The Beatles LOVE by Cirque Du Soleil

leaving Las Vegas

W, Sept 27: at the recommendation of someone we went shopping with on Monday, we went to breakfast at the Polaris Street Cafe, a place so unassuming from the outside we weren’t sure it was open. The food was delicious, and the breakfast burrito was so large that I had half of it for dinner.

After lunch, MAK and I played billiards, just as we did back in college, which is to say, badly. We did make some decent shots.


We headed to The Mirage to see The Beatles LOVE by Cirque Du Soleil. It was a magnificent show. It had everything from an Eleanor Rigby-laden war scene to a tribute to Beatlemania to astonishingly daredevil skateboarding to ballet in the air. A review on called it “a psychedelic journey through the trends and politics of the ’60s and most importantly, The Beatles.”

The music blends several tracks, as the LOVE album does, and is very effective. (By the way, if you are a Beatles fan, you should get that album.) The only song I recall that was not from the album was Twist and Shout.

One problem with the audience is that, while taking photos was allowed, using a flash was not, and for good reason. Ushers went down to the front rows of our section twice to chastise idiots.

There was a five-minute delay about 2/3s of the way through, but it didn’t ruin the show’s flow. My difficulty was that there was often SO much going on, it was a challenge to decide where to look.

A recommendation: buy your tickets early. They use “dynamic pricing,” meaning that the closer to showtime, the more likely they will be more expensive. Yet the nosebleed seats I bought were upgraded to a better location.

Going home?

Th, Sept 28: We checked out of the resort and took a cab to the airport, driving past the Statue of Liberty, which mistakenly appeared on US postage for a time.

We waited at gate 40, but the plane leaving adjacent gate 41 for Atlanta departed late. Still, I was surprised when no one was at the gate 30 minutes before our scheduled takeoff.

Suddenly, we heard a muddled announcement. All I could make out was final, Detroit (our first destination), and 34. Curse me for a novice! I should have known they had moved the flight. I took off for Gate 34 while MAK checked the departure board. He had gotten no info from Delta on their app about the change.

We carried our luggage to the 46th row, with me trying desperately not to hit someone while traversing down the narrow aisle. This was the one time MAK got to sit together on the trip.


The sandwichwich fixings I packed became dinner. Because of trouble with the plane, our flight to ALB was over an hour late and at a different gate. I checked a bag to Albany.

As I took my middle seat, there was a guy who looked “off.” He offered to help a young woman with her bag, but, as everyone within hearing distance could tell, he was coming onto her, big time. He gave his name, asked for hers, and wanted to know where she was sitting. Fortunately, two flight attendants escorted him off the plane; as far as I could see, he did not resist.

We finally got to Albany, and we went to the baggage area. My suitcase was already on the belt and about to go back around when I put down my other bag, dropped some newspapers, and ran to get my bag, my cap flying off. It was funny to watch, I gather.

MAK’s ex picked us up and dropped me at home. I did my Wordle, then crashed.


Las Vegas was an interesting, and somewhat exhausting, experience. LV is not what I’d call a walkable city. We wanted to go to a location that wasn’t more than two miles away, but it was impossible to get to without crossing a busy highway. We took more taxis in five days than I’ve taken in the past 25 years.

I’d say Las Vegas is Disneyland, except I’ve never been to the Mouse properties. If your wallet is deep enough, there are a near-infinite number of activities.

Electronic signs for performers we’re supposed to know by first name. DONNY! It was Donny Osmond, of course. WAYNE! There’s a wax museum in LV, and I’m afraid the photo they used of Wayne Newton could have been lifted from there.

I’ve known MAK for over a half-century, but we never traveled nearly so far together. We got along well. I even prodded him to restart his blog, which has been dormant since 2019. He wrote our trip here in 800 words, which took me four posts and over 3000 words to convey; he’s much more economical.

Vegas destiny

10 seconds of Rebecca Jade

I’m not big on “destiny.” Still, I called this Vegas destiny because it felt like my friend MAK and I were destined to go to that place on Sunday, September 24.

