Gone with the Whim: Leaving the Bible Belt for Sin City

Gone with the Whim: Leaving the Bible Belt for Sin City

by Stefany Holmes

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781491730317
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 04/25/2014
Pages: 326
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.73(d)
Age Range: 1 - 17 Years

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Gone with the Whim

Leaving the Bible Belt for Sin City


By Stefany Holmes

iUniverse LLC

Copyright © 2014 Stefany Holmes
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4917-3031-7



CHAPTER 1

DEAL ME IN: ORIENTATION

JAMES


James was the first fellow I met—in the driveway—immediately upon our trailered arrival.

There he was, with a smile as broad as the horizon, ambassador of our new subdivision, glowing like a jack-o-lantern at dusk on Halloween. This guy had all the makings to be president, and not just because he is black and black presidents are in. He simply has that bumper sticker-cliché charisma and charm needed to dazzle the hot pants off any ally or foe, home or abroad. And I dare not put it past him that, in forty-two years when he is almost fifty, he may just be leading our fine country.

James zoomed past as we were unloading that first day and circled back around by the time I had pulled out one of the cat carriers from deep inside our U-Haul dangler.

"What's that?" he asked, not really exposing his bright side.

When I explained we had a cat he was curious if it was as big as he was. I asked if he weighed about forty-five pounds and when he agreed, I told him, "No, the cat's bigger."

He seemed impressed with my candor and asked to meet "it" sometime. Which will never happen.

Color me jaded: I am. After more than a decade of suffering through ungrateful rugrats, I wasn't used to nice children ringing the doorbell and respectfully offering to weed the front rocks (an HOA requirement) for ten dollars. I had almost forgotten what a doorbell even sounded like. My history in some of Atlanta's transitional neighborhoods regarding any such encounter would have included indiscernible howls from the street, with an entitled demand for cash or the ransom from what went missing the day before. Solely a request for monies tendered, but no services rendered. Makes complete sense, I must be an idiot. Even the UPS man would just hurl packages over the low picket fence and zip away for fear of having his rig unattended for too long.

James drives a Razor scooter when he's not campaigning on his BMX dirt bike. Or, he's on a lavender girlie banana-seated bike trying to ride with no hands, begging me to watch. I only look in case he falls, which would be hilarious. He is often spotted with his vice president—a taller, somewhat older, white version with glasses—named Oscar. Which is a rather adult name for a kid, but I had other things to judge. I thanked them dearly when they showed up, but let them know I had planned to take care of my landscaping in the morning, when I could spray weed killer and the twisting winds wouldn't blow it back into my mouth. They pleaded for me to wait until they got home from school so we could all "do it together." So as a compromise, I did it in the middle of the night by the glare of sporadic headlights from the neighbors on the graveyard shift.

Later that afternoon, James returned solo, reswizzling his offer to weed and then asked once more when we were out walking the dogs. He was riding in circles with the less pesty Veep who finally piped in, "James, she said no. Let's go build a fort."

At that point, James was unaware that I, too, have a foot-propelled Razor scooter, Driver has three hundred bicycles, and Sedona (the 105-pound Mastiff mix) is nearly suited to wear a saddle. One roll around the block on any of those and I may just be able to confirm that he is, or should be, involved with the Democratic Party some day.

I will continue to weed at odd hours to avoid unnecessary interaction, but I'm definitely considering having James put together a brief PowerPoint that outlines the entire HOA handbook so I don't have to read it. For ten dollars.

Twenty, if he nails a faceplant.


LV DMV

I held out for seven years before I finally gave in to becoming an official Georgia resident. I still had a Florida plate, Florida driver's license, Florida insurance, and I even went back to Florida to visit the dentist, the dermatologist, and to vote. I was much happier with Florida's mascot, the Sunshine, than anything involved with Georgia's fuzzy piece of fruit. That's why there was nothing more liberating than racing down to the Nevada DMV with two wheels in the air to exchange my southern plate for the Silver State. Besides, I love jewelry.

Me: [entering the building] "I don't care what it costs, I'm getting the cute tag. You know, the one with the Vegas sign. It's commemorative, I think."

Driver: "That's fine. Get whatever you want. I'm gonna get the veteran one since we're in a military town."

Me: "Should I get a veteran tag, too?"

Driver: "Were you in the armed forces?"

Me: "Do they check?"

