Sunday, August 29, 2004

Clubbing

Very unusual for me not to have written anything since Thursday. I'm usually good at keeping this blog up-to-date. But, for the first time in a long while, I've actually been occupied on Friday and Saturday nights!!! Everyone, mark your calendars! I think Hell has finally frozen over!!!

Friday after work, I dined with joela and a long-time friend of his at the Steelhead Micro Brewery near UC Irvine. Noisy atmosphere, good food, and great company, but I sat with the sun shining into my eyes for most of the meal because the blinds would not roll down any farther. Joela has known his friend since his whoring pre-OC days, when he was first coming out, so I was treated to many stories of their adventures with a Coming Out Group.

After dinner, we drove to Laguna to check out my friend, the Diva Karen Cobb at Main Street and then maybe do a little dancing across the street at The Boom Boom Room. We listened to Karen belt out a few tunes, then moved next door for some much-needed cheesecake and more conversation. Finally, we sauntered across the street, dodging the cars that refused to stop for the crosswalk, and paid the cover charge to get into the Boom. And, I'm sorry to say, it was dull in there. Very few people, even hanging around the two go-go dancers on the upper bar. Two or three people danced the White Man Two Step on the dance floor, trying to act sexy in all that smoke. We sat in the lower bar for about 15 minutes, shouting over the non-stop drum beat (that never seemed to change the entire time) and people-watching. Through the windows, I think that I counted about 13 people -- alone and in pairs -- descend the steps to Blow Job Beach. shudders At the bar, two fairly unattractive men took off their shirts and sloppily kissed and kissed and fondled each other. That's what convinced us to leave.

Joela's friend decided to head home because he was tired (and had actually taken a short nap on the drive from the restaurant to Laguna). Joela and I returned to Main St. for a few more songs then called it a night. I know it doesn't sound terribly exciting, but it was fun getting out of the house, checking out the eye candy, listening to some live music. I plan on doing that more often.

"I have barrels of rubies, and breathtaking boobies"*

Saturday night, I took my close friend CS out for his birthday. To preface this, one of his favorite Disney films is their version of Hercules, especially the female protagonist, Megara, who is - to put it one way - the anti-love interest. CS discovered on-line that Susan Egan - the voice of Megara and the originator of Belle in the Broadway musical Beauty and the Beast - was to perform on his birthday at the OC Performing Arts Center. So I bought us tickets, and in doing so, learned that it was also the CD release party for her forthcoming CD Coffee House and that everyone in the audience would be getting an autographed copy of the CD. What could be a better birthday present?

I met CS at The Clubhouse where we dined on the second floor, with a breathtaking view of the South Coast Plaza area. CS ate a 9 oz. filet mignon stuffed with bleu cheese, and I chose the double-cut bourbon-glazed porkchops. And, yes, its tastes as good as it sounds. Our waiter, Ian, was very attentive and incredibly adorkable with his blue eyes, deep voice and dark goatee.

Sated and happy, we slowly walked to the Performing Arts Center. The concert was not held in the main theater, but in a smaller side music hall. They'd filled the room with tables instead of row upon row of chairs to give the audience the impression of being at a jazz club. Our table was one back from the stage, which I couldn't have planned any better. Susan came out on stage and immediatley started singing. The evening was filled with her fantastic voice singing such songs as Both Sides now from Joni Mitchell, Oh Very Young from Cat Stevens, a few tunes from the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, a song that was cut from the movie Hercules and selections from the album. She puncutated the show with snippets of her time on Broadway, stories about her leading men (and getting paid to kiss other peoples' husband, lovers, etc.), how the album came about, and growing up in Southern California. At one point, she gave up the stage so that her incredible guitarist Sean Harkness, who has many albums of his own, could dazzle us with a song. And, he did! It was magnificent watching his fingers fly over the strings and listening to that beautiful music. CS bought one of his albums before we left the theater. She then introduced her piano player, Christopher McGovern, who also served as the producer of the Coffee House album. (He also wrote the musical Lizzie Borden.)

