Category Nevada

Sunburn and Bugs 2016: Vast and Salty

After a night filled with dreams about car crashes (thanks, brain), I awoke to discover that my sore throat was not, in fact, the result of having yelled too much at deer about making poor life choices but was instead the onset of a brutal cold.  It may be worth considering that I’m spending too much time locked in my home away from the world’s germs if every time I spend more than a few days away, I end up succumbing to illness, and that maybe I’d be a little more robustly healthy if I spent just a little more time around other people. Or, I could stay home and play just as much World of Warcraft if I just asked the UPS guy to cough on me every time he delivers something I ordered via Amazon Prime. That’d work, too.

At that point, it was just a bad sore throat, so while Emily and Rachel finished breakfast and packed up their belongings, I struck out across the street in search of throat lozenges and found these totally adorable murals painted on the gas station and grocery store.

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Before we left town, I wanted to swing by and see the “giant shopping cart” at Honey’s Marketplace that I saw listed on Roadside America. Because a lot of their content is user-submitted, sometimes I’m rewarded with something truly awesome, and sometimes, well…

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My opinion on the shopping cart would have changed a lot if I was able to go sit up in the basket like an oversized toddler, but Honey’s Marketplace evidently doesn’t give a fig about my opinion. What they did have was yet another vehicle from the movie “Cars”, marking the third “Cars” vehicle we’ve seen in Utah. And this one talked.

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He also talked about their fine selection of french bread…ooh-la-la, managing to be both funny and creepy at the same time. I’m just jealous that there is no talking anything outside of my local grocery store. 

Kanab is the filming location of over 100 movies and a number of tv series, and I’d tentatively put a stop at Little Hollywood Land on the itinerary, but given that our scheduled endpoint for the day was Boise, Idaho, I didn’t feel as inclined to spend a lot of time in Kanab before we left, knowing that would definitely make for another very late hotel arrival and gas station dinner, and I was still feeling a little bitter about the previous day’s late arrival and gas station dinner. All I wanted was a steak the size of a wagon wheel, Kanab! From a sit down restaurant where I could also get a gin and tonic to help me forget about the terrors of the night cows! Or barring that, some goddamned fries and a frosty! We did pull off shortly to take some photos of the scenery, and when I stopped being struck by the view, I realized that there was an entire group of people behind us firing guns into an embankment, protecting us all from some encroaching dirt or something. ‘Murrica!

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I also found it deeply important that we stop at this place with ho-made pie, because I’m the sort of immature person who will always laugh at a sign like this. No one wanted to take a picture with me under a sign indicating that they were a woman both of the evening and of the kitchen for some reason that I can’t begin to fathom.

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Then I tied a bandana over my face* and passed out in the backseat for a while.

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When I awoke, we had stopped at a gas station in Beaver, Utah, and I’m glad that I woke up, because it’s possible that nothing will ever make me laugh harder than a sign for fresh beaver tacos. Because, again, I am immature.

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An hour or more outside the Bonneville Salt Flats, the landscape already was looking seriously salty. As in, the ground looks like it’s covered with snow but it’s actually salt. There were piles of salt so enormous that it was hard to fathom their size, piles of salt so huge they absolutely dwarfed trains and construction equipment. And here I am, paying a couple of bucks for a cannister of salt like a sucker, when I could have brought a bucket with me and filled up a lifetime’s worth of salt for free. Plus the cost of the trip. But that doesn’t count, right?

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And then there’s this thing, a erect pole with salty balls.

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And finally, we were there–the Bonneville Salt Flats, home of some land speed record runs or something. I was much more interested in taking off my bandana for a little while, breathing in some salty air, and checking out the scenery.

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But first, I checked out the flying penis monster on the Bonneville Salt Flats garbage can. Because flying penis monster, obviously that’s where my eyes would go first. It’s like you don’t even know me.

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The Bonneville Salt flats are 30,000 acres of nothing but salt and water. Or sometimes just salt I would imagine, since it’s hard to set land speed records in calf deep water. No insects, no plants, one dead tree. They were, in Rachel’s words, “vast and salty”.  And once we’d heard it described that way, it was difficult to find any other words to describe it. Large and salt-filled? Grand and, uh, high salinity? So vast and salty it was and is. Rachel was the only one of us who ventured into the water, and once again using her lyrical magic, described it as “warm and gross”.  So, vast and salty and warm and gross. That’s about the long and short of it. I was surprised at how many families were out playing in the water in swimsuits, and how many dogs they brought up to the edge even with numerous signs prohibiting it. I also briefly considered scooping some up and gargling with it to see if it would benefit my sore throat, but then almost immediately reconsidered it, because every once in a while, I can make a good decision. Not often, not consistently, but every once in a while.

