Sunday, April 20, 2008

the illustrated trip to vegas

every year in april las vegas hosts one of its largest conventions, the national association of broadcasters.  a lot of it is actually broadcasting related, with nerds showing what looks to be a metal box and touting that they can transmit my hd radio signal with clarity.  it's so expansive that there are just enough film-related companies and products to justify me taking a trip down for a three hour stop at the convention center and then enjoying an evening in vegas.  i've gone four of the past five years, and this time i invited mark and tim.
and we took a small camera.

pretty much every time i've ever gone to vegas, i've been the one driving.  this time, mark offered to take his car.  tim called shotgun and i was more than happy to have the whole back seat to myself, although i had to avoid the right-side seatbelt, as it still had purple corn starch on it from the festival of colors (another post i need to write).  
i told mark i wanted to leave at 8.  we left at 8:45.  i was ok with that, because i know that's how trip-leavings go in my family, and was expecting it.

you know how the seat belts sometimes go tight, to protect you from being flung around in case of a car accident?
and sometimes they do that even when you're nowhere near any sort of a situation resembling a car accident (or "collision")?

we stopped at a little town for some lunch and somehow we declared lunch would be 'kfc or nowhere'.  we cheered as we saw the smiling colonel down the street, and then took our turns in the restroom.  i thought it was cool that they had a sort of "science in action" toilet, where you could see how it works.  (one has to wonder, how does a kfc toilet get broken like that?  i like to imagine it was an A&W root beer fueled brawl over the last drumstick)

every time i've seen patton oswalt (the voice of remi the rat from "ratatouille") on conan o'brien, he's always raving about the "kfc bowl", which he (aptly) describes as "the entire left side of the menu pushed into a bowl; it's what frankenstein would order."  that sold me on it.
and while i was crushed to find that the root beer tap wasn't working--a frosty mug just isn't the same with sierra mist--the bowl was all that i hoped it would be and more.  corn, gravy, mashed potatoes, and chicken, all together.  i highly recommend it.

tim's ipod provided musical entertainment the whole way down and back.  i got laughed at for not knowing the backup chorus to an offspring song, we belted weezer's 'buddy holly' glorious, and sang 'bohemian rhapsody' in a way that would have made my dad proud.
(at the bottom of the sign, tim's thumb is covering up "goats".  honest)
(editor's note: i just found out tim did that intentionally)

this is not the first time that i've driven through southern utah and the conversation has produced geology questions.  i've wondered how "mesas" are different from "plateaus" (a mesa is a free-standing flat-topped mountain, while a plateau is the flat outcropping of a mountain, i believe).  this time we wondered how mesas are formed.  scott "the scort" himes has always been my go-to man for all things geology, and even though his life goes forward like a locomotive and i haven't talked with him in a while, i decided it was time to chat; he told me that mesas are formed when the softer rock is eroded away from the harder rock, leaving the mesa to stand alone.
i really should note that mark gave this exact answer before i called scott.  it's just that the scort's always been my source for geology questions, and there's inherent security in that.  and i hadn't talked with him in way too long.
mountains always make me think of the scort.  mountains and trebuchets.

what about joshua trees?  are they actually trees, or are they cacti?  on the way home, i decided to cast my vote for "actual trees."

i registered mark and tim for the convention, too, so they would be able to come in with me (we got name badges and everything!)  mark decided that he was my "vp of acquisitions" while tim was the "productions manager."  i think they tried to pretend like they knew what people were talking about, with varying results.
panasonic is usually a good place to start, but they didn't have anything especially notable (although there is a new camera of note coming in the fall), but arri is always fun to check out--they actually make movie cameras.  i really wanted to check out their new digital D21, but it was getting hogged the whole time by some pretentious l.a. wannabe commercial director who knew nothing about cameras.
but i got to check out the 416 instead; i saw it last year, but it's still a brilliant little camera.

that's my account acquisitions manager; he's usually in the office or on the road, so he doesn't get to see the cameras very often.

