Thursday, March 29, 2007

If you guys don't mind, I'm going to be taking a little break. The only thing more intense than writing that last post or admitting it to all of you, was admitting to myself that it actually happened.

Take care, happy almost weekend, and see you Monday. Cheers.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Calorie Chronicles: The Eating Disorder(s)

I’ll never forget the first time I put my finger down my throat to throw up a meal. It was harder than I thought it would be.

The only prior experience I’d had with this was in the form of cop shows and Made for TV movies. My favourite high school show was 21 Jump Street, and I’d watched the narcs puke out drugs on that program several times. They’d had to swallow all kinds of stimulants in order to save face, but always made the obligatory bathroom trip right after to prevent anything from getting into their systems.

The procedure seemed quite simple: kneel in front of toilet, one finger into your mouth, hurl, flush. Don’t forget to rinse and get that barfy smell out of your mouth.

The Made for TV movies designed to educate teenagers about all kinds of adolescent horrors illustrated the scene in pretty much the same way, although the subject matter was different. The most beautiful, popular girl in school hides her anorexic secret, force vomiting every chance she gets in most the discreet fashion: she kneels, holds her hair with one hand, uses finger from the other hand, hurls, and flushes. Then she rinses, but doesn’t repeat.

Easy peasy.

I thought about a lot of scenes like that as I was eating my dinner that night, which I remember was some form of powdered soup mix with barely any calories, and cucumber slices sans salt. Bird food. When I was done, I made my way upstairs to the bathroom, locked myself in, and turned the fan on so the noise could muffle out what I was about to do. I didn’t want my roommates to hear.

The formula was running through my head like mad: Kneel, finger, hurl, flush. Kneel, finger, hurl, flush. I kneeled, took a deep breath, stared at my reflection in the still water of the toilet bowl, then put my right index finger into my mouth, and down my throat.

It didn’t happen right away. I gagged hard and felt the contents my stomach jump, but nothing came out. I would have to try harder. I extended my finger further and gagged again. My stomach lurched, but still nothing.

I was starting to breathe quickly, and I felt sick. I didn’t like any of this, not one bit, but I had a goal to accomplish. After all, there was weight to be lost. I braced myself, extended even further, and scratched at the back of my throat.

Voila. Undigested cucumber chunks and brown liquid from the onion soup mix. One part of me felt awful for crossing that line, while another, much smaller part, was cheering at this small “success.”

Most of me was in awe that I’d actually done it. After a few minutes I stood up, flushed, rinsed, then brushed my teeth to get the acidy taste out of my mouth.

From that point on, my life became very routine. Wake up, do a weighing, write numbers down. Drink lots of water for breakfast. Go to work if called in, if not, skate for three hours. Home for lunch: two or three lean cold cuts, a small piece of fruit, and two glasses of water. Puke. Back to work if necessary, if not, do school work. Class in the evening. Home for dinner: soup mix and small serving of raw vegetables. Puke. To the radio station if I had a show that night, if not, skate for another hour or two.

Go home and collapse in bed, fully dressed. Too tired to change. Spend the night staring at the digital red numbers on my clock radio because those days, no matter how exhausted I was, sleep never came.

But it was working. My weight was dropping like wildfire, and it wasn’t long before I was receiving compliments for slimming down. There was never any cause for alarm, though. No one sat me down for a talk or came rushing to my rescue, because the difference wasn’t that apparent. I always wore baggy clothes.

My family didn’t notice either, not in the larger sense. I was only home on weekends, and those 48 hours freedom from the buzz of my daily life at school, mysteriously, let my body rest. I usually slept two thirds of my weekend away. I’d learned to throw up really quietly by then too, so none became the wiser.

What does it look like from the outside, living like this? Had anyone close to me known what I was doing, what would they have said? Or did they really suspect, but just not say anything?

I’ll never know. But I did know that my insides were feeling bad, awful, TERRIBLE. It was a serious tug-of-war for me, a good versus bad justified by the fact that I’d gone down another waist size. It didn’t matter that I always felt sick, or that I had permanently pulled stomach muscles from throwing up all the time. Sometimes I was too tired to reach for the phone when it was ringing, even though it was on the nightstand right beside my bed, and other times my hands shook so badly I couldn’t fit my key into the front door.

None of that was important. I was getting smaller.

My freedom from this mess was skating. Every single day I’d strap on my rollerblades and skate down the cement path, past the school, then the daycare centre, through the parking lot and out onto the street.

The university was close to some new blocks of suburbs, and every blader’s dream: miles upon miles of freshly paved cement. For hours every day I skated the neighbourhoods, ignoring the stomach pains, and just enjoying what it was like to be young. I didn’t think. I just skated.

I also sweated like a madwoman, wearing two layers of long sleeved, black clothing during these sessions, even though it was the peak of summer. The more you sweat the more you lose, right?

Two moments from that summer stick out: the little girl from the daycare, and the night that I crashed.

I used to love skating by the daycare every day. It was after a long, gradual turn, so by the time I got there I’d worked up enough speed to look sufficiently impressive to the group of three and four-year olds playing in the yard. After seeing me roll by multiple times, they’d developed the habit of standing by the gate to wave at me as I went by. I always waved back.

One time as I was doing my skate-by, right after the kids had waved and I had waved back, I heard one little girl exclaim, “One day I’m gonna be just like her!”

How innocent children are. How deceiving appearances can be. Later that night when I was in the bathroom throwing up my dinner, the only thing I could think was, Kid, I’m the last person in the world you want to be like.

The night that I crashed, I was cooking for a potluck. My roommates and some of the other girls staying for the summer had planned a block barbecue that I’d bailed out on at the last minute. I didn’t want to be tempted with party food, and I certainly didn’t want to eat. The girls were peeved at me and so to appease everyone, I still chipped in with my share of food donations.

Potato salad, a la mom’s recipe. Boil Yukon gold potatoes, slice into rounds, then layer in a bowl with plenty of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and chopped green onions. I made a big one in the wee hours of the morning, when everyone else was asleep, but made the fatal mistake of taking one last glance at the bowl before going back up to my room.

I was starving. I had been starving for a long time, and the salad looked so good. One slice of potato can’t hurt, I thought. Just the one.

My lips actually shook as I was chewing. It was marvelous, and it was real food. Maybe just one more, I thought, and reached in for another slice. Then another. And then another.

You know where this is going. In no time flat I’d finished off the potato salad. It was an amazing satisfaction, finally having a stomach full of food and the aching at a standstill, interrupted by this sudden glaring, brutal thought:


It couldn’t stay with me. I went up the stairs and to the bathroom, and did what I’d done so many times before. It was easy by then. I got up extra early the next morning to go to the store for more potato salad ingredients, and had another one ready hours before the party began. No one had even noticed.

That month was an eternity, but like all things, came to pass. The day my sister and I boarded that plane to Europe, I weighed myself one last time. In four weeks, I had lost a total of 32 pounds.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Calorie Chronicles: The Eating Disorder(s)

I do not do well as a Fat Girl, and that summer, I was not doing well as a fat girl. Me with some extra isn’t all that bad, but me with too much all around is a turn for the worst. I was very depressed.

I had just finished my third year of university, and was living in the dorms for the summer break. I had a part time job with the school, was taking a couple of courses, and was the DJ of two of my very own campus radio shows. I was a busy.

