The Night My iPad Died. And Was Miraculously Resurrected.

Tonight my iPad died. Black screen. 45 minutes of charging and blankness and half-baked plans of maxing out credit cards to replace it because…

I cannot live* without my tech. This is my voice. This is my tool. This is my person.

Wyrd Smyth: paragraphs be damned. I may ramble here. (For those uninitiated in the ways of the blog, Wyrd Smyth is a fellow blogger. He blogs at Logos con Carne. He feels I need to remember my syntax. Or whatever. I say “it's been a hard night.”)

But my iPad lives! Unfortunately (or fortunately for you, Dear Reader) the photograph syncing portion of the iPad-battery-iPhone trifecta is, well, sluggish. This means: no Vegas rehash tonight. No art-tober post (it was going to be that: a sculptor). No Victorian witches (though, that's coming, if my universe will permit this month.)

So, in honor of October and all things supernatural, let's discuss That Time I Went to a Psychic.

Marie Laveau was allegedly a witch in New Orleans. Back in the day. People still stop by her crypt to draw an “X” on the stone; a chalk-mark “X” will deter any witch, no matter how old or how powerful. Crayola and the living cannot be denied.

But, in honor of Marie Laveau and all things vodou in New Orleans, there in the French Quarter is contained Marie Laveau's House of Blues. No, it's actually Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo. It has the absolute coolest (not sure that's a kosher* word to use here) altar in the world. You're not allowed to take pictures of it, it being a working altar and all, but it's fab. Cards and votives and a mish-mash of Catholicism and the eighteenth century and chicken feathers and wax. And, well, you should visit it sometime. You feel something, even if you're agnostic, you swear you feel the floor move or the wind stir or maybe you just want to.

Well, the air of New Orleans is different than the air in other places. There's nothing quite like it. There's no culture on the planet quite like the gumbo-ajiaco mix of the Creole French Quarter. And maybe the hucksters have had their way and it's all a sham. But I don't think so. The French Quarter is the closest thing this country has to Old World and to mystique. I have been in the French Quarter looking at ferns and I have seen (or wanted to) lace curtains move in a breeze that was never there, in humid and stagnant air. I have heard drums that were not playing. Not in this century.

But I'm a sentimental old soul, especially when confronted with very old bricks.

So New Orleans, in its shimmering heat and its painted verandas and its shabbiness and its grandeur: it speaks to me anyway and my agnostic person finds a kinship in the red twine and feathers and playing cards, lit by endless votives at Marie Laveau's.

A shiksa in the south: I vacationed in New Orleans and, seeking experiences, said “why not” to a psychic reading at Marie Laveau's.

If you're thinking this would have been like Cher's Dark Lady or like Whoopi Goldberg in “Ghost,” this was not that. There was nothing Cher about it. There was nothing cinematic about it.

There was a card table in an ill-lit room. Maybe one candle, not enough for atmosphere. It was, and I mean no disrespect here, very High Trailer Park: bug lights, indoor-outdoor carpeting, the faintest whiff of mildew and a shaky, mostly-standing wreck of a naugahyde-covered card table.

I looked at it, regretted the loss of the altar, and thought this surely would be a sham. But still, New Orleans and Marie Laveau and something I have never done. And so I sat.

A scarecrow of a human greeted me. He wore a Mr. Rodgers-style and moth-eaten cardigan. He was dangerously thin. He coughed frequently. I thought he might be ill. I longed to give him sandwiches and flowers and warmer rooms. But I was a visitor. And he shuffled the cards (Bicycle. Not exotic. Not marked.)

In lieu of hello, he asked me when I had lost all the weight. (I bet you say that to all the girls.)

“I haven't lost any.”

“Well, it's coming, then.”

Shuffle. Table shakes. He's shaking, too. He's so thin and so obviously cold. Where is his coat, his blanket, his center? Marie doesn't have it. God knows I don't. But I'm here for a reading and I'm told to pick a card.

He pulls cards, which I touch first, lays them out in a cross shape. He shivers. And I feel like an ass who has given thirty dollars to the First Charity/Scam of New Orleans, House of Voodoo, Dammit Marie Laveau. After all, thirty dollars would have bought me three drinks and a great tip at the Carousel Bar at the Monteleone. It would have purchased one piece of mediocre “art” from an “artist” hanging around Jackson Park. Thirty dollars would have gotten me a great many frozen beverages from the endless string of Fat Tuesdays on the street (which equals one really good day, if you know what I'm saying here). Or I could have bought twenty cakes of African black soap at the French Market or enough beignets to save my soul at Cafe du Monde. Thirty dollars in most of the U.S. is only thirty dollars. Thirty dollars in New Orleans is eternity, if you spend it right.

I spent it on the eighty-pound psychic at Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo.

