Sunday, April 29, 2007

Observations in a Wendover Casino

I finally made it to Wendover this weekend. It's about two hours from Salt Lake City and is famous for two things -- an old decaying air base where the crew of the Enola Gay trained in WWII and gambling since the 1990s.

Wendover wouldn't make my top 10 or even top 100 spots to go, but my dad was doing the inviting and my brother and his wife were coming. So, on Friday night after work, Steve and I drove into a setting sun, past the Bonneville salt flats and the iconic Metaphor: The Tree of Life (check out a picture at this link, and into another world called Wendover.

If you've never heard of Wendover, it's on the state line between Utah and Nevada. The first casino is located just inches west of the Nevada state line.

Utah has a reputation for being a clean-living kind of state. First you have the Mormans, who don't drink or smoke. Then you have all the outdoorsy types who own more stuff from REI than kitchen gadgets.

I had to say, I was saddened to see the number of morbidly obese people, loading up on all the wrong foods at the buffet lines, and the number of people with ventilators and/or wheelchairs, all seemingly locked into marathon relationships with slot machines.

Smoke permeated the casino. And, I've never seen more neon reflected endlessly in walls of mirrors. As someone who studies health -- physical, emotional, and intellectual health -- I felt a profound sense of unease at times.

Sure, Friday night was a lot of fun. The band played Marvin Gaye music and wore red suits and was tolerant of the bar crowd, including my father, who wanted them to play "Rock Around the Clock." They replied, "Hey, we're brothers from the 'hood and we don't play that song." Tess, Jenn, and Stephen kept my dad company.

Steve and I danced, more than we have in a long time. A dozen single women danced mostly in a line facing the band. A crowd of buff guys watched from behind -- turns out a football coaches conference was in town. And, a couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary danced by themselves on the other side of the bar.

An odd collection of folks, all having a pleasant time. Who knew Wendover could be fun?

But Saturday, the band wasn't playing. The neon and noise was annoying. And, casino games could not interest me less. My dad wonders how I can possibly be related to him sometimes.

What I noticed was how my unease led me to want to eat. It's not that I went for seconds at the buffet line, but I found myself fidgety, anxiousand going for a dessert I wouldn't have had otherwise.

I was so happy to get on the road this morning and head home. Pulling up to our house felt like a big exhale of energy. And, my cats, Damon and Diva, were right there on the stairs to greet me. I took a nap and woke up refreshed.

The moral to the story is that environment counts. Sometimes, we think we can hang out in stressful environments and pop supplements to help our immune and digestive systems cope.

While this is better than nothing, I cannot endorse a quieting, comforting environment wholeheartedly enough. So, try to add some time for mindfulness, slow breathing, and no distractions in addition to tending to nutrition!

Be well!

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