Barbra Streisand

Barbra

 

A phrase that I heard quite a bit last night while attending the Barbra Streisand concert at T-Mobile Arena was, “This was on my bucket list.” I didn’t hear it once or twice, I heard it murmured numerous times throughout the night including while we were mingling in front of the arena taking pictures of the newly built venue. I had decided to surprise the Bestie with tickets for his birthday and I can honestly say that it was a birthday wish that was on his own personal bucket list.

As soon as the lights dimmed in the arena and the spotlight shown down on the 74 year-old Streisand, the audience roared for the superstar and gave her a standing ovation. The arena can hold up to 20,000 people for a concert event and every single one of those people were paying homage to a living legend that has risen to the level of an icon. She has billed the concert, “The Music…The Mem’ries…The Magic!” and she didn’t disappoint when the first song was “The Way We Were” from the #1 album of the same name. I’m pretty sure that that’s when the first tears of the night were shed from a majority of her fans. The first half of the concert was indeed a trip down memory lane as she belted out song after song and shared with the audience the story behind some of the songs.

The stage was simple with a grand piano, a couple of small tables, one or two chairs for her to lean against and her band in shadows. There were no elaborate sets, fancy costumes or magical stage lighting. There was simply Barbra standing there in the spotlight, talking to all of us as if we were sitting in her kitchen having coffee, and then singing a few songs that we all wanted to sing along with. It was an intimate setting and she pulled you in close. From her signature voice and Grammy award winning songs, to her political statements about Donald Trump that made me love her even more, Barbra Streisand comes off as authentic, funny, caring and genuinely nice human being. The fact that she sings like she does only adds to her celebrity persona.

After a short intermission, Barbra returned with a magician/mentalist, Lior Suchard. I looked around at my fellow audience members and could see the confusion on their faces that confirmed what I was feeling. Barbra is too big of a celebrity to need this kind of fluff. Mr. Suchard interacted with the audience and did a trick that probably was pretty amazing, but I, along with the other thousands of people were here to see the one and only Barbra Streisand. No one really wanted to see a mentalist no matter how good he might be, unless he had maybe caused Ms. Streisand to levitate high above the stage.

Thankfully, he only did the one trick and then we all had Barbra back. It was worth the wait. She showed video clips of the making of her latest album, “Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway” including scenes with Hugh Jackman and Melissa McCarthy. This album is set to be released later this month and includes one of my favorites, “Pure Imagination.” Throughout the show, Barbra was everything and more than what I expected. She’s a star of mega proportions and when she sang “People” as part of the encore, I had goosebumps from head to toe.

The Bestie remarked after the show that it is easily the best concert he’s ever seen. It was definitely the most memorable concert I’ve ever attended and I can also say I left a bigger fan than when I walked in. How could I not be? She’s Barbra Streisand!

 

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ShowStoppers

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In the world of Broadway musicals, there’s a term to describe a song that stands out above the rest of the selections. A song or a performance that is so over the top that it’s known as a showstopper. Steve Wynn has brought a show to Las Vegas that is simply known as ShowStoppers because every song and every performance is a pinnacle of magical interpretation.

I had the pleasure of seeing this magnificent show on my last trip to Las Vegas and for those of you that read that first blog, you know how much I loved it, but I have to say, this time around, it was even better than I remembered. From the first sweet musical note to the final curtain and exit music, I was enthralled, enchanted and completely entertained. There is no other show that compares to this extravagant production that encompasses the best of the best. Both in musical selection and in the talented performers that do what they do so extraordinarily well.

When I first saw this show, I absolutely raved about the lead female cast members and I have to tell you that I’m in awe of the three gorgeous and talented women that grace the Encore theatre six nights a week. One of the leading ladies left the show recently and I knew that Kerry O’Malley was irreplaceable. I was convinced that no matter how good the new female lead was, she wouldn’t be able to touch the performance of Ms. O’Malley.

Well, I was wrong. Rachel Tyler is a beauty that hails from the United Kingdom and has a resume that includes national tours with Mamma Mia, Grease, Fame and The Rocky Horror Show. Ms. Tyler was every bit as good as her predecessor, while still bringing something new and vibrant to the stage. Her voice is unbelievably strong and her stage presence was so powerful that from her first song, she had touched my heart and brought my emotions right to the surface. By the last song, I had tears running down my face and goose bumps on my arms. She’s believable, she’s natural and above all else, she’s definitely a star.

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Joined by the two other female leads, Lindsay Roginski and Nicole Kaplan Fenton, she easily could fill the shoes of any great Broadway performer. The three of them together on one stage, makes this show worthy of the Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence, informally known as the Tony Award. I can’t say enough about these three stand out performers, but I will say that they make me wish I had just a smidgen of their talent.

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The biggest difference between this show and the last one I saw was how impressed I was this time by the male leads. Randal Keith, David Burnham and Andrew Ragone were at the top of their game with this particular performance and I was more impressed than ever with their vocal range, powerhouse voices and stellar performances. Randal Keith was born to perform and he easily has one of the best voices out there. David Burnham and Andrew Ragone bring a masculinity to stage that rounds out the sweetness of the ladies.

