As noted previously, I’m traveling. This is a repost from January, 2010. Thanks for reading.
Can there possibly be a greater American juxtaposition: Portland, Maine to Las Vegas, Nevada? But then Las Vegas (I feel weird calling it Vegas, we’re not that close) makes for a stark comparison to most any other place.
I had to go, yes, had to go, to Las Vegas to attend to some last-minute–and unexpected–business. This was my third time in that city. The first visit, I think six or seven years ago, was particularly weird. My daughter, Allie, and I had been climbing in Joshua Tree, dirt-bagging it, tearing our knuckles on those famous cracks, getting sunburned and thriving a pitch off the deck. Good stuff. Camp fire at night. Great stuff.
Carole and Jeff (I think Tim was in Michigan, at camp) flew out and met us in Sin City. Allie and I drove out of the desert, still dirty and thrilled at the great climbing, and into the evening glow of Las Vegas. As we pulled into town she looked at me like we’d just landed on a moon of Jupiter. “Las Vegas is weird,” she said.
In 1968 Joan Didion wrote Slouching Towards Bethlehem. In an essay called “Marrying Absurd” she wrote: “Las Vegas is the most extreme and allegorical of American settlements, bizarre and beautiful in its venality and in its devotion to immediate gratification…” That was a long time ago. But it still rings true. Las Vegas is an event seeking participants.
This time, a few years older and knowing what to expect, it is, well, still weird. There are some places that feel right. And some that don’t. More people than not, I think, find Las Vegas right. Not me. But I revel in contrariness. Maine feels right. Every other place seems by degrees a little weird from home. Some places more than a little.