He told my friend, who also spent a sound thirty, that he was a carpenter. He is and was and has never been such a thing.

And I'm still waiting on the weight loss that is coming. Perhaps it was the thrift store sweater I wore, which added both a cat and thirty pounds?

No. He says that to all the girls without wedding rings. He is skinny but canny.

He flips the cards but seems kerfuffled by them. He reads my hands instead. And me, having been curious in the past, already know at which lines he is looking. Google is funny and so is the girl in the cat sweater. And this shivering psychic is funnier still.

It's Marie Laveau's and the altar is convincing. And maybe “magic” is real. It's New Orleans. Anything is possible.

“You have had two loves. You are not done with the last one and you will not be yet.” (Yeah, well, those are just two lines. And it's a convenient coincidence: the ex-husband and the love who shall not be named…your sweater is fraying. Please eat something. And a shred of relief as I'm very fond of the last one. Though: many women have appeared at psychics. A good proportion of them have also loved only two. What of it?)

“Three children. You have no children yet. You will have three.” He got that wrong, my skinny psychic. But, for what it's worth, Marie and him, the three phantom children I see on every swing set are called “Henry,” “Lily,” and “Ian.”

There are always three. Never one. Never two. I blame the skinny psychic for that. I wish he (and Marie) had been right. I would very much have enjoyed purchasing Christmas presents for three lovely children.

Sometimes psychics are wrong.

But I have two cats, perhaps he meant them?

The last thing he said to me was that I am a writer.

I am not.

If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

And the reading was over. The ex-husband was mentioned. That was as it should be. It was years ago. My focus was split.

The second love is still my love and the psychic was, in that respect, correct: we are not done. And god willing, we'll never be. I don't thank or blame or credit Marie Laveau or the shivering boy in the strange cardigan. Somehow things turned out okay. I don't know what to think of the fates. I like my boy and I think he likes me. That's luck, if ever there was.

No three children. I am not a writer. I blog now but I didn't then. How can I help that he said the career I would choose above all others?

That was a strange coincidence.

But then, I was the one with ink-stained hands in a hand-loomed cat sweater. Looking at me, I could be a pretty good psychic too (“and when was it that you lost all that weight?”)

I am, as has been said, and I should probably not say so publicly, an agnostic. I did not expect much from the New Orleans psychic. It's for “entertainment purposes only.” Still, New Orleans makes one think magic is possible and maybe belief is not misplaced.

My friend is not a carpenter. I have no children. I am not a writer. I still carry pounds which seem, to me, extra.

I hope the shivering boy in the cardigan has found a sandwich by now and good health.

I hope Marie Laveau's altar burns forever in its strange waxy, feathery, cheap and extravagant strangeness.

I had my fortune told. Was he right? No. Was there magic or fortune or future present? No, of course not, not really.

Do I still think of my friend as a carpenter? Of course I do.

Do I still look at every swing set in every park and every slide and every ice cream cone and voicelessly celebrate the non-existent if predicted Lily, Henry and Ian? Of course I do.

And I am glad the shaky cardigan at Marie Laveau's was right, in his way, about the boy with whom I am not done.

I wanted more from my psychic experience. But…well, even in New Orleans, the vibes can't always be right.

There's always next time, my friends. There's always next time.

*”live” That's funny. Technically, of course. There are far worse problems to be had. But I'm a blogger. I NEED MY TECH. Yo.

*ha-ha. “kosher.” I know, right?


Review-ish: Harrah’s Las Vegas By Number

Harrah's Las Vegas

The good, the bad, the ugly.

