Friday, April 18, 2008


I'll leave you for the week with an illustrated recap of my recent travels, for whoever cares. I took off for Las Vegas on a Friday afternoon. Having left from JFK, I was chasing the sun the entire way. By the end of my six-hour flight, it was after 10:00 in New York, but night had just fallen in Vegas. (By the way, there are plenty of reasons to worry about overpopulation -- oil, water, food, disease, etc. But don't worry because of space. Flying over the American west is an hourslong education in emptiness.)

Thanks to a friend of mine, we were staying free of charge at the Bellagio, with an amazing view of the hotel's impressive water shows:

That's the Paris hotel across the street, and the tower (cheesy as it is) does look pretty at night:

The only real walking we did was brief strolls over to Caesar's, whose poker room we preferred. The first day (the first time I'd ever played poker at a casino), I got taken for a hundred bucks or so. The second day, during a seven-hour session made much more entertaining by the presence of my friend in the seat next to me, I finished up about 250 dollars. The third day -- getaway day -- was my big mistake. After the previous day's success, I had the desire to play again. But I knew, given that we had to leave for the airport after an hour or so, that I was likely to make more aggressive plays than I should and lose the entire hundred or so that I considered my stake for the game. And I did just that. Poker is best played at great length, since patience is one of the skills it rewards most sweetly.

As it's famously known, Vegas is a place to do crazy things. And wouldn't you know it, I turned over in bed every morning to see Toni Braxton next to me:

Braxton is absolutely cutting-edge compared to most Vegas fare. Relics like Elton John and Bette Midler are currently playing on the strip, and relics like Cher are on deck. Comedy's the worst, though -- the most prominently advertised shows were "Funny Man" George Wallace (My friend Brad: "When they're putting 'funny man' in front of your name, it's time to hang it up."), Carrot Top, and David Spade.

Needless to say, we avoided the shows.

What we didn't avoid were calories. Each night -- thanks to another price reduction -- we ate like kings (there were four of us). The only story worth relating involved dessert. The last night there, another friend and I both ordered a vanilla soufflé. It arrived at the table looking sinful enough, stuffed into a deep bowl, its top flopping around like a chef's hat. But without warning, after barely a moment to marvel at this decadence, the waiter suddenly plunged a large scoop of ice cream straight into the middle of the soufflé. As it sank (quickly) to the bottom, he then dramatically covered the entire thing in some kind of vanilla glaze. It was a drive-by desserting. All of us took a solid minute or two to laugh out loud, and then the friend and I devoured them like hyenas.

A couple of pounds heavier, undoubtedly, I spent the next several days in Dallas with family and friends. I took in the Texas Rangers' home opener at their beautiful stadium in Arlington. During the National Anthem, the fans were not allowed to forget which country we were serenading:

The rest of the time in Texas was blessedly uneventful (and quiet). It's back to the horn-infested streets of New York, but spring has definitely arrived, so it's a lovely time to be in the city, rejuvenated.


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