On The Road by Judy @ 4:37 PM

As you will recall, when we last saw Mom and #1 Son they had rustled up some grub at PF Chang’s and suffered through seen Steve Wyrick’s magic show at The Aladdin.

Part 3: New York New York (it’s a hell of a casino) (sorry, couldn’t resist)

Monday dawned gray but dry, and there began a fruitless, days-long search for a decent cup of coffee. There was a little candy and espresso shop — Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland — just inside Desert Passage (the mall at The Aladdin), and I stopped there for a couple of cups of java and scones. #1 Son, you see, sleeps in the morning. I haven’t been able to sleep past 7:00 or so for years. So, while #1 Son sleeps, mom gambles. I will say no more about that except to say that I broke even, and I consider that pretty darn good for any Vegas vacation. So, post-gamble I fetched coffee and scones from Teuscher back to the room, where I found #1 Son up and stirring. His comment: Is there anyplace here that makes good coffee?
Mom’s take on coffee at Teuscher: star
Mom’s take on chocolate at Teuscher: starstarstarstarstar

#1 Son wanted to see a comedian, and the only ones not dark on Monday were Rita Rudner at New York New York and the Second City Improve troup at The Flamingo. Having already seen Second City during a previous trip, we decided on Ms. Rudner. We first stopped by the concierge desk to book a “Hummer Ghost Town and Gold Mine” tour for Wednesday, and then walked down to NYNY.

Isn’t it funny how distances on a map just never look as far as they really are? On the map, it looks like The Aladdin is practically right next to MGM Grand. But, not so… (Actually, the maps of the Strip often say distances between casinos are further than they appear.)

So, we hiked down to New York New York. It’s about 1/2 mile or so from The Aladdin. I’m not complaining, because I like to walk. But I should have brought better walking shoes than I had… At NYNY, Rita Rudner was sold out. So that left Second City. And we started back to The Flamingo. It’s about 1-1/3 miles from NYNY.

Along the way we passed a Denny’s. I’m not a great Denny’s fan, but I was hungry and I knew that (1) the price would be right and (2) #1 Son could find something he could eat there. We did not, however, find decent coffee.
Mom’s take on Denny’s: starstar

When we left Denny’s, I noticed that my left foot was starting to hurt on the bottom.

Part 3: The Flamingo:

At The Flamingo, I purchased tickets for Second City at 10:30 PM that night, and for George Wallace at 10:00 PM on Tuesday. And that left us with a whole lot of time to kill.

The Flamingo has a soft spot in my heart because it can always be counted on for Las Vegas kitsch of the most pretentious kind, but I’ve always felt it to be more than slightly tongue-in-cheek. Unlike other casinos that take themselves too seriously, The Flamingo’s in on the joke, and wants us to be, too. Signs claimed that there was a Wildlife Habitat in its garden. I thought that might be interesting. We wandered out to the garden and found a few flamingos (naturally), a swan, some ducks, penguins, and a few koi swimming apathetically around a small pond.

There was also a Christmas display that included about a dozen little Christmas trees, Santa in his sleigh sans reindeer, and these “happy” sledders.

Maybe it’s the strange, slightly non-human shape of the “girl” pulling the sled. Or maybe it’s the rather demonic gleam in her eye. Or maybe the look of abject terror on the face of the passenger. #1 Son and I both burst out laughing. I kept thinking Chucky meets Fargo. Click on the picture to embiggen and see the whole effect.

The other thing that I really didn’t understand about the whole Flamingo Christmas display was the trees. Each tree had presents under it. Four presents per tree. No more. No less. Each present was attached to the tree with wire. It wasn’t attached at the base of the tree, but up near the top. And the presents weren’t actually under the trees. You can see a couple of them in the picture. They were quite a ways out from the trees. Perhaps the Flamingo has a happy little Christmas show in the evening with dancing presents? I don’t know. It will remain a mystery.

Part 4: MGM Grand:

Having still a lot of time to kill, we decided to ride the monorail down to MGM Grand, where I knew there were some good souvenir shops that should have the type of present #1 Son was looking to pick up for his friends at home. The monorail had recently reopened after being lengthened and revamped. And then it closed, because things kept falling off of it, and the cars kept stopping in the middle of the tracks for no reason, and doors kept opening on the wrong side where there wasn’t a platform. It has just reopened again, and was free through Tuesday. But the monorail station in the MGM Grand has been moved. Instead of stopping at the shops, it now stops down near CBS Television City.

Television City includes a market research firm that will let you watch bad new television shows and give your opinion. I’ve always found that to be sort of fun, as well as time-consuming, so we signed up. We “got to” watch a British reality show called Take My Mother-In-Law. We were given dials that registered from 0 to 100 and told to keep a running tally of our opinion of the show at all times. After the first 5 minutes, #1 Son set his permanently to zero and went to sleep. I was tempted. Does the world really need another bad reality show? I will spare you, gentle reader, from the description of it, except to say that the only thing it had going for it was the British humor. And that will probably be removed when the show is Americanized for US audiences. If they can find any.
Mom’s take on Take My Mother-In-Law: No stars

At the end of our session, the research firm rep mentioned that they were looking for people to take part in a focus group, for which we would be paid the princely sum of $50. And I fit in the demographics they were looking for. I signed up and was slotted for a group meeting at 2:15 PM the next day.

The MGM Grand is huge. Really huge. When trying to find your way around, its best to follow the wall. There are few landmarks in the middle of the casino and it’s very easy to get lost without a breadcrumb trail to follow. But we struck out across the casino because I remembered that there is a Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill smack dab in the middle of the slot machines, and it serves such wonderous dishes as acorn squash soup, wood fired pizza and various vegetarian pasta fare. It does not, however, serve a decent cup of coffee.
Mom’s take on coffee at Wolfgang Puck: star
Mom’s take on food at Wolfgang Puck: starstarstarstarstar

Part 5: The Flamingo, redux

After dinner we rode the monorail from end to end, and then back to The Flamingo. There’s a little coffee shop in The Flamingo where we had coffee and desert. #1 Son had banana cream pie. It was mostly cool whip and tough crust, with a few sad banana slices. I ordered vanilla ice cream, figuring that there wasn’t much that could be done to mess it up. I was wrong. When I finally made it through the cool whip and down to the ice cream, I found what looked like vanilla ice cream, including little brown flecks of what I hope was vanilla bean. But it didn’t taste like vanilla. It didn’t taste like anything, really. The coffee, per usual, sucked.
Mom’s take on coffee and desert at The Flamingo: star

By now it was finally time for the Second City show. There was a long, long line to get in. And the troup this year was just not as funny as the one we saw before. Ah well. It didn’t suck. It just wasn’t as funny as I’d hoped.
Mom’s take on the current Second city troup: starstarstar

From the Flamingo we hoofed it back to The Aladdin (a little over 1/2 mile), through a Portland-style drizzle. Gee, I said to #1 Son when we got back to our room. My foot really hurts. But probably it will be better in the morning.

Next: We learn that dumping a whole lot of water on a desert all at once is not a good idea.

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