September 25, 2006
Did I mention I was going to Las Vegas? No, I don’t believe I did. But I went, this past weekend. Now I am back, and I am tired. Of course I am tired. When have I come back from a trip and not been tired? I think perhaps that last happened when Mr. Karen and I went to Singer Island in Florida in the days before online travel reservations, so it’s been a long while.
For weeks before this trip, I complained to anyone who would listen, no matter how grudgingly, about how the TSA was screwing up my plans with their liquid and gel ban (which, in a move probably designed just to spite me, they’re easing up on starting tomorrow). Often I do check a bag, even on weekend jaunts, but for this trip we planned to go carry-on only to maximize our fun time in Las Vegas. Our flight on Thursday night was scheduled to land at 8:56, so we got tickets to a show at 10:30. That left no time to wait for baggage claim, but I was not going to let the TSA and/or the terrorists win by staying home, so out went the liquids and gels from my toiletry bag, which pretty much left me with dental floss, a toothbrush, Q-Tips, and some cotton balls. Whoo. I bought some Neutrogena Mineral Sheers to substitute for my liquid foundation, prepared a speech about how my stick concealer and opaque solid antiperspirant were indeed solid, and envisioned moisturizing my face with something from the all night buffet after we landed. Going through security at DTW, I didn’t notice a big difference from pre-ban days. There was a big bin of discarded water bottles, yes, but the line didn’t move any slower than usual and the screening process seemed pretty much the same. Once we got on the plane, though, I noticed a huge difference, in that there were many empty overhead bins on our pretty much full flight. Amazing.
We took off pretty much on time, so I had some hope that we would get to the show before it started. When it got close to when I thought we should be landing, I started to worry, since we still seemed to be rather high up and nowhere near any major city. Then I realized that Las Vegas is on Pacific time, not Mountain. Duh. I should know that, having been there before and even if I hadn’t it wasn’t hard to figure out from the information printed on our itinerary. Still, Mountain would be reasonable–they’re south of Boise, and Boise is Mountain. At any rate, we landed a bit ahead of schedule and because we only had carry-ons, made it to the taxi line before most of the people from our flight, and got to Treasure Island with enough time to check-in and drop our bags in our room before heading to the theater to see MystÃ¨re. I’d gotten cheap (well, cheap for Cirque) seats because we weren’t sure we’d make it, so our view wasn’t the best, but we could still see most of the action. I liked this show better than Zumanity but not as much as La Nouba. After the performance, we stopped at the gift shop for toothpaste and a few other necessities. I love that the gift shop is open 24 hours a day; something about knowing I could get a Santa Claus cookie jar or souvenir t-shirt at 3 a.m. if I wanted to just made me happy.
We started off Friday at the buffet, which I believe is a mandatory stop on any Las Vegas trip, then went on a search for toiletries unavailable from the gift shop. I suppose I should have researched drugstore locations ahead of time, but if I’d done that, we might not have ended up at Omni Chemists, which is a little shop in the Fashion Show Mall that’s absolutely crammed with stuff, some of it normal drugstore fare and some of it brands I’d never seen before. In addition to sunscreen and eye cream and face moisturizer and mascara, I got some very nice powder eyeshadows that turned out to hold up as well as the non-creasing cream ones I usually wear. I don’t seem to be able to find them online anywhere but eBay, so I may just have to go back to Las Vegas when these run out (or decide I’m okay with buying toiletries from an auction site).
After the drugstore, we checked out of room, stored our luggage with the bell desk, and headed off down (up?) the Strip to pick up our tickets for the next show. We were thwarted on our journey because the sidewalks and street for a block on either side of the Venetian were completely closed down. Mr. Karen talked with one of the many security people enforcing the closure and found out the problem was a huge banner that had ripped in the high wind; evidently there was some danger of pieces blowing into traffic and onto pedestrians. The guard told us how to get around the closure by walking through two parking lots and a loading dock and we eventually made it to the Bellagio, where I stood in a long line. Why they cannot offer e-tickets like Treasure Island, I do not know. We decided to take the monorail back; we’d seen it under construction on our first trip to Las Vegas and now it’s operational. We saw a sign for a station out on the Strip in front of Paris; the actual station was buried deep in Bally’s, reachable only after walking past many, many slot machines, gaming tables, and shops. We had to stop for a bottle of water to sustain us on our journey.
After we made it back to Treasure Island and retrieved our bags, we took a cab to Boulder Street Station, where the event that had brought us to Las Vegas on this particular weekend was being held, namely Wheatfest X, a gathering of fans of the band Kansas. Since I’ve brought Mr. Karen to meet my friends from the Internet on many occasions, it seemed only fair that I return the favor. We could have waited until the first scheduled event to pick up our nametags and tickets and such, but instead we explored the mezzanine level of the hotel tower until we found the organizer who had the stuff. (I was glad Mr. Karen found him before we stumbled into the other event listed on the events calendar that day–the Gordon memorial.)
A change of clothes and were we back downstairs for a silent auction of Kansas memorabilia, followed by a banquet, followed by a live auction and performance by the Traveling Wheatheads, a band of fans doing rarely-heard-live Kansas songs. Thanks to years of exposure to Mr. Karen’s album collection, I recognized all the songs, even “Children of the Shadows”, which isn’t a Kansas song but one Kerry Livgren did with A.D. after he left Kansas. We had to leave after two sets in order to get back to the Bellagio to see O; again, life being full of the tough choices. O came highly recommended, and while I liked it, I didn’t think it was the best Cirque show I’ve ever seen. Maybe I’d have enjoyed it more if I wasn’t so tired, and if our seats had been closer (and less narrow–these didn’t seem much bigger than the coach seat on our flight out), but maybe not. The water element is certainly unique, and I can see why tickets are so expensive, what with the elaborate set and the big cast and the safety divers we could see lurking in the pool. I just didn’t leave thinking “wow, I want to see that again” the way I did with Corteo.
Saturday morning I was scheduled to play in the Wheatfest poker tournament at 11. All well and good, except 11 a.m. seemed to come around really early. We barely had time to get up and get breakfast beforehand (and praise be for the line pass we got for being hotel guests or we might have had to skip breakfast entirely, as the cafe seemed to be quite the popular spot). I am happy to report that not only was I not the first one to run out of chips as I feared I might be, I ended up finishing 4th, which won me a t-shirt honoring the 2005 Kansas Music Hall of Fame inductees. Mr. Karen really wanted one of the bigger prizes, but hey, he could have played, too. I did pretty well, I thought. I could have done better if I hadn’t fallen in love with a flush (beaten by a full house) on one hand and pocket 10s (beaten by I don’t even remember) on another. Ah well.
Saturday night the main event was the Kansas concert. I squeezed into my 1982 tour tee (it still fits, kinda) and we joined the other folks for a buffet meal before the show. I left my camera upstairs (because the sign outside said “no digital cameras allowed”) so I can only tell you in words how awesome our seats were: front row, center, close enough to reach up and check off songs on the set list if we so desired. There weren’t even any security dudes stationed in front of us to keep us in line; I guess we didn’t look like a rushing the stage type of crowd. That’s fair. After two buffets in two days, I’m not sure I could have hauled my bulk up on stage even if I’d wanted to. Or maybe the security people were just disinterested in general; they sure weren’t enforcing the no digital cameras rule.
Sunday was devoted to travel. Our flight out left at 9:30 a.m., which seemed ridiculously early. When we came in Thursday night, the flight attendant recommended arriving two hours ahead for our return flight, which sounded a bit much to us. Well, it wasn’t. We allowed an hour and a half and that was barely enough. Check in wasn’t much of an issue, but clearing security took what seemed like forever; there were just too many passengers for too few open lanes. We had a two and a half hour layover in Minneapolis then it was onward to home. We’d checked a bag in order to get our new toiletries home (and so we didn’t have to drag the bag through two airports); when it didn’t arrive with the others from our flight I started to get a little perturbed. While I stood and frowned at our assigned luggage carousel, Mr. Karen went to check around and he actually found our bag on the other end of the baggage claim area, sitting alone on a stopped carousel. Had it come direct from Las Vegas? Had it made an earlier flight out of MSP? How long would it have taken Northwest to find it if Mr. Karen hadn’t done it himself? These are questions we’ll never know the answers to.
I had a nice surprise waiting for me when we got home. Library Lil sent me a wonderful assortment of fabric she’d gleaned from a relative’s stash cleanup (I think that’s where it came from; I admit I didn’t read the note as carefully as I should have because–hey look, fabric!) Mr. Karen had a not nice surprise; for the second week in a row the Vikings game hadn’t taped. This week was a different failure mode than last week, but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re not exactly getting our money’s worth out of NFL Sunday ticket. Maybe third time’s the charm.