Numbers are completely arbitrary. So, in no certain order:
1.) This is the air vent in our room at Harrah's Las Vegas. We stayed for six days. The vent was full of dust and crud when we arrived. It was full of dust and crud when we left. Housekeeping overall did a great job while we were there, even changing the linens when we left a note telling him/her we were just fine with the sheets that were on there for a couple more nights (you know, you try to be considerate about water usage but sometimes the maid just won't let you). Cleaning hotel rooms is a bitter, difficult, physically arduous and generally thankless job. Still, God is in the details. My guess is He avoids the register because, you know, allergies.
2.) These are condiments for the in-room coffee. They are pre-packaged in a bag. And, while I personally do not use coffee condiments, I find that the thought of them being pre-portioned in useless plastic is both unappealing and environmentally unsound. There has to be a better way than this. Now, in other In-Room Coffee News: the coffee was packaged by Opportunity…Opportunity…
okay, wait. You know what happened? The charity that does the coffee? It's been featured on PBS NewsHour and FrontLine (I think. Maybe it was FreshAir. Support your public radio/TV station.) And I've forgotten what it's called. Opportunities USA? Or something. I've googled it but “opportunities” and “USA” just leads to all kinds of job applications. It's pretty popular and pretty vague. At any rate: the coffee was so-so. But I was overjoyed that those ex-cons had jobs and those jobs were provided by the same charity whose name I just can't remember but, hell, they packaged the coffee and the good folk at Harrah's pay for that coffee and…it's a really good thing. I can't explain my sudden memory loss. I had hoped to link to the organization. But apparently I've had a stroke. But…good job, Harrah's on the socially responsible purchasing. I noticed.
2. Continued) Condiments in a bag are weird. Mini coffee makers are basically pointless (Dear Universe: I am not the only one who considers a 4-cup pot just one cup. Please take note). But I genuinely enjoyed the fact that, at Harrah's Las Vegas, the tiny 4-cup model had a stainless steel carafe (it was an adorable demi-tasse. I almost packed it in my suitcase. Shhhh, don't tell.) And, because the hair dryer was right next to the coffee maker, let's just go ahead and point out the following: There is a night light on the hair dryer! So turn that puppy on. It's helpful. And it only took me 3.5 days to find it.
3.) Oh boy, free soap! And it's white! A nice, chunky size and a pleasant smell. (Gilchrist and Soames, you do not fool me. I know you are trying to sound all British and old and established and I know you are basically Dial for Motels.) Still: the bars are pleasant if unmemorable. (If you've ever met me, you know that I am delighted by hotel toiletries. I just love 'em. They're so cute! Lilliputian soaps and “free” lotions!) So that's just it. I have experienced far worse hotel soaps and lotions (note: the Harrah's shampoo smells pretty good but doesn't lather; the lotion has a nice scent which refuses to linger and a watery texture which is, well, just too liquid to be lotion and is better as conditioner. Helpful, because Harrah's does not give you free conditioner. I think this is a mistake on their part. But they don't dust their vents, so….) At any rate: Mandalay Bay disappointed me on every level. They were rude at the Sports Bar and they don't pipe in their scent that used to smell like a beautiful, fantastic island anymore. But if you end up cadging the matches at the bar because the bartender was rude, their packaging is so nice that they officially qualify as nicer than the Harrah's in-room toiletries. Which isn't good, Hotel Manager. It really isn't good. Especially considering the vents. Nice soaps and lotions and some damn conditioner really would've greased the opinion wheel, you know what I'm saying?
4.) The bed! The bed is eminently firm and jump-able (somebody did it every day they stayed there. Watch your head and sing the Monkey song. Very pleasant, at Harrah's or any hotel). And Harrah's totally got it right here. Sure, the stupid bolster (which is actually super-comfortable and very useful) has those kitschy brand-identifying stars on the ends. The bolster is good; the merchandising is cheap. But Harrah's is getting the bedding right: tight weave on the linens, nice and clean, and nothing but white. No ganky “comforter” to throw on the floor. Just clean linens and a perfectly firm mattress. So Harrah's wins on the bed. They really do. Now, if only they would wise up and continue the pure white thing into the bathroom (seriously, those shower curtains are disgusting. Dear Harrah's: white waffle weave. Okay? Bleachable, cleanable, and non-disgusting. Without the putrid print to make you feel you're in a trailer park. P.S. I can sew. I have access to fabric houses. Call me. I would be more than happy to sew you a zillion lovely and practical and non-offensive white cotton waffle weave shower curtains. And they would be nice. Unlike your gitschy shower curtains.
And while we're on the topic of The Bathrooms at Harrah's Las Vegas: water pressure is weak but environmentally friendly. Toiletries are mediocre. The shower curtains and lighting are both on par with the scariest parking garage you've ever been in. There, luckily, is no disgusting faux art (or as I call it: “phart.”) There are not enough hooks. There are not enough towel bars. The bathtub is dinky but there is a very large shelf at one end, which is the most useful thing about the bathroom. Dear Harrah's: better lighting, clean and plain shower curtains (call me: waffle weave. I can sew.) As a weird plus: if you leave a kindly-phrased note to the Housekeeper asking for additional toiletries, you will instead receive extra towels, which are thick and plush, if a bit scratchy. They, unlike the damned shower curtains, are at least white. And therefore clean or a reasonable facsimile thereof.)
5.) Most of Harrah's is in need of a severe decorative update. The rooms have large armoires which are a ridiculously plastic Barbie's Dream Dresser of fake ivory and fake mirror: like, I'm reasonably certain Harrah's parents built the thing on Christmas Eve, while drunk on egg nog, and peeled the mirror sticker off the paper, slapped it on the furniture and looked at the crease and shrugged. It's not great, that plastic armoire (it is so weird to see furniture composed of not-even-real-Bakelite, looking cheaper than a shower cap). That being said, the chair and the mirror here, cheaply composed as they are, demonstrate that someone in management has a clue: they are serviceable and inoffensive (unlike shower curtain); they are timeless and serviceable. They do not detract from the room (vents! shower curtain!). So, Harrah's is taking baby steps.
As a note: Harrah's has within it Fulton's Food Hall: and the flooring there is shimmery black and white tile that is nearly magical, it's so perfect. It gets scale and color right. So, if the staff at Harrah's will just, say, expand on classic ideas like the tile at Fulton's and the lines of the chair and mirror in the rooms? Well, they'll be a gazillion steps ahead of where they are with the shower curtain or the icky murals (see #7). (Seriously, Harrah's, call me. I'm a very useful critic to have around.)
