By Greg Price
I’ve gone State side in the last couple of months to attend a friend’s wedding in Las Vegas and visit some cherished relatives in a trip that was long overdue to Great Falls, Montana.
And as all of my five faithful readers know, when I travel, so too does the slice-of-life observations:
WEARY TRAVELER: Some people do not like sitting in the emergency row of airlines and I’ve never figured out why. Perhaps they do not like the responsibility that if the plane goes down, various lives may be at stake if the actions of the emergency row passenger freeze up at crucial times. I would think if one did panic, there are any number of passengers in surrounding rows that would jump into action and besides, if it ever gets to that point, I think that is the least of your worries. Being a man on the tall side at 6-foot-2, any extra leg room I can get on a cramped plane I welcome and it was smooth sailing to Las Vegas in April. Much better than feeling like you are giving birth with your knees near your ears in the regular rows with your legs scrunched up.
MAD RHYMES: As anyone who has traveled to Las Vegas before knows, there are plenty of street performers on the main strip and also Fremont Street. Some I have no idea how they make any money (i.e. the portly man who had breasts larger than most women who was in a bikini, where I ceremoniously wanted to gouge both my eyes out with forks upon gazing on such a beast), but there are others you are just amazed at.
The first night the wedding party arrived, we walked Fremont Street and stumbled upon two rappers who would have likely defeated Eminem in that scene off of 8 Mile. The speed they spit rhymes at us was like a machine gun in which we grooved to some of the hip hop (groove being on a sliding scale according to the judges on Dancing With the Stars). But what I found disturbing along with the rest of my group, was we were the only people putting money into their bucket. So we unleashed a pleasantly soused Brit and an adorable child of the bride- to-be into the crowd with bucket in hand to canvass for change and folding bills. Perhaps not the most tact was used in guilting people to pay up, but if you are entertained by a show you see in las Vegas, at the very least you can give the spare change that is in your pocket. Some of these artists work hard at what they do.
TWINS: I met a cousin of the groom from Shrewsbury, England and I could swear we were separated at birth as long-lost brothers. Around the same age, same affinity for funky socks, same sense of self-depreciating and odd-ball humour and literally identical views on life and dating histories. Despite being thousands of miles apart, the Canadians and the Brits who attended the Vegas wedding melded together quite well in friendship between the two groups in making memories.
HEART AFLUTTER: A handful of us decided to rent a house in Las Vegas for a week-and-a-half instead of doing the hotel circuit and I would recommend it to anyone, not only looking to save money, but also taking a break from all the glitz and glamour that is Vegas. It was party central for the larger group of people that attended the wedding. As people were preparing to go out for a night on the town, I managed to sneak in some Stanley Cup playoff watching for my favourite team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Upon hearing the announcer, my friend’s sister raced down to watch the game with me, where she seemed to be more interested in the game than I was. A woman just as interested in playoff hockey as I was? Scenarios were racing through my mind of getting down on bended knee where there would be two weddings happening instead of one in which I would be in attendance. But, alas, she was cheering for the Washington Capitals (where now she can cheer them on at the golf course). A Pittsburgh Penguins and a Washington Capitals fan? It would have been like the Montagues and the Capulets with a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions.
FULL HOUSE: Another advantage of renting the house was it helped form strong bonds. The kind of bonds where group suppers, drinks by the pool and walks to the corner store have a greater chance to form than the hit and miss of hotels and casinos in our voyages. While many in that house were not family until the actual wedding, the laughs, personal anecdotes an insights on life made it feel like family both with people who were staying at the house or who visited.
FINDERS KEEPERS: I think my Great Uncle Dale in Great Falls must be part bloodhound. I do not recall the last time I’ve had to pay for a golf ball because every time I’ve made the trip to Montana I’ve returned with bags of balls in tow from Dale who picked them up on his walks. Coolers, fishing rods, folding money….the list went on and on of the items Dale has found over the years in his walks. Every time I’ve visited, Dale would tell me a tale of his latest discovery. The latest, a school project diorama explaining all the reasons behind the Great Depression.
STEREOTYPES: There is an overriding viewpoint among citizens of the world that Americans can be a tad ‘full of themselves’ and ignorant to the ways of the rest of the world. Never really understood that, because I have plenty of American relatives who are anything but. And that stereotype came crashing down as I helped my elderly great aunt to her chair as I took her and my uncle out to breakfast. As we made our way to the table, there were two young girls that were running up and down the hall beside us. I could hear a man call out in the distance to his daughters ‘let them through.’ I thought nothing of it as there was plenty of room in the hallway for the children to pass and for myself to help my aunt to our table. Nevertheless, after a couple of minutes sitting down at the table, the man arrived at our table with his children, wanting them to apologize for crowding us in the hallway and wanting his daughters to respect their elders. Thanking them for their politeness, I noted it was no big deal, he replied ‘they have to learn.’ I just witnessed a lot more kindness in that one moment from an American than I’ve seen in many of my fellow Canadians. Not everyone fits a stereotype.
POOL SHARK: Quite often you will find myself and my fellow Taber Times scribe Trevor Busch relax after a day at work, by going across the street to the Royal to play a few games of pool and split a pitcher of beer. We have done this so often, I must say, I think I’m getting better by leaps and bounds by the repetition in the sport, to the point I’d give many a run for their money…that is, unless you are my cousin Jim.
As always with a trip to Great Falls, I hit the pub and watering hole circuit with my cousins Jim and Phil as I sample the craft beer the Montana region has to offer. Low and behold there was a pool table at one of the establishments and here I thought I could bedazzle my cousin with my pool prowess. But there was Jim, doing double banks, combos and hard-angle shots with aplomb. Upon Jim’s best impersonation of Minnesota Fats, he informed me he hadn’t picked up a cue in about five years.
I’ve discovered the game of pool has made me feel both empowered and emasculated at times.