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After we’d gandered enough at the vast saltiness, I was feeling well enough to take a shift behind the wheel, and I drove us from the salt flats the rest of the way to Boise, taking us through a corner of the last new state we’d visit on the trip, Nevada. This route took us on a number of two lane roads, which meant I got to recreate some of my favorite scenes from Fury Road and shout “WITNESS ME, I AM AWAITED IN VALHALLA” while passing Sunday drivers on their way to and from spending their pension at the casinos.

We drove into Boise just as the sun was setting, and since we were going west, that meant driving straight into the blinding sun. Straight into the blinding sun as wind shears were grabbing the car. Emily was looking up options for places to go for dinner and telling us about them, and it was right at that moment that my sickness fully set in. In case you’ve never experienced a special moment like this, I’ll do my best to explain. It’s the point where I go from “I think I’m getting sick” to “Oh fuck, I’m sick. I am so sick”. My ears close up, my eyesight goes to tunnel vision, there’s an overwhelming stuffy sensation of being a balloon headed monster in a world that hates balloons. So, to reiterate, I was driving directly into the blinding sun, wind was grabbing and shaking the car, my hearing went from fine to being able to hear very little but the underwater whooshing sound of my blood gravy rushing to my face in a hot sweat and my world has collapsed to that blinding tunnel in front of me. Oh, and for some reason, I also had simultaneous searing gas pain, the kind of fart that rips through your intestines with razor blades, only we’d just had a conversation in the car where I learned that Emily’s husband isn’t even allowed to fart in a room that’s not the bathroom so there was no way I was letting that motherfucker go. My anus was Alcatraz. And my poker face is so goddamn good that I’m pretty certain no one in the car had any idea that any of this was going on, inside of me and outside of me, all at once.  At least until the point where we reached our exit and I snapped that the directions were going to have to be given a lot more loudly because I couldn’t hear anything (and also because I was still holding in The Devil’s Fart and he was angry about his imprisonment). I remember very little from the rest of that night. There wasn’t much to remember for me: as soon as we checked in, I went straight to bed.

 

 

*Why the bandana? They say hunting humans is the most dangerous game. I would like to posit that the most dangerous game is trying not to get sick when trapped in a car with a sick person and recirculated air conditioning for fourteen hour days. Considering there were two other people in the car who needed to get back to work and school and not take still more time off for illness, I wanted to do everything I could to keep from infecting anyone else. The bandana was my best option for making sure the worst of my germ goblins stayed with or on my person, even if (when) I fell alseep and wouldn’t be in control of coughs and sneezes. Basically the car version of how I treat Jason when he’s sick. AND IT WORKED.

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Nuclear Energy: Our Misunderstood Friend

High on my list of Vegas priorities was a visit to the National Atomic Testing Museum as it was something that I’d intended to visit for the last several Vegas trips and for one reason or another never got to do. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, as it is an affiliate of the Smithsonian, but also contains an exhibit exploring the mystery behind Area 51–is it serious? Is it kitsch? The answer is that it’s enough of both to be disconcerting.

We went through the Atomic Testing section of the museum first, and the front portion of it is filled with kitsch from the atomic age–atomic cocktails, atomic fireballs, quotes from Doctor Strangelove, and videos explaining nuclear energy to schoolchildren. In the 1950s, the explosions from the Nevada test site could be seen for 100 miles (including Las Vegas), and tourists flocked to sip cocktails, watch the mushroom clouds, and feel the ground rumble. It was generally believed at that time that atomic energy would pervade every area of people’s lives, from powering their homes to preserving their food, and it was the height of modernity to accept the magic of nuclear power with open arms.

It was in this area of the museum that a curator stopped near our group to tell us that she’d had a friend who worked at the atomic test site for the first test, and that they had no idea what to expect: “When the explosion happened, they thought they’d opened a door to hell.” Further in the museum, they had videos explaining the different protocols involved in launching a nuclear test, and how they prepped soldiers for nuclear warfare with other countries by having them stand out in trenches near the blast zone, literally brushing them off with a broom afterward as if that alone would protect them from the radiation exposure. One of these videos started with a simulation of what it would be like to actually have witnessed an atomic test (from a tourist’s distance)–the ground rumbled, the room filled with light and heat and a gust of wind blew back your hair and clothing. My favorite display was an interactive video reel in which you could see the effects of a nuclear explosion on a house, a stand of trees, a school bus, etc controlled by your finger with a wheel, so you could view it forward and in reverse, and I played with it perhaps a bit longer than was polite when others were waiting to use it– “Roof blows off, roof blows on, branches blow off, branches blow on, bus tips over, bus tips back…” It’s a miracle that I didn’t have to be dragged away from it, kicking and screaming.

 

  Scientists and soldiers who witnessed atomic tests received certificates; this is the best one I saw. Who wants proof of witnessing an enormous explosion with a drawing of a fat baby on it? That doesn’t scream “Display me in your home for instant sex appeal”! This one does.

