Read an Excerpt
Through the White Doors
If You Have No Idea What You’re Looking For . . .
When people ask where my remarkable journey began, I tell them it was somewhere between the first and seventh doors. At least, that’s where I found myself after I left behind the cacophony of the casino, with its blinking lights, rolling dice, and excitement around every corner. As fascinated as I was with the land of chance, I needed to give my senses a brief respite from the spinning wheels of fortune.
I was searching for something, though for what, I didn’t know. Something extraordinary. Something beyond the mundane world of marketing and money that had brought me to Las Vegas in the first place. Something beyond the grind that had become my life. Of course, if you have no idea what you’re looking for, it’s pretty hard to find it.
I was about to escape to my hotel room for a moment of tranquillity, when I saw two men dressed in black work outfits walking away from the slot machines toward a quieter part of the casino. It was in an almost dreamlike state that I followed them. They disappeared through a plain white door–perhaps the only portal in the casino that didn’t seem to announce what was on the other side. Intrigued, I pushed on it, and it opened, leading me into a completely silent, perfectly white corridor, lit so well it almost glowed with energy. A few feet in front of me was another door, just as pristine, every bit as beckoning. I opened it, though more tentatively than the first, for while I could surely pass off wandering through one wrong door as a mistake, opening the second seemed a more serious offense.
Behind the second white door was a third. Who were those men and where were they going? And what would I do when I found them? What kind of Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole adventure was I getting myself into? As I passed through the next door, I noticed a security camera above and a security desk to my left, and I felt my shoulders tense up. What were they trying to protect here? But there was not a soul in sight, so I kept going. By the time I reached the sixth door, I had accepted that I had no idea where the corridor was leading me–but I had the unmistakable sense that, as each door closed behind me, I was one step closer to what I was searching for.
As I pushed through the seventh door, I realized I had reached the end of the corridor and the beginning of my journey. The final door opened into a vast theatre. Rows of plush blue seats arced to my left. The ceiling soared a hundred feet above me, and I resisted the urge to call out and hear the sound of my voice echoing, if only to prove to myself that I wasn’t dreaming.
To my right was the strangest stage I’d ever encountered. I watched as a mysterious monolithic structure, maybe forty by eighty feet, moved left and right, forward and back, and finally stood straight up and down, as if defying gravity. I couldn’t determine its purpose–surely it wasn’t part of the stage? You’d have to be Spiderman to scale such a precipice!
On the other side of the theatre, I could see the men who’d unwittingly led me through the doors. They were tinkering with equipment on the revolving column, which was perched precariously behind a stage floor that opened into a seemingly bottomless abyss. Though they were a good twenty yards away, I could hear their voices; the acoustics of the theatre were that crisp. I could detect several distinct accents among the half-dozen people around the stage–Scottish, Russian, Texan, and French Canadian.
They were so focused on their work that no one seemed to notice I was there. My curiosity was aroused in a way it hadn’t been since college, when every experience was a new adventure and I didn’t have to worry about the consequences of my actions the way I did now; my mind seemed alive to the possibilities my surroundings presented. I sat down in one of the theatre seats, in the middle of everything, and took it all in.
The enormous theatre was less a stage than a cavernous aviary, framed by huge catwalks constructed of aged wooden planks and copper railing, an intriguing contrast to the ultramodern style of the MGM Grand Hotel. It possessed a timeless quality, as if I’d stepped foot in an edifice that had been built long before Las Vegas existed.
I might have sat there for ten or twenty minutes, just watching and listening.
Eventually, someone noticed me: a friendly-looking woman who seemed to appear out of nowhere–slender, middle-aged, with short, dark red hair and a stylish suede jacket. She made her way along a row of seats toward me. While I was no doubt somewhere I shouldn’t be, she seemed more curious about my presence than upset.
Normally, I would have apologized profusely for trespassing, and jumped up to leave. But something held me back.
“Hello, there,” she said when she was only a couple of rows away.
