I had decided I wanted to celebrate my 30th birthday in Vegas, so I booked the weekend following the actual day. My pal, we'll call her J, decided to come with for one night.

Friday 4/8

A friend dropped us off at SFO on that rainy Friday morning. The rain made us even more eager to get to sunny Las Vegas. J had a little trouble with the TSA folks at SFO. It seems that no matter what, she always gets singled out when she flies, and sure enough they pulled her aside to scan her with the handhelds, while I just stood back and laughed. After discerning that she was not a terrorist, we made it to the gate, where the good people of America West decided that I could not bring my carry-on on the plane. Ugh, why does this always happen to me?

After landing at McCarran at around 11:30 AM, we got in a reasonably short taxi line and got our ride to our homebase, the Tropicana. I'd never stayed at the Trop before; this was my 4th trip to Vegas, and in the past I've stayed at Luxor, Flamingo, and Paris. I gamble quite a bit a Caesar's in Tahoe, and am often sent offers for Park Place properties in Vegas, but this was Spring Break weekend, and Buffett was playing at the MGM, so there were no room offers forthcoming. I booked the Tropicana for a price that far exceeded it's worth, but it was one of the cheapest hotels on the Strip for that particular weekend. Upon arrival, I proceeded to the registration desk and made nice with the Filipino desk clerk (it helps to know how to say "How are you?" in Tagalog). After some small talk, in which I mentioned the birthday, she offered me a room in the Island Tower, and I accepted. The room itself was very large, and very clean, but seemed to have been decorated in the year of my birth. There were mirrors above the two queen beds, say no more. I didn't intend to spend alot of time in the room, so this was just fine by me. J and I quickly changed into our swimsuits and headed downstairs to the pool area. I have to say, I was a little dissapointed by the pool; it's reputation exceeds the reality. It was decent though, and J and I staked out a couple of chairs by one of the smaller, quieter pools, and were soon enjoying some tropical alcoholic concoctions from plastic footballs. Classy! We had a little lunch by the pool from the Tropicana's snack bar. After a few hours we went back up to the room and I changed into shorts, a T-shirt and flip flops, and J pulled on a similar outfit over her swimsuit.

We ventured up the strip, through Paris and Bally's, deciding that we didn't want to gamble there. We eventually stopped at Casino Royale for some of those super cheap margaritas and a few hands of blackjack. Blackjack here sucks, the rules are terrible. AVOID. We quickly exited this place and headed back south to the Flamingo, where we played found a few $5 blackjack tables and some better rules. After about 2 hours, I was up about $200, but J was barely breaking even, so I cashed in my chips and we walked across the street the Bellagio, to visit the Conservatory. I love this place, the flowers and fountains are always so whimisical. It didn't quite compare to my last visit, but we definitely enjoyed it. It was getting fairly late in the afternoon, but we decided to walk around the Forum Shops at Caesar's before heading back to the Trop to change for the evening. After a round of the mall, we were walking back through Caesar's casino, when J spotted the Celine theater and saw that Elton was performing that night. Now, I'm not a huge Elton fan, but J instantly had her heart set on it, so we decided to see if there were tickets available, and of course...there weren't. J is a force of nature, and not to be denied, so we decided to wait in the standby line, which was about 20 people deep at this point. It didn't look too promising, so J decided to look around for scalpers, and soon picked us up a pair of tickets for $150 a piece. Expensive, yes...but these seats were fantastic! 15 rows or so back, on the aisle in front of Elton. Once we found our seats, I was horrified that we were seated right next to a elegantly dressed older couple (he in a tux, she in a Chanel suit), since we were both still in shorts and flip-flops. I apologized profusely for the way we were dressed, but I needn't have worried. The woman was particularly friendly, and we were fast friends by the end of the show. The show itself was fantastic, Elton really can put on a great show still. J danced so much that she broke a flip-flop, and had to walk barefoot back to the Trop after the show, with me making jokes about staph infections the whole way.

After changing in the room, we went downstairs to the casino to play some more blackjack. I'd never played here, but the casino was very good to me. I played for about 2 hours, and was up almost $300 by the time I cashed in. J was also lucky, erasing her earlier lossed and leaving up about $60. We decided to go have some sushi to celebrate. We tried the sushi place at San Remo, but they had just closed, so headed over to the MGM to Shibuya. We ate an excellent meal at the Sushi bar, and ended up heading back to the Trop, and bed, at about 2:30 AM.

Saturday 4/9

J was up and off at 6 AM to catch a flight to the East Coast for a family reunion, long before I awoke at around 11 AM. I awoke slowly, showered and dressed, and headed out of the Trop at about 1 PM. I crossed the street to hit New York, New York. Now, I'm not particularly fond of this place, but I do like the food court area. You really do feel like you're in NYC, and it's about the only place I still actually enjoy a hot dog, which I had for lunch.

I've learned a lesson about Las Vegas: never gamble on the second day of your trip. I always end up losing badly if I do. So I wandered slowly through Excalibur and Luxor to Mandalay Bay, where I had an appointment for a massage at 4 PM. I arrived early enough to use their excellent gym, and relax a little before the massage. The massage itself was decent, but not the best I'd ever had. Afterwards I headed back to the Trop for a disco nap.

After my nap, I changed and headed downstairs, where a friend of my friend G picked me up, and we drove west to G's house. G has a BEAUTIFUL home, on the western outskirts of Vegas. The mountains begin right beyond his backyard. G was hosting a big party at his place that night, but I arrived early enough to catch up with him a bit before his guests began to arrive. The party itself was a fantastic time, with plenty of food, drink and, most of all, entertainment. G has friends in Vegas show biz, and two of Celine's dancers performed in his dining room, and two performers from "O" did a routine in his backyard pool (which is gorgeous, complete with outdoor fireplace, jacuzzi, waterfall, etc.). I met some nice people at the party, including Elton's hairdresser. He was delighted to learn that I'd been to the previous evening's show, and divulged that Elton was a gracious and generous employer, but was mum on the topic of Elton's follicles. Damn. He and his friends invited me to Krave, the club in the Alladin's Dessert Passage, and so we left the party to drive over there. We entered through the VIP entrance and were escorted to a VIP booth, where the Grey Goose flowed like water. I wasn't all that into though, and left for the Trop at around 2:30 AM, when I dropped into bed.

Sunday 4/10

I rose at about 10 AM, showered, dressed, and checked out on the TV. I dropped my luggage off downstairs and headed up the Strip to Paris, one of my favorite resorts on the Strip. I wanted to have an early lunch at the Buffet there, but the line was horrific. I decided to brave it anyways, and got a ticket that would allow me to come back at 10:40 and get in line. The hostess warned me that'd I'd pay the lunch price, but I didn't care. I used a Connection Card terminal to print out comps for use at the Buffet and came back at the appointed time to get in line. The Buffet was EXCELLENT as usual, and they ended up charging me the breakfast price. After breakfast, I headed up to the Flamingo, where I had more good luck at the blackjack tables. I played for nearly 3 hours and left up over $300! I couldn't believe my good fortune this trip, but I really think some of it was due to my discipline in not gambling on day 2. I decided to head over to the Fashion Show mall and spent some of my winnings at the Paul Frank store and Zara, one of my favorite stores. I really wanted a suit there, but the suit I wanted came as a set, and the pants that came with the jacket that fit me were way too tight. I did spend about $200 in there though.

It was getting late, so I grabbed a cab to the Tropicana, and decided to try and score a free meal. I took my card to a host, who checked my play, and generously comped me food/beverage at the coffee shop, which was more than decent. After this late afternoon meal, I grabbed a cab to the airport, and from there a plane back to reality.