Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Lazy slacker blogging

I've been missing, yes. Sorry 'bout that. I have at least one more part of my Las Vegas trip report that I could post, but I seem to have trouble getting around to doing it.

See, I injured my back a couple of weeks ago. That seems innocuous enough when you say it like that. "I injured my back." I've never had real back trouble or serious back pain, so I had absolutely no idea what it was like to really hurt your back.

I'm just gonna say -- don't hurt your back. Take care of your back. Be really, really nice to it. Because you just don't know how good you've got it until it's gone.


So for a week and two days, I couldn't move for any length of time, and I couldn't sit, stand, or lie anywhere that didn't hurt.

I think the most upsetting thing about it was realizing how fragile my grasp is on the day-to-day activities of life. The moment I took to the couch with a heating pad, everything around here fell apart. I had just started making great strides in housecleaning (not my strong suit on a great day, much less during a rush for a deadline or something). When I stopped making an ingress on the housecleaning and stopped doing anything -- oh, it got icky here. Rapidly. Dishes piled up in the kitchen until they threatened to scrape the ceiling. The floors became positively grimy as teenagers with dirty bare feet tromped around on them, blithely ignoring my pleas to sweep or mop or at least wipe up that Gatorade spill they carelessly made.

It just overwhelmed me in no time flat.

So when I was able to stand up without crying, I spent all my tremulous energy on trying to just get the house back to normal. Ow. Sweeping really, really hurts when your back is recovering from something like that. I would sweep for a minute and rest for five. Then sweep for another minute and rest for ten.

Don't ask about the dishes.

And no, you can't use my bathroom. You just can't. I don't know when my back will be restored enough for me to scrub anything.

Last weekend was the deadline for a summer cocktail recipe contest at the totally fabulous How Much Do We Love podcast. I totally would've told y'all about it so you could enter, too, but I wasn't spending any time at the computer other than the absolutely necessary minutes that it took to write my usual newsletters. Deadlines wait for no back muscle recovery.

Anyway, my entry was the Over Clover, pictured above. You should have seen me tromping around my neighborhood, trying to find a suitably summery backdrop for my cocktail while the rainclouds above not only blocked out all the light but also threatened to drench me and my camera. The poor scoop of lime sherbet was melting away so fast, I started taking pictures without thinking about composition, just hoping there was enough light to see the shape of a glass.

I seriously doubt I'll win, although I humbly admit that my recipe is pure mixology genius. It's light, refreshing, and slightly tart and sweet, with a fabulous hint of mellow herbs and mint for a counterpoint. Yummy! I'll share the recipe later when the winner is announced.

Friday, July 13, 2007

So after our late lunch, Amy and I went to the drug store, and then we went to her house, where I leapt into my swimsuit and galloped toward the back yard.

I totally forgot to mention that Sunday was "breezy," which really means, "batten down the hatches." A hot wind was blowing across Las Vegas that day, and I learned it the hard way when I discovered the Sunday paper (which I had left on the patio) had blown across the yard. I gathered up pieces of it and still managed to harangue Paul and Amy into giving me a coozie for my Coke Zero. What sweeties they were! The only coozie in the whole house was being used as a pen holder! Paul dumped out the pens and handed me the coozie for my Coke Zero, and it worked for the rest of my trip like a trooper!

In the pool, all my pique with the unpleasant lunch experience melted away. In fact, that was the *best* afternoon in Amy's backyard swimming pool! The pigeons were feeling free to come back and I enjoyed many sessions with chasing off unwanted birds. There's one pigeon that Paul calls Einstein, and I had staring contests with Einstein that resulted in my ultimate win. Woo hoo! I beat a pigeon!!!

Of course, Amy and I laughed until our sides hurt all over again. And this time, I managed to stay in the pool until the afternoon sun got low enough for shade to cover parts of the pool. This is when it's the most fabulous. You can lie there across the steps in the shade, and it's just... *perfect*.

Oh, how I wish I had my own swimming pool!!!!

Hours later, I finally did climb out of the pool and start getting ready for our night on the town. We had been planning for weeks to go to the Mix Lounge just to see the sunset, and some The Strip Podcast listeners decided to join us there.

I wore my favorite trampy camisole and a shrug, and Amy wore a gorgeous golden sweater and khakis, and we toodled off to Mandalay Bay. Which is *really* way down south. We went to the valet parking under the garage, and I asked Amy later if there is a prettier entrance somewhere. I can't imagine arriving at Las Vegas and going to my expensive hotel, only to be dropped off in an unattractive, fume-filled garage. She assured me there is a prettier entrance somewhere out front, but this entrance was closer to our destination.

We found elevators, and we went up. All the ads say that the bar is on the 64th floor, but I think they're fudging their numbers. As the elevator rose, the numbers were ticking off, and they jumped from 30-something to 64th without going through the forties or the fifties. That's OK with me! I was a little worried about my fear of heights, anyway!

We walked through the restaurant, which is gorgeous and utterly white, and were soon in the bar, which is black. We turned left and headed immediately for the balcony, and then a girl followed us out the door and stopped us, saying something like, "Are you Amy and Bay?"

She invited us indoors to sit with her and her husband. Amy said, "Let's sit outside," and she said no, they had already ordered food. And Amy said, "But the main thing was to be able to watch the sunset from out here," and the woman looked at Amy like she was crazy.

Our new friend exclaimed, "I thought WE were the main thing!"

Well, OK. I guess we really hadn't been precise enough about our plans. We had read so much about the view. And the sunset. And... we had meant to sit outdoors and enjoy both. But meeting new people can be fun, too, so -- OK! Inside to meet Rob and Suzie! Malya never showed up, and I wish I could have met her.

During a really lively conversation about business, Las Vegas businessmen (I still can't stand Steve Wynn and his towering ego that allows him to shove his own elbow through a Picasso and then turn around and sue his own insurance company because it won't pay for HIS egregious error), Suzie's X-Games cycling son, and really, lots of other stuff, too -- I kept having to run outside and take pictures of the stunning view and sunset. It really was gorgeous up there, and sometime I'm going to have to go back so I can sit on the balcony and breathe it in whilst sipping a cocktail.