"steadicam" is the industry-standard of camera stabilizers.  at byu, we had a "glidecam", the poor-man competitor.  it worked well for us and our films, but as i've worked with steadicam operators, i've blushed at our clunky student tools.  i got to play with glidecam's new rigs they were pretty darn impressive (and LOT less pricey).  this is the kind of stuff we come to find out about.

i'm not sure what company this thing was for, or why it was even here, but it was really, really weird.

i mean this would have given me nightmares when i was twelve.

after a good talk with a guy about sony's new f23 camera, i told tim and mark that we were on the return; we'd start heading back toward the exit and stop anywhere we missed. i knew that most of this stuff wasn't that interesting to them and they had been good about not getting bored, but they were starting to act kind of strange. the kind of strange when, in high school, jon and jamie had some inside joke that i wasn't in on. mark assured me they'd explain when we got to the car. whatever.
i stopped at the store and picked up a book i saw almost bought last year, a study on the use of color in film entitled, "if it's purple, someone's gonna die." (the title alone is worth it, and when the lady at the register told me it was 40%, i hardly cared why my friends were acting oddly)
nevertheless, when we found our car again in the massive parking lot and got in the car, mark turned to tim and said, "fine, here's your $3."
it turned out that while i was talking with the sony camera guy, they made a bet about how much longer it'd be until we got to the car; if it was less than 45 minutes, mark owed tim $3.  if it was more, tim gave mark his $5 starbucks gift card he'd won.  neither of them could influence me in anyway to get me to hurry up or take my time, which explains why mark would start to say something and then suddenly stop and say "nevermind."
i thought that was clever.

we had a room at the venetian.  someday i'll stay at the bellagio, but it didn't work out this time.  ...and it's not like the venetian is a second-rate place anyway.
driving into the parking garage, mark noted that the cars in front and behind were quite expensive compared with his car (which is nice and new already).  this comment had me watching people as were entering this italian palace; was i suddenly a comparative lower-class, carrying my backpack of clothes to check in?
i visually perused the line as we waited by amid the velvet ropes: yes, the hotel looks like it was built for the medici, but the patrons looked like me.  the couple at the front were in shorts and sandals and had probably backpacked europe; the man directly ahead of us was dressed like a mid-level business man, probably in town for the same reason we were; behind us was a lady in dark hair and dark sunglasses whose luggage looked comparable to a louis vuitton.  in short, were belonged here as well as anyone.  this was my kind of place.
standing in line, my astute younger brother noted that you can often get an upgraded room when you check in, since they will most likely not all be taken and the hotel wants to make some money on them.  so we asked the nice man.
we were currently in a 650 sq. ft. room (and one king bed--that was the only option when i reserved the room); for $100 more we could get a 1100 sq. ft. suite (with two queen beds) (editor's note: that's more footage than my townhome).  normally it'd be a $150 for the upgrade, but because we booked on, we got the discount.  write that one down, folks.
$100 divided by 3 = $33 each.
oh yeah.

we flashed our cards to the security guard outside the elevators.
we scanned our cards to operate the elevators.
we pushed the button for the 18th floor.
we found suite 306.
it had double doors.
this was seriously dang awesome.

i loved that i could run into the room and not stop for 3 seconds (that doesn't sound like much, but try it in your own house and see how far you get).

mark and tim modeled the bathrobes (which could be ours for only $79).  
whenever you travel with my or my brother or sister, you have to be quick about the complimentaries, especially if it's a nice place.  as we were admiring the room, tim was already cleaning out the bathroom and loading shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and even the extra roll of toilet paper into his bag (mark harassed him about this until he felt the roll; then he understood.)

if you or someone you know works for the venetian hotel, please let this be our little secret.

later that evening, when tim and mark were at the club lounge, i would discover the joy of moving back and forth between a hot bath and a cold shower.

that is not the tv remote that tim is modeling.

no, that remote controls the curtains!

but speaking of tvs, we have a nice one in our suite.

and a second one opposite the beds.

and a third one in the bathroom.
(tim said he watched "will and grace" in there that evening.)

but after all this ooohing and aaaahing of our palace for the evening, we remembered that we had been hungry since three hours ago (when we didn't feel like spending $8.50 for a slice of pizza), and we pulled out the house dining directory.
this is vegas.  this is one of the nicest hotels in vegas.  there are some serious restaurants here.  i read that mario batali has a restaurant here, and, since i've heard of him, i wanted to check it out.
all of the restaurants are on "restaurant row", beginning with the grand lux cafe--essentially the cheesecake factory but a fancier name.  we continued on, checking out the menus as we walked down the lane, where the prices climbed with each step, culminating at mr. batali's, where there weren't evening prices listed.  
i was ok spending the money for dinner at a serious venetian restaurant, but not when considering the portion size to cost ratio; last week in san francisco, the company dropped $450 for six of us.  true, it was the best sushi i've ever had, but i was barely full then.  i didn't want to leave mario's b+b restaurante still hungry.
we sprung for the grand lux cafe--a cheesecake factory by any 
other name is still a cheesecake factory.  i've eaten there a few times before and have been happy.  but, best of all, they have a seriously good sugar-rimmed strawberry lemonade, something i could never find in san francisco.

