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Someone take a photo of that window and send it to me. Be sure to get the frame in frame, the one I swiped my hand over and picked the peeling paint from. That’s the most important part. Of course, I can still see it in my mind, the shaded glass I poked my head around in an attempt to see the sky, to see only roof instead. Was it raining? Did it snow? I don’t know, I couldn’t see.

“Chad”, I say, apropos of nothing, informing my mother of a country in Africa, standing in the middle of her kitchen under a skylight. “Is that the name of my future son-in-law?” She asks. No. Probably not. I can see the blue of the sky from there; perhaps the same color as his eyes. Probably not. I’m sure they are brown. They always are.

The pictures they put on the cover of magazines and in travel guides are so ultra-contrasted and over-colored. I’ve never understood why that’s necessary. I’ve seen some of those places with my own eyes, and the blues aren’t that color, the cobblestones not so gray. Those pictures look like nostalgia feels. Is that the point? Only $6.99, and less if you sign up for a whole year – that’s 12 issues, and 50% off the cover price.

Once I met a boy named Chad in Las Vegas. He was a waiter with a complicated story. I recently deleted his number from my phone. I don’t think he had blue eyes. They never do.

The most beautiful things can’t be photographed; can barely be seen at all. The silence of all of us sitting there, next to the lake, sitting silently together in a ring of padded patio furniture. Later, all of us, none of us with blue eyes, but all of us beautiful, a woozy slumber party of supposed-to-be-adults. The late summer sun rising the next morning, us rising, rushing, back to somewhere. All of it beautiful, and it still is.

Winter, a few seasons later, almost Spring, and the skylight in my mother’s kitchen is dripping, dripping, dropping once-snow water onto the floor. I pull a pan from a cupboard, and it’s grey and scratched, a bit rusty on the bottom. I set it on the floor, also grey and scratched, a bit wet. There are pinging sounds as the drops hit the empty metal container, a rhythm of indoor rain. I look up, and the sky is a kind of blue-grey, a darkening, changing color as the sun slowly sets.

I remember Chad talking about his step-father, and saying that he’d moved out of his mother’s house and left to find a job in Las Vegas. He ended up as a waiter at a steakhouse. I don’t think that was his dream career move, but it had happened, and it paid his bills, for the most part. If he put on his waiter-face properly and acted like he cared enough, he got pretty good tips. It was Las Vegas, after all. People went there to drink and lose a pre-determined amount of money that usually slightly increased once they’d lost it faster than they had expected and still had three days left of vacation. They knew the price of steak was slightly higher there, so a slightly higher tip was also in order. Sometimes it was even included in the cost of their all-inclusive vacation package.

The pictures of the Las Vegas strip in travel guides are surprisingly accurate. The neon lights, the casinos that are also hotels, the hotels that are also casinos. That’s the face of it, the story, the main plot line.  It’s an easier story to tell than most places: an over-colored, over-built, long strip of road. It has an easy cover photo, unlike “Winter” or “last Summer” or “Spring in my mother’s kitchen”. It is a place, a snapshot, a photograph that exists and is easily defined, not like Chad from Africa or Chad from the steakhouse.

The sound the water droplets made changed as the pan filled, from a steely ringing to an almost-noiseless splash. The rhythm changed, too, slowing, like the roof was running out of water. When it finally stopped, I emptied the pan in the sink, watching the grayish water swirl down the drain, leaving tiny white bits of plaster or drywall behind. The skylights were dark now, almost black, and I could see myself in the reflection, looking up and back down at the same time.

Waking up in Vegas…

Did that Katy Perry song pop into your head just then? It was in mine at the time as I woke up, as they say, in Vegas.

Without the glitter.

Las Vegas is an interesting place. Or, more like, it’s an interesting strip of road. That’s most of it – a least, that’s where most people hang out. (Downtown Vegas is just as cool and interesting, in my opinion, but not as popular.)

So, let’s be honest – Vegas is a strip of road. With really fancy, expensive, glitzy hotels. And lots of people. All sorts.

“Vegas is the perfect location to host your mid-life crisis” – Me, via Twitter

Did I just quote myself? Anyway.

After the whole waking up in Vegas thing, I checked out of my hotel (the Tropicana!) and then stayed at my hotel.

Why? Why, you ask? Because outside of my hotel was 110 degrees (F) and Nicole and I were not about to set back into that at 11 in the morning. Some things you have to slowly ease in to.

Like a pool.

Like the hotel’s pool! Did you like that transition?

