Thursday, January 16
I am the first to arrive around 11:00am. The high-60s temperatures feel so good! (It was in the teens when I left NYC.) What would have been a quick check-in process turned into an ordeal for poor Tanisha as I struggled over my upgrade options. See, the reason I wanted to stay at the Aladdin in the first place was because I dreamed of staying in one of their Panorama Suites. Even though the price was lower than previously quoted, it was still too much ($1,400 for 3 nights.) Instead, I opted for 2 adjoining regular rooms with Bellagio fountain views for an additional $30/night. Everyone agreed it was worth it. The Aladdin rooms are clean and spacious, but the bathroom is the real highlight. We all enjoyed the big soaking tub ( at a time!)

I walked to Walgreens to buy some water and snacks for the room. I spotted Fat Burger on the way and, having heard good things about it, decided to give it try. I don't know if it was because I hadn't eaten in 7 hours, but that was one damn good burger!

Colleen was next to arrive around 1:00pm. After she got settled, we walked down the strip in the warm sunshine, wishing we had open-toed shoes. We gambled for a while at New York New York, which resulted in a small loss at blackjack for me. In search of a cheap buffet, we ended up at Excalibur. The fact that I can't remember anything about it tells me it wasn't particularly good...or bad.

After dinner, Colleen and I returned to the Aladdin and caught the end of the free acrobat/belly dancer show in the Desert Passage mall. We liked what we saw and decided to catch the full show at 8:00pm. In the meantime, Colleen went up to the room to enjoy the big tub and I hit the video poker machines at the Aladdin Genie Bar (I'm not sure if that is the actual name; that's just what we called it.) So, I'm plunking away on my video poker machine and it happens - I hit the big one, the royal flush for $1,000. I have been waiting for this for over 15 years, but when it happens I just sit there dumbfounded while the screen flashes "CALL ATTENDANT...CALL ATTENDANT..." I sit there for a few minutes, and then finally ask one of the bartenders to call an attendant. He does. I kind of expected him to congratulate me and start sucking up to me for a bigger tip, but he just made the call. As soon as I got paid, I went to the Desert Passage to buy myself a nice memento, a Fossil watch.

I am so glad we decided to go back to see the free show! The first set of acrobats blew my mind. These three guys did things with their bodies I wouldn't have thought possible, requiring a combination of balance and strength. Of course, it defies description so you'll just have to go see them yourself.

By this time, Grace had arrived from San Francisco. (Grace's real name is Karen, but we called her Grace to avoid confusion with Karin from New York.) Grace's friend Lisa also came along, but she never left the gambling tables and we rarely saw her. Grace and I were busy catching up with each other and reminiscing about our previous trips to Las Vegas, all the while hunched over our video poker machines pounding away at the buttons. At one point I gushed, "It's so good to see you!" Grace agreed then burst out laughing because we weren't even looking at each other! From this point on, video poker was affectionately referred to as "crack".

Karin arrives from New York and a new crack addict was born. The three of us sat in a row playing our crack machines. Grace announced that if she hit a 4 of a kind, she would buy a new dress. She did and we all squealed and high-fived each other. A short time later she was dealt 4 cards toward the royal flush. "If I hit a royal flush," she said, "I will buy some new shoes to go with my dress and get a facial." She did and won $1,000. We all screamed at the top of our lungs. A few people came over to see what the fuss was all about. (I don't think Grace ever bought any of the stuff she said she was going to buy.)

Luke, also from New York, was the last to arrive on Thursday, around midnight. He was quickly initiated into the video poker/crack world. He marveled at the fact that he had won $10.00 AND enjoyed 3 free adult beverages. Ah, Las Vegas. We finally crashed around 1:00am.

Friday, January 17
Even though I had been up for 23 hours and even though I had only 3 hours of sleep, I was wide-awake at 6:00am. Colleen was also awake, so we decided not to fight it and went for some breakfast at Denny's. The Grand Slam breakfasts were a bit more expensive than at your average Denny's, but the service was about the best either of us had experienced anywhere. They even gave us balloons! We went back to the Aladdin to gamble a little and Colleen's balloon ended-up on the casino ceiling. Colleen introduced me to the wonders of five-hand video poker and I achieved a new level of addiction.

John and Aaron arrive from San Francisco late Friday morning. Karin and Luke go with them to the Venetian for some lunch. Colleen goes to the pool, which is surprisingly open in mid-January.

