Saturday, September 20, 2008

Viva Las Vegas

I am going to Las Vegas on Sunday. The outward reason is a convention for our family business. But I have my own personal mission.

Over the years I’ve watched Vegas change from the days when my husband was William Morris personal appearance agent and I’d tag along when he’d go to cover acts like The Letterman, The Carpenters, and Charo among others. The Strip had lots of open spaces and was sleepy compared with now. The big deal in those days was the coconut cake at the Riviera Hotel’s coffee shop.

No more.

The hotels are like theme parks with things like an indoor rainforest, shopping streets with ceilings that look like the sky, a lake with a water show and a fragrant conservatory that has it plantings changed every couple of months.

We always used to fly and I’d scoff at people that drove, thinking it was a long drive through a ruthless desert. Until we decided to drive once. This is why it is always good to keep an open mind. It turned out I loved the drive and we never went back to flying.

The ride goes by quickly and it has become a fun family trip. It even became the inspiration for a short story I wrote that appeared in Woman’s World magazine. The very coolest thing about it, is that when I fly back from Chicago and the plane passes Vegas it follows along the road we drive on. I always fly back at night and I can see the 15 from the plane. The car headlights are like a faint line through the darkness. I can pick out the giant thermometer at Baker and the huge conglomeration of fast food places are in Barstow. I can even pick out the line of cars looping around and coming down the Cajon pass.

You don’t usually think of Las Vegas and crochet in the same sentence, but for me there is a special connection.

Several years ago when we went to this same convention something happened to me that totally turned my life around. This is where my mission comes in.

Holly Golightly went to Tiffany’s to feel good. For me it is going to FAO Schwartz. I want to go back there and wander through the second floor and all the art kits and think about how when I walked through there a few years ago I had no idea my life was about to change big time.

It all hinged on a little blue suitcase with a banner across it that said Granny Squares. I have always loved granny squares, but had no idea how to make them. I had taught myself how to single crochet enough to make a hat, but that was it. Granny squares, with their open spaces and the way they seemed to go around rather than across, mystified me. But with a kid’s kit, I thought I’d be able to conquer them.

I bought the little blue suitcase with great excitement. But I didn’t open it until I was back from the trip. I didn’t want to mess up the yarn it came with, so I tried following the directions with some yarn I had around. The first one I tried turned out to be lopsided as I had missed a corner somewhere. The next one I made turned out to have all four corners, but since it was all one color and my stitches were loopy and all over the place, it was hard to recognize the design. I had to hold it at a distance to see that I really had made a granny square. After that I used the kit and got more yarn. I kept making granny squares over and over until I didn’t need directions, until I realized there were variations on the pattern and I came up with my own.

I had fallen in love with crochet and now that I could make a granny square, all things seemed possible. And then a light bulb went off in my head. Hadn’t my agent Jessica suggested I write a cozy mystery? Why not mix the mystery with the crochet? If nothing else I knew I would learn how to crochet more things because it would all be research.

The story has a happy ending. I did learn how to crochet and the book, HOOKED ON MURDER, turned into a six book series.

So, while all the people are pulling levers on slot machines and roasting themselves by the pool, I will be making my way to the Forum Shops in Caesar’s Palace. I’ll go past the giant horse that marks the entrance of the toy store and ride the escalator to where it all began and think about how great life is.

I hope the store is still there.


Monica Ferris said...

What a sweet story! I love looking down at the landscapes from the air! Going on a tangent here, I love going into a favorite store and just inhaling the familiar air. I remember many years back when I was living in California and feeling homesick for Wisconsin. I went into a Sears Roebuck and suddenly was back home before I even started shopping.

Betty Hechtman said...

Monica, I know what you mean about the fragrance of stores. And just like people's houses, each one is distinctive. I went into a Target in Iowa City and the smell was so familiar I forgot where I was and was surprised when I got to the register and saw a view of outside.