The nice thing about Saturday is that even though it was a completely unstructured "free" day, Nicole had provided some "choose your own adventure" options for us.
The obvious choice was the ice bar located in the Monte Carlo hotel (which was conveniently located at the same end of the strip as the Las Vegas sign.) She'd even wrangled us a special drink deal. I also found a small stack of coupons for free drinks lying on their counter while I was waiting on line, so I stealthily passed them out to the car crew and we each got two drinks as part of our package deal.
If you've never been to an ice bar, the premise is this: the interior is made entirely of ice, and they give you heavy parkas, gloves, and boots to keep from freezing to death. (There were fur coats available for an extra cost, which none of us wanted to spring for, though we all lamented that those would have been way more awesome). Cameras and phones were (sadly) not allowed inside, as they generate some heat, and the cumulative effect is that the whole place would, well, melt. They do have a staff member that ducks in and out to take expensively-priced souvenir photos for you, though. They told us that we were allowed to share them on facebook and such, so I feel less bad about blatantly posting the watermarked low-res images below. (The girl basically said I could!!)
[photo courtesy of Ms. Terra]
Almie and the penguin mascot: "let's pose like a cheesy 80s sitcom poster"
All geared up and ready to go in!
The lack of cameras obviously saddened me (this place was a WEALTH of photo ops!) but the experience was very cool (no pun intended... okay, well, maybe a little.) I think I was able to remain comfortable the longest, partially because I'm from the Midwest and therefore have a slightly higher cold tolerance than all of the West Coasters, and also because I was one of the few people actually wearing pants. (I hate my legs. Have I mentioned this before? When leggings came back in style, it was one of the happiest revelations of my adult life.)
Inside the bar, all of the seating and walls and decor were made of solid ice. There were pelts thrown over the benches so you could actually sit down. Even the glasses that they served the drinks in were made of ice - they made two things Very Clear to us when we went in: (1) Hold your drink wiht two hands AT ALL TIMES (they're slippery)... (2) If you set your glass down, set it it on a coaster, for the love of all that is neon and glittery. Because, you know: ice will freeze to ice, especially with the bit of moisture from the drink, and thus your glass would fuse to the table, effectively ruining everything for everyone and making you a huge asshole and fun-ruiner.
Once we were chilled about as much as we could handle (and all our drink tokens had been used up), we decided to scatter again. Some people went in search of another buffet (we had wristbands that entitled us to free/pre-paid buffets in select hotels), some went shopping, and some of us had to go pretty up because we'd decided to take Rachel up on her offer of doing professional headshots.
I was convinced that I'd hate all of mine because I'm super self-conscious (WHEN will this extra chin go awayyyyyyyyyyyy), but it was so not the case. And I now have a nice professional picture that I can use on the blog or facebook or, well, whatever I'd need a picture of myself for. (In all honesty? My ridiculous little scheme was to have a nice picture that I could use for a book jacket. Y'know, for when I finally finish that damn novel. There, I admitted it. It's completely ridiculous and I don't care.)
The bright side to the scramble to get ready was that, well, I was now ready for the entire evening. We had a decent amount of time alloted for getting groomed after dinner, which meant I had time to nap to recover from being out in the sun all day. (Don't judge me. Naps are an important part of my ability to function. Especially in a different time zone.)
Dinner was at the Spice Market Buffet at Planet Hollywood, and I think this may have been my favorite. I adopted a different strategy this time - instead of trying to sample everything, I just stuck to a small section. There was a honey apricot spread that was to die for (and baby baguettes to eat it with!) and a fruit-based salsa in the Mexican station that I may or may not have just started eating with a spoon at one point.
This would have worked better if everyone else was paying attention.
On the downward BiSCalator(tm)
Our table at the buffet, which Caryn had the foresight to take.
Then, when I was getting dessert, it happened: BEAUTY QUEENS. They were the Miss USA contestants (as Terra found out after making an inquiry) and, well, it's weird seeing a parade of beauty queens anyway, but especially at a buffet. I mean, seriously. They all went straight to the salad bar. (Though, to be fair? If I was a beauty queen, I'd probably do the same thing. Hell, I SHOULD do the same thing.) I made some sort of Miss Congeniality reference and we had a merry old time.