I made another attempt at sleep. Every time I would start to drift off the phone would ring, someone would knock or flowers would be delivered (thanks, John & Aaron!) I am so tired! I am so excited! I am so frustrated!

The first official scheduled event is the Big Elvis show at Barbary Coast at 3:00pm. Colleen and I arrive only to find that it has been moved to 6:00pm that week. We track down the others at the Harrah's outdoor Carnaval Court, where Luke and Aaron are enjoying a "drink" at the oxygen bar. That's some pretty pricey air, boys! I hope it was worth it! We all split up until show time.

I am the first to arrive at Barbary Coast and enjoy the first set of Big Elvis alone. Big Elvis has an incredible voice and his rendition of "In The Ghetto" has me in tears. I buy a CD, even though I realize I should probably just listen to the real thing. Big Elvis autographs it for me, but I have no idea what it says.

Between sets Colleen hits a royal flush on the crack machine. Unfortunately, she had only 1 quarter in. We celebrate the win, but I warn her to keep it down or people will scold her for not playing the maximum amount. As promised, the bartender does. I can't believe three of us have hit royals!

The group (minus Grace, who is AWOL) heads to the Rio for the Carnival World Buffet. I have one word for this buffet: bleh! Stay away. It is my understanding that this buffet has gone downhill since Harrahs took over Rio. It must be true because people used to rave about it. Bleh! We gambled for a while at Rio, then at Aladdin, but we all crashed pretty early that night.

Saturday, January 18 - Fabulous 40 Day!
Once again, I am wide-awake after an abbreviated night of sleep. Colleen is awake, too, and our chatter soon brings Luke in from the adjoining room. We decide to eat brunch at the Aladdin buffet. The brunch buffet is not cheap ($20), but well worth it. It includes bloody marys and screwdrivers in addition to champagne, so one could get their money's worth right there! I, however, got my full money's worth in food. I started with a huge supply of fresh fruit, including a berry parfait and a unique salad of pineapple, mandarin orange, jicama, red pepper and green onion. Yum! Then I moved on to what I called my "egg course", which included the most delicious biscuits and gravy. Followed by the "pancake course" and two bowls of ice cream with fresh strawberries. It was truly disgusting.

I learned an important lesson on my 40th birthday: do not stuff yourself at an all-you-can-eat buffet before a day at the spa. When Karin and I arrived at the Treasure Island spa for our "Elite" packages, I was still stuffed. I did, however, thoroughly enjoy my spa treatments. John enjoyed the "For Men Only Package", plus other unmentionable treatments. He and I had the same massage guy, a very chatty fellow who claimed to have a god-given ability to "cure" people. Unfortunately, Karin had a noisy massage room and an unfortunate exchange with one of the employees, but we all left feeling relaxed and pampered.

Back at the hotel, Karin and I closed off one of the adjoining rooms and posted notes asking the others not to disturb our naps. We were still settling down when Colleen, Luke and Andrew, who had just arrived from New York, burst into the room. We all tried to rest, but Luke, Karin and I got into an uncontrollable giggle fest, which lasted for about an hour. (Patty's turn-ons: Rubbing. Turn-offs: Talking about your wife and children, chafing.)

After a short rest, we got all dolled-up and headed to the Mirage for dinner at Samba Brazilian Steakhouse (including Grace, who had resurfaced earlier in the day.) I was surprised to find the restaurant right smack in the middle of the casino, but it made for a bright and lively atmosphere. For those of you who have not been to a Brazilian rodizio, they serve you various types of grilled meat until you tell them to stop, along with traditional side dishes. The food and service were both good, but I think the rodizio in my neighborhood is much better. Maybe I was still full from the breakfast buffet!

We gambled for a brief while at Mirage, but found ourselves wanting to go "home" to the Aladdin. We all really liked the Aladdin a lot. The casino is bright and pretty, the music is at the right volume and all of the dealers and bartenders are friendly and efficient. We all agreed we would stay there again. (End of Aladdin plug.)

Sunday, January 19
Finally, a decent night of sleep! It was only 6 hours, but it was a deep sleep. Sadly, Luke had departed at 5:30am. The rest of us gathered for brunch. We attempted the Paris buffet, but didn't feel like waiting over an hour and a half, so we went back to the Aladdin buffet (which was the first choice of some.) Grace treated me to the buffet with her Aladdin comp (Colleen used her points for an Aladdin wrist watch.) I repeat my gastronomic feat of the previous day, minus one bowl of ice cream. Still, Karin was "impressed" with my capacity.

