Welcome Back: Vegas: Day 4

What-a-do, everybody?

Welcome back to the blog, and Happy New Year to y’all. I hope everyone had an excellent holiday season, and we’re all healthy and happy. I know we’re all a few pounds heavier thanks to all the massive amounts of food! Mmmm… Aunt Elvie’s meatballs!!

So, where were we? Oh yeah… Vegas. Day 4 of 5. This was going to be our last full day in Vegas, so we had a lot planned. The weather continues to be awesome. Should have pulled out the shorts while I could!

Hmm. Maybe not a good idea. The sheer whiteness of my legs would have blinded half of Vegas. Never mind the Strip full of Neon.

We started the day inside the MGM Grand, where they have something called CSI Experience.

Here’s a little tip. If you’re a fan of CSI – any version – and you’re in Vegas, this is something you HAVE to check out.

Once we bought our tickets (I was a little confused; was this a show?), we were taken downstairs into the bowels of the place by a lovely (wink wink, nudge nudge) young lady dressed up in full CSI gear, and we’re made CSI Agents. Unfortunately, we didn’t get our own flak jackets, side arms, and awesome investigator kit full of goodies like you see on the show. I always wanted my own fingerprint paper, black light, and handcuffs.

Don’t you “Oooooooooh” me! Get your minds out of the gutter!

Anywho, we’re signed up and made Agents, and we get a choice of what crime scene we want to try and solve. We have a choice of three – one where a car has been driven into a house, one where a body has been found in a dumpster, and one where human remains are found in the desert.

Steph and I chose the one where the car has been found smashed through the front of the house, since there’s tons of blood, and we’ve always been interested in the way the show explains the mechanics of blood spatter, so we’re in.

Once we’ve chosen our case, we’re taken through to an empty room with a video screen in it, and we get to see a short video. We’re getting our own personal pep talk from our supervisor, none other than Gil Grissom himself! I guess this place was made a year or two ago, since the Grissom character is no longer on the show, which is a shame, since he was the most interesting.

But, I digress.

Once we get our welcome message, instructions/reminders, and heads up from Grissom, we’re taken into another room where our crime scene is. I thought it might be a video/still frame, or a display, or something, but they’ve ACTUALLY RECREATED the crime scene in full life sized detail. There’s A CAR smashed through a wall in someone’s living room! This is so cool!

Steph and I are being awesome agents, documenting everything we see, noting fingerprints, the way the car was wrecked, the scatter of the debris throughout the living room, family pictures giving information, footprints, and of course, all the blood you might find at a real accident where someone’s wrecked a car through the front wall of a house at a real high speed and been killed.

Once we’re done collecting/documenting evidence, we head off into the back, where they have several actual labs set up for each crime scene. I was channeling my inner Grissom, and we had fingerprints identified, footprints scanned, blood work done, toxicology panels done, dirt samples and hair samples evaluated, and each lab pieced together part of the story and led us down the path to finding the suspect and pinning the evidence to him. We didn’t get to physically *handle* evidence, but it was all built into their computer programs. Very well done.

When all the labs were completed and we thought we’d figured out what happened, we went to file our final report and submit who we thought did it. Steph and I were both correct, and once again Grissom came on and told us what a fabulous job we’d done. The whole story, complete with how the scene happened, was played for us after we solved it, and now we understood how it all came together. We fired in our email addresses, where we could have our very own CSI diplomas emailed to us!

Take THAT, over-educated and highly-paid crime scene investigators!

After a grueling morning solving crimes and proving our highly elevated brain power, we spent some time in the CSI store and picked up some memorabilia. From there, we went shopping at the CBS store – fitting, since CSI airs on CBS. I thought maybe I could pick up some Craig Ferguson merchandise, but alas, they all had their heads up their asses – no Ferguson stuff to be had! I was denied my replica snake mug! Steph managed to pick up her very own Survivor buff and a couple other things, and after a stop at the Harley Davidson store, we thought we’d take a break and grab a bite to eat as it was close to lunch time.

We found this sandwich shop near to the CSI area, and went in for a snack. The place was called “‘wich craft”, and let me tell ya, they’re working SOME kind of voodoo at that place, since it was packed, and they must have some powerful magic to accomplish that with two sodas, sandwiches, and soups costing close to $35. It’s like they have this magical aura that sucks people into opening their wallets and throwing everything down for their food, which wasn’t really even all that good.

Note to y’all visiting MGM Grand: AVOID ‘wich craft!

After being worked over by their spell, we left the sandwich shop and went back to the hotel to drop off our purchases, before heading to the Mirage to spend the rest of the day there, and we headed straight to Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden.

This place is so cool. You come through the gate, and there’s this grand walkway with bridges through the trees and over water – all very beautiful, and you come through at the end to the dolphin area.