Driver: [no response, just a glance]

Intercom: [inside a beautiful building that did not smell like Doritos and marijuana, despite the fact it features a huge snack bar and fully- operational restroom facility] "Ticket number G787 BEEP."

Lady: "Hi."

Lady, again: "You can sit."

Me: "Okay. HI! [all caps, all enthusiasm] Just moved here from Georgia, guess I need the works. What do you need to see first?"

Lady: "Everything you've got. Hopefully, it's everything you need."

Me: "Here." [pushing a pile of papers in her direction]

Me, again: "I think I want the cute plate with the Vegas sign."

Lady: "Okay. That will be sixty more."

Me: "Sixty more than what?"

Lady: "Sixty more than your registration."

Lady, again: "Or, you can have the standard plate everybody gets for just a dollar more."

Me: "A dollar more than what?"

Lady: "Your registration fee."

Me: "How much is that? I just moved here [like I said] so I don't know what you're talking about."

Lady: "Well, let me get you an estimate."

Me: "An estimate? Are you going to paint my car?"

Lady: "You're at about eight-forty."

Me: "Eight-forty. Eight dollars and forty cents? That's a weird number. Is that with tax?"

Lady: "No. Eight hundred and forty."

Me: "Um. [craning my neck in search of Driver's whereabouts] For a new plate and a new license?"

Lady: "It's how we make up for not having a state tax. And you actually get two plates, front and back."

Me: "Eight hundred and forty dollars? Like, that's what I pay right now?"

Lady: "Yes."

Me: "EIGHT HUNDRED AND FORTY DOLLARS?"

Lady: "Yes. And with the specialty plate, about nine."

Me: "Nine."

Me, again: "I don't think I'm going to get the Vegas plate today."

Lady: "Yeah, your vehicle is new. The system works on how much you can spend, not how much you make. Oh [looking at her screen], you're actually at eight fifty-eight."

Me (in my head): What a relief considering I make nothing.

Lady: "Really, who looks at their plate anyway? You just so happen to be in line for the 'extremely hot female' series." [finding a jingle for the plate's alphanumeric acronym as she yanked it from an ordered stack]

Lady, again: "What are you doing in Vegas anyway?"

Me: "I didn't bring my checkbook. Do you take credit cards? It was a transfer."

Lady: "No, really. Why did you come here?"

Me: "Are you from here?" [diverting]

Lady: "Been here about four years. Hate it. Loved going to Atlanta. Stayed at that Marriott twice. The one where you can look all the way down to the lobby."

Me: "Oh, yeah. Downtown."

Lady: "So what kind of transfer?"

Me: "For work."

Lady: "Wow, rare for here. Especially nowadays. I'm dying to get outta here."

Me: "Well, I love it ."

Lady: "Give it time."

Lady, again: "What kind of work?"

Me: "Stuff my Driver does. Mainly driving." [still reeling at my near 900 dollar afternoon]

Lady: "Is that your Driver?"

Me: "Huh?" [Driver approaching from behind]

Me (to Driver): "Eight something."

Driver: "Huh?"

Me: "Eight hundred and fifty dollars."

Driver: "For?"


SMITH'S


I LOVE SMITH'S.

I want a bumper sticker that reads: "I get my kicks at Smith's," or "Follow me to Smith's." But people probably would, and then I'd have to go to Smith's every time I got in the car. And that's ultimately taking on too much responsibility for the brand, especially before Mr. Smith endorses me as their unofficial spokesperson and I formally annul my role as such with other national brands.

I never cared much for Kroger because it sounds like an anthropomorphic animal's name, though I have learned the two grocers are affiliated. I stopped going to Publix years ago when I lived in Buckhead because you had to valet park. And for me, that was not "a pleasure." It made no sense to wait for some teenager to bring my car around when I was palming no more than a six-pack of Lender's pumpernickel bagels and some smoked salmon. The whole process sucked up way too much time and back then I was convinced groceries just made you fat anyway.

Even if you're a loyal and devoted resident of Atlanta's east side, you'd still agree the parking lot at Edgewood Shopping Center—Kroger and beyond—is, by all means, no place for cars. Or grocery carts. Or baby strollers. Or shoppers. Or even stores, when all is said and done. It's a mine field for anyone but Superman or Inspector Gadget who can't seamlessly swing in from the tilted telephone poles that are stapled to death by yard sale signs and CD release posters. I'm positive that entire complex was designed by elves who aren't aware of a car's actual dimensions and inabilities to maneuver around the footprint of a Twister game mat—all in oncoming, impatient, bottlenecking traffic.

