Tag Archives: Las Vegas

JosephNils: The Balcony

The strip...

JosephNils: The Balcony.

Some great photos by Friend Patrick from our suite after the wedding. Many more to come!

Time, The Old Enemy

Well that’s the absolute end. I turned 37 today. I’m only updated this because these bastards told me to.

Actually it’s been pretty good, all told, so far. My brother called for his regular misanthropic slagging session. Friend Robin called (from his landline!) to have a chat, make vague promises about visiting in the late summer, and boast about how much tail he’s getting at the moment. Colleagues and I will be going for drinkies and maybe food later. It’s LA this weekend for friends and celebrations as well. Things are good.

Cassie had some pastries delivered to my office, which was a lovely surprise, and gave me an excuse to email everyone in the office to tell them it was my birthday and to grab the croissants while they could. One person saw the words “pastries in the kitchen” and went straight there, only to have to ask what the occasion was because they didn’t read further.

We went to Las Vegas at the weekend, to visit with Cassie’s “folks” and meet up with an old London Film School friend of  hers. Joanie made some great food as usual over the weekend, breakfast souffle stuff, calzone and yellow cake with chocolate frosting, and David allowed me to drink a lot of his Glenlivet. We went to see The Hangover which is exactly what it looks like in the trailer, despite what some reviews have said – it was funny though, if a little cheap in places.

We had a lovely meal at the Pinot Brasserie in the Venetian Hotel, which in stark contrast to the rest of the place is quite relaxed and genteel, albeit with a strange muzak tape on. I had rack of delicious lamb, and a nice choc dessert which the restaurant had written “Happy Birthday” on. We stayed in the Venetian for a night. It’s nice in there, big bed, remote control drapes, marble bathroom, great view of the HVAC units on the neighbouring rooftops. It’s a mad place, and as soon as you get off the strip, it’s the same stripmalls and outlets, only with a pyramid and the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

The journey to Las Vegas gets me every time. Big open spaces, mountains on the horizon, then as you sweep down out of the hills, you see places like Barstow and Baker, looking for all the world like Mos Eisley Spaceport on Tatooine. Cassie says I’m not the first Brit to have pointed that out. She’s so used to driving back and forth that she’s nonplussed by it now.

Today is also the birthday of one Sarah Brown, also known as “OMG Sarah Brown”, who I had the privilege to meet a couple of years ago, and we’ve kept in touch. Her blog is awesome, and Cringe is great fun.

It’s only halfway through my birthday this year, so maybe I’ll update later. In the meantime, cheers for your thoughts, and chin up, eh?

Nautical Coincidence

I was helping Cassie clear out some stuff, including loads of old papers, and we found the paperwork for when she had her belongings shipped from London to Las Vegas via New York. I don’t know how much unlikely this is, or whether it is a perfectly reasonable coincidence, but her stuff was shipped London-New York in June 2005 on the exact same ship that carried mine London-Los Angeles in June 2008.

If it was the same route I would be less intrigued; they probably just go back and forth constantly. But in 2005 it just went across the Atlantic, whereas in 2008 it crossed the Pond and then nipped through the Panama Canal. What are the chances? Just an intriguing coincidence, or (anecdotal) evidence of a higher power with his/her/its hand at the controls?

Giving Thanks To Vegas

Late November, 2008. It was my first American Thanksgiving weekend, and it was my best ever. Cassie’s parents live in Las Vegas, in a nice gated community called Spanish Trail. In the few years they’ve been there, Cassie’s Dad has already got himself elected as the President of the Residents Association (or something). He calls himself the “King”, but no-one else does (except Cassie – she loves her Daddy).

Thanksgiving traffic is famous. I should have taken the train to LA, but I had a big suitcase, and I needed flexibility for my return journey. I was able to nip off from work early, but even leaving at 1330 on Wednesday had me taking 6 hours to drive to LA. Monstrous. Train for definite next time.

The drive to Las Vegas is pretty spectacular in places, with great expanses of scrub and tumbleweeds, and the orange mountains in the distance, under the stark blue sky. The problem is, the straight road and the distance make it very similar to the Desert Bus Game, albeit from LA to LV rather than from Tucson.

Joining Cassie and I and her parents for the big dinner were some of her parents friends, who were very nice, and the food was good, and the wine was good, and the surroundings were good and it was very nice all round. None of the histrionics I had come to expect from watching countless Thanksgiving episodes of American sitcoms.

The food included the traditional turkey. I explained about how turkey is the Xmas food in the UK, and that we don’t do Thanksgiving (I’m sometimes surprised at how many people ask me that). With the bird we had Italian stuffing, chestnut stuffing, cream mashed potatoes, pumpkin squash souffle and other sides. For dessert we had pumpkin pie (of course), whipped cream, chocolate cookie pie (not sure what it was really called, but it was delicious) and a cheeky little sparkling Chiraz (I know!) that Cassie and I have been enjoying recently. Cassie’s Mum is an awesome cook, and she loves feeding her family and friends. She gave me some Spaghetti sauce in freezer containers, of which I am enjoying the second batch this week.

