Saturday, July 28, 2007

Two final days in the Gulch

With the wedding and incredible post-event Italian dinner over (Fellini's at the Stratosphere; with the weight we all gained, I'm surprised the room didn't collapse under its own gravity and become a black hole), we headed back to our friend Vegas Gopher's home to retrieve The Boy.

A quick phone call to VG confirmed The Boy had a great time during his afternoon stay, but was beginning to get a little antsy over the critical, life-changing issue of whether or not he was going to get into his baseball jammies voluntarily. But by the time we arrived, said antsiness had been replaced by a smiling, cooperative Boy gladly wearing said jammies. VG and family seemed a little tired, but were still wearing smiles despite The Boy's friendly relentlessness.

We had a laugh over one event they mentioned, where our Boy commandeered their sofa, reclined, said "Nap time," and then stayed there for all of 30 seconds before resuming his previous relentlessness without missing a beat. (The things society could achieve with his energy... sheesh.) Anyway, his apparent microsnooze was for us a terribly familiar event, and meant the storm clouds were gathering, as The Boy had now gone two days without a nap.

So naturally, after two days of casino-induced physical restraint and naplessness, he was a cranky little monster the next morning. That morning we spent some time in the pool, then headed to the local Claim Jumper consume-mass-quantities restaurant to treat VG and family to lunch as an inadequate reward for their help. After stuffing ourselves silly once again -- admittedly a bad idea after the previous night's Fellini gorging -- we drove back to the hotel, only to witness The Boy's eyes glazing over and closing slowly as we pulled into the Fiesta Henderson's valet drop zone. Even the blinking, ringing, smoky cacophony of the Casino did not wake him during my carry-through.

I accepted Nap Duty -- heaven knows I needed one myself -- while Mrs. T did a little local shopping. Three hours later, with The Boy in a much better mood and with myself bearing a serious case of Bed Head, we reassembled ourselves and headed out to the most anticipated event of the trip for The Boy: The live pirate show at Treasure Island, on the Strip.

Now, that pirate show was something we really enjoyed 10 years ago. As we remembered it, the pirate ship anchored in front of the Treasure Island hotel comes under attack by a British Navy warship. Cannon fire is exchanged, the British ship sinks before the audience's eyes, and a good time is had by all ages. Perfect for The Boy, we thought.

So, it came as a bit of a surprise when, at the show's outset, a phalanx of lingerie-clad minxes took to the anchored former pirate ship, slinking one-by-one up the crow's nests and treating them as two-story stipper poles to the pounding beat of catwalk techno. Moments later, the former British Navy ship -- now converted into a pirate vessel bearing a manly-man bull's head out front instead of the traditional turk's head -- rounded the corner, bearing a crew of pec-equipped, washboard-abbed pirates straight from Style Magazine, none of whom had a complete shirt.

Not quite the show we'd expected, alas. He's not yet three, and we found ourselves inadvertently treating our son to his first live burlesque show.

After a few minutes of pelvic gyrations, suggestive lyrics and phallic cannon fire, all accompanied by The Boy pointing and asking "What's that?" as the pirate ship sank, the Playgirl Pirates had no choice but to swim over to the vixen's boat and live out the fantasies of 85 percent of men. Somewhere over the course of the show, The Boy learned to say the word "bustier." And in the end, his final review was, "The firework booms hurt my ears." Which was kinder than that given by my new bro-in-law Mike, who said simply, "God, that sucked."

Served us right, I suppose, for making time to see the show without researching it first. At least Vegas hadn't yet found a way to sex up the Mirage volcano.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Eighteen players, but no catcher

Saturday was the big day; 'Wedding Day" for my big sister and her fiance Mike.

We awakened Saturday at the usual time, our Circadian rythyms unaffected by either the six-hour drive to Henderson or The Boy's lack of a nap the day before. I started with a bathroom break and a quick "midget shower" (I'm 6'4", and I'll be damned if the showerhead didn't aim for my navel), followed by leading The Boy down the elevator and through the casino at Fiesta Henderson to the "Baja Beach Cafe," an otherwise unremarkable restaurant located just across the casino, bearing a $2.99 weekend breakfast and The Boy's waiting grandparents.

