I’ve ranted about how much I hate Vegas a billion times here on this blog. Sometimes I notice how big the sky above Vegas is and I think, I could live here. I love the desert. It kind of reminds me of my childhood in The Sticks. But then some thick-headed frat boy yells his drunk head off, or some big-boobed dancer with perfect legs showing all the way up, reminds me of how imperfect my body is or I see someone talking to themselves with missing teeth as they sit in the gutter, drunk at 9 in the morning… and I turn away, repelled. Vegas makes me sad.
I get bored too easily here. I don’t love gambling and I don’t have a ton of money to shop all day. I can only drink so much and I miss being creative.
I don’t know how I matched up so perfectly with someone like Payam who loves Vegas so much. He’s a night owl. I’m a morning person. I want to go take pictures of some cacti and shrubbery at five morning when the sun turns everything pink. He wants to sleep. He wants to stay up all night sipping whiskey and gambling. I want to sleep.
But I get it. Sort of. The excitement of winning money, the bright lights, the pounding music, the clinking of ice cubes in glasses, the good-natured banter between players at the blackjack table… It is a really fun interesting intersection of so many different kinds of people all finding a common ground sharing their vices. There is something to that.
Payam humors me and I humor him. He does everything he can to help me have a good time in Vegas. He lets’s me pick the hotel, he lets me shop, he lets me explore….And sometimes I do have a good time. I can throw back a tequila shot or four. I just have to be careful I don’t go down any self-loathing paths to the pits of despair when I wake up too early in the morning and I’m stuck all by myself in a strange land. I spend so many hours alone because I am a cursed morning person.
I’ve been doing it for ages. You’d think I’d have a million routines and morning rituals to stave off the loneliness (and I do!) but sometimes I let myself sink into the luxury of sadness anyway. I miss Bug. Thanksgiving without her is always really hard.
The whole reason I met Payam five years ago is because I was lonely during Thanksgiving break. Bug was with her dad (like she is this week) and I was faced with a week to myself with nothing to do but Netflix and work.
So I hopped on a free dating app. I just wanted to find someone to talk to. I wanted a walking partner or someone to take me to the movies. Payam doesn’t really do either but I’m so glad I found him. My whole world has changed since I met him–in a good way. You all know that. Everyone loves a love story.
So here we are in Vegas on Thanksgiving celebrating five years together. We aren’t married yet but we have plans!
I brought my new red party boots to Vegas to help me have a good time. (I need every advantage I can get.) I LOVE these boots. I put them on and I immediately feel fifty percent more fun. They give me two inches of height and they scream, “I am not a boring frumpy mom who is missing her kid! I am fun, dammit!” Payam loves them too.
We went out to dinner at a steak house and I had the *Thanksgiving Special* that was probably better tasting than any feast I’ve ever been part of but you know… it was missing all the people. We had few drinks and then crashed. I don’t even remember what we did. Vegas is a ghost town on Thanksgiving. It was fun to wish all the hard-working staff a happy thanksgiving and hope that they were getting paid triple time.
The next day we explored. I love taking pictures of graffiti and really cool old typography in Vegas. I just wish I had some beautiful daughters with me to take pictures of. I get really sick of taking pictures of myself.
As I said, Payam humors me.
Explore, explore, explore… it’s not pretty cacti in morning light but I can’t say it’s boring.
These are all really quick shots snapped as we walked down Fremont street.
We didn’t even really get to be foodies and try all the crazy amazing restaurants because we had our steak house thanksgiving leftovers for breakfast and they filled us up all day! I guess that’s a good thing. I didn’t mention it but our hotel (The Hard Rock) upgraded us to a two room suite with TWO bathrooms so we were perfectly content to stay in our room and have leftovers for breakfast. Nothing like eating cold dinner for breakfast out of takeout boxes in your hotel room that is big enough to host a 45th birthday bash. But again, we were missing all the people.
That night Payam bought us tickets to a Burlesque show. I’ve always wanted to see one. Unfortunately it started at 10pm, which is like midnight to me. I made it through though. It was very entertaining and I have a deep appreciation for the athletic abilities of those dancers. They are very beautiful and very talented and they shouldn’t be ashamed of any of it. Too bad I seem to be ashamed of my body all the time. But I have to tell myself, I was once that hot. I still have a lot to offer even if I don’t have perfect legs and a flat stomach anymore. I just didn’t really know what to do with myself, sitting there in the audience. Lots of women were hooting and hollering. I just felt awkward.
Don’t worry. I am not fishing for compliments. I’m just sharing parts of myself that you might not know were there. I take pictures of Payam and I smiling and having a good time but it’s not the whole story.
I am very very very thankful for him and I do love these trips with him.
I love the long talks. I love how he helps me push through missing Bug. He catches me spying on her with my phone, watching her stories of bouncing cousins vying for her attention and tells me to put my phone away. Be present. Be here. Have a Bloody Mary for breakfast!
And now it’s time to drive back home. Home sweet home.
I took a little while to finish up these posts on Italy because I had to take some time off to take care of myself and my life. Losing your computer, your camera and your wits will do that to you. I came down with a UTI and one of those super stiff necks from hell. I think it was just stress. The good news is I am FINE now! I definitely think I am coming out from the other side of this crazy adventure stronger.
