Vegas for Introverts

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Vegas is basically synonymous with debauchery: drinking, gambling, strippers, excessive consumerism, you name it. It’s a weird place, at once divorced from reality and yet somehow hyper-real as well. It is LOUD and BRIGHT and CROWDED at all hours of the day and night; it is the epitome of sensory overload.

For a textbook introvert like me, even the idea of Vegas is overwhelming. Our five day trip there earlier this month was good, but also exhausting. I was very happy to see my own bed again. While Vegas may not be my idea of a perfect vacation, though, it does have several things to offer that don’t involve jangling slot machines or topless girls. You just have to look a little closer.

Polaroid Museum and Fotobar

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Bryan and I stumbled upon this gem while exploring the Linq. Bryan happened to see the little Polaroid sign, so we went inside and discovered that there is also a museum upstairs. It is free and when we were there, it was just the two of us. It was so peaceful, and the exhibit is so interesting, it ended up being one of my favorite things that we did. There is a beautiful, colorful collage that I loved, as well as a timeline of the Polaroid company through all their cameras, and a few personal collections of Polaroids as well. I highly recommend this place, even if you aren’t super into photography.

Mob Museum

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Everyone knows that Las Vegas used to be run almost exclusively by the mob (right? That’s not just a thing that I think everyone knows?). So it makes sense that the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement would be located in Sin City. Now, this place isn’t exactly off the beaten path. It was jam-packed when we were there. And I mean jam-packed. For a person who doesn’t like crowds, it was a little bit unsettling at times. But for a person who loves things like the history of the mafia, it was awesome.

The place is big. It took us three hours to get through the whole thing, and by the end of it, my brain was mush. Don’t go in there hungry. Don’t go in there tired. Don’t go in there cranky. There’s a ton of information, most of it fascinating, and you won’t want to miss it. I think the most interesting thing there was the St Valentine’s Day Massacre wall. It is the genuine wall against which seven gangsters were shot to death. Creepy creepy creepy.

This is definitely worth the visit, but be prepared for it to be crowded and to take a loooong time. Tickets are $21.95 USD but we found a coupon online that got us $3 off each ticket. Google around.

Get out of the city 

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Las Vegas is actually fairly close to a few cool things within driving distance. Part of the Grand Canyon is close by, as well as Fire Valley and Lake Mead (which Bryan visited last year with his brother and says was really cool). We chose to rent a car and drive the 2.5 hours through Nevada, Arizona, and Utah to get to Zion National Park.

The whole day ended up costing us about $150 USD including the car rental and the $25 fee to get into the park, and it was 100% worth it. It was the very best thing that we did.

Slotzilla – Zoomline/Zipline

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Slotzilla is a relatively new attraction on Fremont Street downtown. The minute we stepped off the bus, I looked up to see four people zooming across the sky above us. I watched their progress the whole way, utterly rapt, only looking away when Bryan said, “Do you want to do that?” Being terrified of heights, my stomach flip-flopped, but I nodded anyway. I really, really did.

We wandered down to the other end of the street where the ticket counter was located. $40 for a ride that would last less than a minute?! That seemed insane. We wandered back away, and I felt the disappointment clawing at my throat. No. I wanted to do this. I had to do this. We turned around, and I paid the $80 for the two of us to get tickets for the higher, longer Zoomline.

Then we had an hour to kill, during which I maintained a low level of anxiety but managed not to freak out entirely. We waited at the bottom of the ride for our ticket time to flash on the LED screen, then we walked up the stairs. We waited in line to show our tickets to the guy. Then we waited in line to get fitted for harnesses. Then we waited in line with a bunch of other beharnessed people for the elevator to show up. Then we waited in line while the people in front of us went.

Four people go on the ride at one time. The two women who would be joining us on our adventure were middle-aged, loud, and very Southern. One, with huge blond hair, kept complaining about how scared she was. The other one couldn’t contain how wild and young this whole adventure made her feel. I kind of loved both of them.