Then, I weighed 215 lbs.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m lucky I’m so tall. It enables me to carry my weight well, for the most part anyway. Everyone I’ve admitted my actual weight to has said the same thing: “You look fantastic for that number!”

But still, it was too much. I wanted to be smaller.

That summer I was determined to make positive changes for my weight, kick started by my sister’s surprise announcement that, come July, she and I were going to Europe. Family reunion in Croatia with a few days pit stop in Germany to visit yet more relatives was our itinerary. We would be gone just over two weeks.

Our trip was booked six weeks before departure, and I calculated that I didn’t have a lot of time to drop numbers. I wanted to do as much as I could with the little time that I had, and put myself on a strict regimen post haste. Exercise, mostly in the form of in-line skating, and strict meal portions three times a day. No fats, no sugar, no oil, and almost no carbs. Tons of water.

I weighed myself every single day and after one week, I’d lost three pounds. While this would normally be cause for celebration, back then it just set off the alarms in my head. I had five weeks left, and a lot of weight to lose.

So, I upped the ante. Smaller portions, more exercise. Another week went by, and another two pounds fell off.

But it still wasn’t enough. I was in a panic that I’d lost less weight during that second week, especially since our trip was only a month away. I was starting to get desperate.

More adjustments: Serious exercise, no breakfast, smaller portions, two meals a day instead of three, and nothing but liquids in the evening.

And, a little something else to speed up the process.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Calorie Chronicles: The Eating Disorder(s)

I was born and raised in the Western Hemisphere, a blessing and curse in its own right. I live in a country with a stable economy and equal opportunity for all, where everyone has the right to realize their dreams if they are willing to work hard enough.

I also live in a country with the most brainwashed and distorted perceptions of the human condition. Ours is a poisoned society, because all too often we give merit for good looks, instead of a person's true inner worth. We have America’s Next Top Model, The Swann and Extreme Makeover, shows where the most beautiful are rewarded, or where happiness is given to the miserable by reinventing their physical appearance. They were miserable to begin with, because they thought they were ugly.

Why don’t we have shows called Everyday Heroes, Shaping Young Minds, Inspirations, or The Next Nobel Peace Prize Winner? Low ratings, I suppose. But I hear the next installment of The Bachelor will be airing soon.

The expectations on women are particularly cruel, and we see them everyday. Svelte, gorgeous actresses, stunning models, magazine covers, centerfolds; they’re everywhere we look, everywhere we go, from billboards to subway ads to television and drugstore shelves. It’s unavoidable, all of it.

Ask a group of little girls who they would rather be like, Madeleine Albright or Lizzy McGuire. How many of them would actually know who Madeleine Albright is?

At one time or another we have all fallen into the Perfection Trap and for most of us, the standards of 36-24-36 are impossible to reach. Thousands, millions, billions of collective dollars are spent every year in that Quest for Beautiful, but how many actually reach it?

And then for others the situation becomes something else altogether; something a lot more dangerous.

I have never known a woman or girl with an eating disorder. At the same time, I have never met a woman or girl who didn’t have an eating disorder. I say that because I don’t know if dabbling with eating disorders really means that you have one; if the girl who’s putting her finger down her throat to lose a few pounds is truly on the same level as the 80lb girl at the clinic.

We all know what they are, the queens of the disorders crop being Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia.

Anorexia seems the more fatal of the two, a psychiatric condition dealing with the obsessive fear of gaining weight. These poor souls starve, vomit and exercise their way to skinny, often becoming so fearfully thin that they barely weigh enough to survive. We have all seen pictures; often, a photo of a severe anorexic can be matched to the starving child living in famine, or the concentration camp victims of the second world war.

Many, many people, mostly women, have had Anorexia nervosa. Many have died.

Bulimia is the other one, where binge eating is followed by brutal purging; vomiting, laxative abuse, diuretics, fasting, and extreme physical activity. Television has given us the popular image of the bulimic as the gorgeous supermodel inhaling a four-tier wedding cake by herself, followed by a trip to the bathroom for a cleansing puke. No calories, no damage.

But there’s plenty of damage, especially over time. The digestive system pays a heavy price from all that forced vomiting, and severe potassium loss can lead to heart failure, heart attack and stroke. There is also the toll on physical appearance: limp hair, sallow skin, ruined teeth.

Sometimes I think it's pretty ironic that looks start to flounder, considering that a big reason a lot of people start doing this in the first place, is to look better. At least, that is what it seems.

Anorexia, bulimia, bulimia, anorexia. We are not strangers to each other, they and I. Though our time together was brief, there was a summer where I played with both.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

To know me, one must know my Weight Chronology. True to Fat Girl form, it quite nicely showcases all the years of my bulge, highlighted with spots of thin-ism. Here it is, all badder years and shining moments:

0-11: Average.

12: After surgery, I put on some weight. Hey, you would too if you had to lie still all the time. My growth spurt helps thin me out.

13-16: Average.

17: Here come the pounds…

18: And more pounds…

19: My fattest year to date.

20: Ever-so-slightly smaller than the year before.

21: Drop quite a bit, but still thick.

22-24: Same.

24-26: Super sexy, super smokin’, super fine. My thinnest years to date.

27: Here come the pounds…

28-29: And more pounds…

30: Slow, slow downslide, but back to thicker than usual.

31: Here we are, present day. Better than usual, but still thick. I need to lose more weight.

In between these years, between the gaining and the losing and the crying and the upset were still more years and more diets where I lost a little, then gained it back. Lost a little, gained it back; lost a little, gained it back.

Bow to your corner, bow to your own
Three hands up and ‘round you go
Break it up with a dosey-do
Chicken in the bread pan kickin’out dough

This is not a dance I want to keep doing for the rest of my life. I hate square dancing, anyway.

Yo-Yo Dieting is very bad for you. Going up and down in weight during short periods of time can’t be healthy, and I’m guessing, will help contribute to a rotten old age. I don’t consider myself old (just yet), but I know I’m not getting any younger. If I keep dabbling like this, I’m going to make myself sick.

You will too, you know. People who are much smarter than me have said as much:

Besides being terribly discouraging – gaining, losing and regaining weight can be very dangerous to your health, specifically the cardiovascular system, the digestive system and the skin.

That is why, these days, it’s so important to look at the big picture. When one wants to change their weight, overall appearance and lifestyle in general, one must look at their entire world as a whole, and not just the quick fix that will temporarily make it all better.

Why? Because diets don’t work.

By only restricting caloric intake, chronic dieters condition their bodies to survive on fewer calories, thereby putting themselves at greater risk for weight gain with the slightest increase in caloric intake.

If you need further proof just take a look at my weight chronology or better yet, write out your own. See how far the Slim Fasts and Cabbage Soup Diets have taken you, and make sure to also carefully note the damage they’ve caused. Losing five pounds a week is fantastic, but gaining seven back the following week is devastating. The spring in your step and the glow that was once on your face will be nothing compared to the misery and bad feelings that replace them.

Doctors, nutritionists, dietitians and personal trainers who don’t work for the big corporations selling us the bullshit ads that promise "Thin for Life” but never pay up, have been telling us the same thing for years:

Most weight-management experts and physicians now agree that a far better approach to long-term weight loss requires a combination of good nutrition and exercise.

The moral of the story is, no matter how easy the fast way seems, it’s harder in the long run.

