Saturday, July 28, 2012

Viva La Gellie

Where does one go on vacation when they’re disabled? Where does one take their bedazzled cane and pimp ass limp? To Vegas, bitches!

My husband and I have been long overdue for a vacation. Las Vegas is about a 3 hour drive from where we are in Southern CA, and we haven’t gone since we had the kid. We’ve been through so much financially, physically, and emotionally this past year. If there is one place on Earth you can cleanse your body and mind of negative energy, it’s Sin City. Playing and laughing shake all that negative shit right out of your system, and alcohol kills the rest. Go ahead and enjoy that juice; I’m cleansing my body with vodka and gin.

The week leading up to our trip, I was a nervous wreck. We’ve been to Vegas many times, but this was my first time going as a cripple. I feared what I was getting into, as I knew it would be a very different experience. I wouldn’t be able to casino hop (or regular hop for that matter.) Vegas is all about walking, even if you never leave your hotel. You still have to walk to get to restaurants, shops, gaming, and although it’s all one building, it’s a long way to go.

We made our hotel reservations for Sunday – Tuesday. This way we not only saved money, but spared ourselves the insane weekend traffic and crowds in the casino.  When we arrived, we looked for the Valet sign, and just our luck it read “Valet FULL.” My husband flashed my Handicap placard and the young man opened the chain to wave us through as an exception. That’s right. I was there 5 minutes and already winning.

This small gesture was a big lesson for me, a lesson that I’m still trying to master.

Lesson #1:  Let people know you’re disabled.
I may have mentioned this before, but it’s important so let’s review: No one gives a rat’s ass that you can’t walk because it doesn’t affect them. It’s a bittersweet moment when you realize that the whole world doesn’t have your disability on their minds every moment of the day. It’s an even tougher realization that most of them don’t even know! Pfft! What?!

Um, excuse me sir, I do realize I have a cool gangsta walk but it’s actually because I can barely walk.

You don’t always have to say “Hey fucktard! I can’t walk that far!” despite how tempting it may be. I’ve found that usually flashing my cane or casually mentioning I need something closer works well. We went out to eat several times and each time we got a comfy booth close to the entrance. The particular tower our room was in was closest to the Front Desk. Check-in time wasn’t until 4pm but they let us check in at 12pm. All these little things add up to quite a bit of saved energy. Energy I needed for the Video Poker machine and bending of arm.

Pre-stroke, my husband and I would go grab a bite and a drink, and then we’d hit the tables. Sometimes we stayed together and other times I’d go play Blackjack or drunk shopping while he hit the Poker Room or Craps tables. It was awesome! We knew where to find each other and if either of us got lost, it was just an opportunity to explore the place better. And collect more drinks along the way of course.

Ah…Vegas. Where I can have booze for breakfast, wear lingerie for an outfit and smoke on the elevators! A glorious place indeed!

I should probably mention that our toddler stayed home with his Nana.

Also, I didn’t have a single cigarette. Not one. Not even a little puff. That has happened maybe…never. Definitely has never happened on a Vegas trip.

Lesson #2:   Let Go of I Used To...
The biggest difference with this trip was that we didn’t have an itinerary. We have always made it a point to see a show or visit an exhibit while we’re in Vegas. I have an overwhelming fear of schedules these days. I don’t know what my energy level will be one day to the next, so committing to something that costs $100+ per person, plus getting all dolled up, plus making our way through a crowd to get to a destination at a specific time is not at all my idea of fun. It sounds painful and exhausting. And that makes me feel guilty because I just ruined everyone else’s fun by being a drag.

We decided that this time it wouldn’t matter. We’d let the whole trip evolve naturally, even if it meant we stayed in bed all day, drunk and watching cartoons. That sounds easy enough. Ha – it wasn’t. By the 2nd day I was getting anxious.

My old self was clawing at my brain to get out and explore. We had gone out to eat and even had a cocktail at the sports bar, but I felt like we had to do something. We went for a walk through some of the shops but I learned quickly that was a big mistake. My legs started to feel like lead, and it wasn’t just the foot-tall margarita. Luckily there are slot machines everywhere, which mean there are chairs to rest in everywhere. I made my way to a Video Poker machine that was just outside the elevator to our room. I won $150, went to the gift shop and bought a bottle of Grey Goose, then went back to our room. I sat in an armchair feeling like I failed. I was supposed to be partying and here I was sitting in a hotel room. I wanted to play Blackjack, but I can’t sit on bar stools. Playing Craps is a stand-up activity which means I wouldn’t last long, and my arm can’t reach over the side to place my chips anyhow. Everything required my legs and they were the one thing I just didn’t have.

This margarita is sitting on the floor of my hotel room. It stands approx 18" tall. Holy brain freeze, Batman!

My husband reminded me that the whole point of the trip was not to worry about anything. So we took a nap – no, that’s not code for hanky panky. We’re parents on our first vacation without our kid! When I say we slept, I mean we actually checked the fuck out and enjoyed the joyous sound of silence. We awoke 3 hours later, had P.F. Changs delivered to our room, and popped open the Grey Goose. It was about 10pm. I was sitting on our bed drunk, eating Lettuce Wraps, and watching the Star Wars episode of Family Guy, laughing my ass off with the love of my life. It was the best moment ever.

Lesson #3:  Appreciate a Push
In gambling, a Push is a tied bet. If you’re playing Blackjack and your cards show 18, and the dealer pulls 18, you don’t win. But you don’t lose either. It’s a Push. Gamers may breathe a little sigh of relief but they’re typically not happy about a Push, because it isn’t winning.

Medical drama tends to make people reflect on things differently: where they’ve been, who they were, what does that mean now. It’s easy to lump your experiences as a survivor into wins and losses, triumphs and failures. Exploring the world as a disabled person has taught me that most of life is actually a Push. I can’t experience people and places the same way I did before. A year ago I would have considered that a loss. Now I’m realizing it isn’t. The Dealer hasn’t won this hand. She has shown me a hand just as good, only different. I’m not winning anything but I sure as hell am not losing. I’m learning to appreciate the Push.