BiSC 2011


Welcome to the Vegas Page! Here you will find a full, unabridged recap of my adventure to the 2011 Bloggers in Sin City event. 

Here is my pre-Vegas airport post called "Fear and Self-Loathing Before Las Vegas."  Where we learn, once again, how truly insecure I really am.

Here is the first post upon my return - I called it "This is Not The Post You Are Looking For" because I like to make Star Wars references even though I've never seen the movies (no, seriously. Okay, just the one. The first one. Which was actually part 4. Look, I don't know.) When, truly, I guess it should have been called "I Left My Heart in Las Vegas."  But that would have been the obvious title.

Plus, it wasn't this massive writeup that I'd written. Simone had mentioned in her post that she was not the one to write the narrative play-by-play of the weekend. 

I guess I am that person.

Almie, however, is the person that had the foresight and talent to put together this. It's probably my favorite video since the invention of moving pictures. 


And without further ado... it's storytime.


Individual posts can be found here, should you like to comment or something:

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII


PART I: INTRODUCTION

I guess in literature they would call this part the prologue. And, hell, this post ended up being so long that it could probably count as literature. I'm not saying it's quality literature, but, you get the gist.

Las Vegas. Where do I even start? I could start with my ridiculous adventure with actually getting to Sin City, but that would set the wrong tone for the rest of the trip. (Don't get me wrong, I will tell it – it was definitely one of those “you'll laugh about this later” situations.).  

I mentioned in my “airport post” that I was very nervous when I woke up that morning... and I was. Mostly it was an excited nervous, but some of it was, well, fear. Despite everything, sometimes I regress to the point where I feel like a small town Iowa girl, and I'm afraid I'll get outed as such. I was so afraid I wouldn't be cool enough, wouldn't be able to keep up. I was afraid of going to a strange city. I even managed to be afraid of traveling by myself, even though I felt like I had mastered it already. I don't even remember what else I was afraid of, but knowing the way my mind works, it was probably a trainwreck of absurdity going on inside my head.

I was afraid of not knowing what to expect.

I fell in love with this city as soon as I arrived. Over the next few days, I found Las Vegas to be my absolutely perfect getaway city. I love everything about it. I love the ridiculousness and the randomness and the excess. I love the glitter and the lights. I love how everything is intertwined and close together on the strip. I love that we wandered around and not once did I not feel safe. (I did NOT love how expensive everything is, but I guess anywhere I go will be more expensive than the middle of Iowa, so... I won't hold a grudge.) I love the sounds of the casinos and the people-watching.

Most of all? I love the people that I was there with.

The whole experience was just surreal. Meeting all of these awesome people was just the beginning, but when set to the backdrop of the beautiful chaos of Las Vegas? It felt like I was wandering around in a dream for four days. Now that I'm home, I miss it already. I think Vegas has wormed its way into my cold little heart. Which means I better start saving some cash because I will be so beyond sad if I can't make it again in 2012. I know I had talked myself into this on the grounds of it being a “once in a lifetime” experience... but I can't do that. I have to go back. I can't even explain why... I think if you were there, you'd understand.

As I finish up this post, a few days later, I still have this strange feeling of having left my heart behind. It's weird, because I'm not one to easily give my heart away. It's under lock and key in a heavy-duty security system that even Danny Ocean would have a hard time breaking into. [YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE? VEGAS? Yeah, I know. I'm sorry.]

But I broke off little pieces and offered them up as souvenirs. I let myself be immersed so completely in the experience that I lost myself a little bit. I'm starting to feel a fresh new wave of insecurities and doubts come over me - I still feel a little bit on the fringe, in a way. Maybe I didn't engage myself enough. Maybe I hid behind my camera too much. Maybe I was too absorbed in the lights and sounds to really pay attention. Maybe I didn't let my guard down enough. Maybe I was shy when I meant to be outgoing. Maybe they didn't really like me that much after all, but they're too damn polite to push me out of the circle. Maybe I'm just kidding myself. Maybe it feels like it's too good to be true.

But I digress. (And this is why I don't usually allow myself to edit posts once I've written them.)

This fear of not being accepted stems from the fact that I so very much fell in love with everyone on that trip. The handful of days that we were there was not enough. I can't even pretend that I got home, stretched, and said, "well, it was fun, but it's good to be home."
Because I would have rather stayed a little bit longer. Done a little bit more. Dove a little further into the experience.

I suppose that is what next year is for...


PART II: THE ADVENTURE + THE ARRIVAL



The trip started off just fine. My bundle of nerves finally compelled me to leave my apartment even though I hadn't planned on leaving for at least another half an hour. (It also apparently compelled me to forget to turn my bedroom lights off. Oops.) I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, got through security in no time at all, and hung out and waited for my plane. Once we all got boarded on up, they then announced that since it was rainy/misty in Denver, they'd have to add some additional fuel. Fine, nice, whatever. Fuel is great. However, once we did get to Denver, it was apparent that it had been rainy in Denver for several days. Thus, they should have known it was a bit damp there and could have been adding fuel while we were boarding... rather than waiting until right as we were going to pull away from the gate. This normally wouldn't be a problem, at all... but I had a really, really tight connection and as we continued to sit, I started to get nervous. When we got there, the flight attendant even announced that they had a passenger (aka: me) who had a really close connection and to let me out first. Which was easy, I was in the 2nd row. I've learned to sit near the front when you have a connection. You can get out and get to your next gate quicker. Points for Past Me for being so thoughtful.

Here's the thing about Denver. They have you deplane outside. And it was raining. So as soon as we got the all clear, I ran out into the rain up to the gate and asked the gate attendant to call my gate to tell them I was coming (just as my flight attendant told me to do) – I had to book it through thirty some gates and there was just no possible way. But, the lady was really mean about it, and wouldn't do it, so it was with resignation that I accepted that I had missed my connection and went back outside to grab my damn suitcase. Because it was a small regional plane and there was no room in the overhead compartments for any suitcases, at all, of any size. At this point my feet were soaked and I was frustrated, but there had to be another flight to Vegas soon, right?