I *highly* recommend the Mix Lounge at Mandalay Bay's THEhotel!!! The service was incredible, and the fare... oh, the drinks and food!...

Rob and Suzie were having crabcakes, and I was sorta jealous and really thought about getting the same thing. But after having had such a *perfect* crab cake at Mon Ami Gabi, I didn't want to take a chance.

We ordered an appetizer, duck spring rolls with "sweet & sour sauce," but I've never seen a sweet & sour sauce that color before. It was light green. And it was good. The duck spring rolls, though, were *divine*. OMG, they were fabulous!! And HOT!! Spicy hot!!!! I thought at first that it was the sauce that was hot, but on my second bite I got hardly any on my spring roll, and that bite set my mouth on fire. I didn't care; that duck spring roll thing was delicious, and I wanted to lick the cute little bamboo bowl clean when we finished our duck spring rolls.

And, oh, they were expensive, too. The drinks were $15 each. (Amy got a mojito, which was a classic mojito instead of the pomegranate one like the ones we had a Mon Ami Gabi the night before. And Amy liked the pomegranate ones better.) (I had a luscious and refreshing watermelon martini. YUM.) The tiny little delicious duck spring rolls cost a whopping $18. Compare that to my delicious and huge dinner at Mon Ami Gabi for less than $20, and I have a hard time recommending Mix Lounge's duck spring rolls…. Except, honestly, they were fabulous. I can't figure out a way to justify saying no to them.

Even though they're expensive.

When it was about 9:00 and almost time to either order more drinks or pay the tab, Amy and I realized, "Oh, we need to call Paul and figure out what to do about dinner." Darn it! We said goodbye and bolted for the elevator, worrying about how late it was. When we got downstairs, we found the ladies' room -- *I* didn't know this, but the ladies' room in Mix Lounge is quite ... something to see. I've heard and read about it *since* I was there, but when I was there, I didn't think to go to the ladies' room upstairs. Now that I was downstairs... well, whatEV, as my kids say.

We called Paul, but he didn't really want to come all the way down south to meet us for dinner. We wandered over to Mandalay Bay proper and walked around looking at stuff. Amy always goes to the Red White & Blue Café for Thanksgiving dinner, and we looked at the menu. We looked in at the restaurant that has the "wine angels," but we didn't see an angel procuring any wine from the three-story wine tower.

So I think I said, "Hey, we haven't eaten at Raising Cane's yet. Why don't we go there?"

Amy was all for it.

By the time we got out to the valet area again, it was *really* smoky and dim. I don't know if it was the fumes from the cars or if the "breeze" had kicked some desert dust into the place, but it looked positively dangerous for one's lungs.

But of the things I saw, Mandalay Bay is really pretty. Amy says I didn't see a fraction of it, so I guess I need to go back sometime, huh?

Amy loves Raising Cane's. They sell nothing but chicken fingers and fries with a special chicken dipping sauce. I got a 3-piece snack and a lemonade, and Amy got the snack with a Diet Coke. They cook the fingers fresh when you order them, so I stood there and read the poster about the guy who started Raising Cane's. He had a dream and no business experience or degree, so he couldn't get financing. He went to work at the worst jobs that pay the most money – like fishing for Alaskan crab? Yeah, that kind of thing! He saved up his money and worked hard, and then he got financing and opened on the campus of LSU. Smart boy!!! It was a great story.

And the chicken itself is *great*. We took it back to Amy's house and dined there, and yum, yum, yum! The special sauce is *very* good. Amy loves it. I happen to already love honey mustard (if you can get the *good* honey mustard), so I was a little harder to impress, but I *am* impressed. I wish there were a Raising Cane's here!!!! I would go there instead of a burger place any day of the week!

I watched some TV with Paul, and then I crashed. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! Busy day! Once again, I had a fan to keep me cool, a fabulous bulldog to keep me company, and I had had a wonderful day. I know there were some mishaps, but really, the flippy baby dolphin, the marvelous views from a tall tower (that was so stable it didn't trip my fear of heights into high gear), the fabulous chicken strips and yummy dipping sauce, and of course, my wonderful, warm, companionable afternoon in Amy's pool more than made up for getting bitten on the tush. And I've decided I'm gonna write to the Hash House A-Go-Go people and let them know about our experience. Might as well give 'em a chance to make it up to Paul, if not to me!

And I had only one more full day in Las Vegas to look forward to. Ah, what a wondrous weekend!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Weekend in Las Vegas, Part IV

Sunday, June 24th

- Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat
- Hash House A-Go-Go
- The Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay
- 7:30 drinks at Mix Lounge atop THEhotel at Mandalay Bay

I woke up Sunday morning with more than fawns and bluebirds on my mind.

I knew my swimsuit was hanging in the guest bathroom, and I knew the backyard swimming pool was beckoning to me.


When Amy got up and started the coffeepot, I made up my mind -- I needed a swim along with my cup of fabulous coffee. So I did the only thing I could do -- I put on my swimsuit and headed downstairs!

I literally fixed my cup of coffee, put it on the patio table, and walked directly into the pool. Ahhhhhhhh, heaven!!!

Here's the thing about a pool in the backyard -- it's yours. And it's private. It doesn't matter how fat you are or how unkempt your hair might be -- this pool is not open to strangers, and no one but you is in it. You can act like an idiot, or you can behave like a goddess. It doesn't matter, because no one is going to break into your water-logged reverie.

Dang, *dang*, that is one fabulous way to start the day!

I was pretty lazy as a result, and we didn't get out of the house as early as we had originally intended. At least we didn't totally scrap the whole plan for going to the Mirage to see the Secret Garden. As usual, Amy drove right up to valet and had the bright yellow Solstice whisked away, and we made our way through the casino toward the outdoors. In general, I liked the Mirage. It was my first time walking through there. The music playing inside was good -- I recall hearing the Eagles and Jimmy Buffett. It kind of had a Miami-Vice-party vibe to it, in a strange way. Very tropical in general, which I didn't expect from seeing the towering edifice from The Strip.

