Saturday, June 29, 2013

BiSC III: Thursday (Day 1)

Now, I might be imagining things, but I could have sworn that when I woke up Thursday morning, I had a smile on my face. I'd be the first person to tell you that that is very likely physiologically impossible, but Vegas is where magic happens, so... let's just go with it.

I have this weird duality when I travel, wherein I absolutely abhor the idea of missing anything, and I want to be Doing Things all the time to make sure I realize the trip's full potential... but I also understand that I am on vacation and therefore there's no shame in resting, relaxing, and/or taking long, luxurious naps. Cognitive dissonance, thou art my best friend. The problem with the Doing All The Things mindset is that it is, simply put, exhausting. It sets you up for disappointment if you don't manage to do everything, and it raises your expectations for the outcome of the trip. If I had any regrets at all about this weekend, it was that I spent too much time Doing and not enough time Being. I threw myself into activities and while it was fun, I feel like I really missed out on the simple bonding and deep conversations that I was so very much craving. You can't win 'em all, as they say, and they're pretty much right.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that I decided to sleep in on Thursday while my three roomies went on an adventure, and while I knew it was the best thing for me in order to be able to function as the day went on, I was really kind of maybe sort of a lot jealous of their exploits. (This is a perfect example of Not Being Able to Win Them All.)

It's also worth noting that in that sleeping-in period, I had anxiety dreams about Pool Day, but we'll get to that more later.

I'll spare you the not-so-exciting play-by-play of checking out, checking our bags, and setting out to find the mysterious Reno Room up on the 3rd floor, home of the 2013 Registration Suite. Though, it is worth noting that the Flamingo was ready for us:

I got directions from the guy at the bell desk, and not to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty familiar with The Flamingo at this point - I mean, this was my fifth stay, I've seen a few things, is all I'm saying. So up we went on the mini escalators that everyone walks by without realizing it and wandered down and endless hallway because taking said mini escalators was NOT, in fact, the most efficient way to get there (cue fist-shaking at the bell desk guy) but eventually, we found it.

I never saw the Registration Suite in 2011, what with the being-stuck-at-the-Denver-Airport business, but in 2012, it was held in a conference room, complete with big table and it got real cozy real fast if you had more than ten people in the room. Which we often did. Plus luggage, because nobody wanted to check it when you could simply stash it. But walking into the Registration Suite this year, I knew that we had arrived. The room was huge - probably because it was the equivalent of two rooms. There were myriad tables with containers of cookies or other goodies as a centerpiece; there was the impossible-to-miss gift bag table, with balloons and a dazzling display of treats - namely, cheesecake pops that kind of looked like they had edible glitter on them, I don't even know. And our perennial favorite, Popchips. The gift bags, of course, were a point of interest, as they always are. They have been getting progressively bigger and better over the last couple years, and there was not one but two personalized items in them that we had each gotten to select ahead of time. Saying I was excited to dive into them would be an understatement. But, as always, that's another post.

The worst part of BiSC is farewell brunch, when everyone has to say goodbye. Conversely, the best part of BiSC is arrival time, when everyone gets to say hello. Hugs are doled out freely, oftentimes preceding any sort of actual introduction. There are squeals and bouncing and unintelligible murmurs of excitement and lots of gushing and, frankly, it reminds me a hell of a lot of when I was living in the dorms at Iowa State and everyone would be moving back in for the year.

One of last year's BiSCuits, Treavor, made an excellent point - at BiSC, there really aren't "cliques" so much as there are "comfort groups" - and he's right. Despite the fact that I want to meet everyone and want to become BFFs with everyone, I have always had a tendency to gravitate toward the same mini-group of people. I kind of latched on to them in 2011 when I was new and nervous because they included me and I was forever grateful, and I just became very comfortable with them. Over and over I would catch myself doing it, and I felt bad, but in the end: hanging out in a group of 60-some people is really effing intimidating. Even if you get along swimmingly. Even if everyone is super nice and accepting. Even if you want to hang out with everyone. It's a lot and it can be overwhelming. So I know I'm guilty of clinging to my safety group, and I feel bad about that.

For the most part, I recognized the majority of people from their bio pictures, or from their blog, or from facebook, or from wherever. For being a big ol' batch of introverts, you should see us. It's awesome and wonderful in the least anxiety-causing sort of way.

