Anna, the las vegas miracle


anna2My father’s favorite place to spend Christmas was Vegas. Called it the easiest place in the world to turn off your problems. He’d stay at the craps table while I’d wander through the casinos and bars, quietly taking in the human spectacle of strangers blowing the down payment on a manufactured home in the San Fernando Valley.

The last time I had a traditional Dupree family Christmas I was 19 years old, taking a year off before school. Not old enough to gamble or drink, I mostly listened to my cassette walkman and smoked cigarettes, eyeing the pretty girls, fumbling with my notebook as I wrote notes to myself about the how Vegas was the truest extension of America’s risking-taking impulse – a glittery monument to manifest destiny. I was so pretentious.

I met Anna in the elevator of the Stratosphere on Christmas Eve, a cute little brunette, carrying a sketchpad, with a bottle of whiskey in the pocket of her cardigan. “Jewish?” she asked.

“No,” I said, “Just degenerate.”

Anna was a year older then me and had the same family tradition, albeit, for different reasons. An art student in New York, she took me to eat at some divey café downtown and told me she liked this part of town better then the strip, because it reminded her of Reno. “Not that I’ve ever been to Reno.I just have a slightly romantic vision of down-trodden, second-tier American cities.”

After spending 10 years coming to Vegas for the holidays, I was shocked to actually meet someone I could relate to. And being a somewhat naïve teenager, I believed maybe this was the miracle moment I had been waiting for my entire life, that my nomadic upbringing had ultimately led me to something beautiful.

After spending the whole night wandering the streets, at 5 am Christmas morning, I confessed a belief in destiny, that we were supposed to be together. “When I get back home, Anna, I’m going to pack up my truck and drive straight to New York, so that I can be with you.”

Anna looked slightly stunned, touched by my spontaneous declaration of devotion. “Oh, Knox,” she said, “I’m in love with someone else. But you should still move to New York. We can be friends.”

When we parted, I gave Anna a fake phone number and a fake address and promised to myself that I wouldn’t move to New York until I was a man.

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