Thursday, January 10, 2008

Las Vegas and CES 2008

Las Vegas, 1978. My family is on a trip. We've been to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyons, Lake Powell, and many other sights. Our dusty van rolls up in front of Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas. My young brother and I share what seems like a giant room covered in burgundy shag carpet. There are mirrors on the ceiling and I can't figure out why. I've read numerous books mentioning people stealing ashtrays from hotels. Naturally, I steal one from Caesar's. I still have it.

Las Vegas, 1994. I have been working at Spatializer Audio Laboratories for a few months. I am sent to work COMDEX, the legendary expo. While the company, our booth, and staff are small, the show is gigantic, overcrowded, and ridiculously expensive. It's also raining all the time. I am staying at Bally's and marveling at how much Vegas has changed. I am in my mid-20s, gainfully employed at what I think is a great job, and happy to be alive. I'm going to get engaged soon.

Las Vegas, 1996. I am still working at Spatializer Audio Labs and here with the now large Spatializer team. Staying at the Hilton. I am separated from my wife. Her company has a booth less than 50 feet from ours, and I watch her working with the man she's left me for. It is late and gray. I am pushing through the crowds in my raincoat, Deckard desperately searching for the replicants. I need to talk to her. There is crying. Awkward phone calls. Emergency telephone shrink sessions. I haven't eaten food in a month. A month from now I will start divorce proceedings.

Las Vegas, 1998. I am lying on the fake beach at the Hard Rock with my girlfriend, enjoying a nice vacation. There is much relaxation, some drinking, and a little gambling. My Dad lives here now and I see him briefly.

Las Vegas, 2000. is hosting a small event at the House of Blues, largely so our PR director's band can play there as part of the EAT'M conference, where I'm speaking on a panel. One of the women helping host the show flirts with me. We'll meet for drinks later. I will find out that she lives in L.A. - the town I am just about to leave in a matter of weeks. We will have dinner a few times and stay in touch. She'll end up in San Francisco shortly after me, stay at my place for a bit, and then resurface years later rooming with colleagues at work.

Las Vegas, 2007. I am here for CES, working the Rhapsody booth. Proud to be here, and feeling good about life and myself. We're showing Rhapsody 4.0, finally available after a long and tortured development cycle. We are also showing the first Rhapsody-optimized MP3 player. The show is exciting and long. The second night I'm there, I can't fall asleep - my leg twitches and keeps waking me up. I get no rest. The same thing happens the next night, despite my exhaustion and working out.

Las Vegas, 2007. The MTV Video Music Awards. Ever since I first saw MTV, I wanted to be on it. Working for MTV and being behind the scenes is almost as good.

Las Vegas, 2008. CES is over. I am sitting in the West Wing of the MGM Grand. West Wing is their "modern" part of the hotel, a nearly W-ish take on their regular rooms. Economical but very nice. Nice furniture. After multiple nights of business dinners, I finally had a night to myself to relax and get some room service. I've managed to work out every day and worked hard at the booth. Lots of demos for press and others.

Last night I managed to have dinner with an old friend not seen for many years.

The night before I nearly got time to myself. So very tired. 20 feet from the eleveators...but a hand clapped me on the shoulder. My former boss. "Let's go have dinner". So to the cab line with 2 other people. $40 later and we're at the head of the cab line. The door closes. The driver asks "where to?" One of our party says "Take us to the Indian restaurant at the El Dorado". The cab driver says "there's no hotel named 'El Dorado' in Las Vegas, and I only know about 3 Indian restaurants in town." Our companion is stammering. "Well, what's that place, you know, across the freeway?"

"Sir, that's a condo complex."

Our other companion is frantically texting on his Blackberry. Oh god it is going to be a long painful night. If I weren't wedged in the middle of the cab, I'd already have bailed out.

"What's the name of that place, you know..."

"Sir, I need a destination or you're going to have to get out of the cab."

The other guy says "We're going to 'Lotus of Siam', do you know where that is?"

"Yessir, it's outside of town in Commercial Center, near all the massage parlors. We'll be there in 10 minutes."

I'm not a huge Thai food fan. But at least we're going somewhere. Or are we? Companion 1 is racking his brain "wait, what are the restaurants you know?"

Cab driver says "'Gandhi' is a popular one."

"Yeah, that's it! wait, it's called 'Gaylord'. It's in the Rio, yes, the Rio. 'Gaylord' in the Rio!"

Too late. We're on our way to 'Lotus of Siam'. Which will have a one hour wait. We'll pass the time griping about work over Newcastle at a pool hall nestled between several karaoke bars and "Asian-style" massage parlors. At 9:30 one of our party will look at their Blackberry and say "oh, we have to leave right now, I have a meeting to get to."

I get to sleep at midnight, my chapped lips still burning from the Thai food.

Viva Las Vegas.

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