There’s a large man-made pond, and we arrived just at the end of a “show”, where the dolphins would have been doing all the flips and jumps and tricks and all, so we just watched them swimming for a while, and being trained to do some actions by their handlers. Dolphins are mega-cute, so while we didn’t get a show, it was very cool just to watch them swim, play for their handlers, make sounds, and generally have a good time. It even looks like they smile when they’re getting fed or rewarded for a job well done.

For a quick moment, I felt like jumping out of my chair and recreating the scene from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective where he leaps into the pool and does his Star Trek impressions.

Not only would that have gotten me arrested, I would have been soaking wet.

From there, it was off down the path into the trees, and we came across an enclosure filled with alpacas. If you don’t know what an alpaca is, it’s basically like a smaller, furrier version of a camel. There were three or four of them lounging around in the sun, really not doing much but being kept company by a robin.

Moving on past the alpacas, it was time for what we came for.

The big cats.

The first enclosure had a black panther perched high in a resting area, but it’s face was in full view, and I got a tremendous shot of it. Thank you zoom lens!

One enclosure had Siegfried and Roy’s signature, the white tiger. The animal was huge, and gorgeous. It walked around, really not caring too much about the people crowded around to see it, but DAMN, it was a big cat. Again, there will be pictures coming later.

Moving on, we got about two feet away from a long, high, mesh fence, where both a female and male LION were in their enclosure. The female was pretty tired, so she didn’t do much at all other than lie there, but the boy… oh BOY… when he was walking the fence, he was literally three feet away from us. He was HUGE. Like XBOX. A big, flowing mane like Fabio, and a roar like you’ve never heard. This lion’s roar REVERBERATED through the small forest, and you could hear him way back at the dolphin pond just like he was standing right beside you. I’m sure we’ve all heard a lion roar on TV at one time, or we’ve seen any MGM film begin/end with the lion roaring, but there’s nothing.. AND THE ROCK MEANS… NOTHING… that compares to a gigantic male lion roar live and in the flesh – three feet away from you. You shake and shiver from your head right down to your toes and all parts in between. If that fence wasn’t there, I surely would have needed a new pair of pants. Wow. Simply amazing. Gorgeous, gorgeous animals.

Around the corner from the big scary lions were the highlight of the Garden: two teeny white tiger cubs! Everyone there practically DIED of cuteness. They were sleeping when we got there (great photos!), but the handlers woke them up, and they started to play a bit. Think about it. Tiny, little, cute, itty bitty tigers. Playing like house cats. We got to ask the handlers questions about their time with them, how they’re raised, and got stories about their experiences. It was an awesome experience.

On the way out of the Secret Garden, there was one more tiger enclosure, with 5 – count ‘em – 5 tigers.

Discovery Channel Sidebar: In watching recent documentaries on tigers – cause we do that, as we’re obsessed with big cats – researchers were surprised to see that tigers remain functioning as a family unit throughout their lives. It was previously believed that tigers were a very autonomous animal, preferring to be alone, but this research clearly showed the male tigers returning to the pack after long trips patrolling and defending their territory, when they were thought to have abandoned the pack altogether.

Back to the story. So we get to this enclosure with 5 tigers – both white and Siberian tigers are in there – and they’re all sleeping in a giant pile, curled up like a mound of puppies. Yup, they sure look pretty lonely to me! How cute is that? Anywho, the flashbulbs start going off by the dozens. I’ve never seen anything like that before. Absolutely adorable.

It’s time to leave the Secret Garden, so we stop at the gift shop on the way out – well, Steph did, and I went back to watch the dolphins – and Steph picked up some goodies, as well as some pictures. On the way in, there’s a spot where you get photographed against a green screen, and then the folks at the Garden put that photo into a pre-made scene, so it looks like you’re standing in the rainforest amongst the tigers, or any number of other different scenes. We picked that up as well, and headed back inside the Mirage, where we were to meet our friend Karen, as well as Karen’s mom and dad, Hans and Jan, who were in Vegas the same time as we were.

Why was that, you may ask? Well, that’s for a completely separate blog entry, which may require a whole lot of wobbly pops before I get the cajones to write.

Anyways, we meet the Schweitzer clan and head over to B. B. King’s restaurant and club for some down home southern cooking. I took a few of photos inside the bar, and we ordered our drinks. I don’t remember what everyone had to eat, but it was all very delicious. I had some Cajun chicken pasta, but the other thing I remember was Jan ordering a rather large baked potato.

The waiter described it as the size of a small baby.

I must stop and tell you here, that this baked potato was the single largest baked potato I have ever seen. Huge. Covered in enough bacon, sour cream, green onion, and butter to create a mid-sized gooey fortress, this was the absolute Queen Mother, the flagship of all baked potatoes. When she saw this thing carried out by six large muscular men (ok, I made that part up) and placed in front of her, I swear Jan’s eyes jumped out of her head, and right THROUGH her glasses into the butter. Her jaw was somewhere at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Get the picture now? It WAS the size of a small baby!

