Vegas Vacation Wrap-Up

Well, here we are, back at 35,000 feet – give or take a little. Everything has gone very smoothly so far today. Michael accompanied me to return my car, then drove me back to the Mirage. The six of us had breakfast at the Caribe Caf

The Guys Go To Fry’s

Sunday morning – only one day to go. Very sad.

As always, Las Vegas woke up to sunshine. People here sometimes complain about the consistent, predictable sunshine. Give me a break.

After a quick breakfast at the coffee stand I took Michael and Max to Fry’s. I have heard about Fry’s over the years. The are stories about Fry’s in Silicon Valley during the early days of the dot-com boom… geeks picking up motherboards and nachos in the middle of the night.

It is a more technically oriented version of CompUSA, but the size of BJ’s or Costco. I saw displays of CPU’s, motherboards, cases, everything tech! Good God, I was in heaven.

I ended up buying a 120 GB Western Digital hard drive for $60 after rebate and two $22 books, both free after rebate. Not bad. Michael bought a DVD for Max and a few more very esoteric art film type DVDs for himself.

Before I leave the subject of Fry’s, there is one very tacky thing. The entrance of the store, which faces away from Las Vegas Boulevard, is styled like a slot machine. It’s very cheesy. The vertical stands, used to prevent cars from driving in, are fashioned to look like stacks of quarters.

We came back and I took a nap. Then it was back to the poker room. Though there was only one table playing $6/$12 and four on the waiting list, the woman with the clipboard told me it would move quickly. Right – I don’t think so.

I sat down at $3/$6 and bought a $100 rack of blue chips. It didn’t take long to notice a heavyset man with a large, though old, tattoo on his right arm. His long brown blond hair was askew as if he had slept on it, but hadn’t showered, or had just been up for a long, difficult time. He was loud. He had two drinks in front of him. He was drunk.

I really don’t care if there’s a drunk player, because they usually play stupidly, giving me a shortcut to their money. He was loud enough and off center enough to take my concentration off the cards and onto him. And, his irrational large bets totally changed the strategy necessary to stay afloat.

I lost a close hand – what should have been a cheap hand, but wasn’t because of his constant raising. I didn’t lose to him, but I lost. Before long I had shed $70. I tried hard not to go on tilt, to keep my play steady.

Little by little I played back and after a few hours left up $15.

During my play he was visited by at least two floor people. One came on my insistence. The other was called in by the dealer. He should have been cut off from liquor. He should have been removed from the table. I suppose if I would have pressed a little more he would have. On the other hand, I don’t want some huge drunk upset with me.

Dinner tonight was just Steffie, Helaine and me at the California Pizza Kitchen. Helaine and I are positive we’ve been served by this waiter at least 5-6 times before.

And now, my last chance at poker.

Blogger’s note: I continue to add photos to the gallery for this trip. You can see them by clicking here. The whole Vegas trip has its own category, which means you can link to these stories specifically by clicking here or read about the 2003 Vegas trip here.

It Takes Good Cards to Lose Big

Saturday was another beautiful day. Hot and dry. I think the dry is starting to take a toll. More than once I started to feel a little weak or light headed. I’m attributing it to dehydration and am going to ramp up the water intake.

I have to remember that even inside the dew point is low. Outside, the difference between the temperature and dew point encourages the rapid loss of body fluid. You DO perspire in Las Vegas. It just evaporates so quickly that you never notice.

I played some poker Saturday. So far I had won at every non-tournament session and lost in every tournament. I’ll explain why I’m separating those two when I summarize the trip from Connecticut.

I lost $307 – and lost it in a hurry. I didn’t play bad. I was attacked by a long string of unlikely occurrences. Someone who wouldn’t lay down a 10-J off suit to my Kings – even when the bet had been raised 4 times. Of course, in the end, she caught a straight.

If you calculated the odds for that happening, it was quite unlikely. But even an 80% probability is wrong 1 in 5 times.

This happened time-after-time-after-time. My Jacks with a King kicker lost to an Ace kicker.

