Category Archives: Las Vegas

Vivi, Las Vegas!

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Viva, Las Vegas! Vivian and I decided to celebrate our “sushi anniversary” by taking a break from our midwestern winter wonderland and enjoying a week in the city of neon lights. I’ve visited Las Vegas five times before, all for business while working at Land and Sky. This was the first time I’d gone to visit just for fun. Vivian had never been to Las Vegas at all, so I was able to show her all the sights and sounds of Sin City.

The weather was a balmy 70 degrees or so — warm enough for the hotels to keep the pools open. It was quite mind-boggling to see people swimming at the Bellagio in the middle of January as if we were in the middle of summer. We kicked off our weekend by stopping for lunch at the Inn-n-Out on Tropicana, which was within walking distance of our hotel. The first time I ever ate at the cult burger chain was during my very first trip to Las Vegas back in 2006, so it only seemed fitting to stop by there again.

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After spending some time exploring the strip, we met up with Vivian’s childhood friend Alan at the New York, New York’s Gonzalez Y Gonzalez restaurant for dinner. He grew up with Vivian in Petaluma and even spent a little time in Bellevue before eventually winding up in Las Vegas nine years ago, so it was nice for him and Vivian to have a chance to catch up. We spent some time afterward wandering up to the Bellagio to watch a couple of their famous fountain shows and then explore the conservatory inside, which was decked out for the Chinese New Year (the year of the rabbit, as it turns out).

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We made sure to take one trip downtown so we could see the canopy light show above Fremont Street. I’ve always enjoyed staying downtown when it Las Vegas — seems like a much quieter version of the strip with much less walking distance between casinos.

The next day, we kicked off our sightseeing with a big breakfast buffet at the Monte Carlo and then a trip to the top of the Stratosphere. It’s always fun to get a good bird’s-eye view of Las Vegas, and the Stratosphere’s the only place I know of where you can see downtown Las Vegas, the Strip, and the World Market Center all at the same time. Our stay was unfortunately cut short when some nut tried to jump off the observation deck. Fortunately, the management were quite professional in preventing the guy from becoming road pizza, but they ushered everybody out of the place and got plenty of emergency personnel on the ground just in case. (As a bonus, we got a refund for our trip to the top).

We had to spend some time finding our way to a bus stop to get back to the strip, where we did a little sightseeing visiting the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Sign and the M&M’s World. Our dinner that evening was the enormous seafood buffet at the Rio, where Vivian and I tried to get our money’s worth by stuffing ourselves with all the split lobsters tails, crab legs, sushi, and ceviche we could eat. This night was our “Sushi Anniversary,” of course, so we had to have sushi!

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We stuck around afterward to see the Penn & Teller, everyone’s favorite libertarian atheist magicians. Audience members were allowed to go on stage and inspect a large wooden box that Teller would eventually pop out of. Pianist Mike Jones and Penn Jillette himself performed music on stage as everyone eventually got seated. The tricks themselves were quite amazing, and the duo revealed how some of them were performed — mostly through slight of hand and misdirection.

The highlight, however, was actually getting to meet both Penn & Teller after the show. They stayed in the lobby signing autographs and having pictures taken with audience members, so Vivian and I had a turn with each of them. We even bumped into Teller in his street clothes after getting a few drinks at the bar when the show was done, so I was able to thank him personally for giving everyone at the show the chance to meet them both. He said, “Oh, it’s fun — it’s like having a party every night.”

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We couldn’t visit Las Vegas without being able to say we did a little gambling, so we decided to blow $20 the next day on roulette at Caesars Palace. It took us exactly two spins to see it evaporate (lesson learned). We decided to stick around and try to get our money’s worth by visiting the animatronic show at the end of the Forum Shops, where King Atlas yells at his kids among water fountains and bursts of flame. It was quite fun to watch — kind of like Chuck-e-Cheese on crack.