“Hello,” I said with a small nod. I assumed I was going to get kicked out; I didn’t see any point in attempting to fight it. But instead of asking me to leave, the woman offered her hand.
“I’m Diane,” she said.
“And I’m Frank,” I responded. She settled in a couple seats to my right, taking in the scene before us. Had she fallen into this alternative universe the same way I had?
“Pretty breathtaking, isn’t it?” she asked, gesturing outward with her hand.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” I said.
“I like to think of it as a theatre of unfulfilled dreams and great expectations.”
“I didn’t know quite how to respond to that. “It’s so quiet, despite its size.”
“Hmm,” she agreed. “It can be such a soothing, tranquil place during the day. But there’s a latent electricity in the air, too, don’t you think? Before the shows begin, I often feel a kinetic energy in the theatre, as if it were on the verge of exploding.”
No sooner had the words left her mouth than a fireball exploded above the pit in the middle of the stage; the smoke hovered for a few seconds before dissipating into the air.
“Just testing, Diane!” one of the men in black called out.
“What is this?” I asked. By this time I realized she belonged here, and I had certainly given myself away as an interloper. But my social graces had deserted me, leaving behind simply a sincere desire to learn more.
She laughed. “How did you get in here?”
I smiled, as I traced my steps back in my mind. This was no dream, I realized. I was undeniably, completely awake. “I was looking to escape a convention seminar,” I explained, “and started wandering through the casino. I saw those guys,” I pointed toward the riggers, “and I thought they seemed to know more about where they were going than I did, so I followed them.”
“Well, I admire your sense of adventure,” Diane said. “What kind of work do you do that brings you to Las Vegas?”
“I’m a sports agent,” I said, somewhat apologetically.
“You don’t sound overly thrilled about that.”
“At first I loved it. Working with the athletes–the talent, as we call them–was exciting. I was jetting off to cities all over the country, searching for the next NBA all-star, NFL quarterback, baseball Hall of Famer.” I paused, then confessed, “But somewhere along the line, my work started feeling less like a calling and more like a plain old job.”
I was surprised at my candor. Why was I so willing to reveal my feelings to a stranger? I wondered. It was so unlike me–a man who made his living playing his cards close to his chest.
Diane nodded sympathetically. “Not many people seem excited by their jobs, do they?”
“No, I suppose not,” I said. Off the top of my head, I really couldn’t think of anyone I knew who was passionate about their work.
“What was your seminar about?”
“‘Marketing Creatively,’” I said, reciting the title. “But it really wasn’t about creativity. It was just about finding even more ways to make money through endorsements.” When had I become so cynical about my job? “So, what is the show you’re rehearsing? This theatre looks like a set for an Indiana Jones movie.”
“You’re serious?” Diane asked. “You really don’t know what the show is?”
I shook my head. Instead of appearing insulted, however, Diane smiled, amused. I’m sure she was wondering who this stranger was who managed to slip through security and plop down in the middle of their theatre in the middle of the day. She shifted her shoulders toward me before speaking. “It’s a show called KÀ. Have you heard of Cirque du Soleil?”
“Of course!” I said, feeling the fuzzy grasp of my surroundings finally coming into focus. “I’ve seen your billboards all over Las Vegas. But I’ll be honest: I’m not really sure what you do.”
“Well,” Diane said, warming to the challenge of educating me, fishing for an introductory speech she probably hadn’t had to give in years, “we’re a creative entertainment company; we develop shows built around the dreams, talents, and passions of our artists and creators. Cirque was formed in Quebec in 1984, and we now have eleven shows around the world, four right here in Las Vegas.”
“Well, if this theatre is any indication of what you do on stage, I can only imagine what a show is like,” I said. “Do you have clowns, too?”
She laughed. “Yes, all that and clowns, too,” she said. “Look, I don’t think I can explain it all to you in five minutes. And I have several meetings today. But I’ll tell you what: Why don’t you come to the first show tonight, at seven-thirty? If you’ll give me your business card, I can have a ticket waiting for you at the box office. You can see what Cirque du Soleil is for yourself.”
