August 13, 2017 and August 26, 2017

So we are a little more than a week removed from the Vegas adventure.  I am finally recovering.  Let me expound on that a bit.  I always have trouble sleeping in hotel rooms for the first couple of nights on a trip.  It’s a strange bed, strange room kind of thing.  Factor in the time change going out west, and the natural circadian rhythms get out of sync.  Add in Vegas, the land of over stimulation, and it is a recipe for lack of sleep for me.  I learned a few years ago when I started playing long (some would say marathon) session of poker that gambling is indeed a stimulant.  I would come home from the card room just beat, and go to bed, and could not for the life of me fall asleep.  After a couple of night of that, and the only thing different from my “normal” day being poker, I put it together.  It was the poker that was causing the insomnia.  In Vegas there is the gambling, of course, but also the fact that the entire city is designed to keep you stimulated; visually, aurally, emotionally; sexually in some environments.  So even though I was really tired, I didn’t sleep well until Thursday night, and I was leaving Friday morning.

I had an uneventful trip west, and got the first surprise of the trip at McCarran airport.  I had been researching taxi costs from the airport to the hotel, and there was a negligible increase in cost to take a town car to the hotel.  I decided to do that; I was on vacation after all.  It also meant I didn’t have to stand in the taxi line at the airport, and it would just get things off to a good start.  I met my driver on the way to baggage claim, and we headed outside.  There were two SUVs parked next to each other, and I knew one of those wasn’t for me based on the license plate on the front of it.  My driver turned around and said “you  got upgraded.”  I didn’t understand what he meant until he walked past the 2 vehicles right in front of us, and he turned to walk down to the next car there.  I was one of the super-stretch sedans.  It was made for bachelorette parties.  It would seat 8 dudes, and probably more young women, complete with sound system and light show.  It was funny.  I wanted a town car, just for the convenience.  I ended up in a clown car. It wasn’t bad, just funny.

I had tickets to see the late performance of The Beatles Love, a Cirque du Soleil show.  This was the co-highlight of the trip for me along with the Who concert the next night.  I splurged on tickets for Love, so I had really good seats, 5 rows from the stage, on an aisle.  The show was simply amazing.  I am going to do a terrible injustice to the show by attempting to describe it.  The songs are absolutely the stars of the show.  Each scene (song) is really a play into itself.  There isn’t an over-arching story line.  Again, I really lack the vocabulary to describe this well.  I was smiling and singing for the entirety of the show.  A couple of specific points I should mention though.  You hear often about immersive entertainment.  This is its very essence.  It was really challenging at times to know where to focus.  This could and did appear from everywhere.  With my seat location, I was adjacent to one of the runways where the artists would enter and exit the stage.  I kept watching folks as they came on and off the stage.  It was neat to be able to look at people, and I mean  make eye contact with them, because they were less than 5 feet away.  At one point one of the aerialists came flying past me, and I was able to feel the air whoosh past me, and I felt that before I saw her.  Again, I was close, and it was immersive.  You need to see this show.  It’s worth the price, and the cost of the trip to Vegas to go see it.  It is that good.

The next day was The Who concert.  I started the day playing poker at my hotel.  I then went over to Caesar’s in the late afternoon, and I played cards there, grabbed some food, and then went to the show.  I was sitting at the top at the first mezzanine.  I asked a number of folks about the first show of their run on Saturday.  Everyone said “…it’s a long show.”  After the 3rd person said that, I asked what a long show was.  The answer was nearly 2.5 hours.  It didn’t seem that long to me, it wasn’t a Springsteen show or anything.  Apparently 90 minutes is the norm for the Colosseum at Caesar’s.  The show was hit filled, as a matter of fact the only “rarity” that they performed was “Pictures of Lily” which Pete even commented after the song that it didn’t go over well in that audience.  The previous time I saw them perform, two years ago, they also did “Lily” it was better received in Tampa than in Vegas.

This was the first time I’ve seen the Who perform without Pino Palladino on bass since of course the unfortunate passing of John Entwhistle.  I don’t know if Pino had other commitments, or wasn’t interested in this short run of shows.  He was replaced by Fairbanks, Alaska native Jon Button.  Jon did a FANTASTIC job on bass.  I don’t know if they turned up the bass in the mix for this show, of if Jon is that prolific, but the bass lines were front and center for this show.  As a fan of John, this was pretty close to the real thing and a highlight of the show for me.

It was a disservice to the Who having seen Love the night before.  Love was such an immersive experience, and the concert was just that, the band was playing.  Understand, it was Who sing along for Paul all night long, it just would have been a better show for me had I net been to the other show the night previously.

Wednesday I was planning on renting a car going downtown and to visit the pinball hall of fame.  After one cab ride in Vegas, I decided I wanted no part of driving while there.  I ended up skipping the pinball hall of fame.  I did go downtown.  I wanted to see the D Las Vegas.  It used to be Fitzgerald’s casino, but was purchased by a former Detroiter.  I understood it to be decorated with some Michigan memorabilia.  Other than a giant slot machine that said Ann Arbor on one side, and East Lansing on the other, I didn’t see a lot of Michigan stuff.  They did have an American Coney Island there, so I had to have a Detroit style Coney dog.  They were good, not great.