6.) This is a toilet tissue stuck in the peephole of our room door. We neither put it there nor removed it. Six days later? Neither had housekeeping.
7.) Revolting mural. These are in the lobby and the parking garage of Harrah's. They are, as you can see, in all the colors of the Brady Bunch rainbow: harvest gold and summer squash and Joe Namath Maroon. The theme of Harrah's is supposed to be Carnival. These murals suggest a theme of “Lysol wanted” or “Ugly” or “Just Who is That Old Guy in the Grey Suit?” In short, they're bad. The lobbies are as bad and vile and mildewed as the shower curtains: these murals only enhance the malodorific effect. It should be noted here that, when checking in, if any other people have also arrived on a similar plane (this happens frequently, you know) at a compatible time, the process at Harrah's is so very unpleasant that Temple Grandin should be called in to make the process more humane for the animals enduring it. Harrah's does not handle crowds well. If Harrah's were a person, I would say that they do not like people. The check-in process, if there are more than just you in line, is frankly awful. And you have to look at this Kentucky Fried Hideous Mural while you're enduring the torture of mismanagement and inefficiency.
Dear Lobby: And if nothing else, would a grand vase of fresh flowers kill you????
8 and 9.) Harrah's creepy murals suck. But the exterior featuring these floats and LED lights? That's the way it's done, Harrah's. Also, weirdly, Harrah's LV, check out Harrah's New Orleans circa 2000: the sky was painted velvet sapphire blue with pinpoint lighted stars. The soffits were disquised as elms with Spanish moss, and the chandeliers were jester-ish and Mardi Gras float-ish. More of this, in short: the plaster, the LEDs, the jesters and masks and finials. Think atmosphere. Think theme. Harrah's, you want to create an experience and an identity. The murals don't do it. The lack of fresh flowers don't do it. The shower curtains and Barbie armoires don't do it (or at least, not one you'd want). The illuminated masks and that floor at Fulton's do. The pool area does. The faux-mahogany paneled elevators do. The ceiling over one of your bars that is composed entirely of hundreds of penny-glass Christmas ornaments in gold? That doesn't. Be smart. Be tasteful. Be your theme (carnival). But don't be, overall, mixed and muddy and semi-Motel 6. It's Vegas, baby. You gotta commit. (And if your signature show is entitled 'Menopause, the Musical' – even if it's a great show- you have to start thinking about the identity of your establishment.)
10.) This is the pool area. These are the cabanas ($100 for half a day!). There are not enough chairs. But the towel situation is great, the pool is nice, the staff friendly. The paint on the walls of the Linq does everything its designers wanted: cubist art in turquoise and cobalt and magenta. And you can fully enjoy the sun-dappled color play from the pool at Harrah's. There are palm trees and a giant ferris wheel to look at. The pool at Harrah's is a definite plus. No murals. No phart. It's a win.
11.) This is Buck and Winnie. Buck and Winnie are a life-sized sculpture in the very heart of Harrah's. It is, honestly, pretty terrifying. But it's a popular photo op and even Security will help out by holding your iPhone while you Selfie in front of it. Which is kind of nice. Even if Buck and Winnie are, oh yeah, utterly terrifying.
The sculpture reminds me of Jeff Koons. But, high art or no, fiberglas pop characters suggest temporal cheapness and the clownishness of Buck and Winnie leave me, much like Circus Circus, queasy.
But Buck and Winnie are clearly iconic for Harrah's. They have live character versions of the sculpture who host the Penny Slot Tournament and it's funny (I guess) and it's clearly an important component of Harrah's Las Vegas.
Keep them. But get them out of the center of the establishment. They're the shower curtains and the murals writ large and glued with not-even-high-quality-Swarovski-rhinestones. They're High Kitsch and Fiberglas and… seriously, Harrah's, just move them to the side. Stop using 12 for one dollar Christmas ornaments from WalMart as bar decor. (Those aren't bubbles, they're 8.33 cents a piece. And they look it.) Unpeel the murals from the walls, replace with the exact same tile you have covering the floor of Fulton's Food Court.
Buy some fresh flowers and improve check-in.
Zero shower curtain = better than current icky shower curtain (call me. I can sew.)
Toiletries are money: invest wisely. Brand names. Adequate viscosity. Lingering, pleasant scents. It's not expensive; it's selective.
Give Ernie at the no-name bar a raise. He's an excellent singer and one of the friendliest servers in Vegas.
Give your housekeepers a raise too. But tell them to get the vents and the peepholes, for god's sake; this is Harrah's, not the No-Tell Mo-Tell.
12.) There is no photo: but this is the summary. Harrah's Vegas is a value lodging experience. And there is no shame in that. But, Smeagol and the other slot machines are ensuring a profit. There is no reason to scream “value” as though one is Dollar General or Payday Loans or whatever. Harrah's: be a carnival. Let your theme be your theme and go with it. But freshen it up: LED lights and plaster and some discretion. It requires very little money. It requires good advice and checking out your rooms and facility with a fresh eye.
Does it look cheap? (Shower curtains, murals, Barbie armoires, Buck and Winnie.) Then move or eliminate it.
Is it actually miserable? (The check-in process.) Then change the process and train the staff.
Is it easy to fix? (Menopause the Musical; the tone-deaf chicks at the dueling piano bar, the cheap Christmas ornaments over the one bar with no name, the Barbie Dream PVC armoires.) Change it. Get a different musical. Audition adequate staff and pay them appropriately. If it cost you a dollar at Sam's Club and you can visually identify that? Change it. Armoires and furniture should not be temporary or monthly. Fix it.
Also: your buffet still owes me cotton candy. But the wings were unbelievably tasty. And so was the tortellini salad.
I want my cotton candy.
Also, part two: do not permit Formerly-Known-As-Imperial-Palace to outclass you when there's no reason for it. The Linq is cute but its chains are plastic. Move Buck and Winnie to the side. Add fresh flowers. Real materials trump plastic every time.
Simple is good: faux busy art prints look cheap; so do fussy printed nylon shower curtains. They also always look dirty. White linens. Plus flowers. Plus meticulousness.
And your casino waitresses? They deserve better than $6 eggplant slinky cocktail dresses (again, I can sew. I can help you with that). They deserve better than worn-out and bedraggled Kmart cardigans over their requisite Slinky-fabric stupidity. Please give them stretch velvet. Please give them shrugs and options and, well, not transparent Slinky that shows everything and looks cheap, even when you order it in Eggplant. (Call me. $6 per dress can get you more than you're paying. And giving people professional options in the way of warmth and arm coverings will be an improvement over ratty cardigans.)
Is all I'm saying.
Harrah's? Just eliminate the cheap. The whole thing will look more expensive.
And add a fresh bouquet of flowers in the lobby. It makes a difference.
White shower curtains.
And…for the feedback, feel free to give me a free week.
But most of all, give Ernie a raise. He sings. And he's a great bartender.
Move Buck and Winnie. They're frightening.


