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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Monday, May 9, 2011


I cannot turn a cartwheel. Yes, I know any child can execute a beautiful cartwheel, but I could not do it as a child and I cannot do it now. I can perform other acrobatic stunts considered more difficult, including a flip (or at least I could in 1967), but the cartwheel eludes me. I can hula hoop until hell won't have me any more. Funny, because I cartwheel across that imaginary plane of free association so effortlessly. Want to come along? OK, join me.

I just looked it up. The comedienne Rita Rudner is almost precisely one year younger than I. That makes her 57. A Virgo, like me, she would be meticulous, diligent, a perfectionist, if one puts any stock in astrology. I see billboards for her Las Vegas show whenever I take the Desert Inn Road flyover to avoid the traffic at the Strip when bisecting the town east to west or vice-versa. What the hell is Rita thinking with that splits thing at her age? Yeah, I know she is a trained dancer. But those splits! I wonder if she has to be assisted to rise from the floor after the photo shoot. I wonder if her good-looking trousers withstand the strain without giving way and whether the photographer's assistants have to artfully drape the legs of those trousers so she looks more . . . natural. Natural?? I've never seen her show. She is really good looking and when I have heard her interviewed on local radio or TV, she seems like a regular, good citizen who drives her kid to school and worries about some of the same things that bother me. She seems to be an older mom, as I was/am . . . but those splits!
Readers must tire of Las Vegans continually bitching about the wind, and I promise that I sicken myself in that respect, too. However, I'm not sure I recall anything like last weekend, just when we'd been enjoying promises of warm, relatively calm days. Those who are more tightly wound than I in a literal sense may pick this to death, but I read the Severe Weather Alert. We had an airport watch in effect, with winds sustained at 34 knots and gusts to 47 knots. It was damnably windy. On Saturday, my hair was nearly torn from my scalp as I went in to an AA meeting. Coming out of the Wynn casino at 2:30 Sunday morning, I observed, "Well, we've been in there for 10 hours. Maybe the wind . . " With that, the skirt of my dress was tossed over my face and the rest of my comment was garbled. Throughout the day, the screaming blow only amped up, rendering the air a dull brown with flying dust and grit. I have experienced stronger winds, once in the desert, camped in a gale we later learned was likely 75 mph, for a shorter, overnight duration. It scared me. I was not scared this time in the house, listening to things - some of them remarkably heavy - being tossed around and into the pool. But I am driven nearly insane by it. If it were possible to die from allergies, I might just do that, eyes and nose streaming, lips and tongue adhering to my teeth from too many antihistamines. I am reminded of an Anais Nin essay I once read wherein the characters were driven nearly psychotic because of the scirocco. I comprehend that. The essay was not really about the wind, but she depicted it as a vivid character, an important part of her story. And though I am seated in the wrong part of the world for a real scirocco, I deeply felt the sense of madness approaching. The windchimes created a hellish din, and I remembered that a Scirocco is also a Volkswagen . .

An AA acquaintance has been grounded by the courts for a short time and I have been providing rides. AA places great emphasis on the many benefits of alcoholics helping other alcoholics, considering even the simple act of making the coffee for a meeting a "service". From my perspective, giving rides to someone who lives halfway between my home and AA is easy. It is my pleasure to help where I can, and I am grateful that my fat is not in the fire for once, driver's license revoked and possible jail time in the future. We make our way along some of the older, more congested and always-under-more-road-construction thoroughfares of the city, along the Boulder Strip. People get fidgety in the gridlock, and so do I. "You handle it pretty well," observed my companion. "I'd like to just start flipping them all off." My gut clenched, I broke into a sweat and began to babble, "No, no. No. Don't do that, please. No." I drew a pretty strange look as I sat, miserable in the driver's seat, recalling the last time I flipped anyone off except in jest in the privacy of my own home. July, 1976.

