Las Vegas, NV -- July 20, 2007

Arrive Las Vegas 9:00pm Friday, July 20
Depart Las Vegas 10:40pm Saturday, July 21

On Friday night, after a five hour bus ride from Flagstaff, I exited the over-airconditioned bus, stuffed my bag in a storage locker, changed into a sleeveless dress and running shoes, packed my camera, notebook, sweater and book--After Dark, by Haruki Murakami--into my purse and, after double checking my map--I didn't need a repeat of Flagstaff--set off to run the four miles to Barnes and Nobles for the already in progress Harry Potter release party. Why not walk? I feel safer when I run, and I was feeling anxious about missing the first part of the release party--it had started at seven and was already 9:30.

Stepping outside felt like being hit with a blast from an electric hand dryer. It was intense, in a good way--I had that, this is what it means to not be in San Francisco for the summer feeling. The time and temperature digital displays on the tops of a couple of hotels read 102 degrees. The bright lights from "the strip" glittered all around me and as my feet hit the ground, as I accelerated, finding my groove, breezing past people at bus stops, I felt like I was rolling through a clothes dryer full of sequined nightclub clothes. I ran down Maryland Parkway, away from the foot traffic on the strip, past chiropractic clinics and law offices advertising $300 divorces. I consulted my map, ripped out from my Lonely Planet guidebook and, when I realized I wasn't going to make it without drinking water, I stopped in at Denny's, half hoping to find someone reading a book, as that is how After Dark, the novel I was carrying with me, begins--with a girl reading in Denny' Tokyo, though, not Las Vegas. There were no readers. The man at the counter gave me a glass of water. And then I was back out in to the dryer. A couple miles later, I arrived at air conditioned Barnes and Nobles, only to get my camera case turned into a frog. I should have asked him to do something about my sweaty hair instead.

Later that night, I found another Denny's, where I planned to stay up all night reading, just like the character in After Dark--the book takes place over the course of a night, with the time typed at the top of every few pages--but, when I finally got to the Denny's it was freezing cold. In contrast to the ninety-something degree heat it felt as cold as Montana in the winter. I couldn't read there, so read outside instead, eating 7-11 hot dogs (my latest guilty pleasure) with a homeless man , who explained string theory to me. Finally, his friend came around and, against my will, they decided it was better that I read indoors. I was insistant that it was too cold inside to read, so they found me a lounge with a fireplace! The rule--always ask for what you want. It might be possible. It wasn't a fire place exactly and it was a good twenty degrees cooler than the delightful warmth outside, but it was as close to a fireplace as you can get on the strip in the summer--a tiny pool with a flame in the middle of it, surrounded by a little ring of comfy couches. It warm enough to read. And, as I kept turning the pages, the character moved from Denny's, and into bar. Ha! Still in Tokyo, though.

The next evening, after a day of stalking book readers, returning to the Greyhound station felt like coming home. Maybe it was that my belongings were in the storage locker (I could bond again with my sunscreen!), or if it was the cell phone charging station, or what, but, when I saw the logo of the gray dog striding out on the wall, I got that feeling you get when you've come home. And a good thing, too. For the next seven weeks, this station, and others like it *will* be home.

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