Once upon a time (not that what I'm about to tell is a fairy tale) I had a dream on a very small-scale to Martin Luther King's, a dream like thousand of others' about what I might be, what I could become, what life might one day look like. What I, along with my peers, might grow into. The future. Which as a child seemed a long way away; a maddening wait until I was old enough to vote or be considered an adult.
when I did make it to the States, without my parents, I still wasn't
legal. Barely. Though, of course, I adhered to the law. No drinking.
No gaming. Just Las Vegas baby with its larger-than-life persona and
imitated cities. That however wasn't what I wanted to tell, though
you should know I did revisit when I could legally play the one-arm
bandits, watch dice roll and chips being lost, not that I won a
convertible or any dough, or even met anyone on a winning streak,
just ladies of a certain age with glazed eyes and cups of coins which
dwindled rather than refilled. And afterwards there was always the
Bellagio fountain show. An operatic moment in the madness and
spectacular at any time of day, though at night it was perfection, as
good as candlelight on a table or a moonlit walk if you were that
kind of tourist, there to see the magnificent (and weird) playground
inside and outside the hotels and beside the casinos.
it's not America.
created bubble that's both real and unreal. A shimmering mirage in
the desert it sits in. Hotels and attractions gradually sink, are
finally brought down and are rebuilt more lavishly than they were
before, with more glitz and glamour and big names. The seedy side
concealed and shoved underground or to the outskirts, along with real
living. People making ends meet, marrying, having children, dying
etc. Just the same as anyone in any village, town, city, country.
though, at times, doesn't seem much different to that Las Vegas
bubble of unreality. A little more gritty perhaps, but often not how
you thought it might be. As if it might go pop or it's some strange
hallucinogenic dream you might wake up from. A comatose pantomime
which for all its acts (and much to your relief) didn't actually
happen. You were good enough. You weren't disappointing or
don't want to be that person either. The one who constantly seems
down on his luck, however fortunate he might appear to others less
fortunate than him. History mostly associates and portrays that
pitiful figure as male but it's women too, and whilst the causal
agents of our downturns today are different our spirits aren't. And
neither are our childish fancies.
we don't know why we want what we want or think we should have.
Sometimes they're not even our own got-to-haves, got-to-be, they're
just images sold to us by society – government schemes, commercial
businesses, peers or forbears – that indoctrinate us from a young
age and continue doing so. Then when a crash or a depression comes
it's a game-changer, even if it is of your own foolish making or
trivial compared to those others face, because when you're sunk,
you're sunk. In a slump. Turned inwards.
you thought life would look, should
didn't materialise, or hasn't yet, though it doesn't look as though
it's going to, and time's running out, or so it seems. There's
younger people coming up behind you with the same dreams, some of
them achieving them too and more, or like you realising it can be
hard to get by and feel worthy. Tough luck. Rough love. Unusable
skills. Human scrapheaps.
work when you need it? Where's relief that makes a difference to your
self-esteem and doesn't make you feel shameful taking it? Where is
that adult dream? Respectable work at a decent wage, a house (or at
least a room) in a tree-lined avenue, a partner, a couple of kids, a
nice car and a dog. Where did it go? Why did it amount to
it's not a bad life, it just worked out differently.
Picture credit: Downtown Stoneleighville, P. R. Francis