We had talked about a few dates. It had to be after the 16th when my wife and I had tickets for a play. And it had to be before the 29th when I had my annual physical. Meanwhile, he had to see an Electric Hot Tuna’s Last Waltz show on the 21st in Kingston, NY.

Early start

We stayed at a hotel near the airport on Saturday night because we had a 6:21 a.m. flight. The current conventional wisdom of people who travel far more than I was that we are at the airport 1.5 hours before the 5:58 boarding.

BTW, there are two Hilton hotels on the same short road. The first is Hilton Garden, which my wife and I visited the Friday before to double-check that the shuttle would work. And the second is Tru by Hilton, which we booked. We’re glad my wife stayed until we checked in.

It was a nice room. The most difficult things were two: the big-screen TV in the room had a remote control that we couldn’t control. I called the desk, and a guy came up very quickly. He tried the remote and got the same result, took the remote, and then brought back a remote that worked a few minutes later.

He also solved our second problem: we couldn’t find how to turn on the lights. There are these little black buttons about halfway down the metal trim. We might have seen it in the daylight, but since we checked in well after dark, there was no way we could have discerned them.

The logical strategy would have been to go to bed immediately before our 3:45 a.m. alarm went off. But no! We stayed up until well past midnight talking.

Early morning flight

I slept perhaps three hours, and MAK not all when we had to get up and ready; the shuttle did work. We got to the American Airlines check-in. There are a lot of people there at 4:30.

My friend didn’t mention that we weren’t checking our bags. Our economy status was such that everything, including checked baggage, was charged extra. Fortunately, the total outside dimensions of the piece, length + width + height, were less than 62 in / 158 cm.

We go through TSA without a hitch. You can bring water BOTTLE through, just not water.

We went to Burger King partly because the Starbucks line was longer. A tip: ordering a Croissan’wich without the egg confuses the staff.

On our way to our gate. I saw Steve Hartman. He’s the guy on CBS News who does the On The Road segments started by the late Charles Kuralt. They tend to appear on the CBS Evening News on Friday nights and CBS Sunday Morning.

He’s also on the CBS Mornings on Mondays with his son and daughter on a segment called Kindness 101, which I don’t see often. I wait for him to finish talking to someone; I say to him, “I really like your work,” and then I move on because I don’t like bothering public figures too much, especially at 5:30 a.m. at an airport.

Because American Airlines offered to check a bag to our final destination – for free – I liberated myself from my larger bag. We were each in the middle seats on both legs of our flight, about a row apart. 

Seatmates (1)

I could see the woman on the aisle seat would be flying to XNA from her boarding pass. Where the heck is THAT? Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, serving Fayetteville/Springdale, Arkansas. She goes to Walmart to instruct them in baking their cakes. It was great initially, she indicated, but her workload continues to increase.

She was watching something on her phone: The Chosen, “the first-ever multi-season TV show about the life of Jesus.” I heard of it, and maybe I’d watch it someday, but not on a cellphone.

We only had 45 minutes from landing in CLT at a B gate to taking off from a C gate at least 10 minutes away, and that’s just to the beginning of the C area. As we’re walking, I see coming toward me my niece Rebecca. She had performed in Charlotte on Friday night, then in Montgomery, AL, on Saturday night. She was flying back to San Diego via CLT (east to go west), and she was running from The C gates to wherever her flight was. Seeing her just long enough to hug her was a bit of kismet.

Seatmates (2)

On our CLT to LAS flight were several – at least two dozen – Pittsburgh Steelers fans. We knew this because they wore black and gold paraphernalia, primarily uniform tops and some T-shirts. Most were attending the NFL nationally-televised game that afternoon between the Steelers and the Las Vegas Raiders. Another bit of destiny, being in the presence of a temporary hejira from Steel City to Sin City.

The guy in the window seat beside me slept most of the trip, wearing a hoodie, so I could barely see his face. About 20 minutes before landing, however, Pat woke up. He, too, was going to the game, having nosebleed seats at a severe premium.

We then talked intensely about his interests in football and other sports, COVID-19, his work as a freelance cameraman, and other things. He was delightful.

