days of naze
|seven the hard way
An obnoxiously large
(101k .wav) audio greeting
from the Author.
|May 16, 1999
Vegas + Haiku = ?
Life lately is a dense confection of meetings, adventures, actions, delights, responsibilities, languor, chores, collisions and happenings. From these entries you may conclude that it is all one fabulous party, when in fact I am merely taking the lazy man's way out, skimming the cream and leaving the harder work of cottage cheese for later.
Enough of the explanations. We went to Vegas, baby!
The trip was our first big Web purchase. Although I had scheduled this vacation time months ago, we weren't sure I would be able to get away from The Big Product Launch That Is Eating My Life until just 3 weeks before. And thus Vegas became our destination of choice. In spite of my daily wading in the galactic bitstream, I found that you don't really Believe until you read the high 3 digit number, enter your credit card number and click OK. I am happy to report that my newfound faith was rewarded 10 days later with a nice envelope from that happy discount carrier, Southwest Airlines.
The boys would be staying with their aunt and cousin who they see just about every day. Goodbyes were bittersweet, and for some reason moreso with the little one. Our 6 year old knew what was going on but the miniature guy (3) didn't. Somehow I couldn't help but feel we were pulling something over on him. Those pint-sized people work powerful voodoo.
But the facts were clear: we really needed to get away. Cathy and I had not been out of the state together in more than 3 years.
Whoosh! From the first sunny skies Portland has seen since the beginning of a long, interminably record-breakingly wet winter to...light drizzle over the Las Vegas desert. Hell. At least it was a warm drizzle. Our first act of fantasy was to upgrade our rental car to a convertible. Expensive yes, but for 2 folks who drive old beat up Japanese cars every day, never underestimate the allure of a big American car with the top down. Who knows? We might even actually get to use it.
Treasure Island is certainly one of the hotels people point to when referring to the Disney-fication of The Strip. Me, I can get excited about letting a guy in a pirate hat drive off with my car. Our "deluxe" room was at the far end of the south wing with a lovely view of an enormous parking lot. Frankly, I wasn't concerned. We weren't here for the gambling. I hate to play games I can't win. We were here for entertainment and debauchery, not necessarily in that order.
Although we had wheels, walking The Strip gets you some of the desert air, the 10,000 watt pageantry of the hotels and the theater of humankind. The Bellagio, one of Vegas' newer hotels, positions itself as the elegant, upscale European resort. It is a handsome structure filled with ne plus ultra shops like Prada, Tiffany's and Chanel, with walkways of marble and fantastic glass sculpture in the lobby. Oddly, these opulent accommodations are undercut by the pervasive odor of sewage.
Evidently it has something to do with the enormous lake in front. At night a whole battallion of fountains dance in time to Verdi arias and Sinatra ballads. Which gives the water all day to ferment. My junior high football coach used to make us do drop drills in mud of the same scent.
We picked up tickets at will call then stopped by a restaurant bar for our first Vegas drinks. Ah. It was so nice to be off the clock, off-the-kids-into-bed regimine. We talked. Cathy and I purposely set our work schedules to minimize the time the boys have to spend in childcare, which means we see each other about an hour or less each day, none of that to ourselves. It takes a toll.
We were enjoying ourselves so much that we lost track of time and had to rush back to our hotel, change and phone Gatsby's at the MGM that we'd be late for our dinner reservation. I picked the restaurant based on a web review and the fact that the ultra-elite spots I was willing to splurge on were booked full. I was expecting decent "continental" cuisine.
As we breathlessly strode through the entrance, a woman in a sequined dress by the piano was finishing the last big phrase of a jazz chart. Cathy gasped, "Oh, no!", aghast that her worst fears were realized -- this little room with a big belting singer was our dining room hell. In fact, it was just the bar. Life with a Sagittarian isn't always easy...
While the decor was a little too put on for us, the food was extraordinary. Far better than I was expecting and hands down the best of the vacation. Bread made with sun dried tomatos, an amusante of ahi and ginger, lobster bisque, and seared ahi. One problem. Our late start was dominoing. We were going to be late for our 10:30 p.m. show. Fate conspired against us by bringing down their credit card validation. Fuck.
On my first trip to Vegas six years ago, I discovered Cirque du Soleil, a European-style circus with great flair, dramatic live music and characters that expressed a range of emotions. I lucked into tickets of their most ambitious production yet, "O", by calling the ticket office late at night, a week before our arrival in Nevada. Why, yes, a cancellation had just been called in!
"Eau" is French for water. And the show was literally soaking in it. The stage is a vast pool (non-smelly) with massive platforms that rose up from below one minute and then sank away another. The performers swam and danced in it, around it, dove into it from dizzying heights, floated across it in boats, survived a torrential downpour from above and dodged blasts of fountains from below. It is simply spectacular.
We had arrived a full half hour late (agh!), but our seats were decent and I was delighted with the performance. The audience felt a little cold to me. At one point, one of two thick necked dudes sitting in front of me turned his head as if he were about to deliver a reprimand, which irritated me no end. I started to check my spontaneous laughs and claps. Between missing such a significant part of the show and the thickneck dweeb, the show was still enjoyable but the experience was sullied. Later, we observed a large contingent of very expensively dressed high school aged men and women (prom night for a local private school?) waiting ahead of us in line for the valet parking.
The followed day began on a much more, um, festive note. There's not a real nice way of saying this: kids suck the life energy out of you. Especially boys. And especially if you are Mom. They want your attention all of the time. They want to know where you are -- all of the time. "Mom! What are you guys doing in there?" That's after just ten minutes alone together. Kinda ruins the mood. And with our completely opposite sleep schedules. Fuhgetaboutit.
