Thursday, June 12

Viva Las Vegas - "loser city"... I mean "sin city"

Dave and I left for Las Vegas on Monday, May 26. We were excited to have a few days without kids and to forget what it's like to be parents. We get to the airport and Dave tells me how much money he has taken out of the bank as our gambling money. I tell him, in summary, what I heard him say and he decides - more money would be best. We go the 5/3 ATM to withdraw cash so we don't have to pay extra ATM fees in Vegas if we need more money. The ATM won't take Dave's card. It's not broken but it's not working for us. I interpret this as a bad sign. Not the way I want to start out a trip to Vegas. If we can't even get the ATM to work, what's gonna happen when we put money into the slots? Dave interprets it fate is telling us we don't need anymore money because we are going to win so much that we won't need to go back to the ATM. We'll see...

We board our flight and see that our seats are directly in front of the exit row. That means less leg room and our seats don't recline to make up for the couple in front of us reclining their seats. It's a short flight between Dayton and Atlanta. The next flight is a long one and our row is different so we scout out where are seats on the flight to Vegas. Surely the seats will be better. We get into Atlanta and it's a very crowded airport. Dave is getting stressed - big crowd, loud intercom announcements, no where to sit. This is not going well! Please let our luck turn - SOON!!! We board the flight from Atlanta to Vegas and guess what... we have the row in front of the exit row again. Different row assignment but it's a different airplane type so we're stuck. It's a full flight and no option to move. The gentleman sitting next to me is old and he's a smoker. Oh boy!!! Surely this trip cannot get any worse. Let's just get all of our bad karma, bad luck, bad whatever out of the way now so we can have good luck in Vegas.

We arrive and unfold ourselves from the cramped seating arrangements. We check into the MGM using the hotel check in desk at the airport. We reserved a king size room with the option to upgrade on check in for $50. We'd like to upgrade. "Sorry, there's only 1 standard queen room available."

"No. I reserved a king room, not a queen room. I understand there's no upgrades and that's fine but the queen room is not fine." (Again - this trip is for us to forget what it's like to be parents. Because the kids keep Dave up all hours of the night with their sleep noises and not sleeping through the night, we don't usually sleep in the same bed. If this vacation is about forgetting what it's like to be parents, sleeping in separate beds is not an option.)

"Well, the only king room available in the hotel is on the 3rd floor but it's not ready. The maid is cleaning it now."

"That's fine. It'll be done by the time we get there?"

"Yes. There is also a room on the 5th floor if you'd prefer that." (Um - what happened to no king rooms available and within 10 seconds, 2 king rooms are now available. If I keep waiting will an upgrade room be available?)

"Which room has a view?"

"Neither. There isn't a view below the 16th floor."

"Well, I guess we'll take the 3rd floor."

We head off to claim our bags and decide that since we are waiting, we might as well go ahead and stick a few quarters into the slot machine. What?!?! The slot machines don't take coins. That's weird!! Maybe it's because they were having too many problems with all the airport travelers and people just passing through causing congestion.

We go to the taxi stand and wait for a cab. Of all the cabs in all of Vegas, we (trying to forget what it's like to be parents) get a mini van taxi. Oh yes - this trip is starting off so well!!! Broken ATM, bad airplane seating, no view from our room, no upgrades available, no coins in the slots, and a mini van. Surely this has got to be the end of our bad luck!! Maybe once we get to the hotel and settled into our room we will have better luck.

We get to our room and see that our view is of the fire exit stairs from the next building over. We knew there wasn't a view of the strip but the emergency fire escape wasn't what we had in mind either. We call the front desk to ask if there is a better room available. "I''m sorry, sir, the hotel is completely full. There aren't any other room available. If you'd like, you can check back with us tomorrow."