We all picked up our luggage at the farthest carousel from the gate we deplaned – one must take a light rail to get there.

MAK and I took a cab to our timeshare, passing by Allegiant Stadium. We waited for our room to be ready by watching pieces of football games (Miami 70-20 over Denver, Swifties learn who Travis Kelce is.)

Then we checked in, went out, and did a whole bunch of stuff – more info anon – and ended up at a bar/restaurant, eating and watching the end of the football game less than two miles away.

Why I hate flying

Massive confusion

I hate flying. It’s not the part up in the air that bothers me. In fact, that’s generally a pleasant experience.

Here’s the beginning of the trip to France. We get a ride from a friend of ours to the Albany-Rensselaer train station, arriving at 10:30 for an 11:10 train to New York’s Penn Station.

The train leaves on time. I helped a young woman put her – god, that was heavy! – luggage in the overhead area. We used the Wi-Fi to check our email, and I wrote a bit.

We take the Long Island Railroad train to Jamaica, Queens. My daughter and I became experts in traveling the LIRR during her college visits. Buying the ticket at a kiosk is easy.

We’re to take the AirTrain to Terminal 4 at JFK Airport. This is a new experience for me. The one time I flew from Kennedy was as a connection between Albany and Barbados, so I’ve never had to get to that airport by land. It was pretty straightforward.

Alpha, beta, gamma…

When we get to Delta, though, it all falls apart.  Where should we go? We asked five representatives and got as many contradictory answers.

We were in one massive line for a time. Then an airline representative directed some of us down escalator stairs and a five-minute walk to ANOTHER place we could check in.  Good thing we had four hours before our flight.

It turned out we had more time than that. Our flight was delayed, first for one hour, then two, because of a window not sealed properly. Initially, they were going to fix it and repressurize the aircraft. Ultimately, they had to get another plane from a hangar. This is not a complaint, though being told we needed to go to three different ages was exhausting.

Finally, at 9:30 pm Eastern Daylight Time, we took off in one of those widebody vehicles that seat two, then three, then two across. We were in row 47 with lots of folks behind us.

The flight attendants spoke English, French, or both. Delta is affiliated with Air France. I watched two movies and one TV episode and got decent food. Considering it was seven hours, it was all good, although I never went to sleep as my wife did, using a light-blocking mask.

Landing at Charles DeGaulle Airport in  Roissy-en-France was a massive confusion. The line I  thought was to retrieve my luggage was to get my passport stamped. Regardless, it was long and chaotic. Occasionally, some staffers would say that if you have an American or a Canadian passport, you could go to a different line, but this was inconsistent.

Finally, we were sent to a shorter but hardly short line. The electronic scanners were down, and they were checking passports by hand. I got my passport stamped – my first on this document, which I procured in March 2022 – and I retrieved my suitcase at least an hour after getting off the plane.

We took a local train to the Luxembourg station in the Latin Quarter, walked to our first hotel, and dropped off our stuff about 24 hours after we left our house.  FINALLY, the adventure could begin.

Mark Lane

Dick Gregory ran for President in 1968, with Mark Lane as his VP running mate.

GregoryLane I don’t know when it was, at all, though it was in the late 1970s or early 1980s. I was in an airport, probably on my way to Charlotte, NC, or San Diego, CA, but it was neither of those cities’ airports or in Albany.

I was reading the New York Times, maybe the Sunday paper. The cover story was about a guy named Mark Lane about to be indicted for something or other. Then who should I see but Mark Lane?

I knew who he was, mostly from his contrarian views on the John F. Kennedy assassination.mHe believed the CIA was involved in the murder, producing a thesis casting doubt on the lone-assassin theory – “and even whether Oswald had actually been involved in the crime.” When the Warren Report summaries came out in the local newspaper, I cut them out and pasted them in a three-ring binder – I may STILL Have this – so I was a JFK assassination junkie.

Mark Lane was also involved in civil rights activism. I recognized him right away, and I’m not sure I needed the picture in the paper. Somehow we got to talking.