Once we were out back, we turned slight right and headed up the path to the Secret Garden. I was very surprised that they didn't offer Amy a local discount. That makes the Secret Garden pretty darned pricey, in my opinion. We walked up a path, across a bridge, and were stopped by an employee. He made a bunch of us stand there for a while, waiting for more visitors to gather up behind us. I saw the most children I had seen in Las Vegas while standing in line. There were little kids everywhere; it was almost like Disney. The path was covered and had fans and misters blowing on us, so that was nice, but we didn't smoke. We *could* have smoked, but we didn't. I read the very short brochure about the Secret Garden being an "experience," not an animal show, and then the employee told us that this was the only place we could smoke. He gave a very brief rundown about what to expect inside, and then he let us in....

... Where we were stopped under the only canvas-covered shade in the whole place so another employee could tell us pretty much the same things that were covered in the brochure. This is an experience, not a show. Um, OK, we get it.

Then she turned us loose, and everyone left the misted, fanned, canvas-covered shady spot to go stand in the direct sun next to the water, where nothing was happening. Amy and I stayed in the shade for a few minutes, so we could see the dolphins being prodded from their back pool to the front one. Once a handler slapped a fish on the water surface, those two dolphins zipped out of the back and directly to the slapping fish. Ah ha! This experience is called, "Feeding dolphins fish"!!!!

I'll be honest -- this part was pretty boring. We left the big pool and went to the little pool where the baby dolphin was swimming with his mother and two other females.

*That* was cool. And it wasn't even *really* cool yet -- at this point in the day, they were just swimming in circles! The handler explained that the mom is kinda old, so the younger females help out. Also, the mother is teaching those younger female dolphins how to mother; Duchess is the most successful breeder in the Siegfried & Roy dolphin habitat!

We checked the downstairs windows to see if we could see the baby from under the water, but there aren't windows at the small tank. I *did* notice, however, that the big tanks with the male dolphins is WAY WAY WAY *WAY* cleaner and easier to see through than ANY of the tanks at the Miami Seaquarium. It's like night and day. Literally. You can't see anything through the murky, dirty water at the Miami Seaquarium. At the Secret Garden, I could count the bumps on the fake coral reef way off in the middle of the big pool!

After watching the cute little baby dolphin swim several laps around the smaller pool, we wandered over to the actual Secret Garden part of the Secret Garden, where the exotic cats are kept. I have to admit, that is the most vegetation, and the most *dense* vegetation I've seen in all of Las Vegas. And the "theming" really reminded me of the Maharajah Jungle Trek at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

And while the shade is, indeed, better than the direct desert sun, it was still stinkin' hot, as all those big cats can attest. OMG, those poor kitty cats! They didn't want to *move*, it was so hot! I'm sure that the big rocks are artificially cooled, but honestly, we all know how hot it is in Las Vegas. Those kitties don't want to move!

After *lots* of watching kitty cats and Alpacas (poor Alpacas!!!!), Amy and I went back to the pool with the baby dolphin, and there we snagged a lovely bench in the shade at the far end, away from most of the crowds. The handlers were just finishing feeding the females and the baby some fish, and this is when it got *really* interesting. That baby was feeling *so* frisky!!!!! He was zipping around the pool at a breakneck speed and he kept leaping up out of the water in awkward, cute, semi-dolphin flips! He was *so* dang cute!!!! Amy and I laughed out loud many times at his escapades. He was just so wiggly and happy!!!!

And then -- and *then* -- something bit me on the butt.

I'm not kidding!

I was sitting on the bench, and all of a sudden, something bit me! I stood up and said, "Ow, something bit..." and then it bit me AGAIN!!! I said, "OW!!!! Seriously, something bit me! Ow, ow, ow!!!"

Amy was really nice, and she followed me to the ladies' room -- all the way on the other side of the big pool, so it was a pretty long walk -- with me complaining like a big baby the whole way. Something bit me! What *was* that? It stung! It hurt! Ow! Oh, my poor derriere!!!!

By the time I got to the ladies' room, of course, the biting thing was long gone. And as much as I tried to investigate, it's really hard to look at your own tush even in the comfort of your own spacious bathroom at home. It's impossible in a public restroom stall! At least by that time, the stinging was beginning to abate.

Although, honestly, I could have watched that baby dolphin at play for hours longer, we threw in the towel and called it quits. And of course we laughed about my sorry condition. I am the only person I know who can go to Las Vegas, pay to see the Secret Garden, and get chased out by a biting insect.

Before we totally left the Mirage, I made Amy take a detour to see the giant fish tank behind the check-in desk. WOW! The pictures on the Internet do *not* do it justice. I don't know *nothin'* about fish tanks, but that thing is huge and FILLED with exotic, colorful fish. Amy and I both wondered about that big, ugly, vicious-looking eel, and if it was going to eat the pretty fishies. Pretty!

Then we wandered out to valet and requested our car. Once again, we were in the midst of misters and fans, and Amy pointed out that she thinks the exterior of the Mirage looks a bit dated. She said it looked 80's to her. It was the first time I'd seen it, though, and I didn't think it looked dated. I thought it looked really Disney, but not necessarily dated. It was bright and tropical and themey. Heck, I thought it looked less dated than the Polynesian.

*Far* less dated.

And the music was still pretty darned good!

When Amy's bright yellow Solstice came, we headed out into the Las Vegas traffic. I *did* notice *lots* of people heading out with their suitcases. I guess Sunday is check-out day even in Las Vegas, huh? They all looked happy and tired.

We headed toward the Hash House A-Go-Go, which has the darling tagline, "Twisted Farm Food." That makes me think of tornadoes, of course, which is probably what they intended all along. Paul *loves* the Hash House A-Go-Go. I think it's his favorite restaurant in all of Las Vegas, and he was *really* looking forward to this lunch. In fact, I was looking forward to it, too, because I've read the raves and reviews. Even the menu is mouthwatering. What's not to love?

Well. Hmmmmm...

Amy and I got there before Paul, and we walked across the sweltering parking lot to get inside, where we were informed that it would be a twenty-minute wait. That's not too long, is it? Nah! So we would wait. But all the benches in the waiting area were full, and there was no way I was going to go wait outside. After just a few seconds, Amy and I looked around the bar area, and we went back to the hostess stand. We asked a hostess if we could please sit in the bar -- I think Amy literally said, "Could we please sit in the bar while we wait?"

And the hostess looked around and said, "Oh, yeah! We're not as busy as we were an hour ago. Go ahead and sit in the bar!"