We decide to head to In-N-Out for a burger. Maybe that's all we need to change our luck - a good double-double animal style (yum!). We get a cab and the driver is nice and very informative. There's major construction on the strip and he gives us the low down on what they are doing and when it's supposed to be done. The cab driver's are on unofficial strike because the city keeps adding more cabs causing less money for the current cabs. I asked him the new monorail is effecting the business the cabs get. He says, "No. Locally it's known as the mono-fail." Good to know... It's $9 per person/per ride and you have to walk all the way to the back of the casino to get on and all the way from the back of the casino to get off. It's too much hassle to get on and get off so a lot people don't ride it. By the time you walk to/from the back of the casino you could have practically been to your destination without spending the money for the monorail ticket.

We eat our lunch and grab a cab back to the Bellagio to watch a water show. We call Noah and he seems to not even miss us. He is so distracted by whatever he is doing that he gives the phone back to Penny mid-conversation. Good that he doesn't miss us but at the same time it's so sad that he doesn't miss us. Well, not missing us is better for Penny so we head to the water show. We stop by the Monte Carlo to gamble a little. Dave bets the slots. I'm usually a black jack player but I can't find a cheap table so play slots with Dave. The slots don't take coins anymore and it's a shame. The casinos are so quiet (compared to what they used to be) and it's just not same. You put dollars in and a cash voucher when you cash out. You can take the voucher to a voucher/atm machine or to the cashier station to get cash. We didn't win anything so we don't have to cash in our vouchers. We decide drinking alcohol would be more fun at this point so we head to the NYNY. We've always liked the NY casino and we stopped for a frozen drink on the way.

The NY is doing construction in the casino so it's hard to navigate and you can't find anything. We sit down at a slot, play a few bucks and leave...without a voucher because we aren't winning.

We cross the street back to the MGM. Maybe we should just call it a night and hope for better luck tomorrow. We stop at a slot machine in the MGM. Dave sits and is having fun playing, winning 50 cents here, 75 cents there. I'm bored with the slots and lose $20 in a matter of seconds. The slots are so boring to me so I decide it's better to watch him. I can people watch, too and that's free. It's depressing how much bad luck we are having. The slot machine Dave is playing seems like fun so I decide to put $5 in. The machine won't take my $5 because it's one of the new bills. I press the button to call for the "change" person. They don't come so I run over to the cash/voucher machine to trade in my $5 for 5 $1. I head back to the slot machine with my 5 $1 but the machine doesn't take $1 only $5 and up. Oh my gosh... this is such a bad sign. I press the "change" button again and wait for someone to come help me. They are no where in sight so I stick my $1 in the nearest machine that will take it, cash out immediately and plan to put the $5 voucher back in the machine next to Dave. By the time I get this all worked out, a family from India has sat down to play at my slot machine. Oh well - it's probably better anyway. All that work to play tells me that it's best not to play. If I can't have luck getting my money into the machine, I'm probably not going to have any luck getting extra money out of the machine.

The Indian family is having a hard time understand how to play. Yes, they are from India, the call-center-technology capital of the world where all of the US work is being outsourced to and yet, they can't figure out a slot machine. Hoping to change our karma and bad luck, I decide to help them. They keep putting the money in and telling me to push the button. I tell them that if I hit the button and it wins, I get to keep the money because technically, I'm the one gambling it even though it's their money. They decide to hit the button themselves. Once they've learned, I go off in search of another slot machine to play my $5 on. I mozy over to one that looks half way interesting and sit down. I somehow or another bet the max and am out of money after 2 spins. Now who can't figure out the stupid slot machines!!!!????? I sulk back over to where is still playing and people watch. My drink is empty and I've lost too much to keep trying. I've given up gambling for the night. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

We head back to the room and I sleep terrible. There is large flood light attached to the fire escape stairs and the curtains have been closed in a way that the light is shining straight through the slit in the curtains and into the my eyes. I'm too tired to get up to fix it but I'm not really getting any sleep. I sleep fitfully and wake at 615. Why - I'm on vacation and am forgetting what it's like to be a parent. All non-parents always wake up at 615 so of course this is normal. Oh - please do not let this be an indication of my luck today. I'm in Vegas - cut me a break. I finally fall back to sleep and wake up at 9 when I hear Dave bringing back Starbucks. Ahhhh, Starbucks - maybe this make my luck all better?! It usually helps make my day better back home.