It's funny how short the show seemed. When she finished, I looked at my watch and told CS that she had been singing for almost 1-1/2 hours straight. He looked at me in surprise. "I thought this was the intermission!!" he said. We could have easily listened to her belt out more songs for another two hours. Her show was the only thing we talked about on the walk back to our cars. Makes me wish I were thinner, in better shape, and could sing so the I could get paid to kiss all those men....


* lyric from the song Where in the World Is My Prince by Jerry Herman. Appears on the Coffee House album.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Getting nothing but static

In preparing for my eventual move to new digs, I re-discovered my old cassette tape carriers from Case Logic. I've had them since college so I could tote all my music to and from Humboldt State. Lately, they've been hidden on the top shelf in my closet. I'm not sure why, either, because when I unzipped one of them, I oohed and aahed at all the old tapes! Like Cosmic Thing from The B-52's. (Geez! That album was released in 1989!!! I feel so old -- especially since I own the cassette.) I hadn't listened to that one in quite awhile so I was giddy and surprised when Fred Schneider's voice shouted "Gyrate 'til you've had your fill!" from my car's tape deck, and I remembered all the words. I bopped and sang along -- with my windows rolled up, of course. When that tape ended, I pushed Kaleidoscope World by Swing Out Sister (and also from 1989) into the deck and once that first song came on, I continued making a fool of myself all the way to the office. I'm such a geek!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Portrait of the Artist, pt. II

S. asked one of the ushers how many seats the amphitheater held. "About 2600," she said and hurried down the steps to help the next guests. By the time the show started, not one of those 2600 seats was empty. Old folks, high schoolers, tourists from all over the world, and dozens of gay men and women all crammed into the uncomfortable, hard, red plastic seats. Some were smart enough to bring their own seat cushions.

The theme of this year's Pageant was "Portrait of the Artist," and thumbing through the program, I still wasn't sure exactly what they meant. Some of their choices were paintings or sculptures of artists created by other artists, including this David Hockney; some were what critics considered to be an artist's most personal piece; then there were the radioactive cats. They presented mastheads from ships, a gold salt cellar given to Francis I by Cellini, film noir movie posters and lobby cards. Four of John Gregory's bas reliefs from The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Each work was painstakingly recreated by background artists, makeup artists, costumers and actors so that when the theater lights hit them just right, you really believed that you were looking at an actual work of art. As each new scene appeared on stage, the audience broke into admiring whispers, punctuated every now-and-then by a quick flash from a pair of binoculars being raised or lowered.

My favorite was a painting by Berthe Morisot from 1874. The backdrop rolled onto center stage, with the lone woman already in place. As it moved, the actress fixed her collar, ruffled the sleeves of her dress, preened her hair to make sure nothing was out of place. She straightened her hat, then gently placed her hand on a prop. The lights dimmed then brightened and voilà...Morisot's The Harbor at Lorient. She blended so well into the painting that only by scrutinzing through the binoculars could I tell that a person was on the stage.

The night ended with Da Vinci's The Last Supper followed by the mass exodus of people. Even though we had to walk a bit uphill to reach my car, we didn't have to wait through the traffic jam of people and their cars tring to leave through Laguna Canyon. I made a quick u-turn then merged onto PCH and the way home.

Comments

Well, I've had it with Haloscan. With the comments' disappearing act, the lack of tech support from them, and the inability to login to access my account for the past week, the final straw has dropped and broken the proverbial camel's back. So I've dropped them and reverted back to the blogspot commenting system. Unfortunately, this means that I've lost all the wonderful comments from everyone. ...sigh...

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Portrait of the Artist

I left work early on Friday so that I would have enough time to drive north to pick up S. and then head south on Pacific Coast Highway toward the Pageant in Laguna Beach and begin the hunt for a parking spot. Parking in Laguna is almost non-existent on a Friday night. Meters line many of the streets, and a few places have small parking structures of their own. But, throw in the Pageant, and you're lucky if you can find something a mile away from the amphitheater. Fortune must have been smiling down on me because just before we crested the hill heading toward downtown Laguna, I remembered Cliff Dr. and swerved at the next light, finding a spot almost immediately.