The deeper you go into the museum, the stranger and less cohesive it gets. The massive consequences for the nuclear warfare actions of the United States are brushed over like their soldiers after a nuclear test–half-assed, all the while repeating the refrain “Go USA! Go USA! It is our massive display of continued dick-waving that maintains peace! Jesus and eagles and bombs, fuck yeah!” It completely ignores the human tolls for exerting our dominance, which seems short-sighted. There’s no acknowledgement of the consequences suffered by the inhabitants of the Marshall islands; in fact, the museum pretends that these islands were completely uninhabited, which is not the case. (Because how could we justify nuking innocent indigenous peoples for the sake of our warfare? We couldn’t. We can’t. So instead we pretend that they don’t exist.) It shows photographs of the damage taken by dummies at the test sites but talked very little about the negative results of atmospheric testing on the populace, instead portraying everyone who protested atmospheric testing as an overreacting, anti-American, Commie-loving hippie. It also contained a digging drill “like the one that helped free the Chilean miners” (what?) and an entire section about 9/11–a tribute to the firefighters, a piece of the World Trade Center…what does this have to do with atomic testing? You’ll acknowledge death that happens on American soil from non-nuclear causes but completely ignore our responsibility for Hiroshima and Nagasaki AND you’ll sell little replica earrings of “Little Boy” and “Fat Man” in your gift shop–the bombs that killed 300,000 Japanese people, more than ONE HUNDRED TIMES the death toll of 9/11 and for which nukes were directly responsible? What in the ever-bleeding fuck makes you think this is ok? What I’m saying is, it ends on a strange note.

From the atomic portion, we went directly to the separate Area 51 section, which requires that all members of your group enter together and has timed entry so that groups aren’t running into each others’ heels. You usually see timed entry for things like haunted houses where actors have to have time to get back into place after scaring a group. Between that, the sheaf of “secret orders” given to each of us, the lanyards we had to wear outlining our different roles in the group, and the prohibition of photographs, my expectations were set fairly high.

What I learned is that photographs are not allowed because the Area 51 section is so terrible as to nearly defy explanation…but I’ll do my best with my limited language capabilities. At the outset, you are prepped by a video of an FBI agent on a flatscreen television, asking you to investigate the truth of the sightings of “flying discs” observed near Area 51. After he sends you on your mission, you walk down a spooky hallway lined with black garbage bags where you are confronted by…another flatscreen tv! With an alien on it! Who says something all spooky-like before he vanishes!

You then enter a room that has a sparkly piece of garbage stapled to the wall, asking you to consider the idea that the phenomena observed by civilians could be a weather balloon. Frankly, I can’t even believe that the crap that they tacked to the wall is a weather balloon, much less draw any conclusions about what someone else saw blinking at them in a remote desert. The room also contained a rubber alien autopsy with a placard indicating that in the room you could watch a video of the now-infamous alien autopsy hoax from 1995–I don’t know if they couldn’t get the rights or what, but there was no alien autopsy video playing in the room. There were, however, about three more televisions, and they were all playing something different to the point where it was incredibly difficult to focus on any one of them…and while I found this overwhelming to my senses, it was about to get worse. The air inside the exhibit was hot and stifling; sweat prickled out on my forehead as I progressed through. Not only were there battling televisions on the walls, surrounding me with incoherent streams of sound, but the remaining walls were filled with enormous signs printed with small text with strobe lights flashing on them, rendering them nearly impossible to read; the letters swimming in the air in front of me. It was one of the most physically oppressive environments I have ever experienced; the act of writing this is causing me to revisit the experience and I am currently battling waves of nausea and panic while typing.

Some rooms were filled with model aircraft, but everywhere was a cacophony of sound and flashing light and heat, and I could not linger to try to parse anything. As you exit, you are confronted by yet another flatscreen video of the FBI agent telling you to draw your own conclusions from the evidence, and as he turns and walks away, he transforms into the spooky alien you saw earlier! DRAMATIC REVEAL! All I learned from this exhibit was that someone is talented at assembling model airplanes–beyond that, I couldn’t say. If there was evidence presented that we actually could draw conclusions from, it was obscured by the environment of the museum itself. They didn’t even show any videos of the supposed claims we were “investigating”! The lanyards with our mission roles had nothing to do with anything in the entire exhibit, and all in all, it felt like a tacked on piece of crap, the sole purpose of which was to teach me about the vacuum of space sucking another six dollars out of my wallet. It’s not like I expected to walk into that portion of the museum and get some straightforward information about what the military does at Area 51 (what with it being, you know, top secret and all), and I’m not saying that I believe that there’s something spoooooky going on or that there’s some big government conspiracy and we’re all ruled by lizard people from another dimension (even though I used to be deathly afraid of the prospect of aliens coming to abduct me from my bed at night…but I got over that at LEAST a solid week ago), but I expected less bullshit from a museum associated with the Smithsonian. I’ve gotten less bullshit from obvious bullshit places like The Oregon Vortex Mystery Spot, and that is pretty goddamned sad. I’ve felt less robbed playing table games at the casinos down the street. The Atomic Testing Museum is worth a visit if you can stomach its blind patriotism and look past the parts it glosses over, because you can at least see some things from behind the scenes at a point in history that you might never see otherwise. The Area 51 exhibit is only worth a visit if you hate yourself, have thirty minutes to kill, and would like to investigate whether or not you’re prone to seizures.

