there is a tinge of cigarette smoke in the air. almost thick enough to taste with every labored breath through my sunflower mandated mask. it is so rare these days. to be indoors and trapped with that hint of nicotine. but large neon letters spell out a welcome place to inhale and exhale. right next to my gate.
a constant hum of chatter is interrupted with animated electric beats and jackpot dings and bings and rings. the bright colors flash and spin enticing me to sit down and zone out for a minute, or ten. i resist.
this is another world.
even before you step outside the airport and into the seething desert summer heat, you are engulfed in the chaos.
i go to the bathroom twice in the first thirty minutes of wandering around in search of a decent meal to take with me on my long journey across the pacific. not because i really have to pee, but because the overwhelm of the stimulation is unnerving. in the stall, i feel safe. invisible. protected.
i am tired from two weeks of traveling. staying up too late feeding my latest screen addictions. waking up too early trying to squeeze in more love sessions with my favorite people.
but i am so energized. soaking in the feelgoods that come along with trips down memory lane. sinking into the nostalgia and letting feelings of sheer gratitude ooze out of my every pore. cherished memories of people and places that have made me this girl. this woman. a reminder that i still am this person.
i sit on the end of a row with outlets to recharge. too close to the slot machines, but prime location for people watching.
good old las vegas.
this is just a layover, but i cannot help but get lost in the glitz. and gloom. it is hard to describe this bubble. its reputation telling its own story before i layer on my own.
i have been here many times before. as a child, for dance competitions. as a young adult, for amusement. lately, for climbing. but today feels different. i do not remember the airport feeling so… much.
over the past year, i have traveled more than most. despite the pandemic, i found a way to feel responsible and safe. but, here, right now, i am flabbergasted. wide-eyed and staring as hoards of people dance past me in rhythm to the sea of artificial sounds.
do they know they are part of this performance?
they dress the part. brightly colored ensembles. escalating movement and frantic meandering. there is a scene from across the universe where a new york sidewalk crowded with pedestrians navigate the chaos to the beatles’ come together. it has always been one of my favorite pieces from that film.
today i am jojo. slowly and consciously strolling amidst the crowds. taking it all in. watching my thoughts react. and release. and come together, right now, over me.
and then, there is an eerie silence that takes hold of the las vegas airport. all the slot machines are quiet. all the people are quiet. only a faint beeping of a cart cruising past alerting travelers to step aside.
mmmm. the juxtaposition is unexpected, and so noticeable.
a line is forming in front of me. it is time to get ready. pre-clearance for entrance to maui. proving we are healthy. just like when i fly to australia, i stare at the faces. can i tell who is just visiting and who calls the island home? i imagine what they will do when they land. go to costco to stock up? jump in the ocean? stand in awe of the west mauis and haleakala?
i smile knowing exactly what i will be doing… embracing two of my favorite beings, grateful to be home.
the electronic bass of the nearest money making machine fires back up, and they are at it again.