Saturday, January 10, 2009

Vegas Synopsis

It's a snowy day here at Nutwood, but we had family obligations so we got out in it. It was my great-nephew Hunter's first birthday party, and wow, did he ever haul in the loot! He was so cute, and although a little shy at first, he smiled a little bit at me. It was great that his Dad, my nephew Steve, got to come home on leave, too. He's a Marine and hasn't been home since around June. We were also planning on going to my sister's after the birthday party, because my niece Heather and her husband and son are in town, visiting from San Diego. It was a nice surprise when they showed up at the party, so we all had a nice visit!

Living in San Diego, this big snow is quite an adventure for them, especially little Liam. My brother-in-law told me that when he was out shoveling the driveway today, Liam was out playing and took a header into a snowbank. They wiped all the snow off of his face, and he came running out and took another dive right into the snow--on purpose! He is such a cute kid, and so friendly. Heather said that she takes him to book time at Borders, and that he's almost "aggressively friendly," and sometimes scares the other little kids. The adults love him, but Liam is not one bit shy about going up to other kids and kind of scares them a little bit!

Oh, and before I get to Vegas stuff, "Spamalot" was marvelous! I've mentioned before that I love Monty Python (movies and TV show), and this was a great adaptation of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." The woman who played the Lady in the Lake was excellent, and I also liked the guy who played Sir Galahad. Great voices all the way around, lots of fun, and a chance to sing along at the end! Remember to always look on the bright side of life! Shane is going tonight, and I can't wait to hear what he says about it.

Okay, on to Vegas! I know I'm jumping all over the place with this stuff, but please bear with me. Today I'm going to write about our general timeline and impressions. I'm most excited to write about the Boneyard, but I haven't edited those pictures yet! This is us outside the fountain at Paris.

We got in later than we expected Sunday evening, and Kim and Steve had been there for a few hours and had eaten already. We got a little caught up on things, then played a little video poker at Sully's bar in Bally's (Sully's became our daily meeting place). We walked around the casino a little bit, then on over to Paris, which is connected by a walkway with little shops and French restaurants. Oui, oui! We were looking for $5 tables, but I was pretty certain we wouldn't find any on the Strip, and I was right. Ken sat and played a little Blackjack at the $10 tables in Bally's, but when you're strict about your daily allotment, you can't play for long at the $10 tables! We finally called it a night at around 2 AM, I think, and agreed to meet up the next morning for a trip to the Gold Coast.

The Gold Coast is a little ways off-Strip, by the Rio, and Ken and I encountered it and played there back in '05. During the day, they have $3 tables, and they actually had a couple open during the afternoon when we were there. Kim and Steve and I sat down at one, and Ken was at another, but he was able to join us the last hour we were there. It was really a fun afternoon, and it was Kim's first time playing Blackjack in a casino. She did great, and she had an older gentleman sitting next to her who really helped her. There was another guy at the table who was from Michigan, and he was such a character, and we all had a lot of fun talking! Those are the most fun tables, where people are relaxed and having fun, willing to chat and joke a little bit, and no one is so uptight that they're all grim and gloomy. Everyone was fine with Kim being a first-time player, and I was really happy that we got such a good table for her "first time!" Ha ha!

That night we had a fairly quick dinner at a burger place, then headed to the Mirage for "Love," which I've already written about. Would I see it again? Hell to the yeah!

Tuesday was our old Vegas day, with a trip on the Blue Deuce (the bus that covers the Strip and goes downtown--excellent value!) downtown. There are tons of great Googie signs on the way downtown, and this one was a beaut. It was cool enough in the daytime, but on the way back, we got to see the neon. The starbursts at the top light in sequence, and all the neon is intact. It is a gorgeous example of Googie signage!