I went to the customer service counter and the very best she could do for me was to put me on standby for a 4:50 flight. Which meant I would be leaving an hour after I was supposed to have already been in Vegas, on the original flight that I had booked and paid for months ago. IF I got a seat. On the already overbooked flight that had fifteen other people on standby. I struggled to hold back tears and she hooked me up with their mileage program which would give me some priority. (I should have gotten TOP priority, because the misconnection was their fault, but whatever).

So I waited. And waited. And waited. And they pushed that flight's departure time back twice and started working their way through the standby list. The nervous feeling was back but it was completely unrelated to any of the things that had made me nervous that morning. All I wanted at that point was to be in Las Vegas. I had linked up with three other girls to share a cab with from the airport, and it was calming to me to know that there would have been people there waiting for me. As I kept tweeting (or, probably, whining) about my predicament, a few other latecomers offered to share a cab with me and so I felt better knowing I had people that I could carpool with, but... the question was: what time would I even get there? Shit, what time would I even get out of the airport?

Long story short, I did not get on the 4:50 flight. My heart sank with each name that was called that wasn't mine, as I stared out the window into the gray, wet evening. They didn't even announce when they were done taking standbys; the plane merely pulled away and left. They transferred our names over to the next flight, one that left at 7:05. Completely and totally frustrated and upset, I went and locked myself into a bathroom stall and cried for a few minutes. I didn't know what else to do. I looked at my watch and saw that it was just a little after 6 at that point, so that next flight wasn't too far away. I found the new gate and went up to the podium and tried to ask with as steady as a voice as I could what my chances were of getting on this plane. There was only one more flight to Vegas that night and it wasn't until 9 something, and the thought of having to wait for that flight (and possibly not even making it) made me want to cry even more. Everything had started already, everyone was there, getting checked in, getting their gift bags full of swag, meeting each other, making friends. I was missing out. I hate the feeling of missing out. I hate the feeling of getting left behind.

I hated the feeling even more of missing out on any of this trip in particular. The one that I had psyched myself up for and taken the big leap of faith in even signing up for. Why couldn't this have happened on a business trip?

Instead, I was stuck at an airport for four hours when I was originally only supposed to pass through.

I got a lot of tweets and texts from other BiSC-ers (or “BiSCuits” as someone so cleverly coined over the weekend) that offered reassurance and nice words. My high school friend Stacey, who lives in Denver now, told me she'd come rescue me if I didn't make a flight. (I promised her that sometime I would come to Denver on purpose to visit. But dammit, today was not going to be that day.)

As it turned out, I was #2 on the standby list and I was able to get a seat pretty quickly. A window seat, at that, which was a bonus. I'd picked one when I'd bought my ticket but I was completely at the mercy of the airline at this point. I just wanted a ticket, I didn't care where I sat. Once I got on the plane, my frustrations melted away and I was excited to get going. The pilot and crew were witty and entertaining, and it was a nice flight. We came in over a Nevada sunset and all of the lights on the strip were starting to come on as we were landing.

I was able to meet up with the last two latecomers (Suki and Leah) and we shared a cab to the hotel. As they chatted merrily, I occupied myself with trying to check into Foursquare. (I really only use it when I go somewhere novel... I managed to unlock not one but two badges and snag mayorship of my hotel room. As of my departure from Sin City, I was supposedly only 4 days away from being mayor of the hotel lobby. Score! And truly, it's a shame you can only get one Swarm badge... I could have collected two or three in my travels.) I was suddenly shy and self-conscious. 

It felt like the day I moved in to the dorms for college – a hundred miles from home, not knowing a soul, and saying goodbye to my parents in the parking lot. I put on a brave face and smiled and gave them hugs and assured them that I'd be just fine... but inside, I was terrified. Nobody believes me when I tell them how shy I was in high school. I had never been cool or in the In Group, and so my strategy for surviving the first couple years was to just keep my mouth shut, lest I say or do something that would gain the ridicule and scorn of my peers. Better to be shy and quiet than rejected altogether.

I felt that same fear coming back on the cab ride to the hotel. The same insecurities, the same what-ifs, the complete hollowness of being alone. The idea had occurred to me in the ten minutes or so that it took to arrive: what if everyone already had their pre-established friend groups settled? What if nobody wanted me to hang out with them? Are bloggers cliquey? I mean, I know some people know some people better than others. There were the veterans and the newbies. The veterans did kind of stick together, but I don't really blame them – they've grown to be really close over the last three years and it made perfect sense that they wanted to spend time together. But I suddenly felt panicked. I'd been g-chatting and tweeting with a lot of other attendees but nobody really in specific... what if I didn't belong? The fear of rejection is something I've always struggled with. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of not fitting in.

It was like I had just dropped my lunch tray down on the popular girls' table and invited myself to stay. Would they accept me? Or would I be met with icy silence? Who do you think you are? Or, more realistically, would they allow me to remain and put of on plastic smiles and artificial voices but roll their eyes when my back was turned? That would have stung most of all.

(Cue an entire repeat of that morning's anxieties, all over again.)

But the tweets and texts I was getting from people asking where I was and sad that I wasn't there yet, made me feel better. I dropped my luggage off in my room and briefly met a few girls, including my roommate (who will get a more elaborate introduction later, because she is amazing), and headed back downstairs.

Here's the thing, though: I didn't need to be worried, at all. It took me a few minutes to find my voice but I did the same thing I did in college... put on a smile and force yourself to be friendly. Because, you know what? People will be friendly right back.

And these people. Oh, these people. They were wonderful.

I mean, I suppose we were all pretty conditioned to hit it off. We all signed up for this event to meet people and make friends. It wasn't a conference, although that's the easiest thing to call it. There were no panels, there were no workshops. There was just us and Vegas and four days of just being. Four days of hanging out with people like you. People that you're destined to adore. And if you go into it with that mindset, then you're going to make friends. Insta-friends. Just add water.

