serinde: (bowtie)
There is much to say about this little swath of desert that has had its fantastic, luxurious habitat pastede on yay. Others have said most of it, so here's a laundry-list of impressions.

The Bellagio is not quite how it looks in the Oceans Eleven remake. )

We spent much of our days wandering through the other hotels (of which I have taken an infinite number of pictures). There's the obvious differences in theme, of course, but equally fascinating are the different vibes / markets aimed at...which may or may not seem incongruous with said theme. Excalibur looks like a kid's castle play set, but it's clearly aiming for the trashier, frat-tastic demographic. Treasure Island is trying to downplay the pirates thing and replace it with bQQbies. Monte Carlo looks as if it was built to be high-end, but based on the stores inside they're trying for the middlin' market. And then there's the newest places like Aria and Cosmopolitan, which are eschewing themes at all other than "sleek and modernistic".

I was surprised at how many older, skeevier-looking places are still interspersed with the mondo huge resorts. I'd just assumed they'd all been bulldozed in, but not so. Some have been borged by them--e.g., O'Shea's, at which outside bar I left my camera, is actually owned by the Flamingo next door; but you wouldn't know unless you happened to go on a merry backstage quest with a security guy to the Place of Lost And Found which leads you into the guts of the Flamingo--but I think some are still independent.

People watching. )

This is not a cocktail society. Nearly everything is a stupidtini with flavored vodka. Save your effort and just get cheap frozen daiquiris. Though I made a connection with a bartender, who used to live on 79th and Amsterdam, and I said "here, do me a solid. Make this French 75 you have here on your menu, but give it to me in a champagne flute not a wine glass, and DON'T PUT ICE IN IT." We got on famously. I do not blame him for his employer's weird-ass ideas of what a drink looks like as long as he'll fix it my way on request.

Coffee is weak like most of the US. But there are Starbucks in many of the hotels (though not ours), so you can get something that doesn't taste like brown crayon. Exception: the French bistro in Paris Las Vegas had nice strong coffee.

The Grand Canyon is everything it says on the box. You get a hell of a view flying in by helicopter, I can tell you. I would like to go visit on foot at some point, though. And Lake Mead looks incredibly inviting when it is 115 fucking degrees.

So even when it's well over 100, you jump in the pool, and you're cold when you get out because the wind is usually so strong. Then there's a period of an hour or so where you're staying cool through evaporation (unless you're in direct sunlight, in which case you fry in about 15 minutes). Then it's suddenly too hot to breathe and you jump back in the pool and start all over again. But what really drives you back inside? You get so dried out from the 11% humidity that you feel like your skin is cracking...even when it's still wet from the pool. Terribly odd feeling, this.

We have not visited Fremont St. and the old downtown. Could have today, but opted for a lazy day instead. That's okay.

I have not gambled yet. The games seem to fall into two categories: "for suckers" and "for big-time suckers". Tonight I may try Bond's method on the roulette wheel (back two of 1-12, 13-24, 25-36; they pay 2:1) or I may not. Do you know, the baccarat they play here, you do not get to choose whether to draw another card or not? What bullshit is this?

It's been a really fascinating and fun vacation, but I think I'm ready to come home and get back to my modest city mouse ways.
serinde: (determination)
So I am back from Pennsic, and quite a war it was--if not in the sense that most people mean it, because I did not see a single battle, and had absolutely no notion on how the tally was going. The entire first half of the week was chiefly swallowed by last-minute sweatshops to finish up a sideless surcoat for a sewing buddy who was being elevated to the Order of the Laurel at court on Wed. evening, which we accomplished, with just enough time to clean up and change and sneak into the back before the ceremony. (There are several disparate rants which are attached to all of that, but I won't get into it now.) It did look fucking awesome, I'm here to tell you. But it is not what I want to spend my vacation doing, so our mantra for next year is Read My Lips, No New Peerages.

