Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Aww, Jeez.

Hey y'all,

It's turning into one of those weeks where stuff just keeps piling up. It's getting fuckin' exhausting.

Had a decent enough weekend, all-in-all: My house and sanity both managed to survive my daughter's 6th birthday party relatively unscathed. No small feat, mind you, when said party involved nearly 20 4-6 year old children. Luckily, we hired a Mad Scientist to put on a little science and chemistry show for the kids, and this cute little 21-year old Chemistry Major entertained the cherubs for nearly 2 1/2 hours. The older ones were completely enthralled, while the younger ones were moderately entertained but no real trouble. So huge kudos to the Mad Scentist.

Sunday was Sunday school/church/shopping/returning stuff/yet more shopping day. It was over almost before I realized it: Yet another one of those "Hey! Where the hell did my weekend go?" type of weekends. Ugh.

Monday, started the day on a high-note: Blew my back out while doing squats at the gym. Guess 360 is my limit without a belt (or at least without paying MUCH closer attention to my form), cause while my legs were doing fine at 400, my lower back totally freaked at the end of my second set. Wasn't even close to failure yet, but all of a sudden WHAMMO! Not so much pain as a sudden "wrong" feeling of something moving from where it should be to where it shouldn't be. Don't think anything is actually seriously injured: Feels more like a spasm or mild strain, no sharp pain or tingling, and no sensitivity along my spine: it's all in the muscles. But since it's square in the middle/right side of my lower back it's WAY fucking' uncomfortable. Hard to sleep, can't lift, can't run, sitting at my desk is just annoying, etc. Lot's of Ben-Gay, lots of heating pad time. At least I can do stationary bike and elliptical runner. If I can't get SOME exercise in I'll go nuts.

Tuesday, we got the first set of kindergarten testing results for Miranda. Basically, they test on all of the basic skills that they are supposed to have mastered by the end of the year. Miranda scored in the upper 80%'s -- not surprising, she's smart as a whip. Still, now we're worried about her being properly encouraged and focused at school. Me and my wife were both classic "really smart, really bored" kids in school, and it got us both into plenty of jams over the years. So, we'll need to talk to the teacher about how she's handling this stuff. Gilmore Girls Tuesday night, and my desire for hardcore Luke/Lorelei sex is thwarted. Shit, they didn't even kiss! Considering the fairly profound amount of pain I feel in my lower back a TV-tryst was as close as I'd be getting to sex, and yet they DENY me this small pleasure? Agh!

My mom also notified me that she had spoken with my step-sister and there was "news." Now, my step-sister is a bit of a... well... let's be generous and call her a "work in progress." She's 30, married and divorced once already, living in upstate NY in a trailer with a guy she married just before he headed off to Irzq (he's back now). He's got 3 kids from his 2 previous marriages, one of whom is 15 and pregnant, another of whom has already run into trouble with drugs of some sort or other, and the third of whom is young and sweet and getting really, really damaged by all of this.

Oh, and my step-sis is 5 months pregnant by this guy. Somewhere around 3 years ago she decided that what she really, really needed to make her life complete was a baby. Sadly, she didn't decide this while she was married to her husband, who was a jerk but at least he was an employed jerk who wanted kids and who would have at least been a source of child support. Instead, she decides that kids are what she needs while living with the current loser. I guess this is that biological imperative that people talk about: Trumps all reason, apparently.

Well, the latest news is that, of course (and this should come as no surprise given the joker's history), Dale is cheating on her. Has a girlfriend on the side, apparently has had her on the side since he went to Iraq. So now, we're REALLY hoping that she'll finally withdraw from thsi bottom of the barrel place she's gotten herself into and move home to be with her mom so she has some help with the kid. Or moves here to Texas where she has other family around who can give her a hand. But who knows what she'll do. Her incredibly bad decision-making skills are the main quality that she inherited from her stupid-as-fuck father (my step-father. Boy, is that another post in waiting...) and I have to say that I have absolutely no idea what she'll do next. It's unreal.

And now it's Wednesday. Back is marginally better: scored some muscle relaxants from Mom last night (cyclobenzaprime?) which seem to have helped a bit. Was able do half an hour on the stationary bike this morning, followed by a nice long soak in the jacuzzi. Still sore and achey and generally "wrong" feeling, but at least I can get confortable, so that's good.

Big night o' TV ahead -- my TiVo is going to drop dead from exhaustion. We've got Lost (AWESOME premiere -- let's see how it follows up on it's promise), Smallville, The Apprentice, and Wife Swap (startlingly entertaining, although it's hard to say how long the fun will last) all in one night. Aside from Gilmore Girls and Monster House, that's pretty much every show I watch, all in one night. Should free up plenty of time for playing Zelda on Gameboy.

OK, this particular entry is even more rambly that usual. Time to pull the plug.

Mood: Meh
Now Playing: Lloyd Cole & the Commotions, "1984-89"

Friday, September 24, 2004

It's no baloney. It ain't a pony.

Yup. My head is just ... empty. I keep trying to come up with something to scribble here, but all I get is bzzzz bzzzzzzzz bzzzz. Nothing.


I blame this. I mean, I've heard the damn thing before. It's horrfying, yet... mesmerizing. Anyway, someone was playing it here at work this morning, and ever since that damn song has been shoving anything remotely inteeligent or coherent out of my brain at every turn.

Now, this one was awesome. I even created a buddy icon for AIM from some screen captures of that one. But this latest little ditty (actually a sped up song originally by child song charlatan Raffi) is like a neural version of bamboo chutes under the fingernails. Must. Drive. It. Out.

Will be hanging with some of our friends tonight -- hopefully the copious amounts of wine and whatnot will dissolve the brain cells that contain this melody. PLEASE.

Mood: Bored.
Now Playing: "Ring ring ring ring ring ring ring...."

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

The Sound of One Hand Slapping Repeatedly Against My Forehead As I Say "Stupid!" Repeatedly


So, fridge repairman shows up. Looks over the fridge, takes the back panel off, checks out the inside, and...

"Well, everything looks fine to me."

Not a single problem with the fridge? "But," we say, "we could see red glowy light and hear water sizzling! Isn't that, you know, bad?"

And he says, "Well, sure, it would be alarming, but there's no sign of anything being wrong or burned or anything. It was probably just the heating coil in the freezer."

"Huh?" I think, confused. "A heating coil, in my freezer? Doesn't this seem, well, a bit at odds? Heating coils make heat, and well, isn't my fridge supposed to be a cold place?"

And then, the rusty wheels in my cerebellum start creaking slowly into action. See, it's a frost free fridge, right? So, for something to be frost-free you have to have either a) no moisture or b) something to get rid of frost/moisture as it occurs. Obviously, you can't prevent moisture from entering your freezer, so it has to be (b).

