Liza Minelli

So, the word is out that Liza Minelli and David Gest have split. I don’t know who’s been cheating, but I think we can narrow it down to another man.

Observation

Sometimes I think about what it will be like when Steffie goes to college… so I can go back to being an only child.

Bye Bye Las Vegas

The last day… so depressing.

Helaine had arranged for a 6:00 PM check out. We knew we had to return our car by 9:00 PM. We spent the vast majority of the day close to home at Mirage.

Helaine had awful luck at blackjack. I was doing better at poker, up another $200+.

By mid-afternoon she was looking for something to do and I invited her to play Hold’em at the same table I was at.

Bad move.

Listen, I love having my wife there, but we both started getting awful cards… fractions… suits that were green. In Hold’em, 2-7 off suit is the worst hand you can get. I had more 2-7’s than I can believe. Helaine too.

And we started losing.

I think, between the two of us, we gave back around $150 before finally getting up and walking away.

Whenever Helaine and I fly somewhere, we always comment on how happy the people look arriving, and how sad the departees are. No different here. And, we would have all day to think about it.

Because of the time difference, you don’t have many choices when flying west-to-east. You can leave midday, and waste the whole day, or leave late at night and try to sleep on the plane (good luck).

Since we had first class tickets, with room to relax, we thought the redeye would be acceptable, even with a nearly 2 hour layover in the formerly crowded Pittsburgh International Airport (USAir, in financial trouble, has cut traffic back heavily to its Pittsburgh hub, favoring Charlotte instead for most East Coast north-south trips).

Returning the car at Dollar was no problem. For some reason the area where you drop the car, and where the shuttle bus arrives are separated, and that meant bag carrying.

The airport itself was quiet. Helaine, once again, went without a shoe inspection (something that had become a family joke and Helaine tradition). The federal agent did notice I had a small set of diagonal wire cutters in my carry-on. I had brought them to cut the cable ties I used to ‘secure’ our luggage against baggage handlers posing as thieves.

The official rules say these wire cutters should be OK because they had blunt ends, but that wasn’t the interpretation at the airport. I’m not exactly the threatening type, but no matter. These cutters, called dykes by electricians, are now part of some huge federal stash.

The flight was uneventful. Sleeping was the order of the day. They didn’t even lower the TV screen in the First Class cabin.

We made Pittsburgh on-time, Hartford too.

While Helaine got the bags, I took the shuttle and picked up the car. By the time I got back to the terminal, Helaine was at the curb waiting.

And there you have it. Every year, in July… when it’s really hot. Every year, same hotel, Mirage. Every year, it’s a ball. And I’m looking forward to going again ASAP.

Saturday… time’s running out.

First things first. This was another really good day at the poker tables. Somewhere north of $250 won playing $6-12 Hold’em. I am definitely getting better… and the cards are running my way.

OK – now to the real events of the day.

Earlier, we had played in the ‘No risk slot tournament’ at Aladdin. It’s actually pretty cool. You play in the tournament… and lose and then you get $10 in free slot play and a $20 comp for food. So, for $30 you get the chance to win and you get your money back.

And, Aladdin’s not stupid, because the food brought us back.

I have always been a huge fan of the buffets at Mirage and Bellagio (Bellagio with cracked King Crab legs). However, I could easily be won over by Aladdin. This is also an excellent buffet with pretty much everything you’d want. The quality seems excellent. There are a half dozen (or more) separate stations with individual specialties.

One thing I don’t like about Aladdin (and Bellagio and a few others) is where you retrieve your car from valet parking. It is under cover and stiflingly hot!

Helaine wanted to try and get some beads and maybe a Chippendale’s shirt for Steffie, so we headed to the Rio. Here’s another hotel I can take or leave. We tried their buffet years ago and I found it very un-special. There’s no poker for me, and the casino is ho-hum. But, they do have the Masquerade in the Sky.

The show this year was different from what we had seen in the past… but they’re all pretty similar. I was somewhat surprised at the number of beads thrown, which I remember as being more in years past.