Everyone says goodbye to Grace, who is departing, and then we go our separate ways. A visit to the Palms was at the top of Karin's Las Vegas to-do list so Aaron and I go with her. The Palms is very cool and different from the other casinos. It has a real modern look, but it is still warm and friendly. The place was pretty busy with football fans. Aaron played roulette while Karin and I toured the facility. Then we played some blackjack and fought for the affection of our adorable dealer, James. We tried a few rolls at the craps table, but soon found ourselves back at the same blackjack table. Aaron watched for a long time, then finally joined in. A new blackjack player is born!

Back at the Aladdin, we regroup in John and Aaron's room before dinner at Cheeseburger at the Oasis in Desert Passage. The food was good, but the football game on the TV was too LOUD. We walked around the mall in anticipation of the "rainstorm". Either something was wrong with it or this was the lamest attraction in Las Vegas! Luckily, we were able to catch another acrobat show. The three guys that I love did a different trick that had me practically screaming in amazement. The magician that they had in place of the belly dancers was really bad. We could actually see her pulling "invisible" string off her fingers.

Colleen and Andrew were anxious to check-in to our new hotel downtown, the Golden Nugget, but I wanted to wait until Karin left for the airport. I told them to go ahead without me, assuming it would be "dead" downtown and they would have no trouble checking-in to the room under my name. After all, the Aladdin had let me check-in to Karin's room as long as I secured it with a credit card. Karin, John, Aaron and I just hung out in the room and chatted until it was time for Karin to leave. We said our goodbyes then I took a cab to the Nugget.

I arrived to find Andrew and Colleen in the lobby. The hotel was booked solid, so they were not allowed to check-in. In fact, the hotel was unable to fulfill my request for 2 queen beds so we were upgraded to a 2-room, 2 bathroom suite. I really loved this hotel room. It is huge and beautifully decorated. Next time I stay downtown I will inquire about the rates, since the Golden Nugget is such a bargain. We particularly enjoyed being able to watch TV while taking a shower.

Colleen opted to relax in the sumptuous room while Andrew and I explored downtown. I took Andrew to the California Hotel, which has become a favorite of mine. The California caters to the Hawaiian market and I love the cultural mix. I still don't get why the stores sell Hawaii souvenirs, though, so I finally asked one of the store employees if the Hawaiian stuff was for the Hawaiians or the non-Hawaiians. She said it was for the non-Hawaiians. Andrew and I enjoyed an ice cream cone at Laperts, gambled a little, and went to bed.

Monday, January 20
I had a wonderful night of sleep! We all slowly rolled out of bed and were finally ready to go to breakfast at about 10:00am. The Horseshoe Coffee shop was crowded, but we waited for a table. The food was good and I love having a coffee pot on the table.

After breakfast we went back to the California and saddled-up to some nickel 5-hand video poker machines. Colleen, not having learned her lesson about playing the maximum coins, was playing 1 nickel at a time. Fortunately, she accidentally hit the "max coin" button before being dealt a 4 of a kind. Five 4 of a kinds equals a $100 hand-pay. Not bad for nickels! Colleen is one lucky gal.

We went to a free magic show at Fitzgeralds, Arian Black's "Secrets". Extremely corny, but fun. I felt like all of the tricks were purchased in a magic shop. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and writing postcards.

Andrew and Colleen had tickets for Tom Jones at the MGM Grand that night and I planned to have a final, all-night gambling fest. After they left I took a nice Jacuzzi bath, got all dolled-up, ate dinner at the Golden Nugget buffet and then headed for the casino. But I was soooooo tired. I tried gambling for awhile, but I just got sleepier and sleepier. I wimped out on my last night and was in bed by 11:00pm.

Tuesday, January 21
I caught a shuttle to the airport at 4:45am. Knowing that I would have to return to a normal diet when I got home I had a final "fling" with a maple nut cinnamon bun at the airport. I also got in my last crack fix by dropping a few bucks in the video poker machine. (Karin, who had not been the luckiest member of the group, finally hit a 4 of a kind at the airport before her flight!) Even though I had pooped out the night before, I was not quite ready to go home. But I guess it is better to leave still wanting more.