Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Another Reason to Scrapbook

When I was 8 years old, my father died.

The death of a parent is a life-changing event, even if you are an adult. If you're a child... Well, the influence it has on your life is immeasurable. I have often written about how much I miss my mother, and she lived until I was 26, old enough to really know her well and to be her friend as well as her daughter.

The hard thing about losing Daddy when I was so young was the fact that I forgot what his voice sounded like before I turned 12. I don't remember what he smelled like. I can't remember how his laughter sounded, or what his favorite food was. I don't really know what his life was like, although I gather he was really very comfortably middle-class, even during the Depression. I can only piece together bits of stories with photographs or the very rare handwritten note or elaborately carved pencil, and the summary of his life is full of holes.

One of those holes has been filled.

My oldest sister Martha is moving from Mama's house to a smaller, more easily managed modern house, and last week she gave me some things to bring home. In a box of books, there is a rough draft of Daddy's doctoral thesis, written in 1956 for submission to the Alabama Polytechnic doctoral review board.

A page in the front is entitled "VITA," and it contains a biography of my father's life from his birth is 1922 to the date of the thesis, 1956.

I have always known that my father was a naval aviator in World War II -- it's one of the things that makes me most proud of him, and most ashamed of myself. Daddy regularly flew airplanes that launched and landed on a relatively tiny aircraft carrier, and I can hardly stand to fly in a great, big jet that lands safely on a gigantic airstrip on sturdy earth. But I have never been able to remember the name of his ship or many of the details about his service to his country.

This afternoon, my eyes filled with tears as I read the words I've been searching for over the last 13 years. Daddy's ship was the U.S.S. Shangri-La.

How could I forget such a name? How could I neglect to remember that my own father worked in metaphorical paradise for the United States of America and freedom for our country during a conflict so bloody, so costly in terms of human life, that he, himself, once crashed in the Pacific and floated for hours until his rescue, and that he witnessed the launch of the first nuclear weapon and the end of the war in the Pacific theatre so closely -- so incredibly closely -- that he was literally in Tokyo Bay within two weeks of Japan's surrender on the U.S.S. Missouri?

My mind is reeling, my heart is full, my soul is aching. My children hardly notice while I scavenge the Internet for websites and the scant information about the Shangri-La and the men who worked on her, for word that some other WWII veteran has survived to this day and may still be able to unlock the mysteries of my father's service more than half a century ago.

But I know. And I will write it down, and I will scrap it if necessary. When my children are old enough to wonder, when their children are old enough to care, I swear I will not let another generation go unschooled about my father's experiences.

This is just another reason to scrapbook. So these things aren't lost. Ever.

Stone Stylish little book

I finished the first of what I hope will be many little Style Stone books. Cute as a button, isn't it? I'm very happy with it.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sunday stuff

Believe it or not, the stuff in the picture is going to be a little Style Stone Book one of these days when I have the gumption and energy to finish it. This is the February project from Club Stamp. Kay taught it at the August Club Scrap Retreat, but I missed that class. So I'm very happy that we got the supplies and instructions for making three of her darling little books.

(And they were featured in the January/February issue of Somerset Studios magazine -- quite a coup for Kay!!)

Last night, Wesley and I went to Knoxville where we met friends for dinner at the Tomato Head, took a sojourn at the brewery (the name of which changes every few years, so I can't remember what it is right now), and then saw Ron White's late show at the Tennessee Theater. Historic downtown Knoxville is finally enjoying a renaissance, and it's nice that there are so many things to do there on a winter evening.

This afternoon, Wesley and the kids have gone to a Lady Vols basketball game, and I am the luckiest non-sports-fan in the world because I didn't have to go. Yay, me!!! I've got "In Her Shoes" on DVD and the house to myself. I plan to do absolutely nothing related to housework, stay in my pajamas as long as humanly possible, and eat Ben & Jerry Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream straight out of the carton. Now, this is decadence at its best.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Leaving Las Vegas

Well, I had to name the post *something*.

My leaving Las Vegas wasn't quite as depressing as the movie.

That Thursday morning -- Feb. 2nd, to be exact -- I leapt up and said goodbye to Amy and Paul as they left for work. Then I spent the remainder of the morning putting my things in order, finishing packing, putting together a box of press kits to check in with my luggage, and trying to clean up after myself. I am a messy houseguest.

I began carting my things out to the car, much to the consternation of Amy's birds and Leon the bulldog. Animals are *so* sensitive. They can tell when a person is leaving. Although the birds always said hello and goodbye to me when I was going back and forth to the trade show, they were really a lot more frantic as I carried out suitcases and boxes and such.

Leon threatened to go into a decline, the poor thing. I stopped and reassured all the animals, scritching Noah through the cage bars and giving Leon extra pats and praise.

One of the last things I did was to re-write my directions to the airport so that I could read them easily from the driver's seat of the rental car, and to put that with my airline ticket info.

As I was leaving the house, Kathi called, thinking that I was already at the airport. At this point, I realized I was running late, and I had to make a concerted effort not to panic and do something stupid.

Still, as the garage door closed, I looked at the passenger seat and realized that I had Amy's house key and garage door opener. Argh! I had to remember the passcode to get back into the garage, where I hid the stuff in our agreed-upon spot. I could just *see* me getting back to Tennessee with Amy's things! It was bad enough that I opted to bring her backpack home with me, for heaven's sake, but I needed the additional luggage!

I finally drove away from Sapphire Blue Court, waving back at the windows. Sniffle.

The day was gorgeous. Warm, sunny, fair blue skies and all perfection. It was very hard to leave Las Vegas when it looked and felt so marvelous.

On the way to the airport, Amy called, and she talked me through the part from Tropicana, through the gas station (where I filled up the rental car with gas), and on to the rental car return place. Sniffle! It was getting all too real that I was leaving!

The shuttle from the rental car place to the airport was quick and easy, and soon I was inside. I originally tried to use the self-check-in option, but the computer asked for a credit card. Since Amy had booked my flight, I thought it meant *her* credit card, and I very dolefully set off for the long, human-attended check-in line.

After I had been standing there for an age or two, sweating the whole time that I was missing Kathi, an attendant came along and started pulling people out of line to use the self-check-in. I told her my dilemma, and she said I only needed *my* credit card. Oh! That's a horse of a different color! I got out of the long line and got through self-check-in very quickly.

I was a bit worried about my luggage exceeding the weight limit (50 pounds), and was quite delighted to discover upon weigh-in that my big suitcase was merely 49.5 pounds. Whew!

Then I went through security (very speedy, always move left, because the lines on the left are shortest for some reason), and rode the little tram to the concourses.

Then -- *then* -- I began my mad dash for Kathi's gate, hoping against hope that I would find her in time.

At this point in time, I should point out that I was wearing my flimsiest and most improper shoes. I had chosen them because with all my blisters, I really wanted to be able to slip them off easily and air out my poor little feet. Unfortunately, as I ran inelegantly for Kathi's gate, they kept trying to fall off. I made use of the moving sidewalks, and was much pleased to discover that for once, everyone on the moving sidewalks was properly walking along at a good clip. I only passed four or five people.

Finally, as I approached Kathi's gate, I spied her sitting at the near end of the chairs, and I called out or something, because she jumped up and, oh! The lovely smile that lit up her face!!!!!! We hugged and said hello and goodbye simultaneously, and then we started comparing notes about blisters.

(I noticed almost immediately that I had lost a Band-Aid brand Blister Band-Aid off the newest blister on a heel, but I paid no attention because I knew I had no time to waste with Kathi.)

I started to fill Kathi in on my lost cell phone escapade, and she laughed merrily. Unfortunately, her flight was boarding the entire time that I was with her, and all too soon, we stood in her line for a minute, saying our goodbyes, and then we parted.

She made it home to New Jersey before I ever got to Tennessee. I hope her feet didn't bother her too much!

Once I left Kathi's company, I made my way to my gate -- in the other terminal -- at a more sedate pace, knowing that I had some time to kill. I didn't fly out of my shoes.

I stopped in an airport gift shop and bought some shotglasses and tiny-dice-corked-inside-tiny-bottles for souvenirs. While I was in there, I began sneezing violently. I called Amy to tell her that I am allergic to airports while passersby sidled away from me and my sneezing. They knew better than I did. I thought I was just allergic, but it turns out that those sneezes were the first of a *really* icky cold. Hmph! At least I didn't have the cold for the entirety of my Las Vegas visit!

My first leg -- the longest part -- was from Las Vegas to Cincinnati, Ohio. Wesley and Amy both thought I had already been to the Cincinnati airport, but I couldn't remember such a time. The first flight was much shorter than the trip *to* Las Vegas had been. You fly in some sort of wind stream when you travel from west to east, so that part of the trip was shorter. The movie on the plane this time was "Yours, Mine, and Ours," starring Renee Russo and, I think, Dennis Quaid.

