The Amazon Trail: Zipline Vegas by Lee Lynch

She’s going on a zipline in Las Vegas. That’s what my sweetheart announced this morning. It gets worse. She said the zipline goes over city streets and buildings—and here I was envisioning a sweet pastoral zip across raging river rapids and sharp rocks. Now I only have to worry about her colliding with concrete, metal, and glass. Head first. Seems you have options; she plans zip belly down, like a diving bird, a Peregrine falcon perhaps, which can reach speeds up to 200 mph.

She concocted this scheme with our friend Heather, who lives in Vegas and knows all the cool things to do. I have a feeling this trip will be a lot different than the one I took to the Lambda Literary Conference back in the early 1990s.

Before my sweetheart and Heather, I traveled alone, so there was no chance of doing anything riskier than surviving the unexpected snowstorm I hit in the mountains of Northern California. But truly, I was more petrified of attending the Lammys than I was of mountain passes or ziplines.

I knew Jennifer Abod, producer of “The Passionate Pursuits of Angela Bowen,” back in New Haven in the 1970s. When I ran into her this summer, she said she remembered me as “very, very shy and very, very skinny.” I mumbled something about being fifty pounds more substantial now, and she may have recognized that the shyness has endured. Or else thought I had the verbal skills of a feral banana.

The truth is that I’m just as shy and timid around people as I was in the seventies. And in the nineties. The easiest part of that Lammys trip for me was walking from my backstreet motel along the fabled “Strip” to the awards ceremony. When I entered the massive room of white table cloths and strangers, I had to about face and find a toilet immediately.

A while later, I found the Naiad Press table and assumed I belonged there, in the one empty seat I saw. This wasn’t long before Naiad changed direction, remaindering books and returning rights to poorly selling writers, but I didn’t know that yet. Nobody but me was freezing me out. Everyone was proper and I was my usual bump on a log self with no conversation in me. Fortunately, I was next to Naiad Press and “Poets and Writers” editor Christie Cassidy, a playful femme who valued my work and gave me the courage to make a brief presentation on stage—to an award winner who wasn’t in the audience and hadn’t sent a proxy. What could be worse for someone like me than to find myself alone on a stage with an unclaimed trophy?

After the lengthy program ended, I felt as isolated as when I’d arrived. I didn’t know who to talk to and was scared someone might talk to me. I slunk through the glamorized halls of the casino, breathing ghastly amounts of cigarette smoke,feeling like a feral banana, an invisible one at that.

That doesn’t change. I go to literary events now, like Saints and Sinners, where I’m warmly welcomed, know my way around a podium, and still quake in my shoes in crowded rooms without my sweetheart. Sometimes I come away from a conference with little memory of it because it takes so much of my spirit to participate.

I know I’m not alone. Even with improved social skills it takes everything I have to start a conversation, or to join a group of laughing, talking people. I’ve been accused of snobbery when I’m actually hiding out. Or people think I don’t like them because I seem standoffish, when I’m actually dying inside, ashamed of my shell of reticence and not knowing how to emerge from it. Or maybe I am snooty, having missed any lessons on small talk.

Thank goodness for women like Mercedes Lewis, who created “Con Virgin” programs at The Golden Crown Literary Society conferences—Vegas being the site of this year’s conference. New attendees get special attention. There are events just for them, if they choose to participate. If they’re not too nervous to accept. I’m one of the latter, more likely to go off in my miserable, lonely corner and become more self-consciously obvious than I would be if I could blend into a group.

In the end, it’s all about ego. I’ll do almost anything, apparently, to protect my ego from being bruised.  But, I have learned how unfair that is to others. I’m one of millions; when I hide, when I won’t risk being tongue-tied, I could instead be making life easier for someone as shy as myself.

I’m still the same person inside, and it’s punishing every time I reach out, but I’ve learned, if I’m not adept at talking, I’m a pretty good listener. If I can manage a few seconds of greetings and questions, if I can get out of myself and show interest, I’ve found that people are generally quick to tell their stories, dreams, ambitions.

Not as quick as my sweetheart and Heather will be, high above the theme park called Las Vegas, but no feral banana either.

Copyright Lee Lynch 2018

January 2018

Our Happy Hours, LGBT Voices From the Gay Bars by S. Renee Bess and‎ Lee Lynch, from Flashpoint Publications, Cover by Ann McMann

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  1. Last year was my first con. I felt some of what you feel but I forced myself to read (twice) and to sit on a panel and I’m ever so glad I did. I met so many of the authors I’d been reading for years, met people for the first time that I felt like I’d always known because of Facebook and Twitter (and the Con Virgins Facebook Group) and I met a couple of women who became very good friends. I’ve partnered with one on some giveaways and other promotions and there are potential joint business partnership talks going on between the three of us, all because I was willing to open up a little at the con and put myself out there. Good luck!

    Oh and, there are two cool zipline opportunities in Las Vegas. One is downtown, under the roof of the Freemont Street experience where you fly Superman style over the crowds below. The other goes from tower to tower at the Rio hotel and is as you described. My wife and I are going out early and staying at the Rio through Wednesday night with my folks before switching over to the conference hotel on Thursday. If you know when they plan on zipping, I’d love to come and watch.

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  2. Always an inspiration. You are a comforting beacon for the rest of introverts. Looking forward to seeing you In Vegas. I will not be one of the people on the zip line.

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  3. For those going to Vegas but are more into beauty than just gambling. May I suggest The following National Parks in Utah –
    Zion Canyon, 160 Miles away on I-15 (3 about hours from Vegas), The Grand Canyon North sided from Kanab go south on highway 89 (about 3.5 hrs -5 hrs) from Zion. Bryce Canyon take State road 9 from Zion to Highway 89 about 90 miles (about 1.5 hrs ) from Zion. Arches on Highway 89 from Zion to 1-70 (about 4 hrs – 5.5 hrs). You’ll want to spend a day in each park. Canyonlands and Capitol Reef are also among the Parks to visit. They have more ancient pictographs. If you want to check them out, go to my Facebook- Sierra Whiskey (from Utah) – I have some short films 1 to 2 minutes about some of the parks. My email is if you have questions. If any of you want to rent a bus, that is possible, if a lot of people want to spend time hiking and site seeing. For those flying I would fly into Vegas and fly out of Salt Lake with an open ended ticket. For those with cars you could wagon train. If you want any more information just let me know. Betty and I would love to show you around the state or help any way we can so ya’ll see it. It is a different desert ecosystem. And the beauty is awe inspiring.

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  4. The zip lining down Freemont Street wasn’t that bad- you should give it a try! The weight to actually get in the harness and zip was more of a pain in the tush than any fear of the activity in my opinion! It couldn’t be worse than talking to people at a conference. I still don’t think I’ve recovered from the one and only GCLS conference I attended as a reader. It was amazing to see all these authors who’s work I love but to be bumbling do-do not knowing how to start a conversation was tough and made for a super long weekend that was stressful. Glad that you keep going though because you are AWESOME! I loved hearing you speak on the Literary Adventure at Sea panels!

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  5. One thing that getting older (60 this year! … OMG! I was 40 a couple’a years ago!) has done for me is being able to walk into a room full of strangers and not GIVE A DAMN. I’m the batty old lady (with butch finesse, of course) that the young folks write about in their, ‘you won’t believe what I saw today’ posts! 😀 … in all seriousness, being old/older/oldest is just a mask like all the others we wear. A mask not to hide behind though, but a masque to work with.

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