"But war, in a good cause, is not the greatest evil which a nation can suffer. War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice – a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice – is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Viva Las Vegas (or why I'm now broke)

Birthdays don't get much better than this: a (sort-of) surprise weekend in Vegas, with dinner at Emeril's steakhouse, a relaxing couple's massage in the morning, and a Nickelback concert at night, all while enjoying the luxury of the Bellagio (sans Ocean's 11 cast). I say "sort-of" surprise since I kind of blew that part for myself, insisting on knowing what mysterious things my lovely wife wanted to spend money on without telling me instead of exercising a little imagination and keeping my mouth shut. I'll know better next time, if she decides I'm worth surprising next time. Anyway, for our first time out to Sin City I think we did pretty well for ourselves, and learned a lot of rookie lessons that should help us out once we can afford to go there again in a year or ten. There's a lot to do there apart from gambling, and much of it is within walking distance, which is great because traffic there is so horrible that a 1-mile cab ride downtown costs the same as a 15-mile ride to the airport. There are restaurants and malls aplenty that cater to every desire or whim; say, if you're suddenly seized by the urge to pierce your ears (the wife, not me). The hotels themselves are like mini-cities, and we discovered you can walk almost a mile from one to the other and still be in the same building, since each has its own set of restaurants, shops, and theaters apart from the rest of the city. We avoided the casinos and did other things (the avoiding was easy since we hit our gambling limit within 30 minutes). Emeril's steakhouse - Delmonico inside the Venetian - was a very classy joint, with some of the biggest slabs of meat I've ever laid eyes on. I finished mine and wasn't hungry again until 4 o'clock the next afternoon. The spa inside the Bellagio was quite relaxing too, and I was reminded that I don't pamper myself nearly enough when the masseuse asked me when my last massage had been; I realized that it was almost two years ago, before my first deployment. I accumulated a good amount of stress and tension between then and now.

After that, we killed some time at the blackjack table - not very much time, see above - and then headed down to the MGM Grand for the Nickelback concert. We didn't know who'd be opening until that day, and were impressed with the opening acts: Papa Roach and Hinder, and then some band called Saving Abel we'd never heard of. Turned out that Saving Abel was probably the best of the three: we missed most of their songs, but came in as they announced that the next one was "for the troops". They proceeded with "18 Days", which, having just come back from deployment, I found quite moving in its description of the first few days of separation between a soldier and the ones he leaves behind:

Cause its been 18 days
Since I first held you
But to me it feels just like
It feels like a lifetime
I'm trying hard to re-arrange
Some say its the hardest thing to do
But that's another 18 days
Without you

Those who've never endured prolonged separation from their loved ones can't really appreciate how each day apart feels like an eternity, especially when you know there are so many hard days still to follow. I found that song a pleasant surprise and am always happy to get a shout-out. Papa Roach and Hinder came next; I know a fair bit of the former and they cranked the place up, but Hinder almost brought it back down again because they screamed so loud I could barely recognize the songs of theirs I did know, which aren't many. Then, as the minutes dragged on between their set and Nickelback's, creeping toward the hour mark, I feared Hinder would leave a drab stain on the rest of the evening. I should have known better: Nickelback finally opened with a cacophany of exploding fireworks and didn't let up for the next two hours.

Now, I've heard some pundits say that Nickelback is SOOOOOOO 2001, to which I reply: they aren't old, we were just into them before they got big. We were avant garde, baby. Besides, odd as it may seem, Nickelback has been part of Bree's and my relationship since the beginning. Their first big single, "How You Remind Me", had just come out on the airwaves when I met her, and I was humming it one day as we built sets for "Diary of Anne Frank". She remarked that she really liked that song, and I thought to myself: I really like you. I'm going to keep singing. From there, a Nickelback concert way up in Portland was our first big date, memorable not only for the music but fun things like me being so broke I couldn't afford dinner when we got there, and had to pay the tolls in Canadian money on they way back since I didn't have enough greenbacks to my name. Right about now, I hear some of you thinking: what low standards you have, most of their music is crap. And I'll admit, a good 50-75% of their tracks are some combination of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. And yet . . . and yet on each album, they have a few songs that are truly powerful, that perfectly capture feelings of nostalgia, love, and heartbreak. That's why we chose "Far Away" as the song for our wedding dance; Bree and I had already spent most of our official engagement halfway across the country from each other, and we both knew that the future held more time apart for us.

Cause you know,
you know, you know

That I love you
I have loved you all along
And I miss you
Been far away for far too long
I keep dreaming you'll be with me
and you'll never go
Stop breathing if
I don't see you anymore

It's not every woman who signs up for a life of repeated and involuntary separation, with the added knowledge that, if things go wrong, there may not be a reunion at the end. There's not enough penance in the world to make up for that, and that's why I like the closing verse, since I think it applies to me and every husband (and wife) in uniform who bids their family good-bye:

I wanted
I wanted you to stay
'Cause I needed
I need to hear you say
That I love you
I have loved you all along
And I forgive you
For being away for far too long
So keep breathing
'Cause I'm not leaving you anymore
Believe it
Hold on to me and, never let me go

We can never make up for the time apart, but only ask forgiveness, and do our best to honor the strength and sacrifice they've given us.

Anyway, good concert. And you can laugh at Nickelback, but whether or not they've stumbled onto these sentiments by accident, they're true, and they say them well.

1 comment:

Meghan said...

I still can't believe that Bree pierced her ears.

Also, you know the best birthday you had was when you opened your door and I was there on your front steps!
And some other people were with me too. But, really, who cares about them?