Friday, May 2, 2008

Life's a Gamble

I actually didn't gamble one bit while in Vegas this time. I think maybe if the Wynn casino had featured more pop culture-themed slot machines, I might have, but it's all for the better. I'm a terrible slot player because I just try to get to the bonus round, like playing a video game. When you're just playing penny slots on an I Dream of Jeannie themed machine, it's probably ok, but even nickel slots can add up. I lost a lot of money on the PONG machine in Detroit's Greektown.

But the way I see it, I'm a risk-taker in life. I say things that other people would advise against. I've been fairly aggressive about my salary. I've put myself out there in more ways than one. So why should I put down a couple hundred dollars on a blackjack or roulette table? I prefer a calculated risk, and casino gambling never feels that way to me.

Besides, I'm saving for an apartment.

Instead, I spent my money on a "custom massage" at the Wynn spa, which turned out to be as customizable as any massage session should be: she let me change the music when the flutes got annoying. She brought me water. She offered to adjust the temperature of the room. Still, she gave a pretty good massage and a kick-ass scalp rub, and she turned my attitude around 180 degrees from when I first walked in, on the verge of tears.

Travelling alone to a conference is tough. You're consumed by daytime meetings and nighttime networking sessions, Blackberrying all the while. In my case, I was waking up at 7 a.m. and starting my workday concurrent with 10 a.m. NY time, and not ending it until late into the evening, sometimes 2 a.m. NY time or later. You have to carve out some break time for yourself or you'll go crazy, so the massage was definitely a good call.

I also gave myself a break at Mario Batali's Enoteca San Marco in the Venetian, which turned out to be a poor OTTO ripoff without the atmosphere (instead being subjected to obnoxious Italian street performers singing overdone opera). Unlike OTTO, though, they serve their sparkling rose by the glass, so I used that to wash down an order of the fritto pizza dough served with parmesan and red pepper flakes. (I tried to balance that out with an order of sauteed broccoli rabe but it arrived mushy and practically inedible.)

That was the first of many drinks I would have yesterday in Vegas, continuing with wine during dinner at Gallagher's Steak House in New York New York, a location I clearly did not choose and instead submitted to for the sake of the conference. For the conference wrap party, unlimited free tequila gimlets were intoxicating enough, but getting free and expedited admission to Ghostbar, which I'd seen numerous times on MTV's The Real World Las Vegas and most recently on last year's VMAs, was positively thrilling. We had the whole outside deck to ourselves, with a breathtaking off-Strip view of the city, and winds strong enough to blow my dress off.

the view from Ghostbar at the PalmsThe winds were tremendous from the moment of my arrival in Vegas, bouncing our arriving flight up and down before landing, and literally blowing the furniture around during our networking cocktail hour by the Wynn pool. Last night, most people escaped to inside the nightclub, which was getting hot and full of Goombas, so I stayed outside and went with it. I had plenty of room to dance - to a pop-friendly soundtrack of Britney, Justin, Timbaland, Pussycat Dolls, etc. - and I let the wind whip me around as much as it liked. My business associate and I joked that we'd invented "hurricane dancing" and started singing it to the tune of the "Safety Dance." When I've got my dancing shoes on, I'm easily entertained. Nobody else seemed to appreciate it, and all the dudes there just looked through me. As usual, I could only get the attention of the bartender and the bus boys. I was not made for Vegas.

It took me at least an hour in traffic today to just get out of the city, so by the time I got on 95N I was happy to leave it all behind. In fact, I was happy to leave my entire life behind, and exchange it for a couple of days of desolation.

Travelling alone on business is tough, but travelling alone on vacation can be terrifying. If I were to drive off a cliff here in the middle of Death Valley, who would know? I haven't seen one park ranger yet, and I basically traversed the entire width of the national park today.

More dispatches from the road when I can get a cell phone signal to upload more photos!