Immediately after finishing work on July 14th, I boarded a set of flights to Las Vegas. I was on my way to the MIT Pi Reunion. In nerdy fashion, MIT holds its first major undergraduate class reunion at π years since graduation (approx. 3.14 years). That night, I was in the Aria on the strip with friends. I got straight to it. I embraced everything at least once and tried a couple games in order to waste my money. Gambling is a general waste. Perhaps someday I might try poker with a bit of cash, but generally I saw the lost avarice that evening. I went to sleep at 6 AM local time and a few brews and taco bell.
The following morning, about 2.5 hours later, I woke up and nursed my headache with a frappe before hopping into a van. As part of the reunion festivities, I paid for a desert ATV tour in the Mojave. The van couriered the group and I off to the Nelson hills, where we rode at < 25 mph along worn paths of sand. I was stunned by the heat and I couldn't imagine staying out there much longer than we did. The wind against my thin hiking shirt was the only thing keeping me from spontaneous combustion.
That night, after seeing some more friends and taking a nap, I was out on the whole strip. The roving party including me, went out to see multiple casinos from Paris, to Caesars Palace, to the Bellagio, and more. It was fun to see the insanity of the tourist city all around my friends and I. It was a good time, but not something to maintain. I sincerely think that anyone interested in seeing the excess should witness it, but not indulge too deeply, lest they fall from grace like Odysseus's men to Circe. I slept wonderfully at my room in the Aria and woke refreshed the next morning.
The next morning, I drove out of town and saw Hoover Dam and the Atomic History Museum. I had a great time learning about the engineering marvels of the outer realms of the Vegas valley. I was also a bit stunned by the lack of resources and wealth off the strip, but not too stunned.
On Monday, I drove through the desert with Coyote and we listened to a bunch of our favorite songs. As we drove by the shifting sands, I thought about my relationship with money. In Vegas, money was everywhere and everything seemed to have a price tag within the bounds of the casinos. It is a dirty place, lacking anything much deeper in purpose than dollars and cents. However, it is also a very freedom loving place. It is an American place, in some very true sense of Americanism. I am a Patriot in many regards and parts of my patriotism respected Vegas for its allowance for freedom in expression and facilitation of personal desires within the bounds of others. Vegas is a weird place. We continued driving through the desert. The views were spectacular. Lake Mead was... having a hard time.
We passed over a large part of Arizona to reach the Grand Canyon. Humorously, we only had thirty minutes to take in the immense size of the Canyon because we had plans in Flagstaff at dinnertime. Dinner was great, although the waiter kept joking with us that our plain water was actually full glasses of tequila. It was a real family establishment, no joke. It was owned by a small Mexican-American family and also catered to families. When we got back to our motel, I turned on the cable TV in the room. The second channel I turned to was the RFD-TV and it was showing the national, children's rope down competition. Through laughter, we sat impressed as 8 and 9 year olds on horseback lassoed down young bulls. Then, we saw barrel racing and mutton busting. Mutton busting is like bull riding, but for 5 years olds on sheep.
On Tuesday, we got breakfast at a traditional southwest establishment in downtown Flagstaff. 'The House the Chilaquiles Built' was painted on the glass of the door. After buying cheap, but tasteful T-shirts in a souvenir shop, we mounted up in our Hyundai Elantra rental car and booked it to Phoenix, AZ, for our return flight to Boston.
Phoenix, AZ, in July is a confusing place. If one were blindfolded and placed in downtown Phoenix in July, they might feel like Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego if they had burned (they were the three jewish men thrown into a furnace by Nebuchanezzar II of Babylon, but did not burn as God protected them). It is a hot place and I was stunned to learn how many human souls subject themselves to living there. I suppose it is easy for me to say this, when I have never lived in such an arid, hot place. I wish them well, despite their condition.
On the flight back, we did crosswords and played other games. I dozed off for only a moment.
The following couple days at work were busy and I was heavily distracted. I was lost in thought about my next trip. Despite this, I met some minor deadlines and my main obligations were satisfied.
On that Thursday, I left work and jumped in a car bound for Hyannis, MA. There were five of us in the car, the sixth member of our party could not leave work early due to compliance requirements in the finance industry. The party of five boarded the last ferry of the day to Nantucket after reaching the Steamboat Authority parking lot.
A blood red moon waning as a thin crescent sat just above the horizon. After the sun set, but before we reached port, all one could see from the stern of the ship was the moon, stars, and pale lights of the boat reflecting on the wake. It was loud, but peaceful. As we pulled into port, I was struck by the line of lights along the shore and the thinness of the civilization against the sea and the sky. Up close, things gained their edges and I was told of the various landmarks at the port. Upon disembarkment, we found a vehicle parked for us and made our way to our lodging on the south side of the island. The whole island is only a bit over 40 square miles so anything is a short drive away by my standards. However, there are no stoplights or organized throughways for vehicles on the island so we had to cobble together instructions by viewing a map on my phone. After only a couple wrong turns, we got to the beach house and quickly fell asleep. The following morning, we made some plans and I got a few last things of work done. When I finished, the others had already left to get supplies at the only Stop & Shop grocery store on island. There are only two grocery stores on island and both are rather small and expectantly pricy.
We spent the days exploring the island and enjoying the sandy beaches and cold water. It was a dream on Earth and I am so very grateful for having the opportunity to visit. I tossed a stone into the water as we left on that following Monday. Some folks say that you are guaranteed to return if you toss a penny into the water as you pass Brant Point lighthouse. However, I think the stone works just as well and doesn't add to copper pollution.