Needless to say, Jan didn’t finish the baked potato from hell, but we all had a great time, exchanged Vegas stories, and especially talked about what was coming next, after dinner.

Terry. Fator.

We all had tickets to see the winner of the second season of America’s Got Talent, and if you haven’t seen this guy, go on to YouTube, find a DVD, scour the internet and your TV, because this guy is MONEY.

But before Terry, the Schweitzer’s and Stephanie went out front of the Mirage to catch the 7 PM performance of the Mirage volcano, a tourist attraction that’s a simulation of a volcano put to music. We’ve got video of it. I, meanwhile, was, um, occupied, so I didn’t go, but the video was great. Steph says it was fantastic, so take her word for it.

On to Terry Fator. If you haven’t seen him, picture this. He’s a guy that not only sings his own stuff, but he does drop dead impersonations of music legends such as Louis Armstrong, Sonny Bono, Aaron Neville, Justin Timberlake, Elvis Presley, Garth Brooks, The Pussycat Dolls, and a whole lot more. He’s called the Human Jukebox.

And he does it all… with his mouth SHUT.

Yup. He does it while performing ventriloquism. Words just don’t describe this guy’s ability. And does it all around a comedy act, to boot. So we head to the show, we have great seats, and settle in for what’s bound to be a night of unreal entertainment.

To open things up, Terry’s DJ fires the crowd up with music, and does a version of the evolution of dance, where he strings together all the different dance moves from the 40’s and 50’s right up until today. It’s a great act.

Then Terry himself comes on, and I mean, this guy’s humble as apple pie. He’s been on the road for 26 years before he got his big break, and he tells us all that if we’ve got cameras, use ‘em. Take all the pictures you want to. If you brought your video camera, please don’t record the ENTIRE show, but feel free to record some clips as souvenirs. NO ONE does that. NO. ONE.

Yeah, we got some clips. If you can’t wait to see them, you can always check out Terry’s official home page, where there are some clips:

http://www.terryfator.com/videos.html

Almost two hours later, we’ve been through the comedy and musical ringer, and like Jan’s jaw at dinner, ours were all on the floor in amazement – when they were busy laughing our asses off at how funny this guy is. Terry also did a sincere, honorable tribute to all those in the crowd that have been or are currently in the military, and following the show, he announced that he would be outside to have pictures taken and sign autographs, and wouldn’t leave until each and every one of us that wanted one, would get one.

So we waited about 30 minutes in line, got to meet Terry, get a picture taken, and got his new DVD and got it autographed.

Good times, good times.

What to do next? Well, B. B. King’s is – go figure – a BLUES bar, so we thought we’d all go back and have a drink there and listen to some tunes. The Schweitzers went ahead to get a seat as Steph and I were busy meeting Terry, and I got back to the bar ahead of Steph, as she went to pick up the actual picture we had taken, and I found Jan with her head buried in her hands at the table. I thought she was just hammered, but then I heard the band start playing their next song. It was an incredibly bad version of some song by Akon, and we couldn’t stand it. We lasted long enough in the bar to have a drink after we stood in line for over half an hour, but that was about it. Oh yeah, Steph had some cheesecake or something, but that band cleared us out of the bar faster than a giant fart.

Jan asked the management why there wasn’t any blues band, but it turns out the main band had issues/was sick/couldn’t make it, so these guys filled in.

BAD CHOICE.

So, it was kind of a sour end to an otherwise fantastic day in Vegas, but fun was had by all. Well, everyone except for my back, who at this time was calling me every name in the book, and some that hadn’t even been invented yet.

Oh well. Back to the hotel room to crash!

Next: Vegas: The Voyage Home

Vegas: Day 2

So, how do we follow up the extra-spectacular eye-candy that was KA the night before?

You don’t, really.

TOMORROW IS A NEW DAY!

We open up Day 2 with brunch. Specifically, the MGM Grand buffet (on this blog, pronounced “boo-fay”, in honor of Phoebe on the “Friends” TV show). We’ve been told by everyone – “You have to check out the buffets!”, so here we are. And, let me tell you, Mister (or whatever title you prefer)… WHAT A SPREAD.

There’s like a dozen rows of glass stations, all filled with food. They had breakfast AND lunch, so we had EVERYTHING. Bacon, eggs, sausages, 4 different kinds of breakfast potatoes, fruit, quiches, pancakes, waffles, omelet stations, and more. For lunch, there was chicken tenders, sushi, salads, a full taco bar, a Chinese food station, a full Italian station (all kinds of pastas), and plenty more. Not to mention the desert bar, which had multiple kinds of cakes, crème-brulee, and ice cream with chocolate, strawberry, sprinkles, nuts, and my favorite, tiny M&M candies for toppers.

Everything was absolutely awesome. Well, except for the sushi. Steph ate it, but I refuse to eat sushi just on the principle of it. So, it sucked. It was a little expensive -  around $55 for the both of us – but it was very high-quality, and I’d do it again. Especially for the ice cream with the mini-M&M’s on top!