Oyvey. The painful truth. I have to eat better. And, I have to go back to the gym.

** Square dance lyrics from a Bugs Bunny episode entitled "Hillbilly Hare"
** Quotes taken from “Yo-Yo Dieting – Stop the Madness” by Sharon Stewart for
Skeeny or Not Skeeny, I have my own opinions of myself.

It’s been a couple of weeks since Sandy and I returned from Vegas and my life is, predictably, exactly where I left it.

Same job. Same weight. No book to speak of. Loft half done.

I know I can’t expect my life to 180 in a few lousy days, but still. What the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t I get a grip on this? Why is it so hard to do?

Something like getting a job doesn’t happen overnight; neither does writing a book, or decorating your home. The money alone for that last one is what takes the most time.

But starting a newer, healthier way of living, something that will only make me ecstatically happy, is something that can be started right away.

Why do I keep putting this off?

It’s easier to put off, that’s for certain. It’s easier to just keep living the way that I am, getting that morning coffee and visiting the Bagel Shack for lunch. But in doing that, all I’m really succeeding at is plodding through my day-to-day. I’m not putting up a fight, or even giving it my best effort. I’m not leaving blood on the ice.

I know I still want it. I’m still whining, right? I want to lose weight, I want to lose weight, I want to lose weight… You’d think that after I’ve gone this long, compared the good to the bad, typed my story until my fingers blistered (well, not literally), and knowing what it’s like to be fat vs. what it’s like to be thin, would have thrown me on the path long ago. In fact, I should have been in a frenzy to start.

Why, why, why? Because because because. Because I’m lazy. Because I’m a dumbass. I’m a 31 year old dumbass who still won’t shove through her thick skull that WANTING is not enough. It’s DOING that makes the difference.

So here I am again, wanting to be different. And here I am again, proposing to make changes. But I want to be a little different with it this time. Every diet I ever started, every “new plan” that never worked, I started with cutting things out.

Could I perhaps just smarten up a little and still get to where I have to go, without being a total dietary fascist? If I took things slowly and surely, as opposed to burning out after starting too quickly, I might just win the race.

I guess I’ll never know until I try. So, it’s time to start being a little more good. To start, I’ll eat healthier for a total of one week, just to see where it gets me. Up on the vegetables, down with the Bagel Shack. For now.

And, no sugar for that one week. I know the spirit of this isn’t to cut things out, but I do want sugar cleaned out of my system, for the most part.

After tomorrow, anyway. James is teaching me how to make crème brule.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I don’t know anyone who’s not a fan of Italian food. Pasta, cheeses, fresh vegetables, red meats, herbs, rich tomato sauces and decadent, creamy desserts. Even if you’re a vegetarian (and I’ve never seen an Italian vegetarian), you can find something mind-blowingly superb for yourself in their plentiful array of delicacies.

I’m not a vegetarian, and I love Italian food. Dating an Italian is one thing for your palate, but going to his parent’s house is another thing altogether. There you’ll find excellent everything, a cantina filled with his father’s homemade wine and bevy of cured meats, right beside his mother’s endless jars of sauces, preserves and picklings.

A couple of nights ago we stopped by for just a few minutes. Two hours, some homemade prosciutto, parmesan cheese, olive stuffed loaf, white wine and spiced sausages later, Sandy's mom is still insisting, “Mangia, mangia!” while his dad refills my glass.

Everything is so good, but I’m beyond capacity. “Please, I can’t,” I tell her, “It’s all delicious, but I’m too full!”

She looks at me quizzically. “But you can eat,” she says. “You skeeny.”

God Bless that woman.

Monday, March 19, 2007

100% Real Juice: North Country

I only saw the last 35 minutes of this movie, but the impact was significant enough that I’ll be seeing the rest of it, soon. Although a lot of it has been fictionalized, North Country is based on the first ever major sexual harassment case in America where female miners, suffering a series of abuses, filed and won a landmark lawsuit.

It’s a hard hitting, practical film that hits all the right nerves.

In the movie, Woody Harrelson plays the lawyer who brings the case to court. Near the end, he’s cross examining a witness and says this:

“I had a coach used to say, ‘Win or Lose, leave your blood on the ice.’”

To which the witness replies, “Good coach.”

I really hope some coach somewhere did say that, because that’s not just a good coach. That’s a great coach.

I find it absolutely amazing how many lines, quotes, songs, mottoes, games and even label instructions on this planet can be applied to everyday life. Real life.

Taken apart, the above means, simply, do your absolute best. Your blood, sweat and tears best, no matter the end result.

But then, if you really do that, if you give it your vein-bursting best shot and leave your blood on the ice, is there really such a thing as losing?

I like to think the answer to that is, clearly, No.

At least I hope so.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Day 5 1/2: Leaving Las Vegas

Well, if I was to die over food, I’d definitely die over that Kobe beef burger on a multigrain bun, topped with pepper jack cheese, caramelized onions and oyster mushrooms. The flavours Sandy and I had chosen perfectly balanced the tender, juicy burger, which was unlike anything I’d ever tasted. It practically melted, that Kobe beef.

One great meal, and our last great meal in Vegas. For now, anyway.

The rest of the afternoon we take in some more sights, just walking around and being together. We see the streets, the shops, and the tourists coming in droves for the weekend. We’re both people watchers, Sandy and I.

We see the New York, New York, only because we haven’t seen it yet. It’s quite the structure, based on the famous buildings of the Big Apple skyline, and an honest to goodness fake Statue of Liberty blessing the passerby. But inside the hotel, it’s… kind of bland. I’ve never been to the real New York, but I certainly hope all the stores aren’t that flea market-ish in comparison.

On our way back to the Walkarail we also see the Excalibur, a mess of chivalry and suits of armour in the guise of a castle-shaped hotel & casino. It’s like the grand puke of Medieval Times, with slot machines.

We have a few hours left before heading to the airport, and we spend it in the soon to be defunct Desert Passage, in the soon to be forgotten Aladdin. Desert Passage is over a hundred shops situated in the Arabian Nights mindset, though I’m quite sure Ali Baba never had use for a Discovery Channel Store. Except maybe the money counter, or voice thrower. It might have helped fool the 40 thieves.

As I mentioned before, there’s a fake oasis in the plunk middle of Desert Passage, with a fake rainfall every hour on weekdays. Overhead sprinklers carefully clustered to aim at the solitary pool do their work, while the lights darken and thunder booms on surround sound. It’s quite enjoyable if you’re at least over five years of age, and those thunder cracks don’t scare the bejesus out of you.

We did enjoy it, over two scoops of ice cream from the Ben & Jerry’s beside the oasis. One cup, two spoons. And after that, Sandy bought a travel steam iron, which made me laugh. Ever the practical man, he is.

It was a couple of hours before our flight, and time to head for McCurran Airport. The cabs from the Aladdin/Planet Hollywood leave from the underground, in the back of the hotel, and to get there we cut through the new, not quite finished Planet Hollywood casino.

It’s a gorgeous creation of dark wood and luminescence; crystal chandeliers and lights of ever changing colours dazzle an array of gaming tables and slot machines. The vibe there is good; the crowd is younger, lots of 30-somethings chatting, drinking, shouting “Hey!” over won rounds of craps.

Passing through there and hearing those shouts, I realize something. “Ace?”

“Yeah, Cheech?”

