My daughter is an accomplished equestrian, her particular skill being in the discipline called dressage. When the Dressage World Cup was to be held in Las Vegas, we gassed up the truck and headed west. The best of the best of the best—horses and riders—were gathered in one place, and for once that place wasn’t Europe.
Suffice it to say, Las Vegas took this aging country girl aback. There’s the next thing to pornography for sale at the bus stops and slot machines abound in the Laundromats. The casinos are designed with an obscene genius for parting customers from their money. You cannot walk from your room to your car without passing every eatery, gambling den, and ticket master in the building. I’m told in the casinos proper, they pipe in extra oxygen to keep you energized and feeling fine while you drop your cash.
This is not the whole of the town, of course. Like any city, Las Vegas has its charm, I’m sure. On this trip, though, staying in a hotel on The Strip. I saw no charm. I saw throngs of people who’d come great distances to very likely lose money gambling while they spent money to stay where they could gamble. Internet access was exorbitant, room service was worse, and if you so much as touched the goodies in the fridge, your credit card was charged (I’m not kidding).
The time spent watching the horses go was wonderful, but I kept thinking, “All these international athletes are going to think this is the sum total of America. My kid is going think this is what a city is like. If ever there was a place I where I do not fit in, and do not want to fit in, THIS IS IT.”
I was in a swivet. Beloved Offspring, however, was just taking it all in. When she asked if we could walk The Strip around 10 pm one night, I could not refuse—lest she go on her own.
More crowds, more lights, more crawling traffic, more conspicuous consumption. Not my scene, my scene, not my scene at all… and then the blighted mooin’ crowd came to a halt. Bother. Bother and a half. We were outside some casino was a fake lake in front of it, all lit up with fake lights.
Bah, humbug. I was about to tell the child we were going back to the blasted hotel when I heard a few notes of quiet piano music.
Huh? I love the piano. I loved that piece…. Fountains appeared in the middle of the lake. The lights changed colors, and the orchestra came in to twine around the piano. All thoughts of leaving, of being able to leave that spot, flew from my head as a full orchestra version of Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini wafted up into the night. The crowd went silent, mesmerized by the play of water and lights through the entire piece.
If you ever have a chance to see the fountains at the Bellagio do their thing, don’t miss it. In the space of one short piece of music, I went from being a grouchy, resentful tourist, to a woman enraptured. Somebody had done something beautiful with one of my keeper tunes, and I was helpless to resist its magic.
Our music, our personal playlist, is that powerful. It becomes an anthem for our identity, a refuge and a consolation. Whether it’s “our song,” the national anthem, your kid’s first recital piece, or your favorite hymn, there are pieces of music that form a soundtrack for who you are.
Some of my others: “My Funny Valentine,” the Chopin Nocturnes, Blondie’s “The Tide Is High,” Dave Brubeck’s Time Out Album, Wham’s “Wake Me Up,” and on and on and on…
So what are yours?