Las Vegas By Letter: Night Lights

Las Vegas By Night

a.) Fabulous Las Vegas; Panorama of the Strip (and a big thank you to Chad Bates for letting me cadge this photo for my blog).

b.) Sure, Bellagio’s fountains get a lot of attention. They’re pretty spectacular but this vista of the “lagoon” and the building is far more enchanting to me. Plus, they didn’t show up in the photo, but there were two little ducks swimming in the dark, not caring one bit about the Bellagio fountain display.

c.) Moroccan-style lanterns above a bar at the Luxor. I love them. The mirrored tile on the bar beneath plus these lanterns equals instant transformation. Looking at them, you sorta forget you’re in the 21st century in a casino.

d.) Playful buoys at a seafood restaurant inside Treasure Island. I’m a big fan of colored glass and distinctive lighting (and Vegas does lights really, really well). But what I really love about this? I think it (and possibly the Luxor lanterns) are winking playfully at Bellagio’s Chihuly Fiori di Como ceiling (the primary colors, the glass overhead sculptures). If Bellagio has Chihuly, well, this restaurant has buoys in equally bright colors. I love a clever visual joke, especially when it also happens to be really pretty (although, Treasure Island? You might want to do some dusting.)

e.) One of the other highlights of Treasure Island’s interior: celestial navigation as told by the ceiling outside the Cirque show. This made me want the whole ceiling inside Treasure Island to be like this: old maps, aged brass putti, star charts. Where’s an astrolabe when you really need one?

f.) The phenomenal “volcano” show at the Mirage (on the hour from 8 p.m. on). I literally saw this thing three times and, man, oh man is it fun to watch. I like the crickets that lead up to it. I like the drumming soundtrack. And I love the mix of fire and water. Some will call it kitschy but I sure do enjoy it and if you’re in Vegas, don’t forget to look out for it. (And another huge kudos to Chad Bates, who’s super good with the camera phone. Thanks, Chad!)

g.) Did I mention that Vegas was really good at lights? This one at Caesar’s is just frosted glass and some plaster laurel leaves, but man, is it well done. It looks like an aged and interesting carving on a screen or a shell. The shape of the horses is right for the Roman Empire (thanks, Art History degree): boxy chests, elongated necks; also Hellenistic and Persian-influenced, as it would be. At any rate, you gotta love an amber light pulsing with the idea of a time you’ve only read about, especially when it’s in such a place.