Or liquor.

I was pretty much greeted with metaphorical open arms. On occasion, actual open arms. Hugs and smiles and shrieks of joy.

I immediately found myself with a drink in my hand and my twitter handle sharpie'd onto my arm and I didn't know where to begin but I just started wandering. We'd reserved the entirety of Sin City Brewing Company (with an open bar until 11, I might add), which was part of our hotel, and there was a patio hooked on to it, and people just came and went. It was a beautiful night, a tad chilly, but hell, I'm from Iowa, where the weather can never make up its mind. But I was so content. I thought it was perfect.

At some point, probably as I was finishing my second drink, I realized that all I'd eaten that day was a yogurt before I left, and a pack of Hostess cupcakes in Denver. Oops.

I met our fabulous organizer, Nicole, whose blog was pretty much the first I'd started following. In a long roundabout way, that's really what got me blogging again. I'd started a real, “grown up” blog while I was living in West Des Moines, moving from the built in journal on my DeviantArt page to an actual legit blog on Blogger, but I hadn't really done much with it. Then I found the Bloggess. And that introduced me to Nicole, who volunteered herself as Jenny's intern. And from Nicole's blog, I started lurking on some of her featured blogs, which led me to a handful of people and also to 20sb, and the rest, as they say, is history.

(Side note: there are not enough kudos in the world for Nicole for all the hard work she put into this event. Nicole, if you are reading this, you are my HERO. Cape and all.)

Ginny & Brandy


Kaci, me, & Katherine


I met Kaci, one of the girls I was supposed to meet up with at the airport originally, who had shared my Thursday morning jitters. I met Nico, whose blog I had been reading for awhile, and who had apparently thought I was from Canada.

I met Rachael and Chelsea and Doniree and Molly, the power bloggers who intimidated me and awed me so, so very much. I met Jenny, who recently published her first book (which, incidentally, I won a copy of in the weeks leading up to BiSC that I have not yet had a chance to talk about yet, but I will!). I met Katherine, whose first words to me were “they're in my room,” which caused much excited bouncing. (They = GLITTER SHOES. More on this later.) I met Catherine and Ashley, whose writing blows my mind every time I read it. I met the faces behind the words. The words that alternately made me laugh, made me cry, made me think. I met Brandy, who poured her heart and soul out to the Internet when her world collapsed around her, and saw how much the people of the Internet rush to your side from hundreds of miles away, how much they love and support their own.

I met Amber and Maxie and Ginny and Germana and TJ and Meghan and so, so, so many other people I'd been interacting with over the last few weeks. I met my future "bandmates" - CarlySimone, and Ameena. I swear to God, I am not trying to forget anyone, at all, but there were about 60 of us there, and everyone was awesome and I'm terrible with names these days. It was all kind of a blur. A twirl-in-circles-until-you-fall-down blur. Some I didn't meet until much later that night. Some I didn't meet until the next day. Some I didn't meet until the next night. Some, I'm not even sure I met at all. It was chaos of the very best kind.


And, of course, I met Almie, who was stuck with me for the next few days.


PART III: THE ROOMMATE



When Maria had to back out of the trip, I was definitely disappointed. Primarily because that meant that I wasn't going to get to meet her, not just yet. It also meant that my safety net was gone. I didn't even think about the roommate situation at first until Nicole emailed me. And I was like, shit, who AM I going to room with? Would it be lame if I took her up the on the offer for my own room? Yes, it would be lame. But what if I get paired with someone who doesn't like me???

I almost panicked over this. And when Nicole emailed me to tell me that she was pairing me up with Almie from Apocalypstick, I panicked even more.

Apocalypstick was one of the first blogs I started following when I got into blog-reading (which may or may not have been right around the time I figured out how to use Google Reader. Amazing technology, that reader.) She had always blown me away with her writing, which was straight-up and sassy and brilliant. She struck me as this super bad-ass chick and I would have been intimidated to just meet her, let alone share a space with her for three days.

You know what though? She is the sweetest, awesomest person ever in real life. As gorgeous as she is in the pictures she posts online (which is another reason I was intimidated by her)... she's even more gorgeous in real life. Which spawned a fresh wave of self-consciousness. Seriously, she looks like a goddamn model. Maybe she is. I don't even know. Plus she's from LA, which is pretty much the polar opposite of Iowa. And she writes freelance and is working on a book. Like, a book I would actually pick up and buy and read, and not just because I “knew” the author. Cue: the jealousies.

I was also a little nervous because it's been over four years since I've had a roommate. Four years since I've shared a space with anyone. I've developed my quirks and my preference for my own independence. I was fine with my own company. I had forgotten how to share space.

None of that mattered. We hit it off right away and I guess the only way I can describe it is that if I had to have a real-life roommate again, I'd want it to be Almie. Or someone just exactly like her. I suspect my life would be more fun and I'd probably go out and do stuff more. I'd forgotten that feeling of having an automatic friend to pair up and do stuff with.

She was also really sweet on Sunday morning when I was dying the Death of Gastrointestinal Woe aka REGRET over eating that 3am hamburger the night prior. (Needless to say, it was not quite so burgasmically delicious the second time around.) (Side note: it was hard to go back to eating and drinking like I used to do. My body just wasn't used to it. THAT'S WHAT I GET FOR BEING HEALTHY. On the bright side, I walked so much that I actually lost a little bit of weight for the week). She went out in search of a Sprite or 7up for me and returned with a Diet Pepsi because apparently the machine got confused about the difference between that and Mountain Dew. Whatever.

Honestly, though, it was perfect and Nicole is a brilliant roommate matchmaker. I had so much fun with Almie and she shared my love of random and bizarre photos. She actually put together a montage video of the entire trip (which I've probably posted a hundred times since she finished it. What? You missed it? SCROLL TO THE TOP, GENIUS. But since I am nice, I will post the sequel for you. Since I don't think I've done that yet...)




