I wrote last week about how I love to travel, to see and experience things that are not the norm. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what an exceptional part of the experience of travel is …
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I wrote last week about how I love to travel, to see and experience things that are not the norm. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what an exceptional part of the experience of travel is the people. And, while Las Vegas is certainly a target-rich environment for simple people-watching, that’s just the shallow end.
In one long and enjoyable day my wife and I made the acquaintance of three very interesting people. The first (who, it turns out, is a rather gifted salesmen of small electronics) was an immigrant from the Eastern European republic of Belarus. He come to the country in search of “the American Dream,” the legend of which, apparently, still survives in the telling in the shadow of the former Soviet Union. He started in New York, with his wife, and then she got a job in Las Vegas, so he followed her. And, as a salesman, his English was very good. I asked him where he learned it, and he told me at university. “University? What did you study?” International Law, almost completed a specialization in European Law. “Oh. Really? Did you practice in Belarus?” Yes, while running a small business managing outdoor excursions.
Yeah. That’s what I thought, too. “What’s a guy with a law practice and a successful small business doing picking it all up and moving across the ocean?” And, again, it’s for the American Dream. He admitted he’s and his wife aren’t there, yet. But, after a few minutes with this guy, I have absolutely no doubt that he will live his dream, and sooner rather than later.
Then we wander down the hall to the Apple Store (because that’s a better place to lose money than at the slot machines, I guess), where we are promptly greeted at the door by a young man with a frenetic energy and a thick accent. Of course, I ask him where he’s from…
At this point it might be useful to recognize one of the contradictions of me: if you ever have the misfortune of being at a party or social gathering with me, the odds are I will be in the corner watching the whole thing but barely participating. But out in the world, introduce me to a complete stranger with an interesting characteristic and I’ll chat them up like a movie producer on a double shot espresso. What can I say?
He’s from Spain. “What brings you to Vegas?” A job with an internship that’s going to one day spawn an opportunity for a great job back in my home town. Seems like a long way, for a person like me, who has spent the entirety of his life within about 10 miles of Wadsworth, to go to start a process like that. But, then, gotta respect the courage to pick up and chase the opportunity.
And the day ended in a helicopter piloted by a thoroughly American young man. Graduated high school, joined the Army, served for six years — all stateside — then took advantage of the G.I. Bill to get an avionics degree and get licensed to fly helicopters. As we were buzzing over “The Strip,” he pointed out The Strat, the hotel that used to be call The Stratosphere, and offhandedly remarked about the roller coaster that circles the top floors of the hotel. My wife — who, I point out, is in the helicopter with me — says of the coaster “No way, not a chance.” And the pilot responds, “I’m with you.”
You’re with her? You? The guy cruising around at an altitude of 2700 feet in a Volkswagen attached to two spinny things? You’re afraid of a roller coaster?
“Sure,” he answers. “Something goes wrong up here, I can do something about it. Something goes wrong on that…” He didn’t need to finish the thought.
All in one day in one strange place. What a country!
Michael Alcorn is a former teacher and current writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Valkyrie’s Kiss,” a finalist in the ScreenCraft Book Competition, is available now at firstname.lastname@example.org. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.
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