Monday, September 11, 2006

The Odyssey - Part 5

You can see now why I'm calling this trip, "The Odyssey"... I'm up to five posts and still not finished documenting the damn thing. It's so long that I can't even spare the energy to be funny.

On Wednesday, Bobbi and I took a cab to the airport and headed to Las Vegas. My niece was getting married on Saturday and we had decided to make it a four day stay so that we could get a little time to ourselves. We stayed at The Venetian.

Now, Bobbi and I have separate requirements when it comes to a hotel. Bobbi requires a big room, high quality sheets, plenty of amenities, etc... I require a bed and a lock on the door. That's it. Because we hadn't had a vacation in some time and probably wouldn't be seeing another one for a while, we decided to go all out. I booked us the most expensive room at The Venetian. It's actually in the new wing called, "The Venetzia," and it has private elevators, concierge service and lounge, private pool area separate from the main pool, big rooms with lots of marble and flat-screen tv's... it's really nice. We paid $350 a night the first two nights and $380 a night on the weekend. Concierge service is cool because you just pick up the phone and say something like, "I want to go to dinner here and see a show there... and five minutes later they call you back with your reservations and tickets. There's also a lounge with open bar and continental breakfast and tea. Really very nice. I commented to Bobbi that there seemed to be a lot of kids at the concierge level and she pointed out that it was probably the best place for kids since there were free soda's and the rooms had DVD players.

Here's the funny part. The whole time we were there I was sort of embarrassed to be staying in the most expensive room. Whenever I go to Las Vegas I always try to get the best rate and this time we went the other way. What we didn't realize at the time was just how far the other way we actually went. After we got back from the trip, I decided to check some other hotels for future rates. No matter where I looked, I couldn't find a better deal than The Venetian. Out of curiosity, I checked the rate on our room for a few future dates as well. I couldn't find it for less than $900 a night! Apparently, we somehow managed to book the room during the slowest friggin week of the year. We thought we were paying a lot at $380 a night when in fact we were getting a crazy deal on a $1000 room. That just goes to show you how much I know about hotel room rates. I also want to note that since Las Vegas has been taken over by the large resorts, everything is much more expensive. We actually paid $50 for breakfast one day.

I had told my family that they shouldn't expect to see us at all until the wedding.... we were going to be spending some quality time alone. Three hours after arriving we had invited everyone to dinner at Maggiano's. It was great.

While we were there we saw "La Reve" at The Wynn which was beautiful. Other than that we really didn't do much while in Las Vegas. Bobbi was determined to not have a schedule so we stuck to it. I played a little poker but not nearly as much as I usually do. We hardly played slots or table games at all.

Saturday night was the wedding and it was really nice. The ceremony was outside which everyone thought was crazy since Las Vegas is in the desert and it was August... but it was quick and really not bad at all. The whole thing went off without a hitch and it was probably the easiest wedding I've ever been to because the reception was right there. David, the groom, is half-Jewish so the broke a shot glass. (That's as funny as I get today, sorry)

On Sunday we flew back to Dallas and on Monday we flew back to Tampa. It was good to be home.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Odyssey - Part 4

We flew to Dallas on Friday and on Sunday I flew to Monroe. I've mentioned before that I get motion sickness sometime on airplanes and I even threw up once but that was because I was on one of those small commuter planes....Just like the one I had to take to get to Monroe.

Luckily, I survived the flight and arrived at the huge Monroe Airport. The airport is so small that when you arrive, the car rental counter is right in front of you as you step in the door and the actual car you are renting is visible out the window. It's actually kind of great because when I went to leave the next day I arrived less than an hour before my flight left, parked my rental car at the terminal and walked on the plane.

It was great to be back in Monroe after 10 years. A lot has changed physically but the heart and soul of the place is still the same. The college I went to (N.L.U.) is now called University of Louisiana at Monroe (U.L.M.). They've torn down the 10-story dormitory (Olin Hall) that used to be the biggest building in the city and added a big beautiful library. There are still plenty of landmarks around that have never changed, like Ray's PeeGee which sells great sandwiches and Moon Lake across the street from my old neighborhood.

Of course, the best part about going home was seeing old friends. I spent the day driving around with Chris, Donny and Mrs. M..... looking at old haunts and joking around. I can honestly say it was just a great day for me. To the people that live there it was just another day but to me it was like old times and the memories were thick.

