Interlude in Vegas

Last week saw me at InfoComm for the first time in six years, and in Las Vegas for the first time in 16.

The show itself was fascinating as always, showcasing all the latest gee-gaws in production, presentation and display technology for live events, schools, churches and so on.  In particular, video displays seem to have no limits to how big, how thin and how sharp they can get.  In that respect, Vegas is a logical host city for the event, with all the gigantic video billboards dotting the Strip.  Just outside my hotel window I had a never-ending cycle of ads for Jennifer Lopez’ live act, a nightclub called “Jewel” and the bizarre, cycling animation that served as a “masthead” atop the Cosmopolitan hotel.

The trip out took about 8 hours all told, followed by a shuttle ride from the airport that ended in a fender-bender and a walk the rest of the way to my hotel (Bally’s).  I was ready to take the accident as an ill omen, but then who should come puttering past but Elvis himself, all 300 pounds of him in a white, sequined jumpsuit with high color and cape, and riding on a “Rascal” scooter.  That’s when I knew everything was going to be alright.

rascalelvis

I’d forgotten a lot about the town in the 16 years since my last visit.  For one, the smoke in the casinos.  Cigarette smoking is so out-of-favor now in the US that it’s hard to believe I  used to work in an office where folks would light up right at their desk, and eat at restaurants that didn’t even bother with smoking and non-smoking sections.  Vegas is still firmly stuck in that Yesteryear, with folks puffing away at the slot machines day and night.  I noticed a “Smoker’s” area in the airport that came complete with slot machines and figured it was a brilliant move, since a Venn diagram showing “smokers” and “gamblers” would probably have about a 90% overlap.

The other thing I was reminded of was the “showgirl waitress” uniform.  Whether it was cocktail waitresses in the casinos or waitresses in burger joints or sports bars made no difference; if they were on hotel property, they had to prance around in a teddy, period.  This rule seems iron-clad, irrespective of whether you’re 20 or 50, heavy or thin, college co-ed or mother of eight.  Because, hey, hiring someone based on their physical appearance would be sexist, right?  But now that you’re on the payroll, get into that teddy.  Frankly, I felt pretty bad for these gals, given that the male staff wasn’t asked to wear leather briefs and fishnet t-shirts.  But who knows, maybe they’re cool with it.  The Paris hotel even had a girl dancing on the bar.  I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen that in movies before.  From the 60s.

vegastrip

I guess I lucked out with the hotel room; Bally’s ran out of single rooms with King-size beds so I got a double with two Queens for the same price.  Just outside my window was the “Eiffel Tower” with a clear view of the Bellagio’s twice-hourly fountain show, which seemed like a good thing until I tried to go to sleep, and had to listen to those jets of water shooting off to the tune of Celine Dion belting out the “Titanic” theme at about a thousand decibels.

I opted to take the Monorail to the Convention Center, which was pretty cool.  Lots of interesting sights out the window, like a golf course that I understand has actually been closed for 6 months but is still watered and maintained so as not to scare off hotel guests with a view of it.  The plan is to tear it up and put in a man-made lake for visitors into boating and skiing.  Take that, Lake Mead.  Way off by itself (it seemed) was the Drumpf Hotel, trying desperately to look more impressive and important than everything else with giant gold lettering, which seemed apropos.

The heat hovered between 100 and 107 but the old saw is true; it’s not the heat but the humidity.  I found it pretty tolerable.  Along the sidewalks every now and then were these misting “showerheads” to keep you cool; I avoided them at first because I didn’t want to get wet, but eventually realized I wouldn’t, anyway.  The water they shot out evaporated immediately, creating a sort of cool fog.  If they did the same thing in Richmond, I’d come out sopping wet.

While I was in town, the Golden State Warriors finished off the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA finals and the Capitals beat the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup, so there was plenty of betting going on, I’m sure.  Certainly there was a lot of yelling at TVs in the restaurants, especially with the hometown team in the mix and playing in an arena just down the street.  I’ve never been that into sports, but it was easier to feel the excitement in a place where everyone in the room is a potential winner or loser.  On the other hand, it was vaguely depressing to realize no one in Vegas probably ever enjoys sport for it’s own sake, since it all comes down to wagers.  Anyway, it was cool to see lot of Caps fans walking around and feel a bit closer to home.

On the walk to the monorail, I saw a poster for Wayne Newton’s “comeback show.”  I’m not sure how old he is at this point, but by now he’s had so much surgery he looks like Jack Nicholson as the Joker, with his mouth in a permanent smile and one eye apparently unable to open.  Barry Manilow did a little better job of finding a promo picture that made it look like his age is still in the double digits.  I also saw ads for shows starring Donny and Marie, Rich Little and something called the “Australian Bee-Gees,” so basically if you were a big deal forty years ago or can do a reasonable impersonation of someone who was, you’re a potential Vegas headliner.

wonder-slots

I didn’t spend much time on the slots, but I did spot a fun machine with graphics of Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, and that claimed a couple of bucks.  Mostly I spent time at a virtual Blackjack table.  “Virtual” because the dealer was a lady who exists only as a video recording, but the money involved was all-too real.  After doubling my stakes the first night, I was hooked, then of course it was all downhill from there.