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Every song in this amazing show quickly becomes a favorite with hits from shows like, Cabaret, Chorus Line and Chicago. Not only was I mesmerized by the lead vocalists, but I was also blown away by the cast of fabulous dancers. All of them are extremely talented and lend so much to this production. There were three stand outs for not only their fancy footwork, but by their shining personalities. Natacha Bachour is a gorgeous creature that stood out in every thing she did. Stefan Raulston is the dance captain and with good reason. His smile, his easy moves and his connection with the audience makes him someone to watch. However, the dancer that caught my attention and made me want to know more about who she is and where she comes from is, Genise Ruidiaz. This young lady hails from Miami, Florida and throughout each and every performance, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by her beauty, her acting and her flawless dancing.

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Every performance and every song from ShowStoppers is simply the best. I would like to tell you about all my favorite moments, like the jailhouse scene from Chicago that has world class pizzazz with lovely leading lady, Lindsay Roginski. Then another favorite was Nicole Kaplan Fenton singing alongside David Burnham in Money Money or when she plays the adorable Lola in A Little Brains, A Little Talent. This petite, uber talented lady could easily be mistaken for Kristen Chenoweth except she brings her own perfectly suited personality to life when she performs each of her fantastic numbers. I would also like to tell you how magical and powerful the newest cast member, Rachel Tyler was when she sang, Don’t Rain On My Parade from Funny Girl. I thought I had seen a great show, I thought I had witnessed polished talent, I thought the show was as good as a show could be, until Ms. Tyler came out and nailed this classic number from Funny Girl. It doesn’t get better than that. Ms. Streisand should be jealous.

If you have never seen a Broadway musical, or if you have seen them all, you will still want to go see Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers. It is the epitome of the greatest songs from the all-time best Broadway shows. Even if you don’t think you like Broadway, you will still be pleasantly surprised and leave the theatre feeling something you didn’t expect to feel. There is nothing like live musical theatre and with this show featuring a thirty-four piece orchestra conducted by Maestro Dave Loeb, you will be entertained in a way you’ve never been before.

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The Magic of Rick Thomas

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Another long-term headliner from Las Vegas has decided to spend part of his year in Branson, Missouri. Rick Thomas brings his magic to Andy Williams’ Moon River Theatre for a limited time in the live entertainment capital of the world. The show is all the glitz and glamour that is reminiscent of sin city without much of the sin. Rick Thomas has titled the show, “Nothing Happens Until You Dream” and he creatively incorporates his magic into that theme.

Rick started his magic career when he was still a kid and by the time he was eighteen, he had his own show at the Disneyland Hotel. He comes from an entertainment family that excelled in ballroom dancing that lends a grace to the magician as he dazzles the imagination. He’s also a funny, personable man who included the audience during much of the show. He has that unique talent that combines over the top illusions, perfect timing and a little comedy thrown in to make us smile.

He is also joined on stage by his lead dancer, Tara. This lovely woman is from Zimbabwe and auditioned for Rick Thomas five years ago for his show in Las Vegas. Rick told us that more than fifty people showed up to audition, and each one was given thirty seconds to show what they could do. Well, apparently Tara fit the bill even though they would have to wait more than two weeks to have her in the show, until she could obtain her work visa. She is beautiful, graceful and has a stage presence that corresponds perfectly to the master magician.

Tara and Rick decided on June 28 of this year to take their relationship to the ultimate level by getting married in a private setting just south of here, in Arkansas. Sounds like they literally ran off and tied the knot and I, for one, love that impulsive need to live life to the fullest. So, not only is Rick acknowledged as one of the greatest magicians of our time, but now, he has Tara by his side in every way.

During the show, Rick also brought out his gorgeous Pyrenees dog, Thunder. In doing a little research I found out that the Thomas’ have another dog, Lightning, in addition to the one we met on stage. Rick’s show in Las Vegas was famous in large part because he included large cats in his act. On Saturday, Rick showed us video of his cats that were regal and majestic. He told us that he had raised more than twenty of the cats from the time they were cubs. You could tell that he has a genuine love for animals and that alone makes him an exemplary human. Especially when he explained to the audience that all his cats have retired and are living out their lives in a lush, green valley outside of Phoenix, Arizona. Yep, he’s a nice guy.

The illusions were well planned and executed perfectly. Of course, I don’t have a clue how he did any of it, but there were one or two acts that had me questioning that I just saw, what I saw. He also did a mentalist trick with members of the audience that delighted and astonished me. Rick does all of this with lots of interaction and with humbleness. He also does a military tribute and honors the men and women who have served our country.

So, to sum up: Great magic tricks, spooky illusions, a beautiful and graceful assistant, birds, a great big white dog and just a little comedy thrown in make this show fun, mysterious and entertaining. Branson is blessed to have this caliber of performer visit our town for a season. We can also thank the Osmonds who now run the Moon River theatre, for bringing such big names to town. I’m also thinking that if this trend continues, we might get a Cirque du Soleil show here, set to a Broadway adaptation of “Oklahoma.” Okay, I know that’s just wishful thinking, but hey, as Rick Thomas would attest, nothing happens until you dream.

Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers

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A big thanks to my best friend for procuring center-stage seats for one of the best shows in Las Vegas. This is the same man that took me to my first Broadway production more than two years ago and because of that introduction, I have fallen in love with this genre of art. Broadway shows tell a story through music and you get the best of both worlds. You get to see a marvelously acted story and you get to hear a grand musical concert.

Steve Wynn and the creators of ShowStoppers brings its audience to the absolute pinnacle of musical performance with a cast of sixty-six singers, dancers and musicians. The orchestra is led by Conductor Dave Loeb who does a legendary job in directing the music for each of the numbers. The curtain rises after a short audio introduction by Steve Wynn explaining what we’re about to see and experience. He tells us that a “showstopper” is a musical number that is so outstanding and so over the top that it literally stops the show. Sometimes, it will be a piece from the beginning of a show and sometimes, it can be at the end. Mr. Wynn decided that we needed a show where every song is the showstopper. I couldn’t have imagined what then took place for the next ninety minutes.

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There were more than twenty hit songs from classic Broadway, including personal favorites like, “Together (Wherever We Go),” “Cabaret” “If My Friends Could See Me Now” and “One.” These sensational showstoppers were garnered from such greats as, “Mame”  “Annie Get Your Gun”  “A Chorus Line” and many more. There were six vocalists featured in the show and while they were all uber talented, I have to say I had my favorites. The three male leads are, Randal Keith, David Burnham and Andrew Ragone. These guys are all so versatile and are experienced actors and singers with impressive credits ranging from top Broadway shows to movies and television that we would all know.

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The guys were great, but, the three lead female performers were the best I’ve ever seen. Maybe because as a little girl, I was entranced by opera performers or the pictures my mom used to bring home from the Reno showrooms. There’s something old-world style about glamourous dresses and trendy coiffures. The first woman to blow me away was, Kerry O’Malley. What a classically beautiful performer with a voice more powerful and authentic than any I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing live. She’s mesmerizing in all of her stand-out performances and I swear by the end of the night that I had a little crush on this amazing lady. When she sings, she commands you to pay attention and to feel. Feel each note as she wrings it from her soul for the benefit of the hundreds of people that show up for this show each week at The Wynn Las Vegas.

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Kerry O’Malley could star in this show and it would be good, but add in the other two female singers, Nicole Kaplan and Lindsay Roginski, and you have the epitome of Broadway and you have a compilation of true “Showstoppers.” Nicole gives a genuinely cute performance in many of the songs including an interaction with a lucky audience member when she does, “A Little Brains, A Little Talent.” She’s as gorgeous as any Vegas showgirl, but has an obvious sense of humor and comedic talent up on stage. I loved her air of innocence and approachability with every song she sang.

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Lindsay Roginski was the stand-out performer of the night for me. With this sensational show and cast, that’s saying a lot. There wasn’t one member of the ensemble that were not stars in their own right and it’s really unbelievable the amount of talent that Steve Wynn found for this incredible production. However, there was one strikingly beautiful performer that instantly drew out the heart in me and that lady was, Lindsay. It’s hard to name just one thing about this performer as there’s so much to draw from. She has a great voice, she’s more gorgeous than a Victoria’s Secret model, she’s tall and willowy, she makes you think of the girl next door or the famous pin-up posters from an earlier generation. She’s all those things and yet, there’s something more. Something that brings to mind the golden age of Hollywood, the glitz and glamour that used to be old Las Vegas. I could easily imagine Ms. Roginski draped on the arm of Frank Sinatra or a young Howard Hughes. She has something; a ‘je ne sais quoi’ quality. She has IT. That something special, that something destined to make her a star.

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Showstoppers has incredible sets and colorful costumes and part of the fun was getting to be dazzled again and again when the curtain would rise to some spectacular scene or a stage full of sequined performers. It’s hard to say that I had favorite numbers as they were all so brilliantly performed. But, if I’m hard pressed, I loved the numbers from “Cabaret” and “Chicago,” probably because I knew the shows and really knew the songs.

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One of the most poignant moments of the night came in the form of a duet between Randal Keith and Kerry O’Malley. It was the song, “Anything You Can Do” and though there were many other numbers more flashy and complicated, there was none that touched me as a human more. The two of them not only sang the song creatively and brilliantly, but put enough of their own personalities into it, to make it relatable and funny. There’s a part of the song that Randal sang in such a way as to actually make his co-star laugh for real. Not acting, not pretending, but really having fun on stage. When performers can make you feel like that, there’s a magic that is unattainable in any other venue.

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Millions of people visit Las Vegas every year. Some go for the gambling, some go for the shows and some go to do things that can only be mentioned when in Las Vegas. The next time you find yourself in the desert of southern Nevada and are looking to have a “real” experience, you have to make your way over to the high-end, luxurious complex known as Wynn Las Vegas. Then you have to shell out a few bucks (okay, more than a few, but you get what you pay for.) and go see this perfectly suited to Las Vegas show. It’s a taste of yesteryear and some of our favorite Broadway shows. Bring the kids if you can afford it. While it’s not geared for a younger audience, this production keeps it fairly clean and there’s nothing like exposing a younger generation to art and culture that is on this level.

