Las Vegas goes up in smoke

Many years ago, during one of my last business trips to Germany, I went to a grocery store to buy chocolate. As I was waiting to pay, a wall of cigarettes next to the conveyor belt stared back at me. They were impossible to miss, and not locked away like they are in the states.

Anyone buying groceries could see and touch them, even children.

The display bothered me and gave me a sense of hopelessness about cigarette smoking disappearing from our global economy. I grew up with two parents smoking. So, feeling defeated, I decided, “if you can’t beat them, join them.”

And I did. But not by turning into a smoker.

When I returned to the states, I bought Altria/Philip Morris stock, which we own to this day. If people were going to ruin their lungs smoking, I wanted to benefit from it. So, now my wife and I look at smokers and hope they’re sucking on a PM brand cigarette and helping our stock go up.

And, after spending five days in Las Vegas this week, I can report back that smoking is still in fashion and our stock’s future looks bright. Every casino we walked through to get to a show smelled like an ashtray, except the Bellagio, which has a great filtration system. I even made the choice not to gamble, despite my love of it, because I didn’t want to smell or inhale cigarette smoke.

We found ways to avoid the secondhand smoke and walked miles each day to discover cool places. And for the first time in several trips, I didn’t have c-diff or cough up blood – a huge win.

I also checked off two items from my bucket list. I took my wife and daughter to see Love at the Mirage. And, we finally saw “O” at the Bellagio. I heart Cirque du Soleil.

We went to see David Copperfield at the MGM. He could use some help from Cirque du Soleil. A video stream of old quotes about his magnificent past played before the show and reminded us that he was once the greatest magician in the world. Past tense. Now he’s average and tells a lot of crude jokes. We still enjoyed some of the great tricks he had left in his bag.

Oh, and I ate goat, my own Food Network-like moment. It didn’t taste like chicken, but was good despite its greasy, fatty qualities.

Here are some pictures from the week.

We had a rocking good time here.

Pete Rose was signing autographs in the Mirage Mall. No wait to meet him. The guy in the Rose jersey works at the store. My wife pointed out the "oddness" of someone who bet on baseball signing autographs outside a casino. Please don't let this guy into the Hall of Fame.

The Mirage houses a cool dolphin and big cat exhibition. But after seeing "The Cove," I had a hard time getting excited about dolphins in captivity. I kept wondering how they got there and if swimming in circles in a small pool was the best place for them.

The Bellagio had an amazing spring display in their atrium. Lots of flowers, a ferris wheel and butterfly house.

Harrah's Casino took a different route with its spring display.

Not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. When you're a lion looking for some afternoon delight, and 200 tourists with cameras are watching, it makes its way to the Internet.

I dig Hipstamatic. It gives a display of heads some bonus creepiness.

Who are these scary "O" fans?

We went to Adventuredome at Circus Circus and had a great time playing games and winning the world's cheapest-quality stuffed animals. This picture is from the parking garage elevator. It's not everyday you see handwritten numbers for the floors. Nothing says "this is a quality establishment" quite like magic markers.

The best part of the trip? McDonald's in the hotel. Jackpot.

Happy Holidays

I wish everyone the best of holidays. Thank you for your visits and comments, and I hope for only the best of health and happiness for each of you and your families.

Here are a few fun photos from our Christmas.

A couple of years ago, I pranked my 6-year-old daughter with a nutcracker trick. Each day in December, I left a new nutcracker in the house with a note on it. The note explained that the nutcrackers had chosen our house for a very special gathering during the holidays and my daughter should prepare for the arrival of the Nutcracker King.

The joke went well at first with my daughter buying into the festivities. That is until I wrote in one of the notes that the nutcrackers would be leaving after the holidays. This brought tears and ended the fun for her, as she didn’t want to see Hans and Franz, the king’s attendants and the ones I did the cute voices for, leave the house to return the next year. We had to agree that some nutcrackers would stay on after the holidays. And to this day, we have a few select nutcrackers hanging around our house year round.

Now most of the nutcrackers I bought hang out on our nutcracker tree below.

This year, my wife and daughter built a gingerbread house. It turned out pretty nice. They were excited because the kit included fondant, which is used on Food Network Challenges.

I wasn't allowed to help because I ate the ingredients

Here’s a picture of our Christmas tree. I used Hipstamatic on my wife’s iPhone and shot it “old school” style. They did a nice job and I supervised, which really made all of the difference. I’m an excellent couch supervisor, though my daughter barked at me to help. I did my tours of duty as a kid setting up a fake tree for my mom and helping to decorate it. Now that I think of it, I may have supervised the hanging of the ornaments back then, too.


Old-fashioned photos by Hipstamatic

Best of health and holidays to all.