Ahhh. Light bulb moment. Picture that moment in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when John Cleese says "Because... she's made... of... made of wood?" and you'll get a fairly good approximation of how this felt.

Not only is the fridge is fine, but we also have had the amazing luck to have never managed to open the fridge just as it was entering its defrost cycle (which typically last only a couple of minutes and cocurs every 6 or so hours) AND when it was actually defrosting something (drip/hisssss... drip/hisssss....) in nearly 6 years.

So, although I am now out about $50, I am tremendously relieved that my $1100 fridge is perfectly fine and is not preparing to burn down my house as I sleep. And, considering that I was already pricing a replacement fridge, completely convinced that the cost of reparing this one would be exorbitant, I feel as if I actually saved tons of money by spending fifty bucks. I think I'll cling to this feeling: It's satisfyingly contradictory, and quite rare.

For more info, see this bit of info over at How Stuff Works.

Mood: Relieved
Now Playing: R.E.M., "Around the Sun"

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Tick Tock Oh Damn

Just got a call from my buddy Rich (for more info, go here and here) and he has gotten his deployment orders. His flight for Iraq will be leaving within 48 hours. So, Christine just finished losing it on the phone with him (she's kept a good stiff upper lip so far, but the actual departure finally broke the facade), I talked with him for a few minutes and told him nothing he could say would pierce my steely exterior, so we said our au revoir's and that was that.

Moments later, Christine poked her face into the freezer, seeking some sort of culinary comfort, and she says "Huh. What's that... weird little... ummm... noise?" I listen from across the room, hearing a little crinkly/hissy sound, and assure her it is probably just some cellophane or something moving around. She moves a few things around, and says "ummm, nu-uh. Not cellophane. What is that?" So, exhasperated, I walk over, all prepared to be the superior male and I look in the freezer to see what's the what.


Something in the back of the freezer, all the way at the bottom and behind some sort of facing or shield or something, is... glowing. Red. And making a little rhytmic sizzling sound as water drips on it.

Yeah. That ain't good.

So, out comes the plug, and 45 minutes, 2 phone calls (mom, fridge repair dude), 40 lbs. of ice (corner store), 3 ice chests, several cardboard boxes, and hundreds of frayed nerves later the fridge is empty and our house is no longer in danger of imminent refrigerator-induced immolation.

Fuck. How much is this gonna fuckin' cost me? We've got a kiddie b-day party on Saturday -- hundreds of fucking dollars are already allocated to that fiasco. Something like a score of 5 and 6 year olds will be invading my demesne. And I currently have no refrigerator. No refrigerator means no ice cream. No cold beer. No ice for bourbon.

Good god, this is a problem.


Prior to the dire phone call and fridge emergency, we watched the season premiere of Gilmore Girls. Damn, I love that show. And I gotta say, I really want WB to rescind their silly little policy about not showing full penetration hardcore porno sex (including plenty of cheesy music, candlelight, and slow-mo money shots) just long enough for them to get into heavy-duty close-up detail for when Luke and Lorelai finally have sex. These two have the most entertainingly real-feeling sexual tension and chemistry I've ever seen on TV. I want them to be real, honest-to-goodness people so that I can be present when they do the deed. I want to buy the jumbo popcorn and a big-ass soda and watch them fuck for hours.

I've never felt this way about television people. Yeah, it's sad, pathetic, perverse, and weird. But there it is. Sigh.

Mood: Pain... tension.. back of... my neck....
Now Playing: Who fuckin' knows

Monday, September 20, 2004

Things That Suck

1. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the movie, not the most excellent and wondrous comic). Awful. I want my 2 hours back.

2. My apparent inability to stop chewing the nail on my left pointer finger. I've been chomping on it compulsively for about 3 days, and it's looking pretty horrifying. Hurts a bunch, too! Course, I don't even realize I'm chewing on it until suddenly a brief jab of pain breaks my concentration and I go "Hey, that hurts! I shouldn't be doing that!"

3. Flaky Semi-Friends. Christine and I are currently trying to figure out just what went "wrong" with a couple of friends of hers/ours, that suddenly we are no longer speaking to each other, even though we used to go out to dinner, kids played together, they came to our Halloween party, and blah blah blah. Her husband and I weren't particularly compatible, but we could always chat amiably and the wives sure SEEMED to get along well. But whereas the women were getting together to hang out at least once or so times a week before the summer, as soon as school let out calls to try to set up plans went unanswered and now conversation is being avoided like the proverbial plague. I mean, this is really not the end of the world or anything -- the chick is a flake, and her husband is just fuckin' WEIRD (and not in an appealing, unique and quirky way. More in a discomfitting and schizo, medicated sort of way....), but still I'm just enough of a self-concious and insecure dork to sit here wondering ... Was it me? Did I do or say something? God, they don't think they're cooler than me or something, do they?

4. The Emmy's. God that sucked. Garry Shandling just doesn't work for me, at least in MC/Host capacity. His dominant quality (off-putting, uncomfortable-making, oily) worked amazingly well on the Lasrry Sanders Show specifically BECAUSE that was the joke: a host that makes people uncomfortable. As an MC of an awards program I thought he was 100% excruciating.

5. Any of the umpteen "surprise!" home remodeling/redesign shows (except for Monster House, which rocks). This shit is played out. Please take your annoying designers and quirky hosts and get the fuck out of Dodge. Trading Spaces, I'm talking to you.

6. Friday Night Kid's Soccer League Practices. Taking 4 year olds to soccer practice at 6:30 on a Friday night? Every Friday night? Until November? Who the fuck thought this was a good idea? And don't these coaches have ANYTHING resembling a life?

7. Saturday Morning Kid's Soccer League Games. See above, but at 9:00AM.

8. Having to choose between buying The Sims 2 and the Star Wars DVD Set, because there's just no way I can justify spending cash on both of them. This whole "not having any money to spend on fun shit" thing is really getting old.

Mood: Cranky
Now Playing: Claude Challe, "Buddha Bar, Vol. 1"

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

It rubs the lotion on its skin...

OK, this is one of the funniest, most demented little things I've run across ont he web in a LOOONNNNNGGGGGG time:

Lotion, by the Greens Keepers

Big Quicktime clip, folks, so you might want to avoid clicking if you're on dial-up. But it's worth the download time.

Not much going on in my world right now. Having lunch with my daughter at her school today, which should be fun. Work is pretty damn slow: some small label artwork designs to do, a couple of tiny little documentation pieces, and a user-expereience oriented but of competitive analysis on a competitor's product to plug away at, but otherwise it's mostly chill-out-and-keep-house time for me right now.

Not that this is a bad thing. Far from it. It just makes the days feel pretty long.