We had breakfast at the Bay City Diner at the Golden Gate Casino. The Golden Gate is the oldest casino in Vegas, built in 1906. It also had the first phone number issued in Vegas. (Whoever can guess what the number was gets a gold star for the day!) The Golden Gate has beautiful dark woodwork inside, and really has the feel of historic Vegas. It is also the home of the original Vegas cheapo shrimp cocktail, and everyone except Steve had one. (I dedicated my shrimp cocktail to you, Melissa!) For many years, they were 99 cents, but when we were there in '05, they had recently raised the price to $1.99. This time they were $3.99. Still, Kim agreed that it was a good-sized portion of shrimp for that price. After a filling (and reasonably priced) breakfast, we trekked a few blocks to the offices of the Neon Museum. I'll save that entry for another day, because I'll have lots more pictures for you!

After our Boneyard tour, we headed back to Fremont Street. We did a little gambling before dinner, then went to the seafood buffet at the Fremont. I'd read that it was a very good value at $15.99, and while a few things disappointed (Ken said the fried oysters and the calamari were too chewy), all in all, it was pretty good. I even had some sushi, which tasted really good to me. Without a doubt, the buffets on the Strip would have been better, but we also would have paid at least 3 times as much. And although Kim and Steve teased me about my hollow leg--for a small person, I can really put away the food!--I can only eat so much. A $50+ buffet would make no sense for someone like me. A $16 one? Oh yeah, I can hold my own.

When we left the buffet, the hourly show was just beginning. The Fremont Street Experience is a large arched roof over a portion of Fremont, and it is the largest television screen in the world. That hour, the video was to "American Pie," but at the end of the show they announced that the next show would be a tribute to Queen. I thought of you, Jenny! We made sure we were back out on the street for that one, and WOW, it was so cool! The song was "We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions," and let me tell you, that is one hell of a sound system. The final show we saw, later that night, was more of a Vegas show, with hot girls dancing to songs like "Takin' Care of Business." I suppose they wait till later, when all the Vegas kiddies are tucked away, to show that stuff!

We did more walking around (trying to work off that seafood buffet), then tried a few different casinos. That night we checked out the Fremont, Fitzgerald's, Four Queens, El Cortez, and the Golden Gate. Ken and I didn't gamble at El Cortez (which is just off Fremont Street), but our tour guide at the Boneyard, Justin, said that the El Cortez is a true gem, and the owners have been doing a lot to improve it. It's one of the oldest casinos in Vegas, built in 1941, and the last time we were there, Ken and I found it sort of dingy and depressing, with sort of an air of desperation to it. Justin said they'd torn out the old, smelly carpet, and that it's a great historic casino, so we were curious to see how it was this time. They have lots of great pictures up of Vegas in the 40's and 50's, and it really did seem that they were embracing their past and trying to play it up, and trying to make the casino a lot nicer. It was a lot better on this visit. I was thrilled to see that!

Our last stop of the night was at the Golden Gate. Ken and I didn't play long, because the table was cold. We had a good run at a couple of the casinos earlier, but sometimes you just have to call it a night. On our way out I saw--wait, first I should explain Kim and Steve's people watching game. I'm sure many of you know that Vegas is a great place to people watch. They and their friends came up with a point system for people watching. For example, a woman in a bridal gown is one point. If she is obviously over 60, that's another point. If she has a tattoo (visible), that's another point. A couple with matching shirts is one point. Serious CFM shoes are one point, and if coupled with an extreme miniskirt, that's another point. A confirmed celebrity sighting is 5 points. So as we were getting ready to leave the Golden Gate, I had a confirmed celebrity sighting! I was able to get both Kim and Ken to look and confirm that it was none other than Fred Willard. The guy has been in so many things, but I first remember him from Fernwood 2Night, and later in "This is Spinal Tap" and "Best in Show." Did I say anything to him? No. I'm not really that kind of person. He didn't look all that happy...he walked right by me, and I'm sure he saw me staring at him because he sort of glanced my way, but he did not have a smile on his face, and I'm just not that intrusive. I suppose that if it were someone like Leonard Nimoy, I'd be running after him and tackling him in order to get a picture with him. Hey, he's closing in on 80. I think I could take him.