That night we played poker (at the same kitchen table where I learned the game), drank beer and ate Johnny's Pizza (the best pizza in the world... they put beer in the batter). It's hard to describe the way I feel when I'm back in that town with my old friends... all of us middle-aged now with so much life behind us. It's just comfortable somehow and I wonder if they feel that comfort all the time because they never left.

The next day I spent the morning driving around and surprising old friends before finally catching a flight back to Dallas. Two days later, we were off to Vegas.

More to come...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

As usual, I'm friggin' RIGHT!

I complain a lot about things that should be done. Simple things that seem so obvious and yet no one seems to care but me. Just a few weeks ago I was telling a friend of mine that I think it's ridiculous that they still play "Rock N' Roll Part 2" at football games. (In case you don't know the name, it's the song that everyone goes, "Hey!" when it plays). Gary Glitter, the guy who wrote and played the song is in prison in England for molesting children. "It's crazy," I said, "That the NFL owners don't get together and ban this song because the guy is getting royalties every time they play it."

Last week in Newsweek:
Sept. 4, 2006 issue - The NFL has effectively banned stadiums from playing Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part 2" after the Brit rocker was convicted of molesting underage girls in Vietnam, prompting a search for a substitute celebratory anthem.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Odyssey-Part 3

The plane trip to Dallas went well, I guess.... in the way that any cancer that doesn't kill you is a good thing. We were lucky enough to have a flight that wasn't full so they moved us to the back and gave us two rows to ourselves.

Arriving in Dallas was a challenge as the Dallas airport is the size of a small city. If you've never been there, it's hard to imagine how big it is. You know how airports always have a central terminal and then you take a little tram out to the gate? Well, Dallas has to be different so they just have the gates spread out over 2 or 3 square miles and you actually can park right at the gate. Instead of one big building it's like eight small regional airports all in the same place, except that each building still has about 30 gates. Anyway, my point is that it's big and the rental cars aren't even on the property. So, you have to catch a bus to go get your car and in my case drive back to the airport to pick up the family. (Did I mention that the rental car (minivan actually)was a last minute addition to the odyssey when we realized that we couldn't fit everyone in Joni's car? That cost us an extra $600, which is even worse when you remember that we had the car parked for four days while we were in Vegas.)

So, I pick up the van and go back for the family and we are on our way to Grandma's house. At this point I'm experiencing my usual someone-squeezed-my-nuts pain which I get every time I fly. I can either feel like shit all day after a flight or take some pills which have me stumbling around like I haven't slept in three days so it's not much of a choice, really. Being back in Dallas was a little weird after five years and I was reminded of just how ugly it is compared to Tampa. Living here we tend to forget that other places aren't green all the time.

We finally made it to Joni's house and got settled. Joni and Lou live in a big house, lots of room, but have decided for convenience sake to pretty much just live in the kitchen, which is the size of a walk-in closet. They have a table in there and the TV and that's where they stay all the time. What that means is that trying to move around in their house is like moving around, well, a walk-in closet with a table, chairs, three adults and two children in it. And a dog. It's cramped. Plus, as a bonus, Dallas was in the middle of a heat wave while we were there so it was always hot. I pretty much spent the whole time sitting at the table and watching the skin melt off my hands. Seriously, 7:00 at night and it was 103 degrees. Good times.

Did I mention that we had to put our daughter to sleep in a pack-n-play while she was still potty training? I didn't? Well, that's because it was only a small nightmare compared to what I thought it would be. We had our fights but Sam did pretty good. "Good" in the way that any cancer that doesn't kill you is "good."

We were in Dallas for four days and Bobbi saw her entire extended family every day. My family would have showed up once, if at all, to say "Hi,"... Bobbi's family spends every day together when someone comes to visit. It's sweet, really. You start off on your best behavior with these new relatives you're meeting and end up so familiar that you don't even have to speak to them when they enter the room anymore... like a brother or a roommate.

Oh, I should also mention that I forgot the base for Mac's car seat in Tampa so I had to go out and buy another one in Dallas. Plus, I picked up food for the kids for a week, a bumper for the crib, a walker for Mac and other assorted necessities which ran about $300. Oh, and parking the car in Tampa cost about $200. For those of you keeping score, that's $1100 in extras and we've yet to even factor in the plane tickets and the room in Las Vegas. When people ask me "how it was" traveling with the kids for the first time, my first response is, "expensive."

More to come...


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