Heaven Is a Walmart Parking Lot on a 100 Degree Day

 

“We’ll be back in fifteen minutes.”, they said, fifteen minutes…

Supplies were to be gathered for our Westward odyssey. So, my parents accompanied by my oldest brother, David, and his wife, Lindsey, journeyed fearlessly into the mouth of the nearest Las Vegas Walmart. It was my chosen duty to stay with our newly acquired mobile domicile, and insure that it would still be there upon my family’s return. Our RV (Recreational vehicle for those unfamiliar with the way of the road) sat in the baron Supercenter parking lot surrounded by stucco houses and strip malls made up entirely of neighboring pawn shops. These features complemented the desperately picturesque skyline of Las Vegas. The grandiose casinos and hotels which mingle amidst the clouds above the city were humbled by the tan, sandy hills that hold the city hostage.

Fifteen minutes turned into thirty, and thirty minutes turned into forty-five, and forty-five minutes turned into an hour and a half…

Nevada is not cold in August, it’s hot. It’s too hot.

The RV, while standing as a monument to human innovation, is also a symbol of the endless potential for vacation and recreation that exists within all of us – a singular uniting force, if you will. It’s magnificent frame and sleek aerodynamic design, combined with space-age technological features such as having both AM and FM radio capabilities, all boil down into one thing: a giant toaster oven on wheels. Heat enters with no intention of leaving, or even cooling for that matter. They (You know, they…) say out in states like Nevada and Arizona that there is a kind of “dry heat”, and while this is true, the RV is the great equalizer. Whether it be humid New England weather, or this fancy Western “dry heat”, the RV will 100% of the time transmute any form of sunlight into the same kind of hell fire.

   As I sat, bathing in the fuming efforts of the desert sun, the driver’s seat began to swallow me. It’s grey cloth fabric slowly pulled me in like quicksand so as to more conveniently absorb my soul. It was as if the RV was growing stronger with every bead of sweat that it swallowed. I removed myself from the cockpit in self defense. I thought perhaps opening a window would help the quell the unforgiving temperature which was on a continuous rise. I was wrong. Opening the window simply allowed for more heat to enter. There was no water to be found because that’s what my family had ventured into the Las Vegas Walmart Supercenter for, amongst other necessary rations. I couldn’t call them to come out and give me the keys because of the impenetrable force field that was the walls of Walmart to my cell phone reception. Having seen all of the Jason Bourne movies, I knew I had to act quickly.

    I opened the door, half stumbling out of the RV into a world of blinding white light. Once my eyes adjusted I realized that this particular Walmart parking lot seemed to be expanding, growing larger by the second  – could I have stepped out of the RV into a rapidly expanding alternate universe, is this what was causing my family to take so long? No, I was just nearing a fever dream state due to dehydration, heat exposure, and pure isolation. On top of all of that, I discovered it was in fact hotter outside of the RV than on the inside. Who knew?!

An hour and a half turned into two hours, and two hours turned into the complete dismantling of the space time continuum…

The five of us – Mom, Dad, David, Lindsey, and Myself – had landed at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas the night before. Now, I for one tend to overthink when on an airplane.The fact that you are flying hundreds of miles an hour above the Earth in a metallic tube and there is literally nothing you can do if anything goes wrong kind of gets to me for some strange reason. This fear – rational or not – was in full form during the flight out of Boston to Las Vegas. What started as a calm ascension, turned into absolute nightmare fuel when we flew directly into a lightning storm of epic proportions. Above us, below us, and beside us there were bursts of lightning tearing through the once tranquil night sky. The plane was now in a  state of constant turbulence.

Noticing my outright paranoia, David leaned forward and asked, “Are you okay?”  

“Planes don’t usually crash from turbulence.”, added Lindsey in an attempt to comfort me. Except, this was in no way comforting because the idea of the plane crashing had not yet entered my mind until She said that…

David and Lindsey were calmly seated in the row behind my Mother and I. The two of them have collectively spent more time traveling than most people can fathom. Whether it be hiking Everest, blazing their own trail to Machu Picchu, living out of a van as migrant workers in New Zealand, contracting Malaria in India, teaching English for two years in South Korea, getting children named after them in Samoa, or visiting Cuba under the fictional notion that they were there for “religious purposes”, David and Lindsey are two of the most interesting people you could ever have the good fortune of meeting on this planet Earth. Also, they were solely responsible for placing our family in the middle of an end-of-days-type storm on an airplane.

