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Monday, January 1, 2018

Secret Vegas Lights

Sunday morning in Vegas interrupted my dreams with an even better reality. Few things spring me out of bed with more anticipation and joy than football Sunday in Vegas. I walked along the Bellagio Fountain Lake and strolled south along the strip before heading to the Cosmopolitan.

Ice skating rink at Park near NYNY.

Santa's Tuff Shed. Also, at the Park.

The Cosmo covered every option for happy football viewing. Watch every game on huge screens with a bunch of excited fans in their teams’ jersey, with a fantastic bar right in the middle? Check. Stretch out on some comfy furniture with a TV dedicated to your game, with the hustle of the strip out the window right behind it? Check. Blackjack and other table games near the sportsbook, with their own TVs? You know it.

I put a $20 and my Cosmo Identity card into bartop VP machine at the Chandelier One bar, and ordered a hot tea with lemon, honey and Maker’s Mark. I had $10 of free play coming, after my last lunatic (for me) monster VP session at Cosmo in October. Cosmo is practically Bellagio South, they are so close together. I sipped and chatted with other fans of football and fun bars first thing Sunday morning. Divine.

The bartender, Jarid, had to disappear into the great Cosmo abyss above to procure a spot of tea to put the goodies in. I played and chatted with Jordin, getting a few good hands and keeping the bankroll, err, rollin’. J’mon, who wears the name Donte on his official Identity (ha! See what I did there?) nametag, chatted with me about his girlfriend problems. I shared my sage and sound advice, because if there’s one thing I know about, it’s…ok, it’s anything but girlfriends. I love these guys like long lost little brothers. I know, I know. We say that about all the bartenders. But these guys are hilarious, and sweet. When they see their middle-aged white boss lady, walking briskly through the casino floor, they call out: “Karen! Can I go home early?” and “Karen! Tupac or Biggie?” She ignores them, utterly. I’m telling ya. If you’re not a diehard day drinker, you are missing out.

One drawback of Chandelier, really the only drawback in the whole wide Cosmos, is that it’s hard to see the football games from their lovely bar. Usually, that’s yet another fabulous thing about Chandelier. The patrons and bartenders kinda have to interact with each other. While I don’t really participate, this makes my lurking on the edges of humanity even more interesting. This isn’t the D, people. No vivid TVs, no flare bartenders, no head-pounding, ear-exsanguination music. It’s just you and you and you and me, sipping something delicious, caressed by music that sucks you into your cozy, comfy, arty seat while you marinated in a wondrous scent that reminds you of all your favorite places in one.

At halftime, I finally did managed to do something I’ve always wanted to do in Vegas. After over a hundred trips to this fine city, that’s saying something. This free event requires advance reservations of about a month. I set an alarm on my phone to extract me from the bliss and joy that is the Cosmo, and at halftime, I went to the Louis Vuitton store at Crystals. (Note: not the Louis Vuitton store at the Wynn, Palazzo, Bellagio, Forum Shops, or Ellis Island. Heh. Just kidding about the Wynn). I saw many young, slim people in fashionable black attire wearing tiny earpieces, intensely gazing at their iPhonies, as though they contained the nuclear codes, or the secret to right swipes on Tinder. (That’s the good swipe. Right?)

Akhob, James Turrell’s art exhibit, is tucked away in the Louis Vuitton store of Crystals. Photos aren’t allowed, but here’s one compliments of Louis Vuitton:

Akhob by James Turrell. (Photo courtesy of Louis Vuitton stores)
First, my party of one was shown a few art pieces, including a magic dice exhibit in the main lobby just off the strip sidewalk. Colorful acrylic boxes hung suspended from the high ceiling. By looking up at them at a certain angle, individual lights behind them shone through them, looking like dots on a die.

Then I took an elevator four stories up to the Akhob (ancient Egyptian for “pure water”, but you probably knew that already) installation. Kenedi, my art associate guide, had me remove my shoes and put on slippers. We walked up a set of black stairs into two cavernous, white plaster chambers. (Shoes damage the plaster.) Kenedi, in her sleek, tailored business suit, and me in my oversized, bright red Chiefs jersey, stood in the chambers and soaked in the light. At first, the whole art tour felt ridiculously precious, even for Vegas. Being immersed in the colored light, though, brought a deep sense of calm and groundedness, so starkly in contrast with the frenetic, kinetic energy that makes a mind buzz in every direction at once. I felt at peace. Obviously, most of us do not go to Vegas seeking a Zen-like state through a meditative color-trance. The contrast, though, the moment of stepping outside the fun and zany stimulation, was transformative. I left feeling like I’d spent a couple hours at a spa. (A real spa, one of the fancy ones, not a Happy Feet spa-hostel.) If you want to see this installation, call (702) 730-3150 to make a reservation several weeks in advance.

Feeling relaxed, I went back to Cosmo sportsbook to watch the Chiefs pound down the Raiders. A few high fives with new friends later, I checked my William Hill sports bet to find my bet had paid off and was right there, in my account, ready to reload for the next games. Awesome.

Next up, I meandered down to Cromwell and their undiscovered wonder of a sportsbook. New this Sunday was a little placard between the big, leather chairs that asked “hungry?” Yes. Yes I am hungry.

I texted the number, and like magic, a hot Cuban panini showed up at my chair. It cost $14 total with tip, and worth every delicious cent. After the games, I walked back to the Bellagio.

Filming the fountains, double-fisted.

The bollards are up.
Inside the Bellagio, I wandered through the conservatory on my way to my room. I've read that Vegas tourism numbers are down, but you wouldn't know it at the Bellagio conservatory.

Polar bear high five.
I'd played a little VP at Cosmo, lost a little, then lost a hundy way too fast at the famed JoB 9/6 quarter machines near the entrance to Cromwell. I was a tad for the trip, when I stopped and put my last Benjamin in the spin poker DDB machine that had been so good to me yesterday. She showed me the pointies, with a kicker:

Full of Cuban and a restored bankroll once again, I stretched out in my ginormous bed. Sweet dreams, Las Vegas.

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