Do you find Brown sexy? I’m talking about the color Brown, not Charlie Brown, to be clear.
I’ve never read Fifty Shades Of Grey, but I can speak to Fifty Shades of
Brown. I’m one of those people who has
spent most of their life in what we call the ‘deciduios forest’, no matter how
urban that ‘forest’ may be. Basically, I’m
used to four seasons, not necessarily Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, but
rather snowy winters, mild, blooming springs, hot, leafy shaded summers and an
autumn glorified by red, gold and orange foliage as our trees bid their leaves farewell until our mild
I’m writing this on Easter Eve, AKA Holy Saturday, and though April Fools
Day is just around the corners, April may be very well fooling us with this
beautiful, balmy weather. Sunshine, 50
degrees. Sounds like heaven after a
winter of eight degree (Fahrenheit) days and a few feet of snow. Snow?
Fifty Degrees as heaven? Weather
is all relative, no?
Less than 72 hours ago I was Leaving Las Vegas with 75 degree days, pure
sunshine and zero humidity. These kind
of days, when found in the deciduous forest, are considered pure
perfection. Beautiful. No complaints. Sunny days in the 70’s with no clouds and no
humidity? I’m familiar with these kinds
of days. We got married on one of these
days in a New York October, and from a weather perspective, consider ourselves
pretty damn lucky. But for the Las
Vegans, it’s damn chilly!
Let me tell you about Fifty Shades of Brown, or the first time I went to Las
Vegas. We flew in on Labor Day Weekend when
Rob and I were engaged, part of a two-week road trip to our friends’ wedding in
Sonoma. Rob’s family moved out to LV in
2000 and our first stop was with them, in Henderson. I’ve never been to Las Vegas prior to meeting
my husband, and his east-coast transplanted relatives because I’m not a gambler
(CPA’s never are) and any entertainment value LV may offer, I could surely get
We flew into the Vegas valley in early September 2009 when temps still easily
hit 110 degrees (Fahrenheit) and then some.
Rob’s aunt and uncle live in a development filled with beige and brown
single-story homes, his cousin also live in a development filled with beige
and brown single-single story homes, surrounded by other beige and brown homes,
surrounded by other developments in the same color pattern. Everything looked the same, in fifty shades
of beige, or brown, sand, taupe, coffee, whatever you wanted to call it. No Blue.
No Red. No Green. Fifty shades of brown.
As we drove around the surrounding area, there was a lot more brown. In the buildings. In the mountains. In the valley. It was everywhere.
Rob and I took a small prop plane trip to the Grand Canyon. The prop plane covered miles of land that was
baked, hot and brown. Cactus. Death.
Dryness. Brown. Didn’t Moses lead God’s people out of the
desert? Maybe that wasn’t the North
American Desert but really, no one should live here. I’ve never had a (clinically documented)
panic attack, but this time in the desert was putting me on the edge. It was disturbing me so much that I wanted to
crawl into the fetal position, yes, while on the prop plane and cry. I’ve
lived at sea-level deciduous forest most of my life and I just didn’t feel well
being in this immense dryness. I had
been to Egypt, and it’s dry but it’s on the Nile. In 2001 I went to Cairo and to me it felt
like a sandy city. I went to Alexandria
and it felt like a sandy, transposed European beach town. I’m ok with sand when it’s at the beach. But at some level, I knew I was inland,
trapped and stuck with all this dryness, and it upset the very core of my
The prop plane got to the western side of the Grand Canyon, we took a helicopter
ride down to the bottom of the canyon and then took a pontoon boat ride along
the Colorado River for a little bit. It
was fantastic. The Grand Canyon is not truly
well captured in photographs, nor can I truly capture its depth and size in
words. But you can see layers upon
layers of rock history on the walls of the canyon as you descend, and it
becomes more and more beautiful as the light of the sun hits these distinct
layers of rock as the daylight passes.
There is beauty in the desert, but it’s not so easy to find, especially
for a sea-level girl like me.
Our helicopter ascended the layers upon layers upon years upon years of rock
history that comprise the Canyon that is truly Grand. And our prop plane took us back from one desolate
desert to another desert covered in modular homes. But all this Hudson River girl could see was
fifty shades of brown.