Cliff Dr. overlooks much of the downtown, offering a magnificent view of the beaches, the million-dollar homes perched on the opposite hillside, and the Pacific Ocean as it stretches south and disappears around the bend toward San Clemente. People pay a pretty penny for just such a view; we only had to put $2.25 in the meter. (The metermaids stop monitoring them after 7 PM so we wouldn't have to continually run back to feed it.) As we made our way down the steps leading to Broadway, I pointed out the reserved parking for the Pageant: $9.00, and the lot was full at 6 PM.

We dined at The Jolly Roger and had a discussion with the man sitting alone at the next table concerning the many levels of cooking meat (i.e., rare, medium-rare, well, medium well, etc.). Very odd because at first, S. and I thought he was talking to himself. Then, we realized that he was waiting for one of us to respond. Turns out, he works as a waiter at Claes Restaurant just across the street at the Hotel Laguna. (Great food, but very expensive.) S. and I really wanted to go over some of the points of his move back to Reno, but the man continued talking. So we made small talk until our food arrived, then he wished us a good night.

The show didn't start until 8:30 PM so we had roughly an hour and a half to kill. We slowly walked toward the Pageant, windowshopping at a few of the galleries, dodging groups of elderly ladies with walkers and canes who stopped in the middle of the sidewalk to argue about where they were going. Once inside the grounds, S. bought a glass of Chardonnay and parked himself at a table while I wandered among the different art exhibits. This is one of the few times I'd be able to see works from many of the local studios in one place: paitings, photography, woodwork, ceramics, sculptures, etc. I found a few works that I liked -- many others that I wondered Just how much crack were you smoking at the time? One of my favorite artists, though, turned out to be David Milton. I'm not sure why, but his paintings of the crumbling neon motel and bowling alley signs just struck a chord with me. I can remember some of those places from the camping trips my family used to take every summer across the U.S., kind of like beacons pinpointing our way across Arizona and New Mexico.

...to be continued...


Weight: 196 lbs.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Living Art

Tonight, we're going to the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach, a presentation that's been running for over 70 years. Actors re-create works of art on stage, from paintings to scultpures to figurines to posters. It's very similar to part of the opening ceremonies of this year's Olympics with the floats depicting different periods in Grecian and Olympic history, only no one on stage is allowed to move for 2-3 minutes.

Laguna Beach began as an artists' colony around 1878. The beauty of the area attrcted so many artists and gained such a popular reputation as an art colony that by the early 1900's, over 300 people called Laguna Beach home. The Fesitval of Arts developed from a need for a permanent place to display some of the works of the talented individuals, and the Art Association came up with a festival to display their works as well as to raise much-needed funding for the gallery. The first one was held in the week following the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. It was a big hit, with the most popular event being the Living Pictures show created by artist and vaudevillian Lolita Perine. She would dress locals in costumes and set them in a large picture frame. From that humble beginnig sprang what is today known as the Pageant of the Masters which attracts thousands of visitors each year. It's become so popular that even Bette Davis appeared in the presentation during one summer.

While the theme is different each year, one item remains constant: the finale. Every year, they close with a re-enactment of Da Vinci's The Last Supper. It's a breathtaking sight and always receives oohs and aahs and applause from the audience.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Pardon my rant

Rev. Falwell continues to make himself a very intolerant person. In this article, it discusses how he's putting together an army of lawyers for God, to paraphrase the article. For the most part I think of religion as a very positive influence on peoples' lives. It gives a focus and a sense of community where there may be none, a sort of beacon to guide the way. With someone like Falwell, the light begins to dim, the water becomes murky and those who should be helping to guide us are steering us into a whirlpool of intolerant tolerance. The phrase "One nation, under God" should be written with the added lines "as long as it's our God and you believe as we do."

Politics and religion were meant to be two separate processes; the Founding Fathers wrote in the First Amendment1 of the freedom of religion and the freedom from any religion being forced upon anyone. As President James Madsion once said: "The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries,"2 (possibly meaning the Crusades, the Inquisition, the "bonfires of the vanities," the tyrannical rule that the church in Europe held over people long ago). If Falwell were to have his way and were to win his battles to have laws changed in favor of a religious stance, wouldn't that be forcing his religious beliefs on others? Isn't that going against the very Constitution of the country he calls home?

