Posts Tagged ‘Las Vegas


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 268: Vampires and Warrior Princesses

Blake and Erin chat movies this week, giving their thoughts on Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter and Brave, plus chat about a few comic shops among the scorching sands of Las Vegas. In the picks, Erin is catching up with Gotham City Sirens: Strange Fruit and Ray Garton‘s Ravenous, while Blake gives props to Greg Pak‘s Vision Machine and X-Men: Legacy #269. Don’t forget, we’re still taking votes for our upcoming top ten episodes featuring the greatest Avengers and Justice Leaguers of all time! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 268: Vampires and Warrior Princesses


Erin, Vegas, Love

Every time Erin and I have a trip together, be it in Louisiana, Pittsburgh, or someone else entirely, I’ve taken the time to write a detailed yarn about it afterwards. That’s gotten a bit harder to do as time goes by, not because my love for Erin has abated in the slightest (quite the opposite), but because it’s getting harder to think of new things to say. Also, thanks to Twitter and Facebook, I often feel like I’ve already covered everything that happened, such as on our trip to Las Vegas last week:

  • Sunday: Erin’s flight is delayed. As this happens on roughly 80 percent of the trips in which she flies, neither of us are surprised. It is a bit inconvenient, however, as we are supposed to be checked in to our hotel — the Stratosphere — by 11 p.m. and now we don’t have a chance to get there until 2 a.m.
  • Monday: We’re supposed to borrow a car from Erin’s dad for the trip, but he’s not feeling well and is unable to meet up with us. Instead, we take the ride to the top of the Stratosphere and take in the best view of Vegas, provided you aren’t afraid of heights, which I am. (I was actually okay up there for the most part, because it was enclosed. But I wasn’t getting too close to the glass…) Erin also succeeded here in getting shirts for both of her nieces, one of whom had put in an order for a purple shirt, the other for pink. That night, we caught a cab to the Strip where we met up with my friends Jason and Andrea, who also happened to be in Vegas that week. We walked the strip for a while, topping things off with a wonderful dinner in an Italian place in the Miracle Mile. It’s the only place in Vegas where you can have a classy Italian feast sitting “outside” of the restaurant, and look across the plaza to see a 20-foot fiberglass stripper.
  • Tuesday: Again, Erin’s dad was unavailable. We decided to rent a car, picked up Jason and Andrea, and went down to Fremont Street. This is “old” Vegas, with some of the classic casinos and joints, live musicians and street performers, and the world’s largest LCD screen overhead, flashing a musical show every hour on the hour. We went there last year and did it again this time, stopping in for a prime rib dinner at a place Jason found, and Erin found a stuffed puppy dog that we decided would be a perfect present for my niece, Maggie.
  • Wednesday: I’m a geek, which means that on Wednesdays I need to go to a comic shop, even in Las Vegas. After finally meeting up with her dad at the Stratosphere brunch buffet, Erin and I sought out a place we’d been to before called Maximum Comics, a very nice (and female-friendly) shop that’s a lot of fun to visit. It also helps that it’s only a couple of stores down from a place called Rocket Fizz, which is full of sodas and candies from all over the country, many I’d never heard of before and others I didn’t think were still in production. We also walked the Strip a bit more, with visits to two of my favorite shops, the Coca-Cola store and M&M’s World, where I picked up another Maggie present.
  • Thursday: We indulged Erin’s love of nature (which, I confess, is greater than mine) with a drive up to Red Rock Canyon. While I’ll never be a nature boy, this is a really lovely national park, with a fantastic visitor’s center well worth the trip before you begin the 13-mile drive through some of the most gorgeous mountains in the world. I’m led to believe that these mountains are also the 5th most popular destination for serious rock climbers. I’ll take their word for that. We made it back to the city in time for dinner with Erin’s dad, his wife, and Erin’s aunt and uncle. We capped off the night with a visit to the Rio hotel and casino, where we saw their “show in the sky” — a Mardi Gras-style parade with floats running along a track in the ceiling. As a New Orleans native, I was very impressed with the look of the floats, less impressed with the bead-throwing prowess of the performers.
  • Friday: Jason and Andrea were flying out Friday afternoon, so we met up that morning to catch a movie (Battle: Los Angeles, which actually wasn’t that bad) and have lunch at the Orleans casino. We then bid them farewell and went on for our longest day on the strip — and also our most profitable. We won small amounts of money at the Imperial Palace and Paris Casinos, the latter of which included me showing Erin how to play roulette. We only won $10 at the roulette table, but it was a lot of fun regardless. We began a system of playing the same $20, cashing out any time we went over $30, pocketing the difference and continuing on with just the original $20. By the end of the night, we were up about $70, which we decided to put towards dinner at the strip’s newest restaurant, the Sugar Factory. After putting in our orders, we were told that there was a “wrinkle” in the kitchen and the restaurant couldn’t serve any hot food. It’s a good thing this place also has a candy store, because a restaurant that can’t cook won’t last long. Erin, whose heart had been set on the chocolate fondue dessert, was understandably disappointed, but cheered up when we got to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, which featured great food, strong drinks, the best waiter we’d had on our whole trip, and a great live band performing.
  • Saturday: On our last day in Vegas, we checked out of the Stratosphere and then took our our still-viable $20 from the night before, playing a bit more. Erin wound up closing the trip winning $42 on a “Deal or No Deal” machine and we decided to quit while we were ahead. Our flights weren’t until that evening, so we had time to do a lot of things we still wanted — lunch at The Egg and I (our favorite breakfast/brunch place in Vegas), a search for a second comic shop (which was a little disappointing), one last trip to the Coke Store and M&M’s World (where I finally got to see the free 3-D movie, something that had evaded me in the last three visits), and a bit of cruising which brought us to a Disney Character Store, where remainders from Disneyland were sent and sold at a discount. We’re going to have to go there again. Finally, we made it to the airport where — fortunately — we were both flying out of the same concourse. For the first time, we got to go to the gate together and I kissed her goodbye before going back my own flight, a red eye about two hours later.

