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Vega$, Baby!

Las Vegas is not my kind of town. I’ve been there at least once a year for business since 2001, and while I’ve more or less made my peace with it, I’m always relieved to get back home. The smoke, noise, and crowds on the strip and in the casinos take a physical toll on me, and philosophically, too, the place wears me down; I’ve always thought Vegas to be the ugly manifestation of American-style unchecked capitalism taken to its logical extreme.

Matt likes it even less than I do. I’ve learned to make the most of my time in Vegas by enjoying the great food, people watching, and shopping on offer when I’m not in business meetings. Once or twice I caught a show, too. There’s enough there for me to have a good time for a day or so until the aforementioned smoke, crowds, and noise make me long for home. Not so Matt. His Vegas strategy is to hole up in the nicest room his company will pay for, avail himself to television and room service, and never budge if at all possible. So far as I can tell, Matt’s best trip to Vegas was the time he stayed in the Venetian, whose elegant rooms afforded him a particularly luxurious and cocoon-like bunker.

It would seem that Simon takes after his old man where Vegas is concerned. He went with me to Black Hat this year, and it was a rough trip for him in many ways. He didn’t fly as well as he did on our last trip, he wasn’t as social as he was in San Francisco, and the general commotion of the place really upset him. Every time he went through a casino–which was every time he left the room to go somewhere else–he got fussy. Simon enjoyed the king size bed in our Caesar’s Palace room, several genuinely lovely and friendly members of the Caesar’s staff, the view from our room out the floor-to-ceiling windows, the giant bath tub, the fish tank in the Forum Shops, and not much else.

He was so-so at one dinner and downright miserable at another. He didn’t much enjoy being walked outside or inside the casino. He wasn’t nearly as social as he often is. And I truly think his several monster naps were, as with a depressed adult, an attempt to escape.

And speaking of escape, our options for getting away from it all were cut short right away. We rented a car on this trip so we could grocery shop upon arriving in Las Vegas and so that Matt could get around with Simon while I worked. I envisioned Matt using the car later to take Simon to one of the hotels with a baby pool and maybe to see some other kid friendly attractions, like the tigers at the Mirage or the gondolas in the Venetian.

Well, we were about halfway to the grocery–our first trip in the car–when Simon began to cry. As we continued on our way, the crying escalated into a terrible and uncharacteristic shriek. It turns out that the car seat we rented from Hertz was damaged. The shoulder harness portion was already suspiciously flimsy. We knew that. What we didn’t know was that the part that buckles him into the seat was completely broken. Our poor baby was left with his back and head pinned to the seat while his tush and legs remained unanchored and flailed out of it. By the time we reached Whole Foods, Simon’s entire torso was twisted and slumped. I literally held him in place on the trip to the hotel, and we didn’t use the car again until we left for the airport.

So much for having options. On the other hand, yesterday I’d swear Simon knew he was going home. He did better on his brief stroll in the Forum shops. He was great on the plane. He made many new friends and was his usual flirtatious self all along the way. He fussed much less than normal when we put him in his car seat. And, bless his little heart, when we reached the house at nearly midnight local time, he clapped. He was tired, somewhat underfed, and totally off his schedule, but the minute the car stopped at our back door, Simon woke up enough to clap. Coincidence? I think not.

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