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We ran into a large number of fun street performers along the strip willing to pose in photos for tips. Vivian got to have her purse stolen by Captain Jack Sparrow, and we both stopped to pose with a stormtrooper. If you’re coming to Las Vegas, bring a bunch of one dollar bills in your pocket so you can tip as many as you like.

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Of course, we got to have our pictures taken with many, many more celebrities at Madame Tussauds in the Venetian. I’d heard of this wax museum plenty of times, but I had no idea that we could actually have our pictures taken with any number of life-like celebrity replicas, including Simon Cowell, Evel Knievel, Shaq, George Clooney, Sean Connery, Jerry Springer, Stevie Wonder, and many others. We spent a couple hours there wandering among the lifeless celebrities, and I even had fun pretending to be a wax dummy just to scare a few other visitors.

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That evening, Vivian and I decided to live it up down at the Paris together. We had dinner at the very posh Eiffel Tower restaurant, dining on monkfish, pheasant, chocolate mousse, and some pineapple meringue dessert with champagne sauce, all of which was quite breathtakingly good. Our waiter was even an authentic Frenchman named Pierre who put a very heavy touch of suave Frenchiness on top of our entire visit. Nothing could beat the view of the Bellagio’s fountains across the street from the giant wall-to-wall windows, 0f course — nothing that is, except the view from the observation. Vivian and I both traveled to the top of the half-sized Eiffel Tower and got a great view of the strip and a water show from the Bellagio some 460 feet in the air. I can attest it’s the best view of the neon lights I’ve ever seen.

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After dinner, we hurried across the street to see “O” at the Bellagio. I saw my first Cirque du Soleil show, Mystère, when I came to visit during the WMC summer show of 2006. It was quite an impressive mix of trippy acrobatic stunts and beautiful music, and I found “O” to be much the same, except on water. Vivian and I were close enough to the stage to feel the heat of the fire acts on stage, as well as the cool water spraying from the thunderstorm scene. I’ve heard from several people that “O” is the Cirque show on the strip worth seeing most, and we definitely enjoyed it. I even got a T-shirt from the gift shop and played with some of the “zebra” masks with Vivian afterward, hamming it up for the camera by mimicking some of the characters from the show.

Our unforgettable trip seemed to end all too quickly when we finally flew home on Friday. It was much more fun to visit Las Vegas when I wasn’t there on business, and I have to admit that the recession has made Sin City a much better deal for travelers like Vivian and me. I only wish we’d brought our swim suits and taken a dip in the pool. Maybe next time.

The last trip to Las Vegas

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This weekend, I took another trip down to Las Vegas to help out with our booth at the semi-annual Las Vegas Market furniture show. Part of job this time around was to check out our permanent space over in the almost-constructed Building C at the World Market Center. I had to don a hard hat and eye protection to go check it out with a couple guys interested in sharing the space with us.

I was also responsible for tearing down the booth and getting it all packed up to send back to Nebraska. It’s always a bit of chore to shove half a dozen 300-pound latex beds into plastic bags and box them up, but being able to spend a weekend in Vegas on the company’s dollar makes it all worthwhile.

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I stayed downtown again, enjoying the Fremont Street experience and fairly decent walking weather. The last time I was here, I stayed at the Monte Carlo, which is a fairly nice place when it isn’t on fire. The city was fairly busy with the usual amount of drinking and rampant pornography, though there were a couple good shows available. Jerry Seinfeld was making an appearance at Caesar’s Palace, while Drew Carey and the cast of Whose Line were performing at the MGM Grand again. I saw them last year, and they were excellent. The “must see” show, however, would have to be Terry Fator, the puppet guy from America’s Got Talent. He’s going to be at the Hilton later in February, and if he were in town when I was, I would have to go check him out. Vivian’s raved so much about him, I’m sure it would be worth it.

