Thursday, June 26, 2008

Vegas, baby. Pt 1

With the exception of the Carlin announcement I haven't been near a computer since we left last Friday. And so much has happened.

All trips are different; they all begin the same way. There's little to distinguish the runaround, the last minute cramming in the suitcase, the run down the hill, the stress of catching the airport bus, that esprit-de-l'escalier making you wonder "Did I actually pack my passport..." It's the same beginning everytime.

For this trip, all that took place and lead me out to Kanku (Kansai Kokusai Kuko -  and no, I'm not translitterating the long vowels.) Kanku is a new, clean airport, with little to recommend it over any other new, clean airport.  It is offers little in the way of amusement when waiting for Mrs Gaijin to show up, outside of Eikokuya or Starbucks coffee shops. Needless to say, I had a seat with a tall honjitsu no kohii and waited.

When the wife arrived she and I checked in and began our own personal Trail of Tears, but with MEC backpacks. It's only about an hour and a half from Kanku to Seoul's Inchon Airport. Inchon differs little from Kanku except in the choice of food and the types of errors in English (notice the Udon called "Udong" and the coffee stir sticks called "muddlers.") Also, it is interesting to note that no number of Japanese lessons helps you read Korean. 

It is about 11 and a half hours between Seoul and Las Vegas. If you sleep very little on aeroplanes, as I do, you arrive in a brand new world that is filled with lights and music and parties and life, and all you want is real food and a nap. We were staying at the top of the strip at Circus Circus, which was oddly enough circus themed. Funny that. After check in we wandered around the big top-shaped indoor amusement park at the back of the hotel, billed as America's largest. Who the hell knows about these things?

Tired and hungry, we wandered down to the steakhouse just off the casino. It was, creatively enough, called THE Steakhouse and had several signs announcing that they'd been voted best steakhouse in Vegas 20 years in a row. That notwithstanding, Mrs Gaijin and I found ourselves trading quips about the chutzpah it takes to call yourself THE Steakhouse in the States, and Vegas in particular; the steak is a way of life there. After our porterhouse steaks we found ourselves wondering if it's really chutzpah if you're being completely accurate.

Day 2:

Three main notes from the day.

1) Star Trek: The Experience at the Hilton Hotel.

I managed to keep myself from being dragged into Barry Manilow: the Experience.

At one time I imagine the Star Trek stuff once played really well in Vegas. The Future History Musuem (basically an attempt to merge and make sense of the self-contradictory timelines of the various Trek incarnations) has a good display of the props from almost all of the Trek shows and movies. In addition, there are two 'attractions,' attractions being code for a ride that doesn't actually go anywhere. The Borg Invasion one featured great 3-d (4-d if you count the jabs in the back and puffs of air in your face) marred only by the appearance of Voyageur and its associated characters. The ST:TNG themed one was a good motion simulator.

That part of the day was true nerdgasm.

When I say that it used to play well, I kind of mean that. The whole thing never had more than 20 people in it, and Quark's bar, another spot of trekkie central, didn't have the clients running around that it should have until the end activities after TAM. It's been a few years since there was a current Star Trek on the telly and after the last movie it's taken a while to get the franchise rebooted. There are rumours that the Hilton will be closing and changing out the attraction. Maybe it will hold on until to the new movie comes out and get revamped. But with the number of changes happening in Vegas all the time, with the volume of teardowns and new builds on the strip, I doubt it.

2) Drinks at Napoleon's in Paris.

Paris, Vegas. I'm sure it's not in the same league authenticity-wise as Paris, France or even Paris, Texas, but it's a nice cobblestone floored hotel with a replica of the Eiffel Tower  sticking up out of it. Kinda neat. Reminds one of a lot of things seen from the Yamanote Line between Ueno and Nippori.

Several of our mutual friends were over from the UK for 40th birthdays. Both the now officially middle aged and the others just celebrating with them had a fair amount of drink, more than I can handle, or even pretend to from behind the safety of my keyboard.

3) The Bellagio

The buffet at the Bellagio is absolutely wonderful. The food is good. (Try the lamb.) If there's one test of the hotel-casino complex you're in, it's the buffet. And the Bellagio is a top place. (The Imperial Palace is pretty low on the list of places to grab a buffet, and by extension, do anything.)

Day 3

1) Champagne brunch at Paris.

Did I mention Paris already? Oh, yeah. Same group, big buffet. By the way Paris, on the buffet scale, rates. Highly.

Did I mention that it was a champagne buffet. Nice.

2) Caesar's Palace

What a strange place.

For one thing it's absolutely sprawling, even on the Vegas scale of things. There have been expansions over the years that make Caesar's unfathomably huge.

There is a grand indoor mini-village and high-end shopping arcade called the Forum Shops. Along the walking route, let's face it you don't need to actually buy any thing, there are statues, fountains and eventually a fish tank.

For the performers working there (Seinfeld, Cher, Midler, etc) the owners of Caesar's have built a scaled down version of the Colliseum and attached it to the complex. Is there even a joke there?


3) Penn and Teller

If you don't know them, you'll never understand. If you do, suffice it to say that their show is great and they do seem to love their fans, standing in the lobby after the show signing autographs for anyone who wants one. Bril. Teller even talks to you out there.

Day 4-6

In no particular order

Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Zion National Park

Grand Canyon

Horseshoe Bend

Bryce Canyon

Monument Valley

and to go with that here are some pics:


GrandCanyon GrandCanyon2

MonumentValley MonumentValley

BryceCanyon BryceCanyon

Sweet, eh?

Returning to Vegas we got in a bit of shooting with Friend DEG who was down for TAM. The Gun Store in Las Vegas has a hell of a range of weapons and as a Canadian a slightly creepy atmosphere. There's more than a hint of fetishism, despite the amialble chattiness of the staff.

Mrs Gaijin used a police sniper rifle and with 5 bullseyes has convinced me that we need not keep a gun in the house if I'm going to continue going to pubs.

The Amazing Meeting (Friday and Saturday.)

Separate post


We had been staying at the Luxor for a few days and checked out. The Luxor is another of these huge complexes based on a theme, in this case Stargate Egyptian. The centrepiece is the huge pyramid in the middle of the lot, you know the one with the spotlight shining upwards that can be seen from the Shuttle. Seriously, the fucking shuttle. That is unnecessary, but really cool.

The rumours are that the Luxor will be losing its Egyptian theme, leaving everyone wondering what you'll do with a bit fucking pyramid a the southend of Vegas strip. Most likely it'll be imploded and replaced in that kind of building churn that characterizes Vegas and Singapore.

Next, the TAM stories...

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