(Blogger’s note: this is part 2 of a three-part series on the Supermodel’s and my tenth anniversary trip. If’n you missed part 1, click here to catch up.)
I love Las Vegas, because no matter where you’re from, Las Vegas is the exact opposite. — Rita Rudner
Several years ago, the Supermodel and I were planning a huge road trip we wanted to take, visiting friends in several states over a three-week period. I don’t remember all the details, because we never had the time or the money to make the trip (we decided to start churning out kids, so there went both the time and the money). But I do remember there was one state we specifically weren’t visiting: Nevada.
Seriously, why would we want to? I had been in Nevada twice in my life — once as a kid, passing through on a trip to Boise, Idaho to visit my aunt and uncle; the other a two-hour stopover while flying from a conference in Phoenix back to Sacramento. Both times it was sweltering hot, and I was constantly surrounded by hundreds of slot machines and similar gizmos going off like Hell’s sound effects. Throw in the whole “sex industry” angle and, as a Christian, I had little to no interest in visiting the Silver State.
What changed? I dunno. But when the Supermodel suggested we give Las Vegas a whirl (pun intended), I shrugged, said “why not?” and pointed the car east.
To give you the short version … the heat wasn’t a problem, we largely ignored the gambling, we completely ignored the sexual come-ons. And we had the time of our lives.
Once we settled into the room at the Motel 6 on Tropicana, I called home and left a message for my mom and the kids, who I knew were visiting the California Academy of Science in San Francisco that day. Then, after I took a shower (did I mention in Part I that the Bun Boy Motel’s water heater was broken? Quite a place, that Bun Boy Motel!), we did some research.
One thing we figured out quickly was that almost anything you might want to do in Vegas is fairly expensive. And this is quite aside from losing money in the gambling hells. If you want tickets for the top shows — Cirque du Soleil, Blue Man Group, et al. — you’re looking at paying over $100. Per ticket. And the legendary cheap buffets at the casinos apparently went out with Wayne Newton and Liberace; everything’s been converted over to ritzy theme restaurants. We had some money to spend, but our supply wasn’t endless. But after a little searching through the events section of the Vegas newspaper we’d purchased Friday in Barstow, we found two shows we wanted to see, could afford, and were in the same location. Perfect.
And since the first show was at 3:00, we left our room and hopped in the car at 2:30. Not so perfect.
For some reason, we’d thought that since it was the middle of January, Las Vegas wouldn’t be too crowded. Wrong answer. The second we got onto that section of South Las Vegas Avenue known as The Strip, it was wall-to-wall people and cars. The streets were packed, the sidewalks were packed, and there were lanes closed for construction besides. Add to it that the city was hosting the Miss America pageant that night and you can just imagine. Simply put, when a California native thinks your city has bad traffic, it’s really, really bad. It took us 35 minutes to cover the two miles from the Motel 6 to Harrah’s, and to figure out where the entrance to their parking garage was. By the time we were able to get our tickets to the two shows we wanted to see, we were already ten minutes late. (Incidentally, cost for two tickets to two shows … $183 and change. Yeah, it’s a bit pricey, but how often are we going to have a tenth anniversary?)
Fortunately, no one seemed too worried about our tardiness, and the afternoon show was a hoot — Mac King’s Comedy Magic Show. The self-proclaimed “King of the Afternoon” is a Harrah’s staple, been there for years, and combines a lot of good clean humor with legitimately good sleight-of-hand. His whole shtick is to pretend to be incompetent and stagey with his tricks, so much so that it’s clear he can’t make them work THAT way … and while he’s doing that, he’s making the tricks actually happen some other way. Don’t ask me how he did them, but he did, and we sat amazed the whole time we weren’t laughing our rear ends off. Worth the hour (and the $$$) we spent.
After Mac King’s show was done, we had about four hours to kill before the second program, so we decided to do a little shopping next door. Harrah’s is maybe a block away from the Venetian, which we knew had an incredible indoor mall patterned after Venice’s Grand Canal (complete with a canal and gondola rides, no less). The Supermodel realized that she needed pantyhose for later in the evening, and I had forgotten to pack a tie, so we decided to see if we could fill those gaps without having to walk too far. She could (a nice pair of fishnet stockings at Ann Taylor for $14); I couldn’t (you don’t want to know what the ties cost in some of those stores — I’ve bought entire suits for less!). By the time I gave up on trying to find a necktie that wouldn’t require taking out a loan, the sun had gone down, so we went back to our car, dropped off a few items, picked up a few others and went back into Harrah’s so the Supermodel could change.