When in the middle of the desert, one searches for water. Luckily, the Tropicana has a rather large amount of water that they allow their guests to swim in.

Unfortunately for me, I had just become a non-guest of the hotel minutes before attempting to swim in their guest-only pool.

This caused a problem when I tried to get a couple of towels – from the people working in what can only be called the “towel tent”.

Me: Could I have two towels?

Girl: Sure. *hands me two towels*

Me: Thank you!

Girl: Sure. Do you happen to have your room key on you?

Me: Umm… no….

Girl: Could you go get it?

Me: Umm… I don’t have one…

Girl: Are you staying with someone who has one?

Me: Umm… no…

Girl: Are you staying at the hotel?

Me: Umm.. well, we stayed last night, and we wanted to check out the pool…

Girl: Oh, so you’re already checked out?

Me: *assuming police were going to jump out of the nearby bushes and arrest me* Mmhmm…

Girl: Oh, ok. That’s fine.

Me: ok. ….. bye.

Ok, maybe it’s hard to show the tenseness that was happening in that conversation. Awkward silences are hard to capture in text form. Just picture a situation you’ve been in where you got caught doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing and were confronted and you attempted to tell the truth without telling truth…. simple, really!

After swimming and using the towels (illegally), I lounged on a pool-side lounge chair and read some dirk gently’s holistic detective agency by my dear friend Douglas Adams. As good as that book is and was, I discovered that I am very bad at lounging.

I just wanted to do something! It was so frustrating just sitting there, because I knew that I had to sit there (because we had something like 5 hours until we could head to the airport), and because I wanted to go do something (even though it really was impossible to go do something else, because – uh, it was hot! – so walking around outside was a no-no. And what else is there to do in Vegas? Gamble?! Nah.)

I’m an explorer. I don’t sit! It was outrageous! But, I sat. And, I read. And, I kept checking the time.

Finally, finally, finally, enough time passed so that we could go do our next planned activity – froyo!

froooooyooooo.

I love me some frozen yogurt. I really do. And self-serve is where it’s at! None of that girl-behind-the-counter-makes-it-for-you crap!

Strawberries, kiwis, mochi, little bit of oreo crumbles, and some gummy bears on top! Mmmm…

Anyway, enough of that. (Even though after I had finished my cup I wanted more! It was good, ok? Don’t judge!)

We managed to spend about an hour nom-ing on our deserts… and then we still had hours and hours to wait.

(Note to self and others: late-night flights kind of suck! And if you’re in Las Vegas in July with nothing to do…  you may as well book another night at a cheap hotel and stay inside and watch TV in air-conditioned comfort until it’s time to go to the airport! Ah, the lessons you learn.)

So, I will ask the question once more: “What does one do with hours to go until their flight home?”

You, with a knowing look in your eye, “Go to the movies!”

Me: “That’s right!!”

Yes, I went to the movies. Again. For the second day in a row. Whatever.

We saw Brave, which was actually really good (I love her hair!), although I wrote a better ending to the movie in my head. Tell me if you think it’s better than the actual. (And if you haven’t seen the movie, feel free to skip to the next paragraph! I’ll meet back up with you there.) Ok – so, you know that giant bear that everyone and their father wanted to kill? Ok. And you know how the girl’s mother wanted her to get married to one of the sons from the different Kingdoms? Ok. And you know how that witchy lady said that that bear was actually a guy that had wanted to escape from his life or something? Ok. Umm, hello, Pixar! Do I need to spell it out for you? My ending wouldn’t even have violence! What kind of Pixar movie kills off someone/something?! Here’s how you do it properly: Have Brave (is that the girl’s name? I forget.) get the witchy lady to turn the biggo bear back into that super-attractive guy that we all know he must have been! And then: ta-da! Brave has got her a husband, and the bear is gone (with no squishing), and they all live happily ever after! You’re welcome, Pixar. Feel free to contact me for any plot assistance in the future. Love, Jenni.

After the movie ended, we once again found ourselves in the oven-like heat that was Las Vegas. No, not again! We then ran back to our hotel that wasn’t actually our hotel anymore. Home sweet home! Nicole tried her luck at a blackjack table, which was pretty cool to watch. We even had the dealer teach us how to play – because neither of us had any idea how to play blackjack. Then Nicole lost $5. Then we left our hotel (so long!) for the very, very last time.

It was time, finally, to go home.

Home.

Before that, we had to take back our car. (No, we did not put that scratch there! Thank you very much, mr. rental car guy!) I snapped a picture of our silver Ford Taurus baby as we walked away from it and towards the shuttle bus that would take us to the airport. Fun Fact: Our trip mileage counter read 1,500. 1,500 miles! In a week and one day. What a week it was.