Now, I don't like to play favorites and single out people because everyone is so awesome, but I will say that I was excited to finally meet Jamie. I'd been stalking reading her blog for almost as long as Nicole's and Almie's and the fact that she'd been in Paris the last two years meant that she hadn't been able to come to BiSC. But she was here now and I felt like I'd achieved some degree of closure. So naturally I opened with the fact that back in the day I'd met her brother because he'd been promoting one of his gigs via MySpace (ahhh, nostalgia) and we'd messaged a couple times and I met him after his show and one of his CDs signed (I actually still listen to it from time to time - there are a couple songs on there that I absolutely adore and make my list of all-time favorites) and this was all BEFORE I'd ever even heard of Jamie or had a blog and it was only because I saw him post on her facebook wall that I even made the connection and I felt like the biggest creeper of all time. Because that's how bloggers bond: through sheer awkwardness and confessions of creepy Internet lurking. At any rate, she is delightful and just as pretty in person as she is in her pictures (in case you were wondering) and the pattern on her nails matched the pattern on her skirt and it was pretty much awesome.

The Sharpies for the Twitter Handle Tattoos came out early this year; usually it's a Thing that happens during the Thursday night opening mixer, but the ladies in charge had something else planned, so: why wait?

Photo credit: Terra

The thing I kind of love the most about the Sharpie tattoos (other than the fact that they're a great identifier if you're not sure who you're talking to, which really didn't seem to be a problem this year), is that whenever I would catch sight of it in my peripherals, it kind of looked/felt like I had a real tattoo, and I always felt like a bad-ass. I would (probably) never get my Twitter handle tattooed onto my inner forearm in 2.5" letters, but imagine if I did. It would be bad-ass.

In addition to the meeting and greeting and reunioning and hugging, there was a rousing game of Cards Against Humanity happening at one of the tables. If you're not familiar with Cards Against Humanity, it's basically Apples to Apples but with everyone muttering "I'm so going to hell for this" after each turn. I believe the tagline is "A party game for horrible people." In other words: it's hilarious. And not for the easily offended.

I'm trying something a little different this year, wherein I don't break the Internet by posting a thousand photos each post, and instead, creating a series of collages. So, without further ado... a visual sampling of Thursday In The Registration Suite:

Represented here: hugs, hellos, Sharpie Arms, Hallway Jumping, and Joe the Intern.

I kind of lost my train of thought so I will just skip to the part where my 2013 roomie slash partner-in-crime Germana arrived and we set out on the Most Important Quest of any worthwhile trip to Las Vegas: the acquisition of sequin fedoras.

To be fair, I had already been gifted a (light up!) sequin fedora from Mich, but I still feel like a trip isn't complete without purchasing a new one (and they're only about $15 anyway) so I acquired myself a gold one - which in hindsight, I always wished I had gotten in 2011 for the Black/Gold/White Party. (It wasn't until Sunday right before brunch in 2011 that I worked up the courage to buy a sequin fedora - and wear it - and at that point, I went for hot pink, obviously.) Germana also went for the gold but we didn't get twinsy very often, because we rotated the black and the gold back and forth based on what matched our respective outfits for the day.

It's worth noting that I had purchased a white/silver fedora when I was in Las Vegas for work back in January - I wanted to make sure I had one on hand for our Wicked White Party (you'll see) and I didn't want to take the chance of them not having any more white ones when I came back. I actually had to very carefully pack my entire suitcase around my fedora to make sure it arrived back in Vegas safely. (PRIORITIES!)

I know how to party.

Because Germana is smart and things in Las Vegas are expensive, I followed her lead and we walked down to the shady-looking convenience store on the corner behind the Flamingo. We stocked up on Wheat Thins, potato chips, and ginormous bottles of water. (Hydration = important.) We got cat-called on the way by two dudes sitting in the parking lot. Clearly, it was the fedoras that caught their attention.

The quick jaunt to the c-store was my first indication that perhaps the weather wasn't going to be so miserably hot as (a) the last few times I'd been here and (b) the forecast had called for. It was really warm, sure - probably somewhere in the low 90s (I don't even know what that is in Celsius, SORRY CANADA FRIENDS) - but I wasn't immediately bathed in my own sweat as soon as I went outside, and it was almost, dare I say, comfortable. This was promising.

Back at the hotel, we began the Very Important process of getting showered and groomed for the opening mixer. For reasons that I shouldn't even need to explain to you, this also involved propping up Germana's iPad and brushing up on our Thriller dance skills. If I have one complaint about the Flamingo, it is that there is an inadequate amount of space for choreographed dance routines. I'm just sayin'.

Perhaps not so ironically, this is what greeted us at the bottom of the elevator bank.

One of the (many) best parts of BiSC is the time period where everyone meets up in the lobby to prepare to depart for our location (I think someone called it the "BiSCuit migration"?). It starts off with just a few, and there's nothing quite like seeing familiar faces in a sea of random people. Doesn't matter if you had just seen some of these people minutes or hours ago - it's like a mini-reunion all over again. People show up, there are squeals, and usually there's a fair amount of exclamatory statements over people's outfits. I mean, it's Vegas. If you can't wear your fun attire here, then there is absolutely no point.

