Sunday Stealing: traveled

travel advisories

This week’s Sunday is all about where I’ve traveled, or want to.

1. Have you traveled abroad? Where have you been? If you haven’t been overseas, which country would you most like to visit?

Barbados, 1999; France, 2023; Mexico, at least twice in the 1980 and/or 1990s; Canada, several times, most recently in Ontario in 2011

2. Where did you go on your last trip? Talk about where you went and what you did.

The last trip abroad? I wrote a LOT about France in 2023. One of the most recent posts was this. The last trip out of state was in Las Vegas, NV, also in 2023; one of those posts is here.

3. What is the best place for a vacation in your country? Why is it good?

I have no idea. It tends to be a personal thing. I’m not one to hang out on the beach. Since my 1994 knee injury, I haven’t gone climbing. Generally speaking, I like places that are walkable (Savannah, GA; Newport, RI) or have decent mass transit (many, but not all,  major cities). 

4. What is the longest time you have been away from home? Did you feel homesick?

We’re not counting college or the like, I suspect. Maybe two weeks. I wouldn’t call it homesick as much as tired of living from a suitcase, since none of those trips were going to one place and staying there.

How long is too long?

5. How long should a vacation be? How long does it take you to really relax?

I may be constitutionally incapable of relaxing on vacation. In the ’80s, when I worked at FantaCo, the owner FORCED me to take some time. So I took eight successive Wednesdays off. I could pay bills, do chores, and see a matinee. 

6. What forms of transportation do you prefer to use when you travel?

All things being equal, I always prefer the train, the only civilized form of transportation. It’s a pain in the US because freight trains take precedence over passenger trains for access to the tracks.

7. How do you choose where to go? Are you inspired by other people’s travel stories? Or photos? Or advertising?

I went to Las Vegas because I had never been to Las Vegas. There were family reunions in Peterborough, ON, Canada in 2011 and Ashtabula, OH in 2016, and we found things to do en route. If I were going to a US city, I would check out the CityPASS program. It was great when my family went to Toronto, ON, Canada in 2011. 

8. What’s more important to you when you travel – comfort and relaxation, or stimulating new experiences?

New experiences, obviously, since relaxation is not my strength.

9. Do you like to try local foods when you go somewhere? Have you ever had something really delicious?

I had some food in old Montreal in 1991 or 1992. I don’t remember what it was, but it was very good. The food in France was generally great.


10. Things can go wrong when you travel. Have you had any bad travel experiences?

By far, the worst travel experience was flying into JFK from Barbados in May 1999. The Customs line was terrible. Actually, entering France at DeGaulle in 2023 was pretty chaotic too.

11. Do you take a lot with you when you travel? Or do you try to pack light?

As little as possible.

12. Which places in the world do you think are too dangerous to visit? Why are they dangerous?

I’d use the US State Department travel advisory list. As of today, Burma (Myanmar), Belarus, South Sudan, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), Libya, Mali, Russia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, Yemen, Burkina Faso, and Central African Republic are all listed as Level 4: Do Not Travel.  Israel/the West Bank/Gaza and Mexico are mixed bags. Dave Koz was going to have a music cruise featuring Rebecca Jade that would have included Israel, but after October 7, 2023, the itinerary was changed. 

13. What is the best age to travel? Can children appreciate the experience?

The younger your joints, the better. Of course, children can appreciate the experience. My daughter went on those reunion circuits.  

Going it alone

14. What are the advantages and disadvantages of traveling alone?

My 1998 trip to Detroit, Cleveland, and Washington, DC was by myself. It was great. But going to France or Las Vegas would have likely been boring and logistically challenging going by myself.

15. What kind of accommodation do you like to stay in when you travel?

In France, we were at four very different venues, from a lovely modern hotel to an equivalent of a B&B. It was all good.  

16. Do you like to talk to the local people when you travel? Why or why not?

Always. Even in France, it was great, and my French was tres mal. Also, talking to people on the train has historically been fruitful.  

17. Would you like to go to a big international event, such as the Olympics or an international film festival? What would be good or bad about attending such an event?

I’ve been to two cities the year before the Olympics: Atlanta in 1995, and Paris in 2023. I’m pretty sure I would have hated being there the following years because of the touristy crowds. But I could imagine going to the Toronto Film Festival because people are there to see the movies. 

Rooting interest for Super Bowl LVIII

At Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas

I’m gauging my rooting interest for Super Bowl LVIII. Now that the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions are not in contention, I have to recalibrate.


