Thursday, October 2, 2008

Travels and Tribulations

There is the Vegas in my mind's eye, and there the Vegas that is not. The Vegas of my embedded body memory is the Vegas where tortoises walk across your front lawn after a desert downpour, and where you travel out to the desert to see the tarantulas migrate. The Vegas where swimming pools are a dime a dozen, and breakfast on Sunday is delicious and cheap. The Vegas where the Strip means glamour and success, and is special place to go.

There are the Vegas memories I received from hearing the conversations of my parents and their peers when I was just a Vegas tot scrambling over ashtrays with still-burning butts while I played with my Fisher-Price 8-wheeled ride-on truck.

The Vegas of last week, however, was the Vegas of Mass Humanity. The word Zoomanity kept erupting in my head over and over as we went up the escalators, down the escalators; up the elevators, down the elevators; up the stairs, down the stairs; through the casinos, back through the casinos; waiting in line for $4.99 coffee, waiting in line for $2.50 banana; waiting in line for a tram, waiting in line in traffic. Endless masses of humanity--hands and bodies, and stinky smells, cigarettes and high heels, tourists and locals, casino workers, porn peddlers, faces, butts, and the unrelenting afternoon heat. Oh yes, and those masses of bodies.

Speaking of bodies, both the highlight and the lowlight of the trip was a trip to the Bodies Exhibition that is currently showing at the Luxor. I have been interested in seeing the exhibit since I first heard of it from my physical therapist friend who flew to LA just to see the showing a few years back. In viewing the slideshow that the Luxor provides, I was psyched to see the first image of a mother with her small children discovering what our insides are made of. I should've taken closer note of the constrained baby in the backpack.

The Vegas family vacation all began with picking up my Kindergartner from school, rushing home to down some lunch, quickly packing the final necessities into her pack, and heading down to Albuquerque to catch our plane. My other half, who had already been in Vegas for 3 days, had smartly carried all our luggage, liquid containers, etc. so I hoped for an easy transition through Airport Security with my two pups. No problems!

We arrive at the gate, two eager kittens quivering in anticipation hot on my heels, each wheeling their wheely backpacks full of snacks, toys, and books. We fill up our water bottles in the nearest fountain, and check in at the gate. "Looks like the plane is running early," I thought to myself as I glanced at the board and saw a 5:15 arrival time under our flight number. The girls pretended to be patient for about 5 minutes, when my youngest started wailing in frustration. The young college kid next to us shifted uncomfortably and logged into his laptop. "I need go poop!!" She shouted out at about 98 decibels, at which point the college kid, popped in his iPod earphones. "When's the plane going to be here, Moooommm, when????" My oldest started in with full whining bravado. "Should be any minute," I whispered, hoping they'd take my cue. The next few minutes seemed to ebb and flow with whining, crying, moaning, mock laughter, and lots of hushed whispers from me. My oldest threw herself on the floor, and knocked into the shoes of an elderly gentlemen across the aisle. With grandfatherly grace, he simply moved his feet aside and continued reading his NY Times without so much as a glance. I asked that she respect other people's space, and she inched closer to me, but still sprawled out in the middle of the floor.

I sighed. "What was I thinking, haven't I told myself I wouldn't do this by myself again?" I sighed again and checked my watch. I checked my boarding pass again to make sure of the time of departure--4:35 pm. Wait, wait, wait, I thought, what am I thinking?? I did the quick calculation in my head and realized the plane was running late. Cripes! I thought. How did I get that messed up? We were already over an hour early, now we'd have to wait another 40 minutes? Actually another 65, but by that time, who was counting?

In my delirious haze, I neglected to turn my phone on, or call my Honey to let him know we'd be late...we'll only be a few minutes late, I kept thinking.
I made the brilliant decision to take a shuttle for $20 to the hotel, instead of a taxi. Whoops. We were nearly the last group to be dropped off, after enduring rush hour traffic on the Strip with a crazy shuttle driver. I have to give him props, though, for maneuvering that bus through places I would've taken out the quarter panels on. Finally we get to the hotel, hook up with Daddy, and set out to find out room. The girls are starving, we have nothing but Tootsie Pops and Fruit Leathers.

After an hour of walking and bypassing eateries with no lines, we ended up back where we started, and waited in line. The food was mediocre, but provided some sustenance. Our 6 yr. old hid under the dining table for the duration of the meal, but fortunately we we in a corner booth, so nobody but the waiter seemed to notice, or care.

Back to the room to make plans for the next day. Swimming, Interbike, F.A.O. Schwartz toy store, shopping at a grocery store, and dinner. Pretty simple stuff. After a morning of swimming in the pretty fancy pool, we headed to the Venetian to find Papa and stroll through Interbike. After 88 minutes of driving 2 1/2 blocks and doing 188 passes through the Venetian parking garage, I finally found a spot. The girls and I headed through the Venetian to find the Interbike show.

Entering Bicycle Madness at Interbike 2008
Waves and Waves of people passed all around us and eventually we made it to the show. I got badged up, and we headed into the hall. "I'm staaaarrrrrvvvving" both girls wailed in absolute pity at the same moment. A hustle-shuffle-buffle-bustle moment ensued, and my oldest somehow managed to boot my youngest from the stroller and stole her spot. We had barely entered the doors, when we decided to turn around and find food. It was straight up noon.

