Do not honk your horn

Stretch, Tony, CV, and Trixie join a gaggle of friendly and gracious O.C. types (who claim not to watch The O.C.!) for a touristic night on the town, courtesy of The GTS Companies. First stop, Morton's: much meat is consumed. Next: a mercifully brief tour through Hugo's Frog Bar, whose charm escapes Trixie entirely. Exotic bottled water and a booth at the Signature Lounge (plus a wide-angle view of the glittering cityscape from the ladies washroom) make the chilly, rain-soaked stroll worthwhile (why must it always be raining?). Finally: Tavern on Rush at 11:30 on a Friday evening. One cannot even begin to imagine Trixie's pain, which is eclipsed only by Stretch's severe irritation at being elbowed, more than once, from her chosen perch by a portly fellow making time with a Paris Hilton lookalike at the bar.

The music teacher

Stepping back 16 years for an eclectic high school band concert featuring performances of (among others) a Wagner symphony, medleys from both Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lord of the Rings, an aural portrait depicting the Battle of Gettysburg, and a heartfelt "Auld Lang Syne.

And finding that herein lies the importance of music programs in education: everyone belongs. Everyone has a role to play, something of significance to contribute. There are no bench warmers or equipment carriers, there is no sitting on the sidelines watching the best players scramble up and down the field. The shy kids, the cool kids, the outsiders, the clowns -- for those brief moments that they are on stage, marching up and down the field or up and down the parade route, every one of them is as visible as the next. The light shines equally on all of them. Each has only one function -- the same function -- and that is to help lift the rest of the group up. Perhaps it does not take a great talent to clang the cymbals at the appropriate intervals, but it does take patience and practice and care. (And wouldn't life be dull without the cymbals!)

And if they are very lucky, they will be blessed with a positive force to guide the way, a teacher who is more than just teacher, who is something crossed between mentor and magician, who can show them how to be part of a group and how to love -- or at the very least to appreciate -- something larger than themselves: the music that they have helped to create. Something of value, something vital and lasting and true.

Crabathon at Max & Erma's (an original composition)

Ch. 20 ::

Ill-Tempered Lunchtime Operetta performed by Trixie, CV, and Stretch:

(overture) Crab crab crab goddamn rain (recitative) crab crab fried chicken crab crab crab more than three extra napkins please (intermezzo) crab crab Chestiny crab where's the food crab crab where's the waiter (embellishment) crab crab cough cough we could use a refill sir (crescendo) crab crab crab crab crab where's the check (finale) crab crab where's our change (finale ultimo) crab crab crab fucking rain (encore) crab crab crab (bow, standing ovation, exeunt, curtain).

Notes on Vegas

SUNDAY, MAY 2

Airport, 7:45 a.m. Trixie and CV start the day right with some greazy and whipped creamy breakfast fare from Potbelly, when who should come strolling along the broad avenues of Midway but Chips & Salsa. Hello, Chips & Salsa!

The Southwest Experience. Due to the slapdash "seat yourself" policy enforced by this particular carrier, the fearsome foursome must separate for the duration of the flight. Chips, seated next to CV, graciously offers to calm CV's aviation apprehension by plying her with an anti-anxiety remedy from her copious pharmacopoeia. Alas, CV prefers to face her phobias unaided and rejects the proferred narcotic outright. She's one tough cookie, our CV.

Upon Arrival in Las Vegas. Greeted by a hullabaloo of slot machines, cigarette smoke, pre-cancerous suntans, and preternaturally overlarge bosoms unleashed, our heroes stagger into a 97 degree oven, otherwise known as the Nevada desert in springtime. Whereupon, electing to forego the raucous cavalcade of the taxicab queue, they fork over approximately $52 to secure a quiet limousine ride to their final destination. Along the way, CV flexes her enormous sheaf of one dollar bills for a Pimp Daddy Photo Op with Salsa. Trixie and Chips are somewhat deflated by their first back-alley glimpse of the Strip in broad daylight. (Some things are best hidden from eager-to-be-fooled tourists.)

Feeding Time at The Cheesecake Factory. In their desperate hunt for a suitable lunch venue (AKA, any lunch venue), the weary travelers stumble upon the gold at the end of the rainbow: guaranteed gargantuan desserts. Curiously enough, no cheesecake is consumed.

