Friday, July 31, 2009

Vegas: February 2006 I

The next trip out to Vegas came a lot sooner then expected. As a treat to himself for working with the relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina, my stepfather, Pat decided that he wanted to undertake the pilgrimage. It also coincided with his birthday, so it all worked well. This time would be Mom, Pat, their friend Melanie and her husband Don, and then Trina and me. And while we’re at it, why mess with what works? Fly in early Monday and out Thursday afternoon. It was beautiful, particularly because I didn’t have to be the one to drive before the crack of dawn.

We arrived early in the day on Monday in February. Make no mistake about it, even though you’re in the desert, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be warm. Obviously, it was warmer then Cincinnati in the middle of the winter, but there would be no talk of pools or shorts. And this time, we would move one hotel farther south on the strip to stay at Mandalay Bay. Nice place to be sure. The lobby was beautiful and the whole thing felt tropical from the look to the smells. The rooms were impressive too, and Trina would be the first to tell you that the bathrooms were amazing. Quite possibly the highlight of the trip, so far as she was concerned.

The pace of the trip was different from the beginning. Not bad, just different. See, what I’ve noticed is that depending on the diversity of age in the people around you, gambling takes on different levels of enjoyment as well as ways to reach that enjoyment. Personally, I want to sit at a $5 table. I’ll sit at a $10, but I always seem to be tentative about my play, which doesn’t help anything or anyone. It’s not that I won’t bet $10 a hand or more, but I don’t want to have to. So my thoughts are always to gamble in the morning or afternoon when the tables are cheap, and do the tourist-y stuff at night when there is rarely a $5 table to be found. Well, that philosophy doesn’t work when you’re with a group of people whose household incomes are between $150-200k.

It was becoming more and more apparent that something about this trip was different then our trip just five short months ago. Maybe it was the fact that there weren’t ten months of anticipation leading up to it? Maybe it was the fact that we didn’t take the time and effort to pay for this trip ourselves? Maybe it was the dichotomy of having six personalities ranging from one end of the spectrum to the other. Actually, I think it was probably all three.

The first day was spent walking up and down the strip with the usual ooh’s and ahh’s that first-timers experience. By the time we went as far north as we dared go, and made our way most of the way back, the crew thought it would be fun to walk over to Rio and see Penn and Teller. Incidentally, we were right at the corner between Caesar’s Palace and Bellagio. Their intentions were good enough, but they had no idea how far we really were from Rio. I mean, it’s right there! Can’t take that long to walk to it right? Trina and I took our leave to relax the rest of the night.

The next morning, the first thing we heard at breakfast was “do you have any idea how far off the strip Rio is?” Yeah, I do. Why do you think we didn’t walk to hoof it all the way over there?

We walked a little, looked a little, gambled a little, and decided that night was going to be our go-somewhere-nice-for-dinner-and-splurge night. The plan was to go to Aureole. If you don’t know, Aureole is a Michelin-rated restaurant that houses a three-story wine tower. Within the tower are “wine angels”; women in climbing harnesses that can ascend the entire height of the tower to get what ever bottle is chosen, then deliver it to the table. Very cool. But upon looking that the menu, it was just a little too off the wall for our unrefined palates.

Enter: The Russkie.

Just around the corner from Aureole is a place called Red Square. As you may have guessed, it’s all-Russian themed to include some amazing vodkas. At the bar, there is a strip in the middle that’s a frozen block of ice, ideal for keeping your drink cold while you take in the scenery and wait for dinner. Their menu is nice, but with no question about it, their attraction is the martinis and other vodka-based delights. I started with a White Russian while Trina has Persephone’s Pomme, which was pomegranate flavored. But the drink that likely won the night was the Russkie. This beast was a super-smooth banana martini that you would suck right down asking for another one and reminding them to put some booze in it next time. Of course, it was all booze, and so cold and smooth that you didn’t realize it until you were too drunk to pronounce the name and ask for another.

We could have stayed all night enjoying everything that was going on around us. But we decided to take our leave and head north up the strip to Harrah’s. Harrah’s is a huge place, but doesn’t have quite the glitz, glamour, or theme of some of the megacasinos in the city. For that reason, it’s often overlooked. I don’t know why? It’s got a killer location, reasonably priced gambling, nice rooms, and what drew us there that night, an out of the way comedy club. They’ve hosted a ton of celebs, but on this night, we saw Adam Ferrara.

Adam Ferrara has been working in stand-up comedy for years. Until the past few years he’s been lesser known in the shadows of comics like Dennis Leary and Andrew Dice Clay. Now, you might have seen him in “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” or as a regular on “Rescue Me”. But now I can saw “I saw him when…” and he was amazing. Fantastically gifted, great presence, and took time to meet the audience at the end of the night. Total entertainer, totally worth it.

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