from Sandy Needham

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Holidays Dispatch - Las Vegas

Las Vegas is known as a gaming city, so what do we do when we go there? PLAY! I'm not talking about the slot machines, Black Jack tables or roulette wheels. I'm talking about the game room at Jake and Larissa's house, where we went for Christmas.

OK, the game room actually does have a roulette wheel. We lost our shirts to the "house" last year on that thing, so the roulette wheel and felt were put away for a profusion of games from Jake and Larissa's collection. What fun, which became only livelier once Elise arrived! It is always difficult to beat Jake - especially if he's partnering with Larissa - but we all managed to have our moment in the sun.

Bezzerwizzer ("Know-it-all"), a Danish trivia game with twenty categories. There is a Mattel version for the US. This one's my favorite.
Metagame Submit different nouns to interpret categories or questions. Judging player picks most appropriate. Thought provoking.
Cranium Pop Five Hints are presented by acting, drawing, humming, modeling clay, or forming a sentence based on letter cubes.
Code Names Spymasters give one-word clues that can indicate multiple words on the cards laid out. 
Apples to Apples Play the noun cards that are best described by the adjective card held by the judging player.
Likewise Try not to answer as you wish, but as you think most others will answer.
Beatles Trivial Pursuit One of the hardest games of all, even with this group having covered most biographies of the Beatles...then after ten impossible questions, it will ask "What was Yoko's last name?"   
Headbanz Ask yes or no questions to the group to discover what person, place or thing is displayed on your forehead.

... we had hours of fun and hilarity with these games.

Our PLAY did not begin and end at the game table. We went to an outdoor space at the Gold Spike casino, which offers ping-pong, shuffleboard, giant Jenga, giant chess, sandbag throw and more.

McMullan's Irish Pub had a terrific Trivia Quiz Night, for which our group made quite a good intergenerational, varied expertise team. We were proud to come in 13th of 42 teams, and even happier to sample their "Irish Nachos," made with potato skins and loads of cheese!

A fun late-night bar called Hi Scores was full of electronic games, arcade games, Foosball, music, dancing and Abdalla family hijinks. We had a ball there until the wee, wee hours.

In the middle of all this playing came Christmas!

So glad we didn't lose the tree on the way home!

Christmas Eve was a dress-up affair.

Christmas morning was more of a jammy affair; gift-filled, and followed by Christmas dinner - when I make my one enduring annual dish, macaroni and cheese!

One of my gifts from Jake and Larissa was a visit to Ethel M's Chocolate Factory for a "fix" and a stroll through their own elaborately lit garden.

Elise touched me very much with her gift of a monthly donation to Planned Parenthood in my name. This reminded me so much of my parents, who were life-long supporters...always a sure-fire way to get choked up on Christmas morning.

Newton gave me an elegant gold bangle, exactly like I wanted!


The Cosmopolitan casino has a rooftop ice skating rink where we passed some crowded, sometimes care-free, sometimes precarious hours. The rink was pretty small, the crowd pretty large; the attendants, nearly non-existent; the crazy kids, pretty ubiquitous; the ice, a little bumpy. But it was a delight, indeed. We got to see the afternoon turn to evening and the Las Vegas Strip light up around us!

Our elegant dinner afterwards at the Cosmopolitan's Essex and Beauty was a Christmas gift from Jake and Larissa.

We traveled to the outskirts of town to see the Swiss artist, Ugo Rondinone's Seven Magic Mountains installation. The colorful boulders stacked 25 feet high make quite the splash in the desert. 

Not far away in the old mining town of Goodsprings is an original tavern, the Pioneer Saloon, dating from 1913. It is indeed a throwback, but that visit was not the end of our "wild west" adventures.

Another day we ventured to Bonnie Springs Ranch to see their wonderful petting zoo. After a good brunch came the wild west melodrama, a very creepy wax museum, and such a great collection of sweet, unusual, exotic and pet-able animals!

Nevada landscape en route:

Jllama meets llama.

As is our tradition, all of us went to see the latest "Star Wars" movie, "Rogue One." I was getting a little confused about the sequence of these installments, as George Lucas began with the original back in the '70's, which is now number IV in the story chronology. "Rogue One" would have to be number III-1/2, just preceding the original. 

We were so smitten with Star Wars fever and so shocked by Carrie Fisher's death on December 27th that we ended up camped out in the living room for a marathon, which continued the story we just saw in the theater with the original episode IV, now called "A New Hope" - when Princess Leia meets Han Solo; then V: "The Empire Strikes Back;" then VI: "The Return of the Jedi." These are known as the original trilogy

For your information, episodes I, II, and III: "The Phantom Menace," "Attack of the Clones," and "Revenge of the Sith" are known as the prequel trilogy.

Last Christmas 2015 we went to see VII: "The Force Awakens," which begins the sequel trilogy and features a mature Princess Leia. Next December episode VIII will come out. Carrie Fisher had completed the filming for VIII before her death.

We also watched "Postcards from the Edge," Carrie Fisher's autobiographical book and movie, which demonstrates her brilliant wit and implies her struggles with bi-polar disorder and addiction. 

We felt we gave Princess Leia a well-deserved tribute.

Our New Year's Eve was spent at Sparklings, with hors d'oeuvres, champagne, DJ, dancing, and fancy hats. 

Jake's friend Charlie (his Best Man!) joined us with his girlfriend, April. As you can see, inevitably a game ensued!

New Year's Eve ended with a stop at South Point casino, where Jake and Newton participated in a Texas Hold 'em game. Newton won $60 and Jake, the professional, $2!

The crowd was a bit sleazy, excepting Jake and Newt, for the most part!

On our last night together we burned the Christmas tree in the patio fire-pit. Jake got carried away!

Larissa and Jake were about to return to Mexico via San Diego for a second Christmas with Larissa's mother and grandfather. Newton and I drove back to Los Angeles with Elise, then took off the next day for...Cuba!

Thanks for the fun, Jake and Larissa!..."Am I a place?" "Am I a park?" "Am I round?" "Am I a racetrack?" "Am I a stadium?" "Am I a coliseum?" "Theater-in-the-round?"..."Circus!" 



  1. Fun fun, I always feel I am there with you!

  2. What an absolutely vivid portrayal with so many colors is your story. Thank you for inviting me along. I enjoyed being part of your family for a bit

  3. Your Christmas with family sounds delightful and lots of fun. For us to pull that off would involve 26 people, something that I don't believe would run as smoothly as yours. So we spread them out, some before, some after, and Max and I do Christmas alone (our preference). We started the process when we were living in San Francisco. Max often worked Christmas day as a home healthcare nurse. We had no relatives close and most of the other nurses wanted Christmas off. So we started by making a seafood chowder on Christmas Eve and having leftovers on Christmas day. Now we spend the evenings with Winter/Christmas music in our sunroom with our usually large Christmas tree and good wine. It is quiet and relaxing. We usually buy ourselves our own gift and that way we get what we want, but usually don't buy anything. It's very different from what most folks do, but we enjoy it.

    I loved that Elise got you a donation to Planned Parenthood. We have also started monthly donations to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and the Ohio Democratic Party along with our existing donations to NPR and a number of environmental groups. I'm looking forward to hearing about your trip to Cuba. I never understood why the U.S. held its position on Cuba for so many years. I just hope Trump doesn't screw it up again.

    I'm enjoying your travels. Keep the Dispatches coming.



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