These people are my friends and my companions. They are my inspiration and my energy. I begin each day by reading their words, and end each night wrapped in the knowledge that we share a similar bond. Imaginary Internet Friends? Maybe. But they are more real to me in the few days or mere moments I am lucky enough to be around them than are many of the people who I have known personally for years."
- from my notes this past weekend
I'm getting ahead of myself though.
I departed Calgary Thursday morning on only one hour of sleep, too excited the night before to shut down and simply relax. My flight connected through Los Angeles without issue and I arrived in Vegas at 2:15 in the afternoon. In my opinion it is preferable arriving at night, the lights of the city stirring a sense of excitement and anticipation for what is to come before you even get off the plane. However I had to settle for the sight of palm trees and cowboys, both in extreme abundance between the airport and the Strip, but admittedly only one of which that really excited me. (For the record, if you guessed the one with Stetsons you would be incorrect - what can I say, I am from Calgary, cowboys we have.)
After securing my car I drove to the Imperial Palace, thanking the heavens that (for the first time in my history of staying there) I was checked in without fuss or incident. Though I desperately wanted a long, luxurious nap (of the 12-hour variety) I had pre-arranged plans to meet with Richard 'Quiet Lion' Brodie that evening for drinks, so I settled for a 10-minute power snooze before showering away the rest of my sleepiness.
Richard phoned and we agreed to meet at the Wynn. He and Michael Craig, author, of course, of The Professor, the Banker, and the Suicide King (no, not an affiliate link) had dinner reservations at Okada for 8pm, and since it was a bit later than we had originally scheduled to meet they were gracious enough to include me in their plans. That was an unexpected surprise for me, but a very welcome one.
The dinner itself was exquisite. After meeting the lovely sommelier, Richard and I shared a bottle of Ginga Shizuku - Divine Droplets Sake - served chilled in a beautiful presentation of crystal ware. Because I already ate a few hours prior I wasn't exceptionally hungry, but am fortunate they insisted I try enough samples from the endless stream of platters brought to our table. I realize this isn't a food blog but it would be a disservice not to recreate that meal just a little, so please indulge me for a moment as I recollect. The sushi and sashimi were beautiful works or art, set on a platter artfully decorated along with the expected accompaniments of wasabi and ginger. Among the many dishes we received was a sampling of Robatayaki which also wonderful, including such items as sea bass, asparagus with bacon, organic chicken, and BBQ pork that simply melted the moment they touched your mouth. The final item I had was a miniature taro taco shell, which I believe was filled with blue fin tuna, though I can't be completely sure. Simply outstanding.
Yes, the food was amazing, but the dinner conversation was also stellar. These two can certainly tell stories, and I had a great time simply sitting back, sipping my sake and listening to them recount many of the adventures that the rest of us only read about in their blogs or books. After dinner we relaxed on the show terrace and sipped scotch while they enjoyed cigars, all the while watching a larger-than-life animatronic frog sitting high above a 100-ft screen dance around to War's Low Rider. Seriously, only in Vegas. Though the two of them will come up again a few times in my recap, I'd like to send out a special thanks now to Richard and Michael once again for including me for dinner and drinks, I really did have a great time.
Picking up the crew
I had arranged to meet Kat, Gary, and Maudie at the airport, and was very much looking forward to getting us all in the same place together. I met Maudie last year at the event but it was my first time seeing Kat and Gary live, though we talk to each other most every night. It took mere minutes, no - mere seconds to feel like we have known each other in person for years. To further solidify the bond, we were forced to walk around the airport parkade for a while in Seinfeld-esque fashion since I neglected to notice where I parked, so excited was I to finally meet them all. Fortunately Gary was resourceful enough to locate the car and we were off in search of further misadventures at the Hôtel de Débauche.
After arriving back at the IP we found the meet & greet organized by Pauly to still be in full swing - and continued that way until the sun was up. I find it hard to convey the feeling of just sitting amongst these people, but let me assure you they are the best group of alcohol-swilling, junk-grabbing, hammer-dropping degenerates you are likely to ever meet. As anyone new to these events will attest, all you have to do is introduce yourself once and before long you are known to everyone. Since I have been in attendance before, I relived the experience through those that were there for the first time - it is simply displayed on their faces. A mixed look of pure astonishment, happiness, amazement, and a true sense of contentment knowing they belong.
That, my friends, was just Thursday. More to follow shortly.