“Are you are that we’re about to leave Vegas, and we haven’t even really gambled? Outside of slot machines and electronic roulette? We came to VEGAS for Pete’s sake and we’ve haven’t even played a real game!”

“It’s terrible, I know.”

We only have minimal time left, but I can’t leave the trenches without a bit of Blackjack. I find a table with a couple of seats left, take the middle chair, and toss the dealer two $20 bills. Minimum bets are $10, and that’s what I start with. Actually, that’s what I stay with, and five minutes later I’ve doubled my money.

The fourth hand was the best of all. I got an ace of spades right away; the ace cards always remind me of Sandy, naturally, and since he was standing behind my chair, I leaned backwards and he gave me a kiss. It was like a scene straight out of a movie when I pulled away from his kiss to see the dealer come around with my second card; a king of hearts. Blackjack!

It was a shame we had to leave so early since that winning vibe was in the air, but home was waiting. I said my goodbyes to the Blackjack table, and we ran downstairs to hail a cab. Once inside and on the way to the airport, I said to Sandy, “It was a good trip.

“Yes Cheeh, it was. Thanks.”


Our flight was delayed a bit, giving us dinner time to share a four-cheese pizza at Wolfgang Puck Express, and a few minutes for some shut-eye in the terminal waiting area. When we board the plane, a rather shabby United craft, it is time again for my prayer of departure.

Vacation three has proved to be
Quite the adventure, yet again.
Vegas lights, glittery strip.
The appearance of flip flops
Though minimal, is always nice.
Howie, shine on.
Miles of food, oy.
Walkarail, I won’t miss you.
New sunglasses, bargain couture.
Sharing lattes and dessert
Is divine,
Especially with my Sandy.
May life be one big

Our flight is blissfully uneventful, and we only have enough time in Chicago to get to our connector gate, and stop for coffee on the way. And then, shortly after, we were home.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Day 5: We'll always have Paris

Standard checkout time for Vegas hotels is 11am. Our flight is at 12am, and we want to sleep in without the hassle of packing. Here’s the secret to a later checkout at Sin City:

“Room 2894, what can I do for you?”

“Yes, I’m checking out today, but would like to stay in the hotel awhile to gamble. Is there any way the Paris could accommodate this?”

Oli told me that the hotels are suckers for people staying and gambling. You don't actually have to do it, just give them the illusion that they're taking your money away.

“Would another two hours be sufficient enough to suit your needs, ma’am?”

Oh boy, do I hate being called Ma’am. Abracadabra, I’m instantly aged a generation. “It will, thank you.”

“Enjoy the rest of your stay, Merci.”

All the staff say little French things all the time at the Paris, I suppose they think it makes the atmosphere more poo poo. They can mon fwa le fwah all they want right now, what matters here is that I get to crawl back under the covers with Sandy.

We sleep in, we snuggle, we get up and shower, we pack while watching Greg and, even though today is our last day, we’re eager to start it. It’s gorgeous out, the sun is streaming through the windows, and we say goodbye to our hotel room right after the bellhop leaves with our bags, to store them until we’re ready to go to the airport.

Today is a series of twos. The end of my second stay in Vegas, second stay at the Paris in fact; the end of my second trip with this man, and the second great time I’ve had. “Ace…”

“I had a great time too, Cheech.”


“I know, I know, I’M WONDERFUL!”

We laugh and I tell him, “Indeed you are.”

Sandy wraps me up in a hug and says, “You’re wonderful too. You and I, we do good together.”

“We certainly do.”

“And we have to use up these stupid Walkarail passes.”

“We certainly do.”

So with a hand squeeze Sandy and I leave room 2894, most likely forever; head down to Le Notre, grab our coffee, and take a Walkarail ride south. There’s no point starting with breakfast today because it’s already in the afternoon, so instead we head back to Mandalay Bay and another of Oli’s tripled-star tickers: The Burger Bar.

“You just HAVE to go there,” she’d said to me before we left. “You’ll just…”

“I know sis, I know, we’ll try the amazing burgers and just DIE.”

Well, apparently everyone was just dying to go to the Burger Bar, as the wait for a table was 45 minutes. I’m not one to sit in one place and be happy about it, so I roam about the shops in search of bargains. Wouldn’t you know I finally strike gold with two tees by Project E for only $20 apiece, and a gorgeous embroidered summer blouse by 3J Workshop. The last time I saw one of these blouses at home it was just over $300, but here in Vegas it was going for $65.

Cha-ching, into my bag, and thank you so much for your business. I rejoin Sandy in the waiting game, and it’s not long before we’re seated.

We have come to the Burger Bar with a mission: We want to try Kobe beef. If you’ve never heard of the stuff, Kobe beef is known for its flavour, tenderness, and marbled texture. This, my friends, is achieved through the stellar treatment of the cattle: not only are they fed corn, alfalfa, barley and wheat straw, but they get to drink beer and are regularly given massages.

The Burger Bar has a Kobe beef burger, at the low low price of $16. And that was just the patty with bun; any other toppings were extra. I guess drinking all that brewski while being vigorously massaged raises the price a notch. Then again, it’s our last day in Vegas and we’re entitled to overpriced something.

“Whatcha looking at, Cheech?”

It took me a good few minutes, but I made my decision. “I’m thinking the Kobe beef burger on a multigrain bun, with pepper jack cheese, caramelized onions and…

“Oyster mushrooms?”


“You were originally thinking the blue cheese, but changed your mind at the last minute to pepper jack, right?”

“Yes, because…”

“Because it just seemed a better fit with the caramelized onions. And right now, you can’t decide between the sweet potato or zucchini buttermilk fries, right?”

“How’d you know?”

“Don’t I always know?”

Ha! Our eating tastes are so similar, 9 times out of 10 we end up ordering the exact same thing at restaurants.

When the waitress brings our plates they are almost identical, only the sweet potato fries are on Sandy’s plate, and the zucchini buttermilk are on mine. We figured we’d get to try both this way, and share all the fries on our plates. I also notice, quite amusingly, that we both eat our kosher dill slices separately, without putting them on the burgers.

Well, well. Opposites attract, but sometimes there’s nothing better than going out with yourself.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Day 4 1/2: To DIE For

Oli has been to Vegas 9 times. That’s right, 9 times. Naturally, before Sandy and I even set foot on the plane to come here, I asked her all sorts of advice on where to go, what to do, and where to eat.

She was happy to comply, even getting me the latest issue of Vegas magazine, and highlighting any points of interest. She wrote comments all over the margins, too.

There was this one restaurant in the Venetian she put a bunch of stars beside, it was called Taqueria Canonita, and apparently this place had the most AMAZING sangria, and guacamole to DIE for. That’s how Oli talks when something excites her.

So Sandy and I venture back to the Venetian and to Taqueria Canonita, where the hostess gives us two of the best seats in the house, beside the fake canal. The Venetian gondoliers are talented singers too, and every few minutes we take in some free opera.

When our waitress brings over some menus, the first thing on my mind is sangria. The first time I ever tried the stuff I was 15, and in Varadero, Cuba. Sun, sand, surf, sangria… as you can imagine, we’ve been great friends ever since. I scan the restaurant menu, figuring that a pitcher between the two of us is a good bet. Until…


“Yeah Cheech?”

“When was the last time you saw a pitcher of sangria cost $30?”

“Never! At home, aren’t they around the…”

“… $16, $18 mark?”

