Saturday, March 27, 2010

How Much Glitter Does One City Need or Why Vegas Sucks

I've been in Vegas. That's not a blanket statement, it's an update on my life. I've been in Vegas. Lest you imagine that I chose to go to sin city, let me assure you that I traveled to Vegas for a meeting. That's not the point, though, so I'll skip over that part. The point is that Vegas sucks ass. I should have known when I stepped off the plane and into 1977 (seriously- the airport was a portal to a whole different era) and the woman next to me sighed to her husband, "Oh honey. It's like heaven." Uh, no. Or, if yes, you seriously need to rethink your vision of the afterlife. But I was upbeat. Nauseous but upbeat. Surely this was a city where I could find adventure. I could bring the badass here, right? Then I saw it- a life size cardboard woman holding a machine gun. Now that had potential. Maybe I could finally satisfy my small-arms curiosity. I scrawled the number on my ticket envelope and tucked it away.

We stayed in a hotel on the strip that started out okay ("Look! There's a big fish tank! How bad can this place be if they have a fish tank!?") and then immediately spiraled into the toilet when I tried to cross the casino floor and realized that even the carpet had glitter in it and that it was true- the whole place was designed to confuse and distract me from my goal of getting the hell off the casino floor. There was glitter everywhere. There were pole dancers everywhere. There were scooters everywhere. When I saw the glitter covered scooter parked next to the pole dance, well, the cognitive dissonance of that was almost more than my little brain could bear.

Rather than go into detail, let me just run down the high point.

1. I couldn't get a cup of coffee without crossing the casino floor.
2. I couldn't get anything to eat without crossing the casino floor.
3. I couldn't get into my room without crossing the casino floor.
4. I couldn't get out of my room without crossing the casino floor.

Get the point?

But I still had some hope. I figured that there must be something I could do here that would up my badass cred. I braved the casino floor and found a place to have a beer and as I watched the people around me, it hit me. Vegas is mostly a city filled with posers. Women wearing shoes they can't walk in, sporting fake boobs under dresses obviously purchased for just that occasion. Men trying to look like high rollers, gambling money they can't afford to lose. Groups of men and women trying to cut lose and shake off the mundane reality of their real lives in a single weekend.

And don't even get me started on the brides. You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a bride. I'm not even sure they all had grooms- or other brides- with them. I really think some of them were going stag.

My badass choice was to reject Vegas. I didn't gamble anything. I didn't overindulge (well, there was that one Brazilian Bar-B-Que place, but that doesn't count because I didn't choose it). I wore my jeans the whole time. I broke up with Vegas before it even had a chance to ask me for a second date.

Oh- and the gun place? Turned out to be a tourist trap. The guy at the bell stand refused to let me get into a taxi when I told him where I wanted to go. No loss. I'm pretty sure that's an itch I'd rather scratch without paying for it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Eyes Wide Shut

Once upon a time, way back at the beginning of this project, I googled "How to be a Badass." I found a lot of links- most not safe for civilized company- and the images were, um, had a dominatrix bent to them. One of them had this interesting idea, though: one quality of the badass is the ability to do something without looking. I think the writer was imagining something like throwing a knife or shooting someone's toe off, but it got me thinking about what I can I do without looking. After much thought, I realized that, without looking, I can:

1. Return the shopping cart to the cart corral from across the parking lot.
2. Tell that my children are doing something they're not supposed to.
3. Sense when dinner is "done" (i.e., burning)
4. Smell trouble brewing at work.
5. Know when it's bedtime.
6. Communicate my level of stabby-ness.
7. Tell a joke.
8. Open a beer.
9. Change a diaper.
10 Type.

None of these are really that badass, except the shopping cart thing. I think that sort of freaks people out.

So what about you? What can you do without looking?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Being Brave

I try to go to the gym several times a week. I have time after I drop the kids at school and before I have to be at work and my gym isn't that far out of the way, so I just don't have much of an excuse not to go. (Not for lack of trying to come up with one- trust me.) So I go and I try to use the time to let my mind wander a bit. This morning as I was huffing and puffing on the elliptical, I realized that I had a great view of the women coming in. So I started my own version of that "guess the secret" game I play to entertain myself on airplanes. Instead of secrets, though, I tried to imagine the brave thing that each woman had done in the hours, days or weeks leading up to her walk through that door.

In some cases it was easy- the older mom with the newborn was a single-mom-by-choice who'd taken on parenthood alone. The very heavy woman in the purple sweatsuit was taking her life back by making that first step towards a healthy body. The young woman with the scar on her knee was a former athlete coming back from surgery. Others were harder, though. They looked like me- average, middle-class, middle-aged women doing their best to stay in the same sized jeans they'd worn for years. What brave things had we done, I wondered?

I get on airplanes and drive thousands of miles every year, believing that I will return safely to my family. A friend made a terrifying call to get test results that, while ultimately benign, could have proved disastrous. A colleague insisted that her child get help, in spite of his insistence that nothing was wrong. A neighbor stood in her town meeting and said "No. Not here," to those who would challenge the right of others to marry.

From the mom who turns and walks away, leaving a crying child in daycare and trusting that they'll both be okay to the woman who holds the people she loves to the high standards of their best selves, our brave moments small and large need to be acknowledged- even if only by us. They call us to draw on some hidden resource, buried in some small corner of ourselves, and to do that thing we thought we could not do. We may not have invisible jets or snazzy, bullet-deflecting golden bracelets, but we are superheroes.

So tell me, how were you brave today?