Highlights from Vegas with some help from Jimmy Buffet

Sunday, June 3rd, 2018 2:45 PM

Dennis and I spent four days in Las Vegas this last week. It’s the first time we’ve been away for the that long in two and half years since we last visited Vegas. I will be scoring this blog post with snippets of Jimmy Buffet songs because there is a Jimmy Buffet song appropriate for just about every occasion. (And we spent a lot of time at Margaritaville in Las Vegas).

Vegas has changed in two and half years. The hallways between the hotel rooms and elevators are longer. And the casinos are bigger, too. Everything is farther away and we did much more walking this time which is the reason that I was so stiff on Saturday that I could barely walk. I’m growing older but not up…

I really need to get that swim spa and start getting into better shape.

Seriously, there have been changes in Vegas since we were there last. Uber is now the way to get around. We did have a car, but we found it easier and cheaper to Uber between casinos on the strip. Especially since most hotels are now charging for parking (another change since the last time we were there).

Buying pot is now legal in Las Vegas. We ate pizza in a restaurant across from a very upscale strip mall that had a pot store next to an Einstein’s bagels and a gourmet popcorn shop. Coming from a state where having pot on you will at least get you fined, if not arrested (depending on how much you have), seeing a thriving pot store out in the open was a bit surreal to see. …I’ve run my share of grass/Made enough money to buy Miami …

Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville restaurant now has a casino as part of it. They have actual Jimmy Buffet slot machines (Dennis won on them!) and they have Coppertone suntan lotion scent dispersed into the casino through the air vents. Even the carpet looks like an aerial view of islands in an ocean. For a guy that sings about chilling and living the easy life he sure has an aggressive and amazing marketing presence. Bet he didn’t build that by spending his life sailing, fishing and drinking. Wasting away again in Margaritaville…

Speaking of drinking, I discovered a drink called a Bloody Maria at Margaritaville. I’m sure this isn’t a new drink, but it’s new to me. It’s basically a Bloody Mary made with tequila instead of vodka. I hate vodka but I like tequila! What a happy find that was. Why don’t we get drunk…

We also discovered gourmet cheese burgers and milk shakes at a restaurant in our hotel called the Black Tap. They were the best burgers I’ve ever had. Cheeseburger in paradise…

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The milk shakes were something to see. Dennis had Oreo Cookie and I had Cake Batter. His had a full Oreo Cookie ice cream bar and mine had a large piece of cake on top of the shake. They were humongous and fun. And expensive! Holy cow were they expensive. It was a good experience, but unlike the Bloody Maria, I think this will be a one-time experience for me.

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Our massive shakes. We didn’t even eat half of them they were so big and so rich.

One of the most serious changes were the many security guards with German Shepard dogs in the casinos on the Strip and also walking around Fremont Street downtown. I’m not sure of the exact reason, but I’m assuming they are trained to smell for explosives or gunpowder? One morning,  I saw a security guard in our hotel down on one knee rubbing the belly of her German Shepard who was rolling on his back and clearly enjoying the attention. The guard dogs have an important job to do, but they’re still dogs at heart. I was glad to see there was real affection between the guard and her dog. Somethin’ ’bout your dog sittin’ by your side…

There are some things in Las Vegas that have not changed and probably never will. It is hot. Ninety degrees and above every day.

You will lose. And I did. Every bit of cash I brought to gamble I lost. Dennis didn’t lose all of his so I guess that’s kind of like winning.

There are unusual people. Mainly in downtown, but I have also seen them on The Strip, too. Fruitcakes on the street/Struttin’ naked through the crosswalk in the middle of the week…

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The guy in green was a street performer. I’m not sure about the other guy.

Fifteen years ago, it used to be easy to pick out the “ladies of the evening” but now it’s not. They blend in with the other young women dressed for a night on the town. Apparently, styles for the party crowd have evolved to the point where many of the women dress in short, tight dresses with stilettos. This is not a condemnation nor an approval, merely a fact. And maybe a little awe and envy on my part at how those women can actually walk in stilettos when my feet were hurting in cushy Skechers. I go for younger women/ Lived with several awhile …

It was a good trip. One of the best since we got married in Las Vegas over ten years ago.

It was different, though. In the past I’ve worried about my mom when we were gone. I didn’t have to do that this time. Her 89th birthday would have been last Wednesday on the 30th. I was glad to not be home on that day. I think it was better to be in a different place. Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes…

I always worry about my animals when we’re away but this is the first time I’ve had dogs and been away for that long. Charlie and Sammy both survived kennel life well and Charlie the Survivor actually did better than Sammy. Sammy was very nervous and had to be checked out by the vet on staff to make sure there weren’t any bad issues with him (there weren’t, thank goodness). Charlie, being the survivor that he is, just rolled with it. I think that maybe because he’s old, he’s lived through a lot and nothing much phases him anymore. …some of it’s magic, some of it’s tragic but I’ve had a good life all the way.