As a gay man, I'm not looking for special rights. Marriage isn't (and should never be) a "special" right, but for now, it is very exclusionary. What I'm looking for is equal rights, the same as every other, tax-paying American living on this soil. It's written into the Constitution that I should have equal rights so how dare Falwell and other like-minded inviduals attempt to take that away from me.

Just my rant for the day. Thanks for listening.

1 from the Legal Information Institute

2 from World Wide Web Find

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Happy 200!!

No, it's not for The Simpsons. This, folks, is my 200th posting since my blog became a reality way back in November. I can't believe it's lasted this long. And, that people are actually reading it. And, that they keep coming back. I feel almost like Sally Field, only without the statuette and the fancy dress.

On an even happier note, I've found a place to stay! I won't say much more because I don't want to jinx anything. I will say that it's going to be a bit strange, being single again and having my own place to boot. Thanks to everyone for their words of support; they've been a great help.

pic fromSimpsons Crazy

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Just a quick update on my weight: 195 lbs. and maintaining. I walked quite a bit today, though, so maybe that will help bring it down a notch or two. Other than that, it's been a quiet day spent out of doors, basking in the sunshine. Which can only lead to no good, seeing as I burn easily. Must be that little bit of Irish running through my genes.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Dichotomy

We drove around the neighborhood this afternoon, checking out rental possiblities. I jotted down the phone numbers then quickly called on the cell phone. The majority of the time, I learned that the place was too big or the rent too high; but I know that I will find the right place at the right time. I'm not worrying about it as I was earlier in the week.

What struck me most, though, on our little tour of Huntington Beach, was how vastly different one street is from another. I don't mean just the paving of the streets, but the quality of the buildings. One street is lined with beatuiful one-story homes, probably built back in the early 1920s or 1930s. The yards are meticulously manicured with mutli-colored and fragrant flowers arched over entryways. No signs of fading or flaking paint can be observed from the sidewalk. Nice elderly couples and tanned yuppie-types say hello as you pass them by. Even the cars parked in front are clean and/or high-quality.

One block over, and the streets are in desperate need of re-paving. Weeds sprout through the cracks in the sidewalks, when there are sidewalks. The houses and apartment complexes appear run down and slum-like, crying out for new paint jobs and other rennovations to bring them into the 21st Century. The cars run the gamut from dilapidated Nissans to over-sized pick-ups with Megadeath or Balck Flys labels or something in Spanish pasted to the windows. Fresh laundry or neoprene wetsuits hang over the bannisters to dry. No one says hello if you dare to walk by the buildings; they stare at you through the windows of their darkened rooms, waiting for you to make one false move so they can call the police. You feel an air of reluctant resignation, as if the landlords as well as tenants have given up their efforts to make the area look livable.

On the next street, many of the older, one-storied homes have been torn down and replaced with duplexes or triplexes. Huge pepto-bismal pink or canary yellow structures to cram more people into tinier spaces for more money. SUVs and BMWs line those streets, with young couples and their children clambering in to drive anywhere but where they are at that moment. You look West and there, at the end of the street, just past the palm trees, awaits the Pacific Ocean.

A little slice of the world and all its diversity, right in our own backyard. This is the place I want to call home.

-----

By the by, I had to remove a book from my reading list. Though I am a fan of Stephen King, I could not get any farther in Dreamcatcher, no matter how many times I've tried to pick up from where I left off. The story kept me riveted for quite sometime until King introduced the military figures which were too clichéd and one-sided for my tastes. I lost momentum after that, set the book aside for a week or two, and tried to get back into it but couldn't. So I am reshelving it, perhaps to try again at a later date.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

"'Cause everything is rent!" *

I awoke this morning at 4:30, tossed and turned, and wound up staring at the alarm clock's green glow on the wall, unable to get back to sleep. My mind has been troubled this week -- actually, the past two weeks -- with trying to find a new place. And it all comes down to rent. I know what I can afford and where I would like to live, but the two don't coincide. Orange County is not the most affordable of places to live. For a studio, a small 15x15 box, landlords want $1000-$1200 depending upon the location. What I can afford would put me in some pretty bad neighborhoods or government-sponsored low-rent housing.

