On the last full day of our Las Vegas long weekend–a trip that had swiftly followed an eight day road-trip through Washington and Oregon, I was telling myself I was glad to go home. To my dog, my bed, my job, my routine. The heat was blazing in Vegas, and I was lounging poolside as if my life depended on it; fall was fast approaching at home. Summer days were numbered. “Maybe we should have booked another day…” Ben muses, as we shield the sun from our eyes, as the sun shoots a laser beam of light off of the looming golden hotel and spraying heat onto our faces.
Of course, everyone wants to be on holiday forever. Nothing on the agenda but walking, sightseeing, reading, eating, people watching, drinking (lattes! ciders!) and lazing. Sadly, more time equals more money. There’s a point on any holiday where you start to just hemorrhage money…or at least become increasingly cognizant of the ever expanding expenses. You also stop caring. Go numb. Cost be damned! This is why we work two jobs! This is why we scrimp, save and budget! Seriously though, prices in Las Vegas are unreal. Sure I can keep the cup, which is approximately the same height as a toddler in high heels, and I can just walk around with it, carrying on with my life with a drink in hand. I could wander into a bank with it and take out the last of my savings to hand it over to the smiling face with the bow tie and vest at the roulette wheel across the street. Does it really mean that I have to hand over a $50.00 and not receive change for the privilege?
It’s like the $20.00 I spent on two hotdogs and two ice teas at NYC street vendor across the street from the Dakota, the apartment building where John Lennon was murdered. Benjamin, weary from roaming Central Park on bike and on foot, was suddenly and desperately in need of nourishment, and the winner of our cash prize was the first vendor we laid eyes on. This is always a dangerous move, a rookie mistake. One should always at least turn around in one full circle to see if their odds are considerably better elsewhere. On the other hand, you also don’t want to wander for hours trying to decide on the appropriate place. Staring into windows, and grazing over menus, shrugging lazily, crippled with hunger and indecision. Once this happened with a couple in Washington DC, wandering aimlessly around Georgetown, travel-worn and looking like Joseph and Mary looking for a damned inn. Sheer agony.How hard is it to pick a place? Go to an Irish Pub and call it a day. How about finally agreeing on a place but there’s a forty minute wait and no room at the bar? Or you are trying to grab a bite before a concert/play/movie and everyone in the free world went out to eat ten minutes before you did? Or you get to a restaurant, its warm and there’s a free table, but the food is stupid fancy. Once in Vancouver, in a fit of ‘hanger’, a restaurant was selected. When it was revealed that roasted bone marrow was a dinner special, we bolted from the restaurant as soon as the server turned his back. No one is that hungry.
We learned a valuable lesson about the East Coast of Canada. April is still the off-season. Winter is still readily available. Places close early, or aren’t even open yet. Prince Edward Island felt like a ghost town. After hitting extremely bad weather between Quebec and New Brunswick (Benjamin, never having experienced Canadian winter weather, much less while on a busy highway was having a quiet meltdown in the passenger seat. None of the other travellers felt the need to mention that the weather can get much, much worse
The road trip is one of my favorite ways to travel, but there is always that moment when you really just want to gun it to the next destination. Especially in the event of close quarters; being the 5’3 wife of a 6’9 man means you have to give up the extra space to him.
The desire to quench thirst, stretch legs, breathe fresh air, to stand still I fierce. The road is never ending, the weather increasingly bleak. We get to St Andrews by the Sea, which is also enjoying an off-season, and learn there are very few options available at this hour. It’s pouring rain and we are running across to the dimly lit seafood joint, and a gust of wind blows through, turning my umbrella inside out pulling me backwards. This is where I burst into tears. A hot meal and a cold drink is the only possible reward after a hard day on the road. Starvation is not an option.
Which brings me back to the hotdog vendor along Central Park. I find it odd that he won’t take my money before I take the food. I’m trying to rid myself of the cash so I can get my hand sanitizer on, and he keeps telling me to sit, with an insistent yet cordial air to wait for the hotdogs. I’ll say this. They were big bastards; like if one of those Vegas cups got knocked over onto it’s side. Heaping portions of onions and lettuce, and dripping in the holy trinity of hot dog condiments, mustard, ketchup and relish. This is not a first date kind of food. He hands me two hotdogs, and then tells me the price. He mutters so I think he says ‘eight’ so when I repeat that back to him, and he said ‘eighteen’ my jaw dropped. What a scam! Sure, it’s not the worst crime to happen on this block, but I feel cheated nonetheless. Frankly, set up for disaster, you think $20.00 would merit a few extra napkins. Looking like the Joker, the holy trinity smiling along my cheekbones…I feel a bit like Carlos Santana at Woodstock, when it looked like he was playing his guitar, but in actuality, he was high as fuck and thought he was wrestling a snake.