Much ado was made about a party hosted by an AV vendor, but once I got there it was too crowded and noisy for me, so I lasted all of ten minutes.  Just in general I think I’m not the Vegas type.

All things considered it was one of those trips where you’re glad you went but the best part is getting home.  I tend to most cherish time spent at home.  So naturally it’s off to Summer Camp in a week.

OBX 2015

The first week of this month, we enjoyed a relaxing week in the Outer Banks with Grandma and Grandpa.  We managed to get the same house we had 3 years ago (even though I was convinced for some reason it had been razed by a hurricane in the interim).  The chief appeal here is the direct access to the beach, and the ability to watch the sun rise and set from the comfort of the deck.

sunrise

As an avid sky-watcher, I found plenty to look at all week, though the highlight was probably the electrical storm we got to watch one night as it lit up the skies a few miles away.  Living in the tree-filled suburbs, you don’t often get a feel for the true size of a storm, or the play of lightning from cloud to cloud, but with a miles-long unobstructed view of the storm out over the coast, it’s like the world’s biggest fireworks display.  Sorry I couldn’t manage any photos for here.

The kids enjoyed the water all week, even though for the most part they couldn’t wade in too far due to treacherous rip tides.  After Labor Day, the lifeguards packed up and left for the year.

waverunner

Collecting shells was a popular passtime. This week I was trying to organize the garage and found a collection of shopping bags filled with shells the kids (and I) had picked up over the course of the week.  It probably weighs about ten pounds.  I’m pretty sure we left a few on the beach, though you wouldn’t know it from that pile.

shell-hunting

Grace was easily the biggest beach bum, angling for walks with Grandma every chance she got.  Somehow every “walk” ended up getting her wet.  Meanwhile the boys were just as content hanging out inside, playing video games and watching untold hours of “American Ninja Warrior” repeats.  But when we did get Jason out on the sand, he seemed to have a good time.

jpm-obx

 

For the grown-ups, the trip was largely about food.  Laura and I made sure to get out to our favorite spot, Kill Devil Grill, as often as we could, and over the course of the week we ate way too many Duck Donuts (and yet, somehow, not enough of them).  I even broke down and tried fish tacos at one eatery, and found they’re surprisingly a lot better than they sound.

I went in with vague plans for seeing the Wright Memorial again, or climbing Jockey’s Ridge early one morning, or maybe even a horse sightseeing tour for Grace.  But by silent consensus we all seemed to agree to just relax and recharge, instead.  It helped that most kids had to return to school that week, so after the holiday Monday the crowds diminished considerably, and things were comparatively quiet. We even fit in a little birthday party for Grace, who turned 7 (gulp!) that Wednesday.

goldengirl

Thanks for the fun, OBX.  See you next time.

pier

 

 

Fun At Grandma’s

Last week we made our first trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Ohio in over a year.  It was also our first real vacation in a long while.  The kids enjoyed time with cousins, a trip to Amish country and an endless supply of snacks.

jpm-ajf-ds

Scott and Jason tried their hands at riding Cousin Alex’s longboard, with varying degrees of success, but no injuries, thankfully.

swm-board

Grace put almost as many miles on Grandma’s pedal car as we did on the real one.

gem-car

And we fit in a couple games of miniature golf, the first a lot of fun, the second one on a much more frustrating course in miserable heat.

trio-golf

All in all, a lot of fun.  You know it’s true when the question you get as you drive away is “When are we coming back?”

Dance Little Sister, Dance

Grace had her dance recital on Wednesday, and all the practice paid off; she did a great job.  Her old class, a couple years ago, was more just a case of “something to do once a week,” with not a lot of real progress.  At that recital, all the girls just watched the teacher and tried to mirror her movements.  This year, her teacher did a much better job and Grace was very much into it.

grace-arabesque

There was a fun moment after her tap routine; the dance ended with the girls’ hands up in the air in a “Ta-Da!” kind of pose and Grace held it for a long time, even after her partner Abby had gone back to her seat to make room for the next act.  You could tell she was really basking in the applause.  After the recital, the first thing she said was that she wanted to do it again next year.  Always a good sign.

grace-dancer

April Adventures

Weekend before last, Jason, Scott and I traveled with Troop 800 to Sherando Lake park, near Waynesboro for a weekend of camping.  Jason’s chief goal was to fulfil his requirement to complete a 5-mile hike, which he did, in spades, since it turned into a little more than 8 miles by the time it was over.  We enjoyed a nice lunch by a waterfall and a couple evenings under beautiful, clear, starry skies (even if we were on high alert for bears the whole time).

jason-hike

As plans were shaping up for the trip, I let Scott know he had a rare chance to come along, even though he’s still in Webelos.  When I told him it would be over two nights and parts of three days, he said, “I don’t think I want to go camping more than one night.  What are we going to do?”  We’ll be hiking.  “I don’t like to hike.”  I told him if he doesn’t like camping and doesn’t like hiking, maybe he should re-think the whole scouting thing.  As it turned out, he had a great time, including learning the art of lashing.

scott-lash

On Sunday, it was back to Richmond for the PBS “Explore the Outdoors” event, where we caught up with Laura and Grace, who’d spent the day before shopping and watching the new “Cinderella” movie with Granny.  Before the rain came to spoil the fun, Grace got to catch up with an old friend.

grace-n-george