It was also a good chance to introduce people to the glory of the light-up fedora that had not been witness to its extreme awesomeness the night before.

This year's welcome mixer was being hosted by Serendipity III at Caesar's Palace. I've eaten there a few times and their food is delicious but, really, the whole point of this place is their Frozen Hot Chocolate. That stuff is to die for. I knew they were going to be feeding us a variety of "sweet and savory" things but so help me, if I didn't get anything Frozen Hot Chocolate-related (last year they had shooters, which is the next best thing to a full-size dish), I was going to create a public disturbance. (Spoiler alert: they had the shooters again and peace was restored.)

If you've never been to Las Vegas, allow me to share with you a helpful hint about getting anywhere: there is rarely a direct route to anything. You cannot simply cross a street to get across the street; you have to take the most convoluted route possible, usually involving going around, up, and over. Caesar's is across the street from the Flamingo; but it requires at least two outdoor escalators and a bridge to get there. Don't get me wrong, it's not quite the inconvenience I am making it out to be (most of the time) - you just need to allow for some creative nagivation.

Of course, the side effect of having these outdoor escalators and traveling in packs is that we often end up with an escalator entirely full of BiSCuits - or, as I so lovingly dubbed it last year, a BiSCalator.

And no BiSC is complete without at least one photo of the aforementioned BiSCalator.

Once at Serendipity, the hugs and the excitement continued at a fever pitch, as more and more people arrived. People I hadn't even really talked to much the previous year seemed excited to see me, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside, and new friends and old alike mixed together so perfectly that it was legitimately hard to tell who was new this year and who wasn't. We are one big happy family and that's just the way we like it.

We had the entire back patio to ourselves (because we roll VIP, obviously) and had our own mini-staff of bartenders and waiters and our own little buffet of appetizer goodness. There was a pineapple mojito that I think pretty much everyone had (though my requirement for every drink I ended up having was "something with mango" to which every bartender accommodated me nicely - so I think mine was more of a mango pineapple mojito. Full honesty? I don't generally like mojitos. But this wasn't bad.) There were fancy salad cups and fruit and tiny hamburgers and I don't even remember what else, but it didn't disappoint. There was evidence that we'd be having an ice cream bar later on, too.

Then... then Nicole brought out the icebreakers. The first one kind of defined our weekend (and all interactions thereafter) - according to science, if you hug someone for at least eight seconds, you are officially bonded. We were instructed to find someone that we had not met until that day as an 8-second hug partner, and I ended up with the lovely and super-sweet Laura. Eight seconds is kind of a long time to hug someone, especially someone you don't know very well, but... we all hugged and thus bonded and for the rest of our lives we are all shouting at each other about eight-second hugs. (So if you happen to catch this referenced in any of our interactions, you now know why.)

The next event was designed to be full of awkwardness and I think we have Andrea to blame for it: a staring contest. Oh, but not just any staring contests. A tournament of staring. There were brackets and everything, and a $200 goodie bag from HTC as the prize. I was hoping I could make it at least a round or two - I had no illusions of winning - but, alas, Edwin defeated me easily because I became all too conscious of the desert breeze drying out my eyeballs, and I could think about nothing but blinking. So, I lasted probably about ten seconds. Shameful, I know.

The tournament continued, however, and it got to be pretty intense. Hands down, the most insane eye-duel was between Larissa and Dominique V, and it wasn't even the championship staredown. Both girls were pretty much glazed over and Dominique had tears streaming down her face. It lasted an incredibly long time and I felt my eyeballs burning just watching them. One or both of them commented that they couldn't even see anymore and it was probably a good idea for Nicole to have made us all sign waivers this year. In the end, Larissa won, and made quick work of Kitty, who had vanquished Nico to meet her in the finals. It was ridiculous and crazy, and, in other words, very BiSC-like.

And at some point, they brought around frozen hot chocolate shooters, so I was a happy girl.

Hugs, frozen hot chocolate, Canadian money (yes, again - there were nonbelievers!), food, and general fabulousness.

As the night began to wind down, most of us realized we weren't ready to call it a night yet. How could we? This was our first "real" night in Las Vegas, we'd finally been reunited with our tribe, and the night was still technically young (at least on Vegas time - some of us were a little lagging because Time Zones are the absolute worst).