Dave checks his email and there are serious issues at work. He has to do some work and possibly a conference call. We decide to try to rent a Harley and go ride for the day. Dave checks their website and it says we have to show proof of motorcycle rental coverage on the insurance company letter hear. Dave calls his agent to have them fax a letter only to be told that motorcycle rental is a lot different than a car rental and we aren't covered. So much for renting a motorcycle. Hopefully this is not an indication of our luck for the day. Dave deals with his conference call and I shower. We decide that since can't get a motorcycle, we'll lay by the pool today. I've already told him - weeks before we arrived - I was going to spend a day by the pool and made sure the clarify what "day by the pool" means. Dave and I do not have the same tolerance for the sun. I am a "water baby" and would like right next to the pool if I could. Dave burns easily and isn't "all day" sun like me. All day, to me, means 11ish to 3 or 4. All day, to Dave, means an hour. :) We get some breakfast and make it to the pool around 1. Because it's so late in the day, all the good spots are taken. We find a spot, plop down our stuff. I float down the lazy river; Dave lays by the pool. Eventually, Dave floats and I lay. I'm quite impressed that after an hour, he hasn't gotten "too much sun" and headed inside. In fact, he lays by the pool with me all day. We moved spots a few times to find shade for him and sun for me and made it work. Maybe tomorrow we can make it out here before 1 and get a good spot that will work for us all day. I decide that I want a drink. I get a beer. Holy cow...$7 for 1 beer plus a tip. I'll be sure to make 1 beer last all day :) We call home and Noah is definitely missing us. I call Stacy to see if she can takes Adam and Bella to visit Noah tomorrow when she gets off work. Stacy is his favorite aunt (but only because of her car and Bella's shoes :) ) so says she'll go play with Noah. We call Penny to tell her that she's coming. We think it'll give Noah a little reassurance that there is some normalcy to his life. He hasn't been completely abandoned and it'll give Penny a chance to breath a little. I'm not sure if she needed it but the kids exhaust me and I know it's nice to breath a little sometimes.

I decide I want Chipotle for dinner and Dave remembers seeing one on our last visit here. There is so much construction going on and so much stuff has been torn down that I call the front desk to ask them if there's still a Chipotle on the strip. I'm told "no" so we head to a Mexican restaurant across the street at the NYNY. It's really good and I'm still craving their salsa today. YUM!! We get our souvenir cups from the night before refilled with another frozen drink and head out to gamble. Needless to say, after waking at 6, not renting a motorcycle, Dave having to work during vacation, paying $7 for a beer and not getting Chipotle, our gambling luck isn't any better and we lose all night.

Oh well... That seems to be the theme of the trip - "you are the biggest loser, goodbye!"

I sleep better because I've fixed the curtains but wake at 6 again. I fall back asleep and have the most terrible dream. Dave said I was crying out in my dream and really restless. He goes for Starbucks but has to follow up on the problem with work that he was working on yesterday. We get a much earlier start on our day anyway and head to breakfast. I really want Denny's but the one next door has been torn down and the other one is on the other end of the strip. By the time I get down there and eat, the day will be half over and by the time I make it back to the hotel, I'll be hungry again because it takes so long to get down the strip. We find a sandwich shop near the pool and grab some food to eat poolside instead. Because it's still a little early, we get a really good spot by the pool. We buy a beer and again, make it last all day.

We call home to check on Noah. He's really excited because Stacy should be pulling up any second. Again - he could care less that we're not home. Good and bad for us but I'll deal with it. Penny then tells me that when he woke up from his nap this afternoon, she said, "Guess who is coming over to play with you today?" Little Noah replied, "Mommy and daddy!" I lost it - right there in the middle of the pool, I lose all sense of control and start crying. The poor people sitting in the chairs beside us decide go for a swim as soon as they see me in tears. I'm not sure who they were but I can only imagine what they were thinking. Dave and I walk a few feet away to make a phone call and I come back in tears. Them leaving for a swim a few seconds later seemed a little coincidental.

