from Sandy Needham

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Las Vegas Dispatch

I am known for burning out on card games in my family. My mother, son and husbanblack jackd can play forever. One time Newton, Mother and I were trying to finish a game of Hearts with the two of them waking me up every hand for my play while I sat there drooping, along with my hand of cards. I reached the equivalent in Las Vegas when I was slumped over a video Black Jack screen at 3:30am, occasionally opening one eye to push one button or another…and only one free martini was involved. My daughter showed me a recent twitter she sent to her friend, bragging that I could party till 4:00am despite being 60 years old (60 looks older than it is from the 25-year-old perspective). I was so grateful that the “Asleep on the Strip” scene had not been factored in!

I held up much better onlarissa all the games we played at Jake’s beautiful house. Being a game maniac like my mother, Jake had a range of choices available. I did not even try to catch on to the video games buzzing around on his flat screen at which Newton, Elise and Jake are all adept. I can hold my own on Hearts and Spades when awake; but on the anagram word game, none of us can compete effectively against Jake – even while imposing handicaps on him. By the end, he had stolen most of the words we had formed by making them into different, longer words and had many more lined up in front of him than the combined number for Newton, Elise and me. likewise 1

We played a silly game called “Likewise” that requires, skill-wise, only that one guess which answer is most likely to match everyone else’s. Once I got used to the idea of giving up cleverness and going for the most ordinary, I gained some points. By the time we played this for the second and third times, the silliness turned into ridiculous fun and many laughs. The only advantage I ever had was in some game we played where historical facts were involved. Oh likewise

Jake-house Jake’s new house was my project, though it only needed a few tweaks to spruce it up. It had been pretty well renovated before he bought it and nicely furnished by him and his roommate, so just needed some curtains, pillows, hooks, coffee maker, softer light bulbs, etc., etc. I used an extra blow-up mattress he had to help furnish a huge space at the top of the stairs. Alas, a small leak requires that Jake pump it up every few days. This recent photo from his girlfriend, Larissa, shows how well that plan is going!


living room Our first surprise driving home from the airport was when Jake started to turn into the driveway of a house that was loaded with Christmas lights and decorations, including a countdown to Christmas clock. This would be so completely out of character for Jake that we were thoroughly shocked. Alas, just a joke. He then turned into the dark driveway of the unadorned house next door. xmas tree

We bought a Christmas tree on the 24th, had Christmas music on our iPod and loads of delicious food, including an artichoke dip and devilled eggs made by Larissa before she went home (to Albany) for Christmas; plus tacos, Brazilian moqueca, and my only “mom” dish, macaroni and cheese (twice). Jake gave me a very funny, very large certificate on Christmas morning for a family meal out at the restaurant of my choice, from “”…based on his poker moniker and matching license plate, “Jllama.” He took us to a great Italian restaurant called ‘Bootleggers’ where Mom & Elise & treeI had the best white wine, the best muscles, the best sautéed greens and the best chocolate gelato since Rome! Elise gave me, among other gifts, an original drawing in a frame she made to evoke the four seasons – a prized possession! elise's drawing

dad & jakeI liked the 'good luck' feel of such street names in Vegas as ''Blue Diamond" and "Rainbow." To balance out the intensity and 'bad luck' feel of the Las Vegas Strip we all went hiking and rock scrambling at Red Rock Canyon. I always find it easy to imagine that I am on another planet when in the spare beauty of these southwest settings full of odd-shaped rock formations. Another world. We packed a picnic, but were too cold to eat outside, so carried it back home. I managed to wrench my shoulder and elbow while trying to hoist myself up between two rocks, then Newton injured his shoulder that evening wrestling with Jake on the living room floor. The bad news: age. The good news: mostly recovered.

T-bird Lounge

Besides a couple of evenings on the Strip, we hung out one night at a little nearby dive that had video poker screens installed at the bar. I did a tutorial with Jake in preparation for my own gambling fling later. The bad news: didn’t win anything the whole trip. The good news: didn’t lose much.

strip view


We made it to one show on the Strip, Penn and Teller. They are wonderful magicians, raconteurs and old school libertarian spokesmen. Jake and Elise managed a photo with Penn Jillette after the show.

After some additional editing, Elise finished one more present for us - a montage of recent family video footage. She incorporated music and made the whole thing rather hilarious. We never suspected that she was taping us from the back seat of the car back in Napa Valley last summer, so the ending sequence, titled "Why We Have GPS," is an endless recap of Newton and I trying to follow maps, continually turning them every which direction in hopes of establishing our bearings...or, at least bearings we could agree upon. I say all sorts of highly mitigated things, such as "a left turn would be really cool" - thank goodness my actual thoughts were not recordable! It ends with Newton turning around from the driver's seat and saying laughingly as if on cue for the video, "Where's GPS when we need it?" In truth, Newt volunteered for all sorts of errands in Jake's car in Vegas just so he could fiddle with the GPS.

Our two kids are so much fun, so sharp, so humorous, so interesting. We couldn't ask for better company! Big time gratitude for that.

e, j.l NY's eve

Elise stayed and Larissa returned for New Year’s Eve. Newton and I flew to Rio in time to celebrate on Ipanema Beach. Thank you, Jake, for such a memorable stay!




  1. You paint such a vivid picture with your writing - I could imagine Jake pulling in to the wrong drive way just to mess with you - haha!

  2. We bought the tree on the 24th! Otherwise accurate, haha.

    - Jake

  3. Wow- that was too much fun! I wanna go back to Vegaaaaas!!!!


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