The weather was hot and sticky for just about the whole time, except the first night, which was ass-freezing cold (and due to a certain amount of bed jumping, I ended up with insufficient blanketry). This drained my energy and my will to live considerable-like, especially since with other commitments in play I couldn't spend the nasty hours planted in the swimming hole. I'm stuck facing the fact that my chosen century in conjunction with my natural endowment dooms me to unhappiness in hot weather. (LITTLE ICE AGE, PEOPLE!) I was reasonably comfortable in my lighter gamurra, but, I mean, wah. I also kept stealing Beth's bog dress, and was surprised to learn I could wear it without a bra and not be utterly miserable, at least as long as I was just lounging and walking--trying to perform tasks in it (even just washing the dishes or picking up around camp) led to bQQbie issues.

I did, however, exhibit in the A&S display for the first time. I had been dithering about it but, upon receipt of a double-barrelled blast from Beth and Greta, I was all "aaaaaaaaaaa yes yes please don't hurt me", and bodged together some docco on Friday. The display was two dresses, my older green GFD top layer (which I was wearing) and my new checked wool one (on the table), with comments on the differences and learnings gathered therefrom. Mine did not garner a lot of attention from the punters, because it is not ZOMG SHINY, but I was prepared for that; and almost without exception, the people who did stop to take note of it were the serious cats. And I believe I handled the questions they threw at me in a competent fashion. So, I think that can be considered a win. And at least I finished the eyelets on my other new dress in the six fucking hours I was sitting in the sun.

However, about 3 or 4 people either asked if, or assumed that, I had woven the fabric myself. O_O If that's the level we're dealing with, I am so fucking going back to wench-wear. (A propos of which, Real Clothes are too hard to get into and out of, so for Slutty Party Wear I am going to research period prostitute clothing, if indeed it was much different, and see if I can come up with something entertaining. Oh look, more excuses to watch Dangerous Beauty.)

I got a shiny! I have been awarded the Bronze Tower for service to the Barony of Settmour Swamp, chiefly for my helping-out on Troll shifts for Swamp events, and other instances of being my usual domovoi self. I even have a scroll.

Um. Also. There was this boy.
squee
I feel like me again for the first time in years, and by that I mean "long before the breakup".
To [livejournal.com profile] mangosteen: That "GLAH" business you used to bust my chops about? That.
serinde: (maneki neko)
[livejournal.com profile] nedlnthred and I had a scientifically-generated plan to go down to Asbury Park the day after the local Springsteen show, poke around, see what it was like. (And maybe, if we were super super lucky, he would drop in to play at one of the local clubs, as he is occasionally known to do...) So we did this thing yesterday. We got a late-ish start, were further delayed by major accidents, etc. etc., but finally rolled into town around 1:30pm.

I should back up to note that I have been to Asbury Park once before. It was, hm, maybe 7 years ago; we were invited to a party of a particular kind, so the redheads and I tootled down, and lordy, were we appalled. The hotel the party was in was clearly a classic establishment from the shore glory days, but the room we entered into had indelible marker on the walls, a used condom in the sheets, and a dead mouse under the bed. (And that was before the party started.) The beachfront was all run-down and almost entirely closed. We survived, we escaped, and the experience passed into legend. Although I had vaguely heard that, in the interim, the town had become something of a gay mecca, my expectations were for an entertainingly trashy kind of day.

Thus, I was pretty surprised to find that the place (well, at least the boardwalk portion) is entirely under a makeover. The beautiful old arcades on either end are being refurbished and cleaned up without being torn down and replaced with something appalling; the burnt-out abandoned buildings have been torn down, and new shops are being built; and the vendors they've rounded up are artisans, not the Usual Beach Crap. We had a long chat with a fellow who runs a pottery shop, and he was telling us that the corporation masterminding the whole affair figures this way: every town along the Jersey Shore, nearly, is aimed at families and emphasizes quantity/low cost over quality. They aren't going to be able to drag that demographic away from whatever its normal vacation spot is, so instead, they're aiming at the singles or dual-income with disposable income. So: fine dining, good cocktails, cute or quaint or artsy shops, and an emphasis on classy. It's clearly still very much a work in progress, but I quite like what they've done so far. (And I'm happy to say they do not seem to have meddled with the music venues at all. So, not your usual mode of gentrification which gets rid of anything that does not conform.)

I do wonder what the locals think of all this.

