the fast food restaurant we visited before we got to the famous Vegas Strip. Doc mentioned he needed to freshen up for the upcoming photo shoot. I had to ask management for the restroom keys. I may be dating myself here, but I haven't had to ask for bathroom keys since the family road trips in the 1970's and that was for outside facilities at less-than-elegant truck stops. Upon closer review, the clientele frequenting the restaurant while we ate was . . . "interesting", to say it nicely. But I hadn't seen anything yet !!!!!
Can you see the likeness to us? 
       It was early afternoon when we finally found a parking lot and launched our plan to tour the fabulous streets of Vegas. Ever thought you had a game plan only to discover you didn't really have a clue after all? That was us. It was literally "the blind leading the blind," on the confusing maze of sidewalks, escalators and casinos. The Beverly Hillbillies had come to Vegas, that's what is felt like.
     We toured through several of the hotels including the Luxor, Ex Calibur and MGM. They were gorgeous and we made a few touristy purchases along the way. Even caught a glimpse of a lovely  bride waiting with her father outside one of the chapels. Outside, the landscaping and building architecture were true works of art and we snapped a few of Doc's favorites.
Lauryn and I pose amid the chaos.

Doc enjoys the view.
     But there are images I didn't have the nerve to record. I saw one guy dressed in cowboy boots--hey, at least that was familiar-- but I had to stare at the rest of his "interesting" outfit. Around his waist, he wore a  blue checkered-vinyl tablecloth that he'd tied in the back like a mini-skirt. A sleeveless mesh shirt covered his torso and a pioneer-style yellow bonnet covered his head. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that his ponytail stuck out of a hole in the bonnet. I could fill another column with all the colorful characters we saw, but suffice it to say, I wanted to cover my 19 and 23 year-old's eyes plenty of times. 
       The old Sesame Street song , "One of these things is not like the other--one of these things just doesn't belong.  . . . ." kept running through my head. WE were that thing that didn't belong here. It didn't help that my orange UT Longhorn T-shirt seemed to stand out like a sore thumb among the bikinis and abundant cleavage. More than once I murmured quietly to myself, "If the wind blows, I sure hope that woman has on underwear beneath that short skirt." 
     Oh no . . . it occurs to me that  I've become my own mother--in Vegas.
Didn't know photos were forbidden in the casinos till later, but Doc had fun.
     Oddly, it was my teenage son who made the most astute observation of it all. "You know," he said as we returned to our car, "the people here aren't nearly as happy as they were at the Grand Canyon." He was dead-on. They weren't happy, they weren't smiling, they weren't helping each other. They were stumbling around in a drunken haze, falling on the floor of  the hotel lobby as their amused friends looked on.They were pulling up to stop lights, opening their doors and throwing up in the street while friends laughed hysterically. Others were begging to be to be noticed for their handmade bamboo roses, while the braver folks pushed pamphlets offering prostitution into our hands. The word "desperate" comes to mind.
       I was relieved when we were on our way back to the campsite. Others have told me I didn't see the best side of Vegas and that I really needed to see it at night. That may be true, but if there's a next time, I'll need to go with someone who knows the ropes.
      And I won't wear my UT T-shirt.

Writer's Reflection: 
As writers we are taught that setting is hugely important to a story. But until my trip to Vegas, I don't think I understood the effect it can have on the psyche of a character. The setting has the the power to bond and unite as it did with us in the Grand Canyon, but it also has the power to intimidate and repel. Either way, we are swayed by our surroundings and act accordingly. Delve into the setting of your manuscript or WIP,  and see if the setting/environment is having an effect on your character's mood and actions. It should.  

How about the rest of you? Have you been to Las Vegas? If so, what was your experience like? Have you visited a location that made you feel like a "fish out of water"?  I'd love to read your comments. 


  1. It was fun to see a "big" city for once! But I was definitely uncomfortable by the end. We might need to try again sometime but maybe Kelly would be able to show us some places not so out of our comfort zone.

  2. You are right, Lauryn. We will definitely need a tour guide.

  3. Vegas is not somewhere I'd like to go. I've passed through but for me personally, shining lights and man made stuff isn't as beautiful as nature (unless it's antique stuff like in Italy, *grin*).
    btw, I got a lovely thank you note from you. :-) I guess I was one of your judges in the Genesis. Congrats on finaling!!

  4. I was in Vegas as a child while our family was driving back to Minnesota from a Christmas visit to my uncle's house in California. It was memorable, but that was over twenty years ago now and things have changed (or so I've heard!). It's so easy to get cheap airfare to Vegas from Minneapolis that my hubby and I have toyed around with taking a long weekend getaway, but I don't know if I have the heart for it. My heart breaks seeing the down and out at Wal Mart sometimes, I don't know if I could handle the down and out in Vegas. On a side note, a high school friend of ours is a stand up comedian and he's out in Vegas opening for Louie Anderson's show. Both this friend and Louie will be in my hometown this weekend doing a show together. I haven't decided if we'll pay the $35 a ticket to go see them... If I can't go to Vegas, Vegas is coming to me!

    Great writer's reflection! Setting does have the power to affect attitude, fear, joy and so many other things.


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