Anyway, I watched $307 disappear as if the chips were evaporating like sweat in the Vegas sunshine. I’m not happy about what happened, but my play was fine. This kind of setback is absolutely expected, just as incredible hot nights are expected every once in a while.

I didn’t go on tilt. I didn’t try and chase my money. I stayed calm.

For at least five years, maybe longer, Helaine and I had talked about seeing Mac King at Harrah’s. Mac King performs twice daily at 1 and 3 PM. It is a family oriented comedy magic show.

As many times as we’d said, “This year for sure,” we’d never crossed the street to see him. On Saturday, with Steffie, Melissa, Michael and Max in tow, we did.

The show is dirt cheap to see. Helaine had 3 – 2 free ticket coupons. Our only obligation was to buy a $7 drink. With tax, 6 of us went to see Mac King for $49.20.

Playing off his Kentucky hayseed upbringing, he is very funny. The magic is simple, yet effective. The tricks are well done and folksy. There are no live animals, no expensive props. The charm of the show is, he’s charming.

I watched Max and Steffie, both laughing – Max on the level of a 6 year old and Steffie as a late teen. Seeing them smiling was part of my fun.

We had dinner at the Mirage buffet again. My capacity for ‘buffeting’ is rapidly diminishing. I worry about how much diet reversal has taken place in this week.

With time running out, I decided to play poker again. The losses from the afternoon continued. Before long I had lost another $175. With $25 left in my chip rack I started to recover and left the table, after four hours, with a $32 loss.

This late night $6/$12 table was one of the most lively and fun tables I had played at. A dealer from Imperial Palace sat at my right. A few seats farther was Lance from Texas. He reminded me of Rock Hudson in a Doris Day movie.

Lance was countrified and over-the-top Texas at the same time he was sophisticated. He was the grease that kept the table laughing and moving along.

In one hand, where the two of us were heads up, I felt guilty beating him and extracting extra chips. He had that kind of charm.

Blogger’s note: I continue to add photos to the gallery for this trip. You can see them by clicking here. The whole Vegas trip has its own category, which means you can link to these stories specifically by clicking here or read about the 2003 Vegas trip here.

They’re Bailing

First it was my sister and brother-in-law leaving, on Friday night it was my parents. Helaine, Steffie and I decided to take another trip to The Bellagio with them. Forget the casino, Bellagio is a destination in itself (and I say forget the casino only because I’ve never done well playing poker there).

Las Vegas Boulevard was moderately crowded. Friday night means the LA crowd returns. Still, it wasn’t anything like what we saw when we got here on the 5th.

We parked the car and walked into the hotel. Our destination was the Conservatory. This large space, with glass paneled roof, is constantly planted in seasonal motifs. Right now, it’s pretty patriotic for the 4th of July.

Some of what they do I like. Some, I don’t. I specifically don’t like the attempts to create people from flowers. It just looks too contrived for me – as if a molded body was pasted with flowers.

On the other hand, the individual flower plots – large expanses of one flower – are beautiful. And there’s not a blemish or spot on any petal or leaf.

Within a few of these plots are ‘fountains’. The actual nozzle is buried beneath decorative rocks, which allows the water streams to appear from nowhere. A dozen or more of these streams are intricately choreographed to music – much as the fountains outside. In this case, because of the shorter streams, the coordination between water and music is much tighter.

Dinner was at the caf

Another Day in Paradise

The phone didn’t ring at 4:00 AM. No balloon trip again. I’m not sure I understand, because a glance at the weather observations show low winds. Helaine is upset and we’ll attempt to get our money back because it’s now too late. What a shame.

We took a group of 9 to breakfast at Paris. Max, Steffe and Ali all said they were tired, so we drove – though it’s a pretty short drive. Melissa led the way and brought us into the self park garage. That was fine, but I realized it was probably the first time I had ever parked my own car in Las Vegas.

Isn’t that strange.

Valet parking is so common, and always free. I has never thought about doing it any other way. The 6th level of the garage gave me a different photo perspective of the city.