(A quick check at says yes, Dennis Quaid.)

It was just OK, though, compared to the movie I had seen on the way out. I'm glad I had the earbuds so I could listen, though. The man next to me was laughing at the same points that I was, and he seemed to be a nice guy. When we landed in Cincinnati, he called his wife and said he was home. Awwwwwwwwwww. Then he said he loved her, and loud enough for everyone nearby to hear. Awwwwwwwww, again!

When I got to the concourse that was mine for the Knoxville leg of the trip, I knew immediately that I had never been in the Cincinnati airport. It was a great concourse!!! There were a number of interesting places to eat, shop, or hang out, and I did all three while I waited for my second flight. What a lovely airport!!!!!!

The worst part of the trip home was walking out to our little plane for that last leg -- we walked out into freezing rain. Ugh! My little beaded Chinese flats complained, as did the bottoms of my jeans. I was wet and a little cold for the whole flight home!

When I got to the good old Knoxville airport, I found no one waiting for me. I called Amy and pulled my luggage off the carousel, and went outside to wait for Wesley. I opened a suitcase and retrieved a fluffy sweater to fend off the cold, but I was so glad for fresh air that I waited outside. Wesley came along in about fifteen minutes, and before I knew it, I was on my way home for real.

All in all, it was a really nice way to end the trip. Neither plane tried to crash, and everyone I encountered was pleasant.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Time Flew

A minor break before the very last installment on the Las Vegas trip report --

Tuesday afternoon, I went to my oldest sister's house to try to help her get her stuff under control before she moves to a newer, smaller, more manageable house.

One of the tasks this afternoon was taking apart my mother's bed. It's a massive antique bed, quite beautiful, and worth thousands of dollars. It's also very delicate, and it required all four of the people in my family to take it apart without breaking the exceedingly fragile footboard.

That room -- that house -- is filled with memories. Some of them are good. Some of them are fabulous. Some of them are terrible. My mother died in that house, and I still miss her as if I lost her yesterday.

When we took out the mattresses and bed slats, and were standing in the midst of the bed before dismantling it, we uncovered a little debris that had been lying under there, dormant, like a time capsule.

There were tissues and a couple of wrappers from sock packages.

There were a couple of baby blocks.

And there, next to the head of the bed, was a syringe.

When Emily was born, she came to us with a heart defect that had to be corrected by surgery when she was two days old. For four long years, we had to give Emily a number of medicines to keep her heart beating, to keep it beating strong, and to maintain a normal rhythm. Very recently, she was asking about the meds that she hasn't taken in fourteen years, and we were telling her that Digoxin, the yummiest-smelling medicine, was also the scariest, and that she took it in the tiniest drops, measured in the skinniest syringes imaginable.

There, under Mama's bed, covered with dust and cobwebs, was a skinny syringe with a piece of white tape wrapped around it, and the abbreviation "Dig." marked on it.

When Mama was alive, she often just appropriated Emily and took her away with her for hours at a time. Mama loved babies -- *all* babies -- and she was the most marvelous and generous of grandmothers that God ever created. Her prolonged baby-visits meant that I had to keep the medicines ready to go. I apparently tagged the syringe and labeled it so that Mama would know how much Digoxin to give Emily on one of those long, lovely sessions with Memama.

I miss Mama. Right now, I miss baby Emily. She's growing up so nicely, but she's growing up *so* fast.

I don't know what makes me sadder tonight -- the loss of my mother, or the inevitable maturing of my baby girl.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Best dessert

I cannot forget to upload this picture, even though I'm literally weeks late at doing so. This is the glorious and yummy Lemon Extravaganza dessert, available only at the Grande Luxe Cafe in the Venetian resort at Las Vegas, Nevada. It is worth a special trip.

As I described in another post, this is a tart and tangy lemon pound cake with ice cream, whipped cream, lemon sauce, powdered sugar, and berries, topped with a sprinkle of lemon zest. It Is Sublime.

For years, my friends Gail and Nina have raved about this dessert. I finally made the time to get it, and I'm *so* glad I did. Gail and Nina -- you guys have *great* taste!!! Thank you for the recommendation!!!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Day 7, Las Vegas -- The Last Night

By now, the trip report is winding down rather dramatically, and I don't have much energy left for the remaining few hours. They were lovely. But I was exhausted from all the touring, the excitement of the trade show, and the excitement of leaving my cell phone on a monorail.

Once I had my cell phone back and realized I couldn't get anyone's name for a letter of commendation to the monorail authority, I made my way to my lonely little rental car and drove to the Hilton. I had been reading about Quark's Bar & Restaurant for weeks while I planned my big trip to Las Vegas, and I was glad to have a reason to visit it, even if it had been a wild day.

I met Amy in the parking garage, and we walked to the north tower without too much excitement. Believe it or not, I still remembered to turn my back on the passing scenery in the parking garage's elevator. I'm scared of heights, even at four measly stories.

I called Erikia and told her our plans -- drinks at Quark's, and then a quick run to the Tropicana to take in the Titanic Exhibit. Erikia had been invited to party with some luminaries of the scrapbooking world at the New York New York resort. We were happy to tell Erikia that the resort was on an opposite corner from the Tropicana, and that she would be able to join her other friends easily. She said she would meet us at Quark’s.

Amy and I were seated immediately, and we perused the menu at length. Thank heaven I had my reading glasses in Amy’s backpack, because the lighting was low in there and the menu’s print was tiny. I ordered an ordinary White Russian; Amy ordered a “Borg Queen,” which bore a striking and yummy resemblance to an apple-tini. We also ordered some Ferenghi flatbread.

Star Trek characters walked around lackadaisically throughout Quark’s Bar & Restaurant. I was never a big fan of “Deep Space 9,” but I did have a passing acquaintance with the original series, the Next Generation, the Voyager series, and of course, the Enterprise series. A Borg passed behind me, but Amy and I held out hopes of chatting with a Klingon. Everyone loves a Klingon, after all.

Erikia soon joined us, and the only character who paused at our table was an Andorian. Darn it, I don’t remember anything about the Andorians. We asked him if he enjoyed Ferenghi flat bread on his planet, and he said no. He asked me which convention I was attending, and when I said, “CHA,” he replied immediately, “Ahhhhh, then, your feet hurt.” ROFL!!!!

I would really like to spend more time at Quark’s someday – it was lovely and *very* Star-Trekkie. But I knew that the Titanic exhibit awaited us at the Trop, and Amy knew I was about to keel over from sheer exhaustion, so we didn’t even finish our Ferenghi flatbread. We drained our drinks and left all too quickly.

By the way, appetizers like the flat bread were half price for convention attendees – the waitress asked to see my badge before she gave us our check. And the flat bread was YUMMY – it was an extraordinarily large flat of yummy focaccia bread with melted cheese and a dipping plate of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It was faaaaabulous. But the White Russian was even better, and *just* what the doctor ordered after my trauma on the monorail that afternoon.

And I *must* give a word of warning about the rest rooms. For the most part, they are totally clean and completely ordinary. However, I am 5’8” tall, and I don’t think of myself as tall until I encounter restrooms like the ones at Quark’s Bar & Restaurant. The toilets themselves are SHORT. I nearly fell down just trying to tinkle, for crying out loud. If you are tall, go to the handicapped stall. The regulars are, well, very well suited for the petite patrons.

Erikia went to put her things away in her room, and then we made our way to the rental car and the Tropicana, chatting gaily all the way there.

The Trop is an old-fashioned casino, and you really do have to make your way through a wild maze of casinos and slot machines before you find anything of significance. We followed the signs to the Titanic exhibit, and Amy too generously bought our entry. (I should smack Amy – she was too generous the whole trip long!)

The exhibit is set up so that you enter through a mock gangplank to a ship, and we were each handed a card with a real passenger’s name and whether they were staying in first, second, or third class rooms on the ship. The idea is to tour the exhibit, and near the end, read the plaque on the wall that tells all the survivors and all the victims. We were all given women’s names, and we were all third class, so I immediately said, “We’re all gonna die!”

Amy and Erikia disagreed – after all, we were all women.

Then we started touring. It’s fascinating. Parts are set up to emulate what the Titanic looked like – the hallways and some doors, and there are a few mock-ups of the rooms. First class rooms were smaller than I thought.

Erikia and I read every single card and plaque, and we gazed hard at each button, cup, dollar bill, leather wallet, doorknob, sink, bracelet -- *everything*. We were frequently passed by other visitors who would give a passing glance to a room filled with artifacts and then move along. They were stronger than I.

It was eerie. And sad. And fascinating. When I was 12 or so, I went through a phase of reading every book I could find about the Titanic, and when the wreck was finally located in 1985, I – like half the world – sat up and took notice. I never needed James Cameron’s silly movie to make me feel for the victims of that tragedy.