We also stumbled upon an event at the Stone Pony, being thrown in cooperation with the only non-shitty commercial radio station in NYC. It wasn't a big whoop--there was cheap bad beer (but at least you could get decent bottles, if for $5) and chili dogs and a giant inflatable King Kong--but they had local bands playing, and the one we stuck around for was not bad. I understand it was supposed to get much more lively around 7 or 8 (and if we were going to see The Bruce, that probably would have been when)--but Beth needed to get further down shore to meet her family and I needed to embark on the 1 hour 45 minute train pilgrimage back to the city, so we missed all that. But, anyways, a lovely day all around.
serinde: (music)
Acting on a tip, we hopped a bus out to points slightly west, namely the Annandale Hotel. For $10 we saw four bands, of which--mirabile dictu--none sucked. The acts in question were:

Hunter Dienna: a chick singer and dude guitarist. They were not bad, perhaps a bit consciously Nick Cave-esque, but had some actual ability along that line. Particularly liked his guitar work. Steve's Review: "She just needed some eyeliner to be a Siouxie Sioux goth princess." (He wishes me to point out that this was not intended to be the severe indictment it could come off as.)

Loene Carmen: The band was pretty talented instrument-wise, but the eponymous singer's voice was not really up to being showcased. One song, Nashville [something or other], was more suited to her ability and was correspondingly pleasing. Steve's Review: "Good songwriting, but the singer's voice was too thin to carry most of it."

Bridezilla: Definitely the high point of the evening. Consists of singer, guitarist, drummer, and very spazzy but talented violinist and sax player. They were, alas, purveying no merchandise, but we intend to look them up. Steve's Review: "Great dramatic songwriting, energizing stage presence. Highly recommended."

The Scare: A Strokes or Jet-like band with a singer who was either actually fucked up or so busy with his Punk Star Persona that he was acting like it. It's too bad; I think there's some talent there; but they can't really make it gel. Steve's Review: "Too many notes."

The venue has more stuffs every night this week. We may well return. They seem to be having their Bad Movie Night tomorrow, too. "Death Curse of Tartu", forsooth.

I should also mention that, before the place opened, we wandered into a music store--an ALL VINYL MUSIC STORE--a few doors down and ended up in a long chat with the store owner. He was apparently in a band called Salacious Crumb, which I said I'd heard that name, only now realizing it's because it is one of the aliens in Star Wars; der. Anyways he had much woe and grief to say about the death of Sydney's music scene, and culture in general. Also he regretfully informed me that the reason I can't find any Beasts of Bourbon albums in this, their homeland, is because they are generally regarded with a cringe hereabouts; the comparison he drew was with Ted Nugent as representative of America. Ouch. Ouch, I say.
serinde: (brew-up)
Actually, we got here about 24 hours ago. Checked into the hotel, which was impossible to find (driving in Sydney makes Queens look like a pleasant straightforward thing), to find a tiny tiny room smelling of mildew with drunken aspiring vocalists outside and a roar like the second half of Titanic whenever anyone in the building flushed their dunny. Also, unlike Melbourne, there is not tons of free wireless being given away like the flowers of Spring, which is why no updates 'til now. And though it's not a particularly large city, the distances are walkable, nevertheless every direction we tried to go in we were thwarted by some pseudo-highway-ish road or tunnel that impeded pedestrian progress. For all these reasons, by about 5pm we were half inclined to get the car from the rental place and drive right the fuck back to Melbourne. This was increased by our utter failure to find anything resembling a local rock scene. What the shit? Is this not Sydney, home of the Beasts of Bourbon, the Hoodoo Gurus, Midnight Oil, INXS, AC/DC, bla bla bla I could go on for a really long time? Feh.

Today, things is looking up. We have secured a room in a more central location, which does not smell like mildew and has Intarwubs and is twelve flights up so all that reach us is common city noises. We are regrouping and hope to take on the world shortly.

I made out a bunch of postcards while we were in the interior, but have failed at finding a post office. (!) Hope to send 'em tomorrow. I'll probably beat them home. Sorry.

In spite of going, what, some 900km through the interior, and in spite of NUMEROUS signs warning us of kangaroos, drop-bears, and wombats, we saw no native fauna at all, other than some interesting birds. Wait, I lie: we saw one dead kangaroo at the side of the road. Steve hypothesized it that they left it there to prove that such an animal exists, much as the creationists claim of dinosaur skeletons. Anyways: disappointing. We'll just have to go to the Taronga Zoo, I guess.