First things first, we decided to head over to catch the final Bellagio fountain show of the night. We waited for about twenty minutes until they finally announced over the loudspeaker that it wasn't going to happen because it was too windy. Bummer. On the bright side, walking back through the Bellagio to get back to the Flamingo, resulted in what is probably one of my favorite pictures of the weekend, and that's really the only reason I am mentioning anything in this paragraph, because I wanted an excuse to post it.

Thanks, Karlyn!

At some point after this, we all ended up at Margaritaville, I don't really remember why or the circumstances that led us there (and lest you think it was because I was smashed out of my memories, let me reassure you, I had only had one mango-pineapple mojito and a crapton of water. This was an incredibly sober trip again for me, and I don't even want to hear about how I was doing Vegas "wrong" - because you can't. There is no wrong way to do Las Vegas, especially with this group. No one cares if you drink or not, which is great, because booze is expensive in this city, and I'm getting old and it's not worth it to me to feel like crap the next day, not when there is so much to do and see.) but at any rate, we were there, and people were dancing, and the floor was painted to look like water but it wasn't, so that was kind of a pointless bit of trivia for you, but then this happened.

LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It" came on and Casey and Raoul OWNED it. You don't know how much I wished I had a video of this instead of a string of still shots. It was magical.

Earlier in the evening, Simone had mentioned that she wanted to go to a country-themed bar called Gilley's at Treasure Island because there was a mechanical bull. To which our consensus was, okay, we'll go, but you have to ride the mechanical bull. "But I'm wearing a dress!" "Then go put some pants on!"  Sure enough, she appeared at Margaritaville with her "bull-ridin' pants" and so we nodded in approval and set out with our fearless crew of five - me, Germana, Almie, Simone, and Casey.

Gilley's is the type of bar that I generally go out of my way to avoid. I mean, I have no love for country music and I feel no need to glorify the redneck stereotypes/lifestyle. I'm from the Midwest. I see enough of it unfolding, unironically, all the time. Well, okay. Not all the time. Where I come from, it's pretty evenly split between the "good ol' boys" and, well, regular people. I consider it a point of pride that people can't immediately tell where I'm from, aside from the way I pronounce certain words which gives away my "Iowa accent" which is, apparently, a thing. At any rate, Gilley's was pretty much like every country bar and/or Texas-themed steakhouse I've ever been to, so it wasn't much of a novetly for me, but Simone and Casey are Canadian, so I'm sure this entire place was utterly bizarre for them, and I could see why she would be intrigued by the experience and so eager to go. 

As with any redneck bar worth its salt, we encountered a belligerent drunk about thirty seconds after walking in the door. We made our way to the mechanical bull, and some drunk bro decided that he wanted to high five all of is. Okay, whatever. We all obliged... except Germana, who good-naturedly pulled her hands away at the last second. This apparently set this dude off, and he went from annoying drunk to belligerent drunk. We just stood there staring at him like wtf and some other guys stepped in and made sure he left us alone. I'm not sure it would have really escalated into anything but it was a bit surreal. And it kind of reminded me why I don't really like bars. Or drunk guys. I will say, though, for as many times as we've been to Vegas and wandered around at night, this was the very first time we've been hassled.

We'd come this far, though, and we weren't leaving without Simone having a chance to ride the mechanical bull. It was definitely one of the highlights of the weekend. She hung on for quite a long time (and, at one point, we noticed that there was video of her on the bull simultaneously playing on the Jumbotron screen on the other side of the bar, which was hilarious) and it was awesome and totally worth the trip. I'm not even sure I can adequately describe it, but: just picture one of your friends riding a giant mechanical bull in Las Vegas in the most stereotypical country-western bar you can find, and you'll get the idea.

Photo by Casey

At this point, we decided the best course of action was to take a cab back to the hotel, because it was late and any comfort our footwear may have retained throughout the evening was long gone now. The best part about being on the strip is that you are always at or near a hotel, and there are always cabs available, so we didn't have to wait too long.

Photo by Almie

As we all but crawled back to our rooms for the night, Germana and I did some math and came to the realization that she had been up for 26 hours straight that day - from an early morning flight out of Boston to a full day of Las Vegas to a late night of adventures on the strip, without a single nap. We high-fived and decided that we were bad-asses and maybe not so old after all. And then we promptly fell asleep, because, hey. It was super late and we still had a lot of weekend left to go and despite what I just said I'm still getting kind of old after all. (Let's not focus on the fact that I was in my mid-twenties when I started coming to Vegas and now I'm in my late twenties. Nope.)

(To be continued!)

