Las Vegas

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On idols.

Published August 17, 2012 by mandileighbean

Today marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of the death of Elvis Aaron Presley, the King of Rock and Roll.

Thirty-five years is a decent amount of time.  It’s strange to think that Elvis lived, laughed, loved, performed and perished all before I was born, before my parents even met, before I was even a thought.  Yet, here I am, mourning his death and spending an entire day reminiscing, watching corny films and old news reels, flipping through photographs and listening to scratchy, dated recordings.  Elvis and his legacy and his story have captivated me for as long as I can remember.  My father loves him, and I can remember watching a rebroadcast of the Aloha from Hawaii concert with my father, my mother and my twin sister crowded on the couch with the speakers vibrating from the effort of amplification.  My twin – who would absolutely murder me if she knew I was writing this in a place where anyone could see it – would sing along to “Fever” while shaking her hips as she stood on the couch, and I would pretend to be a crazed female fan, screaming at all the right times.  My twin was Elvis for Halloween one year, even.  He was, undoubtedly, an integral part of my childhood.

I made a pilgrimage to Graceland with a good friend, college roommate and fellow artist.  I spent hundreds of dollars and took hundreds of pictures.  I am dying to go back to experience more and learn more.

And as a result, Elvis is an integral part of who I am.  All my wildest dreams of not only becoming a successful, popular and beloved writer but of finding romance and connecting with someone as beautiful and talented as he was stem from watching him perform and researching his biography.  He is such an epic and elusive figure.  He was an enemy of the state, sure to corrupt the youth with his gyrating hips and soulful music.  But at the same time, he loved his mama and served his country.  He was a miraculous kind of contradiction that revolutionized popular culture, celebrity status, sex and music with an air of humility and authenticity that has yet to be replicated.  Sure, there were revolutionaries who came after him: the Beatles, Michael Jackson, my own beloved Bruce Springsteen, but he was the first.  Elvis is an original.

And because Elvis was a phenomenon unfamiliar to our culture, we didn’t know how to truly deal with him.  Parents scorned him, adolescent males wanted to be him and dyed their hair dark and gelled it to perfection and adolescent females cried and swooned and held out glossy photographs in quaking hands.  We loved him, but he was removed because he was rich and famous – wildly so.  Thus, his story turned tragic and he became one of the first, but unfortunately not the last, victims of the machine of Hollywood.  Everyone watched him implode and mourned the loss.

I’ve pontificated at length about Bruce Springsteen and how he is a romantic hero of mine.  I have to admit, and not just because I’m mourning the anniversary of his death, that Elvis is a greater romantic hero.  His songs and his personal life meld together in my mine to create a kind of colossal figure that is to be loved and admired and feared and pitied and mourned.  As always, Bruce said it best: “…it was like he came along and whispered some dream in everybody’s ear, and somehow we all dreamed it.”  John Lennon, another performer gone too soon, said: “Before Elvis, there was nothing.”  Bob Dylan said: “When I first heard Elvis’ voice, I just knew that I wasn’t going to work for anybody; and nobody was going to be my boss…Hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail.” Hell, even 50 Cent bowed to the King when describing the difference between him being in Vegas and Elvis being there: “That period was different. When Elvis was there, they were stopping everything. Elvis had the moment for real. While I’m here, it’s not all about 50 Cent, but it was all about Elvis.”

Elvis is an inspiration and a cautionary tale.  He is the stuff of American legend.  He is greatly admired and missed tremendously.  Of course, I am speaking personally and would never dare presume to speak for anyone else.  I really would love to meet a boy who looks like Elvis, who performs like Elvis, and who is as passionate as Elvis was.

I’ll leave with you a few quotes from the King himself, and wish you all a good night.

“I ain’t no saint, but I’ve tried never to do anything that would hurt my family or offend God…I figure all any kid needs is hope and the feeling he or she belongs. If I could do or say anything that would give some kid that feeling, I would believe I had contributed something to the world.” –Elvis commenting to a reporter, 1950’s.

“When I was a child, ladies and gentlemen, I was a dreamer. I read comic books and I was the hero of the comic book. I saw movies and I was the hero in the movie. So every dream I ever dreamed has come true a hundred times…I learned very early in life that: ‘Without a song, the day would never end; without a song, a man ain’t got a friend; without a song, the road would never bend – without a song.’ So I keep singing a song. Goodnight. Thank you.” –From his acceptance speech for the 1970 Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Nation Award, given at a ceremony on January 16, 1971. (Elvis quotes from copyrighted material with lines from the song “Without a Song”.)