Trying to figure out what's going on with Orkut vs. .node and the various folks I've connected with via Orkut right now. It looks like everyone has abandoned Orkut, en masse, but I never heard about any sort of group Orkutcide plan. Personally, I'm fine with abandoning Orkut, as long as everyone will be over on .node -- for the time being, .node doesn't seem to have the problems that Orkut encountered with scaling. It probably will get there eventually, but for now it's working pretty well. Honestly, I think Orkut is better designed from a user point of view. When it works, that is. And since one of the most important aspects of a social network would apper to be being able to get on and socialize at will, Orkut's tremendously frustrating stability and responsiveness problems seem to have really crossed a lot of folks patience thresholds.

Anyway, if any of my Orkut pals are reading, here, please leave a comment letting me know what's the what. I'm just trying to figure out whether I should bother allocating any time to checking Orkut from here on out, or if I need to start reorienting my online social life to .node.

Mood: Mellow
Now Playing: Duran Duran, "Astronaut"

Monday, September 13, 2004

Vegas ReDux/Recap: Monday

Thunk... thunk... thunk.... thunk. Huh. Guess that's my somewhere-around-6:30AM toilet-thunk wakeup call. Pull a pillow over my head and go back to sleep. Mentally scratch Sahara off list of potential future Vegas trips.

Wake up about 8:30 or so, feeling that last-day-of-vacation mix of melancholy (aww, it's over...) and relief (getting a tad bit homesick, running out of cash...). I've always thought that when on vacation, the day that you achieve this conflicted feeling is the ideal day to leave. A day or so longer and I start to feel like I've been away too long and it becomes harder and harder to enjoy myself. A day or so less and I feel like I never quite hit vacation-time and relaxed completely, or that I just kind of short-changed myself.

Depending on the vacation and the circumstances, the time it takes for me to arrive at this "target" day can be anywhere from 2 days to a week. If I'm in a place that is basically laid-back, where there aren't a million things to do all the time, and I've got the whole family there with me, it can take at least a week before I start feeling the homeward pull. On the other hand, I've found that if I'm vacationing without my family and/or visiting a place that is fairly intense (like Vegas, or my recent New York City trip, or attending a round-the-clock party event like Dragon*Con with friends for example) I tend to reach the target day pretty fast: 2-3 days or so, after which I start getting a bit over stimulated. While I'm pretty damn outgoing and not what most folks would consider quiet or shy, I am by nature an introvert and a bit of a homebody. Being "on" for an extended period or away from home base for too long starts making me pretty edgy, and when I'm away from the kids and/or my wife I get even more so.

So anyway, this is a good sign. I'm ready to go, which means I won't be having any end-of-vacation depression. Well, perhaps just a touch of the blues, but that's cool.

Our flight doesn't leave until almost 3:00 this afternoon, so we decide to check out a bit early, leave our bags with the bell desk, and do a tad bit more exploring on foot. We hadn't managed to make our way to the Stratosphere yet, and since it's probably the closest thign of note to the Sahara, we head up that way.

On the way, I spot a partially-obscured "Obey Giant" sticker on a crossing signal.

These things fascinate me. I've seen them here in Austin as well as in NYC, Atlanta, Raleigh, and Orlando. It's gotten to the point that I actively seek them out when I'm walking around an urban area where stickering is prevalent, which is precisely the purpose of the "campaign." Propaganda without a goal, purpose or meaning outside of the image itself, designed to awaken/reawaken a sense of curiosity and wonder about one's environment. Fascinating stuff. I excitedly try to explain this to Christine, who gives me one of those "hmmm, interesting (geek)" sort of looks and moves on.

I get this look a lot. We've got one of those "as much alike as they are different" sort of relationships, which keeps things fun and interesting, although sometimes we simply do not connect on specifics. It's worked pretty well so far, and considering that "so far" a) includes 12 years of marriage and 10 years of dating and b) things with us are still damn fun and sexy and exciting it seems to be a pretty good recipe for success. For us at least. Your mileage may vary.

Anyway, off to the Stratosphere. Another older Vegas hotel, but much brighter and cleaner looking that the Sahara. Like so many of the newer, larger resorts down the Strip (Bellagio, Venetian) the Strat features an extensive array of shopping opportunities, although the look and feel of this one feels far more like a sanitized suburban shopping mall than anything resembling upscale or luxury. Anyway, we're not here to shop, we're here to eat and see the view, so we purchase tickets to go to the top of the tower ($10 a pop) and up we go.

The view is pretty amazing.

Once again, as with the Fremont Experience, the whole thing probably works way better when the lights are on at night. But still, quite impressive. Hey, I can see our hotel from here!

Yeah, it's pretty ugly from the air as well. Oh well, lesson's learned.

So, we do the observation deck for a bit and opt to not ride any of the thrill-rides at the top, (Christine's getting seriously freaked out: She's scared of heights) then head to the Top of the World restaurant for some brunch. It's cool: One of those revolving restaurants with nice picture windows all around.

However, the fact that the whole restaurant vibrates and shifts a bit when the roller coaster a couple of floors up rushes by isn't helping to settle Christine's nerves any. It's an odd sensation, that's for sure. I have a picture of her in the restaurant, but the less-than-settled look on her face isn't exactly something she'd like posted to the web, I think.

Anyway, brunch is consumed, views are enjoyed, events of the past few days are rehashed, and we head down to the street. We meet our shuttle a little later, and head to the airport.

At the airport, we are sad:

Ahh well, time to head home.

Anyway, a great vacation all in all. Perhaps a few too many "lessons learned" moments, but I suppose that's part and parcel of any first time in a new place. We'll make entirely new and different mistakes next time.

Final tally on cab fare came to around $275. Add that to the $300 I spent on our "bargain" hotel room and we could have stayed at Caesar's and not have had to take a cab anywhere (except for perhaps to the San Remo and certainly to downtown). Actually would probably have saved some cash, not to mention a bunch of time and about 36 layers of skin on our feet. We won't be staying at the north end of the Strip again. In fact, we won't be staying anywhere farther north than the Venetian. I mean, Casino Royale and Imperial Palace are both down there, they're both highly affordable (even on weekends), and while they're nothing to get excited about design- and features-wise, their location more than makes up for this.

We'll also NEVER come here on a holiday again. Not that Vegas is ever "not busy," but it's extraordinarily so on a 3-day weekend, not to mention that it is more expensive in every regard. Next time out it will be mid-week, when we can get a great rate on one of the high-end places and when the density of people isn't quite as high.

Mood: Laconic
Now Playing: Patty Griffin, "Flaming Red"

Friday, September 10, 2004

Vegas ReDux: Sunday

Thunk... thunk... thunk... thunk...

What the fuck is that sound?

