Vegas Birthday #9

So I went to Vegas for my birthday this year. (I have pictures, but most of them are stupid, and I have been apathetic about posting pictures. I’m vaguely thinking about writing a Rails app to handle my photos, but I’m sure the migration path will be a nightmare.) I went to Sarah’s family reunion last year, on Superbowl weekend, but didn’t hit the usual 1/20 weekend. This year, we switched off, and I went solo for the birthdays, and she’s in Vegas with her family now.

Bill Perry (the other birthday boy) initially got us a room at Bally’s, which was a new spot for me. The rest of the cast of characters was new to this celebration, and also people I hadn’t seen in a long time. First, there was the team of Marc VH and Tom, both old pals from the days of the sparcstation cluster in the basement of Lindley Hall. Bill recruited Marc to Seattle right before he got me there in ’95, so I saw a lot of him at Spry (his office was next to mine for a while), and because he and Bill went on to the same company, we all ran in the same circles. Tom was an AI in the CS department, and finished a PhD there. He also just finished a law degree and passed the bar in Illinois. He used to work for Lucent in every odd place in the world, and last time I saw him was before he went on a long stint in Saudi Arabia. Now he lives in Chicago and does patent stuff for a huge law firm there.

Marc is always interesting to talk to, because he is one of the most dark, sarcastic, and cynical people ever, and couple that with his intelligence, and you have a lot of strange conversation. And Tom’s great to talk to, because he’s the sort of investigative person who will ask many questions to hear about your experience or opinion. And he’s got the uncanny ability of being able to go back to a forgotten but unfinished conversation from earlier on. It’s like he’s one of those stack-based computers, where things get cleared and the next-oldest thing comes back up for action.

And the kicker is that my old pal and housemate Simms showed up, too! Simms met a lady out in LV and has gone head over heels, so he made his second trip of that month to see her. But he also hung with us, and it’s always interesting to add a new thing to the mix. Like, it’s weird that Bill and Simms just met, but they probably live less than a mile from each other in Bloomington.

So yeah, the trip. Sarah was in LA for a couple of days, and she got back on Friday morning, but I had all of my gear packed in the car and had to fly out Friday afternoon, so we just crossed paths, sort of. I parked in the underground garage, even though it costs like $30 a day, because I have this unnatural fear of parking in the $6 lot that’s about 80 miles away, and having a freak snowstorm bury my car, so I would have to dig it out with my shoe, or maybe a copy of The Onion from the airport concourse. My foot was also bothering me again (rapid climate change) and I didn’t want to walk two hours to get to the gate.

My plane was late. I talked to a music schoolteacher who was flying to play golf. I, up to this point, was on a crazy “stop fucking around” diet since 1/1, and had gone off of caffeine, sugar, fried things, and much more. But I was tired as hell, so that all went out the window. I had a crazy russian cab driver (aren’t they all?) at LAS who started talking to me about subprime mortgages and how he was flipping properties, but now it’s all fucked. (We had a lot of weird cab drivers that weekend. One was this Large Marge type who kept bitching about how everything from new condos to global warming was specifically designed to fuck over cabbies. I.e. “these fuckers at CES don’t even want to go to the strip clubs anymore!” We also had this guy going to the airport who was a dried-out punk rock oldster who told this insanely long story about how he lived in the mountains, and the city fucked up the zoning drawings and he had to hire one of those diviner guys to find his septic tank.)

Bally’s isn’t bad. It’s a place to sleep. Tom and Marc stayed there; Simms was out at the Tropicana. Tom and Marc have a collective IQ of about 780 and therefore spent an insane amount of time playing poker. Marc, at any given time, could tell you exactly what casinos were having poker tournaments at what time. (He has this human wikipedia quality, and could probably tell you the volume of concrete being used for each construction project on the strip, off the top of his head.) While they played poker, me and Bill did other stuff, or and of course Simms was off doing his own sort of stuff.

We went to Kraftsteak for dinner on Saturday. For $200 a person, they bring out a metric fuckload of food, including a million apps, and about a dozen cuts of kobe beef. I wasn’t 100% with the food for whatever reason, but the desserts were pretty incredible. They just brought out a bunch of plates of different cakes and ice cream and whatnot. Good stuff, but like I said, not $200 good. The In-N-Out I had with Simms was much better.

The trip in general was nice, but way too short. I got there on Friday night and flew back on Monday. I did get to see everyone, got the variety pack thing at the Coke store, saw Penn and Teller again, and saw comedian Bobby Slayton, and didn’t lose too much gambling. But I felt like I had a low-grade cold or flu the whole time, and wanted nothing but sleep. To counteract that, I fell off the caffeine wagon something fierce. Also, because my ankle was fucked up, I took a dose of Prednisone to try to knock it back in line. Normally, that would make me have an unstoppable appetite and extreme insomnia, both of which are good for a land of unlimited buffets and 24-hour gambling, but it never really took.

My biggest impression was that Vegas is really changing fast. The Stardust is gone; the Frontier and Boardwalk are levelled. The entire area from the Monte Carlo to the Bellagio are one giant construction site. The Aladdin has been redone to be a giant Planet Hollywood. Every little t-shirt shop or fast food joint with frontage on the strip has been sold and levelled. I guess a lot of my favorites are still there, but at some point in the near future, the Bellagio, recently the most posh place on the strip, will be bulldozed for something newer. And I’m not talking about in 50 years; it wouldn’t surprise me if they closed in 2010.

And the strange thing is that I will be in, or maybe through Vegas at least two more times this year, as I move west. Both times will probably be a single-night break in driving, and not a gambling orgy. But maybe I will get more pictures.

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