We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sistercation: Las Vegas, Part Three

A Sisters' Writing Trilogy, Part Three by Juliette

The lobby of the Palazzo.
"Shut up and put your money where your mouth is... that's what you get for waking up in Vegas." ~Katy Perry

Who Pooped in the Park?
The Adventure of the Salvation Sisters in Sin City

   People tell me time and time again how much they enjoy the "sisters" aspect of our blog. It is true that we enjoy an unusually close relationship and share similar interests. Aside from the years we lived together as children, we have also lived together as adults in different combinations for varying periods of time in scattered locations.
   We love and respect each other deeply, but just like all close relationships of the human variety, there are also times when we drive each other completely batty. Our saving grace and the one thing that can always unite us at the end of a tense day is that we share the same warped and wicked sense of humor. Sometimes all it takes is for one silly phrase to be spoken and we break out in unanimous laughter. “Who Pooped in the Park?” is now one of those, and I will explain shortly

   Linda is bossy, I am stubborn, and Michelle does her best to avoid conflict altogether. Probably has something to do with our birth order and our astrological afflictions. The Sistercation began with Linda's Layered Cosmos in the room, dinner out, and a nightcap back in the room (admiring the fabulous view) while deciding who was sleeping where. Linda and Michelle agreed to share one of the beds to avoid my random snoring and restlessness.
   That first night Michelle and Linda were still going strong when I decided to test the bed and once I was horizontal it was all over. I was exhausted from my week of working double time to prepare for my week away. I was fading fast and nearly asleep when I hear Michelle say sweetly, "Ju-li-ette, I noticed that you haven't brushed your teeth." What? Are you f*%&ing kidding me? I do not respond. I had not brushed my teeth, but mostly I am confused as to why she cares since she is not sharing the bed with me.

Me and my pearly whites that Michelle frets over.
   The thought of removing myself from the incredibly comfortable bed, rummaging through my 1950s – no joke – no wheels suitcase to find my toothbrush and toothpaste and tottering off to the bathroom is too much to contend with. Frankly my dears, at that point in time, the last thing I give a damn about is fuzzy teeth. I ignore Michelle and let myself slip away to dreamland. I'm not sure how much time has passed when I am awakened by Linda saying, "Juliette, Michelle told me to remind you that you still haven't brushed your teeth!" Clearly this vacation is not going the way I have imagined it. This is not my beautiful life!
   These sisterly antics transport me back in time to a trip we made with the whole famn-damily from Los Angeles to Alaska when I was nine years old. All six of us where packed into our new Volkswagon bus, with Michelle being potty trained along the way, by being plopped on an enameled pot wedged between my mother's feet on the floor of the front seat.
More snaps of the Neon Museum.
   To complete the hippies from suburbia scenario, my dad attached a section of a very large cardboard box (that happened to feature the logo of some toilet paper company) across the front of the bus to provide protection from being splattered by the swarms of myriad insects and rocks flung up by trucks. The Alcan Highway was not paved yet and yes, I am dating myself.
   One of the things I remember most clearly about that trip is that Linda drove me insane by tapping me on the shoulder every half hour or so (THE ENTIRE TRIP - up and back), asking in her most annoying feigned English accent, "Pardon me boy, is this the Chattanooga Choo-Choo?" The lyric was pulled from a popular song in its day by The Glenn Miller Band, a favorite of our Nana & Papa’s... in 1941!!! Why it struck Linda's fancy almost 30 years after its heyday is a mystery to me, but it did serve to drive me completely nuts, which I believe was her objective.

The famous Dale Chihuly glass sculpture in Bellagio's lobby is stunning.
   Our current sisterly exchange also invoked many a long Christmas Eve when I would struggle to fall asleep because I was excited about opening gifts on Christmas morning, only to be awakened by Linda asking me in a stage whisper from the adjoining bed, "Juliette, are you asleep?" There were many times I would have happily strangled Linda in my youth and there were a few occasions on the Vegas trip when thoughts of "Sistercide" were tempting as well.
   Seven days with just my sisters in Las Vegas was something I had looked forward to for months! No children, no husbands, no pets... just the three of us! Wahoo! This was my first trip to Vegas, and I was not sure what to expect. People seem to love it or hate it, but everyone agrees that it is something to see.