“Man, I was tame compared to what they do now. Are you kidding? I didn’t do anything but just jiggle.”  –From the press conference prior to his record-breaking Madison Square Garden shows in New York City, 1972

“…the image is one thing and the human being is another…it’s very hard to live up to an image.” –From the press conference prior to his record-breaking Madison Square Garden shows in New York City, 1972

On what it means to be lucky.

Published July 11, 2012 by mandileighbean

I am sick of the stopping and starting, of the broken promises. If I am serious, then I must make a change.

Vague enough for you?

PROMPT: During her first trip to Las Vegas, a woman experiences the luckiest night of her life.

PIECE:

Brandi had never taken a single moment to stop and consider the definition of the word “lucky.”  At the mention of the word, Brandi was faintly aware that many would think of casinos and gambling, and of taking risks and placing bets.  Brandi was also faintly aware that some would think of various scenarios, in which a person was “lucky” for narrowly escaping danger, or for receiving some kind of accolade, be it monetary or other.  These ideas would bounce around the corners of her mind, never actually sticking, but always kind of floating in some nebulous of hazy understanding and consciousness.

Until her first night in Las Vegas.

Brandi had obviously heard of Las Vegas – Sin City.  She knew that according to popular culture, what happened there, stayed there and that some people just couldn’t handle the lawlessness the city seemed to exude.  Exiting the airplane that had traveled across land – and maybe sea; she had been too frightened to look out of the window – to bring her to her final destination, Brandi silently prayed she’d be lucky enough to survive a couple of nights in Las Vegas.  If the powers that be had deemed her fit to survive the flight, what was a few nights of drunken debauchery?  With a queasy smile, Brandi flagged down a taxi cab and politely requested to be taken to The Venetian Hotel, where her girlfriends were awaiting her arrival – anxiously, she hoped.

Brandi looked out the window, her eyes widening as best they could to take in all the majestic and mischievous sights zipping past.  The rhythmic and subtle jostling of the cab and her slight case of jetlag acted as a lullaby.  Soon, Brandi was sound asleep.

When she awoke, Brandi was nowhere near The Venetian Hotel.  As a matter of fact, she was probably as far from the wicked, winking lights of Las Vegas as was possible.  Heart racing as her bottom lip trembled, Brandi looked from left to right.  All the doors of the taxi cab were open, and a chilled night breeze rumbled through, whipping her hair about her eyes and mouth.  Frantically tucking the loose strands behind her ears so she could see and start composing some kind of visual assessment of the situation, Brandi was thankful for the compartment light shining overhead.  She leaned forward out of her reclined position and looking once more from left to right, realized she was in the middle of the desert.  It might as well have been the middle of fucking nowhere.

Sanity is a fragile thing, and if it is not handled with care, it will shatter sure enough.  Brandi was currently handling hers with a pair of rubber gloves, tiptoeing lightly around reality so as not to hit a snag or a bump which would send it flying, clattering to the floor where it would burst into a million, billion pieces.  She slid out of the cab to the right and decided to head to the front of the vehicle, where the high beams of the headlights shone for a precious number of feet.  As Brandi scrambled with her hands cautiously waving straight out in front of her to protect her from bumping into something and falling down, her breath became shallow and tears crowded to the rims of her eyes.  This was bad, very bad, and she didn’t know if she would make it out alive.

Someone else certainly hadn’t.  Brandi released a blood-curdling scream as she came to the front of the taxi cab.  A man was lying face down in the desert sand, pants and underwear around his ankles, eyes wide open but seeing nothing.  Brandi knelt to find a pulse and found none.  She leaned closer to study the face and found it to be that of the driver.  What had happened?  Why was he dead?  Would she be next?  She leapt to her feet and scrambled to the driver’s side of the vehicle.  Clamoring into the seat, she grabbed the microphone of the CB radio, squeezed the button like she was squeezing the trigger of a flare gun and screamed for help, pleaded for assistance.

Cops were on the scene within an hour and a half.

It turned out that the driver was a serial rapist, posing as a taxi cab driver to lure potential victims.  He would drive ladies – and the occasional weak-looking male – into the desert, have his way with them, shoot them twice in the back of the head and then dispose of the body.  Brandi would have been victim number seven – lucky number seven – but as luck would have it, a heart condition that had lain dormant since childhood had finally come home to roost; the rapist fell dead as he raced to commit the foul deeds, his heart giving out from all the excitement.

Brandi decided being lucky had a lot more to do with survival than numbers or money.  To be truly lucky was to be alive at all.

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