Note: Again, a huge thank you to my friend and all-around good guy, Chad Bates, for the photographs for (a) and (f). He’s a worthy Twitter follow, especially if you like sports, so check him out. He’s @chadb2113.

The magnificent Bellagio Fiori can be seen here on my blog or you can Google Chihuly your own self. Now that I’ve revisited that post to link to it, it occurs to me I have a much better picture of those damn flowers. I guess it’ll be my secret. You should still click on the hyperlink, though, because oh-my-god, look at those s’mores! (And Harrah’s: you *still* owe me cotton candy.)



Do It Yourself (DIY!): Waterbed for Barbie

You, too, can make a waterbed for your Barbie. You will need a gallon-size Ziploc bag [1], a water source [2], and a piece of fabric.

Step 1: Fill the Ziploc with water from your chosen water source. Seal the bag and dry it off.

Step 2: Lay the Ziploc in the bedroom of Barbie’s dream home or in a shoe box or just on the floor wherever it is you enjoy playing with your Barbie. Make sure those dumb sharp Barbie shoes are not underneath your Ziploc. This is important: do not lay the Ziploc down on the zipper side or the other factory-sealed side. Use one of the biggest and flattest sides (you will have two from which to choose) to be on the carpet/plastic/floor. The other biggest and flattest side will be facing up.

Step 3: Lay the fabric (two or more pieces, if you’re fancy) on top of the Ziploc so it’s just one big and watery pillow bed.

Step 4: Put your Barbie on the bed (again, watch those sharp little shoes and also the equally inexplicably sharp little hands and earrings).

Now, wasn’t that fun? Of course, now Barbie is sleeping. And the waterbed for Barbie is, well, kind of boring.

Life can be cruel and it isn’t always fun. Sometimes you go to all the trouble to make a waterbed for a Barbie and it feels like it was for absolutely nothing. Adults will say things like “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” or “there’s more joy in work than in the product” and “brush your teeth.”

Yeah, well, sometimes, you knock yourself out making something nice for a friend and you just get bupkis. Sometimes: it really is for nothing. No, do not pretend you learned any kind of important lesson from filling a Ziploc bag with water; do not pretend it was fun; do not pretend you are not just a little bit hurt that Barbie didn’t even say “thanks for the waterbed.” [3]

So, sure. You, too, can make a waterbed for your Barbie. I just don’t recommend actually doing it.



1. Don’t use a sandwich-sized bag. Barbie is freakishly tall, proportionally speaking. She will not fit on a sandwich bag, like, not even diagonally.

2. Ask an adult for help! Not a stranger, though. Do NOT ask a stranger for help with this.

3. Barbie (Trademark Mattel, who did not give permission for the use and/or mention of Barbie TM in this post) is a thankless piece of plastic. You may as well make a tiny gratitude journal for her, you know what I’m saying? Sometimes beautiful people are nice. But sometimes they’re entitled, ungrateful wretches who should get a day job or something or at least do some of your chores or homework or help out a little, I mean, my god, Barbie TM, how freaking lazy does a piece of plastic have to be? And ungrateful, did I mention ungrateful? How many Barbies get their own damn waterbed? Damn it, Barbie TM, at least say “thank you.” You don’t even have to mean it. It takes absolutely nothing, FYI. Nothing.


The Mystery of the Universe = Sandy Koufax

Ferris Wheel in the Daytime
There’s a thing that happens when I see ferris wheels in the daytime. It happens with carousel horses, too. They’re not lit. They’re not operating. They’re still and fiberglas and unlit. They were meant to be filled with laughing people, surrounded by night, illuminated in neon and fluorescence. They were intended to be more than the sum of their parts. But that only comes at nighttime. And nighttime only happens once a day.

So there’s something about ferris wheels in the daytime, against the sun. Smelling of carneys and excess, glinting like factory-production and axle grease; intended to be special and magnificent but stark in the daylight. And there’s a beauty there: in the same stripped way of dinosaur skeletons and Erector sets, a geometric perfection which is almost enough but not quite.

I’m not sure why: the ferris wheel in the daytime leaves me bereft, thinking of the lost and the loved and the past and the unfulfilled.

Solve for x. “Why” equals “x.”