We must have been in there for an hour, during which time my feet resumed cursing at me. Fortunately, there are a number of benches scattered throughout the exhibit, and especially in front of some really long wall plaques with significant pieces of the timeline of Titanic’s sinking. Even Amy’s feet started to hurt while we were walking through.

Once we finally reached the plaque with the names of the passengers, we checked, and surely enough, all three of “us” were dead. Ouch.

Now, at some point during the evening, I casually asked Erikia how she was going to get back to the Hilton from the New York New York casino, and that apparently set off a chain of thoughts in her brilliant and very tired head. How *was* she going to make that trip? Cab? Monorail? Hitchhike??? So when we left the Titanic exhibit – and the commensurate souvenir shopping in the gift shop – instead of leaving us, Erikia decided to stay with us and have dinner in the Tropicana coffee shop.

I haven’t eaten in the Trop coffee shop in so long. It was a wonderful and familiar sight to my very tired eyes.

We all got variations on a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s Amy’s fault! She started it! It just sounded so good and right, we all ended up eating ordinary grilled cheese sandwiches. Well, Erikia and I added ham. That was as fancy as we could get at that point. And it was very affordable – probably the most affordable meal of my entire trip. The service was very good and friendly, and the company and conversation were fabulous. It was a nice ending to a lovely trip.

We took Erikia back to the Hilton and hugged her goodbye, and then I drove Amy to her car in the parking garage. The traffic was pretty thick for 9:30 at night on the way home – a route I finally knew without having to stop and think, “Where am I?”

Upstairs at Amy’s house, I started packing my things and sniffling. I wasn’t ready to leave. I missed my family. I wanted to stay and play some more without screaming, sore feet. I wanted my husband and kids to be with me. Wesley has never even been to Las Vegas at all – I’m sure he would enjoy it if he would ever get to see it.

I discovered two new blisters –- the same foot that already had a blister on the ball now had a blister on the bottom of my heel. And the other foot developed a blister on the ball. I’ve never had blisters on the *bottoms* of my feet before.

I brushed my teeth, set my alarm clock, and went to sleep with Leon snoozing on the floor next to my bed. Sniffle.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Welcome, "P" Surfers... & Goodbye....

[Editor's Note: I'm editing this post after the fact to delete any words which might accidentally trigger the censor filters at your average school computer. I hope I get them all! If you're wondering what I edited out, please feel free to email me. I'll spill my guts and tell you everything I know, including the behind-the-scenes secrets of your favorite reality TV shows. OK, not really. Really, I don't know those secrets. But I wish I did! Because then I would be rich instead of blogging my guts out!]

I can't help laughing as I type this. Like many bloggers, I track my "hits." Turns out the amusing phrase I used in the last post is showing up when "p" surfers put the phrase "dirty w" in the search engine. BWAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!!!!!!! I bet *those* are some darned disappointed surfers, huh?

Move along, "P" Surfers -- nothing to see *here* -- just an ordinary travel blog, that's all.

(With some great descriptions of really gorgeous security guards, yes, but no actual, overt *action* -- if ya get my drift.)

Snort. The things people do on the Internet...

[The last two parts of the Las Vegas trip report are in progress, readers, don't worry!]

Monday, February 13, 2006

Day 7 Las Vegas -- The Lost Cell Phone

[Totally cheating here -- I had to write out this story for friends of mine long before I finished the trip report, so I'll just repost it here. With some minor editing. And just so you know "dirty w" doesn't really mean *dirty* dirty w. It just means mildly tramplike.]

[And yes, it's a good thing.]

[Editor's note after the initial posting: I've edited out words that might trip censor filters at your average school computer. I can only hope this will fix the problem for some of my regular readers! If you need to know what language was edited, please feel free to email me.]

Wednesday afternoon, I was all bummed out because I was leaving the convention and because I was using up my last ride on the monorail. Those tickets are expensive. Las Vegas residents can get really cheap tickets (20 rides for $20), but they have to go to this one office that's way out of the way -- they're not selling the residents' tickets at the monorail stations *yet*. Yamy spent $35 on a ten-ride share-able monorail ticket. We used up four rides on Saturday, and I used up the other six rides for the trade show. I would park at the Sahara and ride the monorail to the convention center, because parking at the convention center cost so much.

So. OK. Wednesday afternoon. I'm bummed out. I wanted to say goodbye to Kathi, but she wasn't answering her cell phone (because she was demo'ing in the QuicKutz booth, a dream of hers, and you gotta be happy for her because she finally got to make an impression on the QK people in person, but I didn't *know* where she was, and that show was freaking HUGE).

And I was really going to miss the monorail. I rode one train that was advertising Monster Energy drinks and it had TV's inside the cars, and there was another one that was Star Trek themed and the Borg were always threatening to assimilate you if you didn't get off at the Hilton and ride the Star Trek ride. Are ya with me? I just like monorails, and the last ride meant that I was going to be leaving Las Vegas, and I was going to miss being there. I'm amazed at how comfortable I got with Nevada this trip. I just really knew where I was and what I was doing. Y'know?

Just as I got to the monorail boarding platform, my cell phone rang, and it was Kathi, calling me to see where I was. I said I was getting on the monorail, and we wailed, then we realized we were both going to be at the airport at the same time on Thursday, so I was jumping through the monorail doors as we were making plans to meet Thursday morning to say g'bye to each other.

So I got on the train, and I was going to take off my show badge and get out my car keys. I was using Yamy's backpack, and as I took it off my shoulders, my headset cord got tangled up in it, so I took off my cell phone to arrange the stuff in my backpack. Then I put everything back together again, and two stops later, I was getting off at the Sahara monorail station. I stood up, pulling the backpack on, and I deliberately turned around and looked at where I was sitting to make sure I had gotten everything. I didn't see anything on the bench, so I got off the train.

Now -- you have to understand -- the whole time, I was waving at every security guard and maintenance worker I saw and saying goodbye, I'll miss you, this is my last monorail ride for this trip, sniffle, sniffle.

And -- I was wearing this FABULOUS top. I wish I had a picture to show you. I bought a camisole at Lane Bryant on Tuesday night with my gift cards, and people loved this shirt so much that they were turning around to come and tell me how much they loved it. I might be fat, I might be middle-aged, but this camisole is so funky that I was a *hot* mama and everyone wanted to be me. Heck, *I* wanted to be me. This is a beautiful top. It's not on the Lane Bryant website yet, or I would send you a link. But it's got panels of crinkled green, crinkled cream lace, and crinkled pink-and-brown-floral-patterned material, and each panel meets in a funky point at the bottom. And it has beads and sequins sewn at the bodice. I am HOT in this blouse. And I got a pink shrug to cover up my bra straps and pretend I have *some* modesty.

Krisi, you would love me in this outfit. Seriously. I am so gorgeous, I am a dirty w. The camisole says, "Ravish me," and the shrug says, "But gently, because I don't want to mess up my hair."

So. I got off the monorail from my very last paid ride, and I waved at a security guard, the same guy I had seen for three days, and we said goodbye. I exited the turnstiles, and I said goodbye to the Sahara security guard as I was making my way to the escalator. And then I reached for my pocket to see what time my cell phone said it was, because I was *hoping* that I was early enough before 5:00 to make it back to Yamy's house before she got home at 5:30.

And my cell phone wasn't there.

Now -- to my credit -- I didn't TOTALLY panic. I don't know why. If I were five years younger, I would have been frantic. But for some reason, I was pretty calm and businesslike. Something in my brain said, "I will get my cell phone back. But Amy will have fits when she calls me and I'm not there to answer it."

I whipped around and almost ran back to the turnstiles. I couldn't go through them, because my monorail card was used up. I hollered at the security guard I had just said goodbye to, "I think I left my cell phone on the train!!!!!!!!"

I guess everyone heard me, because both that security guard (who turned out to be Hispanic and English wasn't his first language) and a maintenance guy both jumped to attention. While the security guard opened an exit turnstile and backdoored me onto the platform, the maintenance guy radio'ed ahead to the next few stations to search the monorail car that I had been in for my cell phone. We waited several minutes while that was going on. I sat down on the floor and dumped out every pocket of Yamy's backpack, hoping to find my phone. No. It wasn't there.

I listened to the crackling radio on the maintenance guy's chest while the Hispanic security guard tried to reassure me that everything would be all right. I laughed and said, yes, it would be all right, but my sister's phone number was programmed in my cell phone, and I didn't know how to call her to tell her what had happened. I *knew* that she would be calling me any minute, and she would freak if she didn't get hold of me.

The Hispanic guard tried to hand me his cell phone to call her, and I kept having to explain that I didn't know her number. I know!!! That's stupid of me!!! But all I know is that the area code is 702!!!

Then.... this beautiful man in a security uniform joined me and the Hispanic guard and the maintenance guy.

