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.

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.