Upon moving, I made a conscious effort to interrogate every grocery store (and parking lot) within the confines of my cheery 5-mile sphere of influence. My requirements were plenty, but the categories and choices were different once actually on the ground. Albertson's is a retailer here, too, one that I, quite frankly, have always associated with powdered donuts at 3 a.m. I can explain, but probably won't.

Before I even crossed the threshold of the electric sliding doors at Smith's, I heard Sherrill conducting both business and pleasure from her festively-adorned folding table and chair. You had no choice but to walk smack dab into her overactive sign-up stand because it was pretty much blocking the entrance. Fanned out across its surface were rewards cards in every color and pens anchored by things too big to steal. All items were scattered across her station like miniature pencils at a lottery stall. Clipboards snapping like Hungry Hippos and an audience so thick I thought someone was giving birth. I weaved my way in and stepped up closer, ducking around the balloons and banners that shot out of all four sides to confirm this was indeed where I needed to register my new life at my new food bazaar.

I told Sherrill we had just moved to Vegas from Atlanta. And like everyone who learns this, they either take a physical step backward or, if seated, drop their bifocals down the bridge of their noses to get a better look. Without a doubt, she is Smith's surefire storefront ringer for repeat patronage and definitely the gal I'd want to sit next to at bingo, slots, and every dinner party. She couldn't have been more ecstatic to get me registered, explain the benefits, and share the tips and tricks to corral additional savings—things I'm sure she tells everyone, but made me feel as if I was on the receiving end of some pretty privileged employee know- how.

The stores are clean, the produce is fresh, the organics are plentiful, and the associates race around like mad to open lanes for anyone in wait. No staff members ever question why you might be there shopping and they don't look at your eco-friendly bags as if they were bleeding. There aren't nomadic carts careening off automobiles or children locked up in cars with the windows up. The employees don't extend their breaks smoking on the patio furniture for sale outside and the only group to solicit me for something has been a Girl Scout troop. The parking lot isn't life-threatening, either.

I don't really care if Smith's marks everything up just to mark everything back down at checkout. When you look at your receipt, you feel so young and rich and beautiful. And thin.

Because powdered donuts are a choice, not a lifestyle.


GIMME BUFFET


I had only been to one, once.

And it was on land, at the port of the Pair-A-Dice gambling boat in East Peoria. (Still the coolest eightieth birthday party I've ever been to.) On that occasion, we went for brunch the morning after a collective seasick nickel-slot hangover and I doused my plate with all participating beige and yellow food groups.

Though for this missive, we will be referring to dinner—something I've always assumed hails from the word dine. And you will probably need to be familiar with my main restaurant requirements, most of which people are quick to deem finicky.

First of all, I believe the restaurant should actually be a restaurant. Which, in my storyline, is defined foremost by table service. A place where people in smart black bottoms kindly help by bringing you things to eat. I don't particularly care to order at a counter, pay a cashier, or teeter a tray back to my sticky Formica table, to later march the tip back up to a counter or leave it under the syrup shaker. At least, not before 2 a.m. Nor, as an alternative to carrying my own food on a coaster, I don't wish to be excused from a place-order-here line, curling a tented table topper that labels both me and my meal a number. Don't let the word line go unnoticed, either. I can impatiently stand at the bar on a waiting list, but I don't want to creep through a queue to be fed. That's grocery shopping.

Two: I like ambiance. And usually, much more than the average recommended amount per person. I prefer all applicable lighting to be on dimmer switches so I don't flail for tweezers or SPF. I also won't hesitate to ask for a booth, which is hereditary, and a checklist item to be considered a proper dining establishment. I don't care to sit too closely to the next party where everyone has to stand up and push their squeaky chairs over echosome tile when I need to powder my nose or launch a complaint about something irrelevant, like not being in a booth.

And lastly, I wish to enjoy my meals with either a glass of wine or a Cosmopolitan, sometimes both, and need the option to close with Grand Marnier. In a snifter, not a shot glass. So, a full bar with wedding registry-level glassware is also a stipulation if I'm hoping to be fed and watered outside of the home.

See, only three very basic needs.

