Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Vegas, baby!

I am in bed in my room in Ceasar's Palace in Las Vegas. A room bigger than my apartment back in Brooklyn and oddly decorated like something out of the pages of "Domino" magazine, and this bed is wicked comfortable.

Earlier this evening, after dinner and drinks with some folks I'd attended a conference with, I was walking back to Ceasar's alone. A few nights here following a sleepless night of puppy-sitting (bad Leo) had me wiped out at 11, which makes me feel old and lame. But my flight is at 7:15 a.m. and damnit, if I miss it I won't make it back to see Springsteen tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden, and a Jersey Girl has to have her priorities.

We hadn't gotten far, my compatriots and I. Ceasars is next to the Bellagio, and I had never actually been inside the Bellagio, so we wandered that way - me, another reporter, a CEO, a marketing manager, and a couple celebrating their third anniversary. We decided to stop in a cafe on the water outside the Bellagio that had a prime view of the water show, delicious sauvignon blanc, and was prone to a gentle misting as each short performance by the water spouts wound down.

It was lovely and my company was superb. After a walk through the Bellagio's casino to the lobby where I got a glimpse of the ceiling - covered with giant glass flowers - I decided to turn in for the evening.

On the way back, I walked outside rather than back through the casino. While I was passing, a new water show began in the giant artificial desert pond, this time to the tune of Elton John's "Your Song," a song for which I have a particular weakness. The pond was surrounded on all sides by people, and as the song went on, I found myself drawn to join them at its edge. I leaned forward on my elbows on the railing, watching the water sprouts dance in time to the tune.

It's someone's job to make that water match up with the songs. To pick the songs. To choose the lighting. And rather than my usual New Yorker cynical reaction to all things, I let myself enjoy it for a moment. I was so taken with the moment that after it ended, as I was walking back, I passed two women who were taking turns taking pictures of each other. I asked if they wanted me to take one of the two of them together and they were delighted. I photographed them standing in front of the Bellagio and the pond, and even though the flash had drowned out the background, they loved it.

I walked off smiling.

It reminded me of something I'd read earlier in the day in "Water for Elephants" where the narrator, Jacob, talks about putting on his "good shirt." The idea almost brought tears to my eyes. In the story he is 90-something, and is heading to see the circus with his family, interspersed with the tale of his circus life during the Depression, caring for the exotic animals in a traveling circus. What struck me was the mention of his "good shirt" and the ways in which we all so tenderly prepare for special occasions. We all have our everyday things. Our everyday shirts. But sometimes, we decide that something is worth donning our Sunday Best.

That reminded me of an article I once read about how even the poorest of the poor, back when photography was in its infancy, would try to get photos taken of themselves, and the lengths to which people - from gentry to factor workers - would go to in order to have their best face photographed. They'd put on their nicest clothes. Whether those be with fine lace or simple cotton shirts without stains or tears, being photographed was something special that people thought was special.

Like the woman who I photographed tonight in front of the Bellagio. They might not have gone out of their way to wear their nicest clothes, but they were using photography to mark a special time. Their trip to Las Vegas together. And I was happy to get to play a small part in that.

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