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?