After slaying the dragon, now the only pressing need is to feel the restorative sensation feeling of freshly washed hands. The search for the bathrooms on holiday is always a noble and necessary quest. I’ll give it up for Las Vegas. Clean bathrooms and all the Wi-Fi you could handle. I guess you’d have to offer those ammenties to complement the giant drinks. There are few things worse than a bursting bladder, and no bathroom in site–or locked doors or long line ups. Or you find a loo and it looks like a junky has just recently died in there. In Portland, wandering around downtown after two ice cold apricot ciders, we find ourselves in a neighbourhood without a single bar. Or, rather we found a bar, with loud music, red lights and dark corners. The bathrooms were similar to the ones available in hell. I tap each stall door open with my foot and never finding the promise land. The matter grows urgent, a sudden tsunami for the bladder.
This is where men really have the leg up in life. The ability to stand up and pee whenever, wherever. Such options are not available to women, and though it’s never an ideal solution, squatting is best executed while camping or hiking. Besides, since peeing on an overall strap in the eighth grade after drinking a $5.00 bottle of Olde English beer…I wouldn’t dare take my chances again. Popping my head into an art shop, I spot a man sitting on a stool, hands folded and staring at nothing in particular. ‘Sir, I am a super respectful person, and would like to most politely use your facilities”. He can’t permit access to the bathroom, but does recommend I go across the street to STAG, which was next door to a porn store. “It’s an all male gay strip club”, he recommends that I mixing two of life’s pleasures: a clean bathroom, and room full of lot of wang. I feel like I’d be crashing a party I wasn’t invited to. We wander further along and find a posh wine bar. I step into the soft lighting and uptempo jazz, and proceed the usual act for the ‘non-patron bathroom usage’.
Act One: “looking for the friend”, scanning the room casually.
Act Two: Can’t seem to find friend. “Might as well freshen up before I sit down for drinks with my friend, who is a real person”.
Act Three: “Hmm. Looks like my friend isn’t here. Better leave immediately, as if having just committed a crime”.
For all its discomforts and inconveniences, the road is my favorite place, the tourist life is my favorite state of being. It is where I am happiest. Travel is transformative; your worst moments become the funniest memories. Wandering around lost in strange cities, brushing past other people’s lives. Listening in on conversations, trying to figure out what the argument across the room is about. Passing though a place that didn’t even know you were there. It’s my life’s purpose and my greatest passion…I am lucky that my husband wants to share experiences with me. I have to remind myself of all that when I see how the currency exchange adds it’s own flair to our credit card statement.
On the last day in Vegas, following a glorious showgirls performance I strolled along the strip completely satisfied. We witnessed a wedding with Elvis, I got drunk at a Cirque du Solei/Michael Jackson tribute from a MJ themed cocktail–which then led to the deepest sleep of my life. I saw the most glamorous production that was so glittery and gorgeous that I blubbered like a baby when all the dancers paraded down a grand staircase in their elaborate ensembles.
I’m ready to go back to real life. Our travel companion Kate, having come from time in Jamaica, New York and DC was spending two more nights in Vegas and then was going to Mexico for a week. This kick-starts the insatiable wanderer in me. A week in Mexico would be good…it would be nice to lay on a beach. Our adventures always include various locations, constantly on the move, onwards and upwards. Always fun, but always something to recover from.
I’m not jealous. I’m perfectly happy to go home. Who needs guacamole and margaritas on the rocks; salt, sleep, sand and ocean water? There’s no place like home remember? See the dog, get back to work, back to the routine. Start planning the next adventure. Midway through my first day of work, when the rising tide of stress-related heartburn returns, I’m struck with regret and longing: “What was I thinking?? When in doubt, always take an extra day!!” The holiday already feels long ago, in the same way it felt like Vegas went on for ages. A week on a Mexican beach is suddenly looking like an absolute necessity.
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