Steve Wynn’s ShowStoppers could just possibly be the best Broadway show out there, even if the Las Vegas strip is a long way from New York. This show will leave a mark on your heart. For me, it was one of those special, magical nights that makes me so thankful to be living my life. Another perfect night of friendship, Broadway and songs that I’m still humming three days later.

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The Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil

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Just as I knew that it would, this vacation has flown by and it’s almost time to leave. I’ve had a wonderfully magical time and though there have been many, many spectacular experiences, there’s one that stands out above all the rest. Last night, the bestie took me to The Mirage to see The Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil. I’ve been to many shows, many plays and many musicals, but there’s nothing out there that can compare to what I witnessed and felt last night.

Within minutes of finding our seats, the show started and the magic began. The Beatles are the epitome of generational and revolutionary music that represents the turmoil and peace in the lives of millions of baby-boomers. I am right at the end of that generation and am so grateful that I grew up listening to these classic songs written by a bunch of guys from Liverpool, England. The Beatles songs are the ones we all know the words to and I can hear one of their tunes on the radio and break out in tears. Their songs always touch me and it’s always been a dream to see Paul McCartney in concert. By the time I was old enough to go to a live venue of The Beatles, the band had already broken up. Then, John Lennon was murdered and a reunion concert was made impossible by one heartless, lone gunman.

So, their music has always touched that emotionally charged place in me and I knew this Cirque du Soleil show would astound my senses, but I really had no idea what an impact it would have on me. It’s one of those shows that quite literally changed who I am inside. I’m better for having seen it and felt it. Kudos to The Mirage and the creative team that brings this show to life several times a week in Las Vegas. If you ever come to Vegas, make sure that you set aside some time to see something that everyone in my generation should see. Actually, it’s a show every generation should see, for it highlights and emphasizes the most important thing in life; love. Hence the name.

The arrangement of the songs were overseen and approved by both Ringo and Paul and they’re arrangements that you’ve never heard before unless you’ve purchased the soundtrack to Love which was released in 2006. The show contains elements from 130 individual commercially released and demo recordings of The Beatles. For example: the track from Get Back uses the opening guitar from A Hard Days Night, drum and guitar solos from The End, percussion from Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and the orchestral swell from A Day in the Life. Standout songs of the night were, While my Guitar Gently Weeps, The Walrus and of course, Hey Jude and All You Need is Love.

There were tears for many of the songs including a lovely performance by an obviously pregnant performer on Lady Madonna. Her cast mate (possibly her husband) bends down at the very end before the lights go out and gently kisses her belly. I just about lost it. Another favorite for me was a combo production of Blackbird and Yesterday that left me sobbing. The cast also did a great job on Revolution and Back in the USSR with a complicated series of trampoline acts that utilized netting and English phone booths.

It was a Cirque du Soleil show so that means it included high flying acrobatics, interpretive dance and athletic feats that wowed the imagination and ignited my soul. It was beautiful, mesmerizing and an perfect example of what happens when humanity and art come together in a perfect culmination of artistry and love.

I left the theatre last night feeling like my soul had been set on fire and a love for music and life that was bigger than when I walked in. I wanted to tell everyone I saw that they had to see this show. I wanted to share with the world how enriched I felt after two hours of sitting in that theatre. The show, the performers and the music made me want to celebrate life and made me so thankful, that should my life end tomorrow, it was all worth it.

If you ever find yourself in Las Vegas, go see this show. Forget the bright lights and fancy casinos. Forget the neon and the sound of chips as they are shuffled on the poker tables. Go see Love and your life will forever be changed.

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Three Days in Las Vegas

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There are some memories that we make in life, that will always stay with us. They live in our hearts and our souls and serve as reminders of what life is really about. I recently had the chance to do a cross-country drive with my best friend and since our final destination was Las Vegas, I also got to enjoy a little mini-vacation. The best part of the trip was not the casinos and the neon lights. The best part wasn’t the glitz and glamour that Las Vegas offers. The absolute best part was the memories made with my best friend and getting to meet a sister of the soul for the first time. If I live to be one-hundred, I will always look back at my adventure in the late winter of 2015. The snap shots that I have in my head are better than any my camera could take, and the feelings born in my soul will last for all eternity.

The bestie and I started out on Saturday by getting the car unhooked from the back of the moving truck. Oh, his poor car! It was covered in road grime including the sand and the salt from the snowy parts we had to drive through. It looked like someone had taken my friend’s car and drug it through the desert and some mud and then decided to douse it with sand and whitewash paint. Before we had a chance to wash it, a little girl commented that it was the dirtiest car she had ever seen! We laughed because there were no more snowstorms to drive thru and we were finally in Las Vegas.

