Actually, the main event this week was the final concert of my beloved Las Vegas Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus. It was awesome. Powerful. Transcendent at times, and I'm not just whistling Dixie. I didn't even notice when the harpist's music was caught by the air conditioning and fluttered away like a deranged sparrow. During the one number where she and two flutes were the only accompaniment, no less. She snatched that music outta the air, jammed it back onto her stand, and started strumming like crazy. Hardly missed a beat.
The kid is 15, and already a pro.
Anyway, it's been wrenching and tender and hopeful and weepy, and my blog is just one of many things I've neglected while navigating those emotionally turbulent waters. (I'm writing this wearing a 10-year old nightgown while every stitch of clothing I own is waiting its turn in the laundry line from the netherworld. With luck I'll be dressed by May.)
Also, I'm working on a 'guest post' for MMB right now, and that is occupying what few synapses haven't been employed getting 150 young musicians to all sing and play the same notes at the same time and at the same rate of speed.
However, since a number of you (including my far too bossy little sister) have asked for another post, I thought I would share with you my own personal experience of trauma and growth which took place on September 11, 2001. It's a story of hardship and triumph, a testament to sheer endurance and one woman's determination to overcome against insurmountable odds, a memorial to the unbreakable American spirit which enables all of us to nobly press forward and spit in the face of tragedy and heartbreak, giving the metaphorical finger to enemies of freedom everywhere.
On September 11, 2001, I had to renew my driver's license.
A little background:
Our family had moved to Las Vegas from San Juan, Puerto Rico, just a month earlier, because we've always had a knack for arriving in a new locale at the most hideous time of year for that particular corner of the planet.
Who moves to Las Vegas in August? I'll tell you who. The same people who moved to Seattle in November, 1990, which marked the beginning of the wettest, snowiest, most diabolical winter the northwest had seen in 50 years. (Yes, yes, I know it's been bad this year, too. Las Vegas hasn't exactly been a paradise, y'know. I've had to wear a sweater nearly every day for the last four months. So quit whining. We're all suffering.)
Where was I? Oh, yes. Who? The same people who moved to the Caribbean in July at a time when the power was out which meant, of course, no air conditioning. But at least there were plenty of mosquitos so big they required FAA licensure. Yep, that was a plus.
So, in keeping with our track record of not googling the climate before calling the movers, we arrived in Las Vegas in August, 2001.
After a Celestial Kingdom-esque week at Mandalay Bay (at taxpayers' expense, no less, so, you know, thanks for that) we decided to find a place to stay that was closer to where our house was being built.
Our first attempt was a seedy little joint called Santa Fe Station. Without going into a lot of ugly detail, let me just assure you, it was NOT Mandalay Bay. It didn't even qualify as Mandalay Bay's dumpster. Mandalay Bay would have seen a dermatologist to have Santa Fe Station lanced.
And the first thing the criminals at Santa Fe Station did was "lose" my driver's license, which I had left at the desk as collateral while we toured a room, in case we, I don't know, waltzed off with the vibrator or something.
Eventually, we settled on a hotel that didn't have a 'pay by the hour, red lampshades extra' option, and I determined to take care of a number of details that had fallen by the wayside in our move, including replacing my license.
The first order of business, however, was the most urgent: I was out of Prozac. Unless we wanted the new town slogan to be "Whatever Happens in Vegas Goes Up in a Mushroom Cloud", DeNae needed to get her hands on some happy pills, pronto.
So I contacted the insurance-recommended doctor's office to schedule an appointment. The receptionist's response was a little odd. I asked if the doctor was, in fact, taking new patients. And she said, quote, "Uhhhh..."
So I called the insurance company to explain that, apparently, the doctor was booked up and her office staff was under some kind of gag order that prevented them from forming actual words, and could someone please shed any light on the situation?
True story. It turned out the doctor had been murdered. By her mother. Who then killed herself.
So, no, she wasn't accepting new patients at that time.
I thanked the insurance company representative for the heads' up, offered several suggestions on how to improve customer service starting with "not referring clients to dead people", and asked for another recommendation.
I got another name, and on September 11, 2001, I went to see this doctor to pick up a scrip for my anti-goforyourthroat pills.
Now, by the time my appointment actually came, I knew all about the terrible events unfolding in New York. I had two little kids with me (my kindergartner and my 3rd grader), and they kept watching the TV while we waited in the lobby, drawing pictures in the notebook I provided of planes crashing into buildings and people falling out. I'm not making this up. My husband keeps one of those pictures on the wall of his office. Kinda reminds him of why he does what he does.
After 45 minutes of waiting, during which time I filled out a small rain forest worth of forms, the receptionist informed me that the doctor would not see any new patients unless they could provide a copy of their driver's license. I explained that my license was currently being used to establish a new identity for the night manager at Santa Fe Station, and that I therefore could not give them anything to copy.
Well, then, sorry. No license, no appointment.