Or rather, to me, the answer to every unanswered question (and there are so very many) is “Sandy Koufax.” The original Trivial Pursuit game has a thousand-y questions. A superfluity of the orange answers are “Sandy Koufax.” Hence, to me, any unknown question (I am terrible at Sports and Recreation) is “Sandy Koufax.” Statistically, you have a better chance there than answering “shuttlecock” or “ninepins.” Or NFL anything. Just answer Sandy Koufax. If you’re flipping through the (original, mind you, 1980s edition) deck, the answer is either something else or Sandy Koufax. It’s like 50-50.

So: Solve for “x?” X equals Sandy Koufax.

Why do ferris wheels in the morning make me sad? Sandy Koufax.

Why do fools fall in love? Sandy Koufax.

Why do people die or suffer? Why do they starve? Why do people hurt when they don’t need to?

No answer? Sandy Koufax. Sandy Koufax is the only answer I have.

Why does that ferris wheel make me so sad? What is an hour of a man’s life worth? Refugee status? $7.25? Sandy Koufax? “x?”

It’s not helpful, of course. Sandy Koufax was born Sanford Braun in Brooklyn. He died in 1998. God rest his soul. And when I’m searching for something, there he always is: Sandy Koufax is the unhelpful answer. Solve for x? Sandy Koufax. A prime number, an unprime number, the most common orange card. It’s not the right answer, necessarily, but he’s the best we’ve got.

Answers, like pitchers, are difficult to come by. Thank god there’s occasionally a card that is not orange.

So, A Funny Thing Happened in the Middle of the Nachos

Carlos 'n Charlie's. Also known as Ultra Lounge.

So there you are, in Las Vegas, at the Flamingo, and you’ve screwed up dinner because J.B. served you that Bloody Mary (or whatever it is that happened to you) and so you missed the bus to downtown for one-dollar shrimp cocktail and the buffet at your hotel has shut down (not like they’d have cotton candy anyway, dammit) and so there you are at Carlos and Charlie’s for the second damn time. It doesn’t matter that the first time you were there that one chick I think of as Roxette totally screwed you out of refills on your iced tea and also just wasn’t awesome at customer service in general. But, you know, maybe it was an off-day and waiting tables is hard. I get it.

Anyway… there you are at the Flamingo at the Carlos and Charlie’s –again– and you’ve got nachos (the Mayan temple, fifteen dollars, for about three pounds of chips and cheese and cheese sauce, which is different, you know what I’m saying here). And Roy and Mildred* just sat down to simper over burritos at the table in the corner and Eight is Enough just sat down in their T-ball costumes** to order dinner for family time.

All is right in the world. The environment is a cross between Every Mexican Restaurant in the World and Dark TGI Friday’s.

Then, out of the blue, the music changes. The bass pumps up and suddenly there’s a DJ.

(Crunch of nacho; Roy and Mildred say how lovely it is to get out of the home and not eat Early Bird Specials this evening.)

And now: there’s a strobe light in the corner. There’s a greeny-red light being flashed on a surprise disco ball (where did that even come from?).

There’s a twee hipster in straight-brimmed Yankees cap, fussing around, holding a clipboard, and…is that a TSA-style security line?

What. Is. Going. On. Here.

Roy and Mildred are oblivious. Eight is Enough is way less fussed than they should be that Carlos and Charlie’s does not offer free chips and salsa. They’re talking T-Ball and soccer and whatever; it’s like a sitcom over at that table, one step removed from Family Ties and Full House and, oh yeah, Eight is Enough.***

And now here come some patrons who are tweaking. And I’d like to finish the nachos but something wicked this way comes.

Does anyone notice what the hell is happening here?

Why are they taking names and selling glow bracelets?

Can I finish my nachos or should I order the meth platter?

Are we on Mystery Diners? Candid Camera? What is happening????

So you talk to the waiter. “Is this bothering you?” A girl in the background is opening windows and lugging piles of menus to a corner, where a tarp has been placed proclaiming “Ultra Lounge.”

“No, but what the….”

You can try to finish your dinner but lights are flashing red and blue and green and seizure and tight pants and Mr. Mohawk have just walked past, screaming “whooo” and fist-pumping.

And you still have a plate of nachos and no answers. The waiter just smiles and you’re like: am I on TV right now? But most importantly, Can I Finish My Nachos????

So the waiter, looking nervous, sends over a manager because your adorable dinner companion has decided to ask for information. Manager arrives at table and Adorable Dinner Companion states that “we” are “world-renowned food bloggers” **** and would like to chat about the restaurant. Mr. Manager passes us each a business card and explains that every night (except maybe Sunday– it’s difficult to hear everything over thumpa-thumpa) “around 10:30, they start switching the restaurant into a club: twenty dollars and all-you-can-drink well drinks all night. It has, he says, been very good for business.