Oh goddammit, hangover. My head is pounding. At first I think that's where the thunking is coming from, but no. It's the toilet again. 6:45AM. I’m starting to think the hotel powers-that-be do this shit on purpose, though I can't imagine why. Get up, drink a bunch of water, and go back to bed.

Finally roll out of bed, a little less worn, at about 9:30 and we decide to check out Downtown, a.k.a. "old" Vegas. One of our missions for the weekend was to try to track down one of the old "Big Bertha" slot machines for my mother-in-law and play $20 for her, and one of our many helpful cabbies let us know that the only ones left are downtown. Plus, I want to at least get a gander at the place -- sometime in future I want to do an actual gambling trip here, and I hear that downtown is way friendlier to low-end (i.e. $5 blackjack) gamblers like me. So, yet another cab ride, this time to the Main St. Station to get a piece of their $10 champagne brunch buffet.

The buffet is pretty much what you'd expect for $10: really cheap champagne and a broad variety of non-descript fare. Filling, not horrid, but certainly not much to recommend it beyond "hey, it's only $10 and you can eat 'til you puke!" The hotel, however, if more along the lines of what I think of when I think Vegas: Very turn of the century train station/bordello. Lots of glass, brass, wood, ceiling fans, stamped tin, and so on. Fun place.

Then it's off to finally try to do a bit of gambling. I had considered playing some blackjack Saturday night, but on the Strip on a Saturday night you're lucky if you can get a seat at a $10 table which is way beyond this boy's budget. We head over to Fremont, which actually is pretty nice during the day.

Plenty of shade, music playing, lots of opportunities to buy tchotchkes, kind of a carnival/street fair feeling. Of course, at night it has the whole Fremont Experience thing going on, with the canopy all lit up with LEDs and video. Sadly, this particular part of the Experience will have to wait for another visit, as we don't plan on hanging out here all day long. For now, we need to find a Big Bertha.

No real luck on that. However, we do spot a casino named "Fitzgeralds." Now, my mother-in-law's maiden name is Fitzgerald, so this seems to me to be a clear omen. A sign from the gambling gods that THIS IS THE PLACE. So we wander in, plug her twenty into a $1 slot, and start playing.

Wham, we hit for 25. And then we hit for another 60 or so. Next thing we know, she's up around $110 or so on her initial $20. Since we've entered real "you can buy something nice with that" money, we call her to see if she wants to push her luck: she wisely declines, and instead we pull a few more times to get her down to $100 and then cash out. We have a winner!

So, clearly this means we're on a streak, right?


Without going into ALL the details, within an hour we were down about $100. Couldn't win at video poker, slots were of course worthless money eaters, lost $50 in about 15 minutes at a $5 blackjack table, lost a bunch at roulette as well. Any semblance of luck we had was devoured by my mother-in-law's brief winning streak. Frustrated and annoyed, we decide that going a looking at a free exhibit up on the Strip might be a better way to spend the next couple of hours. So, it's off to The Mirage to see the white tigers!

Hop in another cab. This time we have a really funny Asian cab driver. Cursed like a sailor the whole time we were talking. He and his brother often go gambling, he told us, and his brother always wins. Sometimes thousands of dollars in one night! And the secret (and no, it's not an ancient Chinese secret) is "you must make the dealer angry! The anger will scare his luck away!" Apparently, this method works for his brother, who tends to drink a lot, gets surly and mean, pisses off the dealer, wins big, and then gets thrown out of the casino before he has a chance to lose his winnings. However, while I would like to win some cash, I just don't see abusing the staff as the proper way to do it, no matter how much of my money they keep taking away.

Anyway, we arrive at The Mirage, which is quite pretty. Big aquatic theme going on, with an enormous fish tank behind the main desk in the lobby. Really, really beautiful. After meandering a bit we head over to see the white tigers.

Well, tiger. And he wasn't white, either. What a gyp. I mean, he was nice and pretty and all that, but I guess they're keeping all the white tigers over in the not-quite-so-free Secret garden and Dolphin Habitat these days. And while I'm sure it's lovely, I've been to zoos before and I'm not dropping another $30 just to wander through yet another zoo, no matter how pretty the animals and their cages are.

Instead, it's off to Madame Tussaud's for some goofy (but expensive, of course) fun clowning around with the wax celebrities. Here are a couple of highlights:

I wonder how much product it takes to get his hair to stand this high....

Christine REALLY dislikes wife beaters, and I don't mean tank-tops....

Geekin' out on Buffy.

After that, it's back to The Sahara to figure out our next move. We chill out for a while, drink a bottle of champagne and set to planning. After the disaster last night, we've decided to just sort of let tonight "happen." No big plan, certainly not buying any show tickets which will force us to rush from one place to another in a panic, and so on. We're just gonna try to have a nice night. We decide on heading down to the Venetian, grabbing dinner at one of the restaurants, and getting a romantic and fun little gondola ride. By god, there will be romance! I demand it!

So, with some trepidation we set out on our second attempt to have a romantic and fun night. Cab ride down to the Venetian -- this time we shared the rather lengthy (due to traffic) ride with a nice Asian guy from San Diego. Endodontist. Not sure why he was up at the Sahara, as he was staying at the Venetian, and why on earth would you go all the way to the Sahara, alone, on a Sunday night when you’re staying at The Venetian? Something odd was going on, though who knows. I think he was gay -- he was oddly evasive when I asked if he was in town alone and he replied "no, I'm here with a friend" and then he sort of changed the topic kind of abruptly. Or maybe he was a serial killer. Who knows.

So, we arrive at The Venetian around 7:30-ish and screw around in the casino for a while, playing video poker (blackjack was up in the $10 minimum zone) and getting a few comped drinks in. Then we headed over to the Grand Canal Shoppes, wandered along the "canal", and headed into St. Mark's Place to see what sort of waits the restaurants had. We wind up putting our names in at Postrio, which is a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, and then we head over to purchase tickets for a gondola ride. It's about 8:15 by now, so we buy tickets for a 9:45 gondola, assuming that will give us enough time to get a table, eat, and wander a bit.

Alas, the wait for a table stretches on for a while longer than we expect. We hang at the bar in Postrio (GORGEOUS bar area: all dark woods and art glass. And the bar staff is wonder to watch, moving precisely and efficiently, without any ridiculous "Cocktail"-style theatrics. And watch the time going by, our gondola ticket time approaching a little faster than we want. Finally, at about 9:00 I wander up front to ask if it will be much longer, and explain the predicament. As it happens, the manager is nearby and he swoops in, asking if it would be acceptable for us to eat at the bar. And while that's not really what I was hoping for, it'll beat going hungry and/or missing our gondola, so I say sure. He walks inside with us, says Hi to Christine (this guy is smooth, by the way. Sleek, professional, friendly but not overly so, every bit the ideal restaurant manager) and looks around. He spots a booth off the bar, away from the smoke, and voila! We are seated. Within seconds a waitress appears, and says that she won't rush us, but she has been told that we are trying to catch a gondola in a little while and so, if we want, she'll do things a little faster than they typically would.

