The Tale of Us Against the Monster: No Matter Where You Go, There You Are

So, my husband and I took some trips this year. Three to be exact. We went to Las Vegas, Harrison Hot Springs, and Manzanillo in Mexico. We went because we discovered that the medication my husband has been taking faithfully, has put the Monster in chains. While there is no remission for his type of cancer, there is a place of “stasis”. The cancer does not recede, as in remission, but it doesn’t advance either. So, here we are…static. Unmoving. Up in the air. But this stasis is temporary—we don’t have any guarantees on how long it will last—so we ae making hay while the sun is shining. Away we went!!

We’ve been to Vegas before and we have made the most of our trips to Nevada. We have explored Vegas—the new strip, the old strip, shows and attractions, shopping and restaurants. We’ve been to the Hoover Dam where we took the obligatory selfies, and then did the hop back and forth on the border between Nevada and Arizona which also happens to be the time zone. “1:00…2:00, 1:00…2:00…” and so on, because it amused us, because we are easily amused, because we’re kinda immature, and sometimes have far too much time on our hands.

We’ve also been down the Extraterrestrial Highway out towards Area 51. Yes, we have. We’ve posed beside the ET Highway sign, beside the “Black Box” (which is white, by the way), and beside the flying saucer being hauled away by a tow truck in Rachel, Nevada at the “Al-ee-Inn” Restaurant. Get it? “Al-ee-inn?” Lol. Again, we are easily amused. This restaurant and area is where they filmed the movie “Independence Day” way back when. The burgers were pretty good, and we both got a great T-shirt and a funny fridge magnet.

But seriously folks, the earth in that area sometimes vibrates, causing the stones on the ground to move. There really are strange lights in the sky sometimes at night. Sometimes there is a low, distant, steady humming sound emanating from the dried up bed of the lake in the forbidden zone. There actually are SUVs with dark windows, and they really will definitely arrest you if you step one toe beyond the fence line. I don’t know much more than that, except to say that we were definitely “out there.” What a hoot!

We’ve stayed on the strip. We’ve stayed off the strip. We’ve even stayed across town. This time we figured we’d stay at the Luxor because, well, it’s a big black pyramid. And that’s cool. How was the hotel? Meh. We saw the Titanic exhibit—which was fantastic—and went to a Cirque du Soleil burlesque show that was bawdy, dirty, and really fun. We even went to see a movie. Of course we threw a few dollars at the slots. My hubby played poker.   It was the Las Vegas we knew and expected. But there was one difference of course…we didn’t walk around as we have in the past. We spent time in our room watching television—which we rarely do on vacation. And I went places on my own while my husband slept in. It was slower, more subdued than before.

Harrison Hot Springs was an interesting place. It was my first time there, and my husband’s second time, although the last time he was there was like twenty years ago. He didn’t recognize anything. We stayed at the big resort in one of the newly built wings. The enormous balcony of our room looked out over the lake to the blue, snow-capped mountains beyond. It was an amazing view. The food was pretty good. The pools were warm and clean. The town was cute and kitschy. We dined at a Bavarian Restaurant one night, which was simply awesome, and then at the famed Copper Room another night.

The Copper Room is a “dine and dance” and, since it was after all our wedding anniversary, we danced together—for the first time in a long, long time. I forget the song—some old Sinatra tune—but I could see faces around the floor, smiling as they watched us dance, and then clapping as the song finished. My husband broke the rules and had a drink with me. He even ate dessert. When the lights were down, and through the warm glow of cocktails and red wine, his eyes were bright, I couldn’t see the new grey slowly fading his once lustrous chestnut hair. His face had color, and when he smiled his beautiful smile at me, in that moment, I could see only him…in that moment, the Monster had vanished.