“Come to think of it, every shift at the cemetery is the graveyard shift.”: The Neon Graveyard in Las Vegas

On our trip to Las Vegas, we made sure we had time to visit the neon boneyard, as it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a few years and kept missing. It will eventually be turned into a full-fledged museum, but at the moment, it’s basically a backlot full of signs out in the blazing Las Vegas heat. I’m not exaggerating: we were told that the 106 degree heat was the hottest tour they’d given this year, and they discourage people from straggling from the group as they’ve actually had issues with people keeling over!

Thankfully, no one keeled over on our visit, though I did learn about some of the more unpleasant ways the body can sweat. The neon boneyard collection contains any and all of the signs they could scavenge from the neighboring casinos, either from when they replaced their signs or went out of business. So, as one might expect, the signs are rusted or otherwise broken. Our tour guide instructed us to please avoid touching them (apparently some people have attempted to lick the signs? I can’t begin to fathom why) as not only are they rusted and full of lead and asbestos, but they are also irreplaceable–they consider the signs their Mona Lisa, and you wouldn’t go and lick the Mona Lisa, would you?

No sooner had she given her instructions than I backed away from the group to take a photo and promptly stumbled backward into a sign–not enough to fall, but enough to give it a kick, which made a terrible clattering sound. My only cover was to disguise my voice and say gruffly “It was an accident!” and then I skittered away. I don’t know if that’s a resume-worthy line: Kicked the Mona Lisa.

That S has tasted my foot.

We were also told that we were not allowed to use any of the photos we took for commercial purposes–when I asked how they would know, they said “Oh, we’re big on the internet.” So I told them that they would probably find my blog, and not to be aghast at the fat Elvis I’d photoshopped in front of a sign. So as not to disappoint:

Madame Creepsauds

On our last day in Vegas, I insisted that we go to Madame Tussauds as I’d already purchased the tickets and didn’t want them to go to waste, plus I’d heard that it was fun to pose with the various figures. …it was actually pretty creepy. I’d see one facing my direction out of the corner of an eye, and it would startle me. Looking directly into those dead, blank eyes was even more disturbing. I suppose it doesn’t help that I don’t really have a celebrity-boner for any of these people so it’s hard to get excited about interacting with wax figures of people I’m ambivalent about. We had what fun we could, regardless.

He sassed me.

 

Would we go back? No.

Jubilame

Upon our arrival in Vegas, Bill picked us up and let us stash our things at his room at the Wynn, as we could not check in at Planet Hollywood for several hours. After seeing the swanky accommodations at the Wynn, we were initially concerned that our room would feel like a dank pit by comparison, but all worries were forgotten upon the discovery that our room was crammed full of Jurassic Park memorabilia, because there’s nothing like a velociraptor sweetly watching over one’s slumber.

As Saturday was our only entirely self-directed day with zero wedding obligations, we decided to spend the afternoon in a leisurely fashion at our respective pools, meet up in the evening to have dinner at the Wynn buffet and then take in a show. As it was over one hundred degrees outside, the time in the pool was especially refreshing, and I even spent a bit of time sunbathing afterward since summer had not yet arrived in Seattle and my body was starved for some vitamin D. All too soon, it was time to meet up for dinner. The Wynn buffet was reputed to be one of Vegas’ best buffets, but as, shall we say, buffet connoisseurs, we were all disappointed. What was there tasted fine, but it was underwhelming in size and variety. For the money, I think any of us would pick a rodizio meal over this starch-stravaganza. After dinner, it was time to attend Don Arden’s “Jubilee”, the 28-year old classic and supposedly last authentic showgirl revue in the city.

My expectations of the show may have been colored by seeing “Showgirls” more than a handful of times, but we all left the show not quite knowing what to think of it. The sets were elaborate and amazing, the costumes were impressive, the performers were undeniably beautiful, and yet the show never rose above the mediocre. In my opinion, the show suffered from not knowing what it wanted to be. At times, it felt as though I were watching one of those interminably boring beauty pageant song-and-dance numbers, only with boobs. A portion of the show, detailing the story of Samson and Delilah, was enthrallingly well-done, and had the entire show been at that standard of quality, I would have been entirely pleased. The show started to sink right about the time they did a segment on the Titanic, after which it could not recapture my attention after losing it so thoroughly. Lesson learned: “classic” does not always imply “good”.