So Amy and I made our way to one of three empty tables and sat down. I had just put down my purse and camera, when a brute addressed us. This nincompoop was a bartender with self-esteem issues. And he yelled in an obnoxious tone across the entire bar at us, "HEY, GUYS, YOU CANNOT SIT AT THAT TABLE UNLESS A HOSTESS SEATS YOU THERE!"

Being Southern, being polite, and being quite taken aback at being addressed in so rudely and obnoxious a manner -- my sister and I honestly gaped at him for a couple of seconds before Amy protested, "But the hostess... the hostess *told* us to sit here."

And the dolt got even madder and yelled in an even more snide, sneering, and obnoxious tone, "WELL, I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU SAY! YOU CAN'T SIT IN THE BAR UNLESS A HOSTESS SEATS YOU HERE, AND SINCE YOU DON'T HAVE MENUS, YOU WEREN'T SEATED HERE AND YOU SHOULDN'T BE HERE!!!!!!!"

I'll be honest, I was mad. I wasn't mad enough to go off on one of my tirades, unfortunately. I do *so* wish I had gotten that mad, but I was a little tired from the half day of swimming and watching dolphins play, and darn it, there was still a tiny part of my brain that was thinking, "Maybe this isn't as unpleasant as it seems on the surface. Maybe I don't really have to be a harridan to put this blackguard in his place."

Amy said to him, as she was gathering her things and preparing to dismount that tall bar stool, "Perhaps you should discuss this with the hostess, since she was operating under the conception that we *could* sit here."

The beast stomped off toward the hostess station with steam rising from his cretinous shaved head.

I struggled to get off my own tall bar stool, embarrassed (although I shouldn't have been), and struggling to disentangle my camera strap from my purse strap so that nothing hit the floor. By the time we joined the crowd at the hostess station, the villain was stomping off back toward the bar with his hands flung up in the air as if to indicate his distress at dealing with idiots like us, and the hostess was picking up menus and chirping at us cheerily, "Would you like to be seated now?"

And we looked at each other, and I think I am the one who first said, "No."

"No, thank you," Amy said, "I think we'll find someplace else to dine."

And I added eloquently (snort), "That guy is a jerk."

I didn't use any vulgarities. I'm so proud of me.

The hostess agreed with me completely and said, "Yes. Yes, he is. I'm so sorry."

Amy and I left the restaurant, made our way across the hot parking lot, and started the Solstice's air conditioning. Amy called Paul.

Paul was upset.

He *really* wanted to eat at Hash House A-Go-Go. And I can't blame him; he loves that restaurant, and he's eaten there a dozen times without once getting treated like a rowdy toddler by a bartender with a steroid-abuse problem.

And darn it, I was a guest in Paul's home. I wouldn't even *be* in Las Vegas if it hadn't been for Paul's generosity and loveliness. Paul *deserves* to get to dine in his favorite restaurant, and I shouldn't be a spoiled brat and complain just because one misogynistic cretin decided to spread his testosterone poisoning all over my lovely day.

By the time Paul got there, Amy and I were resigned to dining at Hash House A-Go-Go even if it meant swallowing our righteous indignation. Paul went inside and talked to the hostess. I think he also talked to the manager, and he procured a promise that we would receive stellar service from this point on, and an apology from the rude fellow in the bar.

We went inside, were seated immediately in the dining room, and got a lovely, lovely server.

A few minutes after making our order, the loud, obnoxious bartender came to our table in the dining room. He yelled, and I'm quoting, "HEY LADIES, I'M SORRY FOR THE MISUNDERSTANDING. THE HOSTESS SHOULDA KNOWN BETTER THAN TO TELL YOU TO SIT IN THE BAR!"

So I sat there looking at him with my most disdainful "you're an ignorant little bug" expression. I really, really, really *wish* I had gotten mad enough to say what I was thinking, which was, "OK, you're sorry -- for 'the misunderstanding?' But you're not sorry you were wrong, you're not sorry you berated us in public as if we were children, and you're not sorry you behaved like a numskull. Okie dokie. In the vernacular, you're an asshole, and you have single-handedly wrecked my dining experience at this dining establishment."

Mostly, I just tried really hard to pretend like everything was OK and I wasn't still utterly peeved at the whole thing.

The food was good. It was giant and it was good. I got a chicken salad sandwich and fries. The grilled sourdough bread alone had to be an inch and a half thick -- per slice. And the chicken salad itself was HUGE.

The waiter was good -- although he did make a few mistakes, he corrected them as quickly as he could and was really contrite about them.

The food was undeniably tasty.

But will I ever go back to Hash House A-Go-Go? No. The malignant bartender never really apologized. And to make matters worse, Paul paid full price for that meal. No one ever did anything to really make the thing right. That's just bad management, in my opinion. First of all, they hired a loud, blustering dunderhead to run the bar, and secondly, they did nothing to correct the wrong done to me and Amy when we went back to the restaurant after being treated so badly. That is a system-wide failure, and they won't get my business again.

Martha Stewart and Dr. Phil just love Hash House A-Go-Go.

In my opinion, they can have it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Weekend in Las Vegas, Part III - Sat., cont'd

I dressed in white denim capris that I just bought and which, to be honest, were a smidgeon too big for me. Eek! But they looked good, as long as I kept them pulled up. I accomplished this -- without a belt -- by putting my hands in my pockets. Well, it worked! I also wore a really nice pale pink t-shirt with beads and mother-of-pearl buttons around the neckline. Cute tee! Amy looked like a million bucks in black slacks and a light blue short-sleeved sweater.

We headed off to the theatre in Amy's car, the yellow Solstice. I know that Amy probably doesn't realize it because she gets in and out of the car two or three times a day, but a seat that low is quite a workout for a lazy chubby chick like me. ROFL!!!! It's like sitting on the ground! Only cushier, with air conditioning, and more stylish than the ground. But, oh, I would have to hold onto the side of the car and *slide* down to the seat. Getting out, I think I just rolled out on my side and hoped one of my feet would catch me. Tee hee!