After our chores and a quick bite to eat, we headed out and drove down the famous Strip. No matter how many times, I’ve seen it, it’s still over the top impressive and for someone like the bestie who had never seen it before, it really does look something like the 8th wonder of the world. As you head north on the Strip and you pass the Wynn and Encore, you get to the older part where the Stardust used to stand and I was relieved to see that they did not tear the Sahara down when they closed the doors, but are doing some major construction to build a new fancy casino. Imagine that! There’s very little left of the old Las Vegas that the mafia helped build and ran back in the day. Casinos like The Sands and The Sahara and The Stardust are gone. I’ve seen old pictures from the 40s and 50s and would have loved to be able to see this town as it was originally.

We eventually found ourselves looking for a parking garage near Fremont Street which is the only old part of Las Vegas that’s still around. Even the parking garage was dirty and grimey and the elevator groaned as it took us down to street level. We walked a short block and then turned the corner and the bestie got his first look at Fremont Street. The first thing we saw that made us stop in our tracks, was a lady about sixty years of age, if I had to guess. She was only wearing a pair of brief shorts and nothing else. Her nipples were covered but nothing else was. She wasn’t the only mostly naked person we saw that day, but she was our first and you didn’t know whether to stare or to look away in embarrassment for her. We’re not talking Vegas show-girl and in fact, had it been anywhere other than Las Vegas, I think I would have run as quickly as possible in the opposite direction. I turned to the bestie and said, “Welcome to Las Vegas!”

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I was too embarrassed to take a picture of the older lady with no clothes on, but thanks to Google, I did find a very similar image for you. At least the one I posted is young and somewhat attractive. But, to give the older woman we saw a little credit, she’s putting herself out there just to pay the rent or put food in her stomach. A little sad to be sure, but that’s Las Vegas. We strolled down Fremont Street and stood in amazement as people on zip lines zoomed over our heads. We wandered into a couple of the old casinos and even tried a few slot machines. In the evening on Fremont Street, the crazy, drunk people come out to party and there is live music in the streets. On that Saturday afternoon, the stages were just getting their equipment set up and we were blasted with canned music so loud that you could feel the bass thumps in your chest. Cheap Trick was playing that night and had we had more days, we probably would have ended up staying up half the night, going deaf and dancing to a band from our high-school days. But, time was definitely limited so we left Fremont Street and headed to the more popular tourist destinations.

We parked at The Mirage and tried to see as much as possible in our short allotted time. We toured the Venetian and Palazzo complex and marveled at the grandeur and the enormity of this huge casino. The Venetian has an indoor mall and it’s unlike any mall you’ve ever been to in your cities and towns. This mall is classic Venetian and it’s all high-end stores and artwork on the ceilings. There’s even a river that has gondolas guided by singing gondoliers and the ceilings are painted to look like the sky. There is nothing else like it in the world and I think Bestie and I would have gladly spent an entire day just looking at everything there was to see. We promised each other that in our future lives, that we would shop in the brand name shops and buy each other extravagant presents.

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We tried to find our way back out onto the Strip and was unable to do so without a little assistance to point us in the right direction. Once there we marvelled at the casinos, shops and restaurants on the east side of the Strip before we crossed over the busy boulevard and found ourselves in front of Caesar’s Palace. What a grand, grand place. The statuary and the architecture is something out of Roman times and you could almost believe that Casear himself might be lounging in one of the opulent suites. I’ve never been able to afford to stay at a place like Caesar’s but I’ve been told that it’s first class all the way and that it’s not just a hotel, but an actual destination. I can only imagine.

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From Caesar’s, we crossed over Flamingo St. using the pedestrian crossing and found ourselves in another beautiful casino, The Bellagio. We made our way across the enormous gaming floor and once again had to ask for directions that would lead us out to the front of the hotel, where they have an impressive water show. The gardens were beautiful and the view of the Eiffel tower and the rest of the Strip was simply amazing. The fountains soon shot high into the air and though we were a little disappointed in the music that accompanied the show, we could feel the mist from the water and the sun was just beginning to set in the west which lent itself to the magic of the evening.

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Our final stop on the Strip that night was to watch the Volcano show in front of The Mirage, and it was the perfect way to end the night. We stood at the railing and only had to wait a few minutes until the beat of the native drums began and we were in for a treat. There was fire and a volcano and fire in the water. The lava shot up into the air and the music came to a heart thumping crescendo as the volacano finally erupted. You could feel not just the mist from the water, but you could feel the intense heat from the fire and with the first stars appearing above our heads and the neon lights shining in our eyes, we were transported for just a few mintues to a magical world so unlike the one in which we live.

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The Mirage Volcano-5

We had chores to do again on Sunday morning because, afterall, this just wasn’t a quick vacation to Las Vegas, this was a cross country move for my friend and we had things like unloading a moving truck and getting a storage unit to accomplish. We got a fairly early start and once the “work” was done, I decided to show Bestie where I used to live and work in North Las Vegas. We took Interstate 15 out to the Craig Road exit and within a couple of minutes, we were driving by my old storage place where I lived and worked for a couple of years. When we left that place back in 2012, I honestly never expected to see it again and for those of you that know me, you know it’s no big shocker that I got a little emotional. Not much had changed and in a way, that was a good thing for me to see. We also had the chance to stop in my favorite local’s casino for a couple of hours of slot machine fun before we headed back to our hotel to get ready for our evening out on the town.

