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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sunny Saturday in Vegas

The good run continued. As I left MGM, my belly felt beerless and apprehensive as the site of the Route 91 Harvest approached. Mandalay Bay sparkled ahead in the morning sun. The warm desert sun glinted of the golden windows. Well, all but two of the windows.
Mandalay Bay #VegasStrong
The sun somehow still rises at Mandalay Bay
In front of the Route 91 Harvest venue, the banner still hung between two palms trees, the fathomless blue sky behind it.
Route 91 banner
Route 91 
Las Vegas police cars and yellow crime scene tape blocked the sidewalk in front of it. At the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, 58 wooden crosses, each one bearing the name of a person who died the night of Oct. 1 from the shooting rampage, stood in a wavy line, just past the sign, facing toward the strip.

Las Vegas Sign memorial #VegasStrong
Memorial at the Las Vegas Sign

Memorial #VegasStrong
No words

One of many homemade, heartfelt tributes at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign
Someone had set out several boxes of tissues for those coming to pay their respects. All the boxes were empty. I held it together until the end, when I saw the card from one of the victims' second grade class.
Card from Milwaukee second graders
Card from second graders in Milwaukee
For anyone who loves Vegas, even likes Vegas, this is a must-do. At least, consider it. The crosses will be on display just south of the strip, across from the airport, until Nov. 12. After that date, they will be moved to the Clark County Museum. Even if you have a layover in Vegas, you’d have time for a quick visit. I had my hesitations. Like most the other 42 million visitors who come to Vegas, I come for escape, to feel happy and free, to forget about the troubles of the world. Wouldn’t coming to the memorial crush that fantasy and escape?

It didn’t.

I left the memorial feeling lighter, and feeling a part of something bigger than myself. I’d had a hard time hugging goodbye to my kids and coming on this trip, my first one since the shooting. A co-worker had been at Route 91. She and her husband were enjoying the show from riser seating. The staccato shots started, and she watched people flee and fall in front of her. She said all she could think about was her two little kids at home as she tumbled over a breached barrier to safety. When I took the voluntary bump from my Spirit flight, I almost just cancelled my plans and drove back home to be with my kids.

We all know what it takes to organize a trip to Vegas. We arrange time off work, child care, pet care, coverage of all our other obligations, and the stern judgement of anyone who doesn’t ‘get’ Vegas the way we do.

I came because Vegas 'gets' me. I feel the love. I feel the lightness. When I step off that plane into the hot, crazy breath of Vegas, all my roles fall away. I’m not a mom, daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, or volunteer. I’m just me, me before all the other labels pasted themselves to me, me, fresh and free and ready for anything and everything. Vegas says, yup, you. Let’s go. It’s like having all the great parts of being kid come alive again, if just for a few days. A little bit of Vegas goes a long way to help endure the pressures of adulting, and appreciate its privileges, too.

I picked up my pace as I left the sign and memorial site. I ran by Mandalay Bay. I have so many warm, wonderful memories of staying at Mandalay Bay, but I hardly ever gamble there. Why? Meh odds, high minimums, MGM-style weirdness when it comes to the goodies, like fake-out free drink coupons good only at closed bars. My feet turned me around, and right into the fresh welcome of their lobby. It was only right to support Mandalay Bay.

First stop, Mlife players club. Over the summer, I had signed up for Hyatt credit card. It came with an automatic upgrade to Mlife Pearl Status. The main perk of it is the free parking. The other perk is a cool, pearly card the color of Boar’s Head’s marble bar.

Next, I found a 7/5 Jacks or Better bartop VP machine at Mizuya, near the sports book, and put a hundy in. Here’s to you, Mandalay Bay. And, this bar was OPEN! They have one of my favorite breakfast beers, heck anytime beers really. Dogfish 90 minute IPA. They comp it with play. Not even the Parlour Bar at ye olde El Cortez comped Dogfish when then used to have it at the Parlour Bar.

Just sayin', ElCo.

My credits were dwindling when I switched to dollars, and boom! Hit four jacks for $125. Then, again, four tens for another $125. What? I ordered another Dogfish. Oh yeah. Looks like I would be here for awhile. I also managed a couple four to royals. (I never kept track of four to a royals until I started reading Royal Flusher’s blog. Now, I can’t not.)
Four to a Royal Mandalay Bay

Four to the Royal 2 at Mandalay Bay
Almost again!
I cashed out for $300, and a double win of two Dogfish IPAs. The best part? It was one more step toward normalcy, feeling happy and relaxed at the lovely Mandalay Bay.

