Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Find my happy place, find my happy place...

Well, I found it.

This is a photo of Lake Mead, a man-made lake about 75 miles outside of Las Vegas, NV. I first visited Lake Mead when I was six years old and living with my Aunt Jeneen and Uncle Steve in their one-bedroom apartment. It was a very difficult time for me, having been sent to live with relatives I barely knew for reasons that, at the time, I didn't understand. My first month in Las Vegas was spent crying into my pillow at night and writing letters to my mother begging her to come and take me home. I'm sure it was hard on my aunt and uncle having a miserable, whiny tart to deal with everyday, but they never showed it. On the contrary, my aunt would dress me up in cool outfits, curl my hair with her hot rollers (who didn't want Farrah Faucett hair in 1976?), and take me on the greatest road trips. We traveled through deserts and over mountains and, for the first time in my life, I realized that there were a lot of cool places outside of my Brooklyn neighborhood. One of those places was Lake Mead.

I'm not sure why I was so enamored with the lake. Even now, the marina is nothing special, just rows of houseboats, outboard fishing boats, and rent-by-the-hour jet skis. The only two businesses at the lake are a souvenir shop and an outdoor bar/restaurant, both located on the pier. For me, the trip to the lake was never about the boats or cheap souvenirs. It was, and still is, all about feeding those damn fish.

There are thousands of carp living in Lake Mead. Visitors to the lake stand on the pier, toss popcorn into the water, and watch as the fish come to the surface to feed. By the looks of them, some of these fish have been living there for years. Most are about a foot long and easily weigh ten pounds or more. Some even bear scars from being hit by boats entering or exiting the marina. As a kid, this was the most fascinating thing I'd ever seen. I mean, I could put my hand in the water and pet fish as they ate popcorn. At times, there were so many fish fighting for popcorn that I could barely see the water. What could be cooler than that? I had finally found something about living in Las Vegas that made being there seem tolerable, enjoyable even. It was a real turning point for me and I embraced it. Even now, I visit the lake (with cheaper popcorn bought at Wal-Mart, thank you) and leave feeling refreshed and renewed. I even made the trip on my wedding day, baby's breath still stuck in my hair. When asked why, I couldn't really give an answer. It just seemed like the perfect way to celebrate a new husband, a new life, and a new beginning.


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