Thursday, May 4, 2017

The End of a Tradition

This Sunday will likely mark our final visit to Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage, ahead of moving back to Southern California. It will also be the first and only time we'll pay for parking on the Strip, which I still maintain was a huge mistake, considering that that's where the majority of tourists in Las Vegas go, and it doesn't pay to be greedy about where or how long they park their cars.

This visit is once again courtesy of the Clark County School District, which has on its Teacher Appreciation Week page coupons for various activities, including free admission for a teacher and a guest at the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. As with the last two times, the people at the ticket booths only care that you have a CCSD ID and my dad, a high school teacher, does, as well as me and Meridith. So we four will have no trouble getting in.

I think this is mainly for Meridith, who loves dolphins, but it's also for the rest of us because it's quite possibly the most relaxing spot in Las Vegas, the one place I've found here that is complete peace. I like seeing the dolphins, and even glancing at the tigers and other animals in the Secret Garden section in the back, but I love just sitting at a table in the shade, preferably near one of the dolphin pools, reading. And I've done that in all the times we've been there. In fact, this post follows a tradition I started in 2014, which you can read here.

Briefly, back then, I read The Fault in Our Stars, which got me hooked on reading John Green's other novels, and Paper Towns followed, on the day that we were celebrating Meridith's birthday at the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, in which she got to paint with the dolphins. Of course, I was there to see that, but in the other blank times during the day, I was reading Paper Towns, sitting exactly where I wanted to sit, reading in one of my favorite places in Las Vegas.

The next time we went there, I brought Paper Towns with me again, and I think by that time, I had my own copy. That next time was before the movie was released in July 2015, and of course I saw that in theaters. And I like the movie as equally as the book.

So here we are again. As is my tradition, I will bring Paper Towns with me again. And just like those other times, I'll probably read it cover to cover yet again. Thinking back to those other times with Paper Towns at one of those tables near a dolphin pool in the shade, I realize that my experiences at the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, with that near-spiritual peace, with Paper Towns, was rare stability in this valley. It wasn't just an hour, or an hour and a half, or two hours. It was the entire day. And in fact, it's why we plan to get there before 10 a.m. when they open. They're open from then until 5 p.m. and we're going to be there the entire time. It's one of the few places here that has meant so much to us, and certainly one of the flew consistently reliable places. I don't know yet how the rest of the Mirage might have changed (we considered it our home casino, what with all we had done there before we moved to Las Vegas and afterward, which can be found in that previous linked post), but I'm absolutely sure that the atmosphere of the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat has not changed. It'll be a proper farewell for us. And my copy of Paper Towns will always bear these many happy visits.