So, we finish up, loosen the belt a couple notches, and waddle our way over to the MGM Grand Lion Habitat. This is so cool. They have two adult, female lions in the habitat, which itself is an enclosed, somewhat large area, with toys for them to play with, a small area for water (a waterfall), and an upper area that they climb on – which doubles as an underneath viewing area for patrons; there’s a tunnel you can walk into that’s directly underneath where the lions climb and sleep, so you get a VERY close view of these giant cats. These lions are actually maintained by a gentleman that lives just outside Vegas. He maintains a lion sanctuary, and the lions inside the MGM habitat are actually swapped out every 6 or 7 hours, so they’re not spending all their time in captivity. Very cool. We snapped a whole bunch of pictures here, and then one of the best things of the whole trip happened next.

Not only are there two big lions to look at, there’s also a few month old cub! And not only is the cub there, but you CAN TAKE YOUR PICTURE WITH IT!

So Steph and I got in line, waited about 30 minutes, and then there we were, standing in a room behind this absolutely CUTE little lion cub – Steve Irwin would call her a “good lookin’ little Sheila!” She was on a table facing away from us (her name is Pebbles), and we got to pet her back while the handler got her psyched up with toys to look into the camera. We got a perfect shot, and an 8×10 to bring home with us.

Steve-o  would also have summed it up best: “WHOO-HOO!”

So, after getting our picture and purchasing a few things from the Lion Habitat store, we head over to kill a few minutes on the slot machines, before deciding we’ve been inside the hotel for too long. We head outside, and walk around the corner, where we’re in full view of the Strip. We get pictures of the MGM Grand statues outside, New York New York across the street, featuring the roller coaster on top of the hotel, the miniature Brooklyn bridge and the smaller-scale replica of the Statue of Liberty. We can also see Excalibur, the Hooters Hotel (should have stayed there!), and other places. It’s awesome outside, about +10 degrees.

Well, just about awesome. Stephanie all of a sudden stops dead in her tracks, and punches me in the shoulder.

“Jarret! MY BAG!”

“What?”

“My bag! With our stuff from the Lion Habitat! It’s still in the casino!”

We left it at the damned slot machines.

Steph turns and BOLTS back for the door, and I follow her back. When I get to the casino, she’s long gone, but I go back to our slot machine, and of course, the bag is gone.

Well, kiss that $100 goodbye.

I hang back near the open area that leads to the doors, ensuring that Steph can find me on her way back, and then moments later, I see her ZOOMING across the casino floor in the opposite direction. Aaaaaaaand, she disappears.

So I wait for a little longer, maybe another 5 minutes, and then she comes roaring back towards me, skipping, if you will, and she’s holding her bag in the air like an Olympic torch bearer. Either a patron, or an employee, or Security found the bad and turned it in. Thank you whoever you are! Steph couldn’t be happier. Pebbles is safe and sound!

From there, we decide to hit the Stratosphere. So, we manage to almost walk around the entire MGM Grand (or at least that’s what my back told me) and we get to the monorail area, buy a 3 day pass, and jump on board. It’s quite a fun ride, heading from the MGM Grand and then back north, passing hotels like Bally’s, Wynn, the new Planet Hollywood, and the Hilton Las Vegas, before arriving across the street from the Sahara. We jump in a cab and head over to the Stratosphere, and DAMN that thing is huge. A big tower, over 1000 feet straight up. We go through the casino and walk around the place, seeing all the shops, and two of the most aggressive cell phone accessories salesmen I’ve ever met.

It’s too early to go up to the observation deck, so we decide to head to this show called American Superstars, a show with several musical celebrity impersonators. Or, tribute artists, as they prefer to be called. It starts in like 5 minutes, so, we hurry and purchase our tickets (close to the stage), and head into the venue, only to find people still setting up for the show. A lady informs us we’re rather early, and I check my watch, which is somehow displaying the second time zone, and we’re 90 minutes early.

Question #1: How did my watch flip over to the other time zone?

Question #2: Since when does a time zone contain half an hour anywhere else than in Newfoundland? Certainly not in the middle of the continent?

So while we’re busy trying to solve these mysteries, we decide we need a bite to eat, and head over to a nearby pretzel place. I have the world’s greasiest pretzel dog, and we head back to the show. This time, we’re seated, and I need to go to a sidebar here.

When we bought our tickets, we were looking at places close to the stage, and they had some nice looking booths there. Now, me and booths normally don’t get along. And really, it’s not the booth’s fault. It’s the fact that my ass is the size of nine normal human asses. So I ask the guy: “Are the booths BIG? I’m a big guy, so I need to be able to get in there.”

The guy sizes me up, and says no problem. So we buy the booth.

Now, we’re getting seated, and this lovely lady shows us to our booth, which I immediately ascertain can only fit three human asses, not nine, so I tell her this, and she moves us to a table right in front of the stage. Awesome.

