Sunday, October 3, 2010

What Happens in Vegas?

In the interest of saving my dad from a wedding shower happening at his home, Friday I found myself in First Class on a late-night flight destined for Sin City.

My dad's flight from Long Beach -- a suburb of Los Angeles* -- was suposed to have arrived about an hour before mine. Turning my phone on after the wheels hit the ground I knew it was a bad sign when my call went straight to voicemail. Soon enough I found I had not one but two voicemails: #1 "Flight is delayed by about an hour" #2 "Flight is still delayed, but I'm in my seat now".

We get to the gate and I start heading to baggage claim, our alternate meeting point...when I notice that Jet Blue is the pair of gates immediately ahead of me. I check, and sure enough, the next flight at that gate is coming from Long Beach, and due within the next five minutes. I wait.

While I'm waiting, perhaps prompted by a post at a blog I read regularly, I think of how much times have changed: Here I am waiting at the gate for the arrival of a loved one: I am the only one waiting, in fact, I look a little suspicious loitering at the gate. I remember quite vividly in the late 80s waiting at the gate with my mom to see my dad off or anxiously awaiting his return. Times have changed. But in this nod to the past, eventually my dad emerges and we exchange greetings.

We pick up my bag -- by this time the only bag remaining unclaimed from Carousel 8 -- and get in a taxi. We arrive at the hotel--chosen primarily because I could get HHonors Points for the stay and it offered a two-bedroom suite--and check in. After checking in and getting some basic provisions, it's roughly 3AM Eastern and I fall asleep without much effort.

The next morning I awake bright and early with the sun pouring into the hotel room window. One of the most glorious sunrises I can remember: I am reminded how much of a picturesque part of the landscape the mountains are. We start waking the strip, and eventually wound up buying tickets for Cirque du Soleil's Ka. We continue walking, eat lunch, yadda.

Perhaps I'm jaded -- As a child, my parents did league bowling tournements in Vegas, so I've seen the town since before I was of legal-anything-age -- but I don't really see the grand appeal that Las Vegas poses to so many. Despite wandering through an oasis of gaming pleasure every time the mere thought of wagering on a game crossed my mind it was immediately chased out by the voice of my mother repeating advice her father gave her: "Remember, these [casinos] weren't built by the winners."

Sage advice combined with the fact that slot machines that accept hard currency seem to have gone the way of the dodo*** meant that I didn't wager a cent in Vegas.

In the afternoon we stop by the Ka box office to get our seat assignments and force our way through a mob of near riotous Kings fans in MGM Grand. I learn that my dad, despite living a stone's throw from LA was unaware that Los Angeles had a Hockey Team and that that hockey team was known as the Kings.

A while later...we return to the MGM Grand for Ka. This is my third true Cirque show -- the first being O which was mesmerizing in every way, the second being Zumanity, which wasn't really my cup of tea despite high production standards. I think was my favorite of the three.

Now it is true that I would love listen to the production intercom for most of the shows I see, but Ka is one for which I would pay money for this privilege.

The show is so technically mesmerizing that you really have to see it for yourself: Superb audio, pyro (I think this is the first time I've seen a fireworks display that moved beyond sparklers and flash pots indoors) a set that has no fixed floor but instead relies on platforms that move, slide, tilt, rotate. Lighting, sound, choreography... I was mesmerized for nearly the entire performance. (Though to put it in perspective, the theatre is dedicated to Ka, and the show reportedly cost somewhere of $220 million to develop... which certainly opens possibilities that don't exist for a show doing a 4 week run in a conventional theater)

Another good night's sleep, another sunrise, and I head for the airport, board my flight, find exit row seat 21A** and have an uneventful flight home.

It feels weird to return from Vegas having not drunk alcohol, not gambled, not feeling a compulsion, really, to indulge in any of the vices that the city is known for, but it was good to see my Dad and combined with Ka, made the trip worthwhile.

*-Despite its 500,000 population, I'm in the camp that considers The LBC is a LA suburb.
**-21 is my favorite number and has made an irregular number of appearances this weekend.
***-I part with pocket change more easily than paper money

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