Lust, Greed and Kindness

Las Vegas, the city where scams are born and matured into cash cows, is nonetheless a wonder-filled “Never Never Land” for adults the world over. World class entertainment and restaurants support an ever flourishing tourist industry. Didn’t see it on Broadway? Chances are, you can catch it in Vegas.

When the massive advertising campaign to turn Vegas into a family vacation spot fell short, hotel owners reverted to calling the city an adult playground. The catchy phrase, “What happens in Vegas; stays in Vegas,” became a new mantra. It’s the mecca of choice for dozens of major business conventions every year.

In spite of abundant security cameras on the streets and in the hotels, criminals try every which way to cheat the casinos, steal credit cards and disguise themselves from their photos on black lists. Identity theft was so successful a few years ago, that an hour’s drive from Vegas in the little town of Pahrump, located in Nye County, the Sheriff at the time had his identity stolen.

Prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas, but high rollers who gamble fortunes there on any given night can find a gorgeous woman to soothe away their losses or celebrate their winnings. In Pahrump and all of Nye County, brothels are legal. Shiny black limos transport pleasure seekers from Vegas over the mountains far into the desert to the famous Chicken Ranch or the elegant, Resort and Spa at Sheri’s Ranch where coyotes are their only neighbors.

Beautifully landscaped subdivisions are home to a growing number of families in both Pahrump and Las Vegas. When the Nevada building boom started decades ago, people came for the work and stayed to take advantage of inexpensive home prices and good schools along with the many parks, lakes, hiking trails, movie theaters and great restaurants.

Away from the hotels and casinos, everyday living in Southern Nevada is a surprising study in American normalcy. Families go to church every Sunday and enthusiastically support their kid’s activities.

In the midst of the stories of lust, greed and gluttony said to be inspired by gambling, 67 year old Realtor Vickey Decker lives her life through her heart, her God, and a quietly relentless pursuit of the good in people and situations. Although she’s no stranger to personal heartache and loss, her invincible joie de vivre can brighten any room. A majority of her real estate clients for the past 25 years have become her friends.

vickey decker

“I try and see the good in people. I normally trust them until they prove they can’t be trusted. Some people think that’s naïve and stupid; I don’t. But that doesn’t mean that I always made right choices.”

Vickey moved to Vegas for the work in 1987, got hired as a change girl at one of the casinos and was soon earning over $100 a day in tips. With family to help support, it took her two years to save enough money to pass the Nevada State licensing exams in 1989 and get her real estate salesperson license.

Working only on weekends at first as a real estate rental consultant, she soon graduated to helping people buy and sell homes. “It’s not about the money; it’s about the people, but I earned more money in real estate that year than I had in any of my full time jobs,” she smiles.

Born in San Bernardino, California, Vickey spent her formative years in Stillwater, Oklahoma. She says she found God at 15 and has lived her life by Christian principles ever since. You can hear the Oklahoma twang in her voice when she talks about her love of her job. As she recalls her rocky road to a successful real estate career, you get a hint of the cast-iron backbone behind that gentle gaze.

She quit school in grade 8 to help support her family by working as a Car-hop at the Sonic Burger in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Years later, she got her GED. By 17 she was married and pregnant. At 19 she discovered that her husband had been cheating on her.

“He spent three days with prostitutes and came home all drugged out. He raped me and that was that.”

With $200, one suitcase and a baby in her arms, Vickey left Stillwater and took a bus as far away as she could get, to Tacoma Washington, where she landed a job as a housekeeper.

One day, she came back from work to collect her daughter from the sitter to find that her husband had followed her from Oklahoma and kidnapped the baby. Vickey travelled back to Stillwater, moved in with her Mom and filed for divorce. She was awarded custody of her daughter by the Court.

Unyielding in the search for her daughter, she says, “I spent four and a half years tracking down my ex-husband. Our family attorney helped a lot using DMV records. I just missed him in St. Louis Missouri, then Arkansas, and finally found him in Fort Worth, Texas with his new wife. I went in and took my daughter back from the baby sitter while he was at work.”

Married again at 32, after 12 years living with her second husband, Vickey found him cheating on her with other women and left him. “It’s a matter of the covenant of marriage talked about in the Bible. Adultery is just not okay,” she states.

Vickey moved to Pahrump, Nevada with her third husband. After 21 years of marriage, her husband’s increased drinking and drug use led Vickey to AA meetings for the spouses of addicts to try and understand the disease.

She says, “I went to Alcoholics Anonymous to understand my husband and ended up understanding myself.”

Although that marriage ended in her third divorce, Vickey rose from the proverbial ashes and continued on. Her life hasn’t been easy, but personal tragedies have left her with an acute awareness of the need for kindness in this world.

“I believe in living a purpose-filled life. 30 years ago, I realized that my life’s purpose was to help others,” she says.