Of course, there's always the option of moving in with someone, sharing an apratment or house. I've thought about it, but I really want to live on my own. All through college, I had roommates or flatmates. After school, I moved in with my folks, then with a friend of a friend, then with a close friend, then finally S. 10 years of living with someone else; I think I deserve a little "me" time. Probably asking too much, I know.

The search continues....

* lyric from the song "Rent" from the musical "Rent" by Jonathan Larson

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Why can't I have nice things?

So after spending $181 for four new tires, guess what I discovered this morning? Last night, someone stole two of the stem caps from them. You know, those little black plastic caps on the inner tubes that help to keep the air in? How f*ing annoying!!

What really puzzles me is what would anyone want with just two of them?

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Weight: 195 lbs.

Now, that's a surprise. Because I went off the French Fry Wagon this week, eating them with almost every dinner but two. I love French fries, but they're my weakness. As is cheesecake. And vanilla ice cream smothered in hot fudge sauce and whipped cream and sprinkled with chopped peanuts. But still no soda. I've been good with that, not having any since New Year's Eve. The hankering for it has even disappeared which I never thought possible.

Friday after work, I opted not to go to the gym. My thighs still smarted from Wednesday when I increased the weights on one of the thigh machines. I walked bowlegged all day and didn't think it to be a good idea to overdo it so soon. Instead, we saw The Bourne Supremacy. What an incredible movie! It picks up two years after The Bourne Identity, with many from that first film reprising their rols and quite a few new baddies. Matt Damon and Joan Allen give fine performances, as does the whole cast, but what steals the movie is the car chase through the streets of Moscow that then head into a tunnel beneath the city. The twists and turns those cars go through in that small space are incredible to watch!

Yesterday was a bit more subdued. After waking at 6:30, I drove to my folks to get new tires. There's a little shop in laguna Niguel called Tucker Tire Company that comes highly recommended by my Dad. I'm sold on them now, too. 4 new tires for $181, and they will rotate them for free. And we were out of there in 30 minutes! We then picked up my Mom and drove down the Old Highway to San Juan Capistrano. Before the 5 freeway was expanded to 5 lanes in either direction, the only way to get from Orange County to San Diego was via a two lane blacktop that wound through the foothills and by the Pacific. this old raod is still there but is now more of a scenic drive, taking you into downtown San Juan Capistrano and The Mission. We ate a nice filling breakfast at Mollie's Café and Bistro then made our way to Dana Point Harbor to work off some of the breakfast and to watch the pelicans.

I left them to pack for their trip and made it back home around 12:30. We spent the rest of the day separating the DVDs and other knick-knacks from the downstairs bookshelves. Not as difficult as I thought it would be. Once that was done, he went online to check the job boards while I watched The Battleship Potemkin, another classic silent film from the 1920's, read a little and went to sleep.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Dinner in Laguna

Last night, I met my old roommate for dinner. This old roommate is a very close friend, in fact, so close that I introduced him to his partner of 5 years. (I'm big enough not to mention that his partner and I were on a date at the time.) They recently moved to North Lake Elsinore or "Arizona," as we call it. No offense inteded to any Arizonans who may be reading this.

So last night he stopped by the office to pick me up, and we cruised down Pacific Coast Highway toward Laguna Beach. It's been so long since I've been down that way, but nothing's changed. The same art galleries lining the highway, the wonderful aromas coming from the restaurants, the sunset light bouncing of the sweaty torsos of the young men playing one-on-one. The deluge of cars and people making their way to the Pageant of the Masters and the ArtWalk. I wondered aloud if we would be able to find a parking spot near the restaurant.