For the NFC, there’s the San Francisco 49ers. The team has won five Super Bowls. But they’ve won none since the end of the 1994 season, losing after 2012 and 2019, the latter to the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-20. If the 49ers win, they’ll tie the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots with six.  I liked the team in the Joe Montana and Steve Young years.


My parents visited San Francisco in the late 1960s for my father’s business trip, which they enjoyed, in no small part because of this incident.   My sister Leslie and I went there in the late 1980s and enjoyed the place. And my favorite baseball player was stationed in centerfield there for several years.


For the AFC, the Kansas City Chiefs have been in the Super Bowl for four of the last five years, winning two after 2019 and 2022,  so they are the reigning champions after beating the Philadelphia Eagles, 38-35.

My singular pull toward the Chiefs involves the guano-crazy theories about a billionaire singer dating a Chiefs player.


“Theories about Ms. Swift are prevalent online, but suggestions about what her political motivations are, in terms of her relationship with the N.F.L., were promoted last month by the Fox News political commentator Jesse Watters.


“‘Have you ever wondered why or how she blew up like this?’ Mr. Watters said during a broadcast. ‘Well, around four years ago, the Pentagon psychological operations unit floated turning Taylor Swift into an asset during a NATO meeting.'”


From Newsnation: “On Newsmax, a conservative news network, one host took the Taylor Swift chatter to the level of obsession, decrying what he termed the ‘idolatry’ surrounding her and claiming it is sinful. Meanwhile, on One America News Network, host Alison Steinberg labeled Swift’s relationship with [Travis] Kelce a psychological operation (psyop), characterizing the entire spectacle as ‘bread and circuses on steroids.'”


The Hill notes: “Vivek Ramaswamy, a former presidential candidate who has thrown his support behind Trump, is perhaps the most high-profile Republican to go after the singer so far, stoking theories that the NFL is rigging football games for Swift’s Kansas City beau as Democrats look for her endorsement.” Former Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus called such talk “a powder keg of stupidity.”
Yes, there are TS experts.

On Politico, Swift expert Brian Donovan explains in detail why the political right is targeting a rich, heteronormative pop star. “I think there is a cyclical reaction happening where we saw with the Barbie movie and with the Eras Tour, a kind of woman-centered cultural aesthetic take hold of the American imagination. And I think there’s a ton of backlash to that driven by real basic sexism and misogyny…


“I think what irritates conservatives the most is that this attractive, talented, wholesome, white, successful, Christian, self-made billionaire woman is somehow not on their side. I guess that’s because she is also intelligent.”


Oh, and she just made Grammy history with her fourth Album of the Year win. Maybe George Soros arranged that.


So my loyalties are split. Root for the team that hasn’t won the Super Bowl in three decades, or hope the other team wins and watch a certain segment of the population go insane.

The Las Vegas strip and Fremont East

Meow Wolf

Sun, Sept 24: You’d think two old guys flying three time zones might at least nap before going out. You’d be wrong. We needed to check out the Las Vegas strip.

After checking into our quite lovely Club Wyndham Desert Blue room- thanks to my mother-in-law, who had points that needed to be used up before the end of September – we took the hotel shuttle to the Paradise Hotel. It ran nearly every hour. M-Th until 9 pm going out and 9:30 coming back, but until 1/1:30 on Friday through Sunday.

We just walked a lot, stopping for a slice of pizza.

We spent a good deal of time in the Bellagio. It had all sorts of interesting and unusual features, such as this ceiling.

This room is fantastical.

This view of the Eiffel Tower, which included a water show in the front of the Bellagio, is wonderful  Also, the place was so damn big, and it was difficult to leave without doubling back.

Working for a living

A lot of people were out there trying to make a buck, including so many buskers, their sounds blurred into each other. Instead of the costumed Muppets and Spider-Man at New York City’s Times Square, we see several young women wearing enough clothing not to be arrested, who asked us several times over the first two days if we wanted our pictures taken with them. I was in the “thanks but no thanks” school. MAK was more conversational with them but ultimately answered in the negative as well.

The Las Vegas Sphere opened the day after we left town. This picture does not do it justice, but I was too tired to walk closer that night. Yes, it’s an abomination of wretched excess, it looks really cool, and apparently, the sound system inside is incredible. ( You could read how Darren Aronofsky Describes His Journey to Creating the First Movie for it.)

