Thursday, June 16, 2011

Winning Big in Vegas

I mentioned that I'd be taking a break for a few days, and now the story can be told: we went to Las Vegas for a few days for some rest and relaxation. And we all know what that means: eating, drinking, and gambling. I'm typically good for two out of three of those - the gambling has never appealed to me and one need only see the ostentatious opulence of the casinos to see which party the odds favor. Still, even without high stakes gambling it's possible to come out ahead, and after all, it's really more about the thrill of the chase, right?

That said, I didn't think much good could come out of the airline flight. Even when flying Southwest, my favorite airline, there's only so much of the hassle incumbent in the TSA- and other brands of idiocy-infused world of modern air travel that I can stand. Not surprisingly, by the time I had spent a couple of hours listening to the braggart in front of me telling story after story to his seat mate, I was ready for a beer. There were three problems with this guy: 1) he was loud, 2) he was obnoxious, and 3) every fourth word out of his mouth was "Dude!" and every third word was "yeah." That resulted in periodically having to hear deep thoughts such as "Yeah, dude, yeah yeah." I didn't think the guy was ever going to shut up, and as it turns out, I was right. So, $5 for a beer seemed a bargain. It turned into an even bigger bargain when the attendant never got around to collecting my tab.

Score: $5.00 and not even off of the airplane yet!

We stayed in a nice little hotel just off The Strip. For $58 a night, we got a suite with a separate bedroom, living room, balcony, and small but fully equipped kitchen. It's clean, well managed, and quiet. In a nutshell, it's the antithesis of the hectic, noisy, and expensive casino hotels.

I will say this, though: we had a message waiting on the room phone after we checked in.

1973 had called and was asking when it could have its interior design back.

But it had a balcony, and we all know how much I love a balcony! Me and my Kindle enjoyed our early morning reading.

The view from the balcony was primarily of the casino next door, or as I took to calling it, "The Biggest Hooters You'll Ever See"

This was our first time staying on near The Strip and also our first time there without a rental car. That was no problem, though, as we had four big casinos (and Hooters) right there in our little neighborhood. There's far more "Vegas" than can be seen in three days, so we decided that we'd just concentrate on exploring our local area.

The first night was difficult in that we had to find someplace for dinner relatively late in the evening and didn't have a lot of time to go hunting around for a good restaurant, so we opted for the Hooters next door. The casino, that is, not the restaurant. While there is in fact a regular Hooters in the casino, we opted for their somewhat nicer Mad Onion restaurant where I ended up having a seared Ahi tuna appetizer and a bowl of seven onion French Onion soup.

I had to ask if it had seven different types of onions, or just a whole helluva lotta onions (seven, to be precise). The waitress listed off the seven varieties of onions that were in the soup, but I don't remember them. 'Twas a pretty good bowl of soup. It was a half hour wait to get in, so we killed some time playing penny slots. Their intent was probably to make some money off of us while we waited, but they failed. I started with a dollar, cashed out with $3.83.

Score: $8.83.

The next morning found us out and about, enjoying the very temperate mid-80 degree weather while we visited the nearby casinos. We found that the morning temperatures were very comfortable, but the 100+ degree afternoons were a completely different story. The closest non-Hooters place was the MGM Grand. At the time of this writing, I've been through about eight other casinos, so I don't remember much about the MGM other than that it had extremely opulent bathrooms and a restaurant where the only selection on the menu was an 11 course dinner for $395.



Oh, they also had a food court (McDonalds, etc.) which we also passed on for completely different but no less obvious reasons, and a station for the monorail that runs up and down The Strip. The locals call it the monofail; it doesn't get much lovin'. I'm not sure precisely why they don't like it, and I never bothered to find out. We limited ourselves mostly to walking, although a taxi now and then was necessary.

Remember: 100+ degrees. Not good walking weather at all.

Probably the most memorable thing about the MGM was the lion cubs. They have a habitat set up where they house at least four lions. There may have been more, but we saw two cubs and two lionesses. It wasn't all that different from what you could see at the zoo, but the incongruity of seeing something like that awash in an ocean of slot machines was pretty stark.