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It was a fairly short weekend in Vegas, and I didn’t get much time for extra sight-seeing other than my usual walk up and down the strip, camera in hand, snapping pictures of everything in sight with every other tourist from around the world. I did stop by the M&M’s World for a cute 3-D movie, “I lost my M in Las Vegas.” It had to be the only family-friendly show in all of Sin City. Of course, I also had to make a stop at Inn-n-Out Burger to scarf down a couple double-doubles before the trip back home. I did so much walking around town, I figured I deserved it.

All in all, it was another productive weekend in Las Vegas. This has become a regular thing for now, and it seems like I’m finally getting the hang of it. Here’s a final tip for all your travels planning to visit the city of neon lights: sit on the right side of the plane, and you’ll have a great view of the strip during takeoff and landing.

See all my pictures from Las Vegas this year.

Summer in Vegas: Part 3

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I’ve kept myself quite busy during the last couple of days in Las Vegas. I’ve gotten more than my share done in walking up and down the strip, taking time to check out the fountains at the Bellagio and snap pictures of some of the interesting characters I saw on the strip along the way. On Friday I took the Deuce downtown to check out the Fremont Street light show, which was quite enjoyable. I was actually able to see two shows while I was there, both before and after a steak, shrimp, and sushi buffet at the Fremont.

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I’ve managed to find time to do actual work, too, however. My responsibility on Friday and Saturday was to pack up our things from the trade show and get it all on a palette to have hauled out of here.

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Saturday afternoon, I treated myself to lunch at Inn-n-Out burger, which was a convenient fifteen minute walk from the Monté Carlo. The place was packed, and I was amazed at how a simple burger and fried restaurant could be “standing room only” when i arrived. Anyone who eats here knows why, though. Everything is made fresh, and you could see them cutting down actual potatoes for the french fries. I ate them with ketchup, of course, the way all normal people do. I was able to chill a while and catch up on my reading before the flight back home.

And here the sun sets over Vegas for the last time for me this year.
Goodbye, Sin City! I’ll see you again in January.

Summer in Vegas: Part 2

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The fun never stops here in Las Vegas. For the last couple of days, I’ve been exploring the World Market Center, learning a lot about furniture and gorging on free food and beverages. They had a kickoff Monday night with shrimp, chips and salsa, jalapeño poppers, and other junk food that made me glad I spent the entire day walking it off. They were also making up free margaritas and strawberry daquiris, which the rest of the sales team appreciated when I brought them by the pavilion.

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The boss came by on Wednesday, and we took a limo over to the Renaissance Hotel to have dinner at Envy, a swank little steakhouse. It’s been quite a posh week to say the least, and it isn’t quite over yet.

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O!

Summer in Vegas: Part 1

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Ah, Las Vegas. The home of long taxi lines and those little guys handing out porn trading cards on the street corners. I’ve been coming here twice a year for the World Market Center’s furniture trade show, and it’s all become somewhat routine by now. I’m staying at the Monte Carlo for a week to help with the show and to check out some of the other exhibitors at the trade show.

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We had a pretty small booth this year, so the set-up didn’t take very long. We’re showing a couple beds at the Pavilions at the World Market Center, but soon we’ll have our own showroom in building three, which is being constructed right now and will open next year. Temperatures are going to be over 100 degrees all week long, and they’re forecasting thunderstorms for the next couple of days, which is going to make it humid as well. So much for the “but it’s a dry heat” excuses.

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I was too busy preparing for the show and making an emergency trip to Kinko’s to print some things to have much fun. I had to give Viv a call, of course. It’s funny how even the littlest things around here are making me miss her.

Goodbye from Las Vegas

It’s the end of another week in Las Vegas. I got to manage our booth entirely on my own on Friday, which worked out all right since the show was winding down and the few people who came by the booth were mostly interested in buying our show samples for cheap. Our trucker Ray came by and we spent a couple hours tearing down the booth, and then I had the evening to myself. I didn’t think I would be able to see a show while in Vegas, but when I learned that Drew Carey and other members of Whose Line is it Anyway would be performing at the MGM Grand, I had to see it. It was excellent. I got to see Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Chip Esten, Kathy Kinney, performing for us, playing some of the same familiar games they played on Whose Line is it Anyway while taking suggestions from the audience and bringing members up on stage. They were hilarious–their show was just as funny as anything they’ve ever done on TV, and they were doing it all right on the spot just for us. It was the best show I’d seen in Vegas, bar none.