Finally, it was our turn. I laid down on the waist-high mat, and the guy hooked me up to another harness. The mat dropped away, so I was hanging in mid-air, belly down, arms hanging. To my left and right, the Vegas sky was black and speckled with neon lights. The wind whipped around me. In front of me was a nondescript, grey metal door that, any second, would slowly open to reveal Fremont Street stretched out in front of us. Tension mounted. More waiting. More waiting. Then, finally, the door began to move. My heart thundered wildly, I let out a whoop of excitement, and then we were flying.

I stretched my arms wide, a huge, silly grin on my face, watching all of the people below us as they craned their necks to watch our progress, just as I had done an hour earlier. My blood sang in my veins, and I felt free, wild, young. In less than 60 seconds, it was over. We were reeled in, and unharnessed, and the four of us hugged and shrieked with happy adrenaline. And then we went our separate ways. And I can still remember what it felt like to fly over Fremont Street, if only for a moment.

CSI Experience

We didn’t end up having enough time to do this but my friend Leah, who lives in Vegas, highly recommends it as well, especially if you are into things such as the Mob Museum (or the show CSI, I guess). You get to analyze a crime scene and solve the crime yourself, which sounds pretty cool. Tickets are $28 for general admission.

Have you ever done any of these? What is your favorite thing to do in Vegas?

Vegas for Introverts

2015 Photo Project: Vegas Edition

April’s theme is architecture, and, lucky for me, we hit up a hotspot for cool buildings earlier this month. All of these photos were taken with my Samsung Galaxy S4. Welcome to Vegas!

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The next three photos are from the Aria hotel, which had a ton of beautiful features.

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Can’t get out of Vegas without at least one shot of the replica Eiffel Tower (can’t wait to get a shot of the real thing in October!!).

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Some sweet stained glass windows in the lobby of the Excalibur.

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The Bellagio is such a gorgeous building, especially against that insaaaane blue sky.

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I had fun taking a few shots through the windows in the Bellagio. I liked this one the best.

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Caesar’s Palace. Gotta love a good column.

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Bellagio at dusk.

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The Cosmopolitan. I love the juxtaposition between the ultra-modern Cosmopolitan and the more old-world sophistication of the Bellagio right beside it.

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The Mob Museum! Such a cool experience. You should go.

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Check out the full project here. I can’t believe my 2015 photo project is almost 1/3 over! Where is 2015 running off to?!

2015 Photo Project: Vegas Edition

Snapshots: Zion National Park

My favorite thing that we did in Vegas was actually the thing that took us furthest from the Strip and all its craziness: we rented a car and drove the 2.5 hours to Zion National Park. And it. was. amazing. I had no idea what to expect. Bryan was really gungho about the idea and orchestrated everything, including getting up early on the day and taking a cab to the airport to pick up our rental car, as well as returning it amidst the chaotic traffic on the Strip later on (my hero). I was basically tagging along because he was so into it.

But oh God, this place was like nothing I’d ever seen before. It reminded me of the mountains, but not. Everything was so red. Even the road. The asphalt throughout the park was stained red from all the rock dust, I guess, and I thought that was so cool. Every twist in the road brought some new thing to take our breath away.

We decided to do the Canyon Overlook hike, which is a really easy, one mile round-trip hike with incredible views at the end. It took us almost two hours because we stopped every five feet or so to take pictures, and I don’t regret a minute of it. We got a bit lost trying to find it, which is quite the feat, since there is literally only one road to follow, but we eventually made it there. I tried to cull these down but just couldn’t decide on any to cut, so here, you get to enjoy them all. 🙂

 

Snapshots: Zion National Park

2015 Photo Project: I Didn’t Completely Fail at March

I failed a lot less than I thought, actually, so that’s nice.

I didn’t manage to get a photo of the river valley from my usual spot, so the super grainy, low quality snap I got from the other side will have to suffice for this month. I did, however, manage to get a decent portrait of Bryan, as well as 25 of the 31 photos I aimed for. Considering how uninspired I felt by this theme, and how difficult I thought it was, I ended up with a lot more photos than I thought I had. Go me.

So here are the last of March’s pictures, and good riddance to this theme. Onwards and upwards to April: architecture.

