The Way Life Should Be

by Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Editor

Richard Johnstone
Richard Johnstone

That ruggedly beautiful far north and down east state of Maine describes itself as embodying ďthe way life should be.Ē Most folks would agree wholeheartedly with this slogan, as long as they visit in July, August, September, or October. That is to say, after the brutal winter, springís mud season, and early summerís black fly infestation have abated.

But Iím not picking on Maine. Fact is, I love Maine, having visited on a couple of occasions (and looking forward to more visits) and being greatly taken with its rocky coast, picturesque lighthouses, cozy mountains next to the shore, tasty, fresh seafood, and the clipped, tangy talk of the locals.

But any talk about how life should be always reminds me that one personís paradise can be anotherís purgatory. Take, for instance, observations and questions from a recent family trip to Las Vegas ...

Observation: There are a LOT of folks in this country, indeed in this world, who seemingly love to lose money, lots of money. (I donít gamble, so, no, Iím not one of them!)

Question: Why does everyone keep saying that 115 degrees Fahrenheit ďreally isnít that hot because itís a DRY heat?Ē Trust me when I say, 115 is very, VERY hot, akin perhaps to opening an iron-smelting furnace, or sleeping suspended above a roaring campfire, for instance.

Observation: Sometimes we Americans seem to enjoy visiting the faux site or city, rather than the REAL site or city. How else to explain the oohing and aahing over smaller replicas of the Eiffel Tower, New York skyline, Egyptian pyramid or Italian castle that dot Las Vegasí gaudy strip?

Question: Why was this dusty, dry, hot spot chosen for human habitation in the first place, and how the heck did it become the entertainment capital of the world? And yet, despite its drawbacks (or perhaps because of them), it IS an entertainment juggernaut, with musical and magic shows to please every taste, food to please every palate, and sights and sounds that often defy the imagination.

Observation: Isnít this what the moon looks like? I mean, arenít mountains on Earth supposed to have trees, or at least grasses and shrubs of some sort? And did I mention how hot and dry it is? Fact is, if youíre not downing major doses of water all day long, your nightís entertainment will likely consist of listening to a young ER doctor attempting his rendition of ďDanke SchoenĒ as you lie on your bed in a local hospital emergency room, hooked up to an IV rehydrating your body.

Question: What do non-gamblers do all day in Las Vegas, awaiting the shows theyíre going to enjoy in the evening? One familyís answer: Wander through the amazing, and amazingly garish, outlandish, absurd yet fun lobbies of the cityís hotels. They are truly theme parks in themselves. And the shopping malls connecting several hotels are enough to keep at least one teenage daughter enthralled.

Observation: Everyone from Las Vegas seems to be from ... well, from somewhere else, either in the U.S. or across the world. There donít seem to be any natives, at least not that we found.

Question: Do you think that folks visiting Las Vegas from other countries, who are traveling to the U.S. for the first time, actually think that this is representative of America? What a strange image that would be!

Observation: Thankfully, I think the answer to the question above is ďno.Ē (Unless, of course, they then visit Disney World or Disneyland, in which event theyíre convinced that America is one big theme park!)

Question: In the midst of this hot, dry urban ornament of lights and cameras and action, is there nothing real and natural and carved only by Godís hand?

Observation: Actually, there is. Itís Red Rock Canyon, located just 20 miles or so outside the city. The big, blue, cloudless sky serves as a cool backdrop to the hot, earthy reds and purples and browns and tans that color these mountains in stacked layers. Itís a stunning, refreshing reminder that the works of manís hand pale beside such natural wonders.

Question: Whatís the coolest man-made wonder in town? Which hotel, entertainment magnet or monument?

Observation: Actually, the most awe-inspiring sight is likely gained by getting a hotel room on a high floor, with a view of the distant mountains, turning off all the roomís lights at night, opening the curtain, and viewing ... an amazing tapestry of lights below you, twinkling like a million stars come to ground. And beyond the lights ... nothing! Thereís just the soothing blackness of a solid curtain of night in the desert, without hotels, without casinos, without anything flashy, fancy or false.

Question: Whatís the best thing about a family trip out West, to Las Vegas?

Answer: Returning to beautiful, lush, tree-spangled, rolling, historic, cloud-covered, friendly Virginia, with all our humidity and traffic and unpredictable weather! Virginia truly is for lovers of all that is good, including the good folks like you who are member-owners of the electric cooperatives that embody the solid rural values that still define this great Commonwealth. 

The way life should be? Ahh, thatís Virginia for you!


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