I play this game on Facebook that gives me comps to Vegas shows and restaurants and I was pretty happy to have used those comps to get us tickets to the Cirque du Soleil show, Ka, at the MGM Grand. We assumed that because they were comped tickets that I had gotten from a stupid little game on Facebook, that they would be up in the nose bleed section or somewhere behind the stage, but they were top of the line tickets that cost a small fortune had we been paying for them. They were close to dead center of the astounding and impressive theater and we couldn’t have asked for better seats. I have to tell you that when you’re standing in line for the show, and you see the doors that lead to the theater, it looks like any other theater. You don’t have a clue of the magnitude and majesty of the stage and theater until you walk through those doors. The sight made me catch my breath and I felt like I was living in a Blade Runner movie or maybe a scene straight out of Mad Max.

ka theater

ka two

We were entertained with acrobatic maneuvers from members of the cast that included flying over our heads and leaping up the columned balconies. Once the lights did finally dim and the curtain came up, I’m not sure that I breathed again for the next ninety minutes or so. I have never seen anything like Ka and I was mesmerized with every facet of the production. The music was stirring, the storyline was touching and the feats of acrobatic and aerial stunts left me with tears in my eyes and my heart racing fast. The performers literally put their lives on the line with every show as they performed impossible sequences of battle all while climbing on a vertical wall. In the end, good prevails and the two Imperial twins are brought back together to save their kingdom and live happily ever after. I love a happy ending.

Ka dragon

Monday was my bestie’s first day at his new job and I was left at the hotel to sleep in a little and get some laundry done. I was also left in the hopes that I would finally get to meet a sister of the heart that I’ve known all my life, but had never actually met her in person. Years ago, when I was just a wee little thing, a teacher came into my life that forever changed who I was, who I would become and who I am all these many years later. His name is John Dillis and he was the first man I ever idolized and admired and respected. He was also the first person to believe in me and to encourage me to get out the words. He’s one of the reasons, I’m a writer and he’s one of the reasons that a scared little girl managed to fight her way through life no matter the obstacles. Through the technology of Facebook, we reconnected four or five years ago and I immediately started noticing comments and posts on his timeline from another former student named, Tanya.

Tanya was behind me in school by seven years and so we never had a chance to know each other, but through John Dillis’ suggestion that we become friends, I discovered a fellow human whose heart beats to the same vibration as mine. Sisters of the heart and soul, we finally had a chance to come face to face and to talk and laugh the rest of the day away. I’ve been so blessed and fortunate to have friends that surround me and make life more precious, but this is one of those really special relationships that is hard to describe. We both come from the same little town in the Central Valley of California. We both had terribly hard childhoods with difficult and derranged relatives that were the people we were supposed to be able to count on. We both have a vivid imagination and are in love with the words and we both were sent an angel in the form of a mentor, our teacher, John Dillis.

Tanya and I shared our stories and the similarities were almost eerie at times. We laughed about the past and rejoiced in the women that we’ve become. There are things in life that are just meant to be and it’s really as simple as that. You can call it fate, destiny, spirituality or para-normal, but when you find a soul that so meshes with your own, there aren’t many words to describe it except maybe, magical. I loved every minute of the afternoon and evening that Tanya and I spent in each other’s company. We made a silly video and sent it to our favorite teacher and then the bestie took some goofy pictures of the two of us together. That afternoon in Las Vegas felt like a coming home and I swear while I was listening to Tanya talk about her life, something clicked into place and a piece of the puzzle of my life suddenly snapped into place. The moment made me understand that we’ve walked at least a few dozen lifetimes together. As sisters, as friends, as soul-mates. Yes, it was a goose-bump kind of moment. The evening ended after the three of us went out to dinner and arrived back at the bestie’s hotel. At dinner, this wonderful woman that I’ve shared lifetimes and memories with, gave me a card with a magical key inside. She helped unlock a space within me that has had me locked out for all of my life and now that the door has been flung wide, the me I’ve always known was there can step up and finally spread those wings and soar to the stratosphere.

me and Tanya

You know they say that what happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas. But, they couldn’t be more wrong. I spent three days in Las Vegas and took away the biggest jackpot that they could have ever offered. It wasn’t in gold, silver or dollars; it was in life changing currency. The woman that boarded that plane early on Tuesday morning, was not the same woman that crawled up into the Penske truck that Wednesday morning less than a week before. The woman that returned to Memphis has new memories and new places that are filled to overflowing within her heart. My bestie and I are closer than ever and while I miss him terribly, he’s at the start of his own adventure and once again I’m so very thankful for the age in which we live and the technology that makes the distance seem not so great. My friend Tanya and I have grown to love each other through that same technology, but we finally got to experience “us” in person. I’ve been blessed for years by just knowing her, but now I can hear Tanya speak when she writes. I know that she pronounces her ending g’s in such a way, that were I to go blind and senile in my later years, to hear her say, loving, or thinking, or wanting, or living or any other word that ends with that sound, I will know instantly that she’s my Tanya.