“Uh, yeah!”

Not to whine, but geez, these Vegas prices are killing us. Can you justify paying that much for a pitcher of juice and wine? I get a glass of sangria that Sandy and I share, and he gets something called a Michelada, which we also share: a beer poured over ice and lime juice, on a salt rimmed glass.

For lunch, he gets the soft taco platter, and I get the chicken enchiladas. Not bad at all. We also have the tortillas and guacamole to start, but the guac didn’t make me want to roll over and die. In fact, I think mine tastes better.

Or I could just be a snob that way.

We head back to Caesar’s after lunch, only because I am on the prowl for new sunglasses. Actually, I’m on the prowl for interesting, decently priced stuff, period. While I have no sunglass luck, I deposit Sandy at the moving statues, and totally strike it lucky with a cute l’il white pea coat from Anthropologie. It’s one of my favourite stores that we don’t have at home, so I always make sure to check it out.

We putz around the Forum shops, and also go back to F.A.O. Schwartz and buy little paper airplanes that fly circles around you. Not exactly a frivolous purchase, but a fun one all the same.

Guess where we go after that? Back to the Venetian! My wonderful boyfriend knows I really want sunglasses, and tells me to check the boutique there one last time.

I’d looked at a nice tortoiseshell pair by Salt Optics during our first visit at the Venetian, right before having oxygen tubes shoved up our noses, but the salesman had ticked me off so much, I didn’t buy them. When he’d put them on me (they fit like a glove) then boasted how he’d been fitting glasses for 23 years, he walked right up to the cash and started ringing me up, without even asking.

How pompous, though. I told him I was still shopping around; just gotten to Vegas, after all. He looked at me point blank and said, “Girl, there is no shopping around. This is it.” And since I’m not keen on being bullied into purchases or being called Girl, I left the store without them.

A real shame, because these were the kind of sunglasses to absolutely DIE for, if you get my drift.

Well, I hadn’t seen a nice pair since, and if there’s one thing I hate more than being called Girl, it’s admitting a pushy salesperson is right. Luckily Mr. Thang wasn’t there, and the nice lady with the long red hair benefited from my commission.

We shop a little more, some souvenirs for our respective familias, and spend our last night in Vegas getting down and dirty in the hotel room, wowzers!

Actually, we walked. We walked, we talked, we took in the Vegas lights, and lots of pictures of them. We held hands, we kissed, we saw the Mirage fires, and a close-up of the Bellagio fountains as they danced out more Elvis tunes.

And, seeing as it had been hours since Taqueria Canonita, we did another repeat for that evening: a buffet, only at the Paris this time. It was 10:30, we were starving, nothing else serving edibles within decent walking distance was open, and we gave into our cravings.

Just like the day before we were good for the most part; proper servings of meats, fruits and vegetables. We would even have been proper for the dessert portion, if the divine Paris buffet didn’t have that delectable chocolate raspberry mouse, darling little petit fours, or those unbelievable little crème brules that we fed each other, giggling all the while.

Now that crème brule and associated experience, that was just to DIE for. And, as for what went on later in the privacy of room 2894, well, we’ll just have to keep that our little secret.

But that too, that was just to.... well, you know what I mean.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Day 4: Feelin' Hop Hop Hop

Today, we sleep in. Hallelujah.

That Thursday morning is mild and sunny, and we do not plan on having breakfast at the Paris today. Instead, we get into a taxi and tell the driver, “Please take us to IHOP.”

According to the cabbie's photo and name, I guess that he is Turkish. In thickly accented English, he says to us, “Which I hhhop?”

Geez. How many non-tourists take taxis off the Vegas strip? How are we supposed to know where we're going? “I don’t know, just take us to the closest one. This is your city.”

Not so under his breath, he mutters, "This is not my city," but starts driving anyway.

I have never been to the International House of Pancakes, and neither has Sandy. We’ve been teased by IHOP commercials for years, and decide that we too must partake in stacks of doughy, syrupy goodness.

“I do not see an I hhhop.”

Apparently, if there are any IHOPs in the greater Las Vegas area, they are unplottable to our driver. Instead of our luscious pancake breakfast, we spend the better part of 30 minutes in the taxi, listening to the cabbie blather endlessly in Turkish on his cell phone, “Bla bla bla bla bla bla I hhhop bla bla bla bla…”

We take the hint, and ask him instead to drop us off at the Fashion Show Mall. Oli, my Vegas connection, has told me that I just HAD to go to the Fashion Show Mall, and that’s exactly what Sandy and I did. For 15 minutes. The day was getting gorgeous; would you want to be stuck inside a mall?

Across the street from the Fashion Show Mall is the Wynn Las Vegas, the Strip’s newest innovation, and the most luxurious. The theme is, "Life Imitating Art," and the building itself is indeed a masterpiece. Inside it is chandeliers and dark wood paneling on soft fabric hues, and nothing but high-end boutiques: Cartier, Chanel, Manolo Blahnik. Outside there is a waterfall ending into a large pond, with nomadic statues rising from it.

Five-star charm. I’d seen a deal for the Wynn a few weeks before we’d booked our trip, a package with a beyond reasonable price tag for this deluxe resort. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, lucky in nature and not to be missed.

I did miss it, but didn’t feel so bad when at the Wynn that day, Sandy turned to me and said, “Cheech, I’m glad we didn’t stay here. It’s not a fun place.”

No arguments. Luxury is often at the sacrifice of ease, after all, how often does the Queen look relaxed when she’s eating an amuse bouche? The Wynn was upscale, it was stunning, but it was far from laid back or fun in the typical Me & Sandy way.

Not to say that we can’t have fun wherever we are, he and I. Denied both our Paris and IHOP breakfast we settled at “Sugar and Ice,” a gorgeous little café in the Wynn esplanade that overlooked the waterfall. We shared a latte, and two scoops of gelato. I chose the toasted coconut flavour, and Sandy picked lemon tart. Breakfast becomes littered with tart jokes.

More hotel hopping. Treasure Island was close by, so we headed there next. Yargh! Pirate ships, eye patches, gold doubloons. No Captain Jack Sparrow or Will Turner, though. Pity.

Beside the Treasure Island is the Mirage, your local oasis in this ocean of plenty. What it held inside was more than plenty, at least if you’re a Beatles fan. Cirque de Soleil’s Love had just opened, and the hotel was littered with Fab Four frenzy. The shops had all kinds of Beatles paraphernalia, including an original guitar signed by the entire band, and even a new Revolution bar. Sandy and I took pictures of each other next to its gigantic pink lights.

A couple of hours have passed since our ice cream and coffee, and dessert does not a stomach settle. Besides, we’re craving Mexican.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Day 3 1/2: Oh Happy Day

I’ve never had a burning desire to see Howie Mandel, after all, I see more than enough of him weekly on Deal or No Deal. My parents are nuts for that show.

I don’t even have any particular attachment to Howie Mandel, except maybe that when he had hair it was curly in the same way mine is, and we graduated from the same university.

But then if you’ve ever seen that forgettable 80’s hair flick, Walk like a Man, the treadmill scene alone might persuade you to buy Howie tickets. The premise of the film was that he was raised by wolves then taken back to civilization as an adult, and though I don’t remember a whole lot about the rest of the movie, the bit where he’s walking on the treadmill, the first time he’s walked upright in years, had me in stitches. Picture a great big dog being trained to walk on his hind legs; Howie had it down perfect.

