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I am sitting in a warm cesspool under a cool desert sky at Las Vegas’s Golden Nugget Casino. A foamy, off-white layer covers the surface, hiding portly legs, protruding lower abdomens and God only knows what else of 8, or so, sunburned middle-Americans.
I am only at the Golden Nugget because my 14-year-old stepdaughter has a very important soccer tournament and this is the mandatory team hotel. I am only in its hot tub because my 3-year-old daughter gets freezing cold after 5 minutes in a normal swimming pool. And there she pops up next to me, a foamy, off-white layer covering her gorgeous blonde head, an impossible to remove smile covering her face.
She loves swimming. She loves it more than walking, eating or sleeping and since she can swim longer in a hot tub she’ll usually choose it, strange water-born illness be damned. The middle-Americans don’t mind. They laugh at her antics between sips of piña colada. Apparently, though, the pool security does. He saunters over, tugging his pant waist uncomfortably, and grunts, “Hey sir … no kids in the hot tub.” I glance up at him then down at my daughter. She stops what she is doing, looks at him through steamy starfish goggles and says, “Go to L.”
What she meant to say, of course, was “go to hell.” I taught her the most wonderful phrase in the English language the day before when the same security came over and kicked her and my wife out. “Dad…” she said when she arrived at my chaise lounge “…the hot tub boy said I couldn’t go in the hot tub!” She was crestfallen, shivering before me in her iridescent purple mermaid bikini, steamy starfish goggles.
She stops what she is doing, looks at him through steamy starfish goggles and says, “Go to L.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because,” she responded.
And my blood boiled. Clearly there was no real reason. I had watched kids go in and out of the hot tub all weekend long. It wasn’t a sacred, adult-only sanctuary. It wasn’t dangerous. It was gross, yes, but kids are gross and have exceptional immune systems. No. It was simply a matter of an arbitrarily flexed muscle. A bored man who felt like wrecking a little girl’s day. And maybe nothing makes me angrier than misappropriated power.
Oh, how power corrupts and we are all living in a world where this is as true as ever from police abuse to political corruption to judicial misconduct to corporate malfeasance to religious debasement to sexual exploitation. Unfettered power has crept into the lives of normal folk who don’t quite know how to react. Their frustration manifests itself as neutered rage at Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders rallies. As keyboard smashing late night screeds on Facebook. As racism, protectionism, sexism, isolationism.
I don’t want my angel to be neutered and so I taught her 3 magical words. The syllables that challenge poorly applied power at its very source. She laughed and started chanting, “Go to L! Go to L!” which soon turned into “Go to L.A.!” and then “Go to New York!” before reverting back to “Go to L!” I could see the freedom coursing through her veins with each and every utterance. She was no longer crestfallen and shivering. She was strong. She was mighty.
The next day, we used it the sidewalk police who told her not to ride her scooter even though it was scooter heaven. He didn’t feel like chasing us so it was an unmitigated triumph. We used it on the casino employee who told us kids could not play the Britney Spears slot machine. He laughed and apologized but still said gambling is illegal for 3-year-olds. We used it on the guard who said she couldn’t touch the giant Jeff Koons balloon Popeye sculpture at the Encore. Who makes a giant balloon Popeye sculpture that kids can’t touch? Jeff Koons should definitely go to hell.
And we use it on the pool security. He tells her to get out again, then has to go and find his manager. We leave before he comes back, but make him really work for his victory. Next time he sees a child in the hot tub, I bet he’ll sit tight. I bet he’ll let those kids splash and laugh and enjoy the toxicity.
Will the power of “Go to L” corrupt my young daughter? Probably. That’s what timeouts, detentions and trips to the principal’s office are for. Checks and balances, baby. Checks and balances.
Chas Smith is a hyper-ironic surf journalist and bon vivant from Coos Bay, Oregon. He has written for Vice, Surfing Magazine, Stab Magazine, Esquire.com, and is the cofounder of Beachgrit.com. His latest book is “Welcome To Paradise, Now Go To Hell.”