I know it’s against the rules to talk about what happens in Las Vegas.
Yet, home after a four-day trip, the urge to share is too strong. I must break that rule. After all, the pleasures I tasted in Vegas are not the usual ones. Might I suggest, however, that they, perhaps, are the best ones.
1) The Right to Say “No. Thanks.”
I had come to Las Vegas for a writing workshop, one supposedly centered on writing a book proposal. Away from my family duties, I was ready to put my head down and get to work.
I quickly learned that this conference was not primarily centered on helping us get our book published (though there were enough tips scattered throughout to pretend it was). Rather, we spent most of the time celebrating the stories of authors who had already been published at this particular publishing house.
I’m all for an inspiring story, but one story after the next after the next was not what I’d come for. I kept waiting for us to get to the part about writing our own book proposal.
At one point, a well-known author came up and told her story. I’ve read her books, and I truly might have enjoyed her talk had that been my focus. She offered a five-minute writing exercise, with the prompt, “Write what’s on your mind.”
Not exactly the kind of prompt that brings about life-changing revelations—usually. After this exercise, the microphone was turned over to an adoring fan, then a sobbing fan, then a newly-awakened fan. The line for the microphone lengthened with wet-faced people, ready to tell their story of what happened to them in the brief writing exercise.
I know from personal experience the kind of emotional shifts that can take place while writing our stories. But here, I felt like I was back in one of my yoga workshops, kneeling at the feet of a guru. Thanks to those guru encounters, however, as well as countless other conferences and trainings, I’ve learned to smell inauthenticity from rows away.
It’s not the I don’t believe these people had a transformative experience, it’s just that it felt oversold. A little like my hotel room. Quite like Vegas. I quietly packed up my bag, left, and didn’t return. Discernment is its own kind of pleasure.
2) Quality Clothing.
In the last several years, I have stopped buying clothes and begun investing in them. It hurts, sometimes, to drop a pretty penny on a single pair of pants or a jacket when I could get five shirts for the same price somewhere else.
But when I travel, and I pull these pieces out of my suitcase wrinkle-free, then wear them day after day, mixing and matching without any of them looking frumpy, it’s worth it. I still tend to over-pack, but that’s a separate issue.
3) A Pair of Shoes Made Just for Me.
To go along with great clothes, one needs good shoes. Here, I have been a little slower to buy up. I like fashionable sandals in trendy colors. I think of sandals as seasonal, so I don’t invest in them the way I might in a pair of boots or even tennis shoes. But my feet have become sensitive to buckles, straps, laces, and tight backs. I blister easily.
By day two, finally awake to how much walking is in involved on the strip of Las Vegas, I had several blisters on my heels and nothing better to change into. So, I went shoe shopping at Caesar’s Palace and tried on pair after pair. I only needed a few steps around the store to know I’d hit the jackpot. I slipped into a pair of low-heeled black sandals in a soft leather. They bridged the gap between dressy and casual. They could go with jeans, pants, shorts, or skirts.
“These were made for me,” I told the salesman. I didn’t take them off the rest of the day. My feet were in blissful heaven.
4) Deep Breaths.
I’m not speaking of a heavy sigh or an open-mouthed gasp. I’m talking about a mindful, slow inhale. One that begins in my nostrils, moves down into my throat, into my lungs, opens my diaphragm, and then finally settles in the space behind my navel. There, I let it pulse for just a moment before letting it retrace its path backwards, just as slowly. I repeat a few times. I wish I could sell these blissful yogic breaths right on the street, next to the vendors hawking women. After all, if it’s a mind-altering experience you’re after, nothing does it quite like a few good breaths.
5) One Good Drink.
Cheap drinks are available everywhere in Vegas. By “cheap,” I don’t necessarily mean inexpensive, but rather that they are filled with cheap ingredients. Neon drinks in plastic containers shaped like the Eiffel Tower, two-for-ones at the Happy Hour, huge cans of lite beer and more. Yet, for me, I took my greatest pleasure in savoring a single high-end glass of Bordeaux while sitting outside at a french restaurant just across the street from the Bellagio, watching a steady stream of Eiffel Towers walk by.
6) George Strait.
I listened to country music almost exclusively in college. But over the years, I drifted away. The story-telling lyrics that once characterized it gradually shifted into sexist, misogynistic ones. In the current age of “Bro Country,” where all the artists look and sound the same, women (usually called “girls”) are portrayed as cut-off-wearing, truck-bed-climbing, beer-bringing, booty-shaking sex objects. Lyrics like “Shake it for me, girl” and “Slide that little sugar shaker over here,” aren’t the ones I wanted my two growing daughters in the backseat to listen to. For this reason, and the repeated application of the corporate cookie-cutter country music slid off my radio dial.
But then, there’s an artist like George Strait. Yes, he sings about women and love and loss, but it is always with the woman being portrayed as an actual human being (imagine that). I’ve realize I’ve now become one of those people who says, “Back in my day…”
While sitting at the aforementioned restaurant, sipping on my “one good drink,” I heard a few people around me talking about the George Strait. Was there a concert? Is this why I saw so many big belt buckles and cowboy hats that day? I had to know.
“Excuse, me, are you guys going to George Strait tonight?” I turned around and asked the couple sitting behind me.
“Yes, we are.”
“Oh, you are going to love him. I saw him years ago…I wish I could go!”
“Yeah, we’re really excited.”
“Where’s it at?”
“The T-Mobile arena. He’s doing 30 number one hits. He did the other 30 last night.”
“Wow, that’s amazing. Have fun!”
I had no other plans for that evening, other than perhaps catching the Prince Tribute show at my hotel. So, I searched up tickets to George Strait on my phone. Not surprisingly, they were sold out.
But then, the man tapped me on the shoulder and said,“We have an extra ticket if you’d like to go with us.”
“Seriously? How much?”
“It’s free. We have a couple people who couldn’t make it. We were going to give them away.”
“Yeah, definitely! Thank you! And I get to buy the first round of drinks then!”
My night now consisted of new friends from Montana and North Dakota (North Dakota is where I was born and raised), three hours of old-style country music that took me back to my college days, and—why not?—one of those big Bud Lights. It didn’t even matter (that much) when the man behind me spilled his beer down my shirt. At least he and his wife, all the way from Texas, were apologetic. He even invited me to spill my drink down his shirt in retaliation. I turned him down.
7) Fresh Water.
The morning after the concert, I woke up terribly thirsty. I had been limiting my water intake, due to the fact that it was both hard to find and expensive. But, I forgot that Vegas is indeed a desert. When the cool freshness of water hit my tongue, my senses awoke. My pleasure only increased as the water slipped down into my throat and landed in my belly. I drank and drank, doing nothing else but focusing on the sweet pleasure of drinking fresh water until an entire bottle was gone.
8) Quiet Cab Drivers.
Which story would you like me to repeat? The one about the Vietnam vet and his comment “once you’re in the services, you’re a robot, not a human?” Or the story of the huge man who urinated outside of the cab while the police yelled at him from across the street, but several “very good-looking women,” came by to give him cover?Or the woman from Hawaii who wants to write a book, like I’m doing, but doesn’t have time to read?
I heard them all. And while I enjoy a good conversation (and, in full disclosure, often instigate it), when it comes to my end-of-day cab ride after listening to Wheel of Fortune casino games all day, I take pleasure in sitting back and enjoying the scenery. So, when I finally got a ride with a quiet cab driver, I was grateful.
Silence is truly one the greatest pleasurable indulgences. Especially in Las Vegas.
Author: Keri Mangis
Editor: Deb Jarrett