We’ve been to Mexico before. Last time we were in Hualtuco, but his time we went to Manzanillo. The resort was gorgeous, and our room—or should I say “suite”—was enormous, with an ocean view beyond manicured grounds and tall, swaying palm trees. There was a huge soaker bath tub and a king sized bed and his and her sinks and closets. The food was fairly good for resort food, but I gotta say that I don’t ever expect a lot from resort food. It’s always middle of the road, not too spicy, with such an enormous variety that nothing is truly done to perfection. But the guacamole was the best I’ve ever had.

A word about iguanas… There were iguanas everywhere. Sitting around the pools, every so often something would dive, like a torpedo, into the water, shoot along and then, amid shrieks from the odd startled tourist, fly up on the other side. Or, the tranquil afternoon sun would be sliced in half by another sudden cry as a face emerged from the bushes around the wall, mere inches from where a patron lay sun bathing on one of the blue loungers. Waiters stepped over iguanas on the pathways, or shooed them out of the way. I learned to sidle carefully around them, and just mind my own business. They certainly were minding theirs. Only once did one eye me up and down and then shake its “skin” beard at me. I felt the urge to apologise to it, but rushed away, intimidated.

My husband and I survived a cab ride into the surrounding towns to sight-see and shop. We took a lot of great photos, came across a cool market stall where my husband haggled with the merchant over a beautiful clay Aztek style mask overlaid with turquoise and mother of pearl. They dickered and postured, hands were thrown in the air, and there was much insulted sounding huffs and puffs. They went between glaring and congeniality. My husband has spent a lot of time in Central and South America. There is an art to the haggle, and he’s pretty good at it. I always give in because I feel guilty. However, in my husband’s opinion, only the weak give in. I suppose that’s a good thing because, finally, an equitable price was reached, and now the Aztek mask is displayed in my living room. Later, we found a breezy seafood restaurant where we whiled away the evening as waves crashed on the beach just a few steps away from us. However, the next day he stayed in bed all day. I brought him offerings of fruit and cakes but he preferred to sleep. The Monster, though chained, still required payment for the active day before. It was a sullen reminder.

I think it was Confucius who said something to the effect of “no matter where you go, there you are.” This saying means that you can’t escape who you are, what you are, or your own internal issues. That’s because where ever you choose to go, if nothing else, you always, and without fail take one thing along every single time—you. For my husband and I, no matter where we went, the Monster came with us, and stasis or no, still had a partial hand in dictating what we would do and to what extent we would enjoy our holidays. We felt the Monster’s shadow on us all the time, even though we put much energy into ignoring its imposing presence.

This is not to say that we regret going. We don’t. We felt and still feel that it’s important to travel and to make memories and take a lot of photos and be silly in as many places as possible, and wherever it is that tickles your fancy to go. Some people choose Northern Asia. Some people prefer Iceland. Wherever it is on earth that you long to go, if you have the time, the ability, and the means, then go. Absolutely, and don’t wait. Go! Go while you can go. Go while you can still dance. Go while you can still sink into a floaty chair and sip on a cocktail while yellow and green iguanas shoot through the water beneath you. Go, but don’t be deceived. No matter where you go, you cannot change what’s happening to you. Certainly, go take the waters in warmer climes, but don’t be surprised if the going is slower. Be clear on why you’re going in the first place. Travel is neither a cure nor an escape. It has to be only about the memories.

I learned something after we came home from Mexico. I unpacked clothes that my husband never wore because he spent so much time either sedentary beside the pools, or asleep in his bed. I told him I was sorry that he wasn’t able to enjoy the trip as much as he wanted. His response was simple. “Don’t worry about that…did you have a good time? That’s all I care about.” And there it was. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter where we went, as long as we enjoyed each other. And, for the most part, barring the horrors caused by the Monster chained up in our basement fighting to break free of his chains, we did.

I was glad the trip was over though, because there is another famous saying said, I think, by a little girl named Dorothy: “There’s no place like home.” My husband and I are happy now to relax in our little nest together, and look at all our pictures of iguanas.

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