Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What Happens in Vegas

(This is Part Two of our Las Vegas business trip. For Part One, click here.)

If you are attending a trade show, what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas; it gets sent out on Twitter all over the digital world. I spent most of my day time hours (Wednesday through Saturday, nine to five) wandering the show floor and finding things to tweet. If you are not fluent in Twitspeak, just understand that I was taking photos of interesting things and sending out brief comments with the photos to all of Andy's woodworking contacts around the nation and around the world. It's a way of indirectly promoting his business and reputation as an authority in the woodworking world.

I found plenty there to tweet. I posted about new tools, like the new sander from Bosch with the built-in suspension for a vibration-free sanding experience. I posted about creative booth displays like Western Dovetail's incredible collapsible tower of dovetail boxes, stretching high into the rafters. I posted about the Freshwood competition, wherein woodworking students at the high school and college levels had gone through many qualifying rounds to have the privilege of displaying their best pieces--really impressive stuff. I posted about the belt sander races, in which tool and wood product manufacturing companies had souped up basic belt sanders and decorated them wildly, then plugged them into long extension cords on a seventy-five foot wooden track and raced them against each other to the roar (ROAR!) of the huge crowd while scantily clad women paraded around tossing t-shirts and cheap frisbees into the grandstands. Seriously. The winning belt sanders were able to cover the distance in just under three seconds, but truly--it was an event only a crowd of rabid woodworkers could love.

It was kind of fun, actually, to have the time and freedom to wander the massive show like this. I usually have to stay in our booth, greeting the public and chatting up our woodworking school, but this time was different. We were working in a booth sponsored by The Woodworking Shows and Wood Magazine and Andy had been brought along primarily as eye candy--something to draw people to to the booth for the sponsors. He had two pieces of furniture on display and was working on a third in between conversations with curious onlookers. I had no role in the booth at all, so I had four days to find other ways to be useful. I tweeted and I did research on various tools Andy has been eyeing for our business, learning all there is to know about them, learning to ask the right questions when I went to different manufacturers' booths to compare options. The time spent at the show was actually enjoyable.

Outside the show was an entirely different world. The owner of The Woodworking Shows had arranged for us all to stay at a hotel/casino off the main strip called Terrible's.

(It is my personal opinion that one should not give a name like that to a business unless it is the total and complete opposite of its moniker. It's an American tradition. The Stooge with the least hair is named Curly. A restaurant in Milwaukee named the Comet Cafe features a speedy jackrabbit in their logo, but prides themselves in 'slow food' rather than fast food. The slow and droopy Basset Hound is named Flash. I've always thought it would be fun to name a solid-colored dog Spot. You get the idea. If your hotel is going to be mediocre at best, don't call it Terrible's. There's just not enough contrast to make the name effective.)

Terrible's was just ok. The room had peeling, aged wallpaper and a rattling air conditioner that blew either an arctic blast or something akin to tropical--nothing in between. The beds were comfortable and the bedding was attractive, but the one blanket provided was too thin to protect against the icy wind coming from the wall unit. The towels were thick and soft, but the provided soap was a disc about an inch and a half round and the shampoo (no conditioner) was a tiny nondescript tube with a name like Dawn Melon Cloud or some other badly translated Chinese import. The buffet restaurant upstairs did a satisfactory job with breakfast, but the dinner spread was bland and primarily covered in gravy with very few plant-based foods to be found. The outdoor pool and jacuzzi area was lovely, but it closed at eight o'clock in the evening, barely enough time to get home from the convention center, eat dinner and change our clothes. Plus, who wants a jacuzzi when the air hasn't even begun to cool down yet? The fitness room had an ample variety of machines to choose from and a nice water cooler with cold, filtered water, but rarely any cups. All in all, I'd give Terrible's a C--not terrible, but not great either, undeserving of its name either way.

Our first night there also happened to be Andy's birthday and when Joe, the owner of The Woodworking Shows found out, he insisted on taking us, along with two others who worked in our booth, out to dinner. We went to his favorite place in town, the Hofbrauhaus, an exact replica of Munich's Hofbrauhaus, and an authentic Bavarian experience complete with a lively band dressed in lederhosen and buxom beer girls serving up massive steins (one liter!) of their imported brew. It was fun, but the food wasn't really my style at all. I'm kind of fond of lean meats and lots of vegetables--not exactly traditional Bavarian fare. We were shocked to see the bill for $250 for the five of us, but Joe took it in stride. He knew what he was getting into when he brought us here and was enjoying being the big spender.

For our second night in Vegas we tried the hotel's dinner buffet, as already mentioned. Less than impressed, we decided to look elsewhere for dinner the third night and found a tiny taqueria just down the street from the hotel in a slightly run-down residential area. It was tucked back in a strip mall between a combination panderia/carniceria and a brightly decorated store advertising DVDs and CDs (all in Spanish), a wide variety of suitcases, and money-changing servicios. We both grinned. This taco stand was just our style. Andy ordered inexpensive dinners for us at the counter in fairly decent Spanish, which always turns me on for some reason. He had a big pile of carne asada tacos and I had a smaller batch of fish tacos in perfect corn tortillas with plenty of cabbage and sliced radishes. Mmmm...tasty, and much better than the hotel's buffet. We laughed at how simple our tastes were, in contrast to the other tourists in this town of glitz and glamor.

Our last night in Vegas was Friday, as the show ended on Saturday and we would hit the road immediately afterward for the long drive home. Friday's meal was an experience like no other. It deserves a lengthy post of its very own, so I will stop here, except to mention that we had no interest in gambling at the casinos while in town. I have played the slots a little before, both as an adult and as a teenager who could pass for older, but they hold no appeal for me whatsoever anymore. The whole casino scene leaves me fairly flat and uninterested, bordering on repulsed. But Friday night, we got an eyeful, whether we wanted to or not.

To be continued...

(To jump directly to Part Three, click here.)

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