PART IV: THE HOTEL + THE SWAG



I hate to be all “business”y – but I would be seriously remiss if I didn't give some shoutouts to the sponsors of this trip. I've never been part of a group that was given bags o' swag and VIP access and comped drinks and all that. It was pretty bad-ass, I'll be honest.

The biggest, loudest shoutout possible to Shatterboxx, our fab presenting sponsor. They made this shit happen. All the Less-Than-Threes in the world to you guys.

The hotel we stayed at (or, as I like to think of it, Home Base) was The Flamingo. They treated us very well and actually was one of our major sponsors for the event. A lot of people I work with had informed me that it was a very cool hotel, so I was pretty excited.


View from my room. WHAT. UP.

As it turns out, it was right smack in the middle of everything that we did that weekend, an amazing location. It was very pink, which naturally, I loved. For those of you who don't know, my mother happens to have this weird flamingo fixation, and when I walked by the gift shop (or, as we came to call it, the “Donny and Marie store”*), there was an epic display of flamingo products (naturally) and I was all “omg, I could buy enough gifts for my mother here to last the rest of her life” but that would have been real expensive and kind of tricky to get home. Ah, well.

*Seriously, Donny and Marie Osmond were plastered all over that fucking hotel. The best is the almost-lifesize decals of them on either side of the entrance to the gift store. I really want to compile an album of everyone's Donny Osmond photos.



Other items in our fancy gift bag included a full-size bottle of Skyy VodkaA full-size bottle. When they said we were getting a sample, I assumed a little mini-size bottle. You know, something I could polish off over the course of the weekend. I had to make a really hard decision on Sunday: the vodka or the glitter shoes. Only one of them was going to fit in my suitcase and I didn't want to pay to ship anything home. (Granted, I didn't particularly want to pay to check my luggage, either, but: free bottle of vodka!). In the end, the glitter shoes won... but I found a home for my vodka with Simone, the patron saint of abandoned vodka.

Then there were the Popchips. These were delicious. I didn't take my point calculator with me and I forgot to write down the stats, but given the information on the bag, they seemed pretty healthy. But the best part was that we were issued a contest: be the one to take the best photo with your bag of Popchips. Now, I don't know what I would do with a year's supply of chips, other than be super popular with the people I would inevitably have to share them with, but I do like winning. And any contest involving fun photos is a priority in my book.

Here's mine:

Viva Las Popchips!

Seriously, look how happy Elvis is to be receiving these chips. He's looking at someone off camera, like, Dude, do you see these chips? This is wicked awesome.

I did not win. @MomandDem did, though, and I like her, so that's okay.

I am going to have to hunt some down around here though. Supposedly my Target sells them. I totally forgot to look when I was there earlier. Dammit.

I was going to do a rundown on the items in the gift bag, but I discovered that Nico already did. So I'm just going to borrow his video:



PART V: THE FIRST DAY



I was immediately reminded upon waking up on Friday that I was not, in fact, 23 anymore. And also that it's a bad idea to drink without eating first. Fortunately, the only thing on the agenda was pool time, so I opted to sleep in a bit more until I felt better.

The fact that I woke up at SIX IN THE MORNING probably didn't help.

I know what you're thinking, if you know me at all: who is this girl?!... but, guys, I was in a totally different time zone. It was 8:00 in Iowa and it was still a weekday, after all. I had a hard time forcing myself back to sleep. Which is probably why I felt like shit. Usually I can circumvent morning lack of wellness if I just get an adequate amount of sleep, but the whole time zone thing totally fucked with me. (Which is why it was kind of impressive that I stayed up as late as I did all weekend – I'm usually lame and go to bed early on weekends.)

When I finally hauled my ass out of bed, I fought a mental battle with myself over the bathing suit and lost. I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I compromised: I would at least visit the pool, which was rumored to be filled with much awesomeness, but I would just wear regular clothes. Almie had come back to the room for something, so I just followed her back out and through the maze of people and concrete to get to the designated BiSC pool camp. Looking at the bright blue water on the way by, I definitely felt pangs of regret at leaving the suit behind, but I'm just not quite there yet, in terms of being comfortable in one. I tried, I really did. I even bought one. Just... not yet.

Almie, Terra, Ameena, Amber

The pool was very cool though. I suspect that the atmosphere is similar to that of Spring Break Wooo which is something I never really did in college. Amber and Molly participated in a poolside limbo contest... sadly, they did not win, but it was fun to watch. The girl that did win was freakishly flexible. 

My favorite moment of the day (and one of the top from the weekend) was when we were waiting for said limbo contest to start and I was introducing myself to Terra and Stacey, who I hadn't seen the night before. As I was shaking hands with Stacey, she not-so-subtly turned my arm to read my Twitter name, and then in a moment of recognition, squealed and attacked me with a hug. It was the best.

(Side note: send good thoughts her way, her doggie died in the middle of the trip so she had to go home early. Sad face.)

It was kind of (okay, really) hot out so I didn't stay out there too long before heading back inside. At this point I was kind of trying to be good (ish) on my points, so I got a boring salad from the main floor. I had to go back downstairs again to go get some freaking dressing since it wasn't included. I really tried to make it work. 24 floors is a long way down. But I couldn't do it. It was gross.

I don't know why this is even worth retelling - it's really only significant because I did regret the bland salad later when we [me, AlmieAmberMorganBeccaAmeena] road tripped across the street to Serendipity. I had no idea it was there and that we were going to go, or I would NOT have eaten that salad. I was too full to justify ordering more food at that point. Lesson learned. Serendipity was super delightful... their famous frozen hot chocolates? Yeah, there's a reason they are famous. I think we ended up doing two rounds of them at the table. Also, because I'm a huge dork, I thought it was fun to go because I have wanted to go to the one in New York after seeing it in the movie Serendipity. Which is an adorable movie. Anywho. I always thought it looked like a fun little place and so I got to go to one of those and I thought it was cool. *cough* anyway. 

