Last light, Stone Steps © Robert Sommers 2023

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Robert walks through the Valley of Fire

© Robert Sommers

"Turn left," said the voice in my right ear. We were entering the huge parking garage at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas and were trying to procure a fifth floor space that was not too far from the hotel. "I have been studying maze dynamics," said my friend BigD,"When confronted with the choice, the overwhelming number of people will make the right turn, hence making the less traveled left handed choice a better bet for finding that perfect parking space."

I thought that was interesting and asked him if he would be so kind as to supply the underlying data set for his supposition. I had run into similar logic questions before. Years ago, when I was setting up one of my first major art exhibitions, Native Palette, Michael Johnson shared a trick that a museum curator once clued him into; always hang the largest painting on the left because most people will circumnavigate a room left to right. Compositionally it looks more correct. Wonder if it works in the southern hemisphere or if there is a corresponding directional change? 

I once saw the coriolis effect in fine view in Nyahururu, Kenya. I always thought of the equator as an abstract concept but there is a yellow line painted through this town. A handful of stick matches are placed in a tub with a plug on the bottom. Three inches this way of the equator, the water vortexes right, three inches left it cascades in the opposite direction and directly on top the matchsticks dropped straight down when the plug was pulled. The Austrian physicist Otto Tumlirz did pioneering coriolis experiments in 1908.

I must admit that scientists debunk the scientific underpinnings of the experiment and have disproved the notion of a southern and northern vortex differential but as I said, I saw it with me own eyes. Wonder if there is a psychic or behavioral component that changes our innate human behavior depending on hemispheric geologic location?

I suppose that I should start at the beginning to describe my last several days, if you have any interest in the tired minutia of my mundane life. I left home two days ago, venturing a far distance into Riverside County before I got the call from Leslie that I had left my suitcase, and in fact my heart medicine, in the bottom hallway of my home. I drove back sheepishly, repeated my kisses and goodbye's, looked in the back once more for good measure to assure myself that I had indeed placed the luggage in the van and took off once again.

Within a few minutes I was driving through a serious downpour. Snow was low on the mountains near Elsinore and Rancho Cucamonga. Past Devore I was in an honest to goodness horizontal snowstorm. The rest of the four and a half hour jaunt was pretty boring, once I got out of the weather. I checked into the lovely $475.00 per night complimentary suite at my very favorite hotel, The Venetian, and then drove to the airport to pick up my friend BigD. BigD and I have been friends since the seventies, roommates, tech support and pretty much daily constants in each other's lives. 

He has a congenital disease of polycystic kidneys, a malady that claimed the lives of several close family members. He managed to get a kidney transplant but what they don't tell you is that half of the transplant recipients will later get cancer or lymphoma from the anti rejection drugs. He got the latter. BigD has put a tremendous amount of the money he once had into creating better transplant and matching technology for kidney transplants.

BigD has been through several massive chemo regimens recently and it was time for us to kick out the jams a little bit. I had the free hotel, he had free Virgin miles and we were set.

We had a very big and all around great time, I dropped him off at the airport about an hour ago and will try to fill you in as best as I can.  Food was pretty sucky all week. The first night we tried my go to cheap restaurant, the Grand Lux which has never let me down before. It did. He had salad with seared ahi, which was maybe a bit off and sent him running to his porcelain friend. My always good caesar with grilled chicken took the night off as well. Damn. We walked the faux canals after dinner and I bought a pair of Rockports, my sore heel still bothering me fiercely.

The next day we started off at the Canyon Ranch Spa. This spa, which is part of the Venetian, Palazzo hotel complex is simply fantastic. The long hallway to the Palazzo, with its many colored sections, reminded me a Josef Albers painting. 

We had a small breakfast at the spa cafe , which was pretty bad, nutritious and tasteless, unflavored yoghourt over granola and a few similar indecencies and then ww worked out. The workout room is very top notch, including a large rock climbing wall and BigD spun ten miles on the bike, not bad for a week after chemo. I lifted weights and then we started using the fantastic  spa facilities. First the turkish steam, then the tropical rainfall room that dials you in three scented rainstorms, replete with flashing lightning effects. From there, the finnish dry sauna, then the herbal sauna, the heated lounge chairs, a dip in the jacuzzi and then a trip to the igloo, a really cold room decorated in blue light a la Mr. Freeze. I think that we repeated this action sequence about five times in the last three days so I won't bore you with any repeats but this is a great spa and at twenty bucks a day for hotel guests, you just can't beat it. Nice relaxation room to read the wide selection of newspapers and have a piece of fruit for a happy finish. Heaven.

I played a bit of blackjack in the morning and then made plans to meet my other friend Dan at a place called Valley of Fire up the road. Dan lives in Mesquite and we met up at the Moapa Indian store at Interstate 15 and Highway 75.

