Sunday, February 17, 2008

opening up the box

...this post was started 2/14/08 in Las Vegas... my first trip to the city without clocks and I was there for work; really ...

I never thought I would go to Las Vegas; it was not on the list of places I wanted to visit. In November, a person I was working with mentioned that there are five Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas. She found herself down there - also not of her own volition - and was pleased to discover the performances. I am a big fan of Cirque du Soleil and thought, well, maybe, someday, if I have nothing better to do, I might possibly think about going to Vegas just to grab the opportunity to see two or three different Cirque du Soleil shows. And that was the extent of that thought.

Until a month or so later, when I was offered the opportunity to represent the program where I am adjunct faculty at a regional meeting in - tada - Las Vegas. It felt like fate. My flight and hotel would be paid and I could surely squeeze in a performance while I was there. Which I did and it was fantastic - but that is for another day.

So, on Valentine's Day I found myself flying to Vegas. I arrived at the Orleans Casino and Hotel and entered through one set of gigantic glass double doors, with a crocodile eating its tail as a door handle. Immediately, I knew I'd entered another world and I wondered if it was the wrong world! All I could see in front of me were rows and rows of banks of electronic slot machines, with a coffee bar and an ice cream cafe area along one side. Slots as far and wide as I could see, but no registration desk. I spotted an "invited guests check-in" sign and headed that way, thinking it might be a cute way of saying registration. Then I noticed a regular check-in counter behind the little wall of the entryway off to my right. Whew - I did go in the correct doors.

It was an amazing sight. I'd heard about Las Vegas; I'd seen it represented in movies or on TV; but I'd never been there. It was just like the stereotypes I'd seen, as were many of the people. I was repelled and fascinated at the same time. There were many sounds: of the machines turning and clicking and clanging; of areas of types of machines trying to attract visitors; of music from the main casino floor and the high stakes area competing; and giant wall-mounted TVs with the sound on, announcements, people talking, kids crying and running and playing, and hawkers and cocktail waitresses (and I mean to use that gender specific label - there were no male waiters in skimpy-barely-dressed outfits serving drinks). And lights flashing from the machines being used and waiting for gamblers and out of coins and minor winners and advertisements. Whoa.
(If you want a taste of what it was like, here is someone's video from a different casino.)

I ate lunch in my room, wanting to savor a little alone time before being inside a meeting room I was sure would have no windows with an unknown amount of people of whom I only knew one. I showered for the second time that day and headed down to the Seattle's Best coffee shop on the periphery of the casino for my daily soy latte.

I sat sipping the coffee and people-watched. It was great. I had my journal with me, so I wrote some things down; but mostly, I watched. I was afraid I'd miss something interesting and I wanted to soak up the experience for the short time I had until the meeting started. I felt inspired and wanted to write. Ideas sprang into my head: ideas for a story or a character or what possibilities lay before me in this strange-to-me land.

And as I sat there, I realized that I needed to get out of my box of private practice work and teaching and mentoring and my everyday sameness. If I hadn't made this trip to Las Vegas, I might never have known that some of these things were real! I was thinking that I might actually plan a trip to Vegas someday for the purpose of doing some character studies and to just write (and sneak in another Cirque du Soleil show, I'm sure).

I realized that sometimes we probably all need to step outside of our boxes to find a piece of inspiration. Try something new by going somewhere new. My suggestion is to pick a place you don't really think you want to go and plan a trip there. As I thought about it, I think the key is to pick a place that has some energy attached to it for you. I don't think a place where you just think "oh, that wouldn't be very fun" would have the same impact. And I don't think picking a place you really, really want to go to would do the same, either. If you really want to go, I think you can become focused on it being perfect and miss important other moments; or, if it turns out to not be what you hoped or expected, then you are faced with only disappointment.

But, if you pick a place where you approach it with energy, then, I think, from it energy will flow. Try it. If a trip is not possible at the time, pick a new restaurant or try a new type of book.

The point: do something new *and* unexpected. Be open to being surprised and maybe even delighted. Do it. See what happens.