Whether it’s the 70 year old couple who needed help moving into their new home, the friend whose marriage collapsed and needed a bed for a while or the cat in need of a home Vickey Decker is the angel who rescued them. Nobody’s been able to clip her wings yet.

(Vickey works at All Star Real Estate in Pahrump, NV. Phone: 702-378-2575)

Las Vegas Photo Compliments of: http://www.pachd.com/

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Suicide and Chocolate on the Beach

This might be Elizabeth

That night, the roar of the surf crashing against a wooden pier a few hundred yards down the beach was somehow reassuring; like knowing that the heartbeat of the place was alive and well. A blustery wind had come and gone hours earlier, but the ocean was still hurling foaming whitecaps onto the shore as though trying to rid itself of something foreign to its depths. Instead of  kelp being thrown onto the sand, it might well have been her body if that first impulse had not been thwarted by a wild happenstance of nature.

She was sitting at the edge of the beach on a concrete wall, her feet dangling above the sand, drinking coffee from a thermos and nibbling on a brick of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate. Dressed in an oversized dark blue hoody, cutoff jeans and black flip-flops, she might have been anywhere from 40 to 60. It was difficult to pinpoint her age in the dark. Elizabeth isn’t her real name and her real occupation is different. The name of the other player that night is changed as well for privacy’s sake. This is her story in her words.

“A funny thing happened on the way to my death tonight. I had an overwhelming need to pee,” she chuckled. “Walking into the water to drown myself with pee running down my legs just wasn’t in my movie. You know, the one where the star walks into the water and just before she dives under, she turns and smiles tearfully as we flashback to the faces of the angry people in her life screaming insults at her. Then we fast forward to their guilty looks when they find her body washed up with the tide the next day.”

She took a bite of chocolate and smiled, chewing and staring out toward the dark water.

“I had three cigarettes to smoke and I’d finished two. I was just about to take off this sweatshirt and leave it with the chocolate and coffee for one of the homeless guys, before I walked into the water to swim to Japan, when the urge to pee hit. So, I bundled everything into my pockets and headed at a run for the public bathrooms down the beach.

“I barely made it in time. And there I was, sitting on a dirty public toilet seat – I’d covered it with toilet paper first – crying my eyes into a bloated mess, thinking maybe I’d finish the chocolate first. What kind of idiot bothers about germs on a toilet seat when they know that they’re going to be dead in an hour?”

When asked what brought her to this moment in time, she explained:

“I’ve loved the same man for decades now. We had a perfect life until he changed completely after a heart operation. I left him for a long time but we never got divorced, probably because I didn’t find another man to love. I went back a couple of years ago. He said he loved me and I hadn’t really stopped loving him, but he’s 50% asshole and 50% nice guy.

“There was a question of money involved. He thought that I was going to steal his house out from under him for some paranoid reason – he’s a pot-head – smokes way too much as a medical marijuana patient and goes into vicious rants every day. I came here, an emotional wreck, to sell my car and get away from his rants.  A relative took me and my old dog in. I’ve been staying on an enclosed porch in the house where she and her friend live. The friend’s a really nice, understanding guy, but she’s fed up with my emotional wretchedness. My Irish temper gets the best of me at times. So there are problems there.

“Anyway,  I had three daughters – one of them, also my closest friend, died in 2007 after a long illness – but the other two have joined in my crazy husband’s rants. I emailed them a long letter several months ago, telling them all how I felt about getting yelled at and called names and to start over. Didn’t work. Now he’s filed for divorce and my kids won’t talk to me. I’ve been shunned by my whole family. Even the daughter of the relative I’m staying with has turned against me after talking to one of my kids, calling me a liar and a victim and such. They’ve thrown love and kindness into the crapper where I’m concerned.

“When your only priority for your entire adult life has been your family, and they suddenly think you’re some kind of monster, your heart actually hurts. I thought I’d die, literally, of broken heart because I’m in so much emotional and physical pain. No such luck.”

Elizabeth started crying here and took a few minutes to compose herself before continuing.

“I met my husband when we were both Scientologists. That was a long time ago. Neither of us are have had anything to do with Scientology for 20 years. What he’s doing to me now is right out of a Hubbard policy letter for treatment of suppressive people, one’s enemies.

“First they must be disconnected from entirely, no communication whatsoever. Then they may be deprived of property or injured by any means and may be tricked, sued, or lied to, or destroyed. You can Google it.

“He won’t talk to me; he’s gotten himself a lawyer and filed for divorce. I have no clue what he’s telling everyone, or what I’m supposed to have done.

“Anyway, on the way back from the bathrooms, I walked by a guy sitting on a bench with his bicycle parked beside him. For some weird reason I sat down and we began talking. His name is Bob. He told me he was homeless by choice, that he’d made a lot of money in his time and was happy now that he’d chucked it all in. There was a rare kindness about him, like I mattered, like I was important.

“I told him the bare bones of my story, that I’d made tons of money as a loan officer but am broke now. I didn’t tell him I was getting ready to kill myself. As we chatted, I found myself thinking that instead of dying, I could become an Urban Camper, that’s what they call the homeless now, and just disappear off the grid entirely. Bob convinced me that any life situation could be handled.

