Saturday, March 26, 2011

Church, Naked Midgets and Oysters

For my seventh week of unemployment, I decided to go to Las Vegas. D had spring break, the weather here was shit as usual for Central Oregon spring and my dad sprung for the plane tickets. Yep, Dad lives in Vegas so we also had a free place to stay and a chauffeur.

My dad and step mom don't drink or gamble so I knew this wasn't going to be my regular idea of Vegas fun, but I wasn't prepared for our first evening's activity. When they told us we were going to church, I balked. Church? In Vegas? I hadn't been to church with my dad since I was probably six and I don't remember the last time I've been since I've lived here. Huh. Well, when in Rome, right?

The church wasn't much to look at on the outside and wasn't located in the fancy part of town. The inside, though, had its own tiny charm. Best of all? Real pews! I haven't seen real, wooden pews in years.

The people were the real surprise. They had all heard of me; it was like I was a celebrity. I shook more hands than I could count and everyone was so warm and welcoming and friendly. My dad would start to introduce me and they'd say "yes, of course!" I was taken aback when one very sweet old man named Claude said he's been praying for me and it was nice to put a face with the prayer. Apparently they were all aware of my unemployment situation and I was unknowingly a part of their regular prayer requests. It was oddly comforting.

The sermon was simple, and appropriately fitting for me at the time. The pastor talked about anticipation and expectations and being open to more positivity and joy. It was just what I needed to hear.

As we left, my dad introduced me to more people, including a man named Napoleon and a Mr. Berry, both black men, one of which he goes fishing with. This was what touched me the most, how close he was to each person, no matter what color they were. This is a man who called my step dad the "n-word" when I was a small child just because his hair was curly. But I wasn't seeing the same person now. He was so accepting and open with everyone and told me that these people are his family. And he meant it.

I went to bed that night feeling like I had been exactly where I was supposed to be in that moment. I fell asleep feeling Gratitude.

The next two days were spent on the strip. I hadn't told D much about what it was like so that she'd be surprised. She's so my child. She loved the casinos - the lights, the sounds, the smells (minus the cigarette smoke). We shopped, we ate, we walked miles and miles until I thought my feet would fall off. We took picture after picture of everything, even the lion that peed. As it peed.

I think the part that amused her the most was anything to do with sex. And there is plenty of that in Vegas. She giggled at Hooters, snickered at Planet Hollywood's Peepshow, took a photograph of a sign that said "Even our condiments are sexy". She even began to imitate the countless peddlers on the street handing out their "porn". The real highlight was when one of them asked my dad and step mom, "Hey, you guys into naked midgets?" It was probably cruel to laugh, but I couldn't help it. I finally accepted some of the "porn cards" so that we can add them to a scrapbook.

Our last day we went to Hoover Dam. D was not pleased. She was bored out of her skull and didn't even hide it well. "I don't want to see stupid sights, I want to see a mall." Grampa made up for it by taking her to a mall and buying her shoes. Spoiled much?

At dinner that night I met my stepsister. It's so weird to say that. I didn't even have a step mom for most of my life and now I find out I have a stepsister! And she's cool! And she lives in Hawaii!! I think we are going to be bff's.

Leaving was hard. I knew that I was going to come back to cold and snow. In the car on the way home there was a commercial for laser bowling. D scoffed, saying, "That's what Bend has to offer? Bowling?" Yeah, coming back to reality was a hard landing.

Except that night there was a send-off party for those of us that were laid off with former co-workers. I expected a handful of the usual regulars but there were at least 20 people there. My friends. And my friends had missed me.

The next night some girlfriends and I went out for oysters and champagne. This was certainly not in my budget but it was worth every delicious, decadent bite and every moment of laughter and conversation. For the second time in a week, I was just where I needed to be.

I gained a lot this week. New family, deeper friendships and priceless time with my bugabooga. Hey, if this is what unemployment is like, I'll take it.


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