On Wednesday, we slept in. Kim and Steve signed up for a poker tournament that morning, and told us later that they didn't embarrass themselves, so they were happy! Ken and I met with Marty that afternoon, and before we headed to the Petrossian for our meeting, we took a look at the Bellagio Christmas display, which I'd heard was amazing. They were already starting to tear it down in preparation for their next display, and it was interesting to see some of the "innards" of the elaborate display. One thing that dismayed me was that the display included hundreds of potted poinsettias, and they were throwing them all into a dumpster. These were living plants, and they were just tossing them out! Were they composting them? I seriously doubt it. Couldn't they donate them to a nursing home, or something like that? Poinsettias can live for a long time if properly cared for, and it just really bothered me to see them just chucked like that. I'm even thinking about writing to the Bellagio and suggesting that they "repurpose" their living plants. I suppose that's kind of stupid, but isn't it about time we started rethinking our environmental behavior as a society? I sure think so!

We met up with Kim and Steve that evening and headed back to the Mirage for dinner at Samba, a Brazilian steakhouse. It was our "nice" dinner of the vacation, and we had already planned our eating strategy: they bring by the cheaper meats first, so don't load up on those, or on the sides. Wait for the good stuff. It was all good, actually, but I think we all decided that the sirloin was the best. Very tender and flavorful, with a nice rub on the outside. A nice surprise was that any wine below $3000 a bottle (feel free to do a spit take there!) was 50% off, so Ken and Kim and I (Steve doesn't imbibe) were able to enjoy two nice bottles of red wine! And no, they were not $2999 bottles!

Then it was time to be tourists, and we hit the the volcano at the Mirage; the Sirens of TI show at Treasure Island (not for the kiddies, and they might want to consider renaming it the Sirens of T&A!); went back to the Mirage to have our martoonis at Revolution Bar; watched the fountains at the Bellagio; and finally went up to the top of the Eiffel Tower at Paris, which offered an amazing view of the Strip. We could even see the Mirage volcano going off again, and watch the Bellagio fountains from way up high. Very cool, and worth doing.

After that, it was back to Bally's, and after agreeing on a meeting time for breakfast, Kim and Steve went off to play some slots (Kim's favorite was Star Trek), and Ken and I got to play a little $5 craps. We had a pretty good run going for a while, and the croupiers were having a lot of fun. It was great to play a bit on our last night there, and to play at a fun craps table. We played for a while and lost very little, so that was a good way to end!

The next morning, we met at Sully's (one of the bars in Bally's, if you recall), and there was a table of maybe 2 girls and 3 guys there that were having an awfully good time at 9:30 in the morning. Their table was full of beer bottles, and they were doing shots, and they were yelling and talking really loudly...and then they started singing. At the tops of their voices. And not just a few lines of a song, but an entire song.

I told the gang, "You know, I've been pretty drunk at various times in my life, but I don't think I've ever had the urge to sing loudly." Steve said, "Yeah, especially a cappella!" What is that compulsion? We speculated whether or not they were ending their night or just beginning it. We all agreed that they were ending their night, or perhaps continuing it, as they were still there when Ken and I checked out at a little before 11 AM! We usually encounter something really unusual or obnoxious when we're in Vegas, and I'd say that group takes the obnoxious award for this trip. (Last time, it happened before we got to Vegas, on the plane out there...the guy that barfed all over himself and spent the entire flight at the back of the plane with the flight attendants, being watched.)

After our breakfast, we parted ways with Kim and Steve and agreed to plan something for later this year--perhaps a week together at our timeshare? We headed off to the airport for our 2 PM flight, but Kim and Steve had a while before their flight, so they were going to do more slots (or as Steve kept calling them, "sluts"). It was a great trip, and I think we all felt that we crammed a whole bunch o' fun into a few short days. I'm sorry this was so long, but that was our trip itinerary, except for our visit to the Boneyard. I'll save that for an entry in the next few days. I've got a few things to say about Palin's recent interview, and a few things to say about our State Representative who wants to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood! Oh no she didn't! Oh yes she did. I sent an email to her today. I've voted for her in the past, but I told Ken that if she doesn't back off, she has lost my vote. I'm feeling the need to write about those things very soon, so the Boneyard might have to wait! But not for long....