My Volkswagen was not a Scirocco, if those even existed at the time. Mine was the ubiquitous Beetle of the proletariat, 1972 model, yellow, with not the tiny or the huge tail lights of the earlier or later models but the mid-sized ones, regular old, beloved stick shift, not that silly Automatic Stick Shift thing Volkswagen offered at the time. That bug and I were well-suited to one another and I'd had many an adventure behind its wheel. Flying - oh, yes, way too fast - around the curve of one of the cloverleaf configurations of the LA freeways, I once came quickly upon an overturned truck that had deposited many dead cows in the roadway. Although quite distressed, I downshifted my little chariot, got onto the brakes and neatly, but narrowly avoided any cow collision. My timing was less fortuitous the time I got behind the semi-truck full of oranges that had spilled onto the Golden State Freeway, but oranges are less deadly than cows in a collision. I squeezed fresh OJ for about 10 minutes and went on my way. The VW had moved Ex and me, four kittens and all our worldly possessions to Las Vegas only a couple of weeks earlier. To my disappointment, it took Ex only about 14 seconds to find people to drink and play pool with. I was on my own in the evenings a lot.

It was monsoon season, something I'd never experienced. Hell for hot and humid enough to make it rain indoors. I drove to the 7-11 nearby and got an obscenely huge cold drink - it would have been the fully sugared stuff in the day, lots of ice. On the way out of the store, a man made a remark to me that I didn't care for. Given that this became such a life-altering event, one would expect me to remember the exact words, but I do not. It had to do with my appearance, in words I instinctively knew he thought were complimentary, but which I did not appreciate. Without giving the notion sufficient forethought, I flipped him off. Oh, it was a gentle flipping off, not truly intended to call the man out. If I'd chosen words instead of gestures, they would not have been the words typically associated with flipping off. The man ignited. He set his jaw and started to walk across the parking lot in a resolute way. Scared, I jumped into my car, started it and went out onto the street. He was on me in a minute, Barney Fife in the patrol car, chasing down a perpetrator. All he lacked was a siren. I knew how to handle my car and exhibited some fancy moves, spurting forward, dashing between other cars. He never missed a beat. I took parking lots at a fast diagonal following sharp, last-minute turn-ins. He was right there with me. Pouring sweat now, I was 23, shaken, didn't know the streets and we'd been at this for 20 minutes or more. There would be no cell phones for decades.

Appearances count for much in Las Vegas. We don't like to scare the tourists away. One of Metro's finest pulled me over on the Strip, probably for driving unbecoming a local or some such infraction. The angry man stopped and waited for me to get my ticket, apparently so that we could take up our chase again afterwards. Mortified, I told the officer my story. He went and had words with the angry man who finally moved on. "Are you new to Las Vegas?" I said I was. "From California?" What, was it stamped on me or something? I already had Nevada plates on the car. "Come on, honey. I'll see you home. I'd advise you not to flip people off in Las Vegas. They don't care for it." I've never done it again. It's the last time I felt kindly toward a traffic cop.

Something that charmed me: My fragile, ancient VHS videotape of "Enchanted April" has played as white noise and flashing gray/black/white/soft color distraction for days on the equally ancient 19" TV retained for the very purpose of playing those old tapes I'm not ready to toss. Enchanted April is . . narrow, I suppose. It doesn't appeal to hordes of people, but it is a firm favorite of mine. Ex tolerated it a few times a week and Amber became as dedicated a fan as I. Once a man who loved me agreed to sit by my side and try to watch it. Within 10 minutes, his book was open on his lap, but he stayed beside, hand occasionally patting my thigh, remaining together despite Enchanted April.

Anyway, the opening scenes take place in an impossible-to-fully-describe sodden, gray morning in London just after World War I. As Lottie rides in the bus, crushed in with disabled veterans and heavy clouds of cigarette smoke, one can feel the damp chill, smell the wet wool uniforms, lunches carried in baskets, shopping items perched on laps, some passengers standing in the aisles. The rain pounds on from a solid gray sky. Lottie sees an advertisement in The Times on the back of the newspaper being read by a man seated across from her. She dreams of "letting" (leasing) the vaunted villa on the Mediterranean just to escape London in April . . . The first 2-3 minutes of the video bring my words to life. Skip through the opening credits, if you must. And, yep, the first strains of the lead-in music are like nails scraping a blackboard. It's still worth that visual of 1916 London in April.