The D was fun, certainly the most fun of the places I visited downtown.  It’s been 10 years since I was in Vegas, and I recall downtown being more fun than what it was.  Everything seemed particularly run-down this time.  Maybe I’m just older, and more particular (if that’s possible).  I was happy to get back to the Orleans (no palace itself, but much nicer than downtown).

I had my best meal of the trip that night at Alder & Birch at the Orleans.  It’s one of their high end restaurants.  I knew that it was time for some real food, and they really server a wonderful meal.  The service was fantastic, and the food was even better.  I had an appetizer of braised beef short ribs stuffed in baby Portobello mushrooms.  They were spectacular.  There was a short rib entrée that I was considering, but I’m glad I had the app, as it was quite rich.  I had a pork chop for an entrée, with roasted root vegetables as a side.  Again it was delicious and perfect.  I had Jameson Black for the first time for desert.  I really enjoyed that, and it was a great end to a great meal.

Thursday was planned originally to be a trip to the west rim of the grand canyon.  As I ditched the rental car idea, I just took it easy most of the day.  That night I went to see a show titled Zombie Burlesque in the Miracle Mile shops at Planet Hollywood.  It is exactly what you think it would be, more or less.  It’s a really campy burlesque show.  You can read all about it here (https://www.zombieburlesqueshow.com/).  It was fun, but to be honest, its’ not a show to go see alone.  Take a date, you’ll have a better time.

Friday was travel day, and the start of what would turn into the great adventure of 2017.  I was on board a plane for a flight to Denver, to connect to a flight back to Orlando.  I had 55 minutes to connect in Denver, and that is plenty of time.  I’ve flown through Denver twice a year for the past three (3) years, so I was really comfortable with the plan.  We seemed to sit at the gate forever, and then we started taxiing for what seemed like 30 minutes.  It was probably 5, but, I have no patience generally, and even less when flying.  I should state flying doesn’t bother me.  The charade that we all participate in at the airport, and the interminable queueing at the airport drives me bonkers.  We were stopped on the airfield, away from the gate, and the pilot announced that we were fourth to take off.  After a few minutes, he announced there was a ground stop at the airport due to the rain.  At that point someone from the back of the plane ran to the front screaming “I have to get off!  I have to get off!”  The flight attendants stopped her, and said there was no where to go, we were away from the gate.  She then claimed a heart attack and we headed back to the gate.  There was no hope of making a connection at that point.

I grabbed my phone and called United, trying to find some options.  The pilot announced that we had to refuel, further delaying us.  No one on the ground, or on the phone was terribly helpful.  Finally the phone agent advised she had me on another trip, and I was going to get home that night.  So I got off the plane.  After disembarking, I asked whether she had me in first class.  She did not.  Damn, I couldn’t get back on the plane now, so I had to work with them to find a different solution.  They ended up routing me through San Francisco the next morning.  I got a room for the night, and headed back to the Orleans.

I had a 3:00 am wakeup call to get to the airport for my 6:00 am flight to San Francisco.  I arrived in San Francisco without issue and had an hour before my flight home left.  I grabbed some breakfast and parked myself at the gate.  For reasons I don’t understand, but I’m glad I did, I realized I did not have my keys;  to anything, car, house, mailbox.  I called the Las Vegas airport, and was told that their lost and found was closed on Saturday.  I assume that I left them at security at the Vegas airport.  I went into panic mode.  I called my complex, and they agreed to unlock my front door at the end of their day, so I could at least get in.  I’d have to take a cab home, grab keys, and go back to the airport to get my car.  OK, not ideal, but not the worst scenario either.

We were approaching Orlando, and I could see my place from the air.  We should be on the ground in a few minutes, and I could put an end to this adventure.  But No!  We made a couple of turns, which told me we were circling the airport.  The pilot announced that there was weather at the airport, and we couldn’t land.  We circled for 30 minutes, and then we made our approach.  We landed and then we stopped on the airstrip.  The pilot announced that there was a ground stop, due to lightning.  So we sat.  After the 5th time that the pilot said we would be going to the gate in 5 – 10 minutes, I had had enough.  I started tweeting to the airport.  That didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere.  I then called the airport, and got through to their customer service line.  I explained where I was, and that I was looking for answers.  I flustered that guy, so he transferred me to the 911 operations center.  After going through my spiel they transferred me to airfield operations.  They informed me again of the ground stop.   I informed them that I could see planes landing, taking off, and people moving about the airfield.  They then stated it was a United issue, not theirs.  I was in the process of getting a real customer service number from the flight attendants, when lo and behold, we started moving, and went straight to the gate.

I grabbed my suitcase form United, I never should have got off the flight to Denver, and headed for the taxi line, and headed home.  I explained my situation to the driver en route, and he was going to wait for me to grab my spare keys, and then take me back to my car.  I tore through the front door, and grabbed my spare house keys, but my spare car keys weren’t there.  I looked in the 2nd place they were supposed to be and they weren’t there.  I panicked again.  I let that driver go, I didn’t want him to think I was tying to stiff him, went inside and tried to calm myself.  After 5 minutes, I found the key, right where I thought they were.  Panic is not a good thing.  I called another cab, back to the airport, and got in my car.

Adventure over.

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