At the airport, I almost got through security without them stopping/patting/arresting me. But when they called “Who’s bag is this?” while pointing to my little red luggage, I claimed it quickly and without surprise. Now what? Apparently their machine only took a picture of half of it, so they had to run the bag through again. Or something. I just nodded and clutched my shoes while many of the people who had been in line behind me streamed past. Then I grabbed my luggage and (trying to be very non-suspicious)  strolled along to my gate.

Home.

Before that, we had to fly to Phoenix. Again, the flight seemed to take only a few minutes. Well, apart from the very nice (talkative) lady who wanted to tell us all about her 7-month stay in Hawaii, and how she had already been on a plane for 5 hours that day, and how it was going to take her another 4 hours to get home, and how a gallon of milk costs way too much in Hawaii, and etc.

Here I’d like to mention how much I love flying. Every part of it. Even, and especially, the people.

Then, home. After an hour layover, we boarded our flight to Detroit, MI. Home. It was 11:15PM as we found our seats and settled in on the plane. It was 6:20AM as we got off the plane and found ourselves, finally, unfortunately, thankfully, wonderfully, terribly: home.

After one week and one day, we had returned. To the land of trees, it seemed to me. Trees and lots of green. Michigan. After a week and one day of exploration. After the first trip west.

Californiacation.

I don’t know how to sum up my trip; If I should, or if it’s even possible. When people ask me about it, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to explain.

I went. I saw.

You should too.

This is it. This is the day I leave California. Leave LA, leave this beautiful ocean-bordered state and go back into the scorching desert.

Also known as Las Vegas.

Yes, all this is in the write-up for today, but we didn’t head back to Vegas first thing in the morning. Why? Well, one look at the weather forecast for Vegas gave us pause; it was 108 degrees there – at 10 in the morning – and it was only expected to get hotter.

Sure, that’s a dry heat, but, still, we decided it would be best to stay in LA’s cooler weather for a bit longer.

That was totally ok with me, because I really didn’t want to go back to Vegas at all. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to California. Not yet.

So, what does one do in the middle of somewhere in LA with a few hours to kill?

Go to the movies!

Which is what we did – after breakfast, of course.

Breakfast. We were used to having breakfast at breakfast time at this point in our trip, so I whipped out my handy-dandy phone and used Urban Spoon to locate us some foodstuffs.

We ended up at this place called Dinah’s family restaurant, and my pancakes had strawberries on top of them and I had fresh-squeezed California orange juice and I was a very happy camper.

LA seems to be hectically busy at all times. Dinah’s was packed from the moment we got there until the moment with left, with the wait-staff eager for us to finish as soon as they set us down with fresh silverware. (I realized later that it was a Sunday morning… in LA… so, understandable.) Very busy.

I wonder if there are ever empty roads in LA, like there are at home in Michigan. At 3AM, is there still traffic on the 405?

Again, though, I will ask the question – What does one do when they’ve got a few hours to kill? (You, enthusiastically: “Go to the movies!!” Me: “That’s right!”)

We had to drive a whole 2 miles to the nearest movie theatre. Good grief, LA! We happened upon this cool little mall-sort-of-complex – with $2 parking! Hello! Will take!

Then, The Amazing Spiderman happened. During the movie, I found myself thinking: “Didn’t I see this movie already? Didn’t they just make this movie? Really, I’m supposed to believe that Emma Stone is 17 years old? Ooh, hello there, Andrew Garfield! Wait, he doesn’t shoot webs out of his hands?! WTF?” Etc.

It was a good flick, though.

Overall.

You know?

Yeah.

Ok – I’m just stalling! The next part of my journey is coming up and I don’t want to think about it let alone write it all out in excruciating detail!

Then we left California.

Nicole drove, so I got to sit in the passenger seat and stare glumly out the window as LA disappeared, and the entire state of Cali flew by. It was honestly kind of a beautiful life moment, though. While I was in California, I realized how much more there is in the world that a lot of people miss out on. I don’t know why they do. Voluntarily. I found myself thinking that, in a year, after I graduate from college, I could move out there – to California. Or, I could go anywhere. It was kind of a wonderful realization.

Yes, I had to leave behind California and all of the wonderful places I had been – but, I could come back. Or, I could keep going – to new places; see the world.

The world is as big as you let it be.

We drove East to Vegas, (while I booked a hotel on my, yes you guessed it, phone) and spent the night at the Tropicana hotel.

