Sun rays pierced through the gray, gloomy clouds. The perfect weather to make me even happier that I was heading westbound towards Las Vegas. It would be my first time setting foot in so-called “Sin City” and I was certainly very excited. Our 6:00 AM flight would get us there in time for the first pool party of the season. Ten girls, four poolside parties, three nights, two concerts and one Vegas virgin. Was this bachelorette party a recipe for success or debauchery?, I wondered, as we took off thousands of feet into the sky. I prayed for us to make all of our connecting flights. I prayed for my luggage to make it through to the end with me. I prayed I wouldn’t have any inappropriate and excessive dairy cravings. I prayed for Vegas to be friendly to a rookie.
My freshly spray-tanned girl friend sitting next to me was already dozing off into peaceful sleep with her bedazzled earphones as I prayed for my extremities not to swell. It's a freakish phenomenon and I'm not sure why it happens during flights. The tiniest hint of anxiety began to creep somewhere in the back of my throat, tickling all the way up through my eardrums. Lately I’ve been undergoing some pretty wacky out of body experiences. This usually takes place during my commutes to work, running errands, on trains, planes and most automobiles. I am vaguely reminded of Edward Norton in a plane scene from Fight Club.
Every now and then I’ll find myself climbing the stairs up from the subway and for anywhere from 20 seconds to a solid four minutes I would have absolutely no idea where I was, where I was going or why. It is growing frustrating to say the least. That, in addition to my mysteriously swelling extremities, has been the cause of my creeping anxiety, I’m sure. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. With all sorts of nightmares swirling around me as the atmosphere thinned outside, I settled into a muddled sleep and prayed for sunshine when I opened my eyes.
Las Vegas, Nevada – I was absolutely amused to be greeted with slot machines at the airport upon arrival. How could it be any other way? We claimed our luggage and headed to The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas to meet the rest of the bachelorette party flying in from Philly, Miami, and L.A. With all the girls checked in to our hotel, we were finally ready to kick off the long weekend and make this town ours. Not once did I suffer any mild forms of dementia. Nothing could stop me, or us.
Marquee Dayclub, The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas – Kaskade was spinning this pool party and we were armed with wedge sandals, string bikinis, and windblown hair. As we made our way to our cabana through the crowd of surgically enhanced chests and daringly placed tattoos, I soaked up the environment around me. Sure, I can do this for a few days. It didn’t impress me anymore than New York City’s adrenaline fueled party scene, save for much, much less clothing and the fact that we would leave bronzed and crispy from the sun.
As the waitresses poured out frozen vodka and Red Bulls, we acquainted ourselves with neighboring cabanas filled with Canadians, Brazilians, and Australians. There seemed to have been three predominant professions in this locale: dentists, bankers, and club promoters. Kaskade spun “Eyes” and “Angel on My Shoulder” and as the crowd grew friendlier and more intimate I found myself wondering how I would manage to shrink my bikini bottoms (as well as the bottoms in them) to the micro sized ones on the girls next to me. I also wondered how I was going to survive the next three days on our “no-food” rations and come out alive. I promised myself I would assimilate to my surroundings. When in Sodom...
I took a break from dancing on our daybed and reached over for another frozen cocktail when I felt myself being swooped up and tossed in the air by a duo of chattering, inebriated Brazilians. As I fought off their slobbery and imposed smooches I realized I had other things to worry about: my bikini top was about to meet its bottom. I had come undone; literally. Waving off their hollering and hooting, I had a shot to toast my first Vegas pool party.
XS Nightclub, Encore Las Vegas – We were nearing our first 12 hours in Las Vegas and my anxieties were at bay. If anything was worrisome, it was that we seemed to be having too much fun. Avicii was spinning here at XS and we had made it out of the pool party, into dinner and back out for the night in time to see this 22-year-old Swedish DJ spin the dance floor into oblivion. Sharing a table of champagne with some gentleman from the UK revisiting their youth, we dove into our night with hopes for the best and prepared for the better.
The lights in the club pulsated, just like every table and the stage, shaking under the weight of females in heels and their frantic dance moves. David Guetta’s “Titanium” bellowed from the speakers as the room spun and swirls of flashing lights caught massive waves of curls, fluorescent mini dresses, and champagne showers in the air, I made a mental note that we had 72 hours left to fulfill my mission: to maintain an image five notches better than my usual self. Only, how was I going to avoid shin splints and early arthritis in my 24-7 uniform of stilettos and more stilettos?
I wondered if my phantom swelling episodes weren’t a result of the damage my feet had suffered daily in the name of beauty. They say beauty is pain, after all. I was suddenly doubly concerned with my sodium intake that day and any other factors that might be silently destroying me from the inside while I carried on recklessly. Internally at war with myself, my anxiety-ridden subconscious battled the monster inside who raged for a slice of late night pizza.
As I reached down to remove my disco ball-inspired heels and take a step towards defeat, I looked to my left as Tiger Woods sauntered up next to us with his army of blondes. I shoved my wounded soldiers back into my shoes and realized there were more important things to devote my mental awareness to: I wasn’t going to let Tiger Woods’ army of blondes show us up in a dance off – and certainly not in Vegas.
The next morning, before I could even revel in the fact that I survived my first 12 hours without incident, I received a phone call from my father. He also happened to be in town and wanted to meet up for lunch and a drive to Boulder City, Nevada, home of the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead. Dad had been very concerned about Lake Mead’s depleting water supply which, I learned, was due to less than average snowfall from Colorado, Wyoming and Utah's cut of the Rocky Mountains over recent years.
I tiptoed out of the room and snuck out for a quick adventure away from the strip. We drove up and around mountains and entered the visitor’s center for the Hoover Dam. Just like the towering resorts and casinos, the dam was massive and surreal. And then I saw it. From where we stood there was a beautiful view of a placid lake, now below the drought level and showing an overwhelmed “bathtub ring” of loss of water alongside the mountains.
My father’s brows furrowed in concern and dismay as he observed the lake and recited some recent statistics to me on average flow rate. He then glanced up around him and nodded his head towards the mountains. “It’s just like the movies,” he said. “I’ve always wondered how they lived back then, out here in the west with these mountains and canyons and cowboys. How do you think they survived it?” he asked. Well, I thought, certainly not by wearing party dresses and stilettos and dancing til the sun comes up. After documenting the effects of global warming and a possible foreshadowing of natural disasters, we headed back towards Vegas before anyone realized I was gone.
After the rest of our weekend was completed properly, with just enough celebrating to call it quits, we were homebound to the east. As I looked out my window to the land shapes below, my father’s words rang in my ears. There was something real out there to be concerned with. A drought in any lake would be cause for alarm. Less than average snowfalls are cause for alarm, as are deserted marinas. After I had spent the last 72 hours mentally draining myself with superficial concerns, and the last few years of my life afflicted by anxiety and neurosis that stemmed from God knows where, I made a promise to myself. I was going to land back home on the east coast and I was going to leave my anxiety and neurosis out there with the craziness and the untamed.
Whether on nightclub dance floors, in pool party cabanas, or in the mountains and canyons and cowboys’ lands, I was going to leave uncertainty and doubt where it belonged: out there in the wild, wild west. Back home I would expend my mental energy on things that mattered in this world, like man-made lakes and drought levels around the country. At the very least, I would try. And maybe in this way I would tame some of my mental deficiencies. Dad always did have a knack for offering crucial advice at the most curious of times.