Calendars are one of those valuable things you can get for free, like water at fountains, pens, newspapers at airports, or sunshine. OK, I think the airport newspapers are treasures because without them, staring out the window watching the luggage being loaded will drive you crazy by the middle of your second layover.
When you or your offspring are in school, the calendar is a merciless tyrant which pretty much runs your life. I, like you, couldn't wait to get beyond that, and it takes a long time. Afterwards, it's a mix of good and bad: holidays are sprinkled, sparsely, among the months, but if you're employed you likely have to schedule your puny vacation well in advance, and will pine away waiting for it to arrive and miss it for another year after it all-too-swiftly passes by.
We're happy to be in the third stage now, where we're in charge and slipping from the control of institutional powers. Other than setting some appointments with medical professionals to be poked, jabbed or drilled, I now can scan the days of each month with an eye for possibilities rather than duties. Nancy has been with her benevolent employer long enough to have quite the stock of vacation days and no longer gets grief about using them. They say one of the three drivers of happiness is something to look forward to, and the time ahead, clearly represented by neat boxes on the calendar, can be filled with dreams and plans -- and should be.
If we can't find anything new to do, we go back to favorite places and enjoy them from a new angle. The next time we go to the Caribbean, I'd like to try a couples resort, for example. You have to visit a place the first time to learn how to visit it; the next is usually better as you're not spending half the week figuring things out, and you know where the harder-to-find good stuff is.
Just recently, Nancy got a trip to a conference in Las Vegas approved (the previous attempt to attend one in Orlando was shot down at the last minute) and I decided not to waste it like last time: no more joining the roiling masses on the Strip sidewalks and getting lost in the interior shopping mazes for hours after my feet gave out. This time I was going to get out earlier when the crowds were thin and seek out some fun stuff.
So while Nancy dutifully attended her sessions in the far reaches of the Sands conference center (three floors high, a mile long -- nothing's done small in Vegas), I had (monkey) business to attend to.
The weather that week was exceptionally good for March: warmer, sunnier and less windy than usual. That alone, after another northeastern winter that did not have the good grace to leave and make way for Spring, would make a long walk a real pleasure. I headed north to see the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, featured on the television show Pawn Stars, about 3 miles each way. At the aging end of the Strip, I detoured through the Sahara to see how an older casino hotel was doing, and it was pretty deflated. A few decades of life is all that is allotted in this fast-paced, quick profit, scheme in the desert -- and judging from their faces, that applies to the people as well as the buildings. After that, the blocks looked like Cleveland with scrawny palm trees. Appropriate setting for a pawn shop, come to think of it.
The place doesn't look much like it does on TV; I guess wide-angle lenses are used to good effect to make things look larger and shinier than they are. There was quite a line to get in, so I just scoped it out. The door and windows were covered (one with a black plastic trash bag), and the warehouse in back had a garage door and no windows. A small pickup truck in the side parking lot had a "Chumlee for President" bumper sticker. We could do worse (and might).
The next day I headed off for the light industrial district which parallels the Strip, separated from it by railroad tracks, walls and fences. After a walk about four times longer than I had expected, I found Discount Firearms and Ammo, where I was to meet my little friend, a H&K MP5 9mm submachine gun. The instructor at the indoor range was a former policeman, who showed me the proper stance for automatic fire, after which I let loose. Judging from the results on the target, I have a future in illegal or paramilitary endeavors. You can't do that in New Cumberland!
That night we went just across the street to Gilley's Texas bar and grille, where the food was predictable (but smelled great), then moseyed back to the bar where the cowgirls wore bikinis and chaps (also not doable in New Cumberland), and the bull ride was providing great entertainment as it threw cowgirls and tipsy customers off with equal abandon. Several people used the excellent karaoke setup and did a fine job of it. A very large stage is almost built and will host bands on weekends. All in all, the place was a hoot and was looking to be even better when complete.
The highlight of the week was entry into the hotel's (the Venetian) celebrity nightclub, Tao. It doesn't normally open until 10 PM, but our conference group and two others had it from 7:30 til then. The dark, mysterious Asian bistro/club was packed; it's (along with Mandalay Bay's Rain club) close to the best Vegas has to offer those of us not in the millionaires' sphere. One of the people we sat next to while pillaging the hors d'oeuvre trays that passed by (Kobe beef sliders - oh my) came back from exploring and said we should go to the dance floor. She was right (although we had to leave the Kobe behind): the DJ, the sound system and the lights grabbed all your senses immediately and completely. There were visitors and club professional dancers lined up on top of the low walls which formed a sunken dance area. Did everyone form the letters to "YMCA?" Did strobe lights delight everyone just like in the 60s? Did everyone bust moves they didn't even know they had? You betcha.
So far in this year's calendar, so good. Got all the remodeling projects done before this trip, as planned, and have other events both at home and abroad lined up. Right now, just waiting for Spring...