I don’t want to in any way want to say that this trip was a failure or something I wish didn’t happen. I had a really great time in spite of two really horrible things that happened. It was an adventure of a lifetime and I can’t believe I can add Italy to my list of places I’ve explored. I will go back. I might not go back to Milan right away but I am not turned off Italy just because of what happened to us.
So where was I? Oh yes. Back in Milan.
We arrived from Florence at the same train station that we left to go to Varena. We were super dreading going back to Milan because of what happened to us there the first night and then guess what? WE GOT ROBBED AGAIN! I’m not even kidding.
This time it happened in the train station. Christine and Teresa and I were filing out of the train, down those flat moving escalators when suddenly a bunch of girls without suitcases swarmed by us. I remember thinking it was odd that they had no suitcases and they hung out at the train station like it was cool or something. It was kind of like a mall with stores and cafes so I reasoned them away with that. Then one of the girls lifted up her scarf above her head like she was going to fly off with it like a sail. I thought, that was weird. Was it raining? Was she getting ready to go outside by putting a scarf on her head to protect her hair? Later I realized this was a distraction technique.
Then as I turned a corner my stupid suitcase (that has a wonky handle problem and won’t extend all the way, leaving me to pull it half bent over and completely uncomfortable) caught on the wall and I had to stop to right it. Christine and Teresa kept going on ahead of me toward a gate that was a bit crammed up with people. I was going to follow them but I decided to go to the other side of the gate where there were less people. As I was going I suddenly noticed ahead of me that Teresa’s backpack was completely unzipped and a woman’s hand was in it pulling things out.
I went into super hero mode and ran across the sidewalk, grabbed the theif’s wrist and yelled “HEY!” as loud as I could. It mass confusion. The woman started yelling back at me in Italian and all I can remember is trying to get Teresa out of the mob before more people attacked us. There were people everywhere and we just wanted to get away. We walked as fast as we could to the taxi line and jumped in the nearest taxi.
While we drove to our hotel Teresa went through her backpack to take inventory and see what was taken. Thankfully the thief only got toiletries and a sentimental bag that her daughter gave her. But we were so shaken. Literally shaking. We tried to calm ourselves and get to the hotel safely.
I thought sure we would just stay in our hotel and sequester ourselves from the evil that is Milan for the rest of the night but Christine thought better. She forced us to go out again for dinner and she was probably right. Even though it was what our instincts wanted, staying in would have been worse. We would have festered in our fear, sealing our memories of Milan forever with a bad taste.
It wasn’t the easiest dinner. We tried to keep things light and think about the good times but it was hard. Teresa broke down a few times. Christine and I tried to fake a good time by naming the strangers that walked by our table but it was a little bit of a challenge.
Do you know that game? I guess it would be called profiling but I like to think of it as an exercise in creative writing. You just pick a stranger, make up a name, an occupation and even a story line. It’s great fun and usually a great way to get laughs and pass the time when silences can be awkward.
Thankfully, the waiters at our restaurant were amazing. I’ll always remember Gioseppe so fondly. He wasn’t really our waiter but more of a guard who stood by our table and watched out for us. Or at least it seemed like that. We ate in the Galleria so our restaurant was open to the outside and maybe he was protecting us from more theives. Who knows. But we do know that he was super kind and he took a liking to Teresa. When she was crying he called her princess and brought her tissues. Then another waiter came and talked to her in Tagalog, her native language. I think they bonded over being the only Filipinos in Italy. It was very sweet.
Then we went back to the hotel and went to sleep early so we could wake up the crack of dawn and go home already. Teresa and I were never more ready to go home than that night. We were sad to leave Christine but we were officially stick-a-fork-in-us DONE with Italy.
It was time to pay the piper. I had to get home, buy a new computer, figure out if my manual back-up worked (it did, mostly), put my work life back together and work my head off so I could pay off all those charges I put on my credit card while in Italy. Italy was a big financial loss for me.
BUT I have a feeling it is going to be a win in the long run. I already feel smarter and stronger. I am a seasoned traveler now. I have been through hard things and come out the other side. I know what to do and what not to do when traveling in high crime areas. I’m not stupid anymore.
I also have a lot of experience under my belt now. I know what PTSD is. I have dreams now about being robbed which is something I never had dreams about before. It’s not horrible. It’s not heart-tightening nightmares. It’s more of a way my brain is processing what happened.
Little things scare me that never did before, a passing shadow, a sound in the middle of the night. I’ve woken up several times thinking someone was in my house robbing me and I live in a neighborhood where a thought like that never crossed my mind before. But it’s okay. I am happy and safe. I wake up and I am relieved that I am safe.
I am happy that I survived this. I’m proud of myself (especially the part where I grabbed the thief’s hand from Teresa’s backpack). I think I’m pretty tough.
Take that Italy! Take that. You can take my things but you can’t take me.
I think about the thieves a lot. What made them that desperate? Did they come from a long line of thieves and they don’t know any better? Is it their occupation? Why did they leave my passport, credit cards and driver’s license? Did they have compassion for me? Who were they and why did they do this? I’ll always wonder that.