Adorable Dinner Companion (a.k.a. world-renowned food blogger) asks if that change ever bothers anyone who is there to eat, it being a mite disconcerting and all, and it’s not like anyone announced it or there was a sign or anything. “Well,” says Mr. Manager “when you get the right clientele in, they love it.”

I think of Roy and Mildred, who are starting to seem confused. I wonder who “the wrong clientele” might be.


Mr. Manager smiles knowingly and Adorable Dinner Companion/World-Renowned says it’s just an interesting switch and not everyone would enjoy the mystery of it.

I think: you know, there’s a reason set changes usually happen behind a curtain.

Also: I can’t decide if $20 for free well drinks all night sounds fun (maybe it does; is J.B. making Bloody Marys?) or if it sounds like alcohol poisoning.

It’s certainly a strange transition to sit through without any explanation. And who knew that a tarp plus disco light plus cheap drinks, a clipboard and a strobe light equaled nightclub?

Hey, $20 for all-you-can-drink at our house next Thursday. Glow bracelets will be for sale. Come one, come all. There will be no free chips and salsa. It’s a club. (Thumpa-thumpa.)

Carlos' n Charlie's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

*Roy and Mildred were charming; no offense meant with the “simper.”

**I actually think now that the family was just dressed American Normal, maybe like for a sport utility vehicle commercial. A pleasant-looking family.

***I literally cannot name a family sitcom that has aired more recently than these.

****Adorable Dinner Companion is now insisting he did not say “world-renowned.” Hmmm. I know I didn’t say it.

Las Vegas By Number, Volume Yes There Are More

Las Vegas


1.) Amazing LED apple tree at the Crystals shopping center next to Aria. I'm told it's high end but I didn't see a Spencer's or even a Sears, so you be the judge. (Prada, what's that? Are you telling me this place is too chi-chi for a Walmart? Pur-leeze.) Anyway, this tree was stunning and magical and what you need to know about it: the red shadow below the tree was made of apples, real and luscious, perfect red apples and hundreds of them. They were sitting in a field of live dwarf sunflowers. And I can't tell you how happy this fake tree made me.

2.) This statue is glamorous, sure, but more importantly, it is made entirely out of chocolate. That's right: five feet and seven American inches of luscious white and milk chocolate. I love her. I also want to eat her dress. Is that so wrong?

3.) Slot machines at Paris, Las Vegas. “Seine City,” get it? It's a play on words. Clever, clever. (Ils ne sont pas les bêtes.)

4.) Seahorses! In stone (or a reasonable facsimile). At Caesar's.

5.) Aw, Bellagio, you shouldn't have! Flowers for me?!? I guess I'd better leave them here, so everyone can enjoy them. (Callas and roses and orchids- not pictured- oh my, oh my. Oh my.)

6.) Oh my gosh! Fancy cakes! Super-duper fancy cakes. At the Aria. Someone help me find a dark room and my eating pants. Fork optional. (Look at these cakes! Little Debbie has nothing on these bad boys.)

7.) There's a philosophical argument that the ultimate paradox is for a human to say “I never lie.” Because, it cannot be true. Or something. I'm no Socrates or anything. I like to blog. I like lamp. At any rate, this sign struck me because it's not false advertising or a lie because they admitted it was false. So it was true. Do you see what I'm getting at here? It's in chalk and it's a mental puzzle and luckily, if it bends your mind too much, it's right next to the spot in Carnaval Court where the big-boned girls in electrical tape pasties and that stupid Minion who keeps taking his head off are standing. (Seriously, Minion. Keep your head on. You're going to break the little kids' hearts if they see that. You going to also tell them Santa died in a sleigh crash?***)

8.) Peephole window into Javier's, possibly the most expensive Mexican restaurant in the world, located at the Aria. It should be said about Javier's that it is one of the most beautiful spaces I have ever seen. Still, there is something inherently wrong with the entire concept of a $22 taco. Even if it's next to the most beautiful wood carvings I have ever seen (picture unavailable as silly wait staff did not realize I was outside the restaurant trying to get a pic on my phone). The Aria (Javier's inclusive) plays to every one of the five senses: there is not a surface or sensation in that place that has not been orchestrated and finessed into a symphony. The wallpaper has texture, the air is scented, and I swear to all that is holy, there is nothing there that did not beg to be touched, breathed in, goggled at, or experienced. I'm still not paying $22 for a taco. It was all beautiful but I'm, at heart, quite cheap.

*** True story: Sandy, my same-aged friend at Lincoln Woods apartments told me that at Christmastime in the early 1980s. She also said that it was fun to pick up cigarette butts from the curb and smoke them. She also suggested I steal a candy lipstick from the Village Pantry. Sandy was a bad influence. And she was so wrong about Santa. As everyone knows, he's alive and well.