I get control and we head back to the room early because we have tickets to the Cirque Du Soleill "O" at the Bellagio. We want to have a nice dinner before hand. It has taken us the entire 3 days we've been here to track the tickets down. It's our bad luck we are having that is causing the problem for us not getting the tickets but Dave is finally able to track them down.

Dave decides that since he has had to work during his vacation that work should pay for part of our dinner so we head to Smith and Wollensky Steakhouse. We eat the best steak we've ever had. The asparagus were cooked to perfection and the potatoes were so fluffy and creamy. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. YUM!! We order creme brulee for dessert. It comes in three separate flavors: regular, pistachio, and chocolate. The chocolate is too rich for me but Dave likes it. The pistachio is my favorite. Dave order a glass of the dessert port. I have a Bailey's and coffee and we both seem to be in heaven. They bring our bill and Dave reaches for his money clip only to find that he doesn't have his work credit card. So much for being in heaven. Adding to our already high expense for this trip because of all we've gambled and lost, we now have a $200 food bill to pay plus a tip. Okay, okay, okay - enough bad luck already, PLEASE!!!

We see the show and absolutely love it. After the show we decide to stop in the Monte Carlo on our walk back to the MGM to see if there is a cheap blackjack table for me to play. I've had a small amount of luck in finding a cheap table at the Monte Carlo if it's early enough in the night. Don't get me wrong - I haven't had luck winning big but I've found a table. Not tonight... All the tables are $10 or higher. Dave is sulking because he hasn't won anything and we are on our last night in Vegas. I decide to go back to the hotel, change into jeans and tshirt and call the Excalibur to see if they have any $5 table going. They have 1 $5 table. We head to the overpass to walk to the Excalibur and Dave sees a sign that says, "$5 Blackjack 24 hours a day at the Tropicana." Now, 12 hours before our flight home we see this... Now is when our luck is changing... Seriously?? Somebody has not so funny humor!!

We head to the Tropicana. I sit down at a $5 table with $20 and 3 hands later I'm off to find Dave and I'm broke. He's at a slot machine not winning either. Oh well - at least our luck didn't really change so I'm leaving wondering if I should have been gambling at the Tropicana the whole time. As we are leaving I talk Dave into sitting at a $5 table with me for $20 each. Let's see what happens - maybe this will get him out of his "we're losers and we suck" sulking mood.

It works... he's not sulking anymore when we walk away after about an hour and a half. We're aren't up any money but we aren't down any more money either. We walk away with the $20 each we sat down with. We played, won few hands, lost a few hands, had a good time and walked away without losing our $20. I'd have to say that was one of the best times during the whole trip! Sitting together, gambling and laughing along with the crowd and the dealer. It was fun!!!

We fly home on Thursday. We made sure the pay a few extra bucks in order to book our seats a day early and guarantee we weren't in the row in front of the exit. It wasn't so bad. The flight wasn't completely full so it worked out. We had 3 seats together to just the 2 of us. We could spread out and take a nap. We needed it... We didn't get back to the house until a little after 2am.

Noah came in at 6 - like usual. I heard him coming down the hall because he SLAMS his door shut alerting me that he's headed my way. He stands outside the door for a few seconds. I call his name and comes in hesitantly. That's weird!! (later I found out it's because Penny slept with the door open - he was confused why the door would be closed) He trots over to my side of the bed. When I open my eyes and smile at him, he seems confused to see me. I say "Hi, Noah!" and chin starts to quiver and his lips starts to curl like he's going to cry! Poor little guy - I can tell by how he's looking at me that he thinks he's dreaming. It's only after I reach for him and pull him into bed with and give him a great BIG hug that he's able to stop quivering and see that I really am there. I think he thought he was dreaming - what a terrible dream for a 2 year old to have. Can you imagine the mental damage that would cause - "I dreamed mom came home but she didn't really. She's abandoned me!" But I was really there so all was well.

I have 36 hours to do laundry, settle back in from Vegas, and repack the suitcases before we head off on our next adventure. We are headed to San Francisco for Joyce's memorial service. I don't think we could have done it without Penny being there to help. I was so tired and there was so much to do. But we did it and we're off again!!! San Francisco or bust...