This is the short version of the story, of course. It was a wonderful trip, and I’ve got a ton of pictures to share. I’ll include a slideshow here and send you on to my Flickr album as well. But I’m not quite done yet. Erin and I have one more tradition that we’ve done on every visit we’ve ever had: we write each other notes. It started on our first trip, where I wrote her a little letter and left it for her to read, and she did the same for me. Since then it’s become a tradition. The problem with having all day together on the last day of the trip is that neither of us remembered to do it in secret until we realized we’d have no other time to do anything in secret. So I promised her I’d send her one later.

I started to write it here, to let the world to see, because I thought that would be a romantic gesture. Halfway through it, I stopped because I realized it’s too personal. It’s just for us. But here’s the gist of it:

I love Erin more than anything or anyone I’ve ever known, I’m thankful every day that she’s a part of my life, and everything in my world is better because she’s in it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Even more pictures available in my Flickr album.


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 213: Vegas Again!

Blake and Erin return to Las Vegas this week, and take a little time away to chat about all the geektastic stuff that’s happened on their trip, including a review of the film Battle: Los Angeles, Erin’s feelings on Morning Glories, thoughts on airplane reads, including the hefty Superman: Our Worlds at War collected edition, and adventures across the real Sin City! Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 213: Vegas Again


Conversation: On the Vegas Strip

For those of you who have never been to Las Vegas, you may still remember a few years ago when the city tried to clean up its image and become a family destination. Walking down the Vegas strip, at least one reason this initiative failed is obvious: six year olds don’t shop at Coach. Also, the large number of dedicated employees who do not allow their inability to speak English to stop them from from handing out cards with pictures of naked women on them to random people on the street.

As I walked down the strip with my friends this week, we found ourselves pounded by winds that would feel at home right there in New Orleans.

ME: I would love to see one of these guys trip and drop their cards. Just imagine a storm of porn whipping down the street at sixty miles an hour.

JASON: It would be like a… Pornicane!

ERIN: No! A pornado!

We laughed at our collective wit until the wind blasted sand into our mouths, necessitating that we step into the nearest place for a drink.


Heading out…

Tomorrow, friends, I leave for a week in Las Vegas. I’ll have Erin, we’re gonna meet up with our friends Jason and Andrea a couple of times, and a good time shall be had by all.

This does, however, mean a sparse week of posting. I’m taking a week off from Tales of the Curtain (which means this is the perfect time for you to catch up and read the story so far) and there’ll probably be no Everything But Imaginary this week. I’m still not even sure I’ll be able to put together a quickie podcast for tomorrow. However, you can count on regular updates too The Back Issue Bin, because I’m uploading all of those ahead of time and setting them to post three times a day, as usual.

Have a good week!


Everything But Imaginary #341: A Country of Comics-Las Vegas

As promised a few days ago, in this week’s Everything But Imaginary, I take the time to discuss the three comic shops I visited while out in Las Vegas. Popping in on shops across this great land is a real thrill, and I love the rare chance I have to do it.

Everything But Imaginary #341: A Country of Comics-Las Vegas


Surviving in Las Vegas

Once again, Erin and I have finished one of our too-infrequent visits. This time, though, it wasn’t a case of me going to her or her coming to me. This time, we both dashed off to…

The great city of Las Vegas!

As you may already know, Erin’s father and much of his family live out in Las Vegas, so this was the second time she and I have gone out there to pay them a visit, as well as just plain spend a little time together. This is the thing about being a teacher — yes, you do get more time off than in most jobs, but there’s absolutely no flexibility. You can’t take a vacation whenever you want, you stick with the school schedules, meaning Christmas, Thanksgiving, summer and spring break. Fortunately, I live in Louisiana, which means you can add Mardi Gras to those periods of all-too brief freedom.

Erin and I both flew in on Sunday, Feb. 14, meaning we’d get to spend Valentine’s Day together. We tried to get flights that would arrive relatively close to one another, but neither of us had any idea how close it would be. As I got off the plane at McCarren International Airport, I got a text message from Erin saying she’d just landed as well. I told her I was at gate D53, and she started laughing… because her plane was taxiing in to gate D54.

Seriously, we couldn’t have planned it better.