What I want to tell my grandchildren someday is that I was so blessed to be able to take a little road trip to Vegas one year and I made memories like no others. I will never look at a cow without remembering mine and the bestie’s trip across the country. I will never look at the lights and beauty of Las Vegas without remembering showing it to the bestie for the first time. I will never think about destiny and synchronicity without thinking about my dear soul sister and how we finally came face to face on an early March day at a dirty hotel room. Now, that sounds like a great plot to me!

Thanks for coming along for the ride and while I know you can’t begin to understand the depth and emotions involved with this trip, I urge you to get out of your comfort zones and go live life. Make sure that you are making memories to last forever.

Road Trip to Las Vegas

I had decided many months ago that spring of 2015 would be the time for some big changes in my life. Little did I know when planning my move last fall that my best friend would get a job offer and make a move ahead of me. Of course, I’m happy for this man that I’ve come to love so much. Who wouldn’t be? He had the opportunity to move to Las Vegas and while I hated to see him leave me in Memphis, I understood that life does not stand still and that there was no way he could pass by this chance to start fresh in his own life. My devious, little mind decided to prolong the having to say good-bye part and volunteered to do the long road trip to Las Vegas, sitting beside him in the bright yellow Penske truck while towing his car behind us. It meant another week before we had to say good-bye and even though I had come down with the flu only days before we left, I wouldn’t have missed this road trip for anything in the world.

We pulled out of Memphis at around 8:00am on Wednesday morning and crossed out of Tennessee with the early morning sun at our backs and the wild west in front of us. It started raining not longer after we drove into Arkansas and we had a steady but light rain for our drive across The Natural State. Arkansas is at the very southern end of the Ozark mountains and our terrain was a gentle up and down through green, rolling hills. The interstate bypasses Little Rock, so there were really no cities to see or to travel through, just miles upon miles of evergreen trees and the bare branches of all the other trees as we were still entrenched in winter in the Mid-South. Our drive was peaceful and uneventful and filled with quiet conversation.

Arkansas gave way to Oklahoma after we passed by Fort Smith and Russelville and we left behind towns with names like Toad Suck and Pickles Gap. Within a mile of crossing into Oklahoma, the rain gave way to sleet and freezing rain and another thirty miles or so, the rain changed over to big fat snow flakes with a strong wind blowing them every which way. We stopped and got gas and discussed how much further we should attempt to drive in the snow and decided that we should push on and try to make it to Oklahoma City before we stopped for the night. The road conditions were good at first, then we would get a driving snow storm and then it would clear for a few miles. We continued on into the early evening before we finally hit another batch of wind blown snow and decided that we needed to look for a place to pull off for the night before the road got really bad. Thank goodness for billboards and thank goodness we found a really nice place called, The Grand Hotel to finally stop at and take refuge from the late winter storm.

After pulling off, parking and getting a room, we traveled back down to the truck for suitcases and favorite pillows only to find that the locks were all frozen shut. Even the one on the back of the Penske which was an ordinary padlock. The snow was falling, the temperatures were in the teens and the wind was howling from the north at about 30 miles per hour. If I had been by myself or with anyone else, I would have been spending the night in Shawnee, Oklahoma in the same clothes that I had worn all day, but I was with my bestie who was determined to get into the truck that night. With a tiny Bic lighter and both us trying to shield the flame from the wind with our hands and bodies, he persevered until the locking mechanism finally warmed enough to allow the key to turn in the lock. We were in! And, with that we made our way back into the hotel for some dinner and a little fun. We ended up staying up half the night before finally closing our eyes.

snow in oklahoma

After a nice breakfast which included conversation with a 92 year old, World War II veteran, we loaded our suitcases back into the Penske and headed west on Interstate 40 once again. Earlier that morning, Lee had managed to use de-icer to get into the front of the truck and had sat in the cold, frozen parking lot warming up the truck and getting us ready for another day on the road. The storm had moved east overnight and while it was still cold, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and we made our way mile by mile across the rest of Oklahoma and finally crossed into Texas early in the afternoon. A quick stop at a Denny’s in Amarillo and a quick resecuring of the straps that were holding the car on the tow dolly and we were bound and determined to make it to New Mexico before we called it a day. We stopped and asked a trucker who told us about a town called Saint Rose and while eating our nachos and burger, we tried to find a motel convenient to the interstate in this place the trucker said was full of motels. Lesson learned. Don’t ask a trucker who has such a thick southern accent that you misunderstand the name of the town. We quickly found out that there was no such town, but after a little research by the bestie, we found out that there is a town named, Santa Rosa and we both had to laugh about it.

