Saturday, September 01, 2001

Shoe Shine

Well, before I head off to London next Friday, I should really finish up the story of last month's trip to Vegas. That leaves me with Saturday to tell about.

We got up and made our first destination Walgreen's to pick up some sundries for the bride and ourselves. Unfortunately, there isn't a line of taxis outside Walgreen's, like there is with more tony Vegas locations. So we then hoofed it over to the Luxor, where we dropped off the sundries at the bell desk for Jeanene.

The Luxor is, to my opinion, the most distinctly themed of Vegas' casinos. I mean, the whole thing is a giant pyramid, for heaven's sakes. Faux-Egyptian stuff is everywhere. I think if and when I make it back to Vegas, I'd like to stay there for the whole kitschy experience. (Though the margarita glass in the shape of the Statue of Liberty from New York, New York is right up there.)

We made our way through the line at the buffet to meet up with our friends. The line was fairly long, although you could bypass it if you were a "VIP". We weren't. The food was pretty good, and for 1/2 the price of the Paris one, I probably shouldn't complain. Still, I think I could eat at that Paris one every day for the week. I couldn't say the same for the Luxor.

We counted at least three separate bride/groom pairs at the buffet. To me, it's sort of sad to have the reception to your wedding at the buffet. It's even sadder that they weren't allowed to go through the "VIP" line.

Then we walked over to Mandalay Bay, at what is currently the southerly terminus of the Strip. It's a nice casino -- I can see why Circus Circus renamed itself after this, their latest property. The sports book was as nice and large as advertised. I should have made my bet on Michigan there; they had better odds than the Excalibur. Always comparison shop, I guess. I really wanted to see Zen Sum, since we weren't going to get a chance to eat there. The guidebook said, "diners sit at a counter and pick tasty plates of dim sum from a conveyer belt." How cool is that? Apparently, not cool enough, 'cause it was closed. Its successor restaurant fortunately retained the "futuristic restroom area"; I'll have to give that a closer look on another visit. We walked through the casino to the shark exhibit, but upon finding out they wanted actual money, I decided we might as well head back to the Excalibur.

So we went back. I played the plastic horses for a bit while Christina started to get ready for the wedding. Then I started to get ready. With about an hour to go, I figured I had enough time to get my shoes shined before the wedding. So I went downstairs to the casino floor. On my way down, I realized that I had failed to pack a tie, so I wandered through the gift shops until I located a nice gold one.

Then it was off to find the shoe shine stand. After directions from some casino employees of varying helpfulness (including one who claimed they didn't have a shoe shine stand), I made my way over. The guy invited me to have a seat, and asked me if I wanted "the full treatment". These shoes have been living in the back of my closet for quite some time, so I said, "Sure." The guy was quite a showman, talking about the necessity of proper shoe care and the ethic of doing a good job. He explained that the shoes needed dyed at least once a year. So he did this and that with them, rubbed some dye on, took them off my feet, and set them on fire.

Yes, set them on fire. At about this point, John Giglio came wandering by to use the restroom. I tried waving at him, but his eyes were transfixed by the flaming footwear and he failed entirely to notice my presence. Only when exiting did he notice me. He asked me if I was going to have my shoes set on fire. I explained that I already did, and the shoe shine guy explained to John how this was much better than the "New York shine" John may have been used to.

At some point, the guy asked me what my shoe size was. After I told him, he mentioned that a customer had given him a pair of shoes of that size, but they didn't fit him. This seemed odd, but I was in a bit of a hurry, so I just played along. Later, of course, the guy tried to get me to try on the shoes. I reminded him that I was in a hurry. The weird sense I was about to be dragged into some shoe scam, along with the fact that the guy never explained how much more "the full treatment" was than a regular shine balanced against the entertainment value of the experience and what was really a great shine ended up having me leave him a good, but not great, tip. His entire manner deflated when he saw my enjoyment wasn't going to translate into an extra $10.

I tried to call Christina to let her know that the tie excursion and shoe fire was making me run late, but my cell phone wouldn't work on the casino floor. I tried calling from a hotel phone, but there was no answer. I rushed back up to get my jacket, and as I popped out of the elevator, she stuck her head out of another. She was understandably concerned that I had just gone ahead to the wedding without her. At this point, I began to realize I couldn't close the top button on my shirt. After much exertion, we ended up buying a safety pin at the sundries cart and making due. With mere moments to spare, we headed off to the Excalibur wedding chapel. Fortunately, the previous wedding had not concluded, and Martin and Jeanene's ceremony had not gotten started.

Well, that's enough for now. The exciting conclusion soon...

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