Las Vegas remains a remarkable city: a monument to gaudiness and lack of restraint, a Disneyland for adults that’s even more upfront about wanting your money in its pocket. I rather like the effect, as long as I’m not forced to stay there more than a few days. The Bellagio buffet was not as good as I remembered it (and the rooms suspiciously resemble those of a glorified Hilton), but Olives was excellent, and Paris Las Vegas is simply fun. Despite the availability of strategy charts for blackjack, I could not reliably remember when to surrender, and I was too embarassed to look at a pocket flash card; of such frailities are billion-dollar casino companies made. A few days of modest winning pushed me close to break-even, and I called myself lucky (the more so for getting tickets, after a last-minute screwup, to the fabulous Cirque du Soleil "O"). Los Angeles is a different sort of monument to excess, but you wouldn’t know it from my charming hosts; I got to see an episode of Frasier in which R. appeared. Museum industry insider C.’s efforts to get us into the Museum of Jurassic Technology on a day when it was closed were fruitless, alas, so I did not get to see how David Wilson has spent his MacArthur genius grant money. I don’t think the "The World is Bound With Secret Knots", an exhibit on alchemist, priest, and organ (automatic and water-powered) designer Athaneus Kircher, was there the last time I visited the MJT; I hope it’ll still be there the next time I’m in Los Angeles.
And Berkeley is Berkeley. The Bay Area remains the best food destination in America for a vegetarian; I ate Acme bread, chaat at Vik’s, pizza from the Cheese Board, pasta from the Phoenix Pastaficio (where V. eats free), and sushi in the City with Judith, Ray, and Juliet. (Ray and V. each seemed thrilled to find an audience for discussing Gascoigne.) I caught up with my friends’ various avocational, academic, and artistic pursuits; I attended a birthday party (not mine) and met a friend’s new baby (also not mine). Keith from the Fine Arts Cinema told me about his Cinema Preservation Society. I bought Kogepan gear at the Japantown mall and ogled some furniture. We went to Moe’s with Kathryn; I found a Pinback CD for $4. I caught a cold and drank a lot of tea. And on our way up Telegraph, a guy passing out pamphlets stopped to hassle A., an artist, lifetime Berkeley resident, and throwback to an earlier time, about her support of evil corporations that try to crush innocent street vendors and pamphleteers. It’s good to know that some things don’t change.