Speaking of valet parking, Helaine and I have a theory that the best legs seen in Las Vegas aren’t on showgirls but valet parking attendants. They are constantly sprinting everywhere and it shows. Originally, when Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun opened in Connecticut, I expected to see the same thing – but didn’t.

It’s funny. No matter how much building there is, no matter how many people say the market is saturated – or near saturated, building continues. I’m not talking about little additions. These are substantial buildings with huge cranes and loads of activity. These is more construction activity today in Las Vegas than there has been in my twenty years in the New Haven area.

If you were going to pick a location to model you hotel after – a place Americans would flock to, it probably wouldn’t be France. Forget my terrible 7th grade experience in Mme Gobstein’s French I class at Campbell JHS. America just doesn’t get along with France and vice versa. We both look down our noses at each other – especially on matters of taste.

Paris is modeled after France in nearly every obvious way. Outside the hotel are models of the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. Inside the hotel, the corridors are made to look like quaint French villages, with blue skies and sparse cloud cover.

We ate at the buffet, also looking like a French village – though there usually isn’t a display for Keno numbers on real French walls.

The food, especially for breakfast, is very good. My favorite part is the freshly made crepes. I had the mixed berry crepe with apricot sauce. Atkins be damned this week! I was surprised they only had mini bagels, which are inappropriate for cream cheese and lox.

After breakfast, Helaine, Steffie and Ali headed out to shop at the Aladdin Hotel’s Desert Passage. The rest of us went back to Mirage, where my parents and Michael met up with Molly and Abie – old friends from New York City who are part of the immense non-native population which dominates Las Vegas.

Before I go, a few quick observations.

This is a service oriented community and most employees have insurance and other benefits, even in positions that usually don’t get those, like food service employees. It is a city where a working family can actually buy a home. Most workers I come in contact with are happy in their jobs, or at least understand that making me, and others like me, happy is an important part of their jobs. Everyone says hello. Everyone says thank you. Everyone seems interested in helping me have a good time.

I used to think I would, someday, retire to Florida. Now I’m not so sure. The more I experience this climate, the more I like it. Even my folks, Floridians beyond a doubt, find this scorching weather easy to deal with than the hot and oppressively humid conditions they deal with 4-5 months a year.

Finally, this is a wide open town. If there’s any question about that, just look at the ads on the tops of taxi cabs. There a few inhibitions or worry that kids might be looking. The photo on the left is relatively innocent compared to what is handed out on Las Vegas Boulevard… even to 17 year olds like my daughter.

Blogger’s note: I continue to add photos to the gallery for this trip. You can see them by clicking here. The whole Vegas trip has its own category, which means you can link to these stories specifically by clicking here or read about the 2003 Vegas trip here.

Not Good Poker News

I played in the tournament at Mirage and did pretty poorly. $430 shot. Ouch.

Afterward, I went back to the ‘live’ tables and won $68 – small consolation. Oh well, still a few days to go.

If I’m lucky they’ll be calling at 4:00 AM for the balloon ride.

It Is Paradise

After a few days of eating buffets, you do fill up. You do need to slow down. That awakening came today.

Breakfast this morning was at a small coffee stand in the hotel. I had a bagel and cup of coffee.

This coffee stand, like every other food place in Las Vegas, features oversized portions. Imagine muffins, baked at a nuclear power plant. That’s what you get. You won’t find this anywhere else… or we’d all be waddling around.

Michael, Melissa and Max were at the pool, and I headed there. I haven’t had my shirt off in public in a really long time, but the whole pool area was so inviting. The air was warm. So was the water.

Max, Michael and I took the slide down into the pool a few times. It was really a lot of fun.

I’m starting to think this is the perfect climate. Though the temperature was north of 100 today, it was comfortable. The humidity was bone dry low. In fact, sitting at the pool I wondered what the advantage of Florida or the Caribbean was?

Of course Las Vegas does have winter and it does get chilly. But, for someone like me in Connecticut, this would be considered a mild winter. Florida, on the other hand, has virtually no winter. Maybe this climate would be better when retirement comes along.