Then, we see an ad on the big screen, where if you bought tickets to the show, you can add on admittance to the Stratosphere tower for only $5. That ALSO includes a boo-fay. Don’t need the boo-fay, but if we were to buy tickets to the tower separately, it would cost $15 each. Thanks for telling us at the ticket booth!

So Steph – who doesn’t mind paying for things, but absolutely HATES getting ripped off on anything, boogies her way out to the front, and comes back with new show tickets with the admission to the tower tagged on. You go, girl!

The show is about to start. First dude up is Elvis. Or, a dude playing Elvis. Or, as they prefer, a dude paying tribute to Elvis. Whatever the hell they call it, this guy is MONEY. He’s like Elvis reincarnated. He’s singing about Blue Suede Shoes, and how he’s a hunk-a-hunk-a-burnin’ love, and he’s shaking everything and sweating his ass off, and he’s NAILING this performance. Later on, he tells us that a couple years ago, he went to Graceland, and they had an Elvis impersonator competition, and out of over 300 Elvis’s (Elvii??)… he WON. Holy shit. But yeah, he’s THAT good, and we have a blast.

The next dude did a Tim McGraw impersonation, but his singing was mediocre, and he acted way too cocky to be like Tim McGraw. Up next, a Britney impersonator, and while I don’t really like her music, at least this woman was easy on the eyes – and the outfits certainly didn’t hurt her situation. She even said during her show, that we “don’t need to be a Britney fan to be MY fan!”, and I’m instantly convinced.

“Britney” finishes her set, and next, we’re introduced to Carrie Underwood, and this girl doesn’t really look like Carrie at all. She’s very pretty, and the headlights were on ultra high beams, if you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down, and she was a decent enough singer, but NOT Carrie Underwood. And she doesn’t even sing any of Carrie’s popular songs. Pass.

But next, we’re promised, the man, the myth, the legend, the King of Pop.. MICHAEL JACKSON! And HOLY CRAP does this guy ever LOOK like Michael! His voice is a little off, but let’s face it, only Michael could ever sound like Michael, so no problem there. This guy ROCKETS through all of MJ’s biggest hits, and moonwalks his ass across the stage just like MJ himself. He looks, dances, dresses, acts, talks, and I’m sure sneezes, eats, and shits just like Michael too. WOW.

Shane Parsons, if you’re reading this, you NEED to go see this show if you can!

*crotch grab* HEE-HEE!

From there, we’re off to the Stratosphere tower. The observation deck is 900 feet in the air. 108 floors up. The elevator goes up at a rate of three floors per second. That’s a 36 second trip.

I can’t get taken up *5* floors at my office in 36 seconds.

We arrive at the 108th floor. I tell you, you haven’t seen Vegas until you’ve seen it at night, and from almost 900 feet in the air. You can walk all the way around the tower, seeing an amazing night-time view of Las Vegas, all lit up. You can see the *whole* city, and seeing the whole thing lit up is VERY cool. Words can’t do it justice, so when I post the pictures, you’ll have to go check. We walk all the way around the tower, and once we’ve had our fill of the view, we head back to the elevator, where the same elevator dude that brought us up asks us if we want to go OUTSIDE.

Excuse me?

The 10*9*th floor is an OUTDOOR observation deck, about 1/3rd of the way around the tower. So we go. Sweet mercy. Seeing straight down at that height, with the wind blowing in your face, and all the lights… wow. What a view.

But not only is there an amazing view at 900 feet in the air.

They have RIDES.

“What kind of rides could they possibly have at 900 feet in the air?”, you might ask?

I will tell you. They have THREE.

  • The Big Shot: Think of the Drop of Doom at 900 feet in the air. In REVERSE. You strap in, and the ride shoots you straight UP 160 feet at 45 MPH, pushing over 4 G’s. That’s nuts. You’re over 1000 feet in the air with your brains in your feet and your stomach in your throat.
  • X-Scream: Basically, a giant teeter-totter that’s pitched over the side of the tower off the observation deck. You sit in this rail car, and PLUMMET down the track towards the city streets, before the thing HAMMERS on the brakes right at the end. WHOA.
  • Insanity: Ok. If the Big Shot is nuts, this ride is f’n crazy. You strap into a chair with a group of other people. There’s four mechanical arms to this thing, and you’re lifted out OVER the city at 900 feet in the air. Picture your hand, bent down at the wrist so your fingers are pointing towards the floor. The ends of your fingers are the chairs in which people sit. Then picture your hand opening up and extending, so that your fingers are straight out. You’re in that chair at 900 feet, looking STRAIGHT DOWN. THEN… the whole thing starts spinning around in circles at a high rate of speed. HOLY SHIT!

Ok. You back with me yet? I hope you haven’t puked all over the place or passed out in fear. You sure you’re ok? Alright. Let’s continue.

