Monday, January 12, 2015

Las Vegas Trip 2014-2015, Part Four

Just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, we walked outside onto the Vegas strip to take in the fireworks show. I braced myself for the unusually cold weather they were experiencing, but it didn’t feel so bad. I guess the camaraderie of hundreds of thousands of revelers warmed the atmosphere.

My childhood best friend, Dave, who has lived in Vegas since shortly after we graduated from college, and his significant other, Stephanie, joined us, so we became a group of eight. The Las Vegas strip was closed to vehicle traffic, and oodles of temporary police officers were unleashed on the masses. They made a determined effort to manage us, to enforce where the crowd could and couldn’t stand, but it was a fruitless endeavor – herding cats. At first we were obedient, out of habit I suppose. But as midnight drew near, everyone maneuvered for the best viewing positions, and the admonitions from the rent-a-cops became just so much background noise.

We positioned ourselves in front of the Bellagio Hotel, and just prior to midnight they fired up their amazing fountain show, shooting water hundreds of feet up into the sky, in sync with the Beatles tune Hey Jude.

The fireworks show was spectacular, as expected. There was an ebb and flow to the program, and when the intensity of the explosions increased, the collective roar the crowd indicated our approval.

Watch the birds eye video of the fireworks display, below, or click here.

Andy and Karen went home a day earlier than the rest of us (which we knew ahead of time) because they both had to work on Friday. When they went out to the taxi stand at 4:30 AM, there was a long line and no taxis. Most of the taxi drivers had exhausted themselves and gone home. Andy ended up paying a limousine driver $100 for a ride to the airport, instead of the usual $20 taxi fee.

Thursday was a lazy day for us. Tom and Diane and Kim and I took in a show – The Blue Man Group – which was tons of fun. We met up with David and Stephanie again for dinner. Stephanie brought her son Quintin and two of his friends, and I amazed them with my iBot wheelchair. After dinner we gambled for the last time. Kim likes video poker, and she got to play a lot of hands on this trip, and only lost about $100. Me? I like blackjack.

Blackjack is a game with relatively favorable odds if you know how to play it, and I think I do. When I’m in my iBot wheelchair I can raise myself up to the height of the blackjack table, but because the iBot tilts me back in that mode, I can’t reach my chips easily. Andy also likes to play blackjack, so when we played together he would place my bets for me. But on Thursday I was on my own, and so I asked each dealer to help me out. They had no problem doing that. Once, I sat down beside a friendly gentleman from Sweden, and he placed my bets for me.

No matter how the bets were made, I had good luck on this trip. My goal isn’t to make money when I gamble. My goal is to play lots of hands – in other words, lose my money slowly. For this reason, I almost always place the minimum bet allowed, which was usually $15. I accomplished my goal of playing long hours of blackjack, and I managed to net a profit of $500. Now that I have this game figured out, maybe I should become a regular at the blackjack tables nearer home.

Or not.

For me, one of the most uplifting aspects of going on vacation is the positive attention that I draw because of the iBot. In my regular wheelchair, I would be almost invisible. In the iBot, in balance mode, I am an attraction. So many people approach me to voice their amazement or to ask me questions, most commonly, “How do you do that?” Even more people, and I only know this because my travel companions tell me so, stare with mouths agape after I pass by. A few act the same way in front of me, in plain view. When I’m in the iBot, I’m not regarded with pity but with admiration, almost envy.

Because of this attention, I understand what it feels like to be a celebrity out in public. The buzz I create is not like that of an A-list sex symbol – George Clooney or Brad Pitt. I’m definitely not a bad boy like Charlie Sheen or Bobby Brown. I don’t think I’m looked at in the same way as a comedian like Jerry Seinfeld or Ricky Gervais. I probably get the same attention as someone who used to be a superstar, but is now less well-known, although still beloved. Someone humble, friendly, and approachable. I’ve got it. When I’m in the iBot in a huge casino, I garner about as much attention as Meg Ryan would if she were to walk through the same casino. In the iBot, I’m Meg Ryan.

Click here for part five, the conclusion
Click here for part three

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