Now, already I'm thrilled, because compared to our disastrous dinner at Il Fornaio this couldn't be going better. They're apologizing for rushing us, because typically they would never do that but they understand we might be in a rush. Great wait staff, beautiful room, cordial and accommodating management. So far, this place is great. But, well, let's get to the food.

It was astonishingly good. Nothing too challenging, really: I had fettuccine alfredo with chicken, mushrooms, other stuff, and Christine has some rotisserie chicken with garlic mashed potatoes. But good god, it was heavenly. The fettuccine was easily one of the most delicious things I had ever tasted, and Christine's chicken was perfect, the garlic potatoes so delicious we were scraping the traces of them off the plate. Within a half hour, we were finished, and although the meal was a bit haphazard and rushed it was by far the best dining experience we had. Postrio is a top-notch place and I couldn't recommend it more highly.

Then, off to the gondola! We wind up seated with another couple, some young kids from Missouri (married 1.5 years, they couldn't have been more than 22). Now, Christine and I, at this point, are positively giddy. The night, in spite of some obstacles, is turning out to be fabulous and fun. We're having a blast and just had an amazing meal. Oh, and we've also had a bottle of champagne and 3-4 drinks on top of it, to boot. So, we are ripped and rarin' to go.

I'm pretty sure we completely terrified them. Oh well.

The gondolier, on the other hand, loved us.

We had him laughing the whole time, we all sang Finiculi Finicula at the top of our lungs, I kissed Christine as we passed under each and every bridge (and laid a really good one on her under the faux Bridge of Sighs for luck, of course) and we laughed and laughed, long and hard.

Then, brief stop at Godiva to have some chocolates for dessert, and just for the fuck of it we stopped into Jimmy Choo's to browse the shoes. Man, check these out:

Those boots were almost $2000! I mean, they're REALLY cool, but $2000 boots? Unreal. Man, I wish I had the dough to blow two grand on some footwear.

At this point, the evening is winding down, so we decide to stroll down to the Bellagio to watch fountains for a while and then head home before something goes wrong to spoil our perfect evening. On the way I pick up an enormous margarita by Caesar's: the bartender seems to have decided everyone deserves extra tequila in their drinks that night, and I'm not complaining. And then, we're at the Bellagio. The fountains have these amazing fog generators going, and the entire lake is covered with a nice layer of fog, leading me to anticipate something mysterious and interesting in the music category for the next presentation.

And then ... what is that nose? A tin whistle? Out-of-tune bagpipes? A bleating goat? No, it's Celine Dion! Gah! The strains (and I do mean strains) of "My Heart Will Go On" pierce the air. I let out an exasperated "ugh!" and by the sudden chorus of chuckles around me I find that I am surrounded by a group of folks who feel much the same way pierces the air. The fountains are gorgeous, again, but oh good god that fucking song curdles my blood. Finally, it's done, and we opt to hang around, hoping the next one will be better. And it is: "All That Jazz," although they went with the entirely OK but not great Catherine Zeta Jones version. Sadly though, while the music is better, the fountain choreography (I don't really know what else to call it) isn't all that exciting for this one. But it's certainly pleasant, and a great way to end the night. With that, we grab a cab and head home.

Cab total: somewhere in the vicinity of $225-250.

Next chapter: Monday. The bitter end, and a recap.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Vegas ReDux: Saturday

So, after a long day of travel followed by a long night of inebriation, we awake Saturday morning. Too early. 6:30AM.

What the fuck is that noise?

The toilet is making this strange, rhythmic knocking/thumping sound. At first I think someone is knocking at the door, but no. It's the toilet. Pipes knocking somewhere down the line, resulting is this sort of muffled watery thudding sound. It continues long enough to become truly annoying, and then stops. We slowly drift back to sleep, making a mental note of this latest less-than-satisfactory moment at The Sahara.

Really wake up, ready to get up, at about 10. I got a tip from the girl at the half-priced tickets booth the previous night that their lower-Strip location (by the Harley Davidson Cafe) tends to have a lot more tickets than the one by the Riviera, particularly for shows that are Riviera-based, such as The Amazing Johnathan. Now, I'm A BIG Amazing Johnathan fan, and have wanted to catch his act live for years, so this is awesome news. Therefore, plans begin with getting down to the lower Strip, obtaining tickets, and then picking one of the behemoth resorts down there for a Champagne Brunch buffet thing.

So, off to the ticket place at about 11:30. Monorail is not working (shocking, I know), so first cab ride of the day down to the Aladdin. This cab driver is fairly non-descript, and chats on his cell for the majority of the trip. Wander over to the ticket place, jump the line (VIP passes for purchasing the previous night -- I feel so special...) and there they are -- Preferred Seating tickets! For the Amazing Johnathan show at 10:00 that night! For like $30 -- I'm thrilled. Preferred seating means, I assume, that Christine (who is legally blind, by the way -- I'll have to write about that sometime. She's pretty freakin' amazing) should actually be able to see the stage, the people on the stage, and maybe even what the people on the stage are doing! Tickets tucked safely away in my wallet, we head down the Strip, deciding to hit the MGM Grand Buffet's brunch.

On the way, we met a cool Elvis:

Ahh, now it really feels like Vegas.

The MGM Grand is astonishingly large. I mean, SOOOOO BIG. Quite opulent, with lots of statues and video screens and lights and whatnot. We wander around, suitably impressed, for about 10 minutes, and then realize we are fucking STARVING and it's time to eat. So we head on over to the Grand Buffet -- $20 each! Jeez, whatever happened to bargain buffets? But the food is incredibly tasty, and the champagne is actually good -- probably Korbel or a similar decent-quality, mass-market brand. We eat and drink a good $40 worth of very good food and champagne, and then move along to the Lion Habitat for something FREE.

Yes, FREE in Vegas. It exists.

The lions are gorgeous, and the habitat has this fantastic glass hallway that enables you to walk directly below the lions. A great, albeit brief, experience. Next, we're heading up to the Bellagio, to check out the Monet exhibit.

On the way, I was briefly terrified by this enormous clown face.

I swear it's still haunting my dreams, days later. Down here, we all float....

Anyway, Bellagio. Lovely hotel. I mean REALLY, REALLY lovely. Everything just drips with class. But, you know what? It just doesn't work for me, at least not initially. It seems to be trying SO hard to be SO classy. But come on Bellagio: This is Vegas, you're a casino, get the fuck over yourself, you know? There's just something about trying to do "class" on such an obscenely large scale that seems silly, and not in a funny way.