I don't remember much of what happened after that, but I'm pretty sure at one point I actually swore in Klingon. Whatever the case, one thing was clear: My life was only going to become more complicated in this town if I didn't have a driver's license.
So, being the Prozac-deprived semi-psychopath I now was, I concluded that the only logical course of action was to take myself and those two little ones over to the DMV and get a Nevada state driver's license, essentially from scratch.
This meant taking the written test. Which I did with my kids crawling around my feet on a floor so filthy with DMV germs that the creation of anti-bodies which resulted likely immunized them from every major communicable disease, including whatever virus it is that makes otherwise sane adults think Will Farrell can act. So that was good.
After I passed the test (barely, since who really knows or cares how many drunken prostitutes can legally be permitted in a rented Humvee limo on Prom night? The Nevada test gets down to practical matters. The answer is "42".) I began the long day's journey into oblivion that only battle hardened DMV customers can appreciate.
And of course, there were TVs everywhere, all tuned to that feedback loop that had my 3rd grader and children like her convinced that NYC was being attacked by several hundred planes crashing into several hundred buildings.
Four scary-drawing-intensive hours later, my number came up to see a clerk and finalize the paper work for my driver's license. Passed the eye test. Yes, I'll be an organ donor -- do they take Wurlitzer? Weight, umm...let's go with 165. That's right, lady. One-six-five. You got something to say? Didn't think so.
Now, for the ID part. I was prepared. I had looked up the required documentation for receiving a new license when the old one was partying with its other fraudulently obtained credential buddies (that's what they called it on the web site, verbatim), and handed the clerk both my social security card and my birth certificate.
Uh oh. Hmmm. Yeah. Weeeelll, there could be a problem here.
It seems I had caved to social pressure and that blasted institution called "tradition", and changed my name after I got married. And as a good doo-bee, I changed it with the Social Security Administration as well. So now these two perfectly legitimate forms of ID had different names on them.
The clerk assured me that everything would be all right, but she had to get the OK from her supervisor to proceed.
Cut to the supervisor. This guy was in his early 60's, and had obviously retired in all the ways that mattered except the one where you stop showing up for work. His desk was EMPTY, except for his hands folded snugly and tight atop an unused blotter. There wasn't even a name plate. He was so inert he could have been described as "glacial". Am I painting a vivid picture here?
The clerk walked over to him and explained the situation, quite well, I thought. Had a license. Was stolen. Has the proper ID. Passed the test. Needs Prozac. Stat.
He listened impassively, then rose to join her at the desk where my two now-starving children and I were waiting. Without even acknowledging I was there, nor, for that matter, casting a reflection on any mirrors, he looked at but did not touch the two cards on the desk. Looked a second time. Looked up at the ceiling (awaiting revelation?). Looked back at the cards.
Looked, finally, at me, and without so much as a hint of irony observed, "Your married name is not on your birth certificate."
And with that, he turned and walked the eight feet back to his desk, where he refolded his hands, stared into space, and waited for someone to drive a stake through his heart.
Seriously?? That's how you handle things, you cold blooded, vacuous waste of carbon and polyester?? By cleverly ascertaining that my parents had not signed up for the Ambassador Class Birth Certificate which included the Prescience Package, and therefore had no way of predicting what my married name would someday be??
ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??
And this is where my version of the total structural collapse we'd been watching all morning took place.
The clerk started to say, "It's all right, dea--" but was cut off by, "No, it's NOT all right! (Initiate chin quiver sequence) Nothing about this horrid place (engage tear ducts) is all right! It's hot and it's dry (proceed with nose running) and everything is covered with rocks and dirt and people steal your stuff and make you go without your Prozac (activate sobbing protocol) and kill off your doctors! And I can't open a bank account or (big gulps of air) register my kids for school or even get a friggin' library card (thank clerk for tissue) because I don't have a driver's license! And now that (shrieking volume at full throttle) USELESS IDIOT over there tells me I can't even GET a driver's license because I wasn't freaking MARRIED when I was BORN!!!
And if that isn't enough, I don't really weigh 165!! What the hell is THAT all about???
And so it was, that on September 12th, 2001, I loaded the same two children into my van, packed up my social security card and my birth certificate, and drove the 110 miles to St. George, UT, where I obtained a copy of my Utah driver's license, which I had acquired one summer while on leave from Puerto Rico in violation of at least thirty good laws and seven or eight stupid ones. There were no lines. There was no fuss. There were no supervisors questioning my parents' precognitive abilities. Simply, "Stand here, please. Smile. Hazel is such a lovely eye color. No, you don't look an ounce over one-sixty."
So, yes, September 11, 2001 really was a terrible day. Traumatic. Horrifying. Called into question my faith in humanity. Left me feeling vulnerable and exposed to the whims of sociopaths bent on world domination. I don't know that I'll ever get over it.
And on top of it all, there was that crazy stuff in New York, too!