I had grabbed some of my handmade cards before I left home, and for Brad Oscar, I chose one and wrote a note to him while standing in the gorgeous lobby of the Paris hotel. I think I said something like, "I first saw you on October 10, 2001, and I knew you were a star right then. I have been waiting so long to see you as Bialystock! And I can't wait to see whatever your *next* show is!" Something like that, gush, gush, love bomb, gush. We asked the box office to to give it to him, and we asked where the stage door was, but they wouldn't tell us. Dang it!

The theatre was nice, and we had *great* seats halfway up the center front section. There was a couple already seated when we got there, and that guy wouldn't give up the armrest to save his life. On the other side of them, though, our whole row was empty. I kind of wish they had moved down a couple of chairs so I could have that armrest. Snort! I am greedy people.

On the other side of Amy, some rowdy drunk boys sat down. They spent most of the play getting up and going to the bar to get more drinks, and at one point they became so noisy that the usher tried to find them and shush them. She failed. She was in the row in front of us, fussing at the innocent people who sat up there instead of the rowdy boys on our row.

Well... the play... Was fabulous. The cuts that they made for time were very, very good, although I missed the song "Betrayed" a lot. Brad Oscar was geeeeeeeeeenius, just as I knew he would be. The guy playing Leo Bloom was terrible. He pandered to the audience and totally phoned in the performance, *and* he couldn't dance at all. The guy playing Franz Liebkind was very good, but he couldn't dance, either. (Brad Oscar can sing, act, *and* dance, so he was a much better Franz Liebkind as well as a fabulous Bialystock.) I was interested in the guy who played Roger DeBris, because he replaced that Hasselhoff guy. He wasn't anywhere near as good as Gary Beach (the original B'way actor), but he was adequate. He pandered to the audience and hammed it up a bit, and when I commented on that later, Amy and Paul assured me that the Hasselhoff guy was *much* more offensive in that regard.

A note for those of you who've seen the movie: You know how the choreographer's pants are stuffed in "Keep It Gay"? I swear, the stuffing gets bigger with every show I see. It wasn't really noticeable in the Broadway production. It was big in the movie. And in the Las Vegas production, the crotch is practically a whole 'nother actor. It was HUGE.

The audience was quite iffy to begin with, but they really got into it by the time "Keep It Gay" was performed. I think they figured out that "The Producers" is dirty enough to work in Las Vegas.

In general, though, I loved it, and I cried off most of my makeup just from the overwhelming sense of nostalgia and happiness. It is *such* a good show. I'm so glad I saw it -- especially with Brad Oscar in the lead!

When it was over, Amy and I went to the ladies' room (which is gorgeous) and then we went outside to find Paul. We didn't find him, though. Emily called me and I chatted a bit with her -- my family had gone to see the Spider-man movie and it was dark and drizzly back at home. That's so hard to comprehend when you're standing in the evening desert sun in LV. I took a picture of the Eiffel tower, and then we went back inside where Paul was waiting at Mon Ami Gabi's front door. We were whisked to a table and seated for the best, most magical meal of the whole trip.

Amy and I ordered mojitos because we've heard so much about them, and I don't know what Paul ordered. We also ordered *one* crabcake to share between the three of us, a very wise decision because by the end of the night, we were all overstuffed.

The waitress chatted with us while pouring water for us -- I drank more water in Las Vegas than I ever, ever drink at home, and most of it was at the beginning of meals. She and Amy briefly discussed the way Las Vegas locals hardly ever go to The Strip unless they have comp'ny. But she was *really* nice, our waitress was, and I in general I just loved the waitstaff at Mon Ami Gabi.

The crusty French bread came first, in a long paper bag. That was a tidy way to serve the bread, I thought -- you break the bread inside the bag and then just pull out your piece, so your hands aren't all over the entire loaf of bread, and the crumbs fall mostly inside the bag. Tidy! They had real butter and some kind of spread (which may have been couscous, but I'm not sure). OMG -- the bread was tasty and crusty. I could've eaten the whole loaf, it tasted so good. But I restrained myself and just ate a little chunk of it.

Then the mojitos and the crabcake arrived.

The mojitos had pomegranate juice in it, and OMG, it was delicious. I kept getting bits of mint stuck in my straw, but I didn't let that stop me.

The crabcake.... Well, words escape me. It was a delicious crabcake, very close to Maryland-style, and you know how picky I am about my crabcakes. I love Maryland, I hate low country style. The crabcake was wonderful. There was an orange-colored sauce with the crabcake, and it was very good, too. But the really divine part of the dish was the slaw. I have no idea what they put in that slaw dressing, but it was so yummy I wanted to lick the plate. I couldn't lick it, though -- even if I hadn't been in a fancy restaurant, I was sharing with Amy and Paul. They were really nice and let me get four or five forkfuls of that delicious slaw to go with my bites of crabcake. Even now, I want more of that appetizer!

With our palates thusly set for culinary delights, our main entrees arrived, along with the glass of ordinary iced tea that I had ordered when I finished my yummy mojito.

Paul got the herb-crusted ribeye roast with cheddar potatoes and green beans. Amy got the sea scallops and a spinach side dish. I got the bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with scalloped potatoes and the same spinach dish that Amy had.

And OMG, y'all, every single dish was absolute heaven.

Amy's eyes rolled up in her head at the first taste of her scallops, which she declared simply perfectly cooked. Paul dug into his hearty portion of beef -- which was medium, and looked wonderful -- and wouldn't let us steal it from him.

I had my pork, and it came with a citrus and berry sauce that was to die for. I finally had to ask what those sweet soft lumps were, and it turns out they were plumped golden raisins. I have had plumped golden raisins before. I want to know what they plumped 'em in, because these were the sweetest, softest plumped raisins I've ever tasted. And they were *sublime* in that golden sauce that smothered my pork tenderloins. And the scalloped potatoes were divine. And the spinach -- hey, I haven't eaten cooked spinach (outside spinach cheese dip) in 30-some-odd years. That spinach thing was *wonderful*!!!! I do not know what the pale straws of crunchiness were -- they might have been apples or ... I don't know what they were -- but they added a flavor and crunch that made the whole spinach experience worth trying!