Side note: almost everything we did, I thought was cool. Also, some of the stuff I saw and took pictures of merely because I was excited to see them IN PERSON after seeing them in so many movies and tv shows and the like. Yeah. My inner nerd definitely came out to play. Which is why it took me so long to go through all my pictures, to weed out ones that nobody else would give a shit about. Also: to fix red eye. Because *someone* has freakishly reflective eyes. Ahem.


Speaking of photos, I'm doing a poor job of allowing for photo breaks in this narrative, so... PHOTO ALERT. Some pics from Serendipity. Well, Serendipity 3, if we're being technical. (Are we?)



We went back to the hotel to change and groom for the night's activities. I had a brilliant idea to borrow Katherine's blue glitter shoes that she had been wearing the night before. Granted, they were a half-size too big and I'm not very used to walking in legitimate heels, so I had to move pretty slowly, but dammit, they were awesome and looked good with my dress. (And ended up acquiring a LOT of compliments from complete strangers. Seriously, she needs to sell these things. I'm probably going to have to find another pair to ship to her because I loved the color of the blue ones. Also, fun fact, she apparently brought along an entire extra suitcase just for glitter shoes. DEDICATION.)


First stop was at the Sugar Factory Chocolate Lounge inside the Paris Hotel.. Picture: a mood-lit room FULL OF CHOCOLATE. That SMELLS LIKE CHOCOLATE. It was heavenly. There was a fondue tasting which somehow I managed to not actually eat anything from (wtf, me?) but there were RED VELVET MARTINIS (complete with a “cream cheese” rim) which I did NOT miss out on. Delish.

[pic from Becca]

Outdoor escalators! We don't have these in Iowa.

Grace, Morgan, Doni, Jenny, Maxie, Carly

Almie, Simone, me, Doni, Terra, Stacey

Germana, Nic, Ginny, Brandy

Also, do you know what the Sugar Factory is? It's this massive candy store. It's ridiculously awesome. We all just kind of wandered around it for a while in glee.


From the doorway of the Sugar Factory, I watched the Bellagio fountains from across the street. I never did get to see them up close, but I did get to see them. I'll be honest: they make me think of the end of Ocean's Eleven. I can't seem to disassociate the two. 



Next we went to see Absinthe. This show left me absolutely speechless except to mutter things like “Holy shit.” Think Cirque de S'oleil meets burlesque, all while performed on a nine-foot round stage in a small enclosed tent with the audience wrapped around the circle. It was breathtaking and intense. The various acrobatic acts were stunning. The emcee and his “assistant” were hilarious. The rollerblading duo blew my mind. There was liquor and profanity and people contorting themselves into positions that no human should be able to do and feats of strength that were fucking insane. And abs. Holy lord. THE ABS. I don't even know how else to describe it. If you find yourself in Vegas, do yourself a favor, do not pass go, just go see this show. It is truly awesome in the literal sense of the word: awe-inspiring.

Bob found and posted a video of the rollerskating pair on facebook so I'm going to include it here. As stunning as it is, it's nothing compared to sitting right there watching it live. I think I held my breath for the entire act. The announcer even warned the people in the front row not to stand up or they'd probably get kicked in the face. THAT'S how close we were to all of it.


Coming off the high of Absinthe, we all kind of scattered for the night. Left to our own devices, everyone set off on their own preferred method of debauchery. As a group of 60ish hot bloggers, we had a lot of offers of comped drinks and open bars. A lot of people took advantage of this.

We... opted to hunt down plastic guitars full of booze.

At the last minute, I made a responsible decision and declined to get one. It was $35 which, well, I was kind of on a budget, insofaras I could only spend what I had in my bank account, since I am still riding credit-cardless for another year or so. It was 88 ounces of some dacquiri-like beverage, which is a lot of fucking liquid. I could barely drink 64 oz of water over the course of a day when we are doing our wellness challenge. It was kind of sad to miss out on the fun of it, but I suppose I can always get one next year, and I had my obligatory role of paparazzi to play. Someone has to take the pictures. And since I don't trust people, I assumed some dbag on the strip would run away with my camera, and THEN where would we be? (Issues much?)

Upon the formation of our “band” (consisting of AlmieSimoneCarly, and Ameena), we wandered back down the strip to our hotel, since most of the places don't allow outside beverages. Honestly, I was kind of ready to be off my feet anyway. (Almie found some special blister bandaids down in one of the shops at the hotel: fucking brilliant. I think I'm going to pre-emptively buy some of these next year. SO MUCH FOOT HURTING.) (You'll recall I'm still wearing the borrowed glitter heels. For the record, I did not trip and/or fall at all. VICTORY!)

This one's the album cover.

Turns out, whatever was in the guitars was neither delicious nor particularly strong. Almie dumped hers out and “re-tuned” it with the complimentary vodka, which resulted in one of my favorite pictures from the weekend:



"Retuning the guitar"
photo and caption both courtesy of Simone

After that... I was ready to crash. I took a glorious shower in our pink bathroom and crawled into bed. I had the best of intentions to straighten my hair so it would be photo-ready for the next day (I don't mind my hair when it's curly, in fact, I tend to get a lot of compliments on it especially on days where I just sleep on it and go to work with it all tousled and unstyled... but I can never guarantee what it's going to look like. Whereas when it's straight, it looks nice. And if you know me AT ALL, you know that I was going to continue to go photo-crazy.) ...but all I had the energy to do was curl up and pass out.

It was pretty much the perfect day, but we weren't done yet.


PART VI: THE SECOND DAY


I did a much better job of sleeping in the next morning – I think I made it all the way to 9. Upon stumbling back into consciousness, I reached for my phone. I'm sure you all noticed my absence from Twitter over the last year or so – I just got too damn busy to try and keep up. But my usage exploded rather exponentially over the weekend, and I feel like I probably owe people an apology. And I was totally, totally guilty of using Twitter as a texting platform, since I didn't have everyone's numbers. But it was brilliant, really. Because you could communicate with multiple people at a time and see what everyone else was up to. I KNOW IT'S CONSIDERED RUDE, I DON'T CARE. Convenience trumps etiquette.