   Therein lies the dilemma for three sisters... what to see that all three of us can agree on. Or what and where to eat, for that matter. Linda and Michelle's predilections run the Igo way, meaning they enjoy refinement, demand cleanliness, gourmet fare, and top of the line entertainment. Me, not so much. I am happier munching fish tacos in a dirt floored palapa in Mexico next to the beach, than dining at a fancy resort. My reasoning is both meals will vacate my body the following day and I can think of many fun ways to spend the Benjamin Franklin I saved. I am always constrained by a tight budget, but even if I wasn't, it is unlikely I would change my frugal habits. While we share the same blood, it is clear that mine runs the Beaumont / Smith / Godwin way. Simple is as simple does.

The wild bunch a.k.a. the Godwin siblings. Great grandmother is second from left.
  I am happy that I finally made it to Las Vegas, but I can assure you with some certainty (although nothing is EVER completely certain in Juliette World) that I will never go back. For better or for worse, I am the type of person that gets annoyed when asked if I want to be seated outside or inside at some over-priced and over-rated restaurant on the strip, when it is clearly ALL indoors. A tromp l'oeil ceiling overhead that has been painted to look like a sky does not substitute for al fresco in my book. If I am paying $50 for a steak dinner I expect my steak to be more than a half inch thick, cooked to order, and taste good. The consistently overly inflated prices, horrible service, and mediocre food made me yearn for an evening at Cafe Roka in Bisbee where I can enjoy a delectable four-course meal fit for royalty for under $30. 

The Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace
   I did enjoy one of the top ten cocktails of my life, a Blood Orange Cosmo at B&B Ristorante that is a collaboration between culinary rock stars Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich. As Linda was quick to point out, for a $15 cocktail that earned Mario Batali's stamp of approval, it sure as hell should be fabulous. I can't say we enjoyed anything else about our experience there since the service was poor (and slow), the music was horrible (too much Led Zeppelin, too loud, and completely out of sync with the venue) and for Michelle’s entrĂ©e, a dollop of Pasta Bolognese served with one slice of cold bread that ran up the bill another $35 on top of the $45 for three Cosmos. Ouch! We now refer to the restaurant as B$B.
   Las Vegas is not the place to be if you can't suspend reality for any length of time (or resent paying $4 for a bottle of filtered tap water). It would seem that I am my father's daughter after-all: when confronted with the spectacle of Vegas in all its hooey, gooey, cheesy glory, my head is filled with practical questions... How many people does this casino employ? Where do they park? How do they move the cranes to the upper floors of these monstrous buildings for construction? How do they pump concrete 60 stories high? How many workmen’s comp claims are filed here each year? How much do they pay the people that wash the windows? Why does the monorail transit the exterior of the city, instead of the interior (um, can you say "poor planning")? How many gallons of water are used per day in this desert city? Linda's friend Richard has said that Vegas will make one hell of a ghost town one day, and I have to agree. Las Vegas is clearly not sustainable.

The Fremont Street Experience. 
   In the end, aside from the time spent with my sisters, there were a few things that will help me remember Las Vegas fondly:
• The Neon Museum is a treasure trove of vintage Vegas neon signs. Hands down it was the best value for my money at $15, a suggested donation, and all for a worthy cause. If you plan to visit, make sure you have reservations!
• The Fremont Street Experience is more fun and funky than the strip and it is where all of the great neon that Vegas is known for lives! Sexy DJ's dressed in bikinis wearing Yeti boots, Motown cover bands, break dancing boys, celebrity look-alikes, and a zip-line that runs the length of the LED canopy provide fabulous people watching and photo ops at every turn. The experience is free (except for the cab ride it will take to get you there and back) and perhaps to give a few well earned tips to the entertainers!

The Cosmopolitan
• The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf provides great service, and delivers a damn fine cuppa Joe! Quality, consistency, and affordability that seemed remarkably lacking almost everywhere else.
• Magnificent chandeliers (anywhere and everywhere) - especially The Cosmopolitan, which was a virtual spider-web of lead crystal splendor!
• The Filet Mignon meatballs at Trattoria Reggiano in the Venetian had come highly recommended by my friend Sloane. The waiter, however, proved to be an indolent loser. The dining arrangement was lackluster and cramped, but all of the food was wonderful - especially those meatballs! A Las Vegas bargain for a mere $18.