OMG. He was so beautiful. Angels burst out of the sky and sang. Light seemed to shine from his gleaming visage. He was not tall. He was about my height as I struggled to stand up from the platform floor with my backpack. He had blond hair and blue eyes that looked deep into my soul and seemed to say, "You are the only woman I see. Ever. I only have eyes for yooooooooouuuuuuuuuu." He was wearing the *whole* uniform, too. Badge and everything. Even the ranger-style flat-brim hat. I could hardly breathe and look at him at the same time.

Really and truly, y'all, he looked a lot like Toby the Fireworks Cruise Captain, only if Toby were devastatingly, classically, breathtakingly handsome. I don't know how old he was, but if I had to guess, I'd say he was 25. And beautiful. Let me make this really clear: This guy was *gorgeous*.

And he kept looking at my dirty w camisole and my churchlady shrug, trying to figure out exactly what kinda gal I was.

[When Amy read this email, she wrote back, "It's impossible to camouflage a dirty w top. He knew EXACTLY what kinda gal you are!"]

I babbled incoherently about what an idiot I was to leave my cell phone on the train, and the maintenance guy gave me the bad news that even though they were searching every car, my cell phone was not at the Hilton platform, the convention center platform, or the Harrah's platform. He went to an office to get a "lost item" form for me.

*All* of the guys were telling me that often, some passenger will pick up an item from the monorail and turn it in, either to the monorail security at each station, or to the security at whatever casino is closest to their stop.

Hispanic Security Guard was asking me when I would be leaving Las Vegas, thinking that if I was going to be there a few more days, I would have a better chance of getting my phone back.

I said I was leaving the next day, and Beautiful Guy's face actually *fell*. OMG! Hottie!! I wanted to console him, I swear!!! I wasn't half as worried about my phone as I was about Beautiful Guy's disappointment!!!

The next thing I know, Beautiful Security Man was holding out his very own cell phone and saying, "Call your phone. Maybe someone will hear it and answer it."

I protested that it was long distance, and he said, "That's OK. I have unlimited long distance."

So I called my phone, and sure enough, some stranger answered!!!! I said, "Hi! Is this the person who found my phone?"

Whereupon the guy on the other end started babbling incoherently that he was Ray, and he was staying at the Sahara, room 800-something, and he would be in Las Vegas until Sunday,..... blah blah blah.....

And Hispanic Security Guy, Beautiful Security Guy, and Maintenance Guy were *all* saying, "Tell him to leave it at security! Tell him to leave it with Monorail Security!"

So I interrupted the earnest guy who found my phone, told him to leave it at security, and then hollered, "WAIT! What station are you going to get off at?"

He said he was getting off at Bally's/Paris. OK!!

So I thanked the stranger on my phone about 80 times, and I said goodbye, and hung up, handing the phone back to Beautiful Security Guy, and thanked him and the other guys about 80 times, and I turned around to exit the station and go get my car. I was going to drive down to Bally's to get my phone, when Beautiful Security Guy grabbed my arm and said, "No -- just ride the monorail down there!"

OK. Take a few milliseconds to feel the tingles of electricity running through my arm. For about a half a second, I thought, "Hey, maybe I can get a hug out of this." No. Nothing doing. Maintenance Guy opened a chain to let me through to the boarding platform, and Hispanic Security Guy shouted stuff in an accent that I didn't understand. I thanked them all many more times, and then I went down to the boarding platform to get on the monorail -- FREE OF CHARGE!!

It is a long ride from the Sahara station to the Bally's station. In fact, I think the Bally's station might be the next to last stop on the monorail line. I rode and rode and rode. I got off at Bally's, went downstairs, and a whole new Hispanic Security Guard Two had my cell phone. He gave it to me, and I went back upstairs to wait for a north-bound train. I called Amy first, who informed me that Ray had gone through my menu and called HOME to tell EMILY that he had my cell phone. Emily had totally freaked out, accused Ray of raping and murdering me, and had called everyone she could think of, including Wesley. So I had to call Emily and Wesley to tell them that I had my phone back, and everything was OK.

By this time, it was, like, 5:30, and I was wigged out from the stress and the trauma and the great exertion of willpower that I experienced when trying not to tackle Beautiful Security Guard. I knew traffic was hell on the Interstates and the Strip, so I told Yamy that I was going to go back to the Sahara, get my rental car, and go to the Hilton to go to the bar there and have myself a nice, relaxing adult beverage. She thought that was a splendid idea, and she was on her way out of work anyway, so she was just going to go straight to Quark's Bar & Restaurant and meet me.

I determined to get Beautiful Security Guard's name when I got back to the Sahara platform, because I was going to write to the monorail authority and tell them how fabulous ALL the monorail guys were in my experience.

Unfortunately, I guess the shift change happened at 5:00. By the time I got back to the Sahara, there were a bunch of strangers on staff at the monorail platform. I left the monorail system entirely, got my rental car out of the Sahara garage, and drove over to the Hilton to meet Yamy.
I have no idea what any of their names were. But they were all fabulous. They all reassured me. They all helped me. It's just that... the Beautiful Security Guy improved the scenery.

There. That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it. I'm just sayin'. Is all.

Day 7 -- Las Vegas

Wednesday, Feb. 1st

Well, this will be another short post. Why? Because I can't give away too much again. Also, Wednesday was a *very* strange day. The moment I arrived at the convention center, I could tell immediately that it was not half as busy as it had been on Tuesday. Whereas on Tuesday there was no room to walk or breathe, on Wednesday, the place felt like a ghost town. I can only imagine what it was like on Thursday. Was anyone there on Thursday? I'm waiting for pictures before I believe it!

I walked the show room floor for a while before I went to the press room for lunch. I wanted desperately to find the SugarVeil booth again. They weren't listed on the map or in the show guide book, so it wasn't easy... and in fact, I never found it again. I'll have to call or email the owner if I want to talk to her again, and I *do* want to talk to her again. I'm still convinced that there are scrappers out there who would love her product; they just need to see how it connects to papercrafting. I hope she finds a designer to create those illustrative models for the next trade show!

I did go to the press room early for lunch -- Monday and Tuesday were learning experiences, and I knew that they would run out of food early. (Especially Diet Pepsi!!!!) I went upstairs around 11:00 for lunch, and I had a great roast beef sandwich yet again. It's nice to be a freelancer!

Also, I found some great info sitting on one of the tables that time -- and I spent my lunch time reading about some interesting companies in the New Exhibitors area. Woo hoo! New stuff to drool over!

But after the busy-ness of Tuesday, Wednesday was a little lonely. Sniffle! I missed my ringing phone and all those meetings from Tuesday!

When I went downstairs, I found Kathi almost immediately. Let me just say this: Kathi is a *great* person to tour a showroom floor with. She has phenomenal taste and style, and she doesn't hesitate to share her opinion. After talking for a while -- and I gave her some replacement Blister Band-Aids for the ones she gave me Tuesday -- we went inside and headed for the New Exhibitors area.

And oh! What a glorious day we had!!!!!

I can't tell you *too* much, but my All-Time Favorite Find was the KeenCut booth.

People who know me well know that the one paper trimmer I have always wanted the most was the big, honkin', counter-mounted, paper-trimming *monster* at Kinko's. OMG. Have you ever used that thing? It's *magnificent*. It's a *machine*. It cuts paper like nobody's business, and it is *always* absolutely *perfect*. Long have I extolled the virtues of that massive paper-trimmer....

And much to my delight, KeenCut is finally going to be marketing to CONSUMERS!!!!!!!!

YAY, US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I don't think the sales guy to whom I spoke understood that I was already a fan of his machine. He was really looking for buyers, not writers. But I got his card and a catalog, and I got a price -- the 15" KeenCut trimmer is... $225!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Let's put this in perspective: The KeenCut blades last six months at your average Kinko's.

Can you try to imagine how long such a blade would last in *regular* crafter's conditions???? We're talking... LIFETIME!!!!!!!!!!!

I am very excited.

Kathi and I also stopped at the Carson-Dellosa booth again -- ROFL -- actually, one of the girls was gesturing to me in a psychic way. When I went over and asked her what she was doing, she said I didn't buy anything the day before! That's when I broke the bad news to her -- I'm not a buyer; I'm a writer! She was really sweet, anyway, and she gave me a used copy of the new "Memorabilia Matters" book from their shelves. Eeeeeeeeee! Antuanette didn't even have a copy yet; but I did!!!!! The photos are pictured above! You can get your own copy at many sellers; the cover price is only $16.99 U.S. -- quite a nice price for an idea book.

During my time in the New Exhibitors area, I ran into Erikia (eeeee!) and Melissa Inman and Jodi Amidei. It was lovely to see people I recognized, and I can only hope they were as ecstatic as I to find the KeenCut booth. Also, Erikia complimented on my top. Tee hee!

See, on Wednesday, I wore my new outfit -- a camisole with a cover-up. All day long, strangers were complimenting me on my clothes. I had surely been irritated by the line at Lane Bryant the night before, but I surely was glad I bought that top once I got to the show on Wednesday. That top was an attention-getter! I felt gorgeous all day long.

