Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sell My Old Clothes, I'm Off to Vegas

This past week I took my first trip to Las Vegas.  I am terrified of flying, which makes me an intolerable travel buddy.  During take-off, I always grasp the armrests until my knuckles are white and keep my eyes closed and a grimace on my face until we reach cruising altitude.  It's not just the crashing and dying that I am afraid of, though that is always at the forefront of my mind.  I hate everything about flying.  I hate the lack of control and feeling trapped, that a small bag of M&Ms costs $3.00, and that my survival requires me to breathe constantly recycled air that is full of germs and sometimes smells like farts.  When I get off of a plane, I have a strong urge to shower so I can rinse the "airplane air" off of me.

The four hour flight from Chicago to Vegas played the movie "We Bought a Zoo."  I put my headphones on nonchalantly thinking "How cute.  A little kid's movie."  I cried twice.

It's exhausting being crazy.

The only real joy I take in flying is that it gives me the opportunity to peruse "Sky Mall Magazine."  Here are some of my favorite items from the most recent issue:

 Skymall calls this "The Neckpro Traction Device."
A noose by any other name...


This adult jack-in-the-box is supposed to be a "personal infrared sauna"
used to "boost your immune system in the comfort of your own home."
I feel plain silly for relying on good sleep and vitamins to help my immune
system when I could have been sitting in a wooden box like an asshole instead.

This is a self-cleaning litter box, which disappointed me
as I was hoping it was a kitty space capsule.

This party animal must have been out too late.
Luckily, he brought this discreet travel pillow with him for the flight.

As for Las Vegas itself, there is really only one word to describe it:  tasty.  I met the banana pudding milkshake of my dreams in a restaurant called BLT Burger.  It had everything I've ever wanted in a milkshake, and all of the things I never even knew I wanted.

 I'm pretty sure that when Etta James sang "At Last,"
she had this milkshake in mind.
On the third night in town we ate at Tom Colicchio's Craftsteak.  This was the best tasting and most expensive meal I have ever had.    Their Wagyu steaks cost over $200.  The menu stated that Wagyu beef is perfect for the "most discriminating of palettes."  My palette is equal opportunity and unrefined, so I stuck with the more modest Angus variety.  Delicious!

Filet, braised short rib, lemon asparagus, and potato gratin. 
Aside from eating, we spent a substantial amount of time playing slot machines.  My favorite machines were Batman, Ghostbusters, and Lord of the Rings.  We also played some roulette.  The first time I played roulette I put money on 8, even, 1-12, and black.  The little ball landed on black 8 and I freaked out.  I only won $50 because my bets were so small, but I was still pumped.  Then I played the Ghostbusters slot machine and won $300.  I was feeling pretty good about myself.

"The world is on my side," I thought.  "I've got this whole gambling thing figured out."

I really know better, but I'll admit it: I got cocky.  And I lost most of my winnings over the next few days trying to achieve that initial high.  Luckily, I didn't lose much over all, and had a really good time.

Here I am venturing into the Shire.
I was fascinated with all of the ways Vegas keeps people gambling.  There are no clocks, no windows, and any doors to the outside are tinted black.  It takes nearly 20 minutes to exit most of the casinos, and the signs that lead you toward the exits wind through more shops and casinos along the way.  Each hotel has a distinct pleasant smell that comes from a small metal box that releases oils into the hotel's ventilation system.  The casinos are cool and noisy, which prevents you from getting too tired.  Every few minutes something reminded me that I was merely a guinea pig in a brilliant, scientific, and extremely profitable social experiment.  And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

While walking outside across the Strip, we were constantly bombarded by people in "Girls, Girls, Girls" t-shirts handing out business cards.  They shove them against you, make noises to get your attention, and try to stand in your way as you cross the street.  Then there are the homeless people with their cardboard signs.  One lady just sat on the ground holding a cat wearing glasses.  The poor cat kept swatting the glasses off of its face and trying to escape, but the woman just chased it down.  My heart aches for that poor cat.  I have a sneaking suspicion that those glasses weren't even prescription.

Even the newspaper machines outside contained porn or prostitution ads.  Sometimes these ads would be cleverly disguised, like this one:

These restaurants CAME highly recommended.
The highlight of my Vegas trip was getting to see my hero, David Sedaris, read his work at the Las Vegas Smith Center.  He read essays that have not been published yet, and his writing skills, sense of humor, and timing are perfect.  After the reading, we stood in line for several hours so I could meet David and get my copy of "Me Talk Pretty One Day" signed.  My nerves got the better of me and I pretty much froze while David was talking to me, but I managed to tell him about my writing endeavors and he was unbelievably nice.

He always knows just what to say.
All-in-all it was a great trip.  This is despite the fact that right before our plane took off from Houston to Charleston the girl beside me phoned a friend and said, "My God, this is seriously the smallest and scariest plane I have ever been on.  Pray for me.  No I'm serious, I need your prayers right now."

Way to keep up morale, bozo.  Your drama really calmed the rest of us down.  I spent the rest of the flight gripping my armrests and watching a passenger dip goldfish crackers in off-brand Cheez Whiz.


  1. Hey Jenna,
    The guys told me about your writing to you. People tell me that I should write about the Irish adventure and somehow reading others like you just seems more like the thing to do. Maybe I will just keep the emails I send to people! Good luck!

    1. Thanks Peggy! You definitely should write about your experiences in Ireland! I have loved every minute I've spent writing. Several of my chapters involve Gideon Road (I have one chapter that mentions my brother's wreck and another that focuses on the Baribeaus). I hope you are doing well!

  2. It took me two attempts to read this post. I had to stop the first time at it's exhausting being crazy. I was laughing too hard to continue. Glad you had an awesome trip!

    1. Ha! Thanks for the boost. And for all of the Vegas food recommendations!

  3. You were able to get Cheese Whiz onto a plane? Lucky!

    1. Haha! Nope. But we were able to buy its expensive equivalent from the flight attendant.

  4. I'm so jelous keep it up