They fawned, he played with two new Hot Wheels Sis had provided the evening before, and I shoved bites of cantaloupe and honeydew melon into his Food Intake Port between imaginary engine noises. No bath for The Boy that morning; just after breakfast, he and Mrs. T would be heading for the hotel pool for a little morning dip. After his swim and bath, I took The Boy into the hotel's conference-room center to visit a roving craft show while Mrs. T. took her chances with the hotel's "midget shower." And at the craft show, what did The Boy find but an entire display of homemade candles -- he had to smell every last one -- and a display full of Hot Wheels and other die-cast vehicles. $9.00 and one toy Space Shuttle Discovery later, he remained a happy Boy.

Noon arrived, we got into our "business casual" clothes for the wedding ceremony, and we headed for a nearby McDonald's for a sure-thing Boy feeding. Naturally I'd brought along only one "good" shirt, and equally naturally, The Boy flicked his full-of-milk straw in my direction, splaying a series of white milk dots diagonally across my shirt. He earned his Time Out, and I resolved to avoid being in any wedding photos.

After dropping off The Boy at the home of old friend Vegas Gopher and family (no children allowed at the ceremony, alas), we made our way to the Stratosphere Hotel and met the rest of the wedding party. Fifteen guests, counting Mike's relatives, my parents, Mrs. T and myself, all seated in the "C Bar" near the hotel's entrance, sipping drinks and waiting for the bride to arrive.

Show Time arrived at half past three. I led Mrs. T and three other guests to our waiting minivan, while Bride, Groom and all parents climbed into the limo that would take them up the street to the Little Chapel of the Flowers, just north of the Stratosphere. We got there a little early, and given the day's 105-degree high, did a little bit of ironic "heel cooling" while waiting for the ceremony to begin.

Before we knew it, everything was done. Sis and Mike said their vows, stopping only once to belly-laugh as the officiant paused to blow his nose. We took pictures, they climbed back into the limo, and we headed back to the Stratosphere for an incredible Italian dinner at Fellini's.

Near dinner's end, I noticed Sis was still holding her bouquet. And I got to thinking, even if they left out a bouquet toss as a nod to being nontraditional, she's 43 and the last of her gang to get married. Only one wedding guest was single, he's obviously ineligible for a bouquet toss, and I think Mike wanted to keep the garter anyway.

So, in the end Sis waited a very long time for The One. So long, in fact, there was no one left to catch the bouquet.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Grades, delays, and regular balloons

The deed is done. My sister is officially married. The complete story will follow over the next few posts...

Last Friday, we loaded Mrs. T.'s van and headed out to Vegas for the festivities. While the drive's first half was indeed uneventful, the van's "Check Engine" light decided to brighten as we headed up a notorious mountain grade in the desert, popping the hood atop the grade and searching for trouble.

Rising from 1,000 feet to nearly 4,700 twice in a 30-mile stretch, that grade is no picnic for even the hardiest vehicles. What's worse is -- since it's in the midst of the high deserts of the eastern Mojave -- you just have to run your air conditioner the entire time, lest you wilt before your car does. A few days later, we still have no idea what brought on the "Check Engine" light; we're guessing it was some kind of emissions issue, and in the wake of our return to more normal altitudes, the light has indeed extinguished itself.

But that stop atop the grade was a time and nerve burner. We spent about 45 minutes there cooling the engine, and another 45 or so getting gas and coffee in the self-appointed post-desert oasis of Primm, Nv., a Starbucks and McDonalds-equipped hotel town that sprung up around slot machines and craps tables for those who just can't wait another 30 miles.

Between our time there, our one-hour lunch stop in scenic Barstow, Ca. (the state's true armpit), and some misdirection from Yahoo Maps on the route to our hotel -- thank you, Yahoo, for first asking us to find an unmarked and under-construction highway exit; then for putting us on a road festooned with traffic lights every 500 feet, and naturally, we did not catch a single green; and finally for leading us to the geographic center of Henderson, Nv., instead of to our hotel -- we wound up arriving in Vegas safely, but about two hours later than expected.

After a 15-minute freshen up, we headed for Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, located in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip at the Flamingo Hotel, for a meet-and-greet with the rest of the wedding party. I had the Cheeseburger in Paradise, and after watching his uncle-to-be Mikey sporting the traditional "Parrothead" animal-balloon hat, our Boy punctuated the meal with his spoken request: "I don't want an animal balloon! I want a regular balloon!"

The meal came and went, the margaritas flowed happily, and after another three hours, Thorne and family headed back to the hotel for a blissful night of sleep, all in preparation for the big day tomorrow.