When I just could not possibly eat another bite, and I was full beyond fullness, I pushed back my plate and tried not to groan. Fortunately, I was wearing those loose white capris, so I didn't have to unbutton the top button. But oh, I was full, and every flavor had been *so* fabulous. I actually understood the appeal of bulimia for the first time. It wasn't as if I *wanted* to stop eating -- oh, no! I wanted to eat more. I just *couldn't*!!!

Then the waitress did the *meanest* thing. She brought the dessert menu. That WITCH! I thought she was *nice*!!!! I was *wrong*!!!!!!

Amy started reading the menu, and I think the first item was Crepes Bananas Foster. That was it, we were all goners. It didn't matter that I was already in pain from having eaten crusty French bread, yummy crabcake and slaw, and pork, spinach, and potatoes. I wanted that Crepes Bananas Foster! And I'm usually a chocolate or citrus kind of gal!

The waitress reverted to her kind ways and assured us that one dessert could easily fill three people. And so Amy ordered the Crepes Bananas Foster. I was so giddy with rapture that I forgot to take a picture, so you'll just have to believe me when I tell you it's absolutely huge and completely fabulous. I guess the traditional Foster chocolate in our dish was combined into the caramel, because it was not overt enough to differentiate chocolate on its own. It was a crepe wrapped around vanilla ice cream, smothered in sauteed banana slices and what looked like caramel sauce and whipped cream.



After I exploded, died, and went to heaven, we gathered ourselves up and waddled out of that glorious restaurant. I really cannot recommend Mon Ami Gabi highly enough. It is not as noisy or as crowded as a Las Vegas buffet. It's not the most expensive place in the world. (For instance, my wonderful pork dish and the side veggies cost less than $20.) The service is warm and friendly, and the food cannot possibly be surpassed by a fancier place. It just cannot be. I don't want to eat octopus or truffles, so I do not miss them from my fabulous meal. (Actually there are truffles on the Mon Ami Gabi menu; I just didn't order anything with 'em.) I have to give Mon Ami Gabi 10 stars on a scale of 1 to 10.

For comparison's sake, I would have to give the Concourse Steakhouse Disney's Contemporary Resort *8* stars out of 10. Eight stars is still enough to make me sad that it'll close before I get back to WDW, but... Mon Ami Gabi is a better experience overall, and that's saying... a *lot*. Because y'all know I love the Concourse.

We went back to Amy's house, and I think... yes, that was the night we stopped at a drug store and a security guard gave me a hard time. I was soooooooo tired and so full that I didn't understand him. Remember, I was wearing the too-big capris, and I had my hands in my pockets to keep them from falling down to my hips. This security guard or cop said to me, "I see you have your work gloves on."

I kept having to ask him, "What?" It took three tries before I understood that he was implying that one puts one's hands in one pockets when one is a lazy good-for-nothing. I was actually kind of insulted. I got over it. I don't even remember what I bought at the drug store that night.

Then we went to Amy's house, and I ... don't remember if I did anything before I crashed. It had been a full day, and I was a full girl. I washed my face and collapsed, with a snoring bull dog next to the bed and a lovely fan blowing a breeze for me all night long.

This whole Las Vegas trip was shaping up to be quite a wonderful memory! And it was only one-third through!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

The Petcast studio recording 9:00 to 11:00
BagelMania for brunch
The pool in the afternoon
"The Producers" at 6:00
Mon Ami Gabi at 8:15

I woke up Saturday morning, and bluebirds landed on my shoulder and fawns came to the window to greet me, and Leon wiggled with glee to say good morning, and of course, Amy started the coffee maker. She has the fanciest coffee maker -- it grinds the beans and then makes the coffee, all in one swoop. And she made really good coffee! (Note to self: Starbucks Tanzania beans -- yummers!)

I took my coffee outside to the patio. I wish I had gotten some pictures of the patio. It's covered, and Amy has a lovely glass-top table out there. There are also some dials and things on the walls to tell you the time, the temperature and the humidity. ROFL -- humidity in the desert! Amy and Paul joined me very soon, and we watched hummingbirds and chatted for a while. Amy offered me a NutriSystem cranberry granola bar, and it was delicious. Diet food has come a long way, baby!

Then I went inside, showered, and put velcro rollers in my hair, hoping it would get big and poofy. It got big for a little while. I put on make-up, and got dressed in my favorite new outfit. The jeans are made out of the softest buttery-feeling pre-washed denim-type cotton. The tank top graduates in shades of blue from dark to light. And there are beads around the neckline. Then a white crocheted top goes on over that. I love that outfit. It makes me feel skinny and chic, even though I am neither.

Amy and I left for the studio insanely early, and we got there before Steve, so we stood outside in the shade of a scraggly pine tree and smoked a cigarette while we waited for Steve.

I was already learning about the desert in June -- it is really crazy hot there this time of year, and this isn't even the hottest month. July and August are supposed to be hotter. I don't know if Amy knows this, but I spent a good bit of time on this trip standing in shade and sticking my hand out into the sun to *feel* the difference in temperature. The shade is at least 10 degrees cooler than the direct sunlight. Weird!!!!! And cool!!!!!!! Well, I mean, *hot*, not cool. I mean, shade feels cool in Tennessee, too, but the sheer *volume* of difference between shade and sun in Las Vegas is *way* more dramatic.

Also, the studio parking lot was pretty close to the Stratosphere, and I watched the rides up there in motion. It wasn't even 9:00 in the morning, and people were already riding the rides. Weirdness! Las Vegas surely wakes up early for a place that's called "Sin City"!!!

Then Steve came, and I got to hug him. It's Steve! Steve Friess! AP writer extraordinaire and podcaster god! He is *so* cute in real life, and so animated and adorable. We went upstairs and into the studio where I met Jimmy, the owner of the studio and the engineer of many of Steve & Miles' shows.

'Kay, I'll be honest about the studio. It's a little... well... polite little middle-class chicks like me are probably not the most common visitors in this place. I think most of the shows that tape there are about porn, strippers, and, uh, more porn. And strippers like to leave their pictures and things lying around. Steve even noted at the end of the taping that Jimmy must have removed the red white and blue butt plug. I'm so glad. I didn't need to see a patriotic, er, adult toy.