Luck smiled down on us. As we made our way into the parking structure, an open spot near the entrance waited for us. He pulled in, and as I was about to put quarters into the meter, I saw that the previous occupant had left us an hour and a half of time. We happily walked to the restaurant, one of our favorites in Laguna Beach, The Jolly Roger. It's been around Laguna for many years, on the same corner just across the street from the Hotel Laguna as it's always been. We sat and talked about the water damage in to their house, his partner's work situation, our families and current events in my life. The food and company were fantastic, as always, and the twenty-something surfer/waiter very cute and attentive.

After dinner, we drove to Main Street, one of the local gay bars in South Laguna. We used to frequent it all the time to see our friend the Diva Karen Cobb, or Roxie, or a host of other cabaret performers on Friday nights. The clientele tends to be a bit older - late 30s on up - but the bar itself is a great place to sit, relax and unwind. (If that gets too boring, there's always the Boom Boom Room across the street.) More talk, this time about the curve ball thrown into my personal life.

It's time for me to find a new place to live, and I always dread moving. Rent in Orange County isn't cheap, especially for one person. A one bedroom apartment can rent for up to $1300, and it will be a shitty little hole of a place. I've thought about a roommate, but for now, I feel it would be best to live on my own for a time, maybe get a second job to help with the rent. My old roommate told me that if I ever needed a place to stay, they had plenty of room at their house. (I really love my friends!) I thanked him but told him I wanted to see what would happen first.

My watch read 8:00 PM so we decided to head back to the office so I could pick up my car. It felt good to sit and talk about everything that's been happening and catching up. I need to do that more often.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I Got the Music in Me

After seeing all the "100 Item" lists and other meme's and quizzes out there, I thought it might be interesting to list my 10 Favorite Albums of All-Time. Mind you, I have about 200 CDs, 100 cassettes, and 60-some-odd vinyl LPs back at my folks. (I won't let them sell my copy of In the Navy!) I even have some old 45s, like Richard Chamberlain singing the theme to Dr. Kildare. These, however, are the ones I listen to over and over, can recite the lyrics by heart, sing along with when I'm listening in the car (or at home). Some of them I've been listening to since they were released on vinyl; others are more recent additions. They're a part of my life and will always be there to cheer me up or to mellow me out, like great friends always do.

And now, without futher ado, and in no particular order:


  • In My Tribe...10,000 Maniacs
  • Furious Angels...Rob Dougan
  • Hounds of Love...Kate Bush
  • The Final Cut...Pink Floyd
  • Savage...Eurythmics
  • Yesterday Once More...The Carpenters
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road...Elton John
  • December...George Winston
  • Ain't Misbehavin'...Original Broadway Cast Recording
  • Two Way Monologue...Sondre Lerche

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Viva Lost Wages, pt. III

The remaining two days of the conference were filled with meetings, speeches and a mini-product demo. In between, we met with our fellow co-workers from around the world, many of whom I've only spoken with on the phone. It was wonderful to finally put a face to the voice, especially when it's someone I speak with on an almost daily basis.

On Thursday at 4:45, inbetween the last meeting of the day and dinner, while most everyone else decided to try the pool with its swim-up blackjack table, I decided to take a small sojourn to the Mandalay Bay. I crossed the walkway to the Excalibur to catch the mini-tram that runs between the Excalibur, the Luxor and the Mandalay Bay Resorts. What should have been a quick ride turned into 20 minutes with the tram heading for Luxor, back to Excalibur, farther back into a main terminal because a child decided to loose his (or her) dinner on the floor of one car, then to the Excalibur, the Luxor and finally Mandalay Bay. The herd followed one another into the hotel, and the majority filed off to lose themselves among the slot machines. I looked up and found the signs pointing toward the Shark Reef, an aquarium filled with all sorts of dangerous sea creatures.

The walk from the tram station to the other end of the hotel, where Shark Reef was located, must have been 1/2 a mile at least. But, what a walk! The casino is gorgeous, not like the red-carpeted, flashing neon of the Tropicana. Everything is clean; the waitresses are sharply dressed; and all the employees say hello to you as you pass. After the casino vcome the epxensive shops and restaurants -- what you're likely to see on Rodeo Dr. in LA -- and a full theater for stage shows. Then, I finally reached the other side, paid my $15.95 and entered the sinking city.

