Monday, June 15, 2009
I recently spent a long weekend in Vegas with 15 other women. How did this happen? There are dozens of places I'd choose to visit before Vegas.
Call it peer pressure. Call it a weak moment, but The-Book-Club-plus friends-that-likes-to-travel-together decided it was a great idea, and being a member of this group, I signed on. Maybe it was time for a little frivolous fun in my life.
Well. Day #1 was a most extraordinary day, and far from frivolous. The book-club- plus-friends is made up of remarkable women and one of these women was celebrating her 60th birthday. We knew that this occasion needed to be marked in a significant way, so we rose early, (after retiring late), climbed into two vans and drove out to the desert. I could not believe that such spectacular natural beauty could be found rubbing up so close to a city of such unlimited pretension.
We parked the cars at the epicenter of Red Rock Canyon and hiked one of the trails. Once we were immersed in the canyon, another one of our most remarkable women led us in a poignant ritual that marked the decades of the birthday gal's life. No matter how skeptical some of us had been at the start of the ritual, we were each moved to tears by the end as we reflected on our own life journeys' to date. The calling in of the directions, (North, South, East, West, above and below) and the smudging for purification all felt odd, but it set the tone for the ritual, and as a group we moved into a spiritual place that was most profound.
The ritual came to a beautiful end, the birthday girl wore her crown of dessert flowers and we piled back into the vans to return to Sin City, a jarring experience.
Our amazing organizers had thought to pre-order tickets to see Bette Midler that evening. Not being a Midler fan, I didn't have any expectations, good or bad. We'd each brought a boa to wear to the show to honour Bette's poster where she wears nothing but boas to advertize her show. Arriving as a pack of middle-aged women in gaudy boas (see above photo) someone in the theatre took notice and our seats were upgraded from the cheap seats to middle-of-the-road ones.
The moment she came on stage I became a true-blue Midler fan. Such energy! Such charisma. She confesses to doing the same show for 40 years, but you'd never know it. The way she engages with the audience is heartwarming. Part of her shtick was poking fun at how the (old) showgirl must go on. Many of her routines made light of the aging process, and at one point she fell onto her back and moaned, "Diva Down!" It became our mantra for the rest of the weekend.
It seemed uncanny that we could start the day reflecting on our life journey (and growing old) in such a beautiful and profound way, and end the day laughing so hard at the same life journey in a totally opposite kind of setting. Bette is a remarkable performer. No wonder she has such lasting power. After all these years she still appreciates her audience and shows beautiful humility at her continued popularity.
The day had come full circle, from heartfelt reflection to tears of laughter. Two different ways of looking at the aging process, and both equally as valuable.
The rest of the weekend was a more typical Vegas experience, but I will always remember the joy of that first day, for the beauty of the canyons, the rituals, and the growing old Diva who simply won't quit.
One of our lovely organizers sent the above picture to the local paper as they publish photos of locals travelling the world and holding up editions of their newspaper. Our picture was printed, but it was so small no one would have been able to recognize the faces. Kerry Henderson, writer extraordinaire, and with tongue planted firmly in cheek wrote to our Vegas group to share the following.
"I just received a visit in my classroom from both the editor of the North Shore News and Izzy Asper himself, CEO of CanWest Global and newspaper mogul.
They wished to sincerely apologize, in person, for the somewhat smallish and murky picture of the 16 of us in Las Vegas.
I believe their exact words were, "There is no size of photo that could ever be reproduced in the pages of a newspaper that would adequately capture AND reflect the colourful personalities and large hearts of such a group of beautiful ladies".
Of course, I had to agree with them, and accepted their heartfelt apologies on our collective behalf."
Thank you Kerry. You said it perfectly.