My sister and brother-in-law, busy with work related things most of the time we’d been here, showed up at the pool to say goodbye. They were catching a flight back to Milwaukee. Talk about culture shock!

Michael and Melissa had a friend coming over around lunch time, so Michael and I got a table at an open air restaurant at the pool. The birds at this restaurant must feel like they’ve died and gone to heaven as they have run of all the leftovers until the tables are bussed. I’m sure there’s some health concern, but it was sweet and no one seemed to mind. It’s like the birds are part of the whole aura of the place.

Jacques, the friend, showed up and had lunch with Michael, Melissa and a fading Max. Jacques is a choreographer involved with the new Cirque du Soleil production that will open soon at the MGM Grand. My cousin Michael works with Jacques’ dance company, Diavolo Dance Theatre, in Los Angeles (their website is Jacques is French and seemed very theatrical (in a good way) with long flowing hair. Jacques’ family had a lot to do with the view at the pool: his grandfather, a Parisian fashion designer, is credited with inventing the bikini.

When my folks joined us at the table, Jacques kissed my mom on both cheeks. Very continental. She swooned. He kissed her on the way out too.

Tonight, my plan is to play in a very pricey poker tournament. This will be the highest stakes I’ve ever played. I don’t think I would be doing it, except I’m up for the trip. A loss here will turn my net into a negative number – but an acceptable one.

So, while I play this, and Helaine plays elsewhere, Steffie, Ali and my parents will be at New York, New York seeing Rita Rudner.

Oh – one last thing which I do not want to forget. While I was walking through the casino earlier today I passed an area of new slot machines being installed. I stopped to look and see what was going on. These slots are really just sophisticated video games – often built on PC platforms.

As I looked, one machine was actually booting. I looked at the screen and saw some things I recognized. The slot machine was booting into Linux! I thought that was geeky cool.

Blogger’s note: I continue to add photos to the gallery for this trip. You can see them by clicking here. The whole Vegas trip has its own category, which means you can link to these stories specifically by clicking here or read about the 2003 Vegas trip here.

Wednesday Evening Fun in Vegas

We took two cars and 11 people to dinner at the Bellagio buffet. Las Vegas is a buffet town and Bellagio is the buffet against which all others must be judged.

We always look forward to the Alaskan King Crab legs, but they were only adequate this time.

I tried venison and buffalo along with some prime rib. Both were good, but I’m not sure I’d change from beef. It’s all in the preparation anyway. Properly prepared, nearly anything can taste great. A bad chef can spoil anything.

I’m not quite sure how Helaine does it, but she got line passes to the buffet. These are worth their weight in gold since they move you to the head of what can be an hours long line!

After dinner we said goodnight to Michael, Melissa and Max and headed to the MGM Grand to see Carrot Top.

Mention Carrot Top to anyone and there are two possible reactions. If they’ve seen him, they’re a fan. If they haven’t, they can’t figure out why anyone would want to see him. My mother was in the latter class – until tonight. Now she’s a fan, as is my dad.

It took a little longer than usual to get to MGM Grand. We drove in the back way but couldn’t seem to get to the main valet. We did find a secondary valet stand, somewhat out of the way, and parked there.

Carrot Top was excellent, but most of his act was what I had seen before. Still, it was great to see Steffie, Ali and my folks really laugh hard. He really does work hard and is very clever with a boatload of props.

I’ve said this before, but if you enter the words “Carrot Top shirtless” on Google, my web pages show up first. Very weird.

That citation is there because I noticed last year how Carrot Top ends his show shirtless. He obviously works of his body and is quite buff. I know that’s not the persona he shows on his 1-800-CALL-ATT commercials, but it is the real deal.

About 2/3 of the way through the show I started to take out my camera to snap a photo. It didn’t take more than 10 seconds before a security guard was over my shoulder telling me not to and threatening to kick me out if I tried again. That was pretty creepy. I admit I went to do it, but I didn’t get to take a photo before he arrived.

After the show we returned to Mirage, and I played a little more poker. This time I won $169. Actually, I won more, but I took tips to the dealer and cocktail waitress from my take.

