Las Vegas or Bust – The Conclusion
Things were getting rough. The bank account was getting skinnier and skinnier. So were we. Our morale was declining, but we were determined. Then, there was that one night.
The Consumer Electronics Show is one of the biggest events that is regularly held in Las Vegas. Tens of thousands of people come to see the newest high-tech gadgetry. I even applied for several jobs that were CES-specific. Everything from being a pitchman to dressing up as Tigger and bouncing around at one of the vendor booths. At that point, I would have mopped the floor with my tongue if it meant some cash flow. As you can imagine, thousands of people flocking to Las Vegas caused hotel rates to skyrocket. And for two cash-strapped people living in a hotel, this was nothing but bad news.
Our roommate-to-be and his friend were still staying in a dive motel across from Texas Station casino. They were just as frustrated with the mortgage thing as we were, but they at least had steady employment. They agreed to let us pay $100 to crash in their "suite" for one week. So, we moved all of our stuff out of the hotel room that had been our home for six weeks and carted it over to our new, temporary home. One suite. Me, my wife, and our two dogs. Plus, our friend, his roommate, their six dogs, and two cats. If you add those up, you'll find that 14 living beings were occupying this three-room suite. A suite that was rented to two human occupants, with a one-animal limit. One night later, we were found out. So around 11:00 PM, my wife and I loaded the car up again, and searched for somewhere to lay our heads.
As we drove around the streets of Las Vegas, my wife was looking for any hotel that we could afford that also accepted dogs. We even thought about sneaking the dogs in, but because of the Consumer Electronics Show, every hotel was way out of our price range. On the Strip, off the Strip, out in the mountains...nothing was financially feasible. Exhausted, heartbroken, and at our wit's end, we pulled into the parking garage at the Luxor Hotel and Casino (the one shaped like a pyramid).
I carefully selected a parking spot. Not too close to the door or any of the exits. Relatively isolated. Not too close to I-15, because the traffic would be too loud. Too loud for us to sleep in our car. I told my wife to go ahead and get some sleep, and I would stay awake and keep an eye out for anybody coming our way. As she dozed, our dogs cuddled up together for warmth. I sat in the front seat with nothing but my thoughts. "What are we going to do?" Security slowly drove by. "This is a disaster." A drunken bachelor party tried to find their car. "I may be the worst husband on the planet." Security did another sweep of the parking garage.
My wife was unable to get any meaningful sleep, and it became apparent that security was suspicious about the black SUV that had been sitting there with a guy in the driver's seat for about an hour. We decided that a location change was needed before we got into trouble. We drove up the Strip, and landed right back where all of this had started...the Gold Spike Hotel. But this time, we wouldn't be getting out of the car, going to our room, and making some soup in the five-dollar crockpot. My wife and I crawled into the back seat, along with our two dogs. We covered ourselves with various articles of clothing for warmth and finally went to sleep, parked in the parking lot, one block away from craziness of Fremont Street.
The sun beaming into the car woke us up a few hours later. We got back into the front seat, and drove to our daily destination, the Spring Valley Dog Park. On the way, one of our dogs was kind enough to vomit all over the back seat. Kind of the rotten cherry on top of the stale cupcake, you know? We pulled into the dog park, where my wife and I used a bottle of water to help us brush our teeth. We agreed to keep what happened the previous night to ourselves. Pride in the name of embarrassment. As we watched the dogs run around and play, I felt the sting of envy. They had no worries. No fear. Their job was to eat, play, and sleep. Three things that my wife and I wanted so badly.
Fortune did shine on us later that day, as we found the Wild Wild West Hotel. Not only did they allow dogs, but they had FREE BREAKFAST. Every morning, we would be able to walk to Denny's and choose one of three meals to eat at no cost whatsoever. This was like hitting a Las Vegas jackpot. They even had those nice blackout curtains that makes the room so dark that night and day are indistinguishable. After the night that we had, we slammed those curtains shut, and snored for hours.
