Las Vegas.

3am on Fremont Street, January 2020.

I visited Vegas for the first time in 2018. My sister and I were texting (as we always do),  probably bitching about the godawful, never-ending Ohio winter. We reminisced about the sunshine, and thought fondly of the few months that we actually get to see it, just in time for a humid, shitty, bug filled Ohio summer.

We've traveled together, a lot. We started taking road trips to see bands when she was still in high school. She was my roll dog for most of the Hold Steady shows I attended in the last decade. We lived together for a few years, until I met Kurt and Shit Changed Quickly. I had just started to peek out from under the mountain that was my nervous breakdown, so when my sister offered to take me somewhere warm, I jumped at it. The only deal was that I had to find the flights and hotels. I love planning trips. I'm Very Good at it. She was entrusting me to find us a good time.

That evening, I got an email from Frontier Airlines for cheap ass flights to Las Vegas. I looked up hotels, and they were also cheap. Vegas is also full of colors and sounds, good food and legal weed. We booked the flights, booked a hotel downtown, and spent almost a week in Las Vegas.

The Strip is tacky, full of people with children, and downright weird in spots. Downtown Vegas is where it's at. It's gritty and gross while still being flashy and hypnotizing, and weird in all spots. There are a ton of cool murals and abandoned shit (there's a dead mall and abandoned hotels along Fremont Street! It's like someone set a trap for me). We went to the Neon Museum and ate lots of tacos from food trucks at sketchy gas stations.

Even without drugs, Vegas is pretty amazing. Everything is bright and colorful and making noise. Vegas has its own heartbeat; it's covered in sticky film from a frozen daquiri and sounds a lot like a Van Halen tribute band, but man, it's beating. You can't help but want to be out there and a part of it. I love the spectacle of it all.

We wanted a break from the action, so we ended up renting a car for a couple days. We drove out to the desert to see some art. We ended up at a truck stop that was alien themed, and also had an alien themed cathouse. We looked at stars in the dark desert sky. We ate edibles and laughed a lot.

We came home from the trip energized. Life hit us all pretty quickly later that year: my sister had a baby, my mom had a transplant. I had gone hard with therapy and light with paying work, and started to finally really get my shit together. 2019 was mostly smaller trips to places within driving distance, because I couldn't be too far from home, because my mom's recovery was very touch and go. By the end of 2019, I was ready to get on the plane and go back to Vegas, this time with my husband, because there was literally SO MUCH STUFF I wanted to show him.
.   .   .   .

My husband and I spent a week out West. We flew into Vegas, and bummed around there for a few days. We rented a car and spent a few days driving around exploring California. I saw a lot of places that have been on my list for years: the abandoned Rock A Hoola waterpark, Joshua Tree, Salton Sea, Slab City, Salvation Mountain, East Jesus. It was all incredible and I have hundreds of photos. I also got to show my husband some of my favorite weird spots, like the midway at Circus Circus, or how you can walk around the strip and almost never actually go outside. I always get so excited when we plan trips and I get to show him all of the weird places that I've researched incessantly online. We've seen some beautiful, bizarre things together over the past six years. He loved Vegas. I knew he would.

I felt really good on this trip. Life has finally found a good flow, and it feels pretty good. Therapy has been like going to grad school for emotions; I'm more alive and aware than I have ever been before. I have self respect *and* self esteem for the first time in my life. My mom is still here, my niece is adorable. I got a new camera last year and I love using it. I found myself totally overwhelmed by gratitude a few times on the trip, to the point of having tears in my eyes. It's been a long time since my tears have been happy ones.

I came back from Vegas energized and inspired.