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Norman J. Olson, US
 

 

 

Travel Essay

 

Gridlocked in Vegas

 

I flew to Los Angeles, California last Wednesday to visit my daughter and her family… the grandchildren are so beautiful and my daughter and her husband are such lovely and amazing people and such loving and knowledgeable parents… the new baby is beautiful and very lucky to be born into such a strong loving family… I have been very very lucky with my children and grandchildren… and every day is, for me, a day of thanksgiving for that…

On Saturday, we rented a car at Ontario airport which is only about 20 minutes from where my daughter lives in Riverside and drove to Las Vegas… I found a rental car for 2 days with no drop fee for the one way rental for $53 and a hotel in Vegas for 2 nights was another $53, so a pretty cheap weekend in Vegas…

I love the drive from LA to Vegas… once you get past Barstow, the desert is so tan and beautiful with brown mountains all around, turning to blue at the distant horizon… it was 97 degrees Fahrenheit when we passed Baker, a tiny town of fast food, gas station and trailers out in the middle of the desert… at about 6 p.m… and still near 90 degrees when we got to Vegas…

Back when Mary first opened the travel agency (1983) and we started going to Vegas, it was a small city in the middle of a big empty valley… today, driving into Vegas is like driving into any other Western metropolis in that along the I-15 you see rows of huge glass skyscrapers, an endless traffic jam and a haze of yellow smog hanging over the valley… the severe clear air of the past is gone as is the funny little city with a strip of casinos sticking out into the desert… the casinos along Las Vegas Blvd are huge Disneyland type mock ups and Las Vegas Blvd. is an 8 lane nightmare of grid locked traffic…

But downtown is still much the same as it was 20 years ago… there is a sunshade over Freemont street which makes the open arcade pretty comfortable even at 104 degrees Fahrenheit which it was on Sunday… it is a great place to people watch, although the young and hot mostly stay on the strip… but, I am okay with that… I spent most of Sunday sitting by the pool at the Plaza Hotel finishing up the above drawing, sipping a diet soda and getting slightly sunburned by reflection, even though I was sitting in deep shade… when it got warm, a quick dip in the pool felt wonderful… in Minnesota, it never really gets warm enough to swim… I thought I did not like going into the water, until I was in places like Vegas where it is over 100 degrees and the cool water feels good… in Minnesota, swimming is an endurance sport and often a close encounter with hypothermia…

I gambled for about three hours and managed to lose almost $100 at two crap tables and a blackjack game where I kept getting the worst hands in the Western Hemisphere… I would get 15 and the dealer would draw her 15 to 21 time after time… it was brutal… at the crap tables, I again learned that 7s will come up pretty much any time except the come out roll!!! well, there are good reasons to stay away from the crap table and the blackjack table… but I did roll the dice myself, so cannot even blame the shooter…

We found that our favorite cheap downtown restaurant had changed and no longer had the $199 bacon and eggs breakfast, so, since we had a car, we drove out to one of the Station casinos where we both had a huge breakfast and the total bill for both came to $8… on Monday morning, we went to the Main Street Station buffet… which is a gorgeous room, an old railway waiting room with beautiful wrought iron roof supports and stained glass windows all genuine antiques imported by the people who built the place… the same people who built the similar Church Street Station in Orlando which I have heard about but have not visited…

Anyway… we flew home Monday night… and I spent all day yesterday trimming the grass and dealing with lawn issues that had come up while I was gone… one of my two crabapple trees… the one in front of the house has been dying for about the last five years, one branch at a time and finally this year succumbed altogether… so I had to cut it down and make it into firewood… I have a very nice chain saw… I am scared to death of it, but as a kid on the farm, I watched my dad and his cousin drop trees and cut them up for firewood every summer, so am pretty comfortable using the thing… it took about half an hour to cut down the crabapple tree and buck it into firewood… a job that would have taken at least ten hours with a hand saw… but, that poor old tree was a thing of beauty every spring that we lived here… (since 1996) until this spring when for the first time, it did not bloom at all and only had a few leaves… yesterday when I noticed that the last few leaves had died, I realized that the crabapple tree was done for and took it down…

Well, I had not intended to ramble on so long here… later today I am going with my brother and two of my sisters to take my mom to the Fort Snelling National Cemetery where my older brother (Al who was shot to death in 1968, at age 21, in Vietnam) and my father (who died of heart disease exacerbated by smoking in 1984, at age 65, are buried)… I was very close to my brother as a child and teen… and for many years after he was killed, I used to bring lilacs (which are usually just finishing up around memorial day) to his grave site every year… in recent years, my mother has wanted to go to visit the graves and so my brother and youngest sister, who take care of her mostly, arrange it and I go along… it is still sad for me and every time I go out there, it renews my detestation of war and of all the military idiocy that tries to make something noble out of the slaughter of human beings… at the behest of some asshole presidents and generals… apparently, we are incapable of learning from the past… dulci et decorum est… is still an “old lie”…

Below is a new drawing finished over last weekend in Las Vegas…

all peace and love to all: norman j. olson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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