I didn't intend to do an Enchanted April snippet until a quote grabbed me: "It's easy to understand why the most beautiful poems about England in the spring were written by poets living in Italy at the time." [Philip Dunne, 1908-1992, American screenwriter]

And now, I shall cartwheel myself to a hot bath followed by sleep if I am lucky tonight, for tomorrow is to be busy and I need to be on my game. I surely do thank the reader for company during my mini-vacation for which I only had to travel as far as the confines of my own head. Have I mentioned I am pretty easily entertained?


  1. I love Enchanted April! It's time to watch it again. (A perfect companion movie to watch while scanning photos and file.)

  2. @ Doozyanner ~ I'm not surprised at all that you love the movie. It's a perfect companion for so many things. I'd love to dress like those good women, look like Caroline Dester, be a good soul like Rose Arbothnot and as whimsical and loving as Lottie Wilkins. I'd also like to be like Mrs. Fisher when I'm old - 100% certain of how EVERYTHING should be in the world.

  3. I can't cartwheel either, or handstand, or flip or anything else vaguely gymnastical! Certain I could never achieve Rita Rudner's eyewatering position without the aid of a spade on a beach and a pair of mannequin legs!

  4. @ Rachel ~ Oh, given your height, I think cartwheels and handstands would be added a happy little fillip, that extra trailer of long limbs . . on the other hand, the flip might be better suited to us stubby persons. Less length to pull over. I'm sure there must be some math or physics in there that are beyond my ken. I loved your use of "eyewatering". I imagine I'd just be bawling. But your idea of mannequin legs and a spade on a sand beach . . . I wonder if the desert sand might . . . stand by for updates.

  5. Oh boy, I can't do a cartwheel either. Or a flip. I had a friend in elementary school that could, and I'd ask her to do them for me all the time. Sort of a vicarious thrill for me.

  6. @ CramCake ~ Well, living vicariously isn't highly rated enough, in my opinion. You use the word "thrill". It thrilled you. And you didn't risk injury. So who's physically gifted and who's smart? I'd rather be smart than dead!

    Growing up in Salt Lake, there were several months of the year we had to take PE in the gym because of weather. Man - for the few moves I COULD execute - I was SOMETHING with the added advantage of starting out on top of the trampoline. This sawed-off girl could nearly get up into the rafters before doing the quadruple back flip . . YES, I'm blowing smoke.

  7. When I was a kid, I couldn't do a cartwheel, a flip, nor operate a hula-hoop. I was terribly uncoordinated as a child. Probably why Jerry Lewis was an early hero of mine.

    I have seen Enchanted April, and enjoyed it. I thought the woman who played Lottie was especially good.

  8. @ Kirk ~ I'm telling you, I'm coming to Strongville to snare you! We're well-suited gymnastically (thanks, Jerry!) AND you're a man who liked Enchanted April. Josie Lawrence was wonderful in the film, but I truly feel an affinity for each of them for different reasons.

  9. So funny - love the story. Sometimes my hand starts up on it's own, and then I remember I'm a grandma and I need to act my age! Ha!

  10. @ Jenny ~ You know, it's out of character for me to have learned a lesson so well after one such incident. I'm typically such a hard case. But that guy put the fear of god into me and I've never let it go. Now, it HAS caused me to create and indulge in some unholy language uttered and heard only by me in my own car. I had to learn that the hard way, too. My mouth has got me into way more trouble than my middle finger.

  11. Oh Leslie. I have never been able to do a cartwheel and I had that same damn m&m yellow VW Bug.

    God bless us both, babygirl!

  12. @ Erin ~ I knew we were soulmates!