Shark Reef is designed to resemble an ancient temple slowly being reclaimed by the waters off the coast of Burma, with jungle plants and vines run amok. Each of the viewing chambers keeps up the theme and throws in such incredible creatures as Golden Crocodiles, Black Paku, pirahna, eel, rays, skates and snakes. The final room resembles a sunken ship, and standing in its bowels, you're surrounded on all sides by water filled with hammerhead sharks. They swim over, under and around you. Look up and you can almost count the rows of sharp, barbed teeth. I lost myself in the exhibits and when I finally bothered to look at my watch, it was already 6 PM. The dinner had just started so I an up the steps, turned in my magic wand (a.k.a. listening device), and almost ran across the floor of the Mandalay Bay.

Surprisingly, I made it back to the Tropicana in 15 minutes.

The next day consisted of specialized group sessions so I met with other Office Managers from around the country. We shared ideas and had a great time just getting to know one another. That night capped the event with a Costume Party/Karaoke Blowout, and I danced and took pictures until midnight. Saturday, we said our goodbyes to friends new and old over breakfast then headed to the airport in small groups to catch our planes home.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Viva Lost Wages!, pt. II

The front desk of The Tropicana is to the immediate left of the heavy glass doors and up a few steps. I don't think we were expecting the line of people waiting to check-in; it reminded me of opening day queue for the Indiana Jones attraction at Disneyland. Families huddles together protecting their luggage. Groups of friends chattering away or napping. Frustrated guests complaining to the less-than-attentive desk staff. We ran into Kim P., our company's Events Coordinator, who told us that 1) the Tropicana's computers went down for about an hour and came back on-line only moments ago, and 2) the sorority girls who were to have checked out that morning decided to stay for another night, effectively kicking us out of our contracted rooms. So no double beds. Instead, we had the option of a king-sized bed with an additional hide-a-bed in the tower, or a king-sized bed and a cot in one of the Liberace-colored buildings. After winding around the line for a good 50 minutes, I opted for the hide-a-bed. My roommate and I could discuss sleeping arrangements after he arrived.

The trek to the room took another 15 mintues, crossing the semi-smoky casino floor with my one suitcase, up the escalator, across the shop-lined hallway stretching over the pool, and finally reaching the glass elevators to take me to the 11th floor. A group filed into the elevator behind me, effectively forcing me to the back. I didn't mind as I had a great view of the pool with New York-New York and its Statue of Liberty and roller coaster rising in the background.

We reached the 11th floor, and I pried my way through the crowd. My room was at the very end of the long hallway. And I do mean long. (One thing I have to say about the Tropicana is that you can do a lot of walking without ever leaving the hotel buildings.) Sweating by the time I reached the room, I quickly slid my key into the lock and tossed my bag onto the bag. The room itself wasn't too bad, typical of what you expect at a fairly inexpensive hotel. Clean sheets and floors, clean bathroom, comfy sofa-bed. But then, I saw the mirrors. Not only serving as a headboard but along the wall to the left of the bed and then crawling across the ceiling over it. What's worse, the mirror was cut into shapes that were each framed in hardwood! Tom from Queer Eye would get his knickers in a bunch if he walked into that room. I had to immortalize this room for posterity so I snapped a quick shot with the digital camera.

After unpacking, I had a few hours to kill before the Welcome Dinner at 6:30 so I trekked back across the shops and casino floor and out into the heat. Something they have at the intersection of Tropicana and S. Las Vegas Blvd. is the raised walkway. It's a heavily trafficked intersection so instead of forcing people to wait for the lights to change in their favor, the city built elevated walkways from corner to corner allowing for better foot traffic. I crossed from the Tropicana to Excalibur then to New York-New York. The inside impressed me quite a bit with how much the architects and designers made you feel as though you were walking the streets of New York City. Kinda spooky. My main goal here was to ride the Manhattan Express, a looping roller coaster that swerves through the hotel property. What an awesome ride! When you climb that first hill and look down, you swear that nothing's holding the car up. Then, the first drop hurtles you toward Tropicana Blvd. swerving and climbing at the last minute only to speed into a vertical loop. The car slows for a few moments. You just about catch your breath when the car inverts, hanging you upside down over the hotel's pool and finishing in a downward curve. The hills, twists, turns and stops never let you fully recover so that by the time you exit the car, your mind is dizzy with excitement!

