Originally published on It’s Not Where You Start.
As I assessed my luggage and determined that I had, in fact, packed everything I’d need for four nights in Vegas (and then some), I looked at Benjamin and said, “I feel like the heroine of some cheesey romantic comedy.”
Here I was, the first day of Operation: Move On, slinging my adorable leather carry-on over my shoulder and heading off for relaxation, escape, and adventure. How very Julia Roberts of me.
Over the last three weeks, my friends have really sustained me. Ilana kept me centered as I drove from my freshly-minted ex’s place back home. Amy IMed with me through that first sleepless night. Lindy insisted I not spend the following day alone, ordering me over to her place for home-made grilled cheese (on fresh-baked bread), cocktails, and crying. I haven’t had to spend a single evening alone, and for that I am grateful.
I won’t be alone on this trip, not exactly. The occasion is my brother’s 40th birthday party. Although the milestone came last week, I had convinced him that Yom Kippur would not be the easiest time to gather the troops for a weekend-long party. So he pushed back his schedule by a week, and here I am on a plane getting ready to meet up with 60 or so of my brother’s friends and our relatives.
Although the scheduled festivities don’t begin until Friday evening, since my office is closed for the next two days for Sukkot, I figured it made sense to head west early — this before I had anything to flee.
Vegas isn’t my favorite place on earth. I’m not much of a gambler, and the majority of Vegas shows do nothing for me. I like the glitz and the camp (I know, you’re shocked), but I get testy around crowds of tourists. I’ve been quite a few times before, especially when I lived in LA and it was only a few hours’ drive away. But outside of the buffet culture, Vegas doesn’t have a ton to offer me.
Sure, there were notable exceptions. Nine years ago, a couple carloads of friends trekked out to the Luxor on Halloween weekend to take part in Becky & Aaron’s Drive-Thru Costume Party Wedding. We, the guests in costume, stood around the limo, while they were wed by an officiant in a McDonald’s style window. I dressed as Cruella DeVille, with my two roommates at the time in tow as my Dalmations. [If that picture still exists on the web, it must be included here. When I’m home and working with a more reliable internet connection, I will investigate.] I caught the bridal bouquet, and I have vague impressions of a fun after-party, but alas (and unsurprisingly), my memories of that trip have long outlasted the marriage we witnessed.
The other most memorable Vegas trip was the last time we went as a family, for my dad’s 60th birthday. That trip began with a fight between me and my brother — over who would get to ride shotgun — that was so vicious, the trip was almost cancelled before we left the parking lot at his condo. I believe we behaved ourselves for the rest of the trip, but I don’t remember much else other than how unimpressed I was with Danny Gans, and how cheated I felt that Cirque charged higher-than-Broadway prices for O, which felt like two hours of slow-motion gymnastics played over mediocre waltzing waters.
So Vegas with my family? Not sure how that will play out. Can I rely on my parents, cousins, etc. to keep me distracted? I’m not sure, so again, one of my incredible friends springs to the rescue. Ingrid, one of my dear friends from college who now lives in LA, is driving in tomorrow to spend the day with me. These days we only get to see each other once a year, so it means a lot that she’s making the trek to spend time with me. It means even more that it was unprompted by me — when she heard I’d be within four hours of her home, she started making plans. She would have done it regardless of my particular emotional state. That is happens to come when I’m a little more fragile than usual is just gravy.
To really appreciate what Ingrid’s doing, it’s worth mentioning that I don’t think she’s ever made such a long drive on her own before. She also has a mother who is to “overprotective” what Blu-Ray is to VHS, so she’s not going to mention this trip until after she’s taken it. (Ingrid’s mom, if you happen to be reading this, please don’t be mad at her!)
Of course, then there’s the question dancing at the margins of any conversation about Vegas… the one about what happens in Vegas. Now, I’m not a particularly wild guy at heart, but I’ve also never been in a situation quite like this one. I’m pretty confident that what will happen in Vegas is I will overeat, hit the gym, walk up and down the strip a whole lot, overeat some more, gamble a little, and feel vaguely uncomfortable about all the attention being heaped on my brother throughout the weekend. But if I’m wrong, and it gets more exciting? Don’t expect to read about it here. Because, well, you know.