    Ever since I was in the eighth grade, David was either off traveling or off working in order to be able to travel. On top of that, my parents have always been on differing work schedules. My family has enormous love for one another, however, it got to a point where we never really saw each other. The only time my entire family was all together in the same place since I left for college was at David and Lindsey’s wedding, now two years ago. It was the best day ever. It was also on that day that we began discussing the notion of going on a huge family road trip. The last time we were on a vacation together was my Freshman year of high school, so to most, this was just a nice idea, unlikely to actually amount to anything. However, David being David did his David thing.

I can specifically recall shooting hoops with him in the driveway after he had returned from some time out in Yellowstone. After I took him to school in the paint, David asked me what my plans were for college, travel, and life in general…At the end of my response he looked deep into my eyes and said, “Things only happen if you make them happen.” David, with Lindsey’s support, made this trip happen.

Reeling from Lindsey’s assurance that we most likely won’t all crash and die, I looked around at both my Mother and Father on the plane and noticed that there was something a little off about them: They were relaxed. Finally, they were on a vacation, an actual adventure with their loved ones. We weren’t all connecting over the phone or skype, we were here, together, in the flesh, heading into the unknown. This moment centered me. I was not in control, no one was, and that was somehow the most calming sensation. Finally, I stopped overthinking and just took everything for what it was. As a result of this instance of clarity, the lightning storm became a sort of primordial precursor to the vibrant glow of Las Vegas at night. The blood red explosions in the sky transitioned into multi-colored magnificence in the middle of the desert. We coasted down towards what seemed like more of an alien planet from above than a man made oasis where the thirst for any vice could be quenched.

The next morning we picked up our recreational vehicle from Cruise America RVs. It stood fourteen feet in length and about nine feet in height, however, its potential could not be measured.

(Raw power!)

     (Maximum storage opportunities!)

        (Pilot and copilot seating, with armrests, and adjustable                                          cup holders for your cups!)

(Food friendly!)

(Stretch out your legs and take a load off!)

(Do you sleep? Well then you’re in luck!)

                                                    (Not to scale.)

There was even a golden retriever detailed onto the door, which my Mother obviously named “Maverick”, and he became our surrogate family dog for the adventure that was ahead of us.

Finally, we were cruisin’. Our first stop? The nearest Walmart Supercenter…

The heat had drained the life force from my phone, I was surely next…

Realizing that I had lost all trace of time, primal instincts took over. Beginning with my shirt, I attempted to cool my body by removing my clothing. But my shirt wasn’t enough. My shoes and socks went next, followed by pants, and then letting my hair down. So there I stood, in only my underwear, rocking back and forth in the middle of the RV looking up into a tiny little clip-on fan as if it were my lord and savior. Just as I made contact with rock bottom and began to wonder if there ever even was a Walmart Supercenter, or if this was all just an elaborate ruse for my family to eliminate me from the tree, I began to receive answers to questions I hadn’t asked. Was this God reaching out to me? No, it was the RV. Every version of Native American vision quests inaccurately portrayed on daytime reruns of Walker Texas Ranger had prepared me for this grossly exaggerated experience. My sweaty boxers became a kind of ceremonial garb as I was baptized in my own perspiration within the womb of the recreational vehicle. I now felt just as I had felt on the plane during the lighting storm. A sense of clarity blew over me. I’m assuming this was from the tiny clip on fan, but nevertheless, it blew over me. The RV and I now had an understanding of each other. This was more than a recreational vehicle, this was more than our mobile domicile, this RV was the seventh member of our journey (Maverick included).

     Then, amidst the pique of my self perpetuated delusion, the RV door swung open. From out of the white light of the outside world, the outlines of figures appeared. There stood my Parents, along with David and Lindsey, frozen, with supplies in hand. Meanwhile, there I stood, essentially naked and covered in sweat staring up into a fan smaller than my fist.

“…Are you okay?”, asked David.

Slowly, I turned my head toward them wearing what I can only assume was a deranged smile ear to ear and said,“Yeah I’m great. What happened to fifteen minutes?”

 

 

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