After 24 hours in Las Vegas, I felt panicked & trapped.
It had been my idea to take L's mother there for her 83rd birthday, but I'd forgotten what a hard time I have with her. She's a master of passive manipulation and treacly negativity (e.g., at the airport, of a stranger, "I just don't think it's healthy for anyone to be that fat").
And because she's in the very early stages of dementia, she couldn't be left alone. Luckily L's niece came along, shared her room with L's mother and generally did most of the shepherding.
But still I felt trapped, and not just psychologically by L's mother but physically by the place. The Las Vegas strip is built to overpower and contain puny humans within complexes of massive buildings. The windows don't open, so the air inside smells like filters and cleaning fluids, and it takes ages to walk through or around the Mussolini-like blocks. I was excited to see a bike-share station outside our hotel, until I saw there was no way to rent a bike without a smartphone, which I don't have.
I went to bed Saturday night feeling like I was pinned in a straightjacket. I tried to think my way out of it, to rise above it, mentally.
"This shouldn't get to me," I told myself, even though I've found this is a fruitless thing to say. Worse than fruitless. You're gaslighting yourself, which just leaves you feeling crazy.
When I woke up Sunday morning, I told myself instead,
BE ON YOUR OWN SIDE: Is there anything you can DO to change this?
And I thought, go to a library.
I've done this before in foreign cities; libraries are a place you can sit quietly, spend no money, and get a sense of the lives of regular people who live in the area.
And they're on city bus lines.
Leaving L. with her family, Red Hair Girl and I headed out to the closest branch, about 45 minutes away, with one bus transfer. I instantly felt better, and when I arrived--Cracker Jack!--the library was unexpectedly beautiful.
I asked the librarian if the stone was local. She didn't know, but volunteered that the architect of the library is famous. She didn't know their name.
I'd debated about bringing my laptop along. Thankgod I did. I looked the library up. The architect is Antoine Predock, from New Mexico, and the stone is local red sandstone. The conical concrete structure is for children's birthday parties. How great is that?
The map showing the library also showed a park across the street.
As I was leaving, I asked another librarian, What's the park across the street?
You mean, a place to park cars? he said.
I crossed the street.
Kitty-corner from the library is a small state park--the site of the Old LV Mormon Fort. Directly across the street, it's true, is a parking lot.
I 've never met librarians before who didn't want to find things out.
I kind of wonder if the tourist industry has sucked up all the people in LV who are brilliant at public service.
It's not like I think everyone should be an extrovert––(I'm not)––but, really, all the people I talked to in the tourist industry were friendly, bright people who seemed happy to connect, even if there was absolutely no possibility of a tip. They were the best part of being there.
My last morning, having been to the Grand Canyon (a Number 1 restorative), I gave a little red rock from there to the hotel coffee shop barista I'd seen every morning--at the same time that she was surreptitiously giving me a free coffee.
She held the stone to her nose and breathed in.
"Smells like home," she said.