Sunday in Laughlin was somewhat disconcerting. The Mass for the nearest parish was actually in the casino. The first few rows of seats were chairs set up auditorium style, reminiscent of a church, but the back half of the room was set up with long tables and chairs around them. I arrived early so that I got a seat near the front. The priest announced that he had just celebrated his 70th birthday and was thanking those of his parishioners who had helped him celebrate. His accent sounded strangely familiar, and then he mentioned that he was from a part of New Jersey where I had met my husband. When I did the math, I figured that he must have been in the seminary class with a priest friend of ours, and when I asked him afterwards, he confirmed it. It seemed odd that this priest on the West Coast should have come from the small area of the East Coast where we had once lived.
After Mass, I was once again plunged into the chaos of the casino, with the noise of the machines taking people's money, the voices of those funneling their money into the machines or betting live, and everywhere smoke, except one tiny part of the casino reserved for those of us who preferred not to smoke second hand. As I remembered from a brief trip to Las Vegas, on our way somewhere else, almost no one looked happy, except for a few couples who seemed to be gambling in tandem.
I went outside to take a walk in town, strolling by several more casinos, and a few stores, but at least the air was clear compared to the thick smoke inside. As I crossed the highway in the Skywalk built over it, I discovered a Mexican restaurant, with a whole series of windows overlooking the highway and the mountains. I requested one of the tables by the windows. colorfully decorated with suns and moons, and was serenaded by beautiful Mexican music while the setting sun cast shades of orange and deep blue gray on the landscape outside.
I was convinced to eat in this restaurant because menudo was on the menu, a favorite of mine which is difficult to find even in San Diego, except on the weekends (of course it was Sunday here, but it looked as if it were on the menu every day). The smoky soup with tripe and hominy was satisfying, as was the Mexican shrimp cocktail. While I ate, I studied the chairs at the various tables, which were carved into parrots, sunflowers, hummingbirds, calla lilies and fruit in a flamboyance of brilliant hues that invested the evening with the ambience of a fiesta. Though the ceiling was painted to look like a cloudy sky, I felt as if the sun were rising in my heart throughout a delightful dinner.
The next morning we were shoehorned back into the non-deluxe motor coach, and I traveled with my faithful French horn in my lap instead of under my feet. I'm not sure which way was more uncomfortable, but I was thrilled when we made it back to our point of departure and I was able to unbend myself and describe the grand adventure to my daughter, who met the bus and brought me back to her house, so I could drive home, where the silence and the untainted air were welcome!