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Dallas 3 a.m. 1

On Oct 1, I woke in Dallas at 3 a.m. before my flight back to Las Vegas. Picking the morning flight over the red eye became a battle of trying to sleep in a too soft bed with a thin pillow. I might have slept better on the overnight. I should have just stayed awake and pretended I was 20 again.

I hit stop on the phone alarm and saw a long line of alerts. In the dark, the light of the phone let me know, “20 dead in Las Vegas. More than 200 wounded.”

It was 1 a.m. in Vegas; it had just happened.

For years, I feared hearing a mass shooting in my city. Too many tourists; too many opportunities. It seemed very real.

I spent the weekend with Katie in north Texas. A fan of country, she would have been at the concert. Thankfully, she was in bed in Denton.

Matthew tried to get tickets to the Route 91 Concert on Saturday. He texted to say he had couldn’t get tickets. That left my son Albert. My phone showed he walked into the house at 10:06 p.m.; two minutes before the mass murder.

I sat in the dark and thought how lucky we were. None of our kids were there. Relief and then horror as an alert put the death toll over 50.

We landed in Las Vegas after 7 a.m. Curtains flowed out of two windows at the Mandalay Bay. The Strip was closed so we took Maryland Parkway to work. It felt like the wind had taken the heart out of Las Vegas.

A Justice tried to give blood but the line was 3 hours deep and she had to come back to hear oral arguments. She never was able to give blood.

Albert woke up confused. He read my text, “Are you okay?” He looked out the window. A bus went by so he figured everything was okay. Then he Googled Las Vegas and saw the news. “Oh, that’s why they texted.”

He went out and bought six cases of water to take to the first responders. It seemed like all he could do. He talked to a few of them. Everyone was feeling grief. Not too many people wanted to talk about what had happened.

He kept pausing the news to ask us questions. “Why did he do it?” “I can’t believe he did it.” “Do you think he cared?”

I didn’t know what to say. I had the same questions.

I donated some money to the Vegas Shooting Fund. By the end of the week, it totaled more than $10 million.

Most of the victims were from California. Of my friends, at least 12 knew somebody shot or killed. A large number of people were from my hometown of Bishop. One little town of 4,000 people and so many people were at the concert.

Las Vegas gets a bad reputation as a place no one calls home. Nearly 50 million people visit every year.

But on the first day, United Blood Services collected more than 600 pints of blood; they are lucky to collect 100 pints a day. As people stood in line, businesses brought sandwiches, water, pizza, cake, umbrellas, and chairs. Everyone wanted to help. Our community showed through.

By the end of the week, you could find #VegasStrong on most of social media accounts and billboards around the city.

The mass murder stung us. But it didn’t stop us from being people who care.

I’m still numb to the whole event. I would give anything to wake up in Dallas at 3 a.m. to see nothing on my phone.

On the Path from Small to Large 0

Small.
Brownie Cottage.
300 square feet.
Enough room to sit.
And maybe spin all around.
The size of a gingerbread doghouse.
If the dog was a small mastiff.
A big dog with a very large appetite.
With no place to store the dog food bags.
The minimalists say we all could stand to slim down.
That our mega mansions, stuff, and stacks of books signify waste.
But the very thought of living in a one-room cabin frightens me:
Like Thoreau living in an urban forest with no solitude or private pond.
The stacks of books, hand selected, some with gold leaf edges are precious friends.
Even if they spill off the shelves and pile up in towers on the floor.
“You’re a hoarder,” say visitors who look down in disdain at my collection of wordy excess.
And although I attempt to purge, sort, and reduce the pages, it is hard to part company.
They all contain dreams, fantastic journeys, ginormous thoughts, hidden truths, ineffable fruit, obsolete wisdom, scientific hypotheses, and farce.
Put them on a Kindle, they say, yet most are out-of-print, esoteric, or hand-me-down treasures.
Which makes it all the more difficult to release them to a better place; a Goodwill, or a book sale.
So they stand stacked like beleaguered sentries circled in spindly towers keeping silent watch over words cluttering the floor.
They wait and watch with dread wondering when they will be released into the world and set free.
Each knows I haven’t the courage to sort, pick, or drop any of them into a box.
A certain belief none of them will be downsized to shoehorn them into a tiny house.
Or are they mistaken to express this joyful expectation that they are so highly regarded?
Unfortunately some must be labeled, screened, and stacked for certain delivery to the curb.
The house must shrink from 3,500 to 1,700 squares, albeit not a one-room schoolhouse.
It is still smaller than the library where the sentries now stand guard.
The childhood adventures remain and the college texts with inspired margin notes.
Each is carefully stacked next to the poems and dime-store mysteries.
The free classics will find a home electronic and portable.
Words stacked neatly alphabetical in my library virtual.
I will sneak in some Steinbeck or Holmes.
The rest will be donated for free.
To give others pleasure or pain.
The words will worm inward.
To plant a seed.
An inspirational spark.
To think.
Large.

Copyright 2015, Michael S. Sommermeyer. All Rights Reserved.

[plain]This shape poem works from one to 20 words and then back to a single word. Pick a topic and write your own shape poem. Add it to the comments below.[/plain]

Feel Better, Already? 0

Letter to the editor of the Las Vegas Sun, December 2005

What are they really looking for at Hoover Dam?

Coming home from Texas after Thanksgiving with a small trailer load of furniture I left Kingman wondering if I should drive through Laughlin or cross Hoover Dam. The signs and the radio messages in Kingman made it clear my trailer would be inspected. Since past inspections were cursory I decided we could move across the dam as usual and put an end to our 1,100 mile journey.

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