If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it

On Sunday, the boys got all suited up in anticipation of a swanky bachelor party at Treasures. I debated going with them, but ultimately decided that they’d have more fun without someone’s watchdog nanny girlfriend presiding over them while they have boobies rubbed in their faces, and besides, I was entirely too full to enjoy a $95 steak. And at $95, I would feel price-tag-compelled to cram every last morsel down my throat whether it’s delicious or full of gristle. And I already looked gut-tacular in my clubgoing dress (note: ruching is not a technique that works for every fat girl. I am one of the fat girls on whom it just emphasizes the “gunt” area, which is just about as attractive as it sounds.) and the addition of an entire $95 steak would have just exacerbated the issue. So instead, I got changed into something a bit street-and-fat-friendlier and merrily skipped along the Strip to spend Jason’s money. The first place I stopped was The Pearl Factory, in the Miracle Mile shops next to our hotel. I’d spotted the place on the way in, and its siren song had been luring me the whole weekend. At The Pearl Factory, for fifteen bucks, you can crack open an oyster and keep the pearl inside. It’s like a surprise present! I like surprises. And presents. Seeing The Pearl Factory also dredged up a vague memory of my mom doing something similar on a family vacation to Florida; namely, she cracked open an oyster and immediately the sales staff would not allow her to keep the pearl because it was special in some way. I think it was a special colored pearl and wasn’t supposed to have ended up in the “you choose” bucket, and I remember both of my parents arguing with the staff that they’d made a deal and couldn’t renege, but I don’t recall the outcome. I’ve since queried both my parents and my brother on the topic and none of them remember what happened though they, too, vaguely remember the incident. My mom says she definitely doesn’t have the pearl, but other than that? No idea. It’s amazing how a visual cue brought up a memory of something I had completely forgotten/stored away for something like twenty years; what else is hidden down there? Secret formulas? Directions to hidden treasure? My checking account number? At the Pearl Factory, you choose the oyster you’d like to have cracked open: the uglier the oyster, the better the pearl, or so I’ve been told. I picked out what I felt was the ugliest of the bunch, though beauty is so subjective, and the woman running the stand tapped on the shell three times, we cried aloud “ALOHA!” and she then wrenched it open to reveal my pearl.

Pretty good! This is when the hard sale began, picking out a setting. After I indicated that I was interested in rings rather than pendants, she started in with her most expensive setting, white gold with diamonds. “Honey, treat yourself, you deserve it!” “What if I deserved a little less?” She pulled out something about five dollars less. “Real diamonds! Honey, treat yourself, you deserve it!” “What if I deserved a lot less?” She pulled out something fifty bucks less but still a hell of a lot more of Jason’s money than I was prepared to spend. “Honey, treat yourself, you deserve it!” “What if I deserve the same as a person who shakes babies?” This is when she gave me a look, put away the expensive ring settings, locked the case, and dusted off some merchandise hidden under a crumpled Cheetos bag. We were officially inside my price range. Gone were the “honeys” and all other endearments. In their place was naked contempt for cheapasses in rhinestone-encrusted shoes. Still, I’m pretty happy with my ring-design-reserved-for-babyshakers-and-other-miscreants.

After The Pearl Factory, I made my way to the Forum Shops in Caesar’s Palace as they have both a MAC Pro store and an Inglot store. Because while I need more makeup like I need a hole in the head, honey, I deserved it. I tired of shopping sooner than anyone might have ever guessed, and since the plan was to go as a group to Gameworks when the strip club portion of the evening was complete, I decided to go to Treasure Island and wait for the boys to get back, while having a cocktail. One cocktail turned into a few, which turned into me making fast friends with some strangers at the next table who were in town for a poker tournament, which turned into me hanging out with them at a different, outdoor bar at Treasure Island (where I had the tastiest strawberry mojito of my life), which turned into one more drink which turned me into quite an exuberant drunk. It was at this precise moment that the boys arrived and informed me I’d made the right decision as the forty-five year old strippers were like used car salespeople, but for boobs, and the whole escapade was slightly less fun than a barrel of monkeys. Rather, less fun than the barrel of monkeys GAME, which no one has ever had any fun playing, ever. They also announced that it was far too late to go to Gameworks, and we’d all be going our respective ways until the wedding the next day, giving me less time to sober up than I’d anticipated. On our walk back, I succumbed to my natural urge to ride all things outside the Mirage by climbing aboard a cement lion.

I dare you to look at this picture without hearing a “WOOOOO!” in your head. Dare you.

I woke up several times during the night, and each time, I was still drunk. As the sun came up, I became so very, very sick. Honey, I deserved it.

I’m a child of the Wild West.

“Happiness is unrepentant pleasures.” – Socrates

Vegas was an incredible amount of fun. I stayed in my off-strip hotel for a few nights, as I was certain that my co-workers would loosen up over the course of the week and want to go have fun–eventually I figured out they were losers and I’d need to make my own fun. Most of my stay-in activities stuck to a formula similar to x + y = FUN, where X = lots of alcohol and Y=swimming, bowling or gambling, whatever seemed right at the time. It would be RIDICULOUS NOT TO combine these things as one would then not be taking advantage of the separate bars in each location. There is something beautiful about floating around in a hot tub whilst one has three or four or six drinks under one’s belt, all of which one has managed not to pay for. Also interesting: I am far from the world’s most consistent bowler to begin with. Yet I still noticed a significant change in my game while under the influence–I rolled either gutters or strikes, with nothing inbetween. Now if I could just get some bumpers installed to give me some ‘it’s impossible to roll this thing into the gutter’ confidence, I could theoretically be the best cheating bowler of all time while on the sauce. At least I didn’t take any shots to the head this time.