Friday, June 7, 2013

BiSC III: Wednesday (B Minus 1 Day)

Despite fact that BiSC is classified as an "unconference" I have actually learned quite a bit over the past few years. I mean, aside from things about myself and friendship and how to make a collage of images to post on Instagram. Specific skills, such as learning to travel by myself. Traveling solo is actually a lot of fun and makes you feel like a super independent badass. The biggest downside that I can think of is that you have to haul all your luggage with you if you have to pee because you don't have anyone to watch it for you, and it's a huge pain in the ass because bathroom stalls were not designed to fit a person and luggage. Unless you take the handicap stall. Which I will neither admit to nor deny doing.

But I digress. Over the last few years, I have learned how to navigate unfamiliar airports, the beauty of taking the airport shuttles, how to pack for up to a week with only taking on a carry-on bag because I refuse to pay for a checked bag, how to efficiently get through airport security with minimal awkward encounters with TSA agents, how to sleep sitting completely upright in the middle seat, that the least rip-offy food at the airport stores is probably trail mix because it's almost equally overpriced everywhere, to always offer to gate check your bag when they ask for volunteers because (a) it's a free checked bag that you don't have to haul around at your connecting airport and (b) they're probably going to make you do it anyway because there is never enough room, that a backpack is probably the best choice for your personal item because you can stuff your laptop and your book and your purse and anything else in it and it still fits under the seat, and to never buy a salad at the airport because they are disgusting and you totally just wasted at least five dollars.

Most importantly, I have learned that it is cheapest to fly on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. Thursday through Sunday is the weekend, as far as airlines are concerned, and they will charge you accordingly. I was considerably more broke last year than I was this year, and I was anxious to save every possible penny... and I heard some mumblings about some people coming out on Wednesday instead of Thursday and leaving on Monday instead of Sunday. Excited about the possibility of spending even more time in Las Vegas, I crunched the numbers. Even with my portion of paying for a hotel room those extra nights, I was going to save a significant amount of money. And after my missed connection fiasco of 2011, I was more than happy to get there in plenty of time and avoid the possibility of missing out on any little bit of BiSC again.

When it came time to make my travel arrangements this year, it wasn't even a question as to whether I would take the extended trip again. I booked my extra hotel rooms before I booked my flight. I wasn't even remotely anxious about the traveling part of the trip - I'd done so much traveling for work in the meantime that it was old hat at this point. I'm a pretty savvy flier, though I did forget to take my baggie of toiletries out of my backpack when going through security in Des Moines. (In my defense, they are usually in my suitcase, but I'd had a Shampoo Leaking Incident on my last trip home and I didn't want to ruin any of my carefully planned outfits.) I'm really not sure what my biggest anxieties actually were; I'd pretty much stuffed them all down and directed all my energy into plotting outfits and trying to pack. This turned me into a bit of a lunatic but once I was packed, that was it, and I had no choice but to chill the eff out and enjoy myself. Though I did experience a bizarre bout of plane-disaster-related anxiety as I drove up to the airport - I've never been nervous before flying, but I think that this was possibly because I had just driven past an ad agency that was inexplicably flying pirate flags with a skull and crossbone on them. I've seen Final Destination. I know how it works. (Spoiler alert: everything turned out fine.)

I guess my other (completely unrelated) anxiety was rooted in the fact that this was the last hurrah for BiSC. Seeing people put "last" and "Bloggers in Sin City" together in the same sentence had been making my heart ache for months. I was worried what would happen when I got home, what it would feel like to know that there wasn't another one to look forward to. I also felt anxiety to make sure that this grand finale was the Best Ever and to make sure I did ALL THE THINGS and made the most of it. That's a lot of expectation build-up, you know? I don't know why I always do that to myself.

At any rate, it wouldn't be a proper BiSC if I didn't get delayed leaving Denver. This time, it wasn't a missed connection due to leaving Des Moines late; rather, there was a bit of a kerfuffle due to the weather - namely, the high winds around the airport that made it difficult for the arriving planes to land. They had been circling the skies patiently, but the departures couldn't leave until they landed. Basically, the air traffic controllers were probably all having panic attack and running around with loosened ties and pit-stained white shirts, frantically trying to sort out the mess. (They were apparently all fairly new, which for some reason the captain felt it was necessary to inform us. Confidence-inspiring!) But, I had plenty of time, and there was no chance I could be separated from my luggage at this point, and the whole point of arriving a day early (aside from it being cheaper) was to allow for the unexpected. I was pretty zen about the whole thing, but I did sneak in a text message to let my hotel roomies know I would be a bit late.

Now, I have flown into McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas four times before this trip; I have never had trouble finding my way around, not even the first time I had been there. But this time, I was spit out into a part of the airport I had never even seen before. It felt like it was in the basement. There were still, like, two slot machines nearby, so I knew that I was for sure in Vegas, but... no stores, no billboards, no carpet.

I waited patiently for my luggage (gate check FTW!) while idly checking my phone and sending an absurd amount of text messages and tweets. You know I'm in BiSC when my Twitter presence wakes back up. I am such a terrible tweeter these days.

I did the most logical thing I could do, and went outside. I was definitely not in a part of the airport that I knew. I might not even have been at the main terminal - I'm pretty sure I wasn't. I don't even know if I was in a terminal that was attached to the main terminal via the tram. I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHERE THE TRAM WAS IN RELATION TO THAT SPOT. I was tweeting with Raoul and Edwin, who had also just arrived, and it was apparent that they were in the normal part of the airport and there was no way in hell I was going to find them. I wasn't down for paying for a cab by myself so I set out in search of a shuttle that would take me to the Strip.

Finally, I found something resembling a shuttle stop, and of course the guy had problems figuring out how to take a card with the iPad/reader, because of course I didn't have more than enough cash on me for anything other than the driver gratuity, because I had expected to end up where I always end up and I knew for a fact that I could use a card to buy a shuttle ticket from that location. He took my card with him while he went inside to find help (as I made sure to sear the name from his badge into my brain) and, fortunately, came back with it and another dude who knew what was up. Finally, FINALLY, I was on my way to the Flamingo, and in a sort of weird, Vegasy way, it felt like I was headed home.

I sent a shouty text message to my three roomies, announcing my arrival, which was key to the success of their evening, since the hotel room was in my name. I stood in the lobby, doing a fantastic job of restraining myself from bouncing up and down in excitement, and occupied myself with taking a ridiculous photo with the illuminated poster of Donny Osmond.

Because, as I was devastated to learn when I was in Las Vegas for work in January, the life-size Donny decal on the entrance to the gift shop was GONE due to their remodeling. A moment of silence, please.

As soon as I saw them approaching (confession: I was watching for Jessica's red hair), I ran over as fast as a person weighed down with luggage can run, and enveloped them in a hug. Suddenly, seeing these girls, it all felt real. I was here, I was back, and this weekend was finally going to happen and everything was going to be wonderful.

I knew Mich from 2011 and was sad when she wasn't able to make it last year. Honestly, I was incredibly flattered at how excited she was to see me, because I didn't really think I'd made that big of an impression on her or anyone for that matter, and it was completely mind-blowing to be proven wrong. She was just as awesome and friendly and sweet as I remembered, and it was like that Year Without Mich hadn't happened, because it felt like we had picked up where we left off in 2011.

I had met Jessica in February when I was in Denver for work. I knew from the minute I read her bio that we needed to be friends, because she was hilarious in all the ways that my sense of humor requires, and sassy, and insightful, and a ton of fun. I was incredibly pleased that I got to meet her early and I had a super fun time hanging out with her in Denver and even made friends with some of her friends and it was so awesome, guys.

I had never met Marian before and - I know she has heard this a lot - was kind of intimidated by her. She's such a bad-ass on her website and just radiated confidence and severe kick-assery skills. However, I had learned by now not to be overly fooled by appearances - she had seemed super nice in all of our pre-BiSC messaging, which meant she probably was. I'll let you in on a secret: bloggers are regular people, too. We're also very similar people - aside from the fact that we're all writers and often share other creative interests as well (photography, design, food, crafts, etc), most of us are pretty introverted. Which makes sense: I write because it's how I share my feelings. I am more comfortable talking with "invisible strangers" and a screen than I am pouring my heart out to people I've known for the better part of a decade. Maybe that's not introversion so much as a personality glitch, but whatever. My point is: she's a person, just like me, and I was right in my assumption that she was going to turn out to be nice. Because she is.

(Frankly, I'm a little jealous of how well these three got along. I decided to sleep in the next morning because I needed to catch up on my lack of sleep from the previous few days in order to enjoy the weekend, and they went to brunch and then trekked all over the Strip and had awesome adventures and I MISSED OUT which of course is my biggest fear with stuff like this, but: it was my choice, I guess, and my own damn fault. I felt like this happened a lot over the weekend - I was focused on whatever thing it was that I felt needed to happen at that time, and probably missed a lot of things in the process. It's impossible to catch everything, sure - but I always come home feeling like maybe I could have participated in "more.")

We got up to our hotel room and plunked our stuff down, and Mich looked at me with a playful twinkle in her eye. "I have a present for you," she said eagerly. The same eagerness I tend to have, when I have something really awesome that I can't wait to show someone.

"For me?" I was a bit puzzled. I knew all of the Canadian BiSCuits had brought a lot of candy and snacks with them that we couldn't get here in the US, but I hadn't really requested anything.

The next thing I know, she whips out a black sequin fedora and I'm pretty sure my eyes got big. But then she reached underneath the brim and flipped a switch and it started BLINKING.


You can probably only imagine the amount of squealing and bouncing that went on at that moment. This hat was the epitome of Las Vegas. (If you're new here, it's also significant because I have made a habit of buying a sequin fedora every year in Vegas.)

Despite the level of travel fatigue we were all feeling, we weren't quite ready to call it a day yet.

We went back downstairs and said hello to the handful of other early arrivals who were at the Center Cut Steakhouse, enjoying half-price martinis and an epic bacon sampler. Guys, this was the thickest bacon I have ever seen, and I'm from Iowa.

We went over to Carlos & Charlie's for a (cheaper) dinner, wherein we learned about the wonder of Canadian money. (I learned a lot about Canada this weekend, actually.) Their new bills are made of a plasticky material that you can wash without incident (though if you accidentally run them through the dryer, they will melt, which is probably worse than what happens to our money when you clean it - it just gets soggy and soft). There is a clear panel in them that you can actually see through. The best part? The anti-counterfeit chemical they use smells like maple syrup if you rub the bill. THEY HAVE SCRATCH AND SNIFF MONEY. I'm not even kidding. We tested it on multiple bills over the weekend.

I also tried not to be a narcissistic know-it-all but I couldn't seem to stop myself from babbling about the past BiSCs I'd been to and I didn't want to be That Person but I was legitimately trying to be helpful and some of the time I was answering direct questions but the rest of the time I just thought of random things that I thought might be useful to them (since Marian and Jessica were BiSCgins) but... I'm always kind of paranoid about how I come off, because I honestly don't know, and I don't want to be an asshole. So if I was: SORRY GUYS.

We wandered back to Center Cut where more BiSCuits were accumulating. There were hugs - reunion hugs and nice-to-meet-you hugs (we don't mess around - you're a BiSCuit, you get a hug, period) and I demonstrated a proper sitting tackle hug to Larissa.

At this point, I was ready to sleep, but I was waiting for the DC crew to arrive. They'd gotten some sort of awesome deal and all flown in together on the same flight from Baltimore. They also somehow managed to end up arriving to the hotel in a freaking LIMO, because it was cheaper than a cab, and therefore, an obvious choice. I almost literally knocked Caryn over in the lobby as I ran up and hugged her - I'm not actually sure what kept us from falling over, because I don't generally possess the greatest sense of balance sometimes. It kind of reminded me a little bit of the start of the school year at ISU when everyone was moving back into the dorms and we were excited to be reunited after three long months apart. Replace three with twelve and dorms with Las Vegas and you've basically got the same thing.

Eventually, sleep became an inevitable prospect, and I was pretty proud of myself for staying up later than I expected I would be able to. Later than I did last year, even. Score some points for this old lady. I went back up to the room where my roomies were already snuggled into bed and made good use of the flashlight app on my phone. Fortunately, no lamps started on fire this time. I drifted off to sleep, blissfully content and happy. I was back in Las Vegas, and I was with my people, and we had the whole weekend ahead of us, and it was going to be amazing.

(to be continued...)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Vanity. And Pie.

So, how awesome is this photo that Casey took of me in Vegas? So awesome. It looks like an album cover except that I have no real musical talent to speak of.

What's even better is that the original photo is of me feeding pie to Joe the Intern at one of our brunch buffets. Because Vegas.

In other news, I am still working on my recap posts, but really it's only because I have so many photos and I'm trying to get them wrangled into a presentable format. PLEASE CONTINUE TO HOLD, YOUR CALL IS VERY IMPORTANT TO US. VEGAS RECAPS WILL BE WITH YOU SHORTLY. PROBABLY.

[Photo(s) by Casey Palmer]

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Run, Kelly, Run!

If you follow me on Instagram, among the photos of my nephew and Las Vegas and food and general randomness, you will likely have seen a lot of images of myself looking kind of sweaty and screenshots of my phone with various numbers. Because I have kind of really started to get into running. I blame all of my blogger friends who are also runners, because they have brainwashed me into thinking it is fun, which... it kind of is. I mean, running itself isn't fun, but watching myself do stuff that I didn't think I could do? That's fun. Feeling like I'm starting to take care of myself and be healthy? That's fun. Fitting back into my pants? That's really fun.

I have mentioned it a couple times on here, but kind of in passing. Today, I am going to directly talk about it, because of a couple significant things:

1. I broke my PR on May 10. I ran for 40 minutes, which was actually my third PR. My original was 32 minutes last fall in the Color Run (which I probably still haven't blogged about), and then I ran 35 minutes on May 5. But the 40 minutes is my new record, both for time and distance, because in that 40 minutes, I actually managed to run my first 5K. Which is good, because I am signed up for a run at the end of the month, and I would so very much love to actually run the whole thing.

To which one of my friends was all, "You couldn't take one more step?" Heh.

2. I'm gearing up! I mean, in the literal sense. I've acquired some running gear.

First and foremost: I got new running shoes. REAL running shoes. I went to a legitimate running store (okay, they are technically a bike store but they also serve runners and triathletes too) where I ran barefoot on a treadmill and the "shoe guru" (no, seriously - that's what's on his business cards) watched a video of my feet to see how I ran, and then pulled some options from the back, and I tried them on and ran a couple minutes in each of them on the treadmill, and picked out the ones I liked the best and that I thought felt the best - and he reassured me multiple times that I couldn't make a wrong choice. All the shoes he'd pulled were suited to my running style, and each and every pair would be a good match. I am so excited to get them broken in and start running in them. Mostly because my old shoes sucked, but also because now I am just that much closer to feel like I can start taking myself seriously as a "real" runner.

 And they're hot pink. Of course.

I suppose I could have kept running in the shoes I had, but you know what? I was ready to invest a little bit more in this little hobby of mine. For starters, my shoes were crap - they were cheap shoes I'd probably gotten in some generic discount store and they are actually literally starting to fall apart. For seconders, I was actually starting to experience some lower back aches on my longer runs, and a quick Google search indicated that my problem was likely my posture (story of my life) or my shoes. Spoiler alert: your posture is also greatly affected by your shoes. So I decided to put an end to that nonsense and go get some real shoes.

(On an unrelated note, because of the way I run - on the middle/front of my foot - he asked me if I had a background in gymnastics or dancing, which I always consider to be a compliment because I assume it means I look graceful and coordinated, or something. I AM A GAZELLE. *prances*) 

In a probably not-so-ironic twist of fate, I was reading Nicole's blog post about being a "real" (fill in the blank with whatever you're feeling like a phony doing) and it struck all of my chords. I felt like I wasn't a real writer, or a real designer, or a real runner. Her post happened to also be a giveaway post, but I was less moved to comment by the giveaway than by the need to share my feelings.

Well, turns out I won, so I got some real, honest-to-God running clothes too. It's not quite warm enough to wear them yet, but I'm pretty excited about trying them out. It's going to take about the same amount of courage to wear them as it did putting on a bathing suit in Las Vegas because I am still very self-conscious about my body, but I'm hoping that by the time the right weather rolls around, I will have found some more confidence in myself.

I also had a custom bracelet made that I can wear on days when I feel like I want to give up (or all the time, really) with my running motto on it - "It does not matter how slow you go, as long as you do not stop." That's what got me through my first 32 minute run (which at that point had been the longest I'd ever run in my entire life) and I still repeat it to myself often.

I got it from the same Etsy shop where I got my Twitter necklace. She does a great job and I've loved both pieces I've gotten from here, and I do not hesitate to recommend her if you want some custom stamped jewelry. They also have a full website you can visit too. (Shameless pluggery. Maybe I should work out some sort of referral bonus or something?)

Last but not least, since multiple people have asked: the "orange things on my ears" in all of those photos are the Sony MP3 headphones that I got from Klout. I mostly like them because they are handy and cord-free and they have a pretty impressive battery life. (I've been using these since April for about an hour each outing, and the battery has only died on me once). I dislike them because my ears are improperly shaped for earbuds and I feel like I spend the entire walk to the park adjusting them so they stay in my ears. Mostly, though, I really like them. And they were free, so I will never ever complain about that.

Because I can't post about anything without an accompanying image.

3. I started a new blog. OMG I KNOW. I need another blog like I need (insert something superfluous here in order to complete the metaphor). I'm still tweaking it to get it to my liking (and I still need to design a real header), but it's up and running. I'm retroactively posting about all of my runs so far because I had a lot more to say about them than what can be contained in an Instagram caption. So if you'd care to follow alongside me on my running journey, I'd be happy to have you. I'll probably still keep posting updates to Instagram because I sort of feel like it keeps me accountable, but I'll be going into more detail on the blog. I decided to separate it into its own thing because I'd just really hate for this blog to have any sort of consistent theme. (Sarcasm, y'all!). But seriously. I'll post random updates here but I didn't want to make it the main focus since I'm pretty sure none of you started reading this blog to read about running. So, I would like to introduce my new project, Run Like Kell, which is not so much a running blog as it is a blog about me running. Which, believe it or not, are two very different things.