Poker has been going very well. I am pleased with my play. Tonight I managed to win even though my cards mostly sucked. I only saw the river three times and won each time.

I am seriously considering playing tomorrow’s tournament here at Mirage. It is a lot more pricey than anything I have ever played before, so it will be a decision I’ll mull. It’s certainly within the range of what I’m prepared to lose.

My goal this trip is to come home with a form 1099-G. That’s what you get if you win over $600 at one time (like a slot machine jackpot or winning a poker tournament). I haven’t gotten there yet. Tomorrow’s tournament could be my best chance.

Continue reading “Wednesday Evening Fun in Vegas”

I Almost Forgot

As always, I’ve been snapping lots of photos here in Las Vegas. Some have been posted to my gallery.

Because this laptop is much slower than usual, I haven’t done the ‘sprucing up’ I’d usually do. So some photos are a little dark, or would look better if they were cropped. I’ll fix it when I get home.

Also, these entries from Nevada have their own blog category, so you can read from the trip’s beginning by clicking here.

That’s More Like It

I got to sleep in as the balloon ride was canceled due to high winds. Maybe Friday. I hope Friday – weather permitting.

Today’s breakfast was scattered. My folks went with my brother-in-law (does he look like Steven Spielberg, or what?) and sister. Who knows where Steffie and Ali went. We had a casual coffee and muffin with Michael, Melissa and Max.

I haven’t really spent much time at the pool, but I visited Steffie, Ali and her parents there. It really is beautiful. I’m going to have to spend a little time in the water before I go.

After breakfast, I decided to try my luck at poker again. I waited a few minutes and sat down at a $6/$12 Texas Hold ‘Em table.

A few years ago I would have been pooping in my pants. Now, I’m a little more comfortable. Maybe confident is a better word. I just don’t think I can be taken advantage of. That’s not to say I won’t lose. But if I do, it will be because of cards and luck, not poor play.

By the time I got up, I had won $232. I headed to a $55 satellite for a bigger tournament entry, but came in 4th – not good enough. Still, I’m way up for the day and I think I’m up for the trip.

I’m my way back to the room I passed the Siegfried and Roy showroom. It’s very sad to see the sign in front. It’s even sadder to be here at the Mirage and not see their faces on the huge sign in front of the hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard.

It’s All About the Water Pressure

About this time in every vacation, though I say I will keep the blog up, I start to fall a little behind. That’s bad, because I want to stay current. It’s good because it means we’ve been busy.

My sister and brother-in-law remain sort of AWOL on this trip. They have been making sales calls for their business, meaning they haven’t been around. Other than 2 minutes when we first got here, we haven’t seen them. They have been busy with sales calls for their business, which is a good thing – so it’s certainly defensible.

I think I’ve already established that I love this hotel. There are many reasons… well known reasons, and at least one more esoteric reason – water pressure in the shower. I believe every hotel can be fairly judged by the pressure of the shower water and the size of the towels. That’s how Mirage became a 5-star hotel to me.

We had heard about the $12-$13 million rebuild of the buffet, now know as Cravings. This was our night to try it.

I’d been a fan of the original Mirage Buffet, and one night years ago when I saw Steve Winn (then the owner) sitting there with his family, went and told him so. I still like the buffet, but I’m not sure it’s with the same passion.

There is no way to know that this buffet was even built in the same space. There’s nothing left from the position of the food stations to the shape of the room. The dining area itself is immense. The old room was more segmented and split up. This is wide open.

Lighting is diffused and comes in through gold colored louvered fixtures on the ceiling. They’re very pretty.

The food was excellent. There was sushi, shrimp, prime rib, pizza – anything you can think of. And there’s the desert section which has cakes and pies and other baked goods.

After dinner, Helaine, my parents and I went to see David Brenner. He’s playing as the ‘house act’ in the David Brenner Theater at the Westin Hotel on Flamingo. The hotel is low key and subdued which is a weird juxtaposition against the small casino which sits in the center of the entry area. In design, it’s tough to have a casino look right without having over-the-top decorations. That doesn’t necessarily mean garish – though garish usually works.