“That’d be great,” I said, standing up and handing her a card. “I really appreciate it.”
“Good. Then I’ll see you tonight,” she said. And with that, I gazed around the grand space one more time and took my leave.
. . . It’s Easy to Find It.
I returned to the seminar with renewed energy, but not for “Creative Marketing.” As another speaker started his presentation, my thoughts wandered back to what I had just seen. None of my colleagues seemed to suspect that while I might be sitting among them, an alert expression on my face, my mind had never truly left the KÀ theatre.
As we left the seminar, some of my colleagues began making calls for a quick nine holes of golf, while others discussed dinner plans. But I declined all offers.
“Doesn’t sound like you, Frank,” Steve said with a grin. “You feel all right?”
Reluctant to divulge my secret, I simply said, “I’ve got a ticket to see a show tonight.”
“The Cirque du Soleil show,” I answered. “KÀ, I think it’s called.”
“Those shows are booked solid for months,” Steve said. “How’d you swing that?!”
“I . . .” Hmm. How did I swing that? Why did Diane give me a ticket? Why didn’t she simply kick me out of the theatre in the first place? When I saw the look on my colleagues’ faces, it dawned on me how fortunate I was to have found those white doors and to have kept passing through them.
“Boys, if you know what you’re looking for,” I explained with false bravado, “it’s pretty easy to find it.”
The mysterious ambience of the darkened theatre, the crescendo of the music, the kaleidoscope of lights, the mesmerizing figures swirling on the stage had taken hold of my senses. I was no longer thinking about where I was and what I was witnessing. I was simply experiencing it.
Every journey inward begins with technique, but it can only progress if you allow yourself to move beyond the mechanics and into the moment. A skilled masseuse may begin by working on your muscles, but if you allow yourself to surrender to her touch, she will do nothing less than send you sailing off to some tranquil island. A hypnotist, I understand, simply by controlling the timbre of his voice, can lull you into your subconscious until you’ve forgotten all about your guide, so lost are you in the layers of your dreams. And a storyteller, by mastering metaphor, can weave a tale that will change your life.
The tale I was watching unfold onstage was an epic about a young prince and princess–twins separated in childhood without knowing whether the other was still alive. In one scene set on a sinking royal vessel, the young princess is swept overboard after narrowly surviving an attack that claims the lives of most of her family members.
As I watched her silent, solitary descent into the cerulean sea that the set had become, I wasn’t thinking about how I’d gotten here–the convention seminar, the seven doors, the surprising generosity of Diane, who’d taken the empty seat next to me in the KÀ theatre just seconds before the show began. I was just watching, listening, feeling.
The translucent curtain draped in front of the stage and the spinning dive of the acrobat created the unmistakable sensation that I really was watching the princess plunge into a bottomless ocean. As she tumbled downward, my thoughts began their own descent as well, to Mike, my best friend who’d died the year before in a car accident.
Mike and I had swum together on our college team. I remember meeting him every morning at dawn, hours before practice began, just to get some extra laps in. When I think about the way I have to drag myself out of bed these days, I can’t believe I’m the same person who used to welcome daybreak workouts. Mike had a lot to do with it; he was the only person I knew who wanted to win as much as I did; sometimes it’s easier to let yourself down than to let down a teammate.
When I found out he had died, I thought about quitting my job. Mike was always saying life was too short to do something you didn’t feel passionate about. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. What if I couldn’t find anything else? What about the mortgage, the bills? And so, just a day after consoling Mike’s tearful wife at his funeral, I was back at my desk.
I couldn’t imagine KÀ had been scripted to stir up such memories, but oddly, that’s what it felt like. Each scene seemed to provoke a different memory or feeling. Were the other members of the audience affected in the same way?
When the royal siblings were finally reunited at the end, the crowd answered my question by jumping to its feet to give the cast a standing ovation. I was swept along with the others.
From the Hardcover edition.