Not a bad place to be in life, that’s for sure.

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Both dogs were very happy to see me and insisted on lap time.

So which Jimmy Buffet song are you humming now?

3:47 pm

 

 

My Husband, the TSA Magnet

June 2nd, 2018 11:06 PM

Last Monday,  when we traveled to Las Vegas, I was reminded of how Dennis is a magnate for airport security. It’s been that way for the past 15 years or so.

Dennis’ checked luggage is searched on most flights. Mine has only been searched once during the close to twenty years we’ve been traveling together.

Dennis has been the recipient of countless TSA random searches. I’ve never had one (knock on wood).

When going through customs in Mexico, you press a button to determine if your bag gets searched or not. Red means search. Green means no search. Dennis always gets Red.

I’m convinced all this scrutiny, random or otherwise, is the result of something that Dennis did in an airport during the spring of 2002, before we were married.

This was shortly after the shoe-bombing attempt happened in December of the prior year. Air-travel security was still being redefined after 9/11. Tensions were running high in the airports in general. Many people were still afraid to travel by air, and those who did were often nervous and wary of their fellow passengers. Security was viligant. Very viligiant.

Dennis and I were, once again, traveling to Las Vegas. We had checked in, got our boarding passes and cleared security.  We were early getting to our gate, as we always are.  As we sat there waiting to board, I noticed a lot of security guards milling around. I didn’t think much of it. At first.

Within fifteen minutes, our little gate had at least ten officials — both security guards and police officers. There were a few suited men milling around, as well. They  looked like FBI agents look on TV. People were starting to look nervous, whispering to each other and looking around for something or someone suspicious that would warrant all the security. I was getting nervous, too, as it became clear that whatever or whoever was drawing their interest was in our area.

Little did I know that the culprit was sitting right next to me.

As a group of four sheriff deputies descended upon us, Dennis leaned over and said to me, “I know what I did. Don’t worry, it’ll be okay.”

That was it. The sheriffs politely escorted Dennis away to a closed door room near our gate.

I was astonished. What should I do? Should I call a lawyer? Should I try to follow him inside the room? He couldn’t have done anything that bad, could he?

All these thoughts were going through my head while several gates of waiting passengers were staring at me as if I was part of some evil plot. The older woman and her husband who were sitting next to me changed seats. I tried to be nonchalant as if this sort of thing happened all the time. Nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.

After ten minutes, it was getting close to the time to board, and still no Dennis. What should I do if they start to board the plane? I couldn’t leave without him, could I?

Of course I couldn’t. Not because I am noble, but because I realized that Dennis was holding both our boarding passes.

Another five minutes passed, and I was ready to start hounding the gate agents for information, when I saw Dennis hurrying down the hallway towards me. He was flustered, but he looked unharmed.

Our fellow passengers in gate area didn’t look happy to see him.

What had he done to cause such a ruckus?

He had hid extra cash in his sock and as he was walking to the gate it shifted. While I was in the ladies room, he took off his shoe in the hallway and adjusted his sock. That was it.

Apparently airport security saw him take off his shoe on video and out of an abundance of caution, called for extra security, detained Dennis, checked his shoes and his sock and eventually let him go.

Our flight left a few minutes late that day due to Dennis and we had four very large, very imposing “passengers” that just happened to be seated all around us. I used the quotes because these passengers weren’t waiting for the flight before or during Dennis’ ordeal, nor did they have any carry on luggage. They didn’t read, talk to each other or nap during the flight. They all just sat there, alert. Once we landed in Las Vegas, these passengers didn’t take the tram to the luggage area with the rest of the passengers on the plane. They never did show up at the luggage carousel, either. I am convinced that the airline bumped several passengers to put security on the flight in the seats around us. I have to say, I felt very safe flying on that flight. I don’t think we’ve ever been safer on a plane than we were that day.

I haven’t thought about that story for awhile until we flew out of Milwaukee on Monday. Dennis and I now have TSA precheck, which means we can bypass normal security lines. We don’t have to take out our plastic baggies out to be x-rayed or take off our shoes or belts. It’s almost like traveling pre-9/11 except for getting our bag scanned and walking through a body scanner.

However, two or three times a day, a random bag check is flagged on a precheck TSA passenger. And guess who got flagged? Dennis, of course.

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Here is Dennis waiting for a TSA agent to search his bag. He no longer hides cash in his socks.

Thankfully, this check didn’t require security guards and closed door rooms. Just a quick check of his backpack and we were back on track.

The sock story has become somewhat of a legend in our house and we laugh about it now. But to this day, I still always carry my own boarding pass.

June 2nd, 11:59PM