on the strip, there's only so much to do if you don't a) gamble or b) go to a show, but the bellagio fountains are always worth it.  i also wanted to visit the wynn hotel; i'll heard enough hullabaloo about it but only stopped in once briefly.  inside, it's pretty much like the bellagio; a little nicer, maybe, but the bellagio did it first.  walking up to the entrance, we saw a ferrari showroom,
 advertising cars for rent.  i commented that it was probably $30/hour to rent a ferrari (aren't
 most cars about $30/day?) and mark and tim
 laughed at me.  this being vegas, we made a sort of bet, though nothing was ever wagered: i had $0-100/hour, tim had $200+, and i guess mark was had the middle area.  whoever was right was... right.  
outside the showroom was a sign: $10 just to come in and look at the ferraris.  that was enough for me; i was off on that one.

as we were in the gathering throng at the bellagio, the nice pre-recorded lady voice told us that due to high winds, the fountain show would be cancelled until 9:30.  this same thing happened when kirk and i were down here for nab last year.  he and i waited for an hour and didn't see a single show.  rather than wait an hour in this dusty, windy, yet cultured environment, i proposed we do something else i haven't done in vegas for a while.
across the street from the bellagio is "paris", wherein they have little parisian cafes that sell simply delightful confectionaries.  when my mom and i were down here three years ago we discovered a little chocolate something called a "millennium."  it's $5, but 1) this is vegas, 2) it's pretty much worth that anyway, and 3) it's much better than the $5 brownie sold as the bellagio across the street.
a millennium is a small angelfood cake slice with a small bit of pistachio pudding.  upon and around this is built a hearty cylinder of chocolate mousse.  over that is a soft and gooey layer of rich, dark chocolate.  if you have the means, i highly recommend picking one up.  it is so choice.

tim really wanted to go to the venetian's nightclub, but seeing as monday really isn't much of a party-night (everyone's having family home evening, i presume) the club was closed but the lounge was open.  he and mark chilled there while i enjoy the luxury of our room and worked on my sunday school lesson.

it's a very lovely room.  it was pretty dang awesome getting to stay in a place like this, and even when i opened the cupboard door and it fell right off, the front desk was happy to send a repairman up, assuring me it wasn't my fault.

the morning brought a dilemma of where to eat: do we feast at the grand lux breakfast buffet (i've eaten there before; it's very good) or do we go to in-n-out burger?

in the end, is there really a choice?  when i'm in vegas, i don't care what fancy restaurants i go to, as long as i get my fresh-cut fries, animal style burger, and (really good) chocolate shake.  tim went with a 3x3 burger, while mark got his fries animal style.
and it seemed a chinese tour bus must have stopped there right before we walked in.  at the time, i wished the lines weren't so long.  looking back, i'm glad they got to have some of america at its best.

in nephi, we found the loneliest "taco time" in the whole country.

mark stopped at the gas station across the street to get something to drink.  as i was browsing the aisles for nothing, a man came in and asked the gathered locals for directions to "big rock candy mountain."  i was sure i misheard him, but as the old cowboys were giving directions, it was confirmed; somewhere down here there is a "big rock candy mountain."  is the song true?  are all the boxcars empty?  is there a lake of stew?  do you never have to change your socks?
as i pondered this at the counter, i saw they were selling thin mints girl scout cookies.  this was something i did need.
back in the car, i realized that girl scout season comes only once a year and, as no one has come to my door, this is probably my sole opportunity.  thus, i seized it and ran back inside to get another box.

yesterday it was 90 degrees in las vegas.
this morning, tim was swimming outside on the roof of the venetian.
and yet we somehow came home to a snowstorm.

further, we came home to our house being decorated, with nothing more than a vague "welcome home" written on the microwave.
(we have a short list of suspects.)

it was pretty much the best trip ever.


Becky said...

That was a long post, but I did read it all and I did like it. "My name is Jeff and I stayed a fancy schmancy restaurant in Las Vegas." I'm sure it was lovely.

Marvia said...

So.... Gustafson brothers!!! "The Marvia" and "The Audrey" will be gracing the state of Utah with our presence this week. We drive out tonight and will be hanging until next Thursday. So, as you know... you guys are welcome to give us a call. :)

~Bekahjo said...

I've never really had a great desire to stop in Vegas until now. You make a very convincing argument. If I ever decide to tour it, you'll have to give me a list of places to go. PS. I was probably passing you on the road, since I was up in Utah this weeken. My time was all jam-packed with family stuff though, so there was no playing time available...

LJ said...