We got our tickets, but there were still a few hours between then and the show. Sandy and I were getting hungry and, after thinking about it, decided that time was right for our first Las Vegas buffet.

One of the other things Vegas is famous for, besides gambling and showgirls, is food. The Vegas buffet is stuff of legend, and goes along with the city’s unofficial logo: More Everything.

I avoid buffets after a particularly bad experience in my early 20’s. Think ultra cheap Chinese food, and eating everything you can, just because you can. When you pay $9.99 to eat your head off, you make sure you’re stuffed to the gills because you want to get your money’s worth.

After copious amounts of tired chow mein I went home, crazy sick, and swore off buffets for the most part. I’ve only been to a handful since, and that afternoon I was about to go to another. We were closest to the MGM and so went back to the Grand Buffet, as it’s called, and paid the $24.95 per person dinner fee.

Cheap buffets, my ass.

There’s another reason I don’t like to go to buffets, and that’s because of what I think they represent. Ours is a society of excess. There are people who survive on scraps a day, if even that much, and here we are on an island of food, stuffing ourselves beyond capacity.

Food can be a sickness, too. In many ways.

But that was our choice for the day, and we took it. It was a nice buffet, with all the typical stations, and like good responsible adults, Sandy and I made sure that we ate plenty of vegetables, and didn’t act like gluttonous zombies.

We had a couple of hours to kill before the show, so we jetted back to the Paris for some un-walking time. It’s good to just relax every now and then, too. We freshened up, something that of course took me longer than Sandy, and then jumped back into a cab to yet again go back to the MGM.

Our African American cab driver spoke Japanese, and peppered me with all kinds of questions I didn’t understand. I answered back as best I could with the few Japanese smatterings I knew: Maguro, Hamachi, Tamago, Enoki. In case that doesn’t look familiar, it’s from the sushi menu.

Out of morbid curiosity I also asked the cab driver, “Why do the Vegas wedding chapels look like funeral parlors?”

He replied back, laughing, “I don’t know! I mean you’re getting married, not buried!”

That made us laugh in return, the first laugh in a night that was to be full of laughter. I love to laugh and do a lot of it, but there have been very few times that I can remember laughing so hard, I almost peed.

At 7pm that night the curtain opened to thunderous applause, and this:

The sun is shining
Oh happy day
No more troubles
And no skies of gray
Ever since you said those words
To me

And then some horns would kick in with a resounding

Da dum
Da dum da dum da dum
Da dum dum dum dum

This is the song that Howie started his show with. He wasn’t singing it either, in fact it wasn’t even done live, but shown on a movie screen.

The moon is shining
Oh happy night
Come to me darlin'
And hold me oh so tight
I need your lovin'
Ye-e-e-es I do

Da dum
Da dum da dum da dum
Da dum dum dum dum

It looked like footage from the late 60’s perhaps, and the man singing it was approaching his golden years. He was wearing a three piece brown suit with a blue silk tie, and the backdrop behind him was reminiscent of Lawrence Welk. He sang this song, moving back and forth ever so slightly, his almost deadpan face every now and then betraying a smile. When he hit low notes, his sounded like a mooing cow.

You said you loved me
I know it’s true
My life’s complete dear
For now I have you
Oh happy day
Fo-o-or lucky me

Da dum
Da dum da dum da dum
Da dum dum dum dum

It was a cute l’il ditty, mundane to a fault, and psychologically denting. You see, twenty minutes into show time Howie was still nowhere to be seen, and still playing over and over in endless loop was:

Oh happy day
Lucky meeeeee

The crowd started getting antsy, and by then EVERYONE was singing along to the

Da dum
Da dum da dum da dum
Da dum dum dum dum


Almost a half-hour into the Oh happy day we were all anything but happy and finally, the little singing man was taken away. Comedian Tony Mendoza came and one of the first things he said to the crowd was, “If you’re ticked off now, wait until 3am when you’re trying to take a piss and all you can think of is…”

Da dum
Da dum da dum da dum
Da dum dum dum dum

Tony was on for a good 20 minutes or so, then finally, Howie.

He’s very suave on Deal or No Deal, all business and designer suits. On the Vegas stage he was relaxed, in sneakers and jeans, talking at light speed and keeping us in stitches. He talked about his kids, his wife, driving, hedgehogs, women & menstruation, and parrots being sold for hash.

Towards the end of the night he showed us some candid video clips of him secretly filming customers at Supercuts, while he was disguised as the shampoo boy. He actually made one customer kneel on a stool with her head into the sink, then proceeded to hose down not just her hair, but her entire body. I haven’t laughed that hard since dancing with Lancene at my sister’s wedding.

Sandy and I cabbed it back to the Paris, and wasted no time jumping straight into bed. Under normal circumstances we would have been totally wrapped up in each other, but on our collective minds was just one thing:

Da dum
Da dum da dum da dum
Da dum dum dum dum


“Yeah Ace?”

“I can’t stop thinking about that stupid song.”

“Me neither.”

And so together we hummed,

Da dum
Da dum da dum da dum
Da dum dum dum dum


“Yeah Ace?”

“We should sue Howie.”

“Uh huh.”

Da dum dum dum dum

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Day 3: Oh Monorail, Oh Monorail

This day begins much like the one before it: my eyes pop open at exactly 7:30am.

What’s wrong with me? I’m on vacation, I’m exhausted from all the sightseeing, and my feet are killing me. Why can’t I sleep?

I toss, I turn, I unintentionally wake Sandy up. I know he has every right to shoot me by now, but being the wonderful boy that he is, I get lots of cuddles and love instead. We waste a couple of hours away on each other, The Greg Behrendt Show, and high thread count sheets.

When we do make it downstairs to Le Notre for coffee, we learn the secret that will spare our stomachs and wallets for the rest of our stay: Sharing. American servings can be pretty horrendous, especially in a place like Vegas, and the cost is extra to boot. Six bucks for a 750ml latte? Lotta bucks for a lotta coffee, so we get one and pass it back and forth.

It’s a little more romantic, too.

We stumble upon a long lineup at one of the Paris restaurants, crepes for $6.95 a pop, and since it’s one of the more reasonable prices we’ve seen so far, decide to stay. Sandy decides on the cheddar and ham, while I go for the prosciutto mozzarella and basil. Both are covered with béchamel sauce, as humourously noted by the corpulent couple behind us in line:

Big Daddy: “Honey, what’s betch-a-mel saws?

Big Momma: “Oh sugar, it’s a white saws. You like it, A’ve made it at home. From a package.”

Breakfast done, we head back to the Monorail/Walkarail, which I'm really starting to hate by now. Sure it takes you places, but only behind the buildings, and once you get to the station you're stuck walking an extra three miles anyway, to get to where you have to go. What's the point?

We start with the MGM Grand, currently the biggest hotel in the world at over 5,000 rooms, a sprawling green behemoth with a Hollywood theme. Perched in front is a gigantic bronze lion statue, representing the MGM growler we’ve all seen so often.

In fact, the MGM is home to 36 growlers, real lions, presented two at a time in a $9 million enclosure, strategically placed in the dead centre of the casino. You know you’re in Vegas when you pull a slot machine handle, and not ten feet away Aslan is staring you down.