After trolling fruitlessly through the MGM looking for a suitable brunch/lunch spot, we crossed a pedestrian bridge over to the New York, New York. See if you can figure out why they named it as they did.

I imagine it's possible to see a reproduction of the Statue of Liberty made entirely of jelly beans somewhere other than Vegas, but I'm not sure where that might be.

If there's anything I like more than balconies (well, there are a lot of things I like more than balconies, but let's agree to just let that go in the interest of literary expediency) it's pretzels! These are in the New York, New York casino.

We strolled the streets of old New York looking for a place to have lunch. We found the Nine Fine Irishmen pub. I had a nice beer that I have long since forgotten the name of (even though I swore I'd try to find some locally) and a great big bucket of Shephard's Pie.

It was rather quaint to eat out of a bucket, I must say. Despite the praises for it sung by my dogs, I fail to see the appeal.

Having exhausted our interest in a reproduction of a city that we could have visited in actuality just as easily, if not easier, than Las Vegas, we decided to travel to far away Egypt by crossing yet another bridge over to the Luxor.

In another case of stark incongruity, the Luxor has a large scale model of the Titanic in its lobby. It was there to draw attention to the Artifacts of the Titanic display that the Luxor is hosting; perhaps the fact that retrieving the Titanic relics was an archaeological endeavor of a sort is the tie-in with the ancient Egyptian theme of the Luxor.

None of the that matters, anyway. The most memorable aspect of our visit to the Luxor is that I ran a $1 starting stake up to $11.31 in a penny slot machine. The would ultimately be the penultimate win of the entire trip.

Score: $20.14.

You will have noticed by now that the score only increases, as if I never lost any money whatsoever. Well, I didn't. That's not to say that I didn't ever put a dollar into a slot machine and eventually walk away empty handed, because I did. I simply consider those to be rental charges for time spent resting on a padded chair in an air conditioned room.

Money well spent, that!

Dinner that night was at Hooters. No, not the fancy restaurant. The regular Hooters. I have nothing good to say about that, so I will say nothing at all. Except, I suppose, to explain that we went there because I wanted some regular old comfort food after my heavy and rich New York lunch, by which I mean "expensive." Oh, and to see some hooters. There's always that.

The next day was "show day." While we didn't want to toss $300+ at any of the fancy cirque du soleil (there are a half dozen variants on those now; I fully expect to see Welcome Back Kotter du Soleil next time we're there) shows, we figured there were bound to be some mid-tier shows in Vegas that, considering the very deep talent pool in that city, were worth seeing. We dickered with the hotel concierge until we ended up with a pair of discounted tickets to Vegas! The Show and two passes to the Spice Market Buffet at the Miracle Mile Shops. A well-timed wince and cringe when hearing the price scored us some comped tickets earlier in the day to the The Magic and Tigers of Rick Thomas! show too.

We got to the Miracle Mile Shops (hereafter referred to as "the mall") early in order to get good seats since the comped tickets were general admission. I wouldn't have minded the lesser seats if it wasn't for the lengthy wait in line to get in; for another $10 each we'd have reserved seats and no waiting. Being the first people at the box office that morning resulted in us getting seats in the front row, which would ultimately lead directly to my ultimate Big Win in Vegas! But, we'll get to that.

We had a few hours to spend in the mall, and if there is anything that Vegas goes over the top on (well, there are a lot of things that Vegas goes over the top on, but let's agree to just let that go in the interest of literary expediency, again), it's malls. With the prohibitive heat of the summer, Vegas has moved outdoor malls indoors. The domed ceilings are painted and lit to look like a dusk sky, and the store fronts are designed to look like on-street storefronts. And, again, a starkly incongruous location for a ship. I'm sensing a pattern developing here...

So, the Magic and Tigers Show. How, you're wondering, did I manage to win something while sitting at a magic show? Well, it's like this. If you've ever been to a magic show, you will know that there is more to them than the tricks. There are elements of stand up comedy, and in some cases, tigers. The magician will also typically interact with the crowd and, as with most stage shows, will periodically request a volunteer from the audience to participate on stage. Failing to find a volunteer, the showman will draft an unwilling audience member. With us in the front row, we were obvious targets. As he came down the stares, I attempted to hide by scrunching down into my seat.