Eventually I had all I could take of hanging out at the hotel. Caesars Palace was celebrating its 40th anniversary this week, and I definitely wanted to partake in the festivities, which included a toga party hosted by Jenny McCarthy (didn’t she fall off the face of the earth approximately 6 years ago?). I convinced a coworker attending the class to accompany me, and proceeded to smuggle a sheet out of my hotel. I knew something was wrong the instant said coworker showed up; all week long we’d been wearing jeans and t-shirts to class, and he’d been sort of following me around like a lost puppy, but I didn’t think much of it then. Now when he came to pick me up, he couldn’t have BEEN more overdressed, especially for a toga party–suit, tie, enough cologne to beat the band…and when he made a pass at me with the saddest line of all time “Well, whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” *wink*, I was out of the car lickety-split. He’d forgotten his sheet, and there was no entry without a toga, so when he left to go back to his hotel to get one, I took that as my cue to conveniently disappear into the crowd and turn my phone off. I don’t know what sorts of crap OTHER people get up to on business trips, but screwing a coworker is so low on my priorities list that I believe being systematically dismembered by the razor sharp teeth of clowns ranks higher. It’s almost like I have a miniature HR director standing on my shoulder giving lectures about personal space bubbles. As soon as he left, I went into the ladies room to begin the process of wrapping myself in a sheet. I’m afraid I fail at Sheet Tying 101 as I was adjusting myself all evening. I can’t decide if it makes a civilization more or less advanced when they can just take their daily wear off of the bed, tie it up, and proceed to have various ‘nighttime’ body parts attempt to spill out all day long. Regardless, it took me longer than I would’ve liked to secure my sheet, and I was in a rush to get out there as I wanted to have my picture taken as if I had some particularly hot servants attending to my every need—you can understand my rush, yes? If not only for personal gratification, think of the blog content! Unfortunately, hot men with grapes wait for no woman (or at least not women like me) and I’d just missed them–son of a @#(#&*$!! The party itself was a lot of fun–they had a band I can’t say I’ve ever heard of before, (something something)Day and the Nights playing old-school funk, and although everyone’s togas varied drastically, there was still an incredible amount of solidarity present; that feeling that we were all going above and beyond the call of duty dirtying sheets from our respective hotels. It felt really good to let go and laugh and dance with complete strangers.

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The outdoor party ended at 10:30, and everyone who had attended was invited to the afterparty at Pure, which is their immaculate, exclusive nightclub. I would’ve gone, just to check it out, as it’s not the sort of place I would normally get into; hell, I was shocked that they let me into Studio 54 last year as ‘dress to impress’ is not exactly a major function of my wardrobe. But an evening of dancing in strappy high heels had taken its toll on me (out of curiosity, when one is wearing a sheet around, why are high heels more appropriate than, say, bunny slippers or any other variety of comfortable shoe?) so I decided to make my way back to the hotel. As luck would have it, the ‘Coast’ hotels offer free shuttle service, and Caesars Palace is right across the street from the Barbary Coast. For those of you unfamiliar with Vegas topography, at that corner, they built above-street walkways, for reasons that I can only surmise involve the fact that copious amounts of boozed-up patrons and massive amounts of potentially boozed-up traffic don’t make for a good mix. The walkway across was deserted, which is really unusual for Vegas–there is almost aways a decent amount of foot traffic going every which way. As I made my way across, a huge black guy appeared from the shadows and grabbed my arm with a vice-like grip. “You’re looking goooooood, are you married?” he leered. “…no,” I squeaked, not thinking very quickly at all. Was this my payback for ditching the coworker? For making fun of Celine? Oh god, how much trouble am I IN right now? “Where are you going?” “…just over to my hotel, that’s my hotel right there..” I stammered, trying to pull away. “Hey baby can I come spend the night with you?” Lip licking on his part, more fear on mine. “I don’t think my boyfriend would like that!” I called out as I yanked my arm away and ran as fast as my sheet-clad ass and high-heeled feet could go, right into the relative safety of the casino. I can make jokes about it now, like “this girl’s so easy, she takes the sheets with her wherever she goes just so she doesn’t miss an opportunity” but at the time I feel I was justifiably terrified. My nerves were still jumping when I boarded the shuttle from the Barbary Coast to the South Coast, and it didn’t help that the guy I was sitting next to was equally nuts, and kept trying to hold my hand. Was there another seat somewhere else on the shuttle that I could switch to? Of course not. Countless times I pulled my hand away and tried to maintain the integrity of my personal space bubble, only to have it violated once again by this stranger grabbing for me. Longest/most uncomfortable_shuttle_ride_EVER. When I made it back to my room, I turned my phone back on and discovered I had not just one, but three messages from the coworker on there, none of which I returned. He apparently didn’t realize he’d crossed any lines, as he called AGAIN and I stupidly answered. I made excuse after excuse to get off of the phone, and he kept trying to have a conversation with me. It eventually got to the point where I’d had enough of polite socialisms for the evening and told him “Look, I don’t care what YOU do, but I have shit to do and I’m hanging up now. Goodbye.” and hung up on him. If my attitude ever causes workplace drama, it won’t be because *I* was trying to get into someone’s pants, so I imagine I’m fairly safe from any and all retribution.

