Monday, February 4, 2008

Non-Politics blogging

I was traveling last week:

Trip One.

Destination: Las Vegas, NV.

Purpose: Business.

Stayed at: Luxor Resort and Casino.

Accommodations: Suite, 1,500 sqft, 7 rooms, including 2 living areas, 2 bathrooms, a foyer, a wet bar, 2 teevees, 4 telephones, 5 sinks, panoramic views of LV Strip. Cost: $199. Apparently this was some sort of mistake. I booked a Standard King. At the desk I was told that management had decided to "upgrade" my room. I took this to mean I'd get an extra 100sqft and a slightly better view. The first indication I was wrong was that my room was 15 feet from the elevator (rather than the usual LV 80 yard walk down a seemingly endless hallway). Opening the door, I peered back into this cavernous hotel room, and almost turned around and went back to the desk to have them give me my real room assignment.

Stay: Approximately 18 hours. Just long enough for me to spend $100 on domestic beers at the fabulous casino bars (I wasn't gambling, so I had to actually pay for these beers, which, when you factor in the tips, means I had about 12) and to have a breakfast meeting that lasted approximately 70 minutes and which consisted of people saying things to each other that they could have very easily said on a conference call or typed in an email. Then, wander around for about 45 minutes before a quick lunch, then hightail it to the airport.

Dining: Dinner was 2 slices of pizza. Breakfast was offered but not accepted (see above regarding previous night's alcohol consumption). Lunch was nice. A place just outside the casino at the Mandalay Bay called rm seafood (sic). I had a California Roll and a Cuban sandwich. Neither was particularly impressive, but the ambiance was first rate. The patrons at that point in time consisted of 2 distinct kinds of people: (1) Hollywood exec douchebags (there for a convention that my meeting was tangentially related to), and (2) the Xtreme ski and skate crowd (there for a convention that my meeting had, unfortunately, nothing to do with). The first group were uniformly 45-55, had blond highlights or slicked back grey hair, and wore power ties and Hollywood sneers. The second group were uniformly 20somethings with stocking caps and tattoos, and, though I cannot personally verify this, I believe some of them had been getting high at some point that morning.

Conclusion: This is the only time I can remember leaving Vegas without wagering a single dollar.

Trip Two.

Destination: Houston, TX.

Purpose: Pleasure.

Stayed at: Holiday Inn (Medical Center).

Accommodations: Standard Holiday Inn. This hotel is adjacent to Rice. The view from my window was of the campus and Rice Stadium (site of Super Bowl VIII). But also, as the name suggests, this hotel is walking distance from parts of the Medical District. The Medical District is, of course, an area with a high concentration of hospitals and related health facilities. If you have not been to Houston's Medical District, you will not understand my full meaning when I say that the word "district" doesn't begin to describe how immense this area is and how unbelievably densely are packed the dozens and dozens of high rise hospitals, clinics, wards, labs, hospice, outpatient, inpatient, trauma care, terminal care, surgeries, and all manner of administrative, logistical, and support facilities. And they are building more. The construction cranes dot the landscape. But so anyway, though the hotel was reasonably nice, it wasn't the jolliest place, as most of the guests were staying there to be near persons of their acquaintance who were either residing in one of the hospitals or who traveled to one or more of them frequently for treatment. It is somewhat unsettling to come back from a semi-formal champagne-and-hors d'Ĺ“uvres thing, and ride up on the elevator with a bald 8 yr old.

Stay: 48 hours. A wedding was attended. (Did you know that catholics omit the part of the Lord's Prayer dealing with "the kingdom, the power, and the glory"? I didn't. Neither did a sizable portion of the attendees, which made the recitation a bit uncomfortable there, near the end.) Museums were explored. Houston has a pretty good Fine Arts museum. Though I'm somewhat of an art idiot, I can pick out things that are good, or famous, and there were many of each. (Probably not the very best thing there, but they have this Picasso, which is a good one.)

Dining: The highlight of the trip was dinner at Tony Mandola's Gulf Coast Kitchen. This is an old-school place in River Oaks. I recommend the "Snapper Decadent". Somehow my guest and I managed to spend about 2.5 hours here. The crowd was a mix of old monied River Oaks oilmen and real estate guys (escorting their trophy wives, natch) and thirtysomething urban professional types. One fifty-ish lady -- eating alone at the bar -- repeatedly displayed, with accompanying commentary, her obnoxiously large (and suspiciously brown-tinted) engagement ring to everyone having the misfortune to be near her for longer than 20 seconds. Despite this, the place had an enjoyable mood, fine service, and ridiculous-good seafood.

Conclusion: Some may call Houston a shit-hole. They would not necessarily be mistaken in that opinion. However, one must admit that it has a dizzying array of medical facilities, a decent art scene, and at least one excellent seafood restaurant.

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