What Happens in Las Vegas Stays in Las Vegas - Until I Write About It

Before leaving for the ABC Kids Expo in Las Vegas (September 10-13, 2006), my daughter, husband I spent three weeks camping out at my sister's house. We were there because our only bathroom was being renovated. We are grateful for her and her family's generosity, but as anyone who has endured an extended stay away from home knows, living in someone else's house can be trying. There are positives: Funny conversations during dinner each evening, more time with my two nieces, and more time around the dining room table sitting side-by-side, laptop-to-laptop with my brother-in-law who was kind enough to share his "workspace" with me.

The downside: Their dogs, mother and son Maltese, Ursula and Antoine. As adorable as they are - and they are every bit as cute and fluffy as stuffed animals - this duo has some issues. High pitched barks that could break glass begin the moment my sister and her clan leave in the morning and continue until they return in the early evening. By 10 a.m. every day I was in tears, holding my ringing ears and shrieking "Shut up!" which would silence the dogs for all of 30 seconds. Each day was a cacophony of their howls and my yowls. It's an ugly story that I'm not proud of, but there it is.

Boarding the plane on September 9th for my first Las Vegas trip, I never thought of terrorists; I left them back at my sister's to traumatize my husband and daughter. I can't tell you much about the flight to Nevada because I fell into a dreamless, barkless sleep that nearly restored me to my pre-renovation, pre-dog self.



I knew when I booked the room that the hotel had a gambling area. I imagined it being a swank setting discreetly located away from the front desk. I'm really green. Enter the building and in the center of the huge lobby sits the casino. I assume by most standards it's on the attractive side, but I'm not prepared for the sea of people feeding coins into the rows upon rows of slot machines.

My room was larger than most New York studio apartments and, best of all, had a king-size bed. If you've slept with someone for a long time, than you know how utterly luxurious it is to lay in the center of a vast mattress with only books and magazines to keep you company. I ordered room service (the Hilton's cooks make a great burger) and read a couple of chapters of "Daniel Isn't Talking," a beautifully written, heartbreaking novel by Marti Leimbach, that will making any parent of a "normal" child feel blessed. Then slept.



When you call the Hilton and they tell you that the Las Vegas Convention Center is right next to the hotel, they aren't lying, but it isn't entirely the truth either. Yes, the Center is next door, but both the hotel and Expo are vast, so there's walking to be done - a lot of walking. Following the signs in the hotel for the Expo, I trudged through the many hallways, across a huge parking area, into a building with signs that led me through a maze of corridors, up escalators and then down escalators. After exiting that building, I noticed a flash of red about two miles away, recognized it as the ABC sign, and finally staggered into the show.

The space that houses the ABC Kids Expo is as gigantic as a football stadium, not that I realized that immediately. Walking into the front area I thought, Well, this is big but it's no larger than the Children's Club New York Show. Hah. Continuing through the room and down the steps, I encountered another even larger area and assumed I was doomed.

Not so. The energy in that vast hall drew me in immediately. New inventors were mostly parents who needed something while their children were infants and decided to manufacture it themselves: a stroller with a handle tall enough so stooping wasn't necessary; a device that would rock their babies when they no longer had the energy; a nursing bracelet that would help mothers schedule feedings. They were proud of their products and anxious to share them with the public. I wish all of them great success.

A modern approach in apparel, furniture, gifts and stationery has been prevalent at the New York trade shows over the past few years. At ABC, there were plenty of manufacturers representing the look, in fact there was an entire "Modern Child" section, but other styles were showcased, too. Anyone who reads my columns probably realizes that I'm a modernist at heart, but good design is good design and I was pleased to see vendors working more traditional themes and turning out well crafted, aesthetically pleasing wares.



After another day of trolling the show, I accepted a gracious invitation to dinner at the Wynn Hotel. How do I describe this place? It's like Disney World for adults. There are waterfalls - gorgeous, modern cascades of water with a light show at half hour intervals; bright, floral mosaics covering the floors; a garden that rivals Eden, its trees hung with enormous balls of orchids; more gold detailing than a sheik could dream of - and that's just the entrance. Downstairs there's a bar and the SW Steak House, both very subdued in tones of beige and cocoas, all rich woods and refined taste.

Okay, dining companions, don't break into hives. I promised our conversation would be off-the-record - in fact you made me swear I wouldn't write about it - so no matter how juicy the gossip became - and it always does after a couple bottles of wine - and how entertaining our readers would find your comments, I'm not naming names or divulging any details of our evening. I'm a woman of my word and a person who likes being treated to a good steak now and then, so I'm keeping mum.



When I entered my sister's house, the dogs barked so loud and for so long that they woke everyone up. My husband swore he wasn't sleeping because the bar that runs beneath the mattress of the pullout couch was killing him.



My trip made great conversational fodder with my hair stylist, Alex. Usually, Alex and I never get beyond "How are things?" So I was surprised when Alex breaks into a big smile and proclaims his love for Las Vegas.

"You like Las Vegas?" he asks. I agree. "I love Las Vegas!" he says. Love seems like an understatement. Alex is charmed by the cheap buffets; the showgirls are goddesses put on the strip for his enjoyment. And while he doesn't gamble, "Humph!" he exclaims when I ask if he hits the slot machines, he gets a kick out of people who have money to lose. "In Russia, we don't have money to throw away." His one issue with my first visit to the Promised Land: I never made it over to his favorite hotel, the Mandalay Bay. "What! You missed the wave pool. That's really a shame," he sighs. Mandalay Bay is the only hotel in the area with a sand beach - 11 acres of beach to be exact - and a pool that somehow creates waves. He forgives my oversight though, by rewarding me with an excellent haircut.

In case you're wondering, my new bathroom is a work of art.


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