One of the trainers was out talking to the crowd, telling us that these two particular lions were brothers, and he’d hold them one in each arm when they were cubs. He really loved those animals. When the crowd had thinned out a bit, I approached him and said, “You must really love your job.”

He looked at me, smiling, and said something I’ll never forget: “I get to kiss a lion on the nose.”

One day, I hope to be so happy with whatever it is that I’m doing.

Our next stop is back to the Mono/Walkarail, where it takes us to the experience of Mandalay Bay. (Ever notice how Vegas is the only holiday where touring hotels is not just acceptable, but expected?) Mandalay’s theme is Malaysian tropics, a world of golden opulence that has, like all the other hotels around here, a gigantic casino and plenty of shops.

I finally get a little retail luck, too, jeans for Oli and Fur Butter for Blue. It’s a thick, creamy doggie conditioner that will apparently transform my baby into a living Gund.

Mandalay has a walkway to the Luxor next door, but before we take that path I realize that Sandy and I have been in Vegas for almost two days now, and haven’t done any gambling. The horror! We pick out a couple of slot machines, feed in some cash, and start pulling the handles.

I have a theory about slot machines: it’s almost impossible to win anything significant. Either it gives you a little something right away, just to tease you into hollowing out your pockets, or it eventually coughs up after you spend your life savings. If you keep feeding the same machine for three days it has to produce, right?

Then again, there’s always luck of the draw. Dad once put a nickel into a slot machine at that Bahamas, and won $3,000 on his first spin.

In short, if the machine gives you anything, take it and run. After four pulls my machine gave me a nice little bonus of $42.75, and while that may seem measly to some, I had no problems pressing the CASH OUT button. It was a free lunch for the two of us.

On to the Luxor, the strip’s gigantic black glass pyramid with its spotlight pointing straight up to the sky. If you can’t guess what the theme of this hotel is, think pharaohs, sphinxes, and flying rugs. In fact, you can even have a video made where it looks like you’re riding a flying rug. After not quite so careful consideration, I decided it wasn’t worth parting with even a penny of my $42.75.

I have to admit that being in the Luxor is quite spectacular, after all, you're inside a pyramid. But my favourite part about it is that if you look at the grounds at a certain angle, it just almost feels like you’re at the Dead Sea. Almost.

We’ve had enough of hotel hopping for the time being and seek out the M&M store next, to watch hordes of people lose their minds for bulk candy in various colours. The Coca Cola store is next door, but we’re distracted by something else right before walking in: a vendor selling half-price tickets to the famous Vegas shows.

And that is how we scored cheapie seats to see Howie Mandel.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Day 2: La Dolce Vita

First stop: Le Notre. That’s the patisserie on the main level of the Paris. Sandy and I get two gigantic lattes, and share a raspberry turnover for breakfast. Price: $21. I don’t remember Vegas being this expensive.

Second stop: Wedding chapel in the Paris. We wanted to book an appointment for our wedding later that week. That’s right, WE GOT MARRIED!!!!

Nah, don’t believe that. Could you picture me getting married by Elvis? Nuh uh. But we did want to see what the famed Vegas wedding chapels looked like, and took our time nosing around. It’s amazing, when you’re a couple, or at least assumed to be a couple, no one bothers you as you run amuck through love land, sticking your head into every chapel door. No one asks for an appointment, either. I guess they thought we were future business prospects.

The two chapels in the Paris were lovely, in a very funeral parlor sort of way. Pretty neutral colours, pretty curtains, pretty covered chairs. No windows, old-fashion podium, and creepy mural of flowers in an urn. Blech. If I’d ever entertained the thought of getting hitched in Vegas, the notion died right then and there.

Next stop: at last, sightseeing on the strip. I’d checked out the Vegas weather forecast a week before we left, and was mighty excited to see 20 degrees Celsius dotted across the map. Yeehaw! I’d packed my flip flops, pedicured my toes a deep orchid, and readied myself for that first glow of Mojave sunshine.

Boy, was I sorry the minute I stepped outside to clouds, wind, and even some flurries. Poopy. But not enough to deter me from showing off my piggies, so I grit my teeth and off we went.

We breezed through the Desert Passage shops of the Aladdin (soon to the Planet Hollywood Casino & Hotel, by the way), and admired the nice fake rainfall over the nice fake oasis. Oh, Vegas. You masters of glamorous fraud, you. And then, we ran across the street to the Bellagio.

When you go to Sin City, “running” across the street is more of a 20 minute affair. Everything is just so spaced out and the hotels are so gynormous, that you really need to invest time wisely. We walked, we ran, we took the journey that seemed to take us nowhere, and were accosted 8726 times to purchase timeshares. Busy city.

We get to the Bellagio, and admire the opulence. It was modeled after Lake Como in Italy, and has a lake in front, complete with atrocious fountain show every night. If I never again see sprinklers go haywire to the warblings of Celine Dion, my heart will go on.

Inside, the Bellagio is magnificent: a ceiling of mouth-blown glass flowers, botanical gardens in back, and waterfall of liquid milk and white chocolate encased behind glass, surrounded by the ding ding ding of slot machines and gaming tables as far as the eye can see.

After the Bellagio we trek to Caesar’s Palace, a grand bloodletting of the infamous Roman Empire. If you wish to bed a fake gladiator not working in a nudie bar, I can assure you that you will find him here. Caesar’s Palace is home to Caesar’s Forum, bevy of shops and restaurants, among which is the Cheesecake Factory.

I always make a trip to the Cheesecake factory when in the vicinity of one, which isn’t often, because there aren’t any at home. I always order the same thing, too: Avocado egg rolls, Bang Bang Chicken & Shrimp, and a slice of Macadamia Cheesecake. If I’m sounding like a bit of a glutton, fear not: the best part of going to Cheesecake Factory is sharing the lot.

Sandy’s a rookie to the Cheesecake Factory, and absolutely loved the avocado egg rolls. He had a craving for Edamame, and ordered those too. I was justifiably worried when my Bang Bang and his Orange Chicken came, because the portion sizes are mental, but I quickly discovered the secret: eat *around* the bucket of rice in the middle of your plate.

Apres all that food, we’re popping at the seams. But a visit to the Cheesecake factory just isn’t complete without one thing. “Hey Ace…”

At this point, Sandy is slumped over on his side of the booth, sucking down his club soda and struggling vainly to breathe. I am faring no better, as that was one serious meal. “Yeah, Cheech?”

“You know, coming to the Cheesecake Factory just isn’t the same without some cheesecake.”

He gapes at me. “You’re not serious?”

Unfortunately, I am. “I’m stuffed out of my mind, but it’s your first time here ever. We’ll share a slice.”


“We won’t even eat the whole thing… it’s all for the sake of the moment… I swear…”

I was dead serious too, the thought of eating anything else at that point sounded dangerous. Sandy put his club soda down, straightened up and said, “How about we order the slice, and the take-away container to bring it back to the hotel room for later?”


We get a slice of the White Chocolate Caramel Macadamia, complete with bag, container and two plastic forks, but decide to christen it with one bite. Then two. Then three. When you’re sharing cake it all goes so quickly, and the slice was gone before you knew it. So was our self-respect when we stood up and the extent of our fullness hit us, but heck. It was his first time at the Cheesecake Factory.

