Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Las Vegas and Me: Not a Love Story

Back in late 1993, my parents sold the house in Los Angeles in which we were raised, packed their bags, and retired to Las Vegas. Which forced me to ask the burning question, "who are you people?" I can't begin to describe how much it turned my world upside-down when this happened. My parents were old-fashioned, traditional, Midwestern folk with most of their families still residing in Michigan and Ohio. That they actually wanted to spend their golden years in that hell-hole in the desert was beyond my comprehension, and it caused me to look at these people I had always called Mom and Dad through new, disbelieving eyes.

My disposition didn't improve as my dad's health deteriorated there. It's never fun when one of your parents is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and watching the progression of the disease ravage your loved one will torture your soul. There is something truly insidious and evil about dementia in Sin City, and the result of living through this nightmare is that the two - dementia and Las Vegas - are permanently entwined together in my brain as one satanic entity.

That mindset was only exacerbated when my dad chose a holiday weekend to die. In spring 2003, his condition began to rapidly deteriorate, and to make a long and painful story short, the home hospice nurse told my mother to summon the family on the Friday of the long Memorial Day weekend. Ever try to get a flight to Las Vegas on any holiday weekend, let alone a last minute, desperate one? It's a crap-shoot, pun intended. We finally secured flights from Los Angeles to San Francisco to Las Vegas. Every other person on those planes that night was going either to San Francisco or Las Vegas for a long weekend of partying and hedonism. It was sickening to see the joy in these people when I was painfully aware of my father's suffering and wondering if he was taking his last breath at that very moment. When we finally arrived to Las Vegas, it was midnight, hotter than hell, and we were forced to wait in a 45-minute-long taxi line among the revelers to get to his death bed.

My widowed mom left Las Vegas ten months later and moved back to her home state of Michigan to live near her siblings. When she left, I thought my tenure in the desert was finished.

The reason I went to Las Vegas this past weekend is because my mom was there for the week, visiting old friends, one of whom is sick with advanced lymphoma and undergoing chemotherapy. By old friends, I mean he and his wife have been family friends of ours for more than 30 years. They lived across the street from us in Los Angeles, I grew up with their kids, they bought a winter home near my parents' home in Vegas after they all retired, and they were our rock when my dad was sick. It was nothing short of devastating when he was diagnosed with lymphoma earlier this year, and I'd give anything for this not to be the case.

The weekend was difficult for a number of reasons. Obviously, our friend's illness is number one on that list. He looks absolutely ravaged, the result of both the lymphoma and the chemo, I'm sure. He felt miserable, he alternates between terrible fevers and true rigors. He's usually cold, so they keep the air conditioning off in their home, despite the desert temperatures, because he's so uncomfortable.

In addition, my mother and I have a complicated relationship. I'm not going to discuss it here because she found my old blog once and read things that were never meant for her eyes. It was a bad situation and one I don't care to repeat. But as is true to form, I overheard her saying something unkind about me to our friends when I was leaving the room. I'm not sure if she said it deliberately to hurt me, if she thinks I'm deaf, or if she truly thought I was out of earshot. It's our old crap, the never-ending pathology between mother and daughter, but it was inappropriate especially considering we were houseguests of these nice people who are dealing with cancer. After my brother and his wife arrived, she tried to stir up some more trouble, but we held her at bay. Nevertheless, the damage was done.

So in my mind, Las Vegas has been nothing but trouble. It's a magnet for bad behavior. It supplies the poison to make the weak very sick. The weather is unnatural and nothing grows there. In fact, everything good dies there. Everything. Look at that middle picture. They actually build homes with benches blocking the driveways. The heat, the poison, and the debauchery, they melt the brain, the heart, and the spirit.


At Tuesday, May 09, 2006 8:19:00 PM, Blogger Pope-rah said...

Amen bout Vegas. Sorry bout your Dad. My mom and I are always hanging on by a thread. I'm in a constant state of flux with her. She is easily agitate and I'm constantly agitating.

At Tuesday, May 09, 2006 8:45:00 PM, Blogger Mike V. said...

Hope this doesn't come off wrong, but I hope writing this out was at the least partially cathartic for you.

As you probably already know, you could have the same feeling about another place, but such a place like Vegas which is brain-melting, indeed, does not help.

Here's to a better rest of the week.


At Tuesday, May 09, 2006 9:01:00 PM, Blogger GetFlix said...

Your mom wants grandkids. She's playing you.

At Tuesday, May 09, 2006 11:19:00 PM, Blogger ffleur said...

Big panda hug LA. What a wrenching experience. I also associate places with bad memories.

I agree about Vegas, it was never meant to be a town. Built upon greed, murder (Bugsy), crime and corruption. Never a good way to start.

At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 6:31:00 AM, Blogger M-M-M-Mishy said...

I've never been to Vegas, and the place has never peaked my interest to go. It always seemed like such a hole. A place where people go to become different people, do things they would never do anywhere else and feel like they are not responsible for their actions, just because they are in Sin City. I think the saying, "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" is not a good mindset to give to people or to the city.

I'm so sorry about your father. It must have been very hard to go back, and then to have that experience with your mom.

At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 6:50:00 AM, Blogger prunella jones said...

I agree about Vegas. Scorching heat, gambling, and Celine Dion shows. Ugh, who needs it? Sorry to hear about your Dad and friend. Hope your week gets better.

At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 7:19:00 AM, Blogger prettykitty said...

las vegas has always meant negative things to me, but nothing on this level. i'm sorry about your family friend. sounds like your mom is taking her painful reminder of vegas out on you. i know this sounds naive from an outsider, but she's probably hurting to be there as well.

At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 8:13:00 AM, Blogger Softball Slut said...

I hope you never have to go back there, but if you do, just remember one thing. The city only has as much power over you as you let it. You are better than that bad city, and try to remember any good times you had with your dad, and let it be that. Dont give in to the negative parts of it, and you will win and beat the bad city that holds you captive.

At Wednesday, May 10, 2006 5:10:00 PM, Blogger PixieGaf said...

LA you poor thing! I really do hope your situation improves. I sympathize with you because I honestly know how it feels not to have a wonderful mother-daughter relationship. Hang in there *Hugs*


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