A week later, we went back to Midland to visit. We had bought the plane tickets right after the move, and it was an expense that we had planned for. We dropped the dogs off at the most affordable kennel that we could find, and went to the airport. Before we could even get our boarding passes, the kennel called and said that they would have to give our dogs their yearly shots in order for them to stay there. Fine. Do what you have to do. All we cared about was going home and seeing our loved ones.
We got to Midland, and embraced our friends and family. I even performed in two Improv At The Yucca shows. I was so delighted to be onstage and having fun again. You never would have guessed that one week earlier, I was sleeping in my car in a parking lot in downtown Las Vegas. The day before we left Midland, two of our best friends got engaged after dating since high school. Life was beautiful. Life was good. Life was worth it.
We flew back to Las Vegas, and went to pick up the dogs. They handed us a bill for three times the amount that they quoted us. They claimed that the yearly shots are what drove the price up. Unless those shots were full of gold flakes and unicorn tears, there was no way that was possible. After arguing, pleading, and explaining that we really didn't have that kind of money, we ended up giving in, just so we could get our dogs back. In the course of five hours, we had gone from refreshed happiness to having damn near no money left.
Over the next several weeks, everything started drying up. My wife wasn't getting called as often to give massages. My job search was yielding no results. Instead of well-rounded meals, we were ordering from the dollar menu at Jack In The Box. And when that got too expensive, we loaded up on cheap junk food from the dollar store. We were finding a way to survive, but just barely. Our parents had dumped more money into our bank account than they ever should have been expected to. And in the end, it floated away while we were trying to force a dream to come true.
It was all too much. I couldn't handle the uncertainty of our next meal. I couldn't live in fear that we would have to sleep in the car again. I couldn't ask the family for more money that I knew was just going to go right down the drain. On February 5th, 2012, I made the decision to move back to Midland. We had just enough money in our account to reserve a U-Haul. So we went over to the storage facility, emptied our unit into the truck, and went back to the Wild Wild West for one more night in Vegas. We ate one final meal at our favorite restaurant. We talked about job prospects back in Midland. We laughed. We cried, too. And we wondered where life would take us next.
The next morning, I got in the U-Haul, while my wife loaded the dogs into her car. We hit the road, and shortly reached that curve. You know, the one I talked about in my first Las Vegas blog. The curve that we came around when we moved to Las Vegas, and we saw the city lights of our new home. I watched that same city disappear behind me. Alone in that U-Haul, I felt a wave of emotion. The most dominant one was failure. In my mind, making the decision to move home meant that I failed my friends who had high hopes for us. I failed our family, who had supported us emotionally and financially. And the most heartbreaking of all, I failed my wife, whose beautiful eyes still contained a hopeful glimmer as bright as the Vegas Strip. She didn't want to leave. She wanted to tough it out. And I was the jerk standing in the way of that. The longer I kept pressing that gas pedal, the further I was getting from actively chasing a dream. I was driving away from the romantic, and towards the pragmatic. I was growing up.
Here we are, three years later. I have my radio show, as well as a slew of other creative projects, and that list grows all the time. My wife owns a very successful massage therapy practice in downtown Midland, where she is her own boss and has the freedom to pursue her own creative efforts on the side. Our dogs' little romantic soiree in the back seat of our car in Vegas produced a pretty little puppy, now owned by my in-laws. We even got our old house back, the one we lived in before the big move. Speaking of houses, our friend still lives in Vegas...and the house he lives in? He got the keys to it the day that we left Vegas. Talk about coincidence.
We learned a lot during our ten weeks as Nevada residents. Above all else, we learned about love. My wife and I could have let all of those downfalls affect our marriage. We didn't. We could have fought, accused, and complained. We didn't. She could have spent the past three years upset at me for making the decision to move home. She hasn't. Or she's really good at hiding it.
We visit Las Vegas twice a year now. Sure, we see the shows, stay on the Strip, and dabble in the vices of the city. But there is not a single area of that city that doesn't hold some special significance to us. We can walk by something, and one of us will say, "Remember when..." and the other will immediately know which memory lives there. I like that. Las Vegas is a city with a million stories. We have our own. And we'll never forget it.