It reminded me of the scene in Ocean's 11, where Julia Roberts is making her "big entrance" and we're supposed to be sitting there thinking "She's just amazing! So graceful! The way she walks down those stairs!" And all I can think of when I see that scene is "She looks like a twelve year old trying to walk in her mom's heels. I'm amazed she hasn't fallen head first down the stairs.” Pretty, but awkward: Too long, too tall, just too ... much, and yet not enough.

That said, the lobby is stunning, the casino is lovely, the gardens charming and fragrant, and so on. We blow $30 to spend 25 minutes admiring 20 paintings by Monet. Momentarily satisfying, but ultimately leaves me feeling like I was taken. I mean, again: I'm in Vegas. I've been to some amazing museums. I've seen many Monet's in the past. And yet I blew $30 to see a few more. Why am I paying to do the same thing here when there are all these other Vegas-specific pleasures to be sampled? Kinda felt like I screwed a gorgeous woman, but found out when I was finished that she was an expensive hooker and I was paying for the privilege.

But well, that's a feeling I'll come to get used to, and to enjoy, in Vegas. Vegas makes you feel a lot like that, everywhere you go. But for some reason in the Bellagio, where they try SO hard to not seem like "those OTHER places," it felt especially disingenuous. It's like the hotel stridently declares "I'm not a WHORE, like those other girls. I'm a professional courtesan skilled in the ancient arts of lovemaking!"

Honey, either way you look at it, you're taking people's money and fucking them. Just because you're not cracking your gum while you settle the bill it doesn't change a thing. No judgments here, but PLEASE get OVER yourself.

Stop to play some video poker at the bar .I order a G&T (which had been comped everywhere else I'd gone when I was playing at the bar), Christine orders a Pepsi. the bartender charges us $12. That’s $8 for the G&T, and $4 for a fucking glass of soda. AND we're gambling. I could have handled having to pay for the G&T, but apparently we're not playing high-enough stakes to get free bubbly sugar water from these fuckers. That does it: My impression of the Bellagio is complete. My money and I will be going elsewhere.

On that note, we cab it back to The Sahara to figure out dinner reservations for later and grab some down-time. After briefly considering going really high-end (The Eiffel Tower Restaurant overlooking the Bellagio fountains, Aureole, maybe Circo) we decide to conserve funds a bit so we can do another nice place the following night and settle on Il Fornaoi at the New York New York, which LOOKS really nice. Plus, being New Yorkers at heart, we can't wait to hit NYNY. So, the evening plan is set: Il Fornaio at 7, Amazing Johnathan at 10, some gambling in between. Good to go.

Fast-forward: Cab to NYNY (retired New York City cop and world-class bigot at the wheel. Entertaining in a "god, are ALL retired cops such fuckin' casual bigots?" sort of way. Arrive at NYNY and gawk for a bit. LOVED this statue of Lady Liberty a la Marilyn:

Then it’s time for Il Fornaio: NOT what we expected. Loud, trattoria-style place. Nice waiter, decent bottle of wine, OK appetizer, aggressive sniper-photographer, absurdly fast table service, intrusive busboys, unimpressive entrees, unhappy diners, unpleasant experience. Brief chat with the manager (a nice-looking but oblique and obsequious gent with this silly little jet-black soul patch the size of a No. 2 pencil eraser on his chin -- I couldn't stop staring at it when I spoke to him) gets about 25% of the bill erased, making me feel less angry but leaving me just as hungry.

We depart Il Fornaio, slightly ruffled. This was supposed to be a romantic evening. We are dressed for a romantic evening. But so far, it's been like family night at The Olive Garden. Looking to shift things in a new direction, we head to the Taxi Ride roller coaster, which looks fantastic. It takes a good 10 minutes to walk there, but we have a solid hour of time before we need to get up to the Riviera, which is only like a mile a way, so we're not concerned.

We arrive at the roller coaster, discover that they want $12.50 per person to ride it, and choose to forego this particular pleasure. We'll just head over to the Riviera early.

So, off we go in yet another cab (quiet gentleman of middle-eastern descent). Not really paying attention initially, we realize slowly that ... well, the cab isn't really moving all that much. Las Vegas Blvd. is completely clogged with cars. Saturday night, Labor Day weekend, plus they got a lane shut down about halfway up the blvd. for construction. This is trouble.

Long story short: 40 minutes in the cab, to go about a mile. But, with all the walking we'd been doing, and with the nice pointy shoes we were wearing, walking up the Strip was simply not an option. We arrive at the Riviera 10 minutes later than we were told to, in something of a panic, but are assured by the girl at the box office that we are fine, seating hasn't started yet, etc. Head up to the theater, both of us desperately trying to lift our moods after the awful experience at NYNY and lengthy frustrating cab ride, trying to figure out some way to salvage the rapidly diminishing sense of romance the evening has left. Christine opts to sit, I opt to drink and shrug it off. Besides, we're seeing the Amazing Johnathan, have great seating (PREFERRED seating!), so what could go possibly wrong?

Ahh, grasshopper. You learn so slowly.

You see, there's General seating. Those are the shit seats in the back.

And then there Preferred seating, which is ... in the middle.

The good seats are the VIP seats. They're up front, close to the stage. And where we get seated is so far from the actual stage that Christine couldn't see what was going on, even if there wasn't a 9-foot-tall man seated in front of her, trying very politely to slouch as much as possible but still remaining about as easy to see around as an antique French provincial armoire.

That's it. This evening has officially become a disaster. Christine is literally close to tears at this point.

Thinking quickly, I decide I need to do something, ANYTHING. I get up and ask to see the manager, and play the pity card. My wife, I explain, is legally blind. Very poor vision. And I bought these preferred tickets thinking they would get us close enough to the stage so she could see, but I was wrong, so wrong, so very very wrong (at this point I’m babbling and literally almost begging). It's all my fault. She can't see a thing. Please, please, please help me. I'll pay, I'll beg, I’ll wash your car, I'll do whatever you want, just PLEASE help me salvage this terrible evening.

And the manager said ... "Sure! Check back when the show starts and if there are any VIP seats remaining I'll move you guys there." And at show time, there were 2 seats with an unobstructed view, second row. We moved, I passed the manager a twenty (the best $20 I've ever spent) and a last thank you, and sat down. The seats were amazing, and then Christine gave me one of those "oh shit, you are my HERO" looks -- we guys will kill puppies to get those looks from the women we love, you know -- and the show began.

Now, if you've ever caught Amazing Jonathan’s show on Comedy Central (used to run all the time, when they had "Lounge Lizards" on the air) you know this guy is insane. A riot. And the show is great. But he picked this very old, fairly infirm, and rather odd elderly man as his volunteer/victim for the first half of the act.

