There was but one reason for this trip, and that was to see one of my favorite bands of all time, Steely Dan, live at
the Aladdin Theater. I've been awestruck with the genius of Donald Fagan and Steely Dan for almost 30 years
now, yet due to their 20 year break up and very sparse touring schedule I had never seen them live...until now!
Our good friends Kurt and Anne were the one's to give us a heads-up about the current tour. Kurt is also mad
about Steely Dan, so we decided to put this trip together with the four of us. Turned out to be a great little trip,
despite a miserable start for me.
I was feeling extremely tired and somewhat ill the day we flew out of Salt Lake. I was only interested in checking
in quickly and taking a long nap. But, after having a five minute sleep on the flight and going through the
process of traveling to the hotel and checking in, I had enough of a "second wind" to walk around with Tee; at
least enough to go "across the street." We were staying at the Excalibur. It's a hotel that I dislike, but we were
determined we would take the cheapest room we could find that was on the Strip and walking distance to the
concert. Having to stay over in Vegas on a Saturday is expensive if you don't have status with a place. Vegas in
general is far, far more expensive a destination (even outside of gaming expenses) than it ever was before. Las
Vegas is almost entirely unrecognizable as a city compared to even 20 years ago. I'm impressed with the place,
but miss the Las Vegas I remember from my few trips there in the 1980's.
The last time I was in Las Vegas was with Tee four or five years ago. We stayed at the Venetian and stuck around
in that central Strip area that time. The Excalibur is further south, sharing an intersection with the MGM Grand,
The Tropicana, and The New York New York. Tee and I went to check out the New York New York because it was
"close" and is one of my brother's favorite gaming spots. Anyone who has been to Vegas before understands why,
when walking, "close" is a relative term. Each casino/hotel property is enormous, each are designed to send you
though as much of it as possible before allowing you to escape, and the streets and parking areas that encircle
the hotels are so large, broad, and crowded that they function as motes or fences which discourage you from
extricating yourself from these gaudy palaces of flashing lights, ringing bells, and endless distraction. In
addition, the temperature in Vegas that day was 112 degrees! The last thing most people were interested in
doing was walking outside!
Such was our situation when we crossed the street to the New York New York. We headed to the bar area of the
ESPN Sportszone Restaurant and after sharing a large plate of Buffalo wings with Tee and tossing back a couple
of beautiful Stella Artoise draft beers I was feeling a bit better. I also had Ceasar salad and felt relaxed talking
with Tee and watching the baseball.
We then went directly onto the gaming floor and ended up at the craps table. Normally I would want to play
Blackjack for a while and enjoy being able to have some fun over a longer time initially. Then after (hopefully)
making some money, I would then want to graduate to the craps table. This time however we quickly saw a
comfortable spot at craps and Tee was interested in having us play. We spent a fun 30 or 40 minutes at the table,
and walked away having made some good money. Now that I had a pocket of $100s, I was starting to feel even
better! Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to keep me feeling myself. I really should have been sleeping at this
point and was dreading the idea of having to "cross the street." But, I was determined to go to the Comedy Stop
at the Tropicana as we had originally planned.
By the time we were holding tickets and standing in line for the show at the Comedy Stop I was feeling
miserable. I was absolutely exhausted, had aches and pains from head to toe, had chills, and my stomach felt
weak. Thank god the comedy was good. And it really was good! I was expecting something less funny and
entertaining that what we saw. The place itself has obviously been there for a long time, and while it's
comfortable enough, it's in need of a renovation. The show included three different comedians, all of whom were
very good, with the headliner being most impressive. (I'll try and post their names here at some point) Although I
was laughing internally throughout the show, I was so physically exhausted that my body refused to react
physically much to the comedy. On the walk back to our hotel room after the show I felt like an 90 year old man
who was in need of a "service trolley" of some kind to assist me to my room. (The photo below of me in front of the
Excalibur was taken when I was feeling near death.)
Tee acted as nursemaid to me once I was in bed. She went out and got me something to eat and drink, then
rubbed my feet until I was asleep. I slept over 10 hours, and was amazed at how much better I felt. I didn't take it
for granted however, and vowed to take a good, long nap that day whether I felt I needed it or not. The last thing I
was going to do was to end up feeling the way I did a the comedy during the Steely Dan show! No way!
After getting up we called Kurt and Ann, who had just flown in that morning. They were staying "next door" to
the New York New York at the Monte Carlo. We convinced them to come with us downtown to a quirky, favorite
spot of ours, the California Hotel. The California Hotel is a cultural oddity of the first degree. As many of you
know, Tee and I used to live in Hawaii, and one of the things we learned during our years there was that there is
only really one vacation destination for Hawaiian locals; Vegas! I dare say that the amongst the average local
people in Hawaii, almost 90% who will take a vacation will go to Las Vegas. It's strange, but true. The California
Hotel is a small, older hotel located downtown that caters specifically to the Hawaiian visitor. The hotel is booked
year-round and it's guests are almost entirely from Hawaii. It's fun for us to go and be in that atmosphere for a
while, although I do start to get homesick for Hawaii.
Within the California Hotel is a casual restaurant that often serves local style Hawaiian food (think of it as
"Zippy's Vegas"), and we had our hearts set on some saimin noodles for breakfast. We met Kurt and Ann at the
Monte Carlo and caught a cab to the California Hotel. The meal was simple and cheap (nothing like a $15 cab
ride in order to get a $5 bowl of noodles) but hit the spot. After our meal we walked around the downtown area,
specifically Fremont Street. It was only about 11:00-30 am, and in Vegas that is perhaps the quietest, most
uninteresting time of day to be out and about. We knew this would be the case, but had a nice look around
anyway. While the skies were overcast and the temperatures slightly lower than the previous day, the heat was
enough to keep us from being out and walking around for long.
