Saturday, November 26, 2011

Welcome to My World

When I graduated in 1992 from a private New York City university with a Ph.D. in English literature, I was ready to be employed. As usual, there were no jobs in the humanities, but I did not give up. Looking in my library at all the books on Virginia Woolf (the topic of my dissertation), I found which cities the publishers were in, called information for their phone numbers, and then asked for the editors and  what they wanted me to submit. Lo and behold, one press, a good one at the time, sent me a contract after looking at my material. This was the beginning of my new life.

I was unmarried and desperate for work, so I was open to moving anywhere. Staying in the Northeast was my greatest desire, but parts of the South were okay, and even the Midwest or California had possibilities. There were also the places I wouldn't go. Not Florida, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Alaska, Montana, or Idaho. One place not on either list was Las Vegas, Nevada. But when I sent out my 50+ applications and went on my painful on-campus interviews, it was a large public university in Las Vegas that offered me the job.

June came around and I was packed and ready to go (they had summer school teaching for me). I left the East coast and looked out my airplane window at the stretch of homes, businesses, and highways that are NYC and its surroundings.  When I arrived in Las Vegas (after looking out the window only to see nothing but desert on initial descent), a new colleague, who offered to let me stay at her home in Blue Diamond (just outside of Las Vegas), picked me up. As we stepped out of the air conditioned elevator into the parking garage a wave of dry heat overwhelmed me. Through the concrete poles of the garage I could see the lights of the LV Strip, foreign and disorienting, and my colleague, waving her arm with a flourish of delight cried, "Welcome to your new desert home!"

At the time, I resented the statement. My plan was to leave as soon as I found another position. Not in my wildest imagination did I ever think I would be here 17 years later. I would like to tell you how this East coast girl survived her struggle to adjust to the life and landscape of the desert Southwest, but that would be a lie. I still struggle with the place that has given me so much--an awesome job teaching Virginia Woolf, a daughter who is a native of this place, a husband who allows me the structure and time to be creative, and friends who laugh at my jokes and with whom I share secrets.

In spite of myself here I am, living in a Vegas of my own. And you, too, are welcome to it.