Thursday, 8 February 2018


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.
And 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.
But it's not America.
It's a 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.
Life 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 disappointed. Dissatisfied.
You 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.
Often 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.
How you thought life would look, should look, 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.
Where's 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 nothing...nothing solid?
But it's not a bad life, it just worked out differently.

Picture credit: Downtown Stoneleighville, P. R. Francis