Vegas AAR

Vegas AAR:

Some remarks:

1) Thanks to Allen for coming out. It was great to meet one of the Grim's Hall crew in person. He was the other guy in the cowboy hat, but since he runs tall by anyone's standard, it wasn't hard to tell us apart. I enjoyed meeting you.

2) When we announced the BlackFive party at the Penthouse Club (and once we had all understood that was Penthouse Magazine, not just some penthouse somewhere), Miss Ladybug asked: "I've been to Hooter's before, so is that too much different?"

I still haven't been to a Hooters. Nevertheless, I think I can now say with a high degree of confidence that there is indeed quite a difference.

3) I didn't really think I'd much enjoy all those hours of sitting at the various panels, but in fact they were quite interesting.

4) FbL was very proud that her coin outranks mine.

5) The DOD was paying close attention to what was said. I asked one question, and had answers from the staff of two general officers within ten minutes or so.

6) The Greyhawks were there and were, as always, great fun. Greyhawk hosted a panel and I must remark that he has a proud future career as a broadcaster in front of him if he wants it. He has the perfect voice for narration. News, documentaries, game shows, whatever he wants: he just needs to send in a sample to some agent.

7) Carrie and I sat together on the bus. We remarked that we were sorry Cassidy couldn't make it out this year. I've never met her in person, but she was missed.

8) OldSoldier54 brought us outstanding cigars. Thank you.

9) Matt at BlackFive insisted I take the statue and camera that went with the BlackFive award he had me receive for us. So, now I have a statue for my office that says, "BlackFive: The Paratrooper of Love." I'm sure that will be confusing to my great-grandchildren when they're cleaning out my kit after the funeral. (Actually, one of the great pleasures of the afterlife may be sitting in on their attempts to make sense out of the relics.)

10) Speaking of which: I stayed at the Sahara. I have a money clip my grandfather left me that is ancient and burnished by long use. It's engraved, but you almost can't tell it anymore. If you hold it so the light reflects just right, though, it says: "SAHARA, LAS VEGAS" and has the hotel logo.

The Sahara was one of the earlier movements away from the old-fashioned Las Vegas casinos, and to a "theme" casino. The concept was a tremendous success. Now, the biggest casinos are all that way: Caesar's Palace is done up in a Roman style (especially the Forum shops: my favorite thing in Las Vegas was the fountain and statues honoring King Bacchus), "Paris" in a faux-Parisian style, there's one for New York City, one about Pirates ("Treasure Island"), one about castles and knights ("Excalibur"), one about Egypt (the "Luxor"), and so forth and so on.

The Sahara has ceased to be interesting as a theme, and so its star is fading. You can see that they tried to grab at the mantle of history -- there are pictures of Gary Cooper on the wall, Elvis, Jack Benny: Golden Age Hollywood and its decadence, which looks like elegance given the far deeper and worse decadence of the nation today.

That wasn't enough, and in a way, it's their fault. They were the ones who introduced the 'next big thing' concept, and started the change that is now undermining them. Trying to claim the mantle of history and 'old Vegas' only points up that they were the ones who undermined that old Vegas.

There is one exception to the otherwise general decline at the Sahara. The House of Lords has been with them since the beginning, and is still the best meal you can readily imagine. I had the Colorado Rack of Lamb. They also do steak, potatoes -- baked or mashed -- fresh bread, salads, fine wines, dessert and coffee.

Some things really are simple, and really are elegant. Those things last.

11) I didn't go to the other meetings at Blog World Expo, but I will lay you any odds you like that the MilBlogs Conference is different in one crucial way. I bet you no other part of the conference ended with a memorial to bloggers of that sort killed in action in the last year, a remembrance of those killed since the start of this war, and the playing of Taps.

In the short speech Matt asked me to give, I said: "We're not biased. We're partisans." That means we've left some behind. I doubt anyone in that room had not sacrificed something, whether it was months away from family, loss of time with children, being asked to do what was hard, or the suffering of injuries in the line of duty.

MAJ Olmstead, as Matt pointed out in our toast to Absent Companions, wanted us to honor him with joy. We had a lot of fun, and good for us. That's what he wanted: that we should live boldly while we can.

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