We caught a cab to the Bellagio Hotel in order to check out the Ansel Adams exhibition at their well known art
gallery. The exhibition was interesting, but not very exciting. I appreciate Adams as a photographer, but his work
doesn't thrill me. We took a good look at the pool area of the hotel, and wished we had another whole day to
spend poolside occupying one of the private cabanas. Maybe next time!
|Kurt, Anne, Tee, and me
On Fremont Street
|On the walkway between the Excalibur
(behind me) and the Tropicana
At this point we split up, with Kurt, Anne, and Tee going off to visit the Guggenheim Museum before spending
the rest of the afternoon at the Monte Carlo pool, and me going off to play an hour or so of Blackjack before
taking my nap. It took me about 30 minutes to walk from the Bellagio to the New York New York, but I was
feeling quite good and didn't mind the walk. Once in the New York New York I found a good Blackjack table
and ended up playing at that spot for about 90 minutes. I had a great time talking with another guy at the
table there. He is a young black guy now living in Los Angeles. He's currently a writing student in a Masters
program, but also neck deep into writing his first novel. We had a great time talking about L.A., books, and
Vegas. After we had been talking/playing for about an hour he got a call from his girlfriend up in the room.
After the call I asked if his girlfriend was from L.A., and he kind of chuckled and said "She's Japanese, from
Tokyo." Of course that led to a big discussion about Japan which was a lot of fun. His Japanese was very basic,
but it was obvious he had put some time into learning a little. He had even been to Japan a couple of times
with his girlfriend. He said that while he loves Japan, his girlfriend hates it, and while he hates L.A., his
girlfriend loves it! Go figure. Anyway, it was a fun 90 minutes and went by fast. I left the table having lost about
$15, but having drank a couple of free Becks and having had a nice conversation.
I didn't get to sleep right away, once I was down for my nap, but it didn't take long to finally dose off. I was
awakened by Tee coming back to the room at just the right time, about 5:30. I had been able to sleep just
short of two hours and I felt great. Tee said that they had a great time at the pool, and her face showed it. She
had a big, relaxed smile on her face and an empty margarita container in her hand. She initially went to lay
down, but I insisted she not do that because we didn't have much time before dinner and I knew it would be
next to impossible to get her up and going again if she lied down even for a minute. Within about 45 minutes
we were both dressed for the night and off to meet up with Kurt and Ann for dinner.
Kurt had stayed at the Monte Carlo a couple of years before and knew of an interesting brew pub within the
hotel. He suggested we meet there for dinner before going to the concert, "just" across the street. This brew
pub, known simply as the Monte Carlo Pub and Brewery, brews all of it's own beer on site and is apparently
the only micro brewery in the area. The beer was very good (did the pale ale mostly), and although I only
ordered a Caesar salad, the serving was so big I could only eat about 1/3 of the thing. The girls finished up
and went to shop at a dress store across from the pub while Kurt and I drank another beer and talked about
Steely Dan and how excited we were to be seeing them that night.
It started getting to be show time and we weren't very successful in getting the girls away from their shopping,
so we gave them their tickets and told them to meet us at the show. Kurt bought a big can of Fosters to tide
him over until getting to the venue. We got to our seats with Michael McDonald, the warm up act, halfway
through his set. It sounded great and Kurt and I were feeling good. The girls joined us a couple of songs before
Mike McDonald finished up.
Between acts the sound system played nothing but fabulous, rootsy, dub-style. Tee and I quickly took notice.
When Steely Dan took the stage I was feeling better than I had in a long time; just in time. We had good seats
about a dozen rows up and off to the right of the stage. Steely Dan busted out an amazing set of tunes which
Kurt attempted to note on his Blackberry throughout the show. We all danced and sang and had a generally
raucous time. Kurt kept giving high fives to some people behind us who seemed somewhat annoyed at all of
the dancing going on around them. It was quite funny. Here is the set list Kurt jotted down during the show,
and anyone who knows anything about Steely Dan can imagine how great they sounded.
Steely Dan's setlist for 7/22/06:
Bodhisattva, Time Out of Mind, Aja, Got the News, Hey Nineteen, Cousin Dupree,
Josie, Green Earring, Black Friday, Dirty Work, Jamming Show Biz Kids (Lost
Wages), Don't Take Me Alive, Kid Charlemagne, FM, ?
As the encore started I walked up to where I spotted some empty seats on the 2nd row up against the aisle. The
security girl at the front pointed me into one of the seats when I told her my tickets were actually for several
rows up but I wanted to sit close now that the show was near the end. I was really excited to be so close to
Donald Fagan during those last couple of tunes. I consider him to not only be one of the truly great
musician/song writers of my lifetime, but to also be perhaps the coolest dude on the planet.
The last time I saw Kurt was when he walked right passed me near the front of the stage. I called out to him, but
he didn't hear me. After the show Anne called him to see where he was. Kurt was lost in the casino and
probably looking to have a beer. Anne said she would meet him later, and in the meantime the girls went with
me to the casino floor at the Aladdin and watched me loose a couple hundred bucks in about 15 mins at the
The only thing to do the next morning was to wake up late, pack, and make our way to the airport. So that's
what we did. All went smoothly on the way home, and we were back in Salt Lake and with the kids by 5:00.
Although the trip was short, and despite my being in such bad shape initially, we had a really great time. Las
Vegas is far from being a favorite destination for me, but to visit on the odd occasion can certainly be satisfying.
|Me and Kurt (working his Blackberry)
during the show