We talked about the show notes -- Steve's notes are a work of art, complete with articles and pictures to back up what's going to be discussed -- and we decided that I would get to take part in the show at the beginning rather than at the end. The first show had topics that really interested me, like how chickens are being kept as pets. Hey, I live in the boonies -- pet chickens are not uncommon here at all! But I draw the line at using the eggs of pet chickens, as some city folk are doing. Amy coined the phrase "pets with benefits," which just cracked me up.

In the middle of that first show, I started wanting to sneeze. I was allergic to something in Nevada, and it was driving me crazy. I sorta halfway participated in the second show, but Jimmy turned off my mic and I stopped participating after that. I was doing back-up -- when Amy had a question about something, she wrote me a note and I got on the internet and looked up the answer for her. So she could go on and ask the guest an intelligent question.

The whole taping was weird and cool -- I really don't like getting that close to a microphone, so whenever the shows come out, I'll be the faintest voice in the studio. Jimmy fussed at me -- gently, but pointedly -- about that. But it was really nice to meet Jimmy and of course Steve -- I've been listening to The Strip for more than a year, and I've been on the Petcast a few times, and it's great to be in the actual studio. Jimmy is the *best*. Even if he does have porn shows taped in his studio.

The two hours of taping was over in no time flat, and just in time, because I really needed to sneeze. We went outside; I sneezed, then we followed Steve to BagelMania.

Ahhhhhhhhh, BagelMania. OMG, I finally found a bread source west of the Colorado River that tastes like bread! They must use bottled water or something.

Steve turned into the quintessential Jewish mother and ordered a ton of Jewish food for us to try. I have never had most of those things you hear about -- knish, bialy, latkes, I can't remember it all. There were two sweet things, rugalach and a "black and white." The rest of the things were savory and delicious. I got a sesame bagel for myself, and it was divine. You *really* cannot get a decent sesame bagel in Tennessee, and every time I have a real one, the difference strikes me all over again.

And Miles joined us for this meal.

Miles. My Miles.

I can be honest with y'all. I took one look at Miles and fell head over heels. He's a little bit sarcastic, has a touch of attitude, and he's got these gorgeous, dramatic, deep, penetrating eyes. Miles is a hottie. This is the first gay man I've met since I met Chad that I just looked at and *knew* he was my kind of fabulous gay boy. We clicked immediately. And I ... just can't say why or how or what we talked about, because it was *so* fast, and my head was reeling with massive amounts of adoration for Miles.

That's the kind of guy Miles is -- *my* kind of guy. Rapturous sigh!!!! I'm so glad there are people like him in the world.

I only wish we could have hung out together more and longer. I'm not the only person who thinks he's the bomb. His employers are well aware of Miles' fabulosity! But that also means that Miles works ... a ... *lot*. So I just have to be happy to know that he's out there somewhere.

Oh, also! He actually came over to my chair and taught me how to send text messages from my cell phone. ROFL!!!! That's a long story, and I'll tell it some other time. I don't really "get" text messaging, but Miles and Steve are big on sending text messages.

And! Furthermore! With my allergies and sinuses acting up so badly, at one point during the meal, I snorted. BADLY. I can't describe this snort, but my sinuses locked up and made this god-awful loud noise, and I could have absolutely died from embarrassment. I was dying, and I said something like, "Oh, my gah, I am so embarrassed," and Miles said, "Oh, stop. You are fabulous." And the strange thing is... I think he actually *meant* it.

I love that boy!!!!

OK, I have to stop ranting and raving -- but I loved Miles to death, and I just wanted to try to communicate that adoration in some small way.

So Amy and I drove away from BagelMania. It's hard to describe, but I really am getting more accustomed to Las Vegas and where everything is. BagelMania is somewhere in the southeast corner. Amy's house is in the northwest corner. It took us a little while, but we did get back to her house, and the views were stunning as we drove. Saturday's weather was incredibly clear and beautiful, and I kept telling Yamy that I don't know how she drives without getting into a wreck from looking at the mountains. The air seemed crystal clear, and those mountains appeared as if they were right next to us. Gorgeous!

Back at Yamy's house, I washed my face, pinned up my hair, put on my swimsuit... and *ran* to the pool! This was the afternoon that was the *most* frivolous and ridiculous while Amy and I played in the swimming pool. I don't remember what made me laugh so hard, but I was constantly laughing, holding my sides, and thinking that if i fell off the raft, I would surely drown.

I also spent a lot of time saying that I never thought I would be *that* chick -- you know, the one who has her hair pinned up and is stretching her neck to keep her head out of the water. We used to see *those chicks* at the public swimming pools. And as a kid, I always thought, "How crazy. Pools are for swimming. Get your head wet!" Now I get it. They probably just got their hair colored red-brown.

In between dips in the pool, I would get out and sit under the shade of the covered patio, smoking a bit and drinking Coke Zero. This is the trip that got me switched over to Coke Zero, a beverage I have resisted. It still doesn't taste exactly like *real* Coke, but it's close enough, and if you drink it fast enough, it doesn't have time to go flat.

The desert is really very different from the humid South. You get into a pool, get wet, and get out. Then the completely arid desert air starts to blow over you, and it's so cool and lovely, it's quite deceptive. You can be quite comfortable in your wet swimsuit for about twenty minutes before it starts to feel warm again, at which time you get back into the pool and start the cooling process all over again.

Also, Amy had bought the *best* sunscreen that really does spray all over you. I could cover my entire self -- including my back -- without assistance. Still, I didn't want to just *soak* up the sun, and I was quite conscious of getting out of the UV rays on a regular basis. I don't want to get burned, after all! I have my alabaster, fair skin to think of, after all.

(Honestly? I am so vain about my skin. I've been getting compliments on my pale, pale, alabaster skin for decades now, and I don't want to risk a freckle or a tan on this glorious complexion of mine. Isn't that vain? Yes, it is. Next week, I'll tell you about fond I am of my perfect, fair, beautiful hands and how I should have been a hands model.)

All too soon, it was time to get out of that glorious swimming pool to get ready for the evening. I could have happily stayed in the back yard for hours more! But there was a play to see and a fancy meal to be eaten. The evening called!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Weekend in Las Vegas, Part I

As I look back on my whirlwind weekend in Las Vegas, I have two all-encompassing thoughts.
1. That was the most relaxing fun time I've ever had in Sin City, and...
B. I am absolutely exhausted, but I wish I were still there.