The next morning I checked out of the South Coast in preparation for checking into the Stratosphere the next evening. When in doubt when choosing a Vegas hotel in the $50 price range, it’s always better to choose the one on the seedier end of the strip that looks like a sad Space Needle. As soon as I checked in, I went up to check out the view from the top of the Tower–hotel guests have free admission between the hours of 10am and 2pm, mostly because everyone wants to go up in the evening to see everything lit up. As I had other plans for my evening, for me it was either an early afternoon viewing or nothing. Hotel guests also get free tickets to ‘Viva Las Vegas’ which I didn’t have time for, and half-price tickets to ‘Bite!’ which I would’ve been interested in, had the show not been dark that evening.

Next on my agenda was Fremont Street and classic Vegas. I’d asked the cab driver on the way to the Stratosphere how far away Fremont Street was, and he immediately responded that it was too far, and really too dangerous to walk there. Had it not been for my experiences in the ‘safer’ part of the Strip the evening before, I might not have heeded his warnings. As it was, I was glad I did, as there were some pretty sketchy areas inbetween. Why did I want to go to Fremont Street to begin with? Well, first of all, it was something I’d never seen before, and I was thrilled to see the giant cowboy and cowgirl that are universally associated with Vegas–I had no idea what the connection was before. But the main reason I wanted to go was the Fitzgeralds Chicken Challenge.

The Fitzgeralds theorem: Tic-tac-toe is so simple that even a birdbrain could play. Wouldn’t it be amazing if a casino found a really smart chicken who could play tic-tac-toe as well as any human? And what if they let you play this chicken, named Oscar, once a day every day from the moment you sign up to join their players club? Well, it has come to pass. Those who beat the chicken win a cash prize ranging from $25 to $500, the exact amount determined randomly. The game is played on an electric board and the chicken places his O by touching his beak to the empty square of his choice (the human is always X). The first to place their symbol is determined randomly. Early reports had indicated that Oscar is a formidable tic-tac-toe player, as he plays about 100 games a day and loses only about five times, keeping him from being coated with that delicate blend of herbs and spices that is the Colonels’ secret recipe.

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I was determined to play this chicken, and establish my dominion over the animals of the land. I came, I saw, I handed over some personal information, I played….I tied. I tied with a chicken. I would feel as if this calls my intellectual capabilities into question; however, the more I think about it, the more certain I am that it’s a rigged game. Yes, ‘Oscar’ is a live chicken–one of 16. Is it possible that they trained 16 chickens to play tic-tac-toe? Sure, I’ll bite. But the part that makes me think is the board visible in the above picture that hides the chicken’s screen. The chicken needs to be pecking around in the general area for an ‘O’ to appear onscreen, but my hypothesis is that ultimately the human is playing against computer AI. If the chicken was truly trained to play tic-tac-toe, you wouldn’t be hiding its moves behind a board, you’d be (pardon the pun) crowing about its abilities. I still walked away with a string of mardi gras beads with a rubber chicken attached, so I still got mostly everything I would’ve wanted from the experience. They did, however, advertise that you could have your picture taken with the chicken and a showgirl/and or a sad Elvis impersonator, but no such offer came my way. Here’s what such a picture MIGHT have looked like. 000ddq27

After the Chicken Challenge, I wandered up and down Fremont Street a bit, drinking a yardlong daquiri made with vast amounts of Everclear. A strange guy (presumed wife in tow), ALSO drinking a yard of some brightly-colored alcoholic beverage, festooned with Mardi Gras beads, one with a giant rubber duck attached, announced it was his birthday and asked if I wanted to squeeze his rubber duck for good luck. I reached out and squeaked it, we all had a laugh, and he handed me all of his raffle tickets for a nearby casino as a thank you for playing along and squeezing the duck. The next raffle was happening in a couple of minutes, so I ducked inside and was excited when one of my many, many numbers was called! The winning ticketholder is allowed a pull on a special slot machine they’ve got in the back, which determines what you really win. I won some beads with a giant pirate medallion attached to it; the guy who won after me got $250, so as you can see, there’s quite a range there. Still, it was something for nothing!