There’s a common misunderstanding that goes around here about turkey. People say it contains high levels of an amino acid called tryptophan, which causes you to feel sleepy. This story gets trotted out every year, and every year doctors and scientists have to explain that no, it’s the thousands of calories and multiple glasses of wine that make you sleepy. That and all the college football.

While digesting, we watched a movie-on-demand. Having watched The Savages a couple of weeks previously, I really didn’t need to see Smart People, but it was the consensus. Apart from anything else, I didn’t care about any of the people. The fact that the premise is effectively the same (fractured family comes together, injury forces members to help etc.) didn’t help matters. That said, it’s true that The Savages affected me more because the storyline concerned an elderly parent and adult children. I still find myself affected by memories of the deaths of my parents.

So just to remind me some more about age and mortality, the next night we watched Young At Heart, a brilliant documentary about a singing group in Massachusetts whose average age is 80. They sing standard show tunes, but also adapted versions of songs like Schizophrenia by Sonic Youth (“You can’t understand the words!”) and Talking Heads songs like Life During Wartime and Road To Nowhere. The latter was particularly apt given that the original video for that song had the Hi Vista Community Hall Singers performing the opening and closing refrains – it echoed the community spirit of the story. It’s a great movie, and one that had us all welling up.

Cassie’s Mum (or should I start saying “Mom”?) asked me to check her computer for spyware and stuff, because I am that most precious of family members, the one who is “good with computers”. I agreed of course, and I was pleasantly surprised to find she is using Firefox, and her security software is all up to date. This is a big change from someone elses machine I used to check. One Xmas I updated their virus files. The following Xmas I checked their virus files and found they had been updated “…365 days previously. Please update now.”

Cassie and I had splashed out and booked a night at The Venetian, one of the less crazy hotels in Vegas, with just a small recreation of the Venice canals up on the 4th floor, complete with gondolas and boutiques. The room was pretty nice, a split level with a king-sized bed, remote control drapes, big TV, marble everywhere and a great view of the hundreds of air-conditioning units covering the roofs below. I was seriously coveting the lamps, but I have to be careful about what that means. We got room service and watched a completely legitimate DVD of Stephen Fry’s America documentary, specifically the episode where he went to Nevada and California. Nicely meta. It was interesting to see his take on Vegas while stretched out in a hotel room in Vegas.

That evening we joined the folks again to go and see the musical Jersey Boys, the musical story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It was a really slick production, with great a falsetto performance from the lead, and many songs that I never realised were originally Frankie Valli songs (like Bye Bye Baby, which I thought was by the Bay City Rollers. Yes, I know now, don’t I?). The show was performed in a special full size theatre built inside hotel casino just for this run, and it was comfortable and spacious – a big change from London theatres. But did it lose the charm? Don’t think so.

After the show, we had dinner with the folks again, and after that, and a couple of Grey Goose Gimlets, I was ready for bed. We slowly made our way back through the casino, drinking in the atmos, and finally crawled into the huge bed.

Opening the curtains by remote control from said bed was cool, but I could have done with a couple more hours in the dark. But, we had to get up and go, especially considering we had our drive back to LA in the not-quite-so-atrocious post-Thanksgiving traffic. It did take a couple of hours more than usual, but at least that gave us time to listen to crazy right-wing AM talk radio as we stop-started through the desert.

Yes, But Who Is He?

While driving back to LA from Las Vegas after Thanksgiving, a process which took a lot longer than usual due to the holiday, we tried listening to the local AM stations for traffic news. Along with sparse info along the lines of “This traffic is normal for Thanksgiving Weekend, suck it up” we also heard a right-wing phone-in show getting themselves in a right froth about Obama, and how his right to be President is in question. The host and her guest were both blithering on about how they had read all the information, educated themselves about the situation, and were still not happy about the validity of an Obama Presidency. They claimed that if the evidence they wanted could be shown to them, they would be happy, and would shut up and go away.

Sure you would.

This article from David Weigel in Slate describes the extent of the conspiracy about Obama’s citizenship. This fringe movement, based around earnestly hysterical blogs, petitions and talk radio shows, has all the hallmarks of the other dumb conspiracy theories*, including the classic “Despite all the talk, some questions still remain unanswered.” Answer these questions, and ten more will spring up, usually at a tangent to logical discourse. And on it goes, like a child asking “Why? Why? Why?”

In the radio show, caller after caller came on to ask some weird question or make some crazy observation, to the enthusiastic interruptions of the hosts. Once, a guy came on to dispute what was being said, and was effectively told he wasn’t welcome because he didn’t agree. The host cut him off before saying smugly, “I have the button”. It was like the old James Whale late-night TV show, only marginally less sickening.

Philip J. Berg, who filed the first lawsuit asking for Obama to be ruled ineligible, also ran cases for 9/11 Truthers (this is true). He also has a case pending in the US Supreme Court about the Earth being flat. The globe we see in pictures from space is just effect of a fisheye lens, apparently, and the oceans are kept in place with magnets (this is not true, sadly).