We stopped by Lake Meade, a LAKE! Wow, my sea-level self was starting to revive. Lake Meade was generated by the building of the
Hoover Damn in the 1930’s (damming up the Colorado River), and one could see
the high water mark well above where the current water level and it gave me
pause, where has this water gone? Is
Vegas so over-developed that it’s draining the lake dry (yes!)
Two years later, October 2011, we made another long weekend trip to Las
Vegas to visit the family. I was five
months pregnant (read: tired, don’t feel great and don’t remember much of the
trip) so we can just chalk it up to ‘more desert’ or more ‘brown’. But during this trip we drove across the
bridge near the Hoover Damn and I got to Arizona for about fifteen
minutes. ‘People’ (names withheld) have
told me Arizona is beautiful. I’m sure
it is. But the sliver of this State
which I saw with my own eyes was more desert, more brown, and a few signs
reminding all of us visitors that Arizona is in a different time zone than
Nevada. Honestly, who gives a sh--, it’s
all friggen desert, time doesn’t matter, the sun has baked everything. For a pale-skinned dermatologist-frequenting
White girls from sea-level deciduous forests like me, the desert is equivalent
to a quick melanoma-induced death. F-U desert states. Give me my Atlantic Ocean and my polluted, mafia
body-dump Hudson River any day.
Yes, Nevada has no state income tax (when you can gamble in the supermarket,
we can guess where the state gets its revenues from). And Nevada is nationally ranked third in
education, third from the bottom, that is.
But sure, after a winter with eight degree (Fahrenheit) days, it seems
like a good place in which to relocate, no?
Eighteen months after our last visit, we return again, March 2013, with
baby in tow, and yes, we made it through flying with baby both Westward and
Eastward, thank God. And thank JetBlue
Now I look at Las Vegas as a city I would bring my child to (because I did bring
my child here). He’s too young to
remember this trip (I hope, in some regard).
Las Vegas has clubs, martinis, comedians, musicians, gambling, celebrity
chef restaurants and name brand shops.
So does Manhattan. But now we go
to Vegas for family, for times with the cousins. We rented a minivan and fit the whole clan in
one vehicle for a trip to Death Valley ( just rename it Death Desert), which
actually provided some ‘desert diversity’ if you will: sand dunes, mountains,
salt deposits, and multi-colored mountains.
We drove two hours north of Las Vegas, hung a left at Beatty (an Old
West town with RV parking and a Subway), stopped by Rhyolite, a former mining
town gone to ruins which made for a great photo op, and then crossed the border
into Cali to Death Valley, visiting Furnace Creek, a campsite/rest spot filled
with hippie Californians, which recorded its highest temperature at 134 degrees
(Fahrenheit). We then stopped at Badwater,
a salt flat which collected the salt from the mountains over the last
who-knows-how-many-hundred years. We
drove through Artists’ Pallet, a passage which brings you close to the
mountains colored by their residual mineral deposits, left the park, drove back
into Nevada, through Pahrump (where prostitution is still legal, read: we can
guess where the state gets its revenue from), ’over the hump from Pahrump’ as
they say, and back into Las Vegas. There is beauty in the desert, but it’s not
so easy to find, especially for a sea-level girl like me.
This trip was about a family
visit. Yes, Rob and I got a few nights
out on the strip, but also Nicholas probably won’t have any first cousins, so
this way he can get to know ( or rather they can get to know him) his second
and third cousins. (Or is it second cousins once removed? The children of his father’s first
We were there in Henderson to go to a very modern Palm Sunday service, and
also sit down together for a Passover Seder.
Call it ‘desert diversity’ if you will.
While Uncle Alan read the Haggadah, I thought about my own exodus from the desert –
three and a half years earlier – we drove west to the marvelous coast of Santa Barbara. Now it would be an exodus via JetBlue back to
JFK. But this time around I wasn’t
having a panic attack. The desert,
though generally horrible to a sea-level girl like me, was starting to grow on
me somehow. Maybe I had gotten used to
the Fifty Shades of Brown that accompany a housing development built into
Nevada’s Black Mountains. Maybe I was
fully amenable to 80 degrees (Fahrenheit) in March, when we had just dug the
car out of a snow bank only a few days earlier (back in the Seventh
Borough). Either way, desert or
deciduous forest, I want my son to know he has family in different climates, different faiths,
in different time zones, and that they love him very much.