One of the things we discussed was how I tried to talk to my parents, especially my father, NOT to vote for Dick Gregory for President, who had Lane as his VP running mate, in 1968. My father was keen on voting for a black man, the comedian-activist Gregory. I insisted that Richard Nixon, the Republican candidate, was too dangerous and that they should vote for Hubert Humphrey, the Democrat, instead of throwing away his vote. For sure, I STILL have the button pictured.

(How my folks actually voted, I’ll never know, of course. I’ve “thrown away” my vote once or twice subsequent to that year when I was not yet eligible to cast a ballot. That topic is extremely hot in 2016.)

Mark Lane was very generous in hearing about my politicking against him. I’m sure we at least mentioned JFK, but not his then-current legal troubles. Nor did we talk about his peripheral involvement in the Jonestown massacre, since I was unaware of it until much later.

Mark Lane died on May 11 at the age of 89. I was going to write about him, then it slipped my mind, but Shooting Parrots reminded me.

JFK.Mark Lane

Q is for queue

The difficulties at my polling place were replicated all over the city.

voters-brave-long-linesThe word queue has several meanings. The first I learned is “a braid of hair worn hanging down behind,” which I swear I learned in an episode of the TV western Bonanza, when someone cut off the queue of a Chinese man, bringing the victim dishonor. When I was growing up, my great aunt Deana and I used the word frequently when we played the board game SCRABBLE.

But the meaning I think of usually is “a file or line, especially of people waiting their turn.” Specifically, I think that line that feeds to several cashiers at the drug store, or clerks at the Department of Motor Vehicles, or tellers at a banker. Though it doesn’t seem to be in the definition, I’ve always distinguished it from “line”, such as what one finds at the grocery store, where I’m always in the longest one.

Generally, I prefer the queue to the line. But when the queue breaks down, I remember.

One time was in 1999 when my new bride and I were flying back from our honeymoon in Barbados (thanks, JEOPARDY!), we stopped at New York City’s JFK airport to go through customs. The queue somehow got turned into a figure eight, and we spent an inordinately long time stuck on the bottom part of the number, even as others passed us.

Another time was in 2011, at Niagara Falls when the elevators broke down while we were at the base of a boating area. Some staff tried to create a queue, but it failed miserably.

Since I’m kvetching, the worst voting line I ever experienced was on February 9 of this year. It was a revote of a proposition to renovate Albany High School, which was rejected by a few hundred votes in November. The $179.9 million request in February trimmed over $10 million from the original budget.

I got to the school, where there were three lines, one, I was told by someone in line, to check in, and two to get the ballots. This didn’t make any sense and was incorrect.

In fact, as one of the guys involved with the school district eventually explained, one line was A-G, another H-R, and a third, S-Z. Or something like that, since he said two different lines contained H. In any case, I was in the WRONG line, and had to switch to the end of another.

Halfway through this second line, they run out of ballots. So one of the workers, who worked in the school as a secretary in that school, made copies of a blank ballot. Unfortunately, the copied ballots wouldn’t run through the scanning machine, so the workers had to reconfigure the machine to take the paper ballots to be counted later.

As I was leaving, people became even testier in the queue. The guy who had made an announcement 20 minutes early got all indignant, yelling at the crowd, “I TOLD you what line to be in!” Except that about half of them would not have HEARD the announcement, since they arrived afterward. He managed to take a bad situation and make it worse.

I spent 40 minutes in the process, which should have taken less than a quarter of that. The problem of the lines would have been EASILY remedied if someone had made SIGNS indicating which queue to be in.

The difficulties at my polling place were replicated all over the city, leading to petitions to State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to throw out the results, when the referendum passed by 189 votes. However, she upheld the February vote to rebuild and renovate Albany High School, denying claims that the vote should be invalidated.

“I cannot conclude that petitioners have established that the fundamental fairness of the … bond vote was compromised and I find no basis upon which to overturn the results of the vote,” the commissioner wrote.

Now, this wasn’t nearly as bad as the fiasco that was the 2016 Arizona primary election, which involved people standing in line FIVE HOURS to exercise their franchise.

ABC Wednesday – Round 18

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