Health updates: Steve did indeed get some Nexium before we left Melbourne; thanks to [livejournal.com profile] damed_colonial and [livejournal.com profile] blarglefiend for suggestions. Driving through farm country was hell and death on his allergies, but he's better now we're back on the coast. I'm still coughing a bit. We're finding ourselves often dehydrated, as getting a glass of water does not seem a common thing in these parts, and when you ask for one you usually get a wee small thing barely the size of a Dixie cup, but we're doing our best to keep on top of it.

More later, I daresay.
serinde: (Default)
More like a sit-rep. I'm about to go pick up a rental car (O pray for me) and we will be driving north in a straight 700km shot to Parkes, there to spend the night, and see a very very large telescope in the morning. Then to the Blue Mountains, probably to stay in Katoomba, and should arrive in Sydney on Saturday. If we aren't there by then, send help. I probably will have been devoured by a GIANT SPIDER or something. Gaah.
serinde: (Default)
It's Monday evening for us now, so let me play a bit of catch-up ball. First, I should note that, yes, I'm still kinda sick. No fever, but my sinuses are intermittently full of yugh, I have a bad bronchial cough, and I'm seriously off my feed: enough so that I'm half worried that's why I haven't gotten over it all yet. I am not permitting this to stop me, but it's having its effect on my energy levels and mood. Also sometimes hard to sleep, but far more along that line is that I keep waking up at sparrow's fart with my brain utterly awake and racing. I don't know if that's a jet-lag thing or what. Anyways, forthwith, an update:

Sunday Sunday Sunday! )

...which includes window-shopping )

Transit, dinner, and a restless night )

Not Much A Case Of The Mondays )

Nick Cave: Man Or Myth )

The Lunch Shop Sketch )

Almost There )

Haven't bought postcards yet. I probably should have, and then could have spent the evening in correspondence. Oh well.
serinde: (determination)
Or, "The country cousin seeks guidance". So, here we are, eventually to depart for Faraway Lands, and I realize that there are a lot of things that my previous travels have not prepared me for, not even going to London. Wherefore, these questions:

1. Phone. We have plain ole CDMA phones, which as I understand it don't work in the rest of the world. And which, as I understand it, I can't just buy a different SIM card to make work in Australia. What do I do?

2. Laptop. That is, to bring or not to bring. Previously I whinged about my original plan of using it as an amusement device for the long long [insert Dr. Cox "long" routine] long flight being a non-starter. OTOH, it strikes me that having Teh Intarwubs readily available to us while we decide what to do on a given day is a good notion. But: will it be readily available? Are Melbourne and Sydney veritable garden lands of free wireless? Or would I be lugging around a 13" MacBrick?

3. Is it really hard to switch to driving on the other side of the road?
serinde: (Delirium)
Have just completed the job of piloting a rented van from here to Buffalo and back (with a small detour to Wilkes-Barre to drop [livejournal.com profile] dariodevil off for his own quest) in 24 hours in almost continual rain; said rain running the gamut from "heavy mist" to "Jesus Fucking Christ I can't see a thing OH GOD WHY DO YOU FUCKTARDS NOT HAVE YOUR LIGHTS ON aagh". Am now the proud possessor of a tea cart (for which, apparently, I forgot a serving tray widget that goes on top, but that at least can be stuffed in the car on any subsequent visit), an antique drop-leaf side table, and a largeish gilt-frame mirror. I have also learned that my palate can no longer tolerate Cinnabon, that it's sometimes worth the extra $15 to stay in the up-one-notch motel, and exactly how crap most American coffee is.

Mentally burned, emotionally jumbled, and my metabolism doesn't know which way is up. I also, in spite of exhaustion and rotten weather and amazingly retarded people on the highway--even by I-80 In NJ standards--, had this bizarre urge to just keep driving; not from any aversion to return home, mind you, I simply wanted to...Keep Going. As in, Not Stop. SHUT UP MR PSYCHE I'M WORKING ON ENOUGH THINGS RIGHT NOW kthxbye.

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