Brenner was great. Helaine and I had seen him before. He’s very bright, very much in control and confident on stage. He worked a solid hour and a half and had the audience every step of the way.

It’s a small theater, and even then it was less than half full. He made a reference about 100 people, which sounded about right. With promotion and good word of mouth, this guy should be packing them in. It’s a shame. I’d see him again in a second.

We headed back to Mirage and I sat down to play poker. I spent about 5 minutes at $3-$6 until a seat opened up at $6-$12. It was a good table. I recognized one player from earlier trips, and she was doing well. I did well too.

If you’re a poker player you’ll recognize these hands, otherwise feign excitement. I flopped a straight flush and I flopped a full house. The full house didn’t win me much but the straight flush was very nice. I ended up +$162. So, I’m pretty close to even now at poker, which is fine.

This morning, we were supposed to go ballooning over the Nevada desert, but the winds weren’t cooperating. It will have to be rescheduled later. It’s a shame… except for the fact that the phone didn’t ring at 4:00 AM

There Are No Bad Days on Vacation

Helaine had trouble sleeping and was up (relatively) early. I caught a little bit more, but that was basically ‘it’ for me. Even if I would have found deep sleep Cousin Michael called, causing the cell phone to buzz across the nightstand.

The five of us met for breakfast, with my folks, at the Caribe Caf

First Poker Experience

I played in a limit Hold ‘Em tournament at Mirage. $100 + $30 + $100 add-on. Awful cards – not much I could do. $230 down the drain.

However, I did play with John Coleman, former Good Morning America weatherman and founder of The Weather Channel! Wow.

I got a photo with him so the evening comes out on a positive note.

Later, I sat down at a ‘live’ poker table and won $80 back. Not so terrible.

Greetings From Las Vegas

Good morning from seat 7F, cruising at 35,000 feet. I’m typing this aboard our non-stop Southwest flight to Las Vegas. Outside the plane, the Sun is shining. Puffy white clouds sit thousands of feet below. The ride is smooth.

As is customary on getaway day, we were up early. Very early. Outside, it was pouring. The Accuweather meteorologist on WCBS (they hide the fact that it’s Accuweather providing their forecasts since co-owned WINS has promoted Accuweather exclusivity for years) said there were thunderstorms and flooding in the area.

With a plethora of unused cell phone minutes, I transferred our home phone to my cell number. We’ll see how that works.

Instead of pulling the car out front, I loaded the bags in the garage. Farther to carry, but worth it to stay dry. If I needed to, I could have rearranging for more room, but with casual throws, the bags filled the rear of the Explorer.

It’s a holiday, so the traffic was light. Parking the car and the ride to the terminal were uneventful. Checking the bags was not.

We have locks on our bags. The locks are approved by the TSA and their employees are supposed to have master keys. The screener said he could get a key, but it would be easier if we’d unlock them and he’d see they were locked before hitting the log flume ride they take on their way to the plane.

As Helaine watched, they went through the X-Ray machine and then onto the belt without being relocked. By the time she told me, they were on their way downstairs – unlocked.

It’s not as if someone wants to steal my underwear, but there are some valuable items in there. It was out of the TSA’s control. If Southwest wanted to help, they could… and they did.

My hero is Jeanette, a counter agent at Southwest. She went downstairs and found my bags. And, when the lock wouldn’t work, she called the desk and asked me to help her on the phone.

There’s another reason to like Jeanette. This morning at 12:01 AM, I went on Southwest’s website to print boarding passes. Helaine and Steffie got into Group “A”. Because my ticket used a paper frequent flyer voucher, I couldn’t get a pass. When Jeanette saw our plight, she hand wrote a note on my boarding pass to let us go together.

Neither task was a big deal, but she did both with a smile, even though she was working at an ungodly hour on, what to most folks was, a holiday morning. She is part of the reason we have switched our allegiance to Southwest. There will be a note sent to Southwest commending her when we return.

The flight got off on time.