Friday, January 9, 2009

Meet and Greet

You know, if I ever fly to somewhere like Egypt, I am going to be so messed up time-wise. There's only a 3 hour difference between here and Vegas, but I am really out of whack! I hope I can get back to normal soon...or at least what passes for it.

I forgot to mention that while we had no problems getting back home ourselves, our suitcase apparently decided it liked Chicago and wanted to spend the night there. They're supposed to deliver it today, but no sign of Mr. Samsonite yet. We got a few inches of snow last night, so there may have been some delays. There is nothing especially urgent in there, but I hope they get on the ball and get it to us soon. It's an irritant more than a problem, you know?

Speaking of irritants, I'll have a thing or two to say about Sarah Palin's most recent interview, believe me. But that's for after the Vegas travelogue, so you all can breathe a sigh of relief. [grin]

I'm really going out of order in our days, but I don't think it matters too much. Today I want to write about our meeting with our Blogger friend Marty, who writes the always enjoyable Heard at Starbuck's. I'm happy to report that I can now say we're friends in real life, too!

When he read that we would be in Vegas, he wrote that he was going to be there for an electronics show, and it turned out that our visits overlapped by a day. Although neither of us had met a blogger in real life before, we all decided we were game to give it a try and arranged a time and place. Marty was staying at the Bellagio, and we were at Bally's right across the street, so we walked over to the Bellagio and met him at one of the bars there, the Petrossian. A good spot to meet, quiet enough so that we didn't have to shout to be heard, but we could look out on the lobby area, too, and still hear all the casino sounds. By the way, Marty had meetings later in the afternoon, so he was a fine, upstanding citizen and drank mineral water. Ken and I were under no such restrictions.

Anyhoo, although I was a little nervous about this (I'm actually a fairly shy person, and I have no problem admitting that I can often be a social retard), it turned out that Marty was just the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet, and the hour and a half or so went by before we knew it! He has the exact same sense of humor in person that he does in his writing, and I'd say that we all had some good laughs and a good time chatting. I am so glad we did that, and I'm sure there will be another meeting in our future. We'll be traveling Route 66 in 2010, and the end of The Road just happens to be where Marty lives, so that's something to look forward to!

I can now say that when it comes to meeting bloggers, we're batting a thousand. Who's next?!

I would like nothing more than to stay home tonight and not have to venture out into the cold and snow...well, I suppose there's one thing I'd like more, and that would be to attend a performance of "Spamalot." What a lucky break, because we happen to have tickets for tonight's show! Where was that luck when we were in Vegas? Too bad we couldn't have spread these things out a little bit, but "Spamalot" is here just for this weekend. Should be fun!

I'm Vegased out, Baby!

We're back, and still on Vegas time, so we're working on getting tired enough to go to bed! It's after 4 AM here, but in Vegas, it would still be early, with a few hours before Snoozeville! We'll get back into the swing of things soon enough.

Sheeba was very happy to see us (although his Uncle Shane always takes excellent care of him), and seemed happy with his Vegas bling! We all got tons of coupons, and one of them was for a free medallion at Caesar's Palace, so all four of us got one! It's fairly hefty, and on a gold chain, and after Sheeba modeled for a while, we hung ours on the ceiling fan, along with our New Orleans beads. They look pretty cool hanging up there...we cracked up over the medallions, and I think Ken and Steve need to wear them with their silk shirts with the big collars, opened halfway...isn't that how you're supposed to wear a big honkin' gold medallion?!

I have lots to write about, and plenty of pictures to edit, so I'll split it all up into a few entries. For this entry, the topic is "Love." Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves.