Now, a little explanation is in order here. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Supermodel has CMT, a congenital condition that is causing the nerves in her arms and legs to degenerate. One of the side effects for her is a metabolism that simply won’t allow her to gain weight. So for most of her life, she hasn’t been real thrilled with her body. I know, “beautiful women unhappy with the way they look” is almost a cliche — but most women don’t go through high school being asked if they were anorexic, or being the subject of Ethiopian jokes. I’ve been working for a decade to convince her that she is in fact hot, and it’s slowly starting to take. But only starting.
Saturday night, she took a big leap in the direction of being convinced.
You see, one of my anniversary gifts to her was this bright red ruffled halter dress with no back and a hemline that’s … well, higher than anything else she owns. I’ve bought her some nice dresses over the years, but that’s the category all the dresses she has falls under: nice. Even her little black (actually navy blue) dress is one she could wear to a PTA meeting without anyone blinking. What she didn’t have was an outfit that fell under the category of “dangerous.”
She does now. In case you don’t believe me, I took a picture once we got back to the motel room Saturday night:
So she left the bathroom in this outfit, I took her arm and we headed for the Range Steakhouse at Harrah’s while I played Watch the Reactions. And boy, the reactions! Of the men we passed, probably 80% either took an appreciative look, did a double-take or just flat-out STAAAAARED at her. We got to the Range and had to wait for a minute before being seated, and while they got our table ready I whispered to her, “do you realize how many guys were checking you out?” And it didn’t stop there — the waiters repeatedly stopping by to see if we needed anything (seriously, like every three minutes), the maitre d’ swinging by twice (and shocked she was there for her tenth anniversary, since he thought she was 22), even one guy when we got to the evening show doing a legit triple-take and clearly hoping his wife (sitting next to him) didn’t notice. It’s a good thing I was there, or they would’ve started sending her drinks.
She’s listened to me tell her how incredibly attractive I thought she was for years now. But having it independently confirmed did wonders. One self-esteem boost, just add dress!
Much as I hate to change the subject, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about possibly the best meal I’ve ever had, even above and beyond the sexy company. The second we opened the menu at the Range, we got hit with the “Vegas is expensive” 2×4 all over again — the cheapest entree on the menu was, I think, $33. So we improvised a little, ordering an appetizer, a soup and a salad, and sharing all three …
- Appetizer: beef culottes — a four-ounce steak, medium well, sliced and served with a sauce of pureed fire-roasted peppers mixed with Worcestershire and an item or two I couldn’t identify (apparently a secret the chef won’t divulge, as I did ask), plus a salsa and arugula garnish.
- Soup: lobster bisque, with creme fraiche and chunks of Maine lobster. Understand that I’m not a lobster fan; I’ve always found the taste to be too strong, too fishy. But this stuff was truly mind-blowing.
- Salad: blue cheese and apple, with arugula, endive, walnuts and a tangy dressing that brought out the flavor of all of them.
Cost, with a substantial tip: $48. Suffice to say that I’ve had dinners at nice restaurants in California that cost more and weren’t anywhere near as good. Worth every penny … just bring a lot of pennies.
By the time the meal was done — topped off by a miniature chocolate mousse cake with fruit garnish after the maitre d’ found out it was our anniversary (or maybe he just wanted to ogle the Supermodel again, and who could blame him?) — it was 7:45 and seating had begun for the show we were going to attend. I have been a fan of comedienne Rita Rudner (whom I quoted at the top) since the mid-1980s, and her act has always been funny, topical and largely clean. So finding out she was doing her act that night made it a must-see as far as I was concerned, and it wasn’t hard to talk my wife into it.
Rita came on stage around 8:40, in a dress that looked like something Giselle from “Enchanted” made out of the drapes while battling an epic hangover, and proceeded to wow us for an hour and a quarter with her hilarious observations on Vegas, marriage, family, cooking (her own failed attempts at it, anyway), her body, other women’s bodies and whatever happened to come to her Fibber McGee’s closet of a mind. She even took questions from the audience at the end. (Best exchange: “Do you write your own material?” “Honey, I don’t just write it — I live it!”) A good time was had by all. We could have gone to a meet-and-greet with Rita afterward, but by then we were both starting to overload and the Supermodel’s legs were tiring from going without her leg braces (which that dress obviously wouldn’t conceal), so we called it a night.
Needless to say, this merry-go-round isn’t something we could do very often without going bankrupt. But once a decade, it’s fun to throw caution (and cash) to the wind and just have a good time.
(to be further continued … although we’ve already reached the high point …)