M, Sept 25: The resort offered a ride to a local grocery store affiliated with Kroegers every Monday. It left at 10 a.m., took ten minutes to get there, and then returned to the hotel at 10:40. We had a half hour to get our food—milk, raisin bran, sandwich fixing, orange juice, etc.

There was a guy on the bus who, especially in profile, looked astonishingly like Barack Obama. With his soft Texas cadence, he even sounded a bit like 44. MAK asked him if he ever… Faux BHO cut him off: “All of the time.”

Old LV

After lunch, we took a cab to East Fremont. It’s an older part of the city, a bit grittier. But a few blocks are covered by a dome that changed color. Below the roof were ziplines that people rode periodically.

The most fascinating place had to be Circa, an adults-only hotel and casino. It had a bank of four dozen monitors and provided the ability to get information to bet on almost everything. We did not gamble at all, and I’m disinclined to.  But it was an interesting anthropological observation. (Read more about the Circa and its Stadium Swim here.)

Omega Mart

Tu, Sept 26: We went to something Meow Wolf. What is it? I don’t know, and I was there. “Meow Wolf opens portals of possibility. We redefine the paradigm of art and storytelling to make a positive difference in the world.

Yeah, that. “We have numerous full-time artists on staff, working in a huge range of media, including sculpture, painting, fabrication, digital art, writing, film, and many more. Additionally, we prioritize collaboration with many local artists in each exhibition location.”

There are exhibits in Denver, CO;  Grapevine, TX; and the original site in Sante Fe, NM, as well as Las Vegas, which has the Omega Mart, “America’s Most Exceptional Grocery Store.” Let’s see: “Every door or box of cereal at Omega Mart is a potential entryway into new worlds and artful revelations.”

You have to go with it. It is part weird, part scavenger hunt, and part meditative space.

Afterward, we ate at an excellent Vietnamese restaurant with a savvy server who said, “You don’t want” the item I was about to order. She told MAK what flavorings to add to his soup. This is someone who cared about her work.

(Note: the cereal box pic is from MAK took the first three and the last two photos. The rest are mine; having seen the REAL Eiffel Tower fairly recently, I was obsessed with getting a good picture of the LV one; the sixth time was the charm.)

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.

Viva Las Vegas

Mark Evanier

Viva Las Vegas? Why did my oldest college friend and I go to Las Vegas? Because he didn’t go to Iceland! Makes sense, right?

MAK and I were hanging out at a bar/restaurant in Albany. He told me he and a friend would fly out of Stewart Airport in Newburgh. It’s pretty reasonably priced. So MAK was excited for about 48 hours until his friend got injured moving furniture; he was bummed.

This led to a conversation about travel more broadly. I said, “You know, somewhere I really don’t ‘get’? Las Vegas!” MAK said he’d been there several times. Did I want to go there with him? Hmm. (Actually, I misunderstood him. He had been there but one time but for over a week.)

On the one hand, gambling doesn’t interest me. The few times I’ve been stuck at a casino, always with other people, I was bored silly. On the other hand, there are still 20 states I’ve never been to, and Nevada was one of them. I was up for an adventure.

The window had to be between September 13 and 28. It was after my Anthropocene Reviewed review at the APL and before my annual physical. Moreover, my wife has a timeshare she took over from her parents, and there were points to be used or lost by the end of September. Also, while my wife’s job is busy in September, it’s busier in October, so she could feed the cats.

Ask ME

I asked Mark Evanier, a comic book and TV cartoon writer, among many other things. “As someone who has been [to Las Vegas] a lot, what would you consider are the must-sees (if any) and avoid that like the plagues in 2023? He replied: “Well, I haven’t been there for several years and have very little interest in returning to a city that for many years was like a second home to me.”

Still, he answered at length.
“Perhaps take in a show. They’ve gotten way outta hand price-wise, but in many of those hotel clusters, you’ll find booths with names like Tix 4 Tonight that sell same-day tickets for reduced prices. You can also sometimes find deals through Groupon. Unfortunately, the real superstars who play the city usually only play on the weekend…when I told you not to go…

“But not everything costs money. Walking around and sightseeing doesn’t…yet. So you can have a good time…and one final tip: Avoid (1) street performers who want you to pay them to pose for a photo, (2) prostitutes and (3) the folks who are trying to sell you time-share deal. Actually, (2) and (3) aren’t are all that different except that with (3), the screwing is way more expensive and goes on forever.”

I kept that in mind.

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