That, as it turns out, is akin to blood in the water for these guys. I had no sooner muttered "Oh, no!" before I was up on stage in front of 500 people holding a leather collar attached to a 10' leather leash. The other guy that had been yanked from his seat was holding two leather ankle straps, also attached to a leash. Between us was a rolling table that looked for all the world like an operating table. Sitting on the table was the Vegas showgirl (hot, hot, HOT!) that works as the magician's "victim" for the trick.

My assignment was to buckle the leather collar to the Vegas showgirl.

Let's think about that for a moment.

On stage, in front of 500 people, buckling a leather collar around the neck of a very scantily clad young woman.

Who wouldn't be a little nervous??

So I fumbled and bumbled with the buckle, my brain suddenly incapable of coherent thought and my hands shaking as if I had just mainlined a quart of Starbuck's finest Columbian.

And here came Mr. Thomas to the rescue. He leaned over and said, "What's the matter? Don't you do this at home?"

I replied with the first thing that came into my head: "Well, yes, but ours are Velcro."

I had forgotten that he was wearing a microphone.

All 500 of them heard it.

But wait! What's that got to do with winning big in Vegas?

Let's think about that for a moment.

Buckling a leather collar around the neck of a very scantily clad young woman..... and a Vegas showgirl to boot.

I think the current asking price for that kind of thing is around $400.

Score: $420.14.

The Vegas! The Show show was, well, somewhat of an anti-climax after that. Oh, it was a terrific show, but... buckling a leather collar around the neck of a very scantily clad young woman and getting a hearty audience laugh on a Las Vegas stage.

Hard act to follow! They never stood a chance.

The next day was a destination-restaurant day. I had decided before we left on the trip that I simply had to have some corned beef hash at the oddly named Hash House A Go Go. I'm not making that up!! The Vegas branch is located in the Imperial Palace, which would necessitate a taxi ride, but since the local area around the Hash House also includes such luminaries as The Bellagio, Caesars Palace, and another mall, it seemed worthwhile.

There was a half hour wait to get into the restaurant, but they had a conveniently placed menu out in the lobby for us to peruse. You know you're in Vegas when you see a breakfast menu item like this: "O'Hare of the dog 24 oz Budweiser and a side of bacon." Never mind that O'Hare is in Illinois - they piqued my attention with "bacon!"

If a side of bacon and a beer seemed appealing, imagine how I felt about the B. L. T. Mary! A Bloody Mary with bacon salt on the rim and a strip of bacon to stir it with?? Sign me up!

It was a very good drink, and I probably could have had another. As far as the actual BLT sandwich, well, one of those would be enough for anybody.

I found it amusing to find myself eating out of a frying pan only days after eating from a bucket. This order too was far more than a single mortal can finish in one sitting; I limited myself to the pound of tender and lean corned beef and some of the crispy potatoes.

And, in case you've forgotten, the B. L. T. Mary.

Caesars Palace is across the street, and it has an adjoining mall called The Forum Shops at Caesars.

This mall was even further over the top when it came to decor.

One of the shops has come up with a novel way to sell expensive women's purses in this "The Sky is Falling" economy.

The center bub of the mall is spectacular.

The ancient Italian theme seems to have prompted multiple vendors to sell gelato.

The provenance of chocolate pizza is somewhat more in doubt.

And piped in hot chocolate and Espresso!

Look! More gelato!

A short walk from Caesars Palace is The Bellagio. The Bellagio is well known for its open and airy lobby festooned with Chihuly glass and a nice garden off to the side.

Notice that this "painting" is made up of flowers.

We waited a few minutes in the heat for the world-renowned Bellagio Fountains to put on a show. I could see Paris just across the street, but a visit there will have to wait until next time.

1 comment:

Steve said...

[ clap clap clap clap ]

Nicely done there with the ad-lib. Hilarious trip report as always!

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