Friday, December 25, 2009

Vegas Christmas 2009

Something that you might not know about my wife & I is that we go to Las Vegas nearly every Christmas. This began in the early 1990's when friends of ours realized that Vegas is essentially dead during this sacred time. Every year since we started this tradition Vegas has gotten a little more crowded for Christmas, most likely due the deteriorating moral fiber of our once great Christian nation.

Unashamed heathens, we treck to Vegas every Christmas to meet with friends from Seattle, Dallas, Los Angeles and elsewhere while our neighbors at home consume their time with soon to be destroyed pine trees and soon to be landfilled wrapping paper.

If you live in a major metropolitan area, you likely share a mild obsession with highways, gently called, "How did you get there?" For Vegas, we hopped onto the 405, hit the 101, merged to the 134 which soon becomes the 210, and then jumped onto the 15. A crow would take the same route, I swear.

We hit Vegas right on time, and took the appropriate back roads to the Wynn. This is something like Barbie's hundredth stay at the Wynn and my fourth or so.

Le Hotel Wynn. For a few days it will be home.

I cannot explain it, but every time I check into a hotel room I look out the window for several minutes. Amateur anthropologists say this is not idle curiosity, but is in fact a survival instinct. What's more important to a hunter-gatherer than taking in the surrounding area of where you will be sleeping for the night. For the Vegas hunter-gatherer, nothing but maybe an Ace and Face Card.

Le View du Hotel Wynn.

Traditions matter. (Hidden images abound.)

With Barbie's older sister in tow, we met with friends from the faraway San Fernando Valley and hit dinner at Bartolotta.

If you think about it, unless they bring the fish to your dinner table in this state, for all you know they might be serving you pressed soy protein infused with fishy tasting chemical compounds.

Full disclosure: this fish costs the table nearly $200. I can in no way justify that. It was excellent branzino (Mediterranean sea bass) and fed four of us, but looking at the bill made me feel like a college girl waking up next to the wrong boy. Most decisions cannot be reversed.

Our friends were new to the Wynn/Encore facilities, so we went for a walk around the place. I didn't take any interesting pics, save this:

I wanted to demand Barbie buy the black dress. I also wanted to demand she adopt that hair style. Seriously. How far are they going to take this realistically sexy mannequin road? Until men start hiding them in garages under tarps?

We stayed up late watching the health care Senate vote because the Wynn Hotel wanted $75 per night to put a DVD player in our room. Seriously? We had brought three "Mad Men" DVD's to catch up with the rest of the world on this award wining show, but the Wynn's management wanted to charge us $75 per night for a DVD player that costs $30 to purchase. If only there had been a decision-making level person to whom I could have shouted, "My good man, there is ridiculous and there is preposterous but this fee sir is obscene!"

In daylight Vegas is not what you'd call aesthetically pleasing. But the point of Vegas has never been to be pretty. I have been to many cities on many continents and nearly all of them do their best to be pretty, maybe even beautiful. This may be the only city that wants to come across as a slut.

We headed over to City Center, the latest Las Vegas Strip development. Instead of building a hotel & casino that displays a clear theme based on a European city or ancient society, City Center is an attempt to rewrite the Vegas playbook by joining a few classy, themeless hotels with a classy, themeless shopping mall. If you're not sure what to make of that, then we are of the same mind. Do you come to Vegas to stay somewhere simply nice?

Case in point. This is the City Center mall, called, "Crystals." There are no crystals at Crystals. Just some very nice public art, such as this gigantic wooden bong shaped sculpture.

I love this picture. I hope it does not cause nightmares or dizziness for anyone. Can you guess what it is? The answer is right here:

Light and water.

I called City Center themeless, but now that I look closer at the public art in Crystals, noting the gigantic wooden bong and the swirling colored water, I wonder if they did not design this place anticipating the legalization of marijuana. Am I onto something?

We hopped onto the free tram to Bellagio, because everyone knows that they put on a lovely Christmas display every year.

If Jesus returned to us at this exact moment, he would without doubt adore what we have done with the holiday named after him.

Gigantic polar bear sculptures made of flowers. Tree shmee. Ornament shmornament. That's a gigantic flower polar bear.

Sometimes a pic comes out exactly how you wanted it to.

As we moseyed down the strip back to Wynn, we came to Caesar's Palace. One highlight on the island of Manhattan would be the restaurants Serendipity and Serendipity 2. A visit to NYC is a waste of time without a visit to Serendipity. Well, now Caesar's Palace offers Serendipity 3.

Would you believe that this 14 inch hot dog lead to a conversation that involved a true story in which a roomful of people saw a guy expose himself on webcam? I think you would believe that pretty easily.

But 14 inch hot dogs are not the purpose of Serendipity.

Whether in Vegas or Manhattan, THAT is the reason one goes to Serendipity. Frozen Hot Chocolate. Seriously. If you have never tasted this, fly to New York City or Las Vegas and get one of these beauties as soon as freaking possible. For all you know you could perish without tasting one and that would be unacceptable. (My lactose intolerant mother is exempted from the previous demand.)

Serendipity 3 offers a variation of Frozen Hot Chocolate unavailable elsewhere called Peanut Butter Frozen Hot Chocolate. I cannot believe I am saying this, but skip the peanut butter version. It adds nothing. Da Vinci did not force eyebrows onto the Mona Lisa, and Serendipity 3 should have shown similar restraint.

Traditions matter. (Hidden images do not abound.)

We were busy every minute of every day in Las Vegas, it seemed. We saw two movies, It's Complicated and Avatar (the wife skipped the second one), ate many meals and generally hung out. We played a little blackjack and a little video poker, wagering around $60 total and coming back with around $52.

On the last night we went to Le Rêve, which according to my iPhone's translation app means, The Dream. Apparently, someone dreamed of charging three figure ticket prices for a Cirque du Soleil imitation that does not burden the audience with Cirque staples like an intelligible narrative or an artistic vision.

They did not allow photography during the show. This is before the show. I did not break the rules. Just imagine a bunch of men in tiny shorts swimming and diving into this water and you have pretty much seen this show.

The one interesting thing about Le Rêve is the fact that it made my wife lean over and whisper to me, "This is the most homoerotic thing I have ever seen in my life." That is not an understatement. For the record, the wife, the friend, and the friend's wife all enjoyed the show. Odds are nearly everyone in the theater enjoyed it. I needed more vision, more story, more purpose. But that's just me.

Could I possibly cross a pedestrian bridge over Las Vegas Boulevard and not snap a pic? I only wish they had been speeding enough to stretch their headlights.

Now get this. We were suppose to sleep in Las Vegas one more night. But sleeping there a fourth night would have meant waking up Sunday morning and driving to Los Angeles in the traffic that normally flows from Las Vegas to Los Angeles on a Sunday. So we did the most logical thing. We grabbed our bags, checked out of the hotel, got the car out of the valet, and drove home at 1 am.

There is no traffic on this highway at 2:30 am.

We arrived home at 4:30 am and went to bed. We could not have been happier, as, "Thou shalt avoid traffic," is our own personal Eleventh.

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