   One of our last outings on the sistercation was a trip to Red Rocks Canyon. Our first stop is at the visitor's center. We stop in the gift shop, and soon I hear Linda and Michelle laughing about something. I wander over to see that the source of their amusement is a copy of the now infamous book, "Who Pooped in the Park?" I did not realize at that moment how prophetic that question would prove for me within the hour.
   Red Rocks Canyon has a scenic drive of 12 miles that loops around the park. Our trip begins with Linda teetering on the edge of road rage because all of the cars are zipping by us like we are standing still. "How are they enjoying the views when they are driving at that speed?" she yells – her knuckles white on the steering wheel. Linda’s lips are tight, her brow is creased and this drive is not looking to be a lot of fun. Linda kept repeating, “If people want to be on a scenic drive, that they had to pay for, why do they act like it’s the Indianapolis 500?”

   Not more than a mile into our tour my intestines begin sending signals of distress. Linda pulls off at a view point to take some photos and I begrudgingly decide I better pay a visit to the pit toilet. Have I mentioned that a brisk wind was blowing like crazy? That cold bitter wind found its way into the vents of the primitive toilet and blasted my exposed parts as I sat stranded for a good 15 minutes. I entertained myself with visions of trying to explain to an ER staff why my privates were suffering from frost bite. Naturally, once I returned to the car the "Who Pooped in the Park?" jokes began emitting from my two lovely, caring sisters.
   Periodically Linda would squeal elatedly as she caught a view of some random blossom barely visible to the naked eye as we drove by. She would pull quickly off the road and jump excitedly out of the car with her camera in hand. I sat with my eyes rolling and intestines rumbling while she recorded each tiny freaking miracle of nature for posterity.

   Much to Linda’s disbelief, I was completely underwhelmed by Red Rocks Canyon. I live in the high desert between the Dragoons and the Chiricahuas which make Red Rocks look like a tired and uninspired afterthought of Mother Nature. Don't get me wrong... I enjoy the flora of the desert as much as anyone, however I tend to get more worked up over the more showy specimens like Mexican Bird of Paradise, Penstemon, Verbena, and Datura. Of course none of these were viable in that low desert wasteland and feeling like I might crap in my pants at any moment did not help with my appreciation of these stunted blossoms.
   Finally, about halfway through the drive I begin to feel better. Michelle has checked out, perhaps from boredom or to avoid the palpable tension hanging in the air, and is fast asleep in the blissful warming oven of the front seat. I am slouched in the back seat feeling deflated and weak. Linda continues on, stopping every 100 yards or so to take pictures, and seems to be enjoying herself more than reasonably can be expected. I had no idea she was enjoying herself so much that she would have the audacity to propose another go round through the park. Oh, hell no! This is when I told her, apparently in my Grandma Elsie voice, that if that was her intention, I would get out of the car, lie down in front of it, and she could run me over. I was not joking. A sistercation altercation was narrowly bypassed, along with the dreaded second loop through the park, when Linda made the wise decision to steer the car towards the strip.
  And that, Gentle Reader, is the end of my story. All was not perfect, but we had fun and a rare week of togetherness. If someone asks "Who Pooped in the Park?" it is certain that we will all laugh heartily and remember our adventures in Sin City fondly!

Three golden - perhaps lucky - pears at The Encore.

1 comment:

  1. You would think I am reading material deprived, knowing how much I like reading your blogs. As a matter of fact, me and my Kindle do the dirty at least 6-7 times a week (that is..reading 6-7 books a week) but I have my morning ritual as I am an early riser. Check bank statement, read a few forums on my desktop, GO TO SALVATION SISTERS to see what's new, another sip of coffee. AND then to find out there is blood orange puree, which I will endeavor to get next week when I go to Bisbee and Tucson capped it..A quick trip to sign a new lease. One of the happiest Italy memories is of two twins(cute guys,too!) at a favorite breakfast place in Cinque Terre, squeezing us blood orange juice. Gorgeous to look at (the juice, not the twins) and even more gorgeous to drink. Thanks again for a great read.


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