Back in the scrapbooking room, I still couldn't find SugarVeil, but I stopped by the Karen Foster booth to say thank you. Last year when I was writing a tool review, several people were really helpful in the research department, and I wanted to let them know that I appreciated 'em. I found Stacy in the Flair booth, and she was a sweetheart. I said goodbye and hugged her.

Later in the afternoon, I watched Erikia start her demo at the Ranger booth. She is so good! Before she started, she asked me what I would be doing that night, and I told her that Amy and I still needed to go to the Tropicana to do dinner at the coffee shop and the Titanic display.

Whereupon -- OK, this may be too outdated a comment. But my mother used to say, "Someone unplugged her iron lung." Do you have any idea what I'm talking about? Erikia sucked in her breath dramatically and said, "Oh! I would love to see that!!!!!!!"

I cannot resist Erikia. She is such a dear girl. I heard her squeal and invited her to come with me and Amy to the Titanic exhibit. She said she had been invited to hang out with some other designers at the New York New York casino, and I said that the Tropicana was a short walk from there (they're on opposite corners). So we made plans to meet that evening for a ride to the Trop and the Titanic exhibit.

I watched Erikia start her demo with the Sea Shells inks, and then went on trying to find the SugarVeil people. I called Kathi's phone several times -- by now, we had been separated -- but no one answered. I finally went to the AccuCut booth.

Tammy had been instrumental in my tools article last year, so I was determined to meet her, and I was so glad that I finally did get to meet her in person. She was a sweetheart!!!!!!!! I love AccuCut. I know that AccuCut isn't the current darling of the scrapbooking industry, but I do believe it should be. They are consistent and reliable, and their machines are good. Tammy is also an absolute dream to work with when you need good info. I was just really happy to finally meet her!!!! I showed her the layout in the Memorabilia Matters book, too, which was a nice little cap to the meeting. She was a sweetheart!!!!!!!!

Then I dashed by the F&W booth for the last time. Every time I had been by there, I hadn't recognized a soul, which was disheartening, considering how many articles I'd written for Memory Makers in the past. I was stopped by two authors of books on interesting topics, one of which was an art journal book, but they were out of that. However, they still had bites of cake left, and I had a bite and it was FABULOUS!! I'm not sure what the book is or who they were, but dang if I don't want that cake recipe. While I was chatting with them, I noticed Debbie Mock talking with someone, and I waited long enough to talk to her.

Debbie was everything I'd ever heard she was and more -- a really lovely lady, and so gracious and kind, even though it was obvious that she was exhausted. I'm sure that people like Debbie had to be more tired than I was, and I was worn out. Debbie and I talked for a few minutes -- she also was bummed that she had not heard about the Titanic exhibit at the Tropicana -- and we talked a little about what we had seen at the show so far, and that it was all literally overwhelming. Then we said goodbye, and I left the convention center.

To be continued....

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Day 6 -- Las Vegas

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

This will be a really short post in comparison to the other days' reports, because it was by far the most hectic and most confusing day that I experienced in Las Vegas. And unfortunately, many of the things I did/said/encountered can't be written about publicly. I'm sorry. There's no remedy for a non-disclosure agreement even when it's merely verbal.

I woke up at 7:00 and my feet screamed at me. Amy and Paul went off to work, and I took a long shower, which helped to restore some of my energy -- and definitely made me feel better in general. Today I wore my new, embellished jeans (rips and tears and embroidered flowers and beads, oh, my!) and my new, embellished peasant blouse. I adored my new clothes, and they made me feel not-fat.

Sometimes it's not a matter of needing to feel skinny. I'm way past skinny. I'm perfectly happy with "not-fat." But this outfit had the added bonus of just enough beaded bling to make me feel positively *pretty*. That's not a bad way to start the day, is it?

Thusly adorned, I emptied the remaining press kits out of Amy's over-burdened backpack (and thanked heaven again that I have a sister who is not only a great friend but who also has good backpacks that she's willing to lend undeserving, disorganized sisters like me), hopped in the rental car, and tootled off to the Sahara.

And this time, I Didn't Get Lost At All!!!!! I literally pumped my fist in the air as I made my last turn into the Sahara parking garage and hooted my brilliance at no one in particular. The walk to the monorail station was the shortest yet, and I breezed through the turnstiles and went down to the loading platform just as a monorail arrived to whisk me off to the convention center.

As I got off at the convention center (and zipped past the people who ride the escalators as if they were thrill rides, snort), I looked around and thought, "Oh, my gosh -- who left the gates open?"

My mother used to say that. It's an incomplete colloquialism, I think -- it's supposed to be "the gates of Hell," implying that if someone left the gates of Hell open, everyone confined there would escape. It really means, "Man, it's CROWDED HERE!!!!"

That's what the trade show looked like on Tuesday. I thought Monday had been busy -- it was *nothing* compared to Tuesday. Everyone and their brother showed up for Tuesday. The halls outside the show rooms were as full of exhausted people as the show rooms were themselves. You couldn't walk without tripping on someone's bag or bumping into someone else. I even saw Lisa Bearnson on Tuesday. To exacerbate matters, my cell phone rang almost constantly. I found Kathi and dragged her upstairs to the press room for some much-needed R&R for a few minutes, and I think she can testify to how much my phone rang while I was in there, trying to escape the hordes of humanity.

Furthermore, Kathi gets my undying adoration for introducing me to Band-Aid brand Blister Band-Aids. Those things ROCK!!!!! She gave me one for my open blister, and it immediately felt better. It didn't do anything for the stress of pounding on the near-exposed pavement of the aisles, but at least the blister wasn't throbbing, too!

We shared a table near the CNN-playing TV with a lady named Stacy (from either or -- I'm not sure which) and a British man who handed us copies of the British magazine "Creative Scrapbooking." It was a nice, low-key conversation while I wolfed down another fabulous roast beef sandwich. Then Jill called me and I told her to come back into the press room to join us at our table as Stacy and the British man left.

The conversation *then* was *just* lovely. Melissa Inman stopped by for a moment to say hello, which was nice, and I wish I had invited her to sit with us, but she was with some of the girls from BH&G Scrapbooks Etc., and our little table wasn't big enough for 6.

It was that kind of day. Soon enough, I was on the show floor again, checking out the Tsukineko and Clearsnap booths, thanks to Kathi's astute observations. Those folks rocked the cool inky stuff!!! I am in love with the ColorBox StamPress, which isn't new, but I hadn't seen it in person before.

At some point I ran over to the big exhibit hall and checked out the New Exhibitors only long enough to find the Carson-Dellosa booth with Antuanette's and Pam's new book, "Memorabilia Matters" on display. Woo hoo!!!! My all-time favorite layout is really in print!!!! And even more cool, the Carson-Dellosa people have *homeschooling* embellishments and papers in stock. AWRIGHT!

And all the while, my phone kept ringing and I kept having to run somewhere and meet with people. At one point, Lynn Baker *very* kindly rescued me and gave me more than half of her yummy, cold, quenching Diet Pepsi. She was a lifesaver -- I was just at the point that I was going to keel over if I didn't get some caffeinated beverage into me.

But at least if I keeled over, I would've looked good doing so. Even Erikia liked my outfit!!!! She is a style goddess. If Erikia liked it, it must be cool! And of course, I watched her start her demo. We talked about her Monday evening -- her shoulder hurt her, and she went to bed without dinner. I wish I had known! I could have brought Erikia some food, darn it -- I was *at* the Hilton, after all!!! She had plans with the Scrapbooks Etc. Creative Team people for Tuesday evening, so I wished her a good evening before I left the show.

Now -- you will note that I didn't see Becky, Stacy, or Kelli that whole day. I'm telling you, the throngs of humanity were just all over the place. It was nutty. They were mostly very nice, and I didn't have more than a couple of meetings with people who said, "Oh. It's YOU," as if I were the village pariah. But the show was a Madhouse, and I was so worn out by 2:00, I almost wanted to leave then.

Back at the monorail station, I kept running into people who couldn't figure out the monorail. I helped some guy figure out his ticket (take it OUT OF THE MACHINE to get through the turnstiles), and at the Sahara station there were two people who didn't understand that this was the last station on the line, and they had accidentally gotten on the Northbound train instead of the Southbound train. I told them to wait there at the platform for a couple of minutes; they had just announced that they were taking this train offline, but another would be along to take them South. Then I had to tell two elderly gentleman that the exit was *this* way.

It was just that kind of day. I know I keep saying that -- but it *was*.

When I got back to my rental car, I turned on the radio. I found a great radio station that really tripped my zizz wheel -- I'm a big-time "adult alternative" listener, and there are no longer any good "adult alternative" format station at home. Sniffle. But Las Vegas has a great one, and I was constantly singing along with the radio. They also had traffic reports, and as I was making my way out of the garage, the DJ's warned me that there was a huge snarl at the intersection of Las Vegas Blvd and Sahara. Dang it, that was supposed to be my first big intersection!!!