One of the things I wanted to do was play some cards. Not content to just want to pour dollar after dollar into the slots, I wanted to sit down and play some real games. So, we went downstairs in the Stratosphere casino, and grabbed $100. I immediately gave $50 to Steph for safekeeping (come on, it’s habit by now) and I sit down at $5 minimum table.

Ok. There’s one thing I have to explain here, which might contribute to my lack of decision-making ability that I will soon describe.

The dealers at Stratosphere are all extremely good-looking women.

Extremely good-looking women with tiny, tight jean shorts.

Extremely good-looking women with tiny, tight jean shorts and – how do I put this somewhat PC – great boobs.

Extremely good-looking women with tiny, tight jean shorts, great boobs, and shirts open to the waist.

ARE YOU GETTING THIS YET?

So I sit down with my $50 and start playing. I haven’t played real Blackjack for at least a couple years, so I’m rusty, and I let them know this. The girls were very nice, taking the time to give me the odds of winning certain hands, providing advice on what to do with certain cards, letting me know when to split or try and double up, all the good stuff.

Shortly, I’m up $70, sitting with $120. I should really get up and leave. But I can’t. There’s some kind of… super magnetic force that’s got me pinned to the table. I look up, and see what they are-I mean, what it is.

An hour later, my $120 is gone.

But it was FUN.

We cash out our remaining $50 and decide that it’s late, so we jump a cab back to the Sahara, and ride the monorail back to the MGM Grand. Another successful night!

Next: Vegas: Day 3

Vegas: Day 1

So, after a pair of $6 tickets to ride part of the Strip from the airport to our hotel, we arrive at the front door of the MGM Grand. On the outside, it’s really big. And really green. On the inside, it’s rather spectacular at first look.

The main lobby floor is covered in shiny white marble, streaked with black. On the left, is the MGM Grand & Company Store, where they look to take even more of your gambling money away with merchandise sales. On the right, the hotel’s business services area, check in area (which behind that is a GIGANTIC set of TV’s advertising upcoming events at the hotel), and the concierge service.

Directly in front of you, though, is the centerpiece of the hotel. A huge golden statue of Metro, the MGM Grand Lion, the namesake of the first “M” in MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). Tall and regal, overlooking the lobby, he also looks like he could tear your head off in an instant.

Well, he IS a lion.

Nice kitty.

So we proceed to go check in, and we meet Ann, a young woman who’s clearly at the end of her rope, but she manages to pull it together for us, and even cracks a smile and a laugh as she assigns us a room on the 23rd floor, overlooking the Strip. Awesome. We finish check in, and wave goodbye to Metro for fear he’d eat us, and head for the elevators to our room.

The moment you pass Metro and the hotel lobby, you’re walking IMMEDIATELY into the casino. We’ll also find that this is a common theme amongst all the hotels we’ll visit. Brilliant, really. Make everyone pass through the casino to get *anywhere* in the hotel. Might make a few extra hundred bucks that way. But the slot machines don’t get us THIS time, and we head off to the elevators to head to our room.

Express elevator! WOOHOO!

We get to our room, and it’s pretty nice. The bathroom is almost the size of our bedroom at home, king sized bed, television, high-speed internet ($14.95 per day!!) and a fantastic view overlooking the strip. We can see the Stratosphere, Bellagio, Planet Hollywood, New York New York, among other places (great photo ops!), and we just kick back for a few minutes and rest after all the travel. Unpack a few things, get somewhat organized, and take a breath.

Downstairs we go, and we step back out into the casino. This part of the casino is just the basic stuff; low end slots, small minimum blackjack, roulette, that kind of thing. The REAL action is down the hall, where the Poker Room, areas with high end tables, and a whole special WING dedicated to the high-rollers.

Staying away from there!

We look around, and see the KA Theater, home to Cirque du Soleil’s production of – you guessed it – “KA”. We booked tickets to the show tonight, so we head over to pick up our tickets, which must be picked up at least two hours before show time. The whole side of the wing is devoted to KA – merchandise store, ticket area, and of course, the absolutely ginormous theater.

By the time we’ve checked in, rested, gotten organized, and walked around a bit, it’s 5 Vegas time, but our stomachs are still on Winnipeg time, so we decide to find somewhere to eat. Right in front of us is Wolfgang Puck’s Bar and Grill, so we figure it’s perfect. Eat, then straight behind us is the KA theater. Not far to go. Plus, we’ve seen Wolfgang on TV lots, on Craig Ferguson, Dave Letterman, and Ellen, and we’ve always wanted to try his food. Win all around!

Wolfgang Puck’s is a wide open area. Well, it’s gated off to physically separate it from the casino, but the layout is wide open. It’s very nice for a bar and grill type place, and we’re seated, and start looking over the menu. THEY’VE GOT CRAB CAKES! We’ve always wanted to try crab cakes, so we order those up as an appetizer, Stephanie orders a gourmet burger, and I get some kind of gourmet pepperoni pizza.