Next stop: Planet Hollywood. On my way, I ran by the art stores near Aria/Mandarin Oriental. I love this weird little neighborhood cul-de-sac. I love the art that was clearly inspired by the back seat of my Momda back home:

Lollipop art
Beautiful candy art
I arrived at Planet Ho, and found Mark and Dr. Mike, hosts of a well-loved podcast, You Can Bet on That, (, holding court at the craps table. I’d been wanting to shoot dice with these two after listening to so many of their entertaining craps pursuits and casino tales.

Dr. Mike and Mark.  The experts are in The Zone.

Dr Mike plays craps
Dr. (Professor) Mike explains to the dealer how to pay off his winning bet.
These guys brought happy-go-lucky hootenanny to craps. Dr. Mike, a dentist by day and math whiz by Fridays, kindly corrected the dealers several times about what they owed him for his series of complex bets. I could not have followed all his bets even if I had been sober, and I was decidedly not. Two Dogfish deep is no time to learn a new system.

Speaking of not sober, I had a hot date with a bad decision. I cashed out $50 ahead after a fun session with the crapsyest podcast hosts of all times.

It was a good, good day. It would soon be great.

An unofficial faction of Vegas Nerds decided to start the day (ha! Way ahead of all y’all) at one of the best places in the best place. Frankie’s Tiki Room. Surindra of Lyft had me there in no time. I ordered up a painkiller.
Frankie's tiki room
Well, hello beautiful!

We nerds sipped our lovely beverages together in the dark among the carved wooden faces of Tikis peeking out from every grass bunch around us. The painkiller became a nap-inducer. The group Uber’d on to their next destination, Golden Tiki. I had planned on finally sampling the famous Dole Whip, but the drinks were catching up with me. Since I was downright carb-loaded, I bid adieu to the group and ran east on West Charleston, then north on Grand Central Parkway.

Frankie’s, as usual, didn’t fail to make everything look unusual.

Lou Ruvo Center
I was hungry. So hungry. But as I walked into Main Street on my way to find some lunch at the Cal, I swayed away. I say lunch, but it was almost 4 pm, so really it was dinnertime at the Hawaiian Senior Center. I’d had three drinks, one coffee and half a donut. I was due for food. But first, Main Street beckoned.

4 aces at MSS

Eights are great
It’s been a winning day, and my cash stash had grown by several Benjamins since I first starting gambling at the dubious Level UP MGM that morning. These big wins called for a big celebration. So off I went to Aloha Specialties. I got the Triple Threat of proTein. Yeah, they call it something else. I call it delicious.

Aloha specialties
Steak, chicken, mahi, rice.  It was delicious, once I scraped the bird poo off the mahi.
That’s steak, chicken and mahi. Three different colors, three different beasts. Heads up if your room offer comes with a food comp. It’s not accepted here. This little beauty set me back a mere $10 plus tip, and set me on a unwaverable path to a nap.

Somewhere out there, the Nerds wrapped up their tiki bar run and faithfully showed up at the Slot Tourney at 5 pm. I had signed up for the Slot tourney, and meant to make it. But, Vegas happens. Plans at 5 pm are subject to all the variegated variations of a day in Vegas, and can’t really be counted upon. Somebody should make an over/under wager on how many people actually made it.

I took a nap, showered up, and felt fantastic. Fed, nearly sober again, and ready for anything. Again. Even if it’s just a nap, when you wake up in Vegas and it’s not time to go home yet, you can’t help feeling anything but YESSSS!

At 9 pm, the Main Event of the Nerd Summit Commenced. This man, Misnomer, hosted the funniest live game show I’d ever seen. Perhaps the only live game show I’ve ever seen.

Looking pretty fly for a white guy.  Funniest MC ever, right here. Look closely at his sportcoat
Podcasting’s Tim and Michele took over the D showroom next, with a live taping of their podcast Five Hundy is the Original Las Vegas podcast. Five Hundy nation consists of five-thousand faithfuls, and a couple hundred of us soaked in the presence of the familiar voices who have seen us through countless miles of driving, dog-walking, plane flights, snow shoveling, dish-washing, laundry-folding, and even whispering us to sleep at night. We sat in the dark, we old friends who’d just met, alone together. Laughing. Remembering. Feeling happy. Belonging. Another magic night in Vegas, downtown, at the D, where the ghost exit via the Vue is nigh impossible. Trust me. I had pondered trying to flee down the up escalator just the night before. Self-preservation won, and I retreated. No choice but to stay and play, for even the most introverted among us.

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