When we first visited our local Buffet (a word I honor with a capital B), I noticed it spilled right into the gaming floor—no doors or walls. It was like a human feeding show or life-size sixth grade science fair food diorama that included its actively-pursuant inhabitants. I began to groan, loudly, voicing my objections over the slot machine trills. The eating space was the size of three hotel ballrooms with the accordion doors pushed back. There were an infinite number of naked tables with lots of chairs and at least thirteen islands of assorted provisions buried under sneeze guards. A few staff members circulated, carrying only sodas and ice water. I watched paper chefs' hats and wide meat cleavers wax through their stations under only one fixed bright UV setting for the overhead lamps.

With ample pause, I asked Driver if we could check out the steakhouse or Mexican joint. Both were closed; I was trapped. Just like that time I didn't plan to eat taquitos and Corn Nuts from Quick Trip. Inside Quick Trip.

After winding through a superfluous squiggle of velvet ropes, we approached the lively hostess team chatting at the podium and asked if they had booze inside the food museum. From that angle, the booths lining the perimeter started jumping up and down as the duo pointed to the main bar in the gaming area. "Bring over whatever you want," they recited in stereo. I turned to Driver with a well, well, well can-do attitude and we wobbled over without further hesitation. Driver got a beer; I received enough red wine to drown.

The entire expo can be overwhelming for a beginner and is a potential playground for indigestion if you were to mix everything together. I revolved around each trough carefully, and with caution. There were hardly any identical food stalls and lots of Easter-colored Jell-O mounds available at the main dessert headquarters. I observed the other Buffet people, engrossing myself with recommendations and instruction made by the body language and self-serving etiquette of my fellow piglets.

Everyone kinda looked the same to me. At least, from the waist up. I learned there are a lot of professional Buffet eaters, many of whom strictly prefer tables. (I figure this is so they can get up often and not disturb the other eaters in their party!) It's a very hungry society slipped plainly inside the satiated common population. This regulated format for binging is not unlike having thirty seconds to grab as much blowing cash in an airtight acrylic box as you can. Only there is no timer, just human heads hurtling to make sure they haven't missed anything, as if forgetting you can go back up until you impair a few feet of your large intestine.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Gone with the Whim by Stefany Holmes. Copyright © 2014 Stefany Holmes. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Author's Note, ix,
Preface/Disclaimer, xv,
Introduction, xvii,
Deal Me In: Orientation,
James, 3,
LV DMV, 5,
Smith's, 9,
Gimme Buffet, 13,
Twenty Minutes, 17,
The Windcast, 19,
Glory Daze, 23,
The Strip: Las Vegas Boulevard,
Luck Be A Lady, 31,
Botero at Encore, 35,
The Bellagio, 37,
Gay Paree, 43,
Nine Dining, 47,
Ain't It Grand, 51,
Sit & Spin, 57,
Knighted Mares, 63,
Plays Well with Bunnies, 67,
A Mob Scene, 71,
Pet Names & Other Reasons Why, 77,
Titanic Mezzo-Soprano, 83,
All Shook Up, 87,
Amateur Night, 91,
Downtown: The Fremont Experience,
The Free Monty, 97,
Solid Golden, 101,
Puttin' on the Fitz, 103,
LIVE and Impersonator, 107,
Around Town: Vegas Loves Locals,
A Penny for Your Slots, 113,
Frederick, 117,
Half Breed, 121,
Town Square, 123,
In-N-Out, 127,
Postcards from the Cannery, 131,
Lords and Some Lady, 135,
Hold My Purse, 139,
Oyster Barf, 143,
What a Drag, 147,
Come All Yee Faithful Haws, 153,
On the Flight Side, 157,
Here Comes Trouble, 163,
Distinctly Vegas: A Learning Curve,
Queen of Tarts, 169,
Poker in the Face, 173,
The Name Game, 179,
Bingology 101, 187,
Need to Be Scene, 193,
Living in Sin: Regular Life,
A Thousand Calories, 201,
Could Ya Be More Pacific?, 205,
One Hundred Plus, 209,
Slot Heard around the World, 211,
Diva Las Vegas, 215,
Cinco de Mayo, 219,
Drive-by Birdie, 223,
Gum Drops, 229,
Fight Club, 233,
Trick My Boo, 237,
Yule See, 243,
Twelve, 247,
Hood Winks, 251,
Day Trips: Have Driver, Will Travel,
Spring Training, 259,
Close Encounters of the Nerd Kind, 265,
Peak Show, 271,
Humpty Pahrumpty, 277,
Valley of Fire, 285,
Boulder Dash, 287,
Hot Dam, 293,
View from the Passenger Seat, 297,
Acknowledgments, 301,

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