Monday, November 3, 2008

Viva Las Vegas!


I’m back from Vegas, tired, but inspired. Crossing two time zones, enduring brutally early flights, and contending with another seasonal time change when I got home have wreaked havoc on my energy level. And, of course, let's not forget all those miles of walking and gawking on the Strip. I think I put on five miles in Caesar’s Palace alone. (For the uninitiated, don’t go there without a map.)

But it was a good trip, full of writing and personal revelations. Here’s the short-list of what got me thinking:

1) Inspiration can come anywhere.

What should have been a relaxing massage generated a story idea when my masseuse chose to unload to me about his marital problems. I’ve never had a massage before, but even I know the massage therapist isn’t supposed to talk for the entire hour. And, believe me, we covered the gamut of topics, everything from following God’s will to impotence to defunct marital communications. As I lay there with my face buried in that sheet covered little donut, I remember wondering if Ed would ever shut up. Later, as my friend Mary and I soaked in the Jacuzzi, I had this vision of the spa as a Christian cleansing ritual. I would have never thought it, but Blathering Ed and my day at the spa got the wheels turning for a new short story. I’m not ready to write it yet, but the seeds are there. And I have a theme: finding God in Vegas.

2) Details, details, details.

I was pleased to see how faithfully I’d recreated aspects of Vegas in Jamieson’s Folly. But the tawdriness of Vegas loomed larger for me this trip. For the first time ever, I noticed the hookers on the Strip. The guys handing out hooker trading cards seemed more grubbily ubiquitous. I felt like a kid who just realized she’d made a horrible, public mistake. The nasty aspect of Vegas is lacking in the revised parts of Folly. For a bit, I saw myself rewriting the whole bollixed first chapter. But a good night’s sleep made me see it with fresh eyes. When Nick arrives in Vegas, he sees it with the eyes of youth. The grubbiness of the city doesn’t really register. He’s too caught up in the glamour and glitz. It will be better to add the grungy side as Nick’s illusions are stripped away. His altered view of the city will make a great parallel for his disillusionment.

3) Seasons are as fluid as martinis.

While we were there, Vegas experienced unseasonably high temperatures—mid to upper 80s during the day and 60s at night. It was beautiful, even to someone who thought she was ready for the cool, crisp temperatures of fall. I enjoyed slipping back into the sultriness of summer, feeling the warm sun on my face. It was like one last fling with my sandals and summer before both went away for too long.

Just as I enjoyed slipping back into summer, so I enjoyed seeing Tom Jones perform at the MGM Grand. Tom’s fully into the autumn of life, but he still embraces performing like a kid bursting forth out of spring. And he still emanates that smoldering sexuality that made him a star in the 60s. Nicest of all is that he still enjoys the magic that music has brought to his life. He experiments with new styles. He tries new things, even as he hangs on to what’s worked for him all along. In spite of all the obvious plastic surgery, his wizened journey through the seasons has inspired me. Yes, seasons change and we should embrace them, but the core of who we are remains unwavering and strong.

No comments: