A Weekend in Vegas

no_seven TB and I celebrated our 3-year anniversary in Las Vegas this past weekend. She booked a package deal through USAir that had us fly direct from Seattle and stay at the Wynn for 4 nights. It was a nice getaway even though I have been to Vegas 4 times in 2 years. TB hadn’t been to Vegas in 5+ years so there were a lot of things she hadn’t seen. Random notables:

  1. It was hot: 105+ during the day and 80+ at night.
  2. It was crowded: Labor Day weekend.
  3. There are no deals left on the Strip: Food & gambling are no longer reasonably priced. You can’t beat the accommodations, however.
  4. Free Wi-Fi @ the Wynn: The Sugar & Ice restaurant (located in the Esplanade) offers free Wi-Fi. Many guests don’t know about it though and they wind up paying $11.99/day.
  5. I officially hate the number 7: Craps was crap for me this trip.
  6. ‘The States’ produced by The History Channel rocks: This DVD set is 8 hours of some of the most interesting and enlightening information about our country I’ve viewed in a long time. A great way to spend a weekend morning/afternoon.
  7. It’s easy to get in, but hard to get out: Our trip to Vegas was perfectly smooth. Our return to Seattle was fraught with delays, airplane maintenance issues and gate changes. The highlights of the return trip were the perks we received due to my 1K status on United. First, we avoided the long, post-Labor Day security line because the ticketing agent put a V.I.P. stamp on our boarding passes. Second, we had an exit row to ourselves. The plane was packed to the gills, but there was no one in the middle seat between us. Membership has its privileges.

I will stop the list at 7 since it is a number I saw all too often at all the wrong times last weekend. 🙂

Crackhead Teriyaki

This summer I have been volunteering as a mentor at Youth In Focus. My mentee, Malek, is in the intermediate class and is heading into his senior year of high school.

Following a photo shoot at Seattle’s world-famous Pike Place Market, I asked if he wanted to grab a bite to eat. It was about 5 PM and we had been shooting in the bright afternoon sun for over 2 hours. I figured I could go for something cool and refreshing so I headed toward TB’s favorite dining spot, Crepe de France. Malek followed. As we neared the restaurant, I thought, “Wait, this is a good rapport-building opportunity,” and decided to see if Malek had a favorite dining spot that might expand my horizons.

When asked Malek’s face lit up and he said, “Yeah, [inaudible] Teriyaki!” I heard the “teriyaki” part but didn’t bother having him repeat the part I had missed. Teriyaki is teriyaki, right? He said it was about 2 blocks away so we begin walking up Pike, crossed 1st and I saw the restaurant up ahead on the corner of 2nd & Pike. The restaurant looked rundown from the outside and there was neon sign hanging in the window that simply read “Teriyaki.” I became very curious about what I had missed when Malek told me the name earlier.

As we approached this mysterious, hole-in-the-wall, Teriyaki joint, I asked Malek, “What’s the name of this place again?” He turned with a devilish grin and said, “We call it Crackhead Teriyaki.” I must have given him the wha-choo-talkin-bout-Willis look as he quickly clarified. Supposedly, this teriyaki dive got its name from the large number of Seattle crackheads that once loitered around its perimeter. The crackheads have long since gone but the name remains as some kind of twisted term of endearment. Yummy!

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Spending a Day Touring Florence, Italy

I was up at 7:30 AM with plans to catch the complimentary hotel shuttle into town at 8:30. I made it down for the complimentary continental breakfast figuring I would gulp down some carbs & protein to power my morning sightseeing. I headed to the front lot to catch the shuttle (which was there when I went to breakfast) only to find it had disappeared. Crap!

As it turns out, one must get a ticket from the front desk 10 minutes before departure. The 8:30 shuttle had checked-in full so it departed early. The next shuttle was at 9:30. I used the time to review my itinerary and triple-check the rough vicinity of the laundromat I planned to visit to do a load of clothes. Microsoft’s Local Live map service is decent for getting a lay of the land here in Florence but its ability to pinpoint actual street addresses outside the U.S. leaves a lot to be desired. At 9:10 I went back to the lobby. At 9:20 I had my ticket. The shuttle left at exactly 9:30. I love punctuality.

The 9:30 shuttle wasn’t full but a group of Australian chatterboxes sure made if feel that way. There were 3 couples all late-50s/early-60s going on and on and on. They are all from Melbourne, they hate British Airways (apparently one couple lost a bag) and they love Qantas (surprise!). One guy needs a hip replacement and two of the couples openly despise the 3rd because the 3rd apparently is well off and can afford to fly business class. The 3rd couple didn’t seem to care as they kept making a point about how comfortable their seats were and how they love that most long distance business class flights have seats that lie flat. That got the wife-of-the-guy-with-bum-hip’s goat, eliciting the classic “must be nice” response. I would paraphrase the 3rd couple’s response as follows: “Feel free to hate on us. You aren’t the first and you surely won’t be the last. We will be ok. We hope to have at least two more couples hating on us by summer’s end.” That’s what I’m talking about.

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Back from Nice

Box Head Sculpture - NiceTB and I are both extremely jetlagged and slowly recuperating from the 9-hour time difference between Seattle and Nice. Despite the long hours and distances traveled to reach the French Riviera, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Carlton Hotel - CannesThe weather was great, the people friendly and the memories vivid. One thing that did surprise me was how mediocre the food selection was. There were tons of restaurants and cafes but they all seemed to offer identical menus. Dining quickly became routine & mediocre after suffering through meal after meal featuring one of the three P’s: pasta, pizza or paninis. There is not much variety in any of those items for people who don’t eat beef or pork. Also, the French seem to eat dinner late even by my standards (8PM). I guess it helps that things slow down considerably for about 2 hours mid-day during lunch.

Sculpture in Eze Village

Lastly, I discovered the secret to how the people from a country known for its cuisine and whose language gave us the term laissez-faire stay so thin. In no particular order but each done extensively:

  • Walking (Gas is like $7/gallon over there and 18 is the legal driving age though residents need only be 14 to drive scooters, which many teenagers do like bats out of hell I might add. Even the “aged people” — their term for geriatrics — are out and about looking fabulous.)
  • Smoking cigarettes (Everyone. Everywhere. All. The. Time.)
  • Enjoying life (Long meals, relaxing with friends, appreciating what they have.)
  • Eating small portions very slowly (I have never seen a grown man take so long to eat two scrambled eggs. Of course he smoked about 17 cigarettes while doing so.)

There were no strikes while we were there so I was somewhat disappointed. I’m sure there is nothing like mass demonstrations over labor disputes in a country proud of its work-life balance.

Monastiere de Cimiez