I also decided to play with Foursquare, too. Because why not? I was in VEGAS. LOOK AT ALL THE AWESOME PLACES I AM AT, FRIENDS BACK HOME.

Anyway, I reach for my phone to see what was going on with the rest of the BiSCuits, and found a message from Carly requesting our presence for brunch at the Mirage. Slowly but surely, Almie and I gathered ourselves up and out of bed, got presentable, and hiked a few blocks down to the buffet to join her, AmeenaSimone, and Mikael.

I about had a heart attack and died when I found out it was $27, but, well, that's Vegas, I guess. (Being from Iowa, I've never paid $27 for a buffet IN MY LIFE. I get cranky if I have to pay more than $10.) And I'd been doing pretty well on the cost of food so far since I frequently happened to be in the right place at the right time to help my other bloggy peeps finish the food that they couldn't. It was the best kind of mooching, completely guiltless because they are begging you to finish it so it doesn't go to waste.

So I could suck it up and pay for one goddamn buffet.

There was a quote in one of the Weight Watchers handouts a few weeks ago that I wanted to cut out and tape somewhere: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Because I couldn't have agreed more.

That was before I hit the buffet line at Cravings.

Every single thing I put in my mouth was pure deliciousness – down to the basics like scrambled eggs. Did you know it was possible to improve upon scrambled eggs? They've perfected them in Las Vegas. They've perfected all food in Las Vegas. Heavenly little taste explosions in my mouth. Even the mimosa was fabulous, and I've kind of had an aversion to orange juice for the last however many years (look, I don't know.) I wouldn't have been surprised if at some point I was just sitting in my chair with my eyes closed, rocking back and forth and making contented food noises. I finished my plate and sat there and stared at it for a long time. I really wanted to go back up and get more. I hadn't even made it halfway around the room... There was gelato somewhere in the dessert corner... I wasn't getting my money's worth. All of these things passed through my head, but the thing that won out was this: I have worked so hard, and done so well, over the last few months, and I didn't want to sabotage myself. I have lost 23 pounds so far and I'm starting to feel good and I'm getting compliments and I have been able to stop photoshopping my chin(s) in all of my photos... it was okay to stop. And so I did.


From here, we found another Sugar Factory location (which turned out to be the original), where bling lollipops were purchased. Ameena had been wistfully admiring the Britney Spears one since the previous night, and finally we just convinced her to buy the damn thing. IT'S VEGAS, after all. Almie and Carly also got one... and Carly surprised us with plastic grill lollipops. You'll see these later.


After some photo-ops at the Beatles Revolution Lounge (see above photo), we then went in search of the Siegfried & Roy tigers, but that required an admission fee, so we took a pass. We made a plan to reconvene later to head to Madame Tussauds. (Creepy wax celebrities > tigers.) We lost Simone and Mikael to the pool but we gained TJ on our adventure. (Creepy wax celebrities > pool.)

Which was quite possibly the most brilliant of afternoon activities.

I'm not even going to write about it. I'm just going to show you pictures.


Also, I got a free magnet for checking in on Foursquare. Score.

Sadly, we missed Oprah by about three days and we never did see the Lady Gaga that was supposedly there. Ah, well.

Back down the strip to the hotel, where we decided to pre-groom for the night and then meet up for dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. I know it's totally lame and touristy but I really wanted to go there anyway, because I needed a guitar pin for my collection and a shotglass for my sister. (Who, ironically, was on vacation too – only to Tennessee to visit our cousin and hit up Graceland and other such pastimes. My dad joked that we were both going to see Elvis that weekend... which? Valid. Also, the contest was ON for who could find the best/tackiest souvenir. I probably lost. Mostly because I ran out of money and couldn't do myself justice. We'll find out for sure the next time I see her.) I also had the all-access pass that I'd purchased in Atlanta that would grant us priority seating, which I totally wanted to feel all important about using. (Which I will, next time I'm in Atlanta, since we stay right down the street from it and it's usually busy with all the other market vendors and buyers that are in that vicinity.)

At this point, Simone was at the other end of the strip where the HRC was located, and she texted us that it was pretty far and we'd probably want a cab. Which we decided was okay, because it would be quicker and it really wouldn't cost that much with the five of us. However, Ameena, being from Utah, had driven up and had her car there and offered to drive. So we road-tripped down to the other side and finally ended up just parking at the MGM Grand and then... totally got lost trying to get back to the strip. Some patronizing yet helpful employee found us wandering and gave us directions, so we finally met up with poor Simone, who had been waiting for us. It wasn't busy yet so she had already procured us a table.


The food was amazing... I waffled a little bit and then decided to go with one of the salads, which was gigantic and delicious. I also caved and did the larger version of my drink which came with the souvenir glass (woo) which was also delicious. (Are we noticing a theme yet? Everything in this city is delicious!!). It also came with a discounted refill, which she didn't tell us right off the bat, which would have been a pretty strong selling point, I would think.


Then, time was up and we had to get back for the Black, White & Gold party. Ameena made the decision to ditch her car and leave it at the MGM Grand, and instead of taking a cab like we'd planned, we just booked it on foot back to the Flamingo. It actually only took us about fifteen, twenty minutes. (Ironically, it took longer than that to get there via car – probably closer to forty-five, with all the traffic ridiculousness.)

Next, we groomed and got all glammed up for the BWG party. Everyone looked so fabulous. Fabulous isn't even enough to describe it.