“He warned me that choosing to be homeless wasn’t just a science project and to think it over carefully. He explained where and how to get food, wash clothes and one’s self, sleep and not be robbed or bothered. Being with him was like being soaked in the feeling of absolute freedom.

“I think Bob was the angel who saved my life tonight. There he was, a clean nice looking 60 year old, surviving in the outdoors and loving it. I’m starting to feel really stupid.”

Elizabeth said that she was going to sleep in her car for a few hours and then go back to the house where she was staying, pack up her things and start her life over.  She hasn’t been seen at that beach for weeks. Hopefully, she’s found a way to live well.

The Center for Disease Control reports that there are roughly 38,000 deaths by suicide each year in the U.S. and that suicide is the 4th leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18-65.

You never know when a few moments of kindness and understanding could save a person’s life.

(1st published in The Epoch Times copyright (c) 2015 S. Morgan Surgeoner)

You Should be 55 or older to Read this!

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“People are crazy, times are strange. I’m locked in tight; I’m out of range. I used to care but, things have changed.” Bob Dylan, “Things Have Changed.”

We came of age with the battle cry of, “Sex Drugs and Rock N’ Roll Forever.” In these supposedly post-recession days, many so-called seniors are looking through their hazy memories of an outrageous past into the present certainties of lost equity, crushed 401Ks, alienated children and divorce.

People decades younger talk glibly about the, “Graying of America,” and “The Grays,” as though being over 55 makes you part of an endangered species. Have they never heard of L’Oréal, Clairol, or the “Life Style Lift?” Take a look at Cher these days!

Our kids, the Generation X and Y’s have no clue what the era of “Sex, Drugs and Rock N’ Roll,” was all about. They don’t understand that it was a never-ending revolution which beats on in our hearts. Long ago, we buried our guilt from bruising the minds of those who simply could not understand. We still tell it like it is; deal with it.

Our youth was a time when the humongous sound amplifiers of groups like The Jefferson Airplane pushed the world off its axis just far enough for the angels of altruism to fly in and be heard; when John Lennon and Bob Dylan became Poets Laureate to the world, when walking around Europe or the Middle East on a poverty budget was only as dangerous as riding the New York subway. It was a time when the corner of Haight and Ashbury Streets in San Francisco was the center of another world where girls dressed themselves in flowers and flowing gowns or not at all; when Harvard Professor, Timothy Leary promoted LSD as a short-cut to enlightenment and his tiny pills exploded the consciousness of thousands. Surfing on acid – Crazy!

Nevertheless, altruism died in the jungles of Viet Nam. Patriots coming home were rewarded with spit on their uniforms and the eventual disclosure that it had all been a lie. A deluded President who thought he could run a war from the Oval Office found he’d lost it and in the process, caused the deaths of tens of thousands. Even though the anti-war demonstrators were proven right, the country was broken; Utopian dreams had expired.

We got jobs, married, bought homes with mortgages, reared children, and crushed our creative spirits into the manufactured lifestyle designed by Madison Avenue. While we were trapped in the status quo, our music graduated from tapes to C.D.s. Decades later, when the kids went on to live their own lives, we discovered that we’d lost whatever it was that brought us together and the old songs were echoing through hollow lives.

The mandatory makeover of souls from blithe to banal had worn thin and, like an old sweater that was always too tight, it was trashed. Many began smoking pot again but now as legitimate Medical Marijuana patients. For some, the path to freedom was reinvented – smoke a joint at the kitchen table, make a list of who gets what, file for divorce, revive the old familiar craziness.

Of course there were those souls on the fringes of the revolution – the Baby Boomers without a Rock soundtrack. They followed in their parents’ footsteps; married for life, worked hard, went to church, listened to Liberace or Lawrence Welk, raised a family, played with their grandchildren and looked forward to peaceful golden years. Then one or the other decided to have a different kind of old age – as a Single. The oath, “Till death do us part,” was deleted.

(Statistics are pointing toward an increasing number of divorces of people 55 and over.)

There’s no doubt that divorce at any age hurts. The question for Boomers is; does it hurt because there once was love and now there’s none? Or do we mourn the loss of our integrity because we once believed it was negotiable?

Did the artists among us sell out to get paid for ad agency work; have all the novelists retreated into teaching, are the adventurers stuck in their dens replacing life with National Geographic on the weekend, did the poets decide they had nothing more to say?

Bob Dylan’s song, “Things Have Changed,” could be a Boomer Anthem. Perhaps when you’re feeling down and have no energy for your family, club, travel or the garden, you can play this as a kind of reminder that you are still you no matter what hand you’ve been dealt.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9EKqQWPjyo&list=RDL9EKqQWPjyo#t=265

Thank you U Tube!

 copyright (c) 2015 Susannah Morgan Surgeoner