All photos for March (except Bryan’s portrait) were taken on my Samsung Galaxy S4 and edited with VSCOcam.

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ISO 400  ||  28 mm at f/5.0  ||  1/6 

Find the whole project here. Which was your favorite from this month? Share your thoughts and whatever projects you have been working on in the comments.

2015 Photo Project: I Didn’t Completely Fail at March

Book of the Month: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is a mystery. Not only is it a whodunnit, but it’s a whodunnit to who?

What we know: At a school trivia night, someone is killed. Who and why are slowly revealed to us throughout the course of the book.

Big Little Lies is a pretty simple book on the surface, but it has many layers that make it a rich and rewarding reading experience. There are three main characters: Jane, a 24-year-old single mother of a kindergartener who may or may not be brutally bullying another child, has just moved to the area and harbors a secret that has been eating away at her for years; Celeste, who has a picture perfect life on the outside but conceals her own dark secrets; and Madeline, a feisty, vivacious woman with a penchant for drama that is coming back to bite her in the ass with her own teenage daughter.

As we wend our way through the intersecting lives of these three women, we touch on many secrets: What is happening in Celeste’s house? What happened to Jane that makes her believe that Ziggy might be capable of what he has been accused? What is going on with Madeline’s daughter? But the biggest secret of all, of course, is who died, and why. Moriarty builds the tension exquisitely. Each small secret and accompanying lie adds another twist to the screw, another torque to amp up the stakes, so that by the time all is revealed, it is a delicious, cathartic experience. An exhalation, a sigh of satisfaction, that says, “ahhhh..finally….”

Ultimately, Big Little Lies is about more than a murder and distorted elementary school politics, though those are, of course, fascinating in and of themselves. Ultimately, Big Little Lies is about the lies that we all tell to make it through our lives, and how those lies can either save us … or kill us.

What was your favorite book in March?

Book of the Month: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

If I Were Prettier

Sometimes I think life would be easier if I were prettier. If my face was more symmetrical or my teeth were straight or my skin was better. I literally thought, “This wouldn’t be happening if I were prettier” as a server in a restaurant continued on his way, oblivious to my repeated attempts to catch his eye for a beer refill. And some things in life would be easier. There are many studies that show that strangers are more likely to rate a physically attractive person as more intelligent, or nice, or a bunch of other positive things. (It’s called the physical attractiveness stereotype, or the halo effect, and 30 Rock’s take on it is pretty hilarious.)

But…who cares? I’m not a model or an actress or anyone else who might rely on looks to get by. Why should it matter at all? I have now been married to the most incredible man I know for more than six months, and we are surrounded by amazing people who love us. They don’t love me because of how I look. My little sisters wouldn’t love me more if I was thinner or had a perfect smile. There would not have been more love at our wedding if I was more traditionally pretty and had a perfectly toned back. Maybe total strangers would be more likely to think highly of me, but I am not looking for the love of total strangers.

It is hard to shake the societal standards of beauty. I try to shake them off every day, which can be exhausting, but it’s also worthwhile. I don’t want to look at my wedding photos and think, “I wish my arms were more toned” instead of “Oh my God, we look so happy.” I want the women in my life to see an example of someone comfortable in their own skin so they can be more comfortable in theirs. When we have kids, I want to teach them to love themselves and see their intrinsic value, and not teach them to measure their worth based on aesthetic standards.

That starts with me. It is hard. Sometimes it feels like a losing battle. But I don’t ever want to give up on it. Because I am beautiful, because I am happy and capable and creating an amazing life for myself which has nothing to do with how I look or how much I weigh. I appreciate my eyes that let me see the beauty of the world, my arms that let me hold the people that I love, my belly that enjoys a good laugh and holds me up for a 5:03 plank, the legs that carry me over many miles as we explore new places (and I finish half-marathons). I am grateful for the blood that flows through my veins and animates my limbs, the lungs that contract and expand and allow me to experience the world for another second, the billions of components that work together to keep me alive for another minute, hour, day.

I am alive and I cannot think of anything more beautiful than that.

If I Were Prettier