All week I had been asking Helaine to go downtown. Downtown is where Vegas used to be, before the Strip cam into being. It has been a difficult journey for the hotels there. They’re older, more cramped, without good parking. Many of the older ones like Binions have very low ceilings and, when last I entered, were quite smoky.

We pulled into the valet stand at the Golden Nugget. Valet was full, but I said I was staying at Mirage (same owner) and after looking at my key, they let me in. It is very convenient to park at the GN valet. You’re less than a block from Fremont Street.

Before the hourly Fremont Street Experience started, Helaine took me to the Golden Gate Hotel. This is a Las Vegas tradition… actually more like a legend. You can go to the Golden Gate and get 99 cent shrimp cocktails!

They were very good. The sauce is strong and tangy. The tiny shrimp are more texture than taste. But, it’s amazing that it’s still 99 cents.

The Fremont Street experience, with thousands (maybe millions) of lights projected above your head and set to music, was very good. Fremont Street itself is a little bit like New Years Eve in Times Square or Mardis Gras in the French Quarter. And, there are every type of person you would and wouldn’t want to meet.

It’s a shame we’ll have to leave tomorrow. Helaine is starting to get melancholy. It will be nice to get back to Steffie and my folks, but this has been a really great vacation, and as always, we’ve done a lot.

Friday, and my luck changes

All week long I had played poker and lost. It was getting a little distressing. After all, I had told everyone who would listen that poker was a game of skill, and though I didn’t have the skill of the locals, I wasn’t bad. There would be enough money more ‘stupid’ than mine for me to win.

I was going to keep a detailed running tab. But after getting to Friday, down as I was between $500 and 600, I gave up. Of course Friday was the day I started winning. Not much a first, but I had gotten back around $100 by the end of the day.

Meanwhile, Friday started with breakfast at the Paris buffet. It’s excellent. The buffet dining room is made to resemeble a small French town. There are omlet and crepe stations. Everything is fattening.

Though we’ve eaten at Paris a bunch of times over the past few years, I don’t believe I’d played dollar one. It’s a nice looking casino and certanily a striking hotel with the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, outdoor cafes and beautiful fountains. And, unlike the ‘real’ French I never felt I was being treated with hostility. I’m not sure why I hadn’t played, I just hadn’t.

So, Helaine and I sat down and played blackjack and I won $100. But I was as bored at blackjack as she claims to be at poker. We left.

I spent the rest of the afternoon playing poker at Mirage, making back the money I wrote about earlier. The Mirage poker room is large by anything but Connecticut standards. In the lower area there are normally $1-5 and $5-10 Stud and $3-6 and $6-12 Hold’em games. I played mostly $6-12 on this trip.

Upstairs are higher limit games like $10-20 and $20-40. I’m not sure how someone gets into a game like that, but there’s too much money won and (more importantly) lost to allow me to play. If you have to think about the money when you make a bet, you shouldn’t be there. It will affect your game.

For dinner we went to the Mirage buffet. This has been a staple of ours since we’ve been going to Las Vegas. Helaine had read that the buffet had deteriorated over the past year. Still, it was Friday, the night they serve fried shrimp. Everything seemed as we remembered with no degradation. However, Helaine took one bite of the shrimp and realized there was cocoanut in the breading (as a child she had swelled up after eating coconut and has avoided it ever since).

She had been looking forward to the shrimp, so this was a major disappointment.

The evening’s entertainment was across the street at Harrahs at the Improv. Three comedians. Pretty good, not great. Unlike Carrot Top and Rita Rudner, this was not close to being sold out. Of course, the economics of a comedy club with three young (aka – cheap) comdeians means you can get away with this sort of thing… even on Friday nght.

On the way to and from Harrahs we got a look at Casino Royale. Here’s a place that’s an anachronism on the 21st century Las Vegas Strip. The lights are beautiful, but inside it’s an old, small, low ceilinged casino. Considering the competition nearby, it’s probably a faciility that makes too much money to sell or close, but not enough to improve or expand.

Connectivity

I have had such a tough time staying connected from The Mirage that I’m holding off and will post a synopsis when I return to Connecticut on Tuesday.