After lunch we spend a few hours touring the rest of the Forum, admiring the shops but not the prices. I pick up a $600 purse and put it down again. I pick up $1200 sunglasses and put down those, too. The $2000 spring jacket was lovely, but who am I kidding? If I’m going to do any shopping here, I have to do some serious winning first.

We also go to F.A.O. Schwartz, and buy colourful, striped kazoos and black retro Slinkys. I even play the big floor piano, just like Tom Hanks in Big.

And, we ride the Las Vegas monorail. This is supposed to make Vegas touring easier, which is a big farce. Sure it takes you somewhere, but you still have to walk the remaining three miles to your destination. Sandy and I re-christened it the Walk-a-Rail.

Our last touristy spot for the evening is the Venetian, an impresario of the glory of Venice, complete with grand canal and opera singing gondoliers. By the time we get there we’re running on empty, so we spend the better part of our evening contemplating the overly blue canal water, while sitting at an oxygen bar with tubes up our noses. That’s right, we spent 20 minutes inhaling overpriced, eucalyptus air on the premise that it was to give us more energy than downing a case of Red Bull.

Piffle. It gave us enough energy to drag ourselves to a midnight snack at the Barbary Coast. Steak & Eggs served 24/7 for $13.95. At last, prices we can agree with.

After we drag ourselves back to the Paris, up the elevators and back to our room, Sandy is comatose within minutes. I follow shortly after, but not until realizing that I just spent my first day on the strip touring all the Italian-themed hotels, with a genuine Italian.


Day 2: The first morning...

...that I wake up in a new place, it always takes me a few seconds to realize where I am. The first morning I wake up into a trip, it takes a few more seconds for the full excitement to slap me upside the head.

My eyes pop open at 7:30am, just a bit early for a vacation wake-up, and when it hits me that I’m in Vegas, Vegas!, it’s all I can do to keep from jumping out of bed. Sandy is sleeping peacefully beside me, and while I would normally never bother him, my enthusiasm got the better of me. I nudged him gently and whispered, “Are you still asleep?”

Poor guy. Of course he was still asleep. He answered, eyes still closed, with an obliging, “Mmm…”

Getting that partially awake reaction got me even more excited and I started bouncing up and down in the bed. “Good morning Ace! We’re in Vegas! Isn’t that fantastic!”

“Mm hmm…”

“There’s so much to see and do, don’t you just want to experience it all?


"As in right this very minute, right now?"


“Aren’t you just so wound up?”

“Mm hmm…”

He’s so cute when he’s sleeping, or at least trying to sleep, and the guilt kicks in. It finally dawns on me that maybe he just wants to stay in bed, after all, it's his vacation too. “Never mind Ace, I’ll shut up now so you can rest.”

Fat chance. My energetic tirade had woken him up by that point, so it’s off to the strip we go.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Day 1: Exodus (again)

How lucky am I that I got to take a third trip this year? There was no pond crossing, but this second sojourn south was every bit as exciting as the journeys before it.

Las Vegas, Nevada, a.k.a. Sin City: town of excitement, lights, and faux glamour, a hedonistic Disneyland for adults with (sometimes) deep pockets. This was our destination, Sandy’s first ever, and it started out with a snowstorm that kept our plane on the tarmac for hours. Home storm, naturally, and part of our reason for getting away this time of year, is to get away from the weather.

A couple of de-icings, three hours and dozens of Ipod Tetris games later we land in Denver, stranded for another few hours because we missed our connector, dad blast it. We get our names on the standby list and then roam the airport, admiring the gorgeous Colorado mountains while drinking very large coffees.

An hour later Sandy and I make it onto the next flight, but we don’t get to sit together. ‘Tis the reality of standby. Instead, I end up between a yuppie downing cheap beer, and a cell phone salesman who’s as big a Tetris junkie as I am. Sandy ends up beside a couple in their golden years, clinging to one another in great anticipation of seeing the Bellagio fountains dance to Con te Partiro. Nauseating.

I miss the lights of Vegas when the plane lands; the turbulence of being thousands of feet over sea level gives flux to my airport neurosis. Sandy gets a great view and I’m glad; he’s never seen it before. We collect our luggage (everything’s arrived safely this time, phew), and board the back seat of a full shuttle bus.

It’s a cornucopia of colourful people, that bus, representing what I remembered as your typical Vegas crowd. The obligatory cowboy complete with ten-gallon hat, snakeskin boots and plump wife; the well-to-do father and his daughter in serious designer garb; a middle-aged couple with the wide eyes of first timers, and a well suited gentleman who could have easily passed for Sammy Davis Junior’s secret son.

The shuttle drops its people off one by one, and repeatedly sends Sandy and I into the air going over some hectic speed bumps. We are the last of the group to be dropped off at our hotel, and it’s just after 10pm that we check in at the Paris Las Vegas.

Mon Dieu, Vegas takes its impersonations seriously, and the Paris is a spectacular example of grandly simulated excess. First is the hotel itself, a magnificent hybrid of the Paris Opera House and Le Louvre, with a half-scale Eiffel Tower jutting out in front. The Eiffel Tower, people. In front of the building is a replica of La Fontaine des Mers, and to the side of the hotel is a massive Paris sign on a big, blue Montgolfier balloon.

As if all this wasn’t enough, sandwiched beside the hotel and balloon is an Arc de Triomphe, complete with authentic street roundabout to make you feel snobbishly French, and appropriately dizzy.

Inside, the Paris is a monstrosity of fake cobblestone streets and boutiques, potpourri and patisseries, nestled in a hell of betting tables and slot machines. Vegas is still Vegas, after all. The check-in desk is like something out of Versailles, all cream walls with golden trim, works of art and dazzling crystal chandeliers.

I stayed at the Paris my first time in Vegas and wanted to give Sandy the experience of a) a great hotel, and b) being central to the strip. I figured La Victoriana in Frisco had been punishment enough for a first timer, and wanted a better guarantee of more comfortable surroundings for him. Call me selfish, but I also wanted us to have our very own bathroom this time, too.

As expected, our room doesn’t disappoint: red and chocolate tones of wall to wall carpet, king size bed with oversize leather headboard, entertainment unit with massive flat screen TV. A desk and ultrasuede chaise are beside the floor to ceiling windows that overlook La Pretend Tour Eiffel, and a clear view to the Bellagio across the way. The bathroom, just for us, is covered in marble, with a tub and glass-walled shower, and plenty of thick, soft white towels.

Our first night in Vegas. I’ve had this night planned for weeks: gambling, sightseeing, and dinner at Caesar’s Forum. In reality, the long day has us yawning and exhausted, so we order hamburgers from room service, then collapse into bed for some blissful sleep.

Maybe that makes us boring, but we just got here. Plenty of time for everything. We’ll sightsee tomorrow.

Monday, March 05, 2007

In the immortal words of Elvis Aaron Presley, may his swivel hips rest in peace:

Viva Las Vegas with your neon flashin’
And your one armbandits crashin’
All those hopes down the drain
Viva Las Vegas turnin’ day into nighttime
Turnin’ night into daytime
If you see it once
You’ll never be the same again

My third trip, my third return, my third destination story to tell. Sandy and I went to Las Vegas Nevada, Sin City, his first official visit and mine (sans food poisoning, that is). We sinned (not really), took in the sights (oh, so many lights); we gambled (a bit) and won (a little).

We ate (appalling servings) and walked (‘til we died). We loved and loved (and loved) and overall, had a great time.

Ready for the play by play?