Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Around the Corner

“Keep high aspirations, moderate expectations, and small needs”
-William Howard Stein

Mater, Spouse and I travelled to Las Vegas a few years ago. We did all that tourists ought to do: took chances in the casinos, sat down to an extravagant dinner and paid a visit to the MGM Grand with its old-time atmosphere and with living, breathing lions behind thick glass.
After a time, we fortuitously found ourselves walking on Fremont Street, the lesser known, older and less flashy section of Las Vegas. We could hardly believe our luck. Fremont Street was charming, most unexpectedly so: long passed the glory days, it eventually dwindled to the more benign role of the little sibling of Las Vegas, which overshadowed it.
There were market stalls, casinos and performances at every turn. A fellow played piano atop a truck- few were present to observe him but we three will not forget the sight.
We were astonished, too, by a display of dancing lights that beamed onto a canopy ninety feet high and fourteen hundred feet in length- those twelve million lights were part of a grand performance that took place shortly after nightfall, a great moving picture of monumental sounds and images.
We could hardly have imagined that beyond the popular and the typical, Fremont Street might await with a character all its own.
Mater paused to look at a little collection of five hand painted Russian dolls, the traditional wooden figurines that sit one inside the other until only the largest is visible.
I briefly remarked on how lovely they were, all lined up in order of size, and although they were not at all cheap, Mater immediately requested one for me the instant my attention was elsewhere. The seller- a Russian woman who wore a bright shawl and who looked as though she might moments earlier have stepped off the boat at Ellis Island- took the doll from Mater's hand and slipped it into a little bag. Away we went, happy as anybody could be.
We had not walked more than a few feet when I stopped, reached into the bag, and took out the doll. I pulled the two sections apart.
There was nothing inside.
Panicked, we hurried back to the seller- I whimsically imagined that she might have vanished in a puff of grey smoke in the interim.
Mater, in error, had presumed that all the little dolls were already inside the bigger one- the smaller neighbouring dolls perhaps for display purposes only- and the busy seller had taken the money without questioning whether we had gathered them all together.
It was no trouble to convince the woman we had made a mistake and that four fifths of our paid-for property were in fact still sitting on the shelf. Soon we were away again with the correct number of dolls in our possession.
I have many recollections from our trip to Las Vegas but none so clear and so numerous as those memories we brought with us from Fremont Street.
We found a wealth of stories where we thought to find none. On the contrary, to my dismay, instead of a host of incandescent Russian dolls I found a void.
And as much as there might be a marvellous story tucked away in an innocuous corner far from flamboyance, the world does not consistently live up to the expectations we invent around it. We find joy or tedium as we go along, depending always on what we search for.

I will be going to Maine tomorrow, returning on Monday, and so in between will be accessing this page only in my head. Until then...


Pauline said...

"We find joy or tedium as we go along, depending always on what we search for."

Yes! We're always seeing the world through the lens of expectation - what a marvelous story to illustrate that thought.

Pappy said...

I'm back. Tell Mater all is well. I didn't mean to become an extra burden for her. Obviously you keep her plenty busy. Great observations on life. Pappy

Tracey said...

What a lovely picture you paint with your words. We can often find the most surprising things in the most surprising places.

Quiet Paws

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Very well said.

hele said...

What beautiful stories, each tucked into the other.

julochka said...

ooo, i love both matryoshki AND fremont street. my dad always plays downtown at the horseshoe club. there is something special about fremont st. but they took away a bit of the charm with that giant roof over it. did you try the buffet at the golden nugget? or your luck in the machines at the union plaza?

just a thought? do you wonder if your dolls were once 10 or 12? :-)

Jaime said...

Oh how I've missed you and these wonderful stories...such beautiful insights you have.
When I was little, I knew someone who had a set of dolls like these...I was completely enchanted with them, but never had my own.
Thank you for awakening a long forgotten memory.

Barb said...

What a lovely story.

These dolls brought back memories from my childhood of each of us children getting a set in a stocking for Christmas one year. B

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Pauline, "lens of expectation" - I love that phrase.

Texican, I'll be sure to tell Mater! She was wondering how things were with you.

Tracey, thank you! I'm very glad that you're back.

Pamela, thanks!

Hele, indeed, that's just what I was getting at. Who knew that Fremont street would be tucked to nicely into the larger picture of Las Vegas? Well, of course lots of people did but not I ;)

Julie, Spouse thinks we did eat at the Golden Nugget! I am afraid I can't say, as I don't see anything but the plates and I just follow the scent of food. I don't remember the exact casino but Mater spent two hours starting with just one quarter- kept getting a few coins back over and over until she broke even and gave up. Great fun. I'll check out the casino that was- we have pictures. The name is surely on it.
I can't say I ever thought that about the dolls, but I do see them all differently with unique personalities (however that works) and the littlest one I call a bug, she's so tiny. They're special. Initially, when we travelled anywhere after I got them, I brought the dolls along and set them up in the hotel room...

Jaime, I've missed you too! Sometimes there are really big dolls as well, more than a foot tall. I personally prefer the smaller set, where the largest is smaller than my hand.

Barb, oh, how lovely to get some for Christmas! That's magical. I love how bright they always are painted.

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