We pointed the truck west once again and drove across the panhandle of Texas and into New Mexico. There was absolutely nothing to look at except for cows, horses and tumbleweeds. Amidst conversation, my bestie started making mooing sounds or neighing sounds whenever we would spot cows and horses grazing in the endless fields on both sides of the road. There were manly moos for the steers, feminine moos for the cows and the cutest baby moos for the calfs. The horse neighs were also subtle in their differences, but we decided that there were happy horses and not so happy horses and of course Lee made all the appropriate sounds. I finally decided to get in on the game and saw a group of cows that included several young calfs and some tiny, tiny babies. I thought I could make a youthful cow sound and what came out was, baaaaaaaawwwwww! The only sound I could make was the sound of a sheep of which we had yet to see any on the trip. It was hilarious! We laughed until we both were coughing and for the next several hours whenever I would see a baby cow I would make the sound of a sheep. It never did stop being funny. I’m sure that for the rest of my life, whenever I see cows, I will think about our long trek across Texas and New Mexico and the camaraderie and laughter that we shared across the country.

We finally made it to our room in Santa Rosa and got a good night’s sleep before heading out in a fog-shrouded valley early the next morning. New Mexico seemed like miles and miles of nothing until we made the gentle climb up the mountains and descended into Albuquerque. It seemed to take forever to finally reach the bottom of the valley and once we left the city behind, the desert stretched out before us with rock formations, scrub brush and stunted cactus. The drive through New Mexico and Arizona had this exotic quality to it, and at times felt almost extra-terrestrial. As if we were driving across Mars or another planet deep into the solar system. There were little towns here and there that were sad to behold and it was hard to think about what the people who lived there did for jobs or fun and wondered what their lives were like.

new mexico

Arizona looked a lot like New Mexico and the desert streched for miles and miles until the San Francisco Peaks came into view. The highest point of the mountain range is called Humphrey’s Peak and the mountain reaches 12,633 feet into the sky. It is the highest point in Arizona and to just see it suddenly in the distance of the flat horizon was magnificent. This mountain range is what’s left of an eroded stratovolcano. As we drove closer and closer, the view of the peaks brought goose bumps and an appreciation for this stark, barren landscape that holds such a treasure. One entire side of the San Francisco Peaks was snow covered and the snow seemed to cover the mountain from the impossibly high peak to the gentle slope at it’s base where it rises powerfully from the desert floor. Quite a sight.

We encountered snow on the sides of the road before long as we gently wound our way up to Flagstaff. The roads were terrible due to the changing weather condiditons, and the day was becoming long at that point in the drive as well. Our next landmark to look for was Kingman, Arizona and for whatever reason, the drive seemed to go on forever and forever driving over one hill and then down the next. I can honestly say that from Flagstaff to Las Vegas was what seemed like the longest drive of my life and it wasn’t until we finally made it through Kingman and got off the interstate that we had now travelled for three days, that I started to believe that the end of the trip might just be in sight. By this time, the sun had sunk below the horizon and the highway was dark, though busy with tourists all headed the same direction as us. About 40 miles out of the Las Vegas valley, we started to see a glow behind the mountain tops and I declared the bright light in the distance to be Sin City and we both started to get excited.

Route66-flagstaff-300

The last hour of the drive from Memphis to Las Vegas had it’s own ups and downs including a lot of ups and downs. We had seen signs along the 1600 mile journey for deer, and falling rock and even moose. But on the last highway we saw signs for rams. Big, horned, rams! What are they doing in Arizona? I could finally make the sheep noise that I had perfected by now and with adding just a little bass to my voice, I became the ram. Baaaaaaaaa! Finally got it right. The other thing was that the last few miles in Arizona were the scariest of the whole trip. We were winding our way through rough, rocky gorges and there were wind warnings about what lane high profiled vehicles should be driving in. Combined with the threat of huge horned animals leaping onto the roadway, I have to say I ended up breaking a few fingernails from holding onto to the armrests so tightly. We crossed by Hoover Dam but I couldn’t see anything. We made our way into Nevada and into the little border town of Boulder City. And, it felt like the end was near.

hoover dam

We finally topped the rise that overlooks the Las Vegas valley and it was so enchantingly beautiful that I literally caught my breath and became emotional. There’s no other sight like it in all the world. The entire valley is spread out below and it glitters with a billion gold and silver lights. The air is so dry that the lights are brilliant in a way that is impossible anywhere else on our planet. The lights twinkle and sparkle and shine with magic stardust and quiet moonbeams. It truly is Cibola after a long journey, and I’ll never forget that sight for as long as I live.

las vegas at night

We finally pulled into our motel early on a late winter’s evening, and my best friend was home. He had never seen Las Vegas before, except from the airport and I couldn’t wait to show him around. We had just had an incredible trip that I know neither one of us will ever forget. It was long and stressful and tiring. We were both somewhat sick and the weather was definitely less than ideal. But, it was still some of the best memories that I’ve ever made. I will cherish each and every mile that we travelled and I will never forget the laughter and the love. I wish my friend well in his new city and with his new job. I know that wherever life takes him, he will be successful and happy. I want to thank Lee for including me in his cross-country journey and for allowing me to be a part of his life. Good luck, my friend, and thanks for the road trip of a lifetime.