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A couple days before, I overheard someone complaining that it used to be that you could lose all your money gambling in Vegas and still be able to eat, and that was no longer the case. That may be true of the luxury resort megacasinos on the strip, but on Fremont Street and even in the lesser-visited areas on the strip itself, I have photographic evidence that you can eat for a dollar.

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Sure, you should probably have some money stored away at home for that triple bypass you’ll need when you get back after eating naught but hotdogs and fried twinkies and oreos for a week, but you can still technically eat on the cheap in Vegas.

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This showgirl has more attitude than pretty much anyone I’d ever met. I was still working away on my daquiri, and we got to chatting about her costume (those shoulderpieces are SUPER heavy), and she loudly exclaimed when someone won $400 on slots “BIG WHOOP, it’s not like *I* get any of that money.” Her attitude reminded me of me when I worked at Guitar Center–you get to a certain point of working at a sucky job, and you just don’t give a crap about maintaining that “I’m here to make you happy” illusion.

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Time out! This is not the only oxygen bar I saw while I was in Vegas–what’s the deal with those, exactly? I would’ve thought there would be more yuppies willing to pay for AIR in California. Set that thing up right next to a yoga class, and after people have paid money to spend an hour sniffing their own crotches, you’ll have a gold mine on your hands. Seriously, you guys. I don’t get it. It’s OXYGEN. It’s IN THE AIR. IT IS THE AIR. IT IS FREE. WHY ARE YOU PAYING FOR IT?

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I would’ve loved to see the Fremont Street Experience, which is a lightshow on the biggest screen in the world, but I could quickly see how that could become a very bad area after dark and did not want to go it alone. Maybe next time, if I can convince some people to go with me. I took a cab back to the Stratosphere and began walking my way down the strip. It’s still fairly hot outside, but with a decent amount of .50 beer along the way I did all right.

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At my first stop, they were holding a raffle to see which patrons of the casino were able to spend 20 seconds in the cash cage, grabbing as much money, comp points, and gift certificates as humanly possible. Both people I saw play did pretty well, leaving with over $100 apiece. One year in junior high I won a chance in a cash cage for selling a hojillion Entertainment Books…and I did not do nearly so well. Allow me to say that it looks far easier than it actually is–I have videogame coordination, everyone. And it’s still not easy.

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I would’ve gone back to see the bikini bull riding, but unfortunately by the time midnight rolled around, I was just too exhausted to go see and do anything else. Next year I will have to check out the mud-wrestling…right after the Star Trek Experience. Yes. I am a nerd. The next stop was Treasure Island, to see their pirate show. They’ve changed the show up, and it’s now Sirens Vs Pirates….all this time I’ve spent studying mythology, and I never realized that the default costume of a Siren is hot pants. Thank you, Treasure Island, for showing me the light! I also learned that the shoe choice among most pirates is not the boot as is widely presumed, but rather the Reebok.

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After Treasure Island, I went to the Mirage. Supposedly they have tigers on display. These tigers apparently keep the same hours as the managers of my apartment complex. Every time I walk by the office, the little clock is on the door, indicating when they may be back. If I go back at that time, there is no evidence of anyone having been there except the time on the clock is different. Sometimes I wonder if the clock is electric and no one actually works there. After the Mirage, I walked all the way down to Mandalay Bay, because I really, really, really wanted to see the Shark Reef. Sharks? Awesome. The very best part of the exhibit was where you got to pet shark pups. Wow. Just…wow. It was amazing, this feeling of touching something that could just as easily rip your finger off if it wanted to. They also had golden crocodiles there, which apparently are not in captivity anywhere else in the United States…pretty cool, I thought. The thing that bothered me the most about the exhibit was that all throughout they kept declaring “This species of shark has never hurt anyone,” “This species of shark is only curious about humans”, etc, trying to lesson people’s fear about sharks so that people are less likely to support sharking. Yet as you walk out the door, they talk about the divers who go into the tanks and state that they use tons of precautions because “they are sharks, after all”. Way to undo all of your work in one sentence, bub. sharkreef

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Why are there no pictures of the sharks, you ask? Because neither I nor my camera are very good at taking pictures of moving things. I like to blame technology for my shortcomings. It makes me feel better.

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When I bought my ticket for the Shark Reef, they had a package deal that for 3 dollars more, I could go see a movie at the IMAX theatre at the Luxor. The one I chose was Under the Sea 3D, and it wasn’t until I started watching it that I realized it was narrated by Johnny Depp. Oh joy! 3D has certainly improved since I was younger–before, it always had the distinct aroma of cheddar pervading the experience. Now, I was so captivated I actually had to stay my impulse to reach out and touch the fish that appeared to be swimming all around me. I highly, highly recommend it, if you happen to be in the area. By the time I got out of the movie, it was already 11:30pm, and therefore time to head to Margaritaville for some wonderful tequila, and shortly thereafter time to go back to the hotel and try and get some sleep before my early-morning flight out.