I started this decade in Las Vegas. When midnight PST hit I was standing in front of the Bellagio with my friend Renee watching Cirque du Soleil acrobats rappel off the fake Eiffel Tower as a ton of glitter was tossed from the top and came floating down through the air.
As we walked back to my new apartment on Twain Ave we passed an ambulance and saw the paramedics lifting a covered body into the back. We learned later that a local wrestler was electrocuted while climbing up a pole to get a better look at the masses of people filling the strip for the evening’s revelries. Apparently, this happens every year.
We had just arrived in Vegas that day, after driving for three days across America. From Port Huron to Plymouth to collect Renee and then on through the plains and the Rockies and into the desert. My grandparents were waiting for us in the parking lot of Mark Twain Apartments, they very kindly drove their truck cross-country with half of my belongings and took us out for dinner at a strip mall buffet. But before we got to the endless soup and salad in west Vegas my Grandpa managed to flirt his way into getting my keys out of the office ladies before I even arrived in the city much less at the apartment. It should be noted, that this is my maternal grandfather with whom I do not even share a last name. That said, he is a charming and handsome man, those women never stood a chance.
While this safety breach was a little concerning, it did mean we had toilet paper because Grandma realised I wouldn’t have thought to bring any with me. Grandma is a genius. Later that day I went to the Goodwill and bought a chair and the ladies in the office gave me a lamp someone left behind and I began outfitting my sad little 1 bedroom apartment for my new life in the desert.
Renee and I walked down Flamingo to the strip that night at around 9. I wore a red and blue shirt dress I bought in Kalamazoo, my ox-blood and black saddle shoes and a brown plaid jacket I bought on my first trip to Vegas over spring break the year before. A trip that was meant to be a chance to check out UNLV and talk to the professors in the Creative Writing department. I was tremendously hung over when I met with Richard Wiley. He seemed to find this amusing as he told me about the school and the program. Immediately following that interview I went to the admissions counter and turned in my application and a check for $40 dollars. The I took a cab back to the Palace Station and started drinking again.
Back to the edge of 1999/2000, on the walk back Renee told me of her millennial anxiety, which had only been heightened by the sights of the strip in full decadence mode. A dead body surrounded by oblivious revellers was clearly a sign of the apocalypse, and Renee was not a person given to using terms like apocalypse lightly. We walked back to my apartment in a somber mood.
When I think of that night I always think of the glitter falling from the sky, sparkling in the lights of the casinos as blue figures flew through the air. That memory merges into the ambulance and the sheet covered figure and from there into a million other Vegas based stories. My first day of classes, discovering rosemary bushes all over the campus. Going to a strange play about an airplane crash. The bar with the water wheel. Picking out my second cat, Dill, at the PetSmart. Crying in Doug Unger’s office. Wondering why everyone in my writing class laughed when I said Detroit had started to feel too safe. Realising I didn’t belong there. Jeremy coming to visit, meeting him at the airport, he carried a flower in his lap the whole flight. Selling my car so I could afford the UHaul home. And then driving back to the midwest.
This year we’ll be seeing 2009 out from the house of some friends. We won’t leave our post code. We’ll be able to walk home. It is unlikely (touch wood) that there will be any fatalities.
So much about my life has changed since those sad months spent in the desert. True, I still haven’t finished my stupid novel and I still don’t have an MFA, but I do have my confidence back. It’s taken some knocks but I’ve rebounded and grown and learned. I’m glad I went out to Vegas and I’m equally glad that I came back. And even more I’m glad and happy to be where I am in life now. Even though I spend much of my time stressed out and tired lately, at least I’m spending it with an awesome guy in a beautiful city.
This new decade may not start out with a ton of glitter but it will start out surrounded by friends, and that sounds considerably better to me.