I like to sleep while flying, and did sleep a little, but this was a “Gus Souflas” flight. Gus is… or probably was a pilot for a major airline. One day, as my friend Howard flew coast-to-coast, Gus decided to note the crossing of every state boundary.

Today’s pilot was on the PA four or five times, always ending with the exact distance to Las Vegas.

From the air it’s astounding to see how much of the country looks empty. No disrespect to folks who live in the ‘great flyover’ but there does seem to be loads of unused space.

We flew south of Denver, over Colorado Springs. As we crossed the Rockies, there were still lots of snow covered peaks. No mountain was ‘capped’ with snow, like an idyllic picture of Mt. Fuji, but there were many veins of white.

We got to Las Vegas right on time. There’s construction in the baggage claim area and things were really jammed up. Thankfully, all our bags came – though the locks never were locked on one of the bags.

We went to Dollar to get our car. We had reserved a Dodge Intrepid, or similar. They were out of that class of car, so they said take a Pacifica – a car I’d never heard of, but turns out to be a six passenger, roomy cross between a van and SUV.

When we went to check out, the amount on our contract was different than what we were quoted. Unreal! It always happens. Is this a scam or what?

I had to go back to the office and work it out, which removes the advantage of being a Dollar Fast Lane member. But, things are now correct – and the car is nice.

My parents are seeing Mama Mia tonight at Mandalay Bay. The tickets were on Helaine’s name. So, we stopped there (and I double parked in what looked like a bus area) and she went to the box office. Then we stopped at Walgreen’s for a few cases of water.

I have never seen Las Vegas more crowded. It’s unreal. The sidewalks are jammed with people and Las Vegas Boulevard moved at a crawl. We turned in to the Mirage valet area and ended up in a long line of cars. Helaine got out while I made my way to the front of the line.

Helaine says nothing she asked for was here! Not a room near the elevator. Not two rooms nearby – one for us, one for Steffie and her friend Ali. Not a Strip view.

Still, the room is very nice. After all, it’s the Mirage – one of the most beautiful hotels in Las Vegas.

On the way to the room we ran into my folks and then my sister and brother-in-law. Only Cousin Michael, Melissa and Max are AWOL. I’m sure we’ll see them soon.

Meanwhile, a call to the Bell Desk says it will be at least 30 minutes until we get our bags! Helaine can’t wait. She’s showering. I’m writing.

More later from Fabulous Las Vegas.

What Have I Forgotten?

We’re about 12 hours from airplane departure for Las Vegas. What have I forgotten?

Most of my packing is done by Helaine. It’s much better that way since I have the same sense of fashion I had in 1967 – and that’s not a good thing. I do have some responsibilities, like my toiletries and electronics.

The toiletries are easy, because I’m taking what I use on a daily basis and just throwing it in a little bag. Everything is congregated around the sink. If anything looks like there’s not enough for a week, I just take a new one and leave the old one for my return. Brainless. I’m perfect for this.

Electronics is different, because I’m taking things I might not use everyday – things which are spread out across my home office. Do I have the right cables for the camera? The right peripherals for the computer? Forget the 10/100 PCMCIA card and forget about the Internet. Or, is it 802.11b? I took one of those adapters too… and a dial-up modem. Who can tell? The Dell laptop has a charger with the longest power cable I’ve ever seen on an electronic device. You can plug it in in a different time zone if you want.

I have 12 AA NiMH batteries and three chargers. The digital camera sucks juice like crazy. There’s also a small can of compressed air. Lately, I have noticed some dust inside the camera lens. The air gets rid of it. Is compressed air restricted by TSA in this post-9/11 era?

I’ve finished up the last of my school work, taking three weeks of classes in two courses over the last few days. As the week goes by I’ll be able to check the online bulletin board and watch my grades pop up. It is very unlike me to be early for anything – certainly not school!

My last assignment comes at 12:01 AM. I will be on Southwest’s site getting our boarding passes. With no assigned seats, getting a Southwest “A” pass is crucial.

Then it’s to bed, never letting one thought out of my mind. What have I forgotten?