Terra and I decided to find our home state representatives. Miss Iowa was very nice (I explained that I was also from Iowa, by way of trying to not sound like a creeper. She asked where I lived and I gave my stock answer of "near Des Moines" before it occurred to me that I could have just said the actual town and she would have known exactly where it was - especially since she lived in the town with our rival college.) I regret not taking a picture with her (I felt too awkward to ask and then we left before the queens made their rounds again), but I suppose it's just as well. I don't need a picture of me at this weight next to a friggin gorgous beauty queen. Still, it would have been kind of cool to have. (Incidentally, Terra DVR'd the pageant and Miss Iowa won the Miss Congeniality award - of course.) Miss Virginia (Terra's rep) was... how can I say this... kind of a bitch. Miss Oregon was freakishly tall. Miss Washington had great hair. Hell, they all had nice hair. They were seated right next to where our group was seated, so we had front row seats to sit and creepily watch them. Their handlers kept shooing people away who were trying to take pictures ("not while they're eating!") but you can't stop a table full of bloggers.
The only picture of the Miss USA contestants.
Also, Terra's expression is priceless.
Then it was back to hotel to primp for the Mad Men themed party. Admittedly, I have never seen Mad Men, because I am lame and only watch TV on DVD so I can plow through an entire season without interruption, but I was game for dressing up in 60s style. I love dressing up, in general, and I adore themes (which is perhaps what I enjoy about Halloween). I did struggle with the dress... I scoured Pinterest and ModCloth for months, but I couldn't make myself pull the trigger on something that I wasn't sure would fit (see also: gaining back twenty pounds been November and BiSC). Finally I just wore a striped dress that I'd bought on a whim and hoped it would work. Also, I am terrible with hair, so I was banking heavily on the whole flat-iron style that I thought maybe was prevalent back then.
Everyone else, however, looked fabulous. People on the strip saw our BiSC parade and were able to identify the theme - that's how spot-on people were. (This is hearsay from other BiSCuits, but I assume they were telling the truth.)
me and Caryn
We headed back over to Paris to the Chateau nightclub, which was fancy and swanky and, of course, VIP. We bounced the line (again) to the jealous stares of the masses (again) and were led up through the still-empty (for now) second floor club and all the way up to the roof.
See ya later, suckers.
That's right. We had our own VIP lounge area on THE ROOF.
The Bellagio fountains, as seen from the rooftop of Paris.
The whole thing was beyond surreal. I'm not huge into nightclubs, but I was more than happy to sit in my perch and watch everyone dance the night away while the light desert breeze blew through my hair. Surrounded by lights and music, in an exclusive VIP space in Las Vegas, I couldn't help but wonder: how is this my life?! Is this even real? A painfully shy introvert from a small Iowa town of 400 people - spending an evening with 59 other Internet writers, living the life of a celebrity for a night. My seventeen year old self would never have believed it possible (though she'd definitely approve) - yet, ten years later, I'm actually experiencing things I could have only daydreamed about, all those hours in my bedroom with a notebook and the radio. Life is funny, sometimes. It's amazing what happens when you work up the courage to just take a chance on that Big Thing that's just out of reach of your comfort zone.
Nicole and the men of BiSC
The degree of photobombing this year scored on the high end of exceptional.
See what I mean?
Something about this photo strikes me as perfectly capturing the essence of BiSC.
Young, fabulous, dancing on rooftops, living life to the absolute max.
Group picture, courtesy of Rachel
Eventually, the night wound down, and this old lady hauled herself back to the hotel. The previously-empty second floor club was now so full that I'm sure it was breaking fire code laws. The only reason we (me and Germana, not, like, all sixty of us) were even able to get out was because we'd happened to share an elevator with a Paris employee who was pushing a lady in a wheelchair. We stuck close behind in the parted path. Kind of like when you're driving in a blizzard, and if you stick behind the snowplow, it's easier to navigate? This man was our human snowplow. It was madness - nothing like our magical rooftop venue. It reminded me of why I disliked clubs. Too many people, too little personal space.
Back in the fresh air outside, it was time to say goodnight to Vegas and rest up for a round of emotionally-charged goodbyes and see you laters. The only thing that sucks about BiSC is the part where we all have to leave.