This time, I got to wear my own gold glitter shoes that I had shipped to Katherine to do. Well, to fix, really. (Remember how I tried to glitter them myself for prom? And how it was an epic failure? Yeah. I should have posted pictures of the aftermath. Needless to say, they were much more sparkletastic this time around. And still fully glitterized.) (They were pinchier, though, too, than I remembered. I got a pair of the foldy flats from a store in the hotel for $10, which was probably the best purchase of the trip. Which I'm aware I said previously was the pink fedora, but I guess I will have to stand corrected on that. I actually sat down on the floor of the casino in Caesar's Palace to change into them because my feet hurt so badly. No shame.)

Katherine, the Glitterer of Shoes and General Purveyor of Awesomeness
Kelly, the Wearer of One Such Pair of Glittered Shoes


We herded ourselves up and took a really long roundabout journey to the Saxe Theater within the depths of the Paris Hotel. Which was an awesome little venue, at least while we had it to ourselves. There was a show going on there so when one let out and/or another one prepared to be seated, it was a little busy, but for the most part, it was all ours. It even matched our theme, with gold ball chain curtains dividing the little sections.


Then we took a group photo.


Courtesy of Becca

Then? The magic of the Internet showed itself. Not long before the trip, Kaci had gotten engaged, and had mentioned earlier in the weekend that she wasn't sure she was going to have a bachelorette party. So Nicole presented her with some bachelorette goodies and we had an impromptu celebration for her and it was so sweet and wonderful and I am actually tearing up right now just typing this.

The bride-to-be!

Which seems like a good time to segue into something that's not part of my play-by-play: the bigger picture. To build on something Brandy said in her post, it wasn't about Las Vegas, not really. It wasn't about the blogging or the networking. It was about the people. The way that people on the Internet support each other, and come through for each other, and are just there for each other... I think that's the thing that nobody gets. Sometimes it's the only thing that keeps me blogging, when I feel like I have nothing to say or that I'm not interesting enough or clever enough or profound enough. I can always reach out and say something, and somebody will inevitably be listening. And they are there with a smile or an encouraging comment. It's far less lonelier on the Internet sometimes than it is in my actual life, holed up in my apartment with a laptop and a cat. And you connect in a way that you don't quite do with the people you see every day. I don't know why that is. It just seems to happen.

And something else happens along the way. These people? They're not faceless words on a screen. They're not your Internet Friends or your Blog Friends... they become your actual friends.

Ok, enough of that sappiness.

You want to know what happened after the emotional overload at happy hour? We paraded our way down the strip, past the Bellagio, where I was SO CLOSE to the damn fountains but they did not go off the entire time we were walking by... any minute, they were supposed to... but didn't quite catch them. I may have done a metaphorical foot stamp in frustration by the time we passed them. Don't they KNOW who we ARE?

No, seriously. We got some massive VIP treatment that night. I'm not much into nightclubs, in general, but it was kind of bad-ass. We managed to get our entrance into PURE nightclub inside Caesar's comped for us (I saw Doni tweet that it was something like $50, normally, to which, um. Holy hell. It's a rare day indeed if I have to pay even a $5 cover at a bar here in town) AND we got let in first, bypassing the line that was starting to form. All of this on a night with a celebrity DJ (Will.i.am from the Black-Eyed Peas was supposed to be there, but I didn't stay long enough to confirm this, though I'm sure the others can). It's hard not to feel like a rockstar when you're given the actual star treatment.


The nightclub was very cool... I just had a hard time getting into it. I don't really dance, at least not while sober, and I wasn't about to pay $22 for a single cocktail so I could maybe inch my way toward a level of tipsy that would allow me to be less inhibited. It was a bit pretentious, but I could totally see where the appeal was. It just wasn't my scene. So when Almie got a text from her brother who was all, “surprise! I'm in Vegas!” I didn't really hesitate to cut out early with her. We were actually closely follwed by Ginny and Germana, who were making an emergency shoe-change trip back to the hotel. So we kidnapped them and brought them with us.

Guys, the line outside to get IN was RI-DIC-U-LOUS. (Even more so, in hindsight, when I learned how much the cover was.) Apparently it was the place to be. Again, I felt a little awesome that I'd gotten VIP treatment to get in, even if I didn't totally love it for myself.

After regrouping at the hotel (I'd already changed my shoes, but I also had to change my damn earrings – the $3 epic giant gold things I'd gotten from Walmart were so fucking heavy I thought they were going to rip out my earlobes if I wore them much longer.), we headed back to the Mirage, to the Beatles Revolution lounge slash Jet nightclub. (I seriously think we spent more time at that hotel that day than we did at our own.) Again, not really into nightclubs, but this was a lot more fun. There was a space to dance but there were also seating areas where we could just chill, too. Because at that point in the weekend, sitting down was my new favorite activity.


And hey, I even got extra points!



Carly and Ameena eventually joined us and we hung out there for the remainder of the night. Except for the stop at the burger restaurant (also inside the Mirage - I honestly think we spent more time at that hotel on Saturday than we did anywhere else, including our own) which was so amazingly delicious (and I know my burgers. I am from cow land, after all) and so amazingly a bad idea, as I would learn in about six hours. Ugh.

From there, we wandered back to the hotel, another successful night in Vegas under our belts.



PART VII: THE LAST DAY

As I'm sure I've mentioned, it was kind of a rough morning on Sunday. My stomach had had ENOUGH of my shenanigans and put me in my place. Once I was finally feeling better, I had to get all packed up and ready to leave. I had somehow acquired much more than I thought and had some difficulties getting it all situated. All of the clothes I'd brought were light and scrunchable (except the pair of jeans that I'd worn in, but I was also wearing those out, so no worries there), so they didn't pose much of a problem. It was all the other stuff. It's hard to pack Vegas up and bring it home with you. Finally I was down to two items: the vodka, and the shoes. (Coming soon to a theater near you: SOPHIE'S CHOICE 2: LAS VEGAS.) If I packed the vodka, I'd have to check my luggage, which would cost me a chunk of money. I suppose I could have shipped one or the other back home, but by the time I paid for shipping of the vodka, I could have just as easily bought myself a bottle once I got home. And there was no way in hell I was leaving behind my glitter shoes. No sir.