The Story of O. To Trixie's surprise, the "O" show at Bellagio is in no way connected to either A) the omnipresent Ms. Winfrey, or B) pornography. Instead, it is a show about water. Imagine her dismay when she realizes, forty-five minutes into a two-hour show ABOUT WATER, that there is no feasible means of exit by which to escape to the nearby restroom. She bides her time by crossing and recrossing her legs and manages to convince her bladder that matters are not, in fact, as urgent as they might appear. Meanwhile, Chips’ palms sweat at the aerial acrobatics attempted by the Cirque du Soleil troupe (male or female? naked or not? it’s a mystery) and CV fends off the encroaching slouching of a neighboring narcoleptic by clapping at full volume every chance she gets.

Dinner & Drinks. At a $20 prime rib dinner served in the deserted (literally) Excalibur dining room, the ladies commence on a wild drunken spree. Afterwards, Salsa quietly surrenders himself to squiring the boozehounds through the streets of New York, New York, where they wobble (literally) into an Irish pub for yet another round of the good stuff.

Crème Brulee & French Fries. Back at the Mirage, Salsa is grateful when the girls choose dessert over gambling and deposit him alone at the craps tables. Trixie remembers nothing of the dining experience that follows, save the image of CV’s crestfallen expression when she is informed by the waitress that cheese sticks are not on the menu at the Caribe Café. A plate of delicious golden fries must suffice.

MONDAY, MAY 3

Poolside. The sun-sensitive quartet spends the better part of the morning and afternoon reclining in a palm-tree-shaded nook tucked between the main pool and the hidden hot tub. Notable events include Chips’ surprise landing as she is launched from the waterslide, CV taking a swim with her one dollar bills tucked in the pockets of her board shorts, and the seemingly endless procession of well-endowed bikini-clad females marching to and fro.

Very Hot Chinese Cuisine. Dinner at a deserted (literally) Chinese restaurant follows a taxicab tour of the wrong end of the Strip with a cackling madman behind the wheel. Salsa’s BBQ duck: gone in under seven minutes; Trixie’s crispy duck with black mushrooms: abandoned quarter of the way through; CV’s ginger beef: sampled & enjoyed by the entire table. And what of Chips’ steamed chicken platter?  Let’s just say Chips is relieved to depart with her fingertips.

Cruising. Wandering up and down the city streets as dusk becomes twilight and then darkness, the goal of the evening is How to Avoid Naked Women. Plagued by street vendors plying passersby with stripper cards and billboards advertising airbrushed backsides wrapped around diamond-studded thongs, no one wins this game. Bring those kiddies to Vegas, folks.

TUESDAY, MAY 4

Poolside. Early morning at the Pool for Families and Older People. A fine place to be. Under the pretext of research for his soon-to-be-published how-to guide, Salsa perfects the cannonball approach to watersliding and comes away with only minor spinal contusions.

Mexico in Venice. Can one survive a Tuesday without steak tacos? Trixie proves it's possible by ordering the steak torta instead (mmmm…). The group spends a pleasant hour beside a Venetian canal, interrupted only by the yodeling of countless gondoliers, while CV and Chips search their cranial banks for the official non-parental lyrics to “O Sole Mio” (listed for their benefit here).

Parting. With hugs and a tearful goodbye, Chips and Salsa leave Trixie and CV on their own for the remainder of their travels. Sigh. Trixie hates farewells.

The Secret Garden. Once again, Trixie is surprised to find that this particular tourist trap is in no way connected to either A) the popular Frances Hodgson Burnett children’s book, or B) pornography. Instead, it is a zoo. A $12-per-adult very small zoo. Ah! Paree. After Trixie frightens away the original garçon by uttering the dreaded words “mineral water,” she and CV dine care-freely on the patio of a Parisian bistro (encircled by the not-at-all Parisian ring-a-ding-ding of reveling gamblers). A postprandial tour of the Official Elton John and Celine Dion Crap Shops convince them that it is, indeed, time to return home.

Goodbye Mirage and Your Courteous, Efficient Staff of Thousands. Goodbye Siegfried. Goodbye Roy. Goodbye Extravagantly Overpriced Bottled Water. Goodbye Palm Trees. Goodbye Guilt-Free Mealtimes.  Goodbye Stale Recycled Air and Alarm-Triggered Windows. Goodbye Caesar and Your Palace. Goodbye Bellagio and Your Magical Fountain. Goodbye Very Long Lines that End Up Going Nowhere. Goodbye Not-Humid-but-Still-Hot Heat. Goodbye Pool that Offers Cool Water and Comfortable Shade (we loved you best of all).