Amy and I made plans -- and I'll recap them as I go along -- but we kept it flexible. As a result, we didn't do a lot of things we talked about doing. I wish the trip had been longer so I could have done them. On the other hand, it keeps me lookin' forward to the next trip! Woo hoo!!!

Friday, June 22

I'll start with the flights. My first leg to Atlanta was short and the plane was totally full. There were a bunch of big, burly, good-lookin' young men on the flight, which made me wonder if they were baseball players or something. They all seemed to know each other. The guy sitting next to me was one of 'em, and he sat down while sniffling, sneezing, coughing, and carrying on. After a minute of this, I turned to him and said, "Tell me those are allergies. OK? Just tell me that."

And he was surprised and said, "Oh, yeah! Of course! Allergies!" And then we laughed. They really *were* allergies. But dang, no one wants to sit next to the guy with a cold on a plane, y'know?

The flight to Atlanta was totally ordinary, and we landed a bit early. As I battled my way to the A concourse (had to take the train), my phone beeped -- I had voice mail. I was in a rush because my connecting flight was *fairly* soon, and I wanted a chance to have a cigarette before the long flight. Fortunately, as I checked my voice mail, I had one message from Amy and one message from Delta -- my second flight was delayed a bit. Woo hoo!!!! I had plenty of time to have a cigarette, go to the ladies' room, get situated and such.

The second flight... Well, I had my usual window seat -- I *need* to be able to see the earth -- and the guy sitting next to me was feeling crowded, I guess, because before the plane took off, he moved across the aisle to a more spacious seat. That was fine with me; I like to have my elbow room, too. I read my magazines (latest issue of Entertainment Weekly and the in-flight mag Sky) until the movie started. IPod earbuds work on planes! That was good, because I never remember to pack the $2 headphones I bought years ago. The movie was "Starter for 10," I think, and it was a very strange British movie. A college freshman in 1985 traverses the perils of university life. It was OK, it was just ... incomplete. Also, they bleeped out the cursewords.

About halfway across the country, we hit a storm system. That was probably the worst turbulence I've ever encountered, and it was not fun. But I didn't actually think we were gonna die.

Then I started getting hungry. We had already gotten a snack of crackers and Havarti cheese, with raisins and Oreo cookies. I got a Sprite Zero to drink because they only had regular Diet Coke. But I wanted more food. Then someone in front of me pulled out a sandwich. OMG. That thing smelled so good, I thought about climbing over the seatback and taking it away for myself. My mouth watered. Then they brought out the second round of snacks, and I got a tiny bag of Sun Chips with the Sprite Zero. I was licking the inside of the bag by the time they started taking away the trash. Sniffle. I was *hungry*.

When we started our descent to LV, the guy who had moved away came back to my row and placed himself in my lap so he could see The Strip. He was a newbie and had never been to LV before -- and then, as we conversed, it turned out he wasn't even staying in LV. He was gonna catch a plane to someplace *else*. And he was very unhappy about that. I think this one was part of a church group or something, but I have no idea where they were going after LV. He kept exclaiming over the sights as we landed, and I finally explained to him that The Strip is not as close as it appears. He flipped out about that. I think he just didn't believe me. He asked if there was a place to smoke in the airport, and I broke the bad news to him. Las Vegas has gone non-smoking. Then I told him, "But there are slot machines in the airport." And his eyes just about popped out of his head. ROFL!!!!!!

Soon we were off the plane, and fortunately, no one stopped in front of me on the moving sidewalks or escalators, because I think I would've run right over them if they had. I was *dying* to see Amy!!!

Strange thing happened on the monorail to the terminal -- a pair of brothers, a young kid, maybe 18, and a little kid, about 10, passed through the train, and then turned around, and the opposite doors closed before they got back to where they were supposed to be. They asked people around them where this train was going, and then they looked a little panicked. I don't know how that happens, but there it was -- it happened right in front of me. When the train stopped, they stayed on to go back to the concourses.

I got to Baggage Claim, and there Yamy was!!!! Skinny, but there!!!!! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!! We hugged, and then we clasped hands and skipped past Paul toward the door outside for a cigarette and some squealing. DANG! It was hot outside! We were next to the limousines, and it was HOT HOT HOT. I couldn't believe how hot it was, because the sun was down and I would've thought it would get cooler at night. But it wasn't much cooler at all!

Still laughing, we went to gather my suitcase, and because mine is so nondescript and boring, it went around three times before I finally said, "I think that one might be mine." Paul pulled it off the carousel and we laughed on our way to the parking garage, where I got my first glimpse of Paul's new hybrid Ford Escape. OooooooooooOOOOOOoooooooOOOOOOo

It's gorgeous!

It's big!

And it hugs trees!!!!

That Ford Escape really is a beautiful machine, and I am terribly impressed.

In no time at all, we were headed toward Amy and Paul's house -- with commentary from the navigational system that is built right into the Escape -- and the moment I spied the red-and-yellow sideways diamond sign, I hollered, "FATBURGER!!!!!!! Yaaaaaaaaaayyyy!!!!!" And Amy and Paul laughed at me, but I think they probably secretly agreed with me.

I got a FatBurger and Fat Fries and a chocolate milkshake. Amy got a milkshake, too. Paul was *really* good and didn't get anything that night. (Amy and Paul are both losing weight on the NutriSystem plan. They both look fabulous.)

Soon we were at the house, and I tackled the meal right there in Amy's kitchen. Oh, y'all, Amy's house looks sooooo good!!!! It's just as clean as can be, and her art collection looks so good! And her little birds said hello, and -- oh, poor Leon! Leon the bulldog had been to doggie day care that day (he always goes to day care when the housekeepers come to clean the house). And he plays *so* hard, and he exhausts himself. So then I came along and totally wrecked his nap. He was so tired, but so excited to see me. What a good dog!

I didn't stay up late because we had so much to do on Saturday. Paul brought a fan to the guest bedroom -- yay! -- and Leon's bed came to the guest bedroom, too. Yay!!! I had a dog and a nice breeze, and all my luggage made it to Las Vegas, and I had had the rapture of a FatBurger meal and milkshake -- dang, this trip was off to a great start!!!