Unlike most acts, where people are dragged up on-stage for about 5 minutes and then reeleased, when AJ has a volunteer he keeps him on stage for about 20-25 minutes, really working him. But this guy literally had to be helped onto the stage, by the performer. And he was weird: kept making comments and going off on tangents when AJ would ask him things or set him up for the gags. You could tell right away that AJ was getting uncomfortable with his choice, but he was stuck. Jokes he always does were getting dropped or flopping left and right (Example: He always does this bit where he drops the victim's $20 bill on the floor, and when they guy goes to pick it up he gets behind him like he's ass-fucking him. Problem was this geezer couldn't bend over to get the cash, so instead there was a beat, and then AJ grabbed the bill and continued).

By the time he finished with the guy, you could tell AJ was a little freaked/pissed off. A lot of his typical little laugh-getters had flopped or been skipped, his timing was off, the guy kept interrupting him and stepping all over his bits, just a bad scene. He had to help the guy down the stairs so he wouldn't fall and kill himself, ferchrissakes. Not a good choice.

But the rest of the show rocked and we laughed out ASSES off. Some new material I hadn't seen before, which was cool -- about 2/3 of the show is his "classic" stuff, which is cool, cause it's funny as hell, even after seeing it 10 times. Got an autographed headshot and a pic with AJ and Psychic Tanya (his assistant/wife -- funny lady).

So at this point, Christine is pretty much done for the night. Things finally went right, and -- being the wise woman that she is -- she chose to cut her losses and call it a night. I, on the other hand, decide that the night is still young, there's things to do, places to go, money to lose, and so forth. So it's back to the Sahara (another cab ride -- whoopie!), where I get her safely back to the room, and then decide to check out the Star Trek stuff over at the Hilton. I mean, it's about 12:30 on a Saturday night in Vegas -- I'm sure the place is still shakin', right?

So, back into yet ANOTHER cab (this guy was a lunatic -- really made me kinda nervous. When I told him I was in from Austin he began quizzing me aggressively about Texas history, and then went onto a political rant about Bush, Kerry, and how they're part of the same problem, we have no real choices, this country is destroying us all, "we'd be better off dead" -- that's a quote. I've seen far too many grindhouse horror movies to not get a little edgy when freaky cab drivers say shit like that) and head on over to the Hilton to indulge my inner geek.

Well, apparently the Star Trek Experience is a bit... played out. It was shut down at 10:00 or so (including the bar/restaurant/casino that is modeled after Quark's Bar from DS9, which really surprised me) and the adjoining sci-fi themed bar/casino was totally, completely, absolutely, depressingly dead. I mean, look at this place:

This is at about 1:00AM on a Saturday in Vegas. I swear, you could hear crickets, and they were snoring. No Klingons, no cool models/props, no Star Trek experience to speak of. 100% suck. So I grabbed a drink at the bar, quaffed it with purpose, played some video poker, and headed home. But I walked this time, the better to avoid Charles Manson: Cab Driver.

And as I sauntered drunkenly into the tobacco-encrusted casino at the Sahara, angry and depressed about the whole Hilton Adventure, I realized that all I wanted was food and bed. Grilled cheese and fries to go, please, and up to the room to carb myself into a coma.

For those who are curious, our current cab-ride tab is somewhere North of $125-150 total.

Next Chapter: Sunday. Hangover, goin' downtown, winning and losing, "you must make the dealer angry!", very-much-not-white tigers, dirty dancin' with Beyonce, some romance and flat-out fun (finally!), $2000 boots, enormous margaritas, and more tacky songs with beautiful aquatic accompaniment.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Vegas ReDux: Friday

Editorial Note: I've decided to break the Vegas entries up into 4 pieces, one covering each day. Here's Friday -- the other days are forthcoming.

So, at the truly inhuman and devilish hour of 4:30AM we arise (well, a-stagger would be a bit more accurate) from our bed and begin the agonizing preparations to leave. Our flight departs at 6:40, and the airport is a good 30 minute drive even at this absurd hour. Brief shower, jam contact lenses into my eyes, dress in standard comfy travel garb, including my brand new thong sandals (yes, SANDALS. Get that thong image out of your heads, you filthy things), purchased Thursday night with advice from my shoe-obsessed sister-in-law. Apparently, these are what EVERYONE is wearing now, and those sport sandals I like so much are VERY out. Anyhow, we kiss the sleeping children goodbye and head into the still-pitch-black morning for our airport trek.

The flight is fairly uneventful, although judging by Christine's periodic freak-outs you'd think we were flying though a hurricane in a biplane. Apparently, her fear of flying has gotten a bit more aggressive, especially when the kids aren't around. Going up and going down, she was digging her fingers in and clawing my arm, crying, gasping "oh god!" in a tiny little voice whenever the plane bounced around even a little bit.

It sounds kind of sexy when I type it up that way, but it really wasn't any fun.

Anyway, brief layover in Denver, with Christine trapped between a sweaty looking red-headed guy and a guy wearing a badge identifying him as a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Vicious and evil, I withdraw, leaving her trapped between them as they discuss, over her head (literally -- they were speaking while looking at each other above her head -- incredibly rude, but funny in its way), religion.

Hey, the whole flying freak-out makes me a bit edgy and kinda mean, what can I say.

Land in Vegas -- jeez, I can see my hotel from the airplane! And all the hotels look really close together -- that should make bouncing around and seeing the sights nice and easy!

Editorial Note: For those of you who have never been to the Strip, this is the part where you snicker cruelly, perhaps twirling your mustache for added effect, and say something like "That fool! How naive!" I am certain that anyone who has been to Vegas is already laughing maniacally at what is certain to come later.

So, we grab our bags and hop a shuttle to the hotel. The Sahara looks... well... OK. It's not bad, but all in all it's kinda dingy and worn around the edges. And it has a ... smell. Like a really old cheap plastic ashtray that has been cleaned a lot but still smells faintly of wet butts. Our room isn't ready (well, there was a non-smoking room that had twin beds, but that didn't really fit with our plans for the weekend), so we check our bags with the bell captain and start exploring.

We immediately ascertain that arriving in Vegas during the daytime is terribly anticlimactic. No neon, no lights, no limos, just lots of sweaty people looking jumpy. Since everything is so close, we ignore the conveniently located Monorail (chuckle -- more on that later) and instead opt to strike out on foot.

We now enter the portion of the tale wherein our heroes begin to come to one of their first major realizations about Vegas. Everything is damn big, and there are no points of reference to establish perspective, so everything looks like it's nearby. So our gentle travelers look down the road and see this big sign and this big hotel and think "Hey, that's like a 5 minute walk! Let's go!"

So we start to walk. And walk. And walk some more.

And the hotel we thought was close-by keeps getting larger without seeming to actually get any closer. Sort of an architectural version of a desert mirage, beckoning enticingly from the horizon but seemingly impossible to actually reach.