I won't go into details. Let me just say that there was oil, lots of noise, sweat, a mirror and then two extremely relaxed vacationers. I do think we would still have been legal even in Georgia.
Clear-headed and loving life we jumped into our little fantasy car, dropped the top and cruised out into the desert. It was beautiful. As we headed south then east over lightly trafficked highways, the sun burnt away morning clouds. Channel surfing across the Vegas airwaves we came across a station that regularly featured a song by either AC/DC, Van Halen, or in this case, The Beastie Boys - "You've Got to Fight for Your Right to Party", a juvenile head-banging screed of rebellion. In a word - perfect.
An hour later we arrived at our destination, just shy of the Arizona border: Hoover Dam. I was immediately struck by it's narrowness. We were to learn that it is in fact extremely thick at the base, narrowing towards the top. The regular big screen presentation was out of wack, so they were showing an old black and white documentary that must have played in theaters shortly after the dam's completion in the early 'Thirties.
We took the tour which starts with an elevator ride that drops straight down 500 feet to the base of the structure. Flooding was so bad downriver that hydroelectric was actually an afterthought in it's design. Being the smartass Pacific Northwesterner, in the Q&A session I couldn't resist asking for a comparison to Grand Coulee in Washington state. He grudgingly admitted that Grand Coulee generates five times the hydroelectricity of Hoover. Nevada got the shaft from California (surprised?) on the deal. The Golden State gets a huge percentage of the cheap power; The Silver State gets almost nothing, having to buy it's electricity elsewhere at premium prices. No tax dollars were required to build Hoover; electricity sales paid off a 50 year loan at 3% in the mid-1980's.
If you couldn't tell, the Hoover Dam outting was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Our guide bid us farewell: "Thanks for taking the dam tour".
On Monday we set out to find a new Vegas landmark that until recently could only be found in the Southeast. A Wall Street burnout was struck with a peculiar fever after consuming a melt in your mouth glazed donut. It took him two years to convince the folks in the Krispy Kreme headquarters that Vegas would be a great spot for their treats. He was right in a way only a true believer can be.
Since the Esquire article we read a year and a half ago, they've added eight stores. The donuts were exactly as described: a delicate glassy glaze giving way to an ever so light, doughy sweetness. Delicious.
We did a bunch of other stuff which I will summarize in this one sentence: 1) Saw Siegfried & Roy (Sieg seemed tired and was going through the motions - C+); 2) Cathy lost all of her previous night's winnings ($1.25) on an Elvis slot machine at Luxor that would not release her from it's hypnotic grip; 3) got a demoralized casino bar piano player at Treasure Island to do Route 66 and Sinatra tunes while I drank an obnoxious blue tropical drink out a giant skullhead glass which I would get to take home; 4) enough sex to make me seriously consider regular hotel visits back home (with my wife, smart guy).
On our last night, we hit the jackpot. I bought my first George Carlin record in 1977 when I was thirteen. Carlin's subversiveness slakes the thirst of adolescent rebellion in a particularly satisfying way. When I bought the tickets to his show at Bally's I hoped he would be pretty good, maybe do some of his old stuff.
Whoa. Was I off target.
Carlin was fierce, jabbing and relentless. He began with airport security ("You can't even joke about it! How about a pun? A humorous anecdote? How about a riddle?"), moved onto germs and then into a diatribe about the Pussification of America, naming the Harley Davidson Cafe (3 blocks up The Strip) as well as The House of Blues. With his rapid fire delivery that he learned as a disc jockey in the 50's, he shot out a free association technology poem, cut to a screed on America's obsession with children and ended with an indictment of the hypocrisy of religion that clearly hit some in the audience like a sock in the nose.
He was on fire.
Three weeks later, I'm still struck by two themes from that evening. One, Carlin kept challenging the audience: "Take a fucking risk." At the time I was thinking "Right on! All you lameass people take a fucking risk". Of course, Johnny Thunder here understands that's medicine I should be taking too.
As I was driving around today, wondering how I was going to finish this piece, I kept thinking of that audience at Bally's.
Words are dangerous.
Whenever you speak your mind, your heart, your passion, there are some people who are going to clap and laugh, others are going to sit and stare, walk away, or maybe even start heckling. But when someone does speak the words that cannot be spoken, the result can be exhilarating, incandescent.
With all the spectacle and wonder on the Vegas Strip, this one man on a simple stage outshone them all. And in my book, that's good news.
p.s. A long belated welcome to my visitors from net4tv.com. A big thank you to regular reader and net4tv.com writer, Nancy McPoland, for the yummy link. A bunch of people are reading your stuff, Nancy!
p.p.s. People, what can I say? Between the chaos of life and my slow, iterative writing process, new material isn't coming out as fast as I had originally envisioned. You're welcome to check back all you want, but I'll probably just piss you off with my pace. The alternative is heinous but effective: new days notification list.
p.p.p.s. (You missed all these postscripts, didn't you?) Wow. Thank you for the many wonderful birthday haiku. It really did make my day. Of course, there's nothing like a haiku from Rob
(Christopher is old
His system is shutting down
Death is close behind)
to put things in perspective. You are invited to partake in all the birthday haiku.
|previously on days of naze:
turned away at the church of elvis
what have you done for me lately? update.
|May you never be more active
when you are doing nothing.
|in the feedbag:
web: Alexis Massie "The Death of A Heart"
film: Just got back from Election. I fear that if I rave about another movie that I'll lose my film snob membership...
magazine: Vanity Fair - the cast of Monty Python tell their story 30 years after the first show aired.
sports: The 6 year curse is lifted! The Blazers sweep the Suns and make it to the second round! Woohoo! (Now if the Kings would just finish off the Jazz, we could really start celebrating...)
|how many times George Carlin said the word "fuck" in his act|