I have coined this journey, comprised of dedicating myself to the completion of 25 tasks and writing about them in a public space, simply “25.”
How am I doing on my mission? Let’s check in.
Well, I can cross #12 off the list. I gambled in Vegas. True story. I played the slots, and I firmly believe they are evil machines posessed by spritely demons. I played Black Jack at $5 a hand, $10 a hand, and $15 a hand. I lost the first $15 hand and went back to the relative safety of the $5 and $10 tables to lick my wounds. In grand total, I believe I lost close to $100, winning back $30 the day before I boarded my flight home. Could have been worse.
My good friend L, whom I stayed with while in Vegas, told me that each casino has a unique smell because they are pumped with aromatic oxygen. With a continual supply a fresh oxygen, the gamblers are far less likely to become tired and leave. I can attest to this. I am typically checked out of any coherent or alert state by 10:30pm, but I had no problem traipsing around the tables at two in the morning. Of course, my body was on central time, and the excitement of being in such a huge, cavernous, fast paced space filled with oxygen-high homo sapiens may have contributed to a feeling of light-headed giddiness.
So as I’m flitting from casino to casino with my similarly oxygenated clergy and clergy wannabe friends, I am trying to do two things simultaneously: 1) I want to stay in the moment, soaking up the probably once in a lifetime experience, enjoying the people watching, enjoying the thrill of the gamble, trying to allow my eyes and ears to absorb every bright light, fast car, and winning ding. 2) I am also trying to be mindful of all the tremendously problematic consequences of American consumerism at its absolute worst.
How many people did I see sitting on the street with their legs stretched out and a cardboard sign asking for help? Too many to count. L told me she had read somewhere that the average beggar in Las Vegas brings home around $20,000 in one year (who knows how accurate that number is). Regardless of your thoughts or feelings about homelessness or begging, whether you firmly believe in the old “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” or alternately, “Nobody is responsible for anything, all problems are systemic,” or, like me, somewhere in the middle, it cannot be denied that gambling can and has ruined people’s lives.
It’s true, many people can go to Vegas, or Tunica, or Shreveport for a weekend, have a good time, and return to their normal lives on Monday. But some get caught in this vicious cycle that destroys their humanity, destroys their desire for relationship with anyone but the dealer. What does it say about us when we contribute to this cycle, knowingly or unknowingly?
I wonder about issues of justice in cities like Las Vegas. Or in any city for that matter. I wonder about labor justice: are the casino employees treated fairly in order that I might enjoy a quick game of Black Jack? Do they receive benefits? Are their children cared for? What about food justice? Vegas is the home of the buffet… what about all of the hands that go into preparing ungodly amounts of food, excessive food that can never be eaten? What about the people outside the buffet doors who are hungry? Hungry for more than just food, hungry for health and happiness and freedom from addiction? What do I say to the world when I go to Las Vegas and participate in this grand portrayal of spontaneity and adventure knowing the harm it causes?
(My ethics class has destroyed me. I can no longer perform any single action without immediately imagining every consequence.)
Which brings me to my next point. #14 on my 25 list says, “Consume an all vegetarian diet for one month.” While I have not successfully completed this task as of today, I want to fill you in on some thoughts I’ve been having about this.
When I stayed with L, we watched the documentary Food Inc. I can’t recall now every detail, which at the time boiled my blood and turned my stomache, but I know that at the conclusion of the film I thought to myself, “That’s it. No more meat for me.” I said this even knowing how biased film makers can be. It was just that convincing. For me, I thought the thing that would finally push me over the edge into the land of the vegetarians would be the unethical treatment of animals. Turns out, while that’s certainly part of it, I’m more mad about the horrible moral and ethical standards of our meat industry. I don’t have time to delve into all of the details here. Watch it. Seriously, you need to.
So I have not had beef, chicken, or pork since leaving Vegas. (Caveat: I tried eating some Chick-Fil-A chicken biscuits the next morning at the airport, just to say goodbye [especially since I’m so thrilled about the friendship between Dan Cathy and Shane Windmeyer] but I just kept imagining the unethical treatment of both birds and poultry farmers and couldn’t stomach it.)
I currently call myself a pescatarian (basically vegetarian, but with fish and seafood). Eventually, I will go full-fledged vegetarian. Stay tuned.
What else? I made a new friend (#25 on the list) while in Vegas. Her name is S. She lives in Texas. We know many of the same people. Such a small world. Now I follow her on facebook and instagram. She’s pretty awesome.
I’m going to need to rack my brains for a March friend. I might have failed y’all.
#16 says, “Create a backyard vegetable garden.” Thanks to my Vandy Div. friend E, I am a few steps closer to making this a reality. She gave me some of her heirloom seeds from last year’s crop, and they are planted in their seedling pots and I am anxiously awaiting them to sprout! Pictures to come soon.
I also need to post my picture of an amazing place for March (hint – it might be a zoo. The Nashville Zoo. That’s not a hint, I just told you. Sorry.) and be thinking about what to photograph for April. Maybe the dog park? Who knows where the wind will take me.
That’s about it for now folks. I’ve got to buckle down and complete about 70 pages of writing by April 30th. If you don’t hear from me until May, you’ll know why.
As always, cheers!