So the shoes made it in to the suitcase, and the vodka was cradled in my arm as I searched for an adoptive home for it. Luckily Simone was willing to take it, so I felt okay in my decision to let it go. Though it would have been nice to have a free bottle of vodka. C'est la vie.

As we waited in line to check our bags at the front desk, I began to think about the sequined fedoras I'd seen the night before. Carly had mentioned that she didn't have much gold for her outfit; I had mentioned seeing the gold sequin fedoras in one of the shops at the hotel. When we got back from the wax museum, we'd gone into the store and looked at them. I almost contemplated buying the gold one for myself for that night (maybe next year?)... but there had been a hot pink one too. And this is the one that stuck in my mind. Much like Ameena and her Britney lollipop, I decided that I was meant to have that hat. And just like I'd encouraged her to buy the thing that she wanted, I was now being encouraged by myself and by Almie to go buy the fedora.

I, in turn, was encouraging her to put on her pink Nicki Minaj wig that she'd brought along. This is when Nic and I had the brilliant idea for Misfit Brunch: wear all of the outrageous clothing and accessories that you hadn't get a chance to wear yet. I think it's going on the itinerary for 2012.


I beelined for the pink hat and put it on as soon as it was paid for. The lady at the store even complimented me and said it looked good on me, and that I had the right kind of face for a fedora... and that not a lot of people do. They think they do, but they don't. GO ME. I'd already bought it at that point, so there was nothing left for her to try to sell me, so I can only conclude that she was being sincere.


No joke, when Almie nd I walked into brunch, her with her hot pink wig, and I with my sequin fedora, we got APPLAUSE. Well, Almie probably got the applause, but I was standing right there in my own hot pinkness, so I'm going to pretend some of it was for me, too. It was bad-ass.


I refrained from eating anything for brunch, because I wanted to make sure my stomach was settled down because nothing in the world sounded like less fun than getting sick on the airplane. But it sounds like it was delicious.


It was sad, sitting in that room, everyone eating breakfast, knowing that this was the end of our little adventure together. It was bittersweet, truly. As people began to depart, there were hugs and more hugs. Final pictures were taken, goodbye-for-nows were said. It was hard to drag myself away.

quick bout of interpretive dancing

Remember the plastic grills I mentioned? HERE THEY ARE.

Best shirt ever, or best shirt ever?


We had a little bit of time yet to kill before we had to go to the airport. Almie, Carly, Simone and I all had fairly similar flight times, so we decided to split a cab. We could hold off on our goodbyes a little bit longer.

I had spotted some real live flamingos outside on the way to brunch, so I went to take some pictures for my mom. And because they were pretty.


Once that was checked off my list, I had one final thing I needed to do before leaving Las Vegas: gamble.

I have never been to a casino before. There's a newer one just down the road from where my sister lives, but we've never really thought to go to it whenever I'm there. We occasionally throw it out as an option but usually end up doing something else instead.

And it was really lame, but I was really kind of nervous about doing a damn slot machine, because I didn't know how and didn't want to look like an idiot.

I had some loose change and a few singles on me, so I figured I might as well use those up. I never carry cash on me, it makes me nervous and it makes me spend money.

The very first attempt on the slots earned me a grand sum of FOUR DOLLARS. Beginner's luck, for sure.


I had no idea what I was doing so I just fed it some more money and kept pulling the lever. At one point I was up $1.20 so I cashed out on that one too, bringing my winnings up to $5.20 for the day. I don't remember if I put in four or five dollars, so odds are good that I only walked away with a twenty-cent profit, but you know what? I just wanted the experience of it, and it was still one of the cheaper things I did in Vegas. Carly and Almie each played a round of roulette (Almie won, Carly didn't) and then we decided we'd better take off.

Ameena had gone to pick up her car earlier that morning, so she was the first goodbye we had to say, amongst our “band.” We ended up taking the shuttle to the airport and it became apparent that we were going to get picked off one by one as we arrived to our respective airlines. Carly first, me second. Hugs on the shuttle; no time for anything else. But really, we'd be able to keep in touch easily. We're bloggers, after all.

I ran into Carly in the security line so we got to hang out a bit longer. She refused to take the metal barettes out of her hair, so she was the lucky recipient of a security pat-down, but my security check was as uneventful as it was in Des Moines when I left. We had to say a second goodbye when we split for our separate concourses, and I trudged along to my gate, still wearing my sequin fedora.

The rest of the trip is nothing to write home about. I had a three hour layover in Phoenix, which was a pleasant little airport that had a Starbucks right next to my gate (the first thing I'd consumed since my Diet Pepsi that morning) and free WiFi, though it was so slow it was pretty ineffective. I loaded the last of my pictures onto my computer and began writing this post. In no time at all, it was time to board, and time to go home.

SIDE NOTE: I saw a pair of orthopedic flip flops in the SkyMall on my flight home. I think that might be a good investment for the future.

The spread-out lights of the Midwest are pretty to fly over. It was a cloudless night and I could see down to the earth below. The light posts all along the country roads made it look like we were flying over a sea of stars, with condensed patches of light were the towns were. Stars above and stars below. It was pretty and I was content. It had been an amazing weekend, but it was kind of nice to be getting home. The next day would be filled with sleep and pictures, relaxing in my memories of the weekend, trying to find all my new friends in all of their corners of the Internet, and trying to sort out just all of the things that were running through my head.

I think it will be a while until I am able to fully put into words the entirety of the emotional impact this weekend will have had on my life, which is why for now you are getting a more straightforward narrative. Vegas now holds a special place in my heart, and it was the perfect backdrop for the indescribable experience of meeting all the friends you didn't know you were going to have. I know we all won't be super BFFs. Some friendships will fade into acquaintances; some might disappear altogether. But there were definitely bonds forged that will last a long time. They will be forced to cover long distances and long absences, but they will carry through until the next time we can all meet up again in this magical city.




FIN.