Valley of Fire is Nevada's oldest and largest state park. The area was the site of an early basket making culture and an Anasazi people that existed roughly between 300 b.c.e and 1100. a.d.. The place is full of arches and petroglyphs. In the summer it goes 120 degrees so this cold winter/spring is perfect. We did a bunch of hiking and photography and really had a great time. I want to return often when my foot feels better. Great place to seek a deeper alignment with the cosmos. The storms to the north were exquisite. This place is such a great natural counterpoint to the Vegas craziness.

BigD spotted this lone desert bighorn sheep by the side of the road and I got very close and photographed it. Very gentle and beautiful creature. It was very hard to leave this park as there are so many undiscovered treasures. I noticed a very far out looking volkswagon prototype at a trailhead that BigD recognized and we later deduced was being used in a promotional shot being filmed in the park. I regret not taking a picture of it on the road but here it rests in the van.

Valley of Fire sounds so tolkeinesque, evoking Sauron's lair on Mt. Doom or maybe the biblical fires at Gehenna. But the place definitely delivers and I look forward to returning and spending a whole day there. It's also home to a bunch of desert tortoises, illustrated long ago on the petroglyph walls. BigD took these two pictures of petroglyphs, not a tortoise to be seen.

We drove Dan back and said our goodbye's and drove back to sin city. We both felt like having a steak and decided to try Wolfgang Puck's Cut restaurant. I had some hesitation, seeing the exorbitant prices and all but had done well at the tables and BigD was asking me when we would have the opportunity again and he's not out of the woods yet so we went.

Cut is Puck's effort to trump Ruth's Chris and Morton's in the expensive meat department. Did we want Nebraska beef, Illinois beef or an Australian filet whose previous host luxuriated in a daily wagyu massage? I went for the Nebraska New York, for a cool $68,  BigD opted for the similarly priced rib eye. 

They kept us full with their excellent bread. Men in black coats and turtlenecks popped out of every doorway offering us some thing or another and educating us on the finer points of the beef. I ordered a lovely burrata with a rhubarb chutney, BigD had a shrimp and crab thingie which he wasn't too crazy about but I thought delicious.

The 1200 hundred degree steak got to our tale and frankly looked a bit overcooked and scrawny. Not as rare as promised (cool center) and maybe a touch too much rock salt. I ordered a cream spinach with an organic fried egg as a side ( about nineteen bucks) and it was very tasty. Meal was a small fortune, decent but not sublime, couldn't see myself returning.

We went back through the casino and I decided to give BigD a blackjack lesson. I was about eight hundred bucks ahead when I called it a night at one in the morning. When the whole trip was over I had a pretty decent pile. Today we went to Harrahs for a pretty lousy buffet and then back to the spa. BigD was hungry again went to Canaletto, which royally sucked, soggy pizza and not the charcuterie we were promised on the menu. Very mediocre. There were pigeons walking around which was odd because, the sky is fake and I couldn't see how they got there. I was informed that they were imported for the verité and ambience. Nothing quite says Venice like pigeon shit.

I drove my friend back to the airport and am hanging and resting before tonight's blackjack session. Too cold to go to the pool and I haven't touched Ulysses. It was a great three days with my buddy. He was self conscious about the no hair on his head, eyebrows, eyelashes, etc. but I thought that he looked quite hip, if somewhat alien.


I drive home in the morning.


Anonymous said...
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Helen Killeen Bauch McHargue said...

Nineteen dollars for creamed spinach and a egg. Wow! You would expect the food to be perfect at those prices..but at least you got the turtle-neck guys. Seems the more you pay the more subdued the wait-staff is dressed. The most expensive meal I've ever had was in Spain where the waitresses (more like food interpreters) were dressed almost like
modern day nuns...grey mid-calf high neck dresses with dark stockings.

Anonymous said...

Robby, notwithstanding the shitty meals its sounds like a nice little vacation. good for you. if you want to hear zachary on sunday he will be on the air doing sports updates from 3 am to 9am your time on tsn1050.com love buzz

Anonymous said...

Hi Robert,

Wow, that ram looks just like my lesbian separatist cousin who just visited :-)

MC. said...

Good story. I enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

your life is anything but mundane.


Sanoguy said...

Is the Valley of Fire a way to describe the casinos or is it an actual place???

Blue Heron said...

Both. One hour north of Vegas on I15. Take a right on the 75. Reallynice.

Sanoguy said...

My question was rhetorical only. I knew the answer.

Anonymous said...

I love Valley of Fire! The old sheep hangs out just off the main park road on most late afternoons and he is always cool to see. Nice shots. More on Valley of Fire at http://www.valley-of-fire.com

Blue Heron said...

Thanks for the tip on the old sheep! I appreciate your input.