I mentioned in my entry from Vegas about how remarkable the show was. I don't know if I can put it into words, but I'll try. The Beatles and their music is obviously legendary, and although they had already split up before I got really into music, I had always had an interest in them and other 60's bands because of my big sister, Diana. She was a Beatlemaniac--still is, actually--and I remember she had all the 45's of their singles, as well as all their albums. When I was maybe 6 years old, she taught me how to do the Monkey to Beatles songs. Ha ha! So I've listened to British Invasion music since I was a little girl.

There is something special about Beatles music that you tend to forget if you don't hear it for a while. How many times have you heard the songs? Hearing them in this venue brought a whole new dimension to the music (and I believe the songs were remastered for this show). The complexity and variety of the music is amazing, whether it's something as lovely as "Here Comes the Sun" or a flat-out rocker like "Revolution." This Cirque show was all about the music. The performers were amazing, but they complemented the music rather than overshadowing it. The previous Cirque shows that we've seen have been heavy on amazing feats of gymnastics and strength. Those were present in this show as well, but I thought they did a great job in letting the music be the star of the show.

The sound system was incredible, and it was so cool to be in the front row, because we were basically at stage level. I'm including a few videos that I found on the Net (I didn't take any of these), with some of the really cool parts. "Octopus's Garden" has never been one of my favorite songs of theirs, but I loved the choreography and costumes in that one! Very creative and fun. The video with the white parachute cloth was neat to see from above, because at the show...we were under it! It billowed out over the lower level, and we all raised our arms to keep it afloat and hovering over the audience. It was fun! Videos follow at the end of the entry.

I think that's part of why I loved this show. It was just so damn much fun. The music, the groovy 60's garb, the close-to-overload visual stimuli, being able to sing along with some of the was wonderful, and I'm so glad we went and sprang for the extra $$$ for the front row! (Although it looked like a fairly small theater, and I bet there isn't a bad seat in the house.)

Ken and I got drinks to take into the show: he got A Hard Day's Night and I got a Can't Buy Me Love! Ha ha! Basically a punch-type drink made with vodka, but his had a shot of Cointreau in it, too. Very tasty to sip on during the show, and who knows? Maybe they made the pretty colors a little brighter!

Miss Ginger, we didn't stop in Revolution that evening, but we went back Wednesday night and had a drink there. I had told you that I'm not really a martini gal, but I figured what the hell? I'm a trooper, and I was willing to take a bullet for Miss G! Well, turns out that their special that night was a Blueberry Martini, and I was all over that! It was fairly sweet, and went down as easy as a Vegas Strip workin' girl! Ken had a Lemon Drop, and Kim had one that was just Sapphire gin and olives. We all tried each other's, and I have to say that I like martinis! Although I was calling them martoonis (that seemed appropriate, considering it was the Revolution Bar), which I think I must have gotten from some movie. I don't know, but it was fun to say!

Coming tomorrow later today: Meeting Marty! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

All you need is "Love"

I'll write more about it when we get home, but last night we saw "Love," and it was absolutely incredible. I was actually weeping, and I'm not totally sure why...I think it was sheer joy. The music was great, obviously, but the way it was all put together just sort of made me feel like a kid again, at least for a couple of hours. I'm getting a little choked up just writing about it!

Today it's off to downtown Vegas, where we'll get a tour of the Boneyard. I plan on taking lots of pictures there, so I'll subject you all to endless shots of old signs upon our return. I know, I can hardly wait!

Looks like a good weather day, too, getting a little warmer than it has been the past couple. We've been having a great time with Kim and Steve, and Kim is doing great at Blackjack (it's the first time she's played).

More soon!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

And they're off!

We're heading out for the airport in 20 minutes--I love small airports!--and so far everything looks cool with our flights. I'll try to post pics and entries while we're there, but I won't be getting much reading or commenting done. I'll get caught up when we get back! Wish us luck in FABULOUS LAS VEGAS BABY!