So, we keep walking. After about 15 minutes we FINALLY reach the next hotel, the Riviera. At this point, I am beginning to notice that my brand new, terribly comfortable sandals are becoming more terrible and less comfortable by the moment. Christine is in much the same boat -- also has a pair of thong sandals, and since she's not used to them she kind of bunching her toes up to hold them on, so her feet are getting stiff and cramped and just plain unhappy. So we begin looking less at hotels and more at gift shops, hoping for cheap comfy shoes to present themselves.

God are we naive. Cheap. In Vegas.

So we keep walking. After another 10 minutes, my feet are truly in agony. I swear my arches are collapsing, and if I could bring myself to look I'm certain I'd see blood seeping from between my toes.

And then, in a moment that should have been accompanied by a full-blown choir of angels, we arrive at The Fashion Show.

The Fashion Show is pretty much a mall, but it's a pretty remarkable looking thing. Huge video screens, and this gigantic aluminum oval disk overhead. But the most amazing thing is... there's a Skecher's store. I realize that new shoes are in order. If I'm in this much pain within 2 hours of arriving, I'll need to have my feet amputated by Monday. So, I spend $40 on a pair of sandals I could have bought for $20 the previous evening. The exact same shoes I was thinking of buying, until I was convinced that thongs are the thing.

Irony, you cruel, cruel bitch. But, irony or not, this is a $40 expenditure that very likely saved my vacation, so money well spent and all that.

Christine briefly considers buying shoes as well, but opts to stick with what she's got. Better shod, we continue walking and make our way all the way down to The Venetian. Head inside, and valiantly try not to stare and gawk like slack jawed country folk. The Venetian is unreal. We head to the Grand Canal Shoppes and have drinks in the really cool indoor version of St. Mark's Square -- tacky in a really classy way, which I love. Very Disney World, but with way more liquor. Finally grab a taxi and head back to The Sahara, which does not compare well now that we have experienced The Venetian. But our cab driver is cool and gives us some good tips on how to get cheap tickets to shows, as well as some coupons he had lying around.

And then, our driver drops the bombshell: we inquire about the monorail, and he informs us that the monorail isn't running. Apparently, some wheels or an axle or something fell off. Apparently, this happens a lot.

Considering the pain we are in after our first walking venture, this information is... well... alarming. The monorail was the thing that made staying all the way up at the Sahara acceptable, since it would enable us to easily access the resorts in the lower end of the Strip. At this point, we still hold out hope that the monorail will be working again shortly.

Anyway, we get to our room, check out the view and begin to purposefully adjust our expectations downward.

Christine wants to grab a nap, but I'm pretty keyed up and decide to check out the half-priced tickets stand that the cab driver clued me in on. So I hoof it back down to the Riviera and wind up with Showgirls of Magic tickets, at the San Remo, at half-price, including dinner and drinks. The show has a reputation as something of a cheese-fest -- burlesque with dancing, costumes, magic, music, comedy, and of course boobies, so it sounds perfect for getting us in the Vegas spirit.

So, then it's back to the hotel, shower, dress, and grab a cab to somewhere center-strip with a cab driver who was talking in something Middle Eastern on his cell phone the whole time. We wander around a bit, and check out the fountains at Bellagio, catching a presentation of "Time To Say Goodbye" (Andrea Bocelli/Sarah Brightman).

This is pretty much the exact cliche image I expected. The fountains are breathtaking, nearly managing to compensate for the Ravel-ripoff tune, Brightman's piercing soprano, and Bocelli's lackluster tenor.

Then it's time to grab ANOTHER cab to the San Remo. You will note at this point that cabs are becoming a recurring motif. Get used to it.

This time we get a lunatic for a cab driver. When we tell him we're heading to the San Remo he regales us, repeatedly, with a story about how he tried to sell the owners of the San Remo on a souvenir t-shirt concept with a picture of a guy grabbing his ankles saying "I got REAMED at the SAN REMO!" and how they didn't like it. He then repeated "I GOT REAMED at the SAN REMO!" about 11 times, just to make sure we understood, even going so far as to say "you get it? REEEEEAMED at the SAN REEEEEMO!" no less than twice. I'm pretty sure he was doing this to distract us so we wouldn't notice that he was going the long way around and running up the fare, and it worked. We fled the taxi cab as quickly as possible, and entered the San Remo.

The San Remo is pretty played-out: tired look and feel, and kinda seedy. But it had GREAT sushi.

Skipping ahead, we arrive at the show. It's a very small theater, seating perhaps 100 people total, and the seats are your basic cushioned stacking chairs. Definitely a low-rent operation. But the girls are gorgeous, the magic is beyond lame (this is actually a good thing, in my opinion), the comedy marginal but fun, and I wind up getting "volunteered" to participate in a bit with a very large drag queen named Tiny Bubbles. We laugh ourselves just about sick, and agree that this is the best possible kickoff for our weekend: Tacky, funny, sexy, and inebriated. The show ends around midnight, and we’re exhausted (having been up since nearly 24 hours earlier) so we cab it back to the hotel (psycho cab driver who must be in training to be a NYC cab driver some day. Judging by his skills and lead foot, he's ready for the final) and get some sleep.

Note that, due to the location of our hotel and the non-functional monorail, we have already spent around $50 on cab fare. This will increase substantially over the next few days.

Next Chapter: Saturday. Elvis, champagne, lions, Monet, regrettable accommodations, atrocious dinner choices, outrageously expensive roller coasters, the world’s longest cab ride, The Amazing Johnathan vs. The Worst Volunteer in History, “where the fuck are the Klingons?,” and late night grilled cheese.

Leaving Las Vegas

First day back in the real world after a good-to-great (but with patches of miserable) 4 days in Vegas. I'm working on a monolithic, epic-length piece about the weekend, but for now, just a couple of pictures:

From the sublime (Sunday night, Gondola ride at the Venetian after a spectacular late dinner at Postrio)...

... to the ridiculous (the "view" from our hotel room at the Sahara. Note the much-ballyhooed Vegas Monorail sitting motionless in the station at the lower left -- this little tidbit both figured prominently in and contributed significantly to the "less than great" aspects of the trip):

Stay tuned for details, including: drinks, blisters, pain, expensive cheap shoes, more drinks, black lung, bad magic with great tits, brutal realizations about size/distance/perspective, insane cab drivers, more drinks, fat drag queens, "reamed at the San Remo" over and over, pretty fountains with shitty music, more drinks, abandoned casinos on a Saturday night, the longest cab ride in history, The Amazing Johnathan vs. The Worst Volunteer Ever, and so much more.

And there's a lot of walking. Lots and lots and lots and lots of walking.

Mood: Too tired to have a mood, really.
Now Playing: Joss Stone, "The Soul Sessions"