Ok. I know what you’re thinking. You’re in Vegas. You’re at Wolfgang freaking Puck’s and you ordered a burger and pizza? Well, first off, this place serves bar food, so it’s about par for the course, and let me tell you something else… if you ever ATE this burger and pizza… well, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Drinks and crab cakes come out, and one thing I didn’t realize is that the crab cakes come out on a little bed of guacamole.

I HATE guacamole.

Great. This is gonna SUCK.

But, I try it anyway.

I almost fell out of my ever-loving chair. It was THAT good. These particular crab cakes were in patty form, seasoned, and on the guacamole, and all of a sudden, I didn’t even care about guacamole.

So Steph and I DEMOLISH the crab cakes, and have some drinks, waiting for our entrees, and finally, this gigantic burger with thin cut and obviously seasoned fries comes out, along with my pepperoni and cheese pizza, and folks, you might think this was JUST a burger, or JUST a pizza, but if you believe that, then I’ve got quality real estate in Siberia for sale with a fantastic view, AND your taste buds have been SORELY lacking.

Not only lacking, but now they’re REALLY jealous.

Hands down, the absolute BEST I’ve ever had, and if you think I almost fell out of my chair after eating the crab cakes, then this time my jaw went through the table in between bites.

Amazing. Along with great service, and we were duly impressed. Not that expensive, either.

But if we thought we were impressed after that, then our minds were about to be BLOWN.

It was time to go to KA.

Now, if you know me at all, you might think that my early perception of Cirque du Soleil might not be all that favorable. I’ve come around a lot lately, with shows like So You Think You Can Dance, but I thought CDS was going to be a bunch of artsy folks floating around the stage for a couple hours. That, I can take in small doses, but contemporary type dance has never been my bag, baby.

Was I about to get rocked.

I don’t know how big this theater is. Square feet wise, it’s monstrous. On the MGM Grand map, they say that Studio 54 is 20,000 square feet, but if you look at the size of Studio 54, and then look at the size of KA, you’d think you could easily fit 10-15 Studio 54’s into the space of the KA theater. It’s HUGE.

You walk into the theater, and you’d think the place is like an Ewok village. Even the ushers are dressed as part of the show. Remember the little fuzzy guys from Return of the Jedi? Well, THIS village is filled with tribal folk.

Huge, muscular, tribal folk. That go to war.

You look around the theater, and the main stage area in front of you isn’t really a stage yet. It’s a giant pit. It’s a giant pit that shoots out fire at irregular intervals. And it’s HOT, especially when you’re only a few rows back like we were. All around you on the sides of the theater are these tree-like things that lead up to enclosed platforms, and these platforms exist on multiple levels. The theater is surrounded by them. Before the show even starts, the tribal folk come onto these platforms, and start yelling at each other in some tribal-speak we don’t understand. They break out in laughter. They seem to insult each other. They pound on drums. Then, these groups of two guys are hooked up on some kind of pulley system, and they’re leaping STORIES through the air from platform level to platform level, supporting and pulling each other on this pulley system. Crazy.

Some facts about KA, before I forget:

  • 80 artists from around the world perform the show twice per day, 5 days per week and about 50 weeks per year
  • Over 100 crew members are working for the show in 8 or more technical and artist support departments
  • The music is played live, by human-beings, every time, only about 2 minutes of pre-recorded audio is used throughout the whole performance
  • The total number of cast and crew for the show is about 266 people
  • The production cost for KA were higher than the combined cost of all Broadway productions that were released in the same year as KA
  • The custom build venue for the show inside the MGM has 1,951 seats
  • Every seat is equipped with its own loud speakers for optimal sound experience
  • The main stage of KA is called a "Gantry" made of 2 decks, one that can slide forward and backward and the other one which can be rotated and moved 360 degrees
  • The main deck is 25×50 feet (8×16 meters) in diameter, weighs 300,000 lbs, which is more than a fully booked, loaded and gassed-up average-size jet airliner
  • Fully erected to its maximum height, artists perform their act 100 ft in the air!

Keep all that in mind!

So the story of KA is that everyone travels through life with the Egyptian concept of the ‘ka’ – their spiritual double, and this double leads them from one life through to the next. There are the Imperial twins that are about to embark on their own journey with their own ka’s. Along the way, the twins confront characters and events representing the opposing forces of good and evil. Before their world comes under attack and collapses around them, the twins receive a magical talisman for protection. As the plot unfolds, danger lies in wait for them at every turn and along the way, surviving ocean storms, meeting fantastic creatures and conquering evil opponents, and are finally reunited at the end of the show.

Along the way, the performers do amazing things, and so does the set. The main style of dance is capoeira, an ancient tribal style of dance developed by Brazilian slaves who were planning to rebel, but hid their fighting training inside the dance so as not to be discovered getting ready for rebellion.

Enough babbling. I can’t really do this performance justice in words. The costumes, set design (and engineering), props, makeup… EVERYTHING is just astounding. It’s amazing.