The Venetian is a lovely hotel, and for all the massive amounts of consumption that Vegas offers up each day--the Venetian is one of the finest. We made our way to the central palazza and proceeded to wait to be called to a table. Little did I know, but the Venetian offers up entertainment for those strolling and waiting. As we proceeded to take a break by sitting down on a small stage housing a statue, I discovered the statue was a real person. I should've taken more notes about my youngest child's potential, as she shot straight up onto the stage and stood next to the Statue, and refused to come back down. The kind statue moved gently, probably trying to shoo her away, but my stubborn one stood her ground. Finally we convinced her that we were going to eat and she should come along. This is when I discovered that my oldest daughter was trembling in fright about the Statue. I never cease to be amazed at what will turn a perfectly grumpy and hungry child into a sniveling pile of drivel.

Fortunately, the rest of the day went as planned.

Friday we enjoyed the Shark Reef at the Mandalay Bay, which the girls and I had been to before. It rivals most far-from sea aquariums, and has some pretty cool creatures, as well as architecture.

The "Siginator" enjoying the second tunnel at Shark Reef.

My nearly 3-year old had found a stuffed sting-ray she named Towel while we were at the 3-story toy store the previous day, so we had fun meeting and petting some real sting-rays named "Towel" like this little guy...

After spending a whole lot of money to go through the Shark Reef and eat at the Mandalay Bay Garden Buffet, we decided to take the tram over to the Luxor and go through the Bodies Exhibition . My squeamish sweetie decided to "wait it out" so the girls and I bought tickets and went on in. Being a museum exhibit, and not your typical Vegas photo-op, all visitors are asked to turn off their cell phones and put all cameras away. We entered the first room which housed several small Plexiglas displays and one real skeleton. There were probably 30 people or so in the room. Everyone spoke in hushed whispers. The Docent asked if anyone had questions. I watched the ""Siginator" stroll up to the skeleton, which was not enclosed in any sort of protective case, and knew what was to occur before I could react. Amongst the quiet whispers and quiet sounds of fascination and wonder, I saw this child walk up to the skeleton and reach out as if it were all in slow motion. She clasped the femur of this poor, dead person just as I thrust my arms out in an attempt to prevent the connection. I grabbed my child just as she threw down the iron grip around the femur. As I pulled her away, the skeleton's leg came with us. She released her grip and an amazing crash enveloped the room. The entire room heaved an enormous collective gasp and then utter and complete silence. Eyes pierced through my skin from every direction. In astonishment, I stared wide-eyed at the Docent and she stared wide-eyed back at me. "I'm sure we can fix it," she stammered at me, and I prayed that they could. Thoughts of being ushered away, casino security, payments in the thousands all ran through my head. But suddenly, the skeleton was made whole again.

And just as quickly the entire room emerged into a sound of hurried, hushed whispers of scorn and wonder. I felt my face turn seventeen shades of red and then my baby, my youngest child, erupted into a 100 decibel wail. Obviously the entire series of events had stunned and frightened her. I felt like running away, crawling under a rock, departing the exhibit--well except for the fact that the tickets cost so much. I comforted her as best as I could, endured the remaining minutes of embarrassment, and then we continued on through the rest of the displays, my child clinging to me like a monkey. Thankfully.

The show was fascinating, however. And I do recommend it to most anyone.

After all the day's excitement, after returning to our room, we decided to go escalator hopping for a couple hours. Nothing like going up and down and up and down to make everyone feel better!

We decided to get married, too.

The next day we headed off to Red Rocks to attempt a route before the temps climbed above 95. We got up there around 9 am, and the girls and I strolled leisurely up to the climbs, while their Climber Daddy booked it up in order to secure a route, just in case of crowds. The heat was already unbearable, but once at the climbs we managed to settle into a lovely shady
nook. Some teenage kids were climbing outside for their first time. Always a thrill to watch! (While secretly hoping that someone taught them how to get down safely.) We enjoyed the morning, and the escape from the cigarettes and casino noise. Once the heat became thoroughly too much, we went off to lunch at BJs Brew House--a very delicious option! The food was delicious and reasonably priced, and the freshly brewed beers were craft and tasty.

Back to the pool for some serious swimming and meathouse-watching before it closed. The slide was fantastic, but I sure do wonder how those half-asleep lifeguards deal with all those drunken swimmers. Between drunk grandmas, drunk frat boys, drunk old men, it was astonishing to see that no one had biffed it.

After another night of escalator hopping and strolling around Caesar's Palace and the Bellagio, we got packed and ready to go. Enduring one more round of insane Zoomanity while traveling to the airport and through security, we managed to get to the gate without too much wear and tear--with the exception that we lost Signe's shoes somewhere along the way. We discovered the small-town joys of being a New Mexican when we ran into an old friend at the gate and passed the hour away chatting about home. The girls were much more accustomed to waiting, and not a single wail erupted during our wait to catch the plane.
Now, I need a vacation to recover from my vacation...

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