I called Amy, who told me to turn right on Sahara, then left before the Hilton, and then she guided me to secondary surface streets to get out of the worst of the traffic. It was a very scenic route that passed a darling little desert-landscaped park, and I enjoyed that drive immensely. I barely got home before Amy, so I took off my shoes and cooed over my poor feet.

When Amy got home, we decided we needed to go to the Tropicana and have our traditional meal in the coffee shop -- and might as well tour the Titanic exhibit, too. We stayed at the Tropicana the first time I ever visited Las Vegas, long before Amy ever had plans to live there. We have warm & fuzzy feelings for the glorious Trop. Rumor says that it will be torn down soon to make way for a more modern resort, and I hope that rumors are wrong. I have fond memories of that hotel and our first trip to Vegas.

But first I wanted to stop by Lane Bryant and buy that gorgeous little camisole that I've been wanting ever since I saw it a few weeks ago in Knoxville. I had my gift cards with me (thank heaven), so we went to the mall.

One of the things that makes this trip so nice is getting to see the places where Amy goes on a regular basis. Just a couple of weeks ago, she was chatting with me as she went to this mall, found Lane Bryant, and checked out their peasant blouses like the one I wore on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, we miscalculated, or everyone else did, because Lane Bryant was almost as busy as the convention center had been during the day. There had to be 20 people in there, all shopping. There was a line for the dressing rooms. There was a line for the cash registers. It just took *forever* to try on three tops and buy one!

By the time we finished, we were both too worn out to consider driving all the way to the Trop. Instead, we went to Pop's Philly Cheesesteaks, got dinner, and went back to Yamy's house. We watched "American Idol" together and then I crashed again. I was absolutely exhausted, but at least I got a good night's sleep in Amy's lovely guest bedroom!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Day 5, Las Vegas -- Part III

[Photo by Becky Thompson; copyright 2006; reprinted without permission yet; left to right: Kelli Noto, Stacy Hackett, me, Kathi Rerek, Becky Thompson.]

After I had been at Amy's house long enough to take my shoes off and check my email, I got a phone call from Kathi that they did not make it back to their hotel. She said they were at Quark's Bar in the Hilton, having soothing adult beverages and chatting. It sounded like a *lovely* gathering. I told her we would come there to pick up people for the FatBurger outing.

Shortly thereafter, Becky called to let me know that she was finished with her obligations. I told her that everyone else was at the Hilton, and while I'm not sure where she was, she said she would go to Quark's.

First we asked Paul if he wanted us to bring him some dinner, and then Amy and I left her house and piled into my rental car. I have absolutely no idea what kind of car this car was. It was a mid-size, though, and I was glad because it would have more room for passengers than the compact car I had paid for would have been. They upgraded me. Woo hoo! Upgrade! A genuine Las Vegas bargain! Don't run across *those* every day, y'know.

Now, I'm not sure, but I think this might have been the car trip during which Yamy and I started laughing about "loose slots." Now, *I* would never think anything of the phrase "loose slots." It's pretty normal in Las Vegas to hear someone touting their casino's "loose slots," which means -- as I take it -- that the slot machines spit out winners every three or four minutes. THAT is what LOOSE SLOTS is SUPPOSED to MEAN.

Not the way *my* sister hears it.

We laughed so hard, tears actually ran down my cheeks.

Trust me, you don't want the details. But I bet some of you can fill in the blanks.

As I pulled in at the Hilton's side entrance, I called Kathi and told her to meet me at the revolving door nearest the parking garage. Then I parked the car next to the revolving door, and Amy jumped out to find my people. I was going to jump out -- because, after all, I would recognize them sooner -- but Amy was afraid some cab driver would get mad at me for blocking the driveway and hit the rental car, so she wanted me to stay behind the wheel, ready to make a quick getaway if necessary.

A few seconds later, here came Kathi and Kelli, and Stacy -- who hails from California and had her SUV with her -- was accompanied by a few girls who were working in the Flair booth with her, too. As they made their way to the parking garage and Stacy's SUV, I asked, "Where's Becky?"

She wasn't there yet. I called her, and she said she had just gotten to the Hilton. Dang! I don't know where she was before, but I felt guilty that it took her that long to get to the Hilton! She said she was coming down the hallway, so I stood at the revolving door, ready to wave and get her attention.

In the meantime, Stacy and her peeps got in her SUV and prepared to follow us to the FatBurger. Unbeknownst to me, she exited the parking garage and came around to park behind my rental car.

I was standing at the revolving door, and the moment Becky came into sight, I started jumping up and down, waving my arms, and kicking my ridiculous little feet into the air so Becky would see me and join us.

Stacy chose just that moment to honk her horn at me as if she were an irate cab driver, which made me jump and turn around.

Then everyone laughed at me. Including, well, me.

Becky came to my car, and as we made our way down Paradise to Tropicana, Kelli asked if the car were a rental, whereupon she put her feet on the armrest in the front seat. People got comfortable, I guess! It was lovely to have a backseat full of friends, all talking and laughing at the same time.

Stacy is well-acquainted with Las Vegas, but let's face it, the FatBurger on the Strip is really hard to miss. We had a harder time with the parking lot than we did with the restaurant!

Once we were all there, we went inside and got in line to order our foods. I got the FatBurger and fries and a chocolate milk shake.

Now, the place was smaller than I expected, and the music was louder than I expected, and we nine scrappers must have taken up a third of the seating capacity by ourselves. Food began appearing before milk shakes did, and for a while it was pretty confusing.

I finally found time to give Kathi her cards. Tee hee! See, she had emailed before the weekend, saying she needed "an incomplete deck of cards" for her make-and-take. First I laughed, because, if you need a deck of playing cards, Las Vegas is definitely the place to find some. Then I laughed and laughed because -- all I could think was, "HOOKER CARDS!!!!!!!" That's what Yamy, Paul, and I were collecting on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights while we traipsed around Las Vegas!!!!!!! I absolutely couldn't wait to give Kathi a deck of X-rated Hooker Cards, and it was *so* much fun gathering them and trying to find a dominatrix card for her.

It was especially hilarious on Saturday, when Amy and I were walking from the Venetian to the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace. There was a whole *row* of guys handing out hooker cards on the sidewalk, and they were flipping the edges of the cards with their thumbnails to make a popping sound. I gaily walked down the whole row of them, plucking cards out of their outstretched hands and saying, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!" ROFL!!!!! I didn't make eye contact, but Amy was watching and she said the looks on their faces was *priceless*.

I especially loved handing over the stack of cards to Kathi -- she laughed out loud!

She also liked the decks that I got for her at Bonanza -- I found three retired decks from the Paris, the Bellagio, and another place -- the Plaza? Whichever the last one was, they had a *funky* retro olive-green-and-brown design that was *perfect* for the latest crazes in scrapbooking paper style. Coolio!!!!!!

Then we got down to the business of eating, and once again, my milk shake was heaven. Becky said they have some similar in Idaho. Dang! I don't have anything like this in Tennessee! (I also thought my burger and fries were a little overcooked and dry at that location, but then again, it was the Strip -- they were busy in there.)

Some of the Flair girls -- Karen and Donna and Melanie -- were slurping Cokes instead of milk shakes. Being a Coke girl myself, I can understand why!!!! Pepsi really rules Nevada!

We all had lots of fun, even if it was a little spread out, and then the photo shoot began. We're scrapbookers, man! Almost everyone whipped out a camera and started taking photo after photo!!!!

Yamy almost died of ecstasy when she saw Kelli's camera. Yamy is a great amateur photographer, and she immediately recognized the brilliance of Kelli's equipment. (Kelli's a pro, you know, and her camera is just *gorgeous*.)

But the photo shoot -- OMG, I was almost embarrassed. The other people in the restaurant were staring at us like we were stripping on the tables! Except in Las Vegas, that wouldn't have been unusual. They stared at us like crazy people, but we kept posing and re-grouping and handing around cameras and clicking away like mad. It was great!!!

One of Kelli's group shots is pictured above -- my beloved SDC girls!!!! I'm so glad you were all there for me!!!!!!!!

At the end of the meal, there was some rearranging of people, and we ended up sending Kathi and Kelli off to walk back to their hotel. I still feel guilty about that! Kathi's heels were shredded by that time, and I'm sure the extra block of walking didn't help.

Amy and I drove Becky back to the Sahara, and oh, it was good to have her in the back of the car and chatting. I miss her soooooooooo much already! Those of you who will be taking Becky's class at Big Picture -- please know that you have a real gem of a teacher. Becky is the *bomb*!!!!

Then we made our way back to Amy's house. First we stopped at a Fat Burger closer to her house and got some dinner for poor Paul, who was all by himself at the house. I still feel badly about leaving Paul by himself for so many nights after the trade show started. He is a wonderful host and so gracious about showing Las Vegas to me. We should have invited him to come to dinner with us! He would have gotten such a kick out of the photo session!!!!!