At the start of the show, a couple people come out and do a little demonstration, prepping us for what’s about to happen. They see a guy in the crowd with his cell phone on, so they come and grab him – and his phone – and TOSS the phone into the gigantic fire pit. The guys isn’t so happy, so they toss HIM into the big fire pit!

The guy was obviously a plant, but it was great nonetheless.

Out rotates this the gantry I posted about above.

The stage is first a giant rowboat, as the twins and their group embark on their journey, but then the WHOLE THING rotates and is replaced by another stage, where folks on this main stage get into this whole group number, where this one amazing guy is flipping and flying all over the place, while everyone else is twirling and throwing batons, and not only that, but they are KICKING the batons through the air back and forth in PERFECT synchronization. Just nuts. Archers are shooting LIVE arrows across the stage from the aforementioned platforms, and one woman is shot in the ASS. Another guy takes one in the chest, there’s fire everywhere, everyone mourns, and the story of the war begins.

I’m not going to tell you the whole thing, cause I’d be typing here for HOURS, and you don’t have that much time to read everything, but this is WICKED. There’s all kinds of group numbers. The stage is rotated out and replaced by a duplicate that’s turned into a BEACH, where folks are dressed as crabs and starfish and they interact with the characters. The whole platform ROTATES FORWARD ON IT’S END, and all of a sudden, it’s 100 feet from top to bottom, and at the end of the scene, all the sand pours off the deck, and at the top of the deck, one group of warriors is rotating on top of the deck as well. A second group of warriors try to climb 100 ft up from the bottom, but they’re met by posts that come poking out of the deck, that are like mock arrows being shot from the platform, knocking them off into the pit below! One valiant warrior manages to get all the way to the top, avoiding the big poles, but he’s finally knocked off, and he DROPS 100 ft PLUS into the pit below!

A HUGE dragon flies across the stage, with this woman hanging on for dear life, but she’s finally dropped into the pit from WAY above the stage!

There’s a great individual number where these two folks, one man, one woman, come out and do this high-flying number where the guy is swinging on a rope, and he’s doing all kinds of movements on the rope, and the woman joins him, and together, they’re doing all kinds of flippy stuff, amazing lifts, and crazy swinging drops and stunts that boggle me.

Transition into this scene where this angry looking dude is absolutely SHREDDING on a double guitar, setting the scene for this EPIC piece where there’s this huge set of double wheels rotating through the air. Picture five gigantic hamster wheels, but they’re orbiting around a central point. There’s two guys trapped in different wheels, but they escape, and pull off some of most death-defying stuff I’ve seen in a long time, running along on the OUTSIDE of the wheels while they’re orbiting, and leaping (ok, DROPPING) from one wheel to the next, and rotating through again. Simply amazing.

Cue up the deck rotated from top to bottom, so we have a 100ft vertical platform, and two groups of warriors locked in battle, performing some of the best wire harness work this side of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. These folks are FLYING up and down the platform, using weapons, martial arts, and other crazy stuff in this battle. Finally, good triumphs over evil, and the twins are reunited to continue on their journey.

As I said, there’s so much awesome in this, that I can’t ever hope to describe it. I will instead point you to this video to have a look on your own:

 

Here I was, thinking it was going to suck, and I was treated to one of the most awesome things I have ever seen in my life. Thanks Steph, for insisting we go see this.

By the end of the show, it’s about 9 Vegas time, 11 Winnipeg time, so we’ve been up for 19 hours, been through a lot of travel, a big meal, and a great show, and done it all on only two hours of sleep after a 20 hour day before that. So we go back to the hotel room and crash for the day.

I’d say that Vegas: Day 1 was a rousing success.

Next: Vegas: Day 2!

Here We Go Around…

Run, run around, yeah…

Ah, good old Van Halen.

But that’s not what I’m talking about today. I use the “around” word literally here. For those of you that know our dog, Kira, you know that she likes to run around in circles when she gets excited.

You know, like she’s herding something.

We long thought Kira had herding instinct in here. When she was younger, she used to circle around Cola in the backyard and lie down in the grass, waiting for her moment to spring forward. Or, she’d run miles around the coffee table.

So, while Kira’s active in agility and flyball, we thought that finally she’d might like herding, so we gave it a try. Stephanie took her to her Herding Instinct test two weeks ago, and she passed. Certificate and all!

Yesterday was her first real class, and like a proud dad, I went along to check it out, video camera in hand. The instructor Faye said Kira has a very strong gathering instinct, evident by her running circles around the sheep and keeping them all together.

I think she’s going to do well. Thanks to Faye at 4uFarms for teaching a great class, and we’re looking forward to more! We saw Faye’s dog Ben at work, and lemme tell you, this guy is AWESOME. If Kira gets half as good as Ben, I’ll be very happy.

Anywho, if you’d like a decent laugh from watching Kira run around at about 417 MPH for a few minutes, then have a look at the video!