This was the weekend for my annual Las Vegas trip with my brother-in-law, Stuart.
We can’t remember how long we’ve had a tradition of going on this holiday weekend, but it must be at least twenty years. We spend our time catching up, playing poker, eating good food, and making losing bets on football games. We don’t plan the latter, but that’s how it always turns out. Regardless, we still enjoy getting up early on Sunday morning to watch seven NFL contests showing simultaneously on giant screens in a sports book.
I always come home with a few observations, like these…
At the Aria, where we stayed, as you approach the guest elevators from the casino, there is a guard at a podium doing a key check. You’re supposed to show your room key card to proceed further, but it’s nothing more than a security façade. Although I always have my card ready, I have often noticed the guard distracted by someone who doesn’t have one, or someone else who’s asking directions, or a rush of people all walking up at the same time. In those instances, anyone could easily walk by unnoticed — and they do.
But it doesn’t matter, because the Aria elevators have been retrofitted with a sensor you have to put your key card on before you can push the button for your floor. And it only works for your floor. I was in there with a woman who was fumbling in her bag for her card (which she hadn’t shown to the guard as she strolled past), but when I volunteered to use my key for her floor, the elevator wouldn’t accept it. Yes, it’s possible that some person up to no good could just follow you into an elevator, exit with you, then follow you to your room and commit a crime. I’m sure that happens on rare occasions, but we were all safely ascending to our hotel rooms for decades without any of this technology, so I see no difference today — other than the security theater in the lobby.
On the food front — in addition to my mandatory visit to Secret Pizza at the Cosmopolitan (love that white pizza!) — we had two very good Italian meals at off-the-strip restaurants that are only frequented by locals. I recommend them both.
The first was Casa di Amore, an old time Vegas place complete with pictures of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin on the walls and two guys on keyboard and drums performing songs from the “Big Chill” era, plus the obligatory “My Way.” I get a kick out of schmaltz like that. They didn’t start at their usual time because there was a video crew around a table in front of the stage, shooting footage for the MTV series, “Jersey Shore,” which I didn’t even know was still on the air. Since I’ve never watched it, I didn’t recognize any of the three guys the cameras were recording, nor was I the least bit interested. But they wrapped up soon enough and the place returned to normal business, which includes a patio out back called The Tiki Bar that, based on the clientele as they passed our table, looked like a place for middle-aged people to drink too much and try to hook up.
The second restaurant was Nora’s, a slightly more upscale place — the kind with a large, vertical wine cellar on display. It was recommended by two locals I played poker with at Encore who said the food was really good and the portions were huge. They were right in both respects. When I noticed the menu included one of my favorite dishes, pappardelle with a wild boar sauce (which I first had in Florence, Italy, about five years ago — read that story here), I knew we were in the right place — and one forkful confirmed it. Fantastic!
While at Encore, Stuart and I were stunned by the parade of beautiful young women passing the poker room on their way to the hotel’s Beach Club. In the late afternoon, they naturally wore bikinis, but hours later, when the venue turns into a late night dance club, the women weren’t wearing all that much more. Being of the male persuasion, I couldn’t help but look, and noticed that many of them were in dresses that needed constant adjusting as they walked. It was as if they’d only tried them on in front of a mirror at the store, but hadn’t considered the effect constant motion would have on the fit. There was a lot of pulling up at the top and down at the bottom, and I wondered how they could possibly dance inside the club without a wardrobe malfunction. Ladies, here’s a tip: just as you would with a pair of shoes, do a lap around the store in the outfit to check out how much it will stay in place before you decide to buy it!
I wish smoking was banned at all swimming pools. There’s nothing worse than finding an available chaise lounge, spreading out the towels, applying the sun screen, laying down, becoming comfortable, and having someone in the vicinity light up a cigarette. Yes, we’re all outside, so smokers feel they’re free to indulge, but no matter which way the breeze is blowing, the fumes always find their way to my nostrils. It’s disgusting and irritating, and the answer is not to have a no-smoking section. Instead, set up a smoking-only section, like those plexiglass cubes of death at the airport. I wouldn’t expect a lot of visits from the poolside waitresses, though.
Speaking of the airport, on my way out of town, I was happy to breeze through the TSA Pre line at McCarran Airport. Then, on my way to my gate, I passed a booth with three on-duty police officers on a raised observation platform. I don’t know if they were metro cops or sheriff’s deputies, but they weren’t TSA agents, and they weren’t very observant. None of them noticed me or anyone else in the crowd because they all had their heads buried in their phones. Hell, the woman in the airport slot machine attendant booth pays more attention.
Chalk it up as yet another episode of Bad Security Theater.