At home, I stripped off my shoes and discovered the first of many horribly painful blisters. My feet were killing me all over, but only one blister was obvious that night -- right in the middle of the ball of my right foot. OW. I tried to drain it and bandage it, but it didn't want to drain properly.

Before I went to bed, I showed my heaps of press kits to Amy and Paul, who were mighty impressed with the stacks of stuff I had gathered from the CHA press room. They also commiserated nicely about how hard it was to drag all that crap back to their house. LOL! I went through catalogs and press releases for a while, trying to get an idea of what I needed to visit for the rest of the show. I was a failure in that regard -- I still missed tons of booths!

Finally, I keeled over asleep. Amy's lovely bulldog Leon kept me company that night. I worried about him. I snore. I was worried that I would keep him awake! But when I woke up the next day, he didn't seem any the worse for wear.

All in all, it was an exhausting and painful day (for my feet and brain), but it was wonderful to see old friends and to eat at Fat Burger again! I'm so glad I was there.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Day 5 Las Vegas, Part II

Now, frankly, most of Monday afternoon is a mindless blur. Walking the trade show floor was confusing and mindboggling. Kathi and Kelli told me how to find Stacy at the Flair booth, and I wanted to be sure to stop by the Ranger booth to lend moral support to Erikia during her first demo of the show. She had mentioned that she was a little nervous -- she hadn't done a demo in a long while. Now, I just took a class from her in August. The girl is brilliant. But who can explain stage fright? I wanted to be there for her.

I also wanted to find the Better Homes & Gardens Scrapbooks Etc. booth, because on Sunday, Melissa had mentioned that she had extra copies of the March issue. And I needed one!

So at some point in the afternoon, I found Stacy and met her. YAY!!!!! She is every bit as nice as I expected. No, that's not true -- she's warmer, friendlier, and *cuter* than I expected! Tiny little skinny California thang -- what a hoot Stacy was! And the Flair products are very pretty.

At some other point, I called Becky T and found her to say hello. She's getting so skinny!!!!!! But her smile is just as engaging as ever.

I also found Kathi and Kelli again. Now, we had all been planning to go to FatBurger Monday night, and I had to make the arrangements. Everyone kept saying, "I don't make decisions," or "I'm not a leader." So I was the leader. I told everyone where to be at what time, and I told Becky (who had lots of obligations because she is the most fabulously in-demand) to call me when she was free, and we would figure out some way of getting her to FatBurger.

Tah dah! Able to organize five people in a single bound! I am SooooooooperBayyyyyyy!

OK, not really. We all had cell phones; we all had each other's numbers. You can't survive a show like CHA without phones!

I swung by the Scrapbooks Etc. booth and saw Katie, whom I'd met the day before with Melissa. She's a sweetheart, and I seemed to run into her every time I turned around at the show. LOL! I'm glad I kept seeing Katie and not, y'know, the pervert who harassed Kathi at one of her demo's!!!! Katie gave me a copy of the magazine, which I promptly carried around with me, shamelessly showing it to anyone who paused. Which, really, was just Becky. I'm so glad I had friends at the show to share this with!

I watched Erikia start her demo at the Ranger booth. She was using the Adirondacks Color Washes for tag-making, and she was completely brilliant as always. When a crowd had gathered around her, I backed away quietly and let other people close enough to enjoy The Art of Erikia. I checked the board at the back of the booth to make sure I knew when Erikia would be demo'ing on Tuesday and Wednesday. I never want to miss a second of Erikia's work. She's the *bomb*.

However, I missed all of Kathi's demo's, and that's a huge bummer. She had been wrangled to demo in the QuicKutz booth, which was right next to Ranger, but I didn't know it!

In the Anna Griffin booth, a clueless sales rep (a man), snagged me and asked me if I was familiar with Anna Griffin products. I barely managed to conceal a snort -- the very first layout of mine ever to be published was made with glorious AG papers. And I once scared the daylights out of Anna Griffin herself. (I didn't *mean* to scare her. And she was really, really sweet.) He tried to sell me on the pretty rub-ons, and I asked if he had any out for demo's. He looked at me like I had grown a second head, so I explained to him that everyone has pretty rub-ons now. The thing we're most concerned with is performance. It isn't enough to be pretty. You have to be able to perform. No demo's? OK, then I don't need 'em. Thanks. Moving on now.

While walking around the scrapbooking room, I kept hearing cheering from the back corner of the hall. OK. Now. Y'all? I have not heard anyone say one thing about all of the hooting and hollering going on back there, but do you really want to know what I thought of it? I thought it was obnoxious. Truly. Sublimely. Incredibly. Obnoxious. It reminded me of the sororities in college. And hey, I was a sorority girl. So I shouldn't be snarky about it, but -- haven't we grown past this sort of self-aggrandizing solipsism? These people seemed to be saying, "We are the in-crowd. You should want to be one of us."

Hey, here's a clue. Not only am I not one of you, but I don't want to be one of you. Get a life.

It was exactly this sort of vainglorious crowing that made me run away from life at the ad agency. I cling to my individuality like a lifeboat. Save me from being the same as all those pompous hacks.

And ProvoCraft made a brilliant, if irritating, advertising move. They gave away Cricut logo-emblazoned lime green roller back-packs if you sat through a Cricut demo. CHA allowed rolling totes at this show, much to my dismay. People have a habit of trailing those things far behind them, and I tripped on no fewer than three bags while trying to walk the floor on Monday alone. Of course it's annoying to have to carry all the stuff you get at these shows. I cursed my backpack on that first day, it got so heavy. But I wouldn't take a rolling tote to a show for love nor money. I just know someone would break an ankle and then sue me for all that I'm worth.

(Which ain't much.)

As for the rest of the show, honestly, I was just overwhelmed with sensory input. Everything looked the same to me. Lots of manufacturers are offering coordinating glass beads with their paper lines. Everlasting Memories has laser-cut chipboard embellishments that are cool because they're more detailed than other companies' chipboards. And bigger. They have 11.5" monogram letters, for cryin' out loud!

I finally made my way out of the hall and headed for the monorail station. At this point in the day, I knew that the Las Vegas Convention Center needs my input in order to improve the place for visitors.

1. They need moving sidewalks from the convention center to the monorail station. My press kits must have weighed fifty pounds. I kept having to stop and rest, then pick up the bags and take four more steps. The plastic bags dug into my hands and HURT.

2. They *desperately* need to put cushioning under the carpets in the aisles of the showrooms. My feet were screaming at me after a day of pounding on that unforgiving, barely covered concrete floor. The individual booths had cushioning under the carpets, and it was a great relief to step into one, but the aisles -- ugh!

Now if only the Las Vegas Convention Center would actually listen to me....

The trip to the monorail was exhausting, and I was very relieved to make it back to my rental car in the Sahara parking lot. Before I knew it, I was at home with Amy, getting ready to go back to the Strip for my much-anticipated trip to FatBurger with my SDC gals. Oh, how long I had waited! And oh, how worried I was that they would hate the food and the milkshakes and would accuse me of terrible taste in burgers and fries!

To be continued yet again....

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Day 5 Las Vegas -- Part I

SUBTITLE: There's No Business Like Trade Show Business

Waking up Monday morning was an exercise in pain. I couldn't fall asleep Sunday night for worrying. I'm not good at many things, but I am an expert at worrying. I can make an art out of worrying. That's what I did Sunday night.

I understand a few things about Las Vegas traffic, and I understand a really important thing about myself.

About me, I get lost and cry. It never fails. I can have maps, a plan, an escape route, a personal trainer, and a guide dog, and I will get lost. And then I will cry. Usually I just call my sister Amy in a complete panic -- no matter where I am -- and she will get on a trusty computer and navigate my way out of Timbuktu, all the way saying soothing things like, "You're not an idiot," and, "It'll be allllll riiiiiiiight." Amy has done this for me in Orlando, Nashville, Charleston, Atlanta, and even Knoxville -- just to name a few places.

As for Las Vegas traffic, I understand that morning rush hour is from 5:00 to 10:00, and afternoon rush hour lasts from 2:00 to 7:00. That's Las Vegas. Amy warned me. And she was *right*!!

Therefore, I was in no great rush to go out and join the masses of people on the interstate, especially since I had NOT GOTTEN REGISTERED for a press pass on Sunday afternoon. I was supposed to get registered Sunday. I emailed the media rep for CHA a month ago to ensure that I would not be coming to Las Vegas for nothing.

(Note: Well, coming to Las Vegas would *never* be for "nothing," because Amy is my best friend as well as my sister and we are having a blast.)

I had an egregious factual error in an article last year because I wasn't walking the floor at CHA, and I was determined not to have that happen again. I exchanged emails with a lovely person named Kristin, and I was all set to register on Sunday afternoon.