Today, once I made sure our show was on track to head back to Nebraska and one of our dealers here in Las Vegas got to receive a bed she’d bought from us, I was able to do some sightseeing. Mostly, I gorged at a buffet and then traveled up and down the Strip, visiting an Apple Store and getting my picture taken our by that iconic neon sign on the south end of the Boulevard. I headed over to the airport early enough to jump online for an hour or two as I waited for my flight. Somehow, it seems the airport here is the only place in Las Vegas with free wireless Internet. Go figure.

It’s been another great trip. Now to go home and catch up on some sleep!

Feeling Lucky!

It’s been another eventful day in Las Vegas! The tradeshow here has been very busy, with much better traffic than either of the two Las Vegas shows I’ve attended. Our group was able to meet with customers all through Thursday when last year the show had dropped dead around Wednesday noon. I attribute it mostly to having a much better location at the head of Pavilion 3 rather than being shoved back in a dark, forgotten corner of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Last night, I played Blackjack for the first time in my life and I won $40! I was waiting at the New York New York to have dinner with one of our sales reps and I decided to play some cards to pass the time. I honestly didn’t expect to win anything, so I just put down $20 and decided to play until it was done. I lost some, and then won some, lost some, won some more, and finally when I had around $60 in chips, I saw Paul coming and decided to cash them in. I’m smart enough to quit while I’m ahead!

After dinner at the Excalibur, I took a walk down the strip to burn off some of the shrimp and prime rib I had for dinner. I stopped inside M&M’s World, where you could buy all the M&M’s you wanted in any color of the rainbow, along with more M&M merchandise than I care to think about.

I got back to the Golden Nugget in time to see the canopy light up on Fremont street. They have a light show downtown every hour on the hour for around six minutes where they play music and display some psychedelic graphics overhead. If you’ve ever turned on “visual effects” in iTunes, this is very much the same kind of thing. Very cool!

Today, I get to babysit the trade show for one last day and visit with some of the few remaining customers we may have milling about. Then tonight, I get to pack up the show, heaving several big heavy beds into boxes and onto a palette, ready to ship back to Nebraska. I’m hoping to have enough free time tonight to visit a show before heading back home tomorrow.

Viva Las Vegas!

I just spent my first day in Las Vegas at the World Market Center helping with our trade show. The trip from Nebraska went very smoothly, and I was able to fire up my laptop and watch 12 Monkeys for most of the flight. The picture above is how the strip looks when you land at the airport, and I couldn’t help but think that it looked like a giant amusement park for adults.

I checked in at the hotel and then went down to the World Market Center to join the rest of the sales team. Here we have me, Paul James, Ron Larson, Jeanie Kensinger, and Doug Edwards. Ron’s the president of the company and the rest of the team do sales. I’m in marketing, so I got to see how the displays I put together for the show looked when they all came together.

That evening, Ron took us out for drinks at the club at the top of Mandalay Bay, where we had an unbelieveable view of the city below. In the picture above you can see the imposing black silhouette of the Luxor, with the Excalibur, MGM Grand, Tropicana, and other strip properties in the distance.

I’m staying at the Golden Nugget, which is in Downtown Las Vegas, rather than on the Strip. I was a bit tired from the busy day, so I didn’t get to see the light show on Fremont Street, but I did get to take a relatively quick trip down the Strip on the Deuce, which is the bus that runs from one end of town to the other here. It was the best way to travel: $2 for a one-way trip, and much cheaper than a cab. It took a little while since we had to stop for passengers every few blocks, but it was good to meet a few other tourists while checking out the neon lights of the Strip from the second floor of the bus.

More pictures tomorrow!