What a week I’m having! Wow! Just got back last night after a few days in Vegas, Baby! Yes, I am 55, and it was the first time my wife and I had gone. Really, our lives were set up for a backloaded couple’s life. You see, when we were in our early twenties and had only known each other for the past eight months, we were married with a child on the way. And, only a short month after we had just celebrated knowing each other for ONE year, we were parents. That first year, I completed my internship at a local hospital in what would be that hospital’s last class in their School of Medical Technology. Once that year was complete, I got my first job at a tiny hospital in the college town of Oxford, Ohio, where we resided for four years as I worked in two different hospitals during all three shifts at one time or another. Toward the end of that time, I decided to take education courses in order to take a fifty percent salary cut to become a teacher and coach.
After a couple lean years, we began to take small, family-oriented vacations with our growing boys. Our plan, as we stubbornly stuck together through thick and thin, was to enjoy life after the boys got out of the house, which, of took a bit longer than expected. Still, it has happened, but then there was my whole chronic pain which totally knocked our family on it collective ass. I really had been an active person before all of this. I ran often, lifted weights and played basketball a couple of times a week. But all of that came to a crashing halt on November 11, 2004, when, after church, I bent down to pick up a t-shirt off the floor and could not straighten my back. Now, I had had problems prior to this, including a discectomy/laminectomy at the L4/L5 level two years prior and was feeling pretty good. But, after that day, my life was permanently changed forever. The next surgery did not fuse the vertebrae, and for the next FOUR years, I argued with doctors that I had a structural problem going on to no avail. That is, until I found a doctor who would order a CT-Scan. That’s when it was discovered that I had Failed Back Surgery Syndrome, an unrecognized group of symptoms caused by a botched fusion surgery. Since I dealt with this instability for FOUR years, I was screwed even if the surgery was successful, and it was. And, I was still screwed. For the next three long years, I battled to remain a teacher, though I had tearfully resigned as a coach two years prior the anterior fusion surgery.
But, now, through an implanted Spinal Cord Stimulator, which blocks the damage nerve pain down both of my legs through bursts of electrical stimulation (but, for some reason, will not allow me to lie flat in a bed anymore), and a Pain Pump, which delivers small amounts of morphine solution directly to my back in the L4/L5 region, and the use of ibuprofen and acetaminophen (and a nightly muscle relaxer), I am able to survive better than ever before. So, life is slowly beginning to take off as we finally did Vegas, WITHOUT ever gambling.
Although the first night was a wash, Day Two was better. Since I had trouble walking major distances, my brilliant wife rented a scooter for me. Let me just say that I have always tried to be conscious to those in wheelchairs and scooters, but I was amazed at how many looks of derision I received for being I assume a relatively young older man who looks somewhat able-bodied using a scooter. You know, if I had a choice, I would never use a scooter or chair, but I do have physical limitations now. But, people’s lack of a concern for others is society’s biggest issue. At least, that’s the way I see it. Anyway, we went to Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club in the basement of the MGM Grand. The best part was that Brad Garrett himself was there as the MC. And, man, he was outstanding. My wife and I were in tears during his times on stage. His first comedian was LA DJ Frazer Smith, who really was not too funny. But, the headliner, Kathleen Dunbar, was outstanding. Her set consisted of great stories about the onset of menopause, that any couple can relate to.
Unfortunately, Day Three could be summed up with one word: PAIN. Unfortunately, all I could do was sleep and lay around the room, uncomfortable in any position I tried. But, by night, I rallied so we could go to the Tropicana to see a Prince tribute called Purple Reign. Since I am a HUGE Prince fan, imagine my disappointment when, after a long delay, the band came out to the Purple Rain-era anthem “Let’s Go Crazy,” but the band was only racially integrated but lacked any female musicians. Sure, some Prince songs may seem misogynist on a basic level, but after much listening, the feminine side of this man’s music is where his strength lay. And, having great female musicians in his band, whether Wendy, Lisa, Sheila E., Rosie Gaines, 3rdEyeGirl, etc., was an important statement that Prince had to make and was totally neglected by this band’s line-up. Now, I am in no way knocking these men’s talents. But, it was a necessary visual needed to stay true to Prince’s vision. There were also tributes to The Time and Vanity 6/Apollonia 6 during the show that were excellent. The men who portrayed Time singer Morris Day and valet Jerome Benton were spot on, as was the voluptuous young lady who portrayed Vanity/Apollonia. Besides her looks, she had a much better voice than either of the original singers in Prince’s all-female trio. But, the guy were was Prince really needs to check out more than the movie Purple Rain and his music videos, because Prince the man was much less aloof than The Kid character that Prince portrayed in Purple Rain. And, yes, the crowd was dead, yet, the singer did nothing to move the crowd that Prince the entertain would have. Sure, imitating a pop icon such as Prince is a daunting task, but it takes more work that memorizing a few moves and attempting to talk as Prince did in a movie. Watch some concert footage. Don’t worry about recreating the exact look of a video and just become the performer. There is so much potential in this show that is being unrealized. On the positive side, we thought the dancers were outstanding. Plus, my wife was impressed with one of the young lady’s butts enough to admiringly say that she had a perfect butt and should be showing it off now because one day it would be gone. See? It’s those insights that make me admire that woman after all these years!
Finally, we saw The Beatles’ LOVE, that famous Cirque du Soleil show set to a specially prepared mix of Beatles music by the Martin family. All I can say is that I am amazed by the choreography of what seems like controlled chaos. It was a multimedia orgasm of lights, projected images, high-flying acrobats and aerial dancers, dancers on the ground, gymnasts, clownish characters, bubbles, fog, and God knows what else. Oh, and robotic tricycles. It was a very whimsical take on the whimsical side of the Fab Four, that seemed to stay focused on the psychedelic era of the Liverpool boys’ career. By far, this was our favorite show. And, we were so glad that we ended our time in Vegas with this performance rather than that Prince Tribute Show.
Now, of course, we did get out to a record shop that was well off the Strip. I would like to give a shout out to my new friends at The Record Store on Sahara in downtown Vegas. I did find a couple albums there, including an unopened Utopia Anthology (1974-1989) album, along with a DJ Promo Copy of Daryl Hall & John Oates Todd Rundgren-produced third album War Babies, along with a near mint copy of Elton John’s best Eighties album Too Low for Zero. The guys there were awesome and gave me a big discount for “friending” them on Facebook while checking out. We had a great discussion about our stores here in Indy and Muncie. That was a fun hour out, as my wife chilled in a nearby Starbucks.
Overall, Vegas was pretty cool. But, we now have our sights set elsewhere for our next trip. Perhaps, in a year, my motility will have improved, so maybe the travel will be in even more historical places. Who knows?!?!