That didn't happen. That's why I was so worried last night. A horrid little man stopped me at the door to the press room and yelled at me to go away. I said I was there to get registered, and he got snotty. I swear, if I knew his name, I would trumpet it to the far reaches of the earth. He was horrible and rude and mean, and for no reason. I wasn't arguing with him; I was being reasonable. If I had seen him again during the trade show, I would've gotten his name so I could tell everyone, "This little guy is a snotwad and a TERRIBLE representative for CHA."

Anyway, I knew that I would have to *get* registered once I got back to the convention center, so I took my time this morning. I think I finally got all my stuff and got out of the house at 9:50 or 9:55. It was slightly later than I intended, but it turned out to be to my advantage, because...

I got lost.

They changed the entrance to I15, I swear! I am not making it up! They took away a lane and there was a sign that said I15 North, and I knew I was supposed to go to I15 South!!! I dialed Amy's number as I pulled onto the first exit ramp for Charleston. Amy, of course, informed me that I simply could not have been on the Northbound lane if I got off at Charleston, and she guided me on the surface streets to Sahara Avenue. From there, I should have been able to go straight to my parking garage.

But no. I missed my turn and went around a block.

Then I missed my turn and went around another block.

Then I entered the wrong parking garage and drove around it, and then went around the block.


At least I didn't cry!!!

I finally found the correct parking garage and the correct entrance, and I parked. Then I gathered up my things and hit the stairs, walking through the Sahara's back entrance to the monorail station. Upstairs, there was no one waiting for the South bound train, and the announcement said that monorails run every nine minutes. I know it was running every six minutes on the weekend, so I was a *little* surprised. But then again, it's Las Vegas. That town is busier on weekends.

In a few minutes, I was on the Monster Energy Drink-themed monorail, a train that advertised a soft drink. It's equipped with TV monitors and videos. That was kind of different. A former cast member of the TV show "Jackass" advised me to go to all his favorite Las Vegas haunts -- bars, clubs, and tattoo parlors.

I didn't have time to dwell on what sort of tattoo I might get, because the convention center is the second stop from the Sahara. In no time at all, I was walking along with hordes of people going to the show. I immediately went upstairs to the press room, which I could find easily because I knew where it was, and a lovely woman registered me within about thirty seconds. It literally took no time at all. I got out my binder of clips -- you do know what clips are, right? They're tear sheets of one's published articles -- and she barely glanced at it. She took one of my business cards and laughed at my tagline. ("A fresh cup o' Freelance Writer" says my business card. I figure if a person doesn't get it, I really don't need to be writing for 'em.)

I asked, "What about press kits?" thinking that they would hand me a press kit. Oh, no. She pointed behind her.

The press room is a large room with round tables and chairs, an Internet cafe, and a food nook with a TV tuned in to CNN. All the other walls are lined with long tables, covered with press kits and marketing kits.

I knew that everyone had said that they get a ton of stuff for press, but -- man! That stuff is insane just in terms of volume!

The first thing I did was to transfer my press badge to my lovely badge holder, a leftover from last year's show. Thanks to Timeless Touches. I did this while talking to a lady who was one of the $20,000 craft contest finalists. OK, to be honest, she told me who sponsored the contest. And I know there was such a thing sometime this year. I just can't remember any of the details.

I had too many details going on Monday. Most of them fell out of my head.

I congratulated her and she said she hoped to find a ribbon manufacturer who wanted her endorsement. I sighed and wished her luck.

Then I started tackling the press kits, which took no small amount of time. I missed the white plastic bags on my first pass through, so I took stacks of notebooks and binders and overly-cute packages to a table for a while. I got one press kit that was in a large, purple, plastic bag -- one of the good gift bags with cord handles -- and I started stuffing press kits in there.

Food appeared, and I got a lovely roast beef sandwich with mustard and a Diet Pepsi. I grew up drinking Coke, and I somehow cannot make the Great Switch to Diet Coke. I guess I want Coke to taste like Coke. Having never been a big Pepsi fan, I don't expect it to taste like anything, so Diet Pepsi is just fine. (Of course, I prefer Diet Dr. Pepper, but hardly anyone ever has that.)

(Also, Pepsi products seem to rule the West. There are just more Pepsi drinkers out here, I guess, because it's hard to find Coke products.)

I ate my lunch while reading through press kits and trying to get a feel for what was out there on that massive floor. I also removed the giant map from the giant show guide (a book as thick as most Frommer's guidebooks) and marked booths of note in order to get my bearings. That map is a glorious thing.

While I was eating, a couple of people joined me at my table, and I commented on all the press kits and how I couldn't possibly carry them with me. The lady pointed out the stacks of bags near the front door, and she advised me to put the press kits in a bag and staple it in the middle with one of my business cards. Oh! I can do that! So I did.

Then I hit the show room floor -- and it did feel like I took quite a hit. The common areas outside the scrapbook product hall smelled glorious, and people had started taking lunchbreaks. There are so many people here that the floors were filled with people sitting and eating their lunches. All of the tables at the restaurants were populated by diners. As I passed the doors to go outside, I noticed the benches out there were filled, too. People already looked tired. CHA is a big old dang show!

And I walked. Oh, my goodness, I walked and walked. I had a lyric from the musical Godspell running through my head, "Watch me walk; I can walk and walk." Within a couple of hours, I knew I should have started with the other line from the same song, "I'll put a pebble in my shoe."

How can I describe this show? Big. Crowded. Stuffed full. Most of the things I saw are a blur.

Fortunately, I kept running into people I know. First I found Kelli and Kathi. I recognized Kelli from last year, but this was the first time I had ever met Kathi in real life -- finally!!! I have long admired Kathi's skill with punch art and her taste in die-cut machines is impeccable. She also has a *killer* sense of humor, and she helps me keep my Hebrew spelling correct. It was such a joy to see both of them!

Kelli wanted to go back to the press room -- she hadn't been there yet on Monday, so we went back upstairs so Kelli could start getting press kits. The moment I returned, I realized that someone had snuck around putting out a whole ton of press kits that had not been there when I was gathering them the first time. Oy, vey! I grabbed a white plastic bag and started gathering more things, cursing under my breath and wishing the manufacturers were restricted to one 8.5x5.5" piece of paper. The cutesy kits were bulky and irritating at best, and downright injurious at worst.

To be continued...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Bragging "rites"

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog, already in progress, to bring you breaking news.

I'm in the newest issue of Better Homes & Gardens Scrapbooks Etc.!

Yay, me!

Now, if you're hoping to read the whole essay via my blog, then you are totally out of luck. I insist you go right out and *buy* a copy of this magnificent issue. Not only do I have the essay on the back page, but my dear friend Erikia Ghumm is announced as an official 2006 Creative Team member, too! Besides, they completely re-vamped the layout of the magazine, and it's easier than ever to find exactly what sort of information you seek in the realm of scrapbooking.

I was lucky enough to meet several of the fine people from BH&G Scrapbooks Etc. in Las Vegas. In fact, I think I ran into Katie the most of anyone at the trade show! She is a sweetheart and I always loved chatting with her.

Let me be really clear about this: I am in awe of the editorial staff at BH&G Scrapbooks Etc. They have incredible taste, and I am beyond flattered to have been chosen to have the first essay in the new "I Scrapbook Because..." column. I am excited to be the first, but I confess, I can't wait to read the *next* essay. This is a great feature!!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Another teaser

I swear I am keeping notes on what to write when I finally have the time -- and energy -- to write a real report for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. However, it's 11:26, and I'm just now home. I have to leap up in the morning, throw my stuff in the suitcase, and go to the airport in order to go back to my *other* home, the regular one in Tennessee.

What I can say is that this has been the best trip to Las Vegas yet. And that's saying a lot, because the other visits here were nothing to sneeze at.

The trade show was sublimely exhausting. I developed a blister in the middle of my *left* foot tonight. I am literally overwhelmed with my impressions from the show, and I can only hope that distance will give me some perspective. I'm still most excited by the SugarVeil stuff which works with papercrafting tools. However, a discovery in the New Exhibitors section was *lovely*. For me. Maybe not for everyone, but it is a dream come true for *me*.

And I had an excruciatingly exciting afternoon *after* I left the convention center. I cannot give any details, but I decided I hadn't had enough attention, so I sought it from the Las Vegas Monorail Security Guards. I will be writing to the Monorail Authority to tell them they have *splendid* people on staff at the Monorail.

I'm sad -- it's my last night in Las Vegas, and I have to go home tomorrow. I wish I could stay another week!!!! Except... I really kinda miss my family. But Amy has made me so comfortable here and has been the most gracious and giving hostess in the world. We had *so* much fun!!!!

But my feet are cursing me viciously. If I ever go to CHA again, I shall bring a wheelchair! But if I ever come to Las Vegas again, I know I will have a blast with my sister!