I snapped a few more pictures on the way back to the hotel. Our agenda mentioned that some of the showgirls from the Folies Bergères would be joining us for photo opportunities throughout the meal which I thought was a nice touch. There the two ladies stood when I approached the doors to the banquet room. Very scantily clad. I guess there's only so much you can do with feathers. One of my co-workers took my picture with the ladies, and yes, I held my hand behind my back because I wasn't sure where to put them. They had so much skin and so little covering it that I afraid of resting my hand anywhere. The ladies were very nice and seemed to enjoy going around the tables taking pictures and talking with the guests.

Running around earlier finally caught up with me so I ate quickly, then gambled away about $50 in the progressive slots before heading up to bed. Need to rest up for the next day's meetings.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Viva Lost Wages!

When I first started with my company almost six years ago, we had yearly training sessions which all staff members -- including those from Europe, Asia, and Australia -- attended, known as BTS, or Back To School. A great time to connect the voice on the phone to the actual person, to share ideas with peers and to learn new tecniques and procedures for dong business and increasing profitability. The last one held was in the year 2000 in Montréal. Then, the bottom started to fall from one of our main markets, 9/11 happened, and the company was forced to cut back on a few large items.

A few month ago, though, word trickled down from HQ that another BTS was in the works. Destination: Las Vegas! I hadn't been there since I was in single digits so I planned on making this short trip as much fun and to cram in as much as possible. (I know, it's only a short, 45-minute flight from where I live, but who knows when I'm going to get the chance to go back?!) I checked on-line for non-gambling things to do because I suck at gambling. I have no patience for the card or roulette tables, and slots are very monotonous. I found a few shows and attractions to whet my appetite and eagerly waited for July 28 to roll around.

As the date approached, my eagerness dissipated. All I know of Las Vegas is the gambling, the casinos and what TV shows us. If you don't drink or gamble, there's not really much else to keep you occupied. My co-worker kept re-assuring me that Vegas offered plenty to do, like shopping, shows, roller coasters. That was only part of my problem with the trip. Another was leaving BG alone in the office for 2-1/2 days. Oy! Yet another is that I always have a trepidation about meeting large groups of people, even if I already know most of them. I clam up, struggle with insecurity, and feel as though I'm the joke of the whole event. I'd rather be in the background, one of the people who sets up the event and gains satisfaction from making sure everyone else has a good time. That's what I used to do in college both as President of the Resident Program Board in the dorms and as a Resident Advisor. (By the way, Kim P., if you're reading this, you did a FABULOUS job with this BTS!!!)

Then Wednesday arrived, and I was excited about the trip. I picked up my co-worker and drove to the office that morning. Our flight was scheduled for 1:40 PM, but the office sits directly across the street from the airport so we worked for half the day. I trained the talent scheduled to answer phones while we were gone, and soon, we were on a plane headed for Sin City.

By the way, if you've never flown in to Las Vegas, the turbulence will scare the crap out of you. A few people, yours truly among them, gripped the seat arms until our knuckles turned white. However, we did manage to arive 13 minutes early with everyone (and the plane) still intact. That was a good sign. Until we reached The Tropicana. From the taxi, all I could see of the "resort" were the older buildings: mismatched gaudy colors, paint flaking, and built in either the 1950s or 1960s. (I didn't realize that the two huge towers were also part of the "resort.") I said, "That's where we're staying?" the disappointment registering in my voice, my mind imagining the interior to resemble one of those seedy motels along the highway. I expected glaring neon or some kind of unique building shapes such as at The Luxor or Paris Resorts, not a throwback to Liberace. We quickstepped from the cab, through the 99˚F desert heat, and into the air-conditioned casino.