The end.

Wait, no. There’s more! A lot more. We were in Vegas, baby! And we weren’t ready to stop exploring just yet.

Nicole had never been to Vegas, though as this was my third time there, and I felt like a Vegas pro. So, we wandered out to walk the strip – and find dinner, of course! Who do you think we are?

Uh, Vegas is hot. Like, really hot. Yes, sure, it’s a dry heat – but that’s like saying the inside of your oven is a dry heat. That’s pretty much where I felt I was – inside of an oven – as we journeyed down the strip and snapped some photographs. After a half hour of baking, we decided to duck into Outback Steakhouse, and out of the heat.

I then proceeded to guzzle down three glasses of water.

Nicole got her steak, and I my burger and fries, and we sat there munching happily as the cute waiter guy came back every 5 minutes to refill our water glasses.

Oh – did I tell you the story about the waiter guy? No? Let me fill you in!

He was cute. And funny. And, it turned out, from Michigan! Just like we were! Was it a sign?! Also, he was pretty great at bringing us water. That’s how you know he’s a good catch.

Anyway, that happened, and we left Outback with very full stomachs – and my number on the receipt! Oh my god! That happened! Yes, it did!

It was kind of a big deal to me – I don’t give random guys my number! But, hey, I do now. Or, maybe I only do that in Vegas. (What happens there…)

He wouldn’t text me anyway, right? It was just a funny, exciting thing to do.

We pretty much ran out of that restaurant so we wouldn’t see him on the way out. So much for us being daring souls, right?

Then, back to the Tropicana. We were so tired! Stretched out on our (very comfortable) beds, we watched T.V. for a little while. It was getting late. Wait, no, it was late! It was midnight! When had that happened? Time for bed?

Then, I realized, we hadn’t had a drink yet.

When we first set off on this adventure, we talked about how one night we should go to a bar and have a drink. Newly 21, this sounded like an exciting idea to both of us. However, we found ourselves there, in Vegas, on the last night of our trip, with no drinks on our record. What? Unacceptable!

So, we went out. Again. Into the Las Vegas night.

And it was still fucking hot. 110 degrees at midnight? Really?

Nicole was on a mission to find an icy sort of fruity drink. What we ended up with was large cups of pink, icy, pretend-strawberry margaritas. Honestly, I have no idea what they were. We found an outside bar (with these cool fans that blew water on you!) that had some sort of pink business sloshing around inside a machine, and ordered two.

It was really, horribly strong. But I drank the whole thing. With lots of grimaces.

Then, we went back to the Tropicana and went to sleep.

Oh, wait! No we didn’t! I mean, yeah, that was the plan – but then waiter guy texted me!

I may have been a little too excited about the whole thing, but I’ll just blame that drink I had. Anyway, I then busted into the bathroom while my friend was in the shower and proceeded to cackle hysterically while attempting to explain that the waiter guy had just texted me.

It was a good night.

It was a good last day of our vacation.

And as I continued to cackle for the next hour or so, I realized that we still had almost an entire day left of our adventures before our plane ride home. The fun wasn’t over yet!

I’m going to California tomorrow.

Ok, ok – that’s not totally true. I’m going towards California tomorrow. I’ll be on my way to California tomorrow. It just sounds better the other way.

Me and my pal Nicole [N.] are off on a 8 day summer journey – from Detroit, Mi to Phoenix, from Phoenix to Las Vegas, and (finally!) on to California. We’ll be renting a tiny car to drive up and down and all over California and the west coast (also Vegas).

And it all starts tomorrow. My bags are (partially) packed! I’m ready! Let’s do this!

Since I’m pretty sure our packed-full days are going to fly by, I’ve decided to lug along my computer (through airport security! wish me luck!) and write a daily nightly post here on my beautiful site!

So, if you really want to, you can follow along with me as I discover California…

California is important to me in a big way. I’ve never been there (I don’t count a 30 minute drive-through on a family trip to Arizona), not really, but I’ve wanted to go there for a long time now. A lot of the people I really admire either lived or worked or visited there. (Also, I really like oceans…)

I just feel like there’s a force that’s pulling people towards certain places – like London, or New York, or… California. There are places people just want to go.

So, this isn’t just a fun summer vacation with friends – this trip holds a lot of meaning to me. Who knows, I may fall in love and move to CA after college – or maybe I’ll hate it there! (Yeah, right.)

We shall see… Oh, and if you’re reading this and you’re from the LA area, or you’ve been there — Where should I go? What should I see? Tell me everything!