The hotel our friend A.J. managed to get us a room at (he works for the chain) was just minutes from the Vegas strip, and more importantly, it had an airport shuttle so we could get there without paying for a taxi. Once we were settled in and rested for a while, we took that shuttle out to the strip and walked for a while. The first night was kind of low-key, and that was all to the good.

The next day, we met up with her father and his wife for lunch. As last time, they were good enough to lend us one of their cars for the trip, saving us the trouble and cost of a rental car. If you’re not noticing a theme here, we’re not above letting friends and family help us out on these little get-togethers. Thanks, guys!

We also caught The Wolfman with her dad — he and Erin are both horror movie fans — and had a good time. After we bid him farewell, we took the car down to Fremont Street.

I loved Fremont Street, friends. This is Old Vegas, places like the Plaza and the Golden Nugget, where Vegas began before the strip took over. A few years ago, they placed an enormous LCD screen ceiling over the entire street, where every hour on the hour, they have a different free show full of lights, video, and music.

We caught two of the shows while we where there — Don McClean’s “American Pie,” and a musical tribute to Queen, which Erin took a video of. (You can watch said video, by the way, right here at my Flickr album.) It was really amazing — when the show begins, all the lights on the casinos and shops lining the street shut off and the LCD screen illuminates the whole area. Everybody stops where they are and look up, but just for a second, because once the music kicks off both the children and the drunks alike (and there were many of both) started dancing in time.

I’ve got to tell you, in two trips to Vegas, Fremont Street has become one of my favorite places. Sure, there are a lot of great things on the strip, a lot of cool things to do, but there’s an almost mystical, old-school feel to Fremont Street that you just can’t get anywhere else. This was the place with everything from fake Mardi Gras to the classic Vegas smoking Cowboy to a place where you can get your picture taken with a million dollars.

They do not allow free samples, sadly.

Erin, when we do Vegas again, I definitely want to pay another visit to Fremont Street.

This was also the night we decided to make a pilgrimage out to the legendary “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, which is the first picture at the top of this blog. If you go to Vegas, it may be the kitschy tourist-y thing to do, but you really need to stop and take your picture there. They actually put a small parking lot in the median expressly for that purpose. What kind of human being would you be if you didn’t take advantage of it?

Tuesday was Mardi Gras back home in New Orleans, but we took advantage of that day to escape the madness, taking a drive up to nearby Mt. Charleston. Erin took me from the relative nearly 70-degree warmth of Vegas to…

…the remnants of the Snowpocalypse! At the top of the mountain, there were areas (like this one) relatively clear of snow. Although if we’d turned the camera about 45 degrees to the left, you’d have seen a man with a shovel digging out three feet of snow on an observation deck. Then we went to trails like this one…

Or this one…

…where the sheer volume of fallen snow was far more obvious. It was beautiful up there, and we got a ton of great pictures on the way up, at the top, and on the way down. Speaking of on the way down, we stopped at the west coast mecca of fast food, In-N-Out Burger, for a late lunch. I was stunned, though, to find this next door…

In VEGAS, baby!

If you’ve never been to Raising Cane’s, it’s a Louisiana-based restaurant chain that sells chicken fingers. And only chicken fingers. Okay, you can get ’em on a bun if you must. But it’s just chicken fingers and the sauce of the gods as the main courses here. And the chain is booming. Still, I was stunned to find one in Vegas. Later in the trip, I was stunned to find two more.

We went back to the strip that night, parking at the MGM Grand and walking a ways down to catch a second movie, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Then, it was time for a walk down the strip. We started at a couple of my favorite places…

M&M’s World is exactly what you think: a four-story store devoted entirely to M&M’s candy, toys, clothing, and other merchandise. It’s a fun place, with lots of cool things to see. But they’re pretty devious — they actually pump the smell of chocolate into the store to further entice you to buy some. Erin found proof:

That’s the vent on top of the Vitamin Water cooler.

Our next stop was next door at the similarly-themed Coca-Cola store. We wandered around looking at souvenirs, clothes, and knick-knacks, eventually making our way to the second-floor snack bar, where an intriguing offer caught our eye.

“TASTES OF THE WORLD!” the sign read. “16 International Flavors! Only $7!”

Seven dollars to taste 16 different flavors of Coke products from around the world? Sure, I’m down for that.

As we sipped, we jotted down our thoughts on each of the 16 flavors. They are as follows…

1. Inca Cola from Peru: I thought this one tasted kind of like a pina colada. Erin’s take: a pineapple popsicle. I could see that.

2. Sunfill Mint from India. I think this mint-flavored ginger ale was one of Erin’s favorites. I liked it, but it was too strong for me to drink a whole glass. As something to cleanse the palette between flavors, though, it works well — something that came in handy later…

3. Nestea Peach from France. This one was a bit of a disappointment. It tasted fine, but… well… it’s no different than the peach flavored Nestea you can get here in the states. Or, as Erin so daintily put it, “France my ass.”

4. Sunfill Blackcurrent from Mauritius. This one one of my favorites. Erin thought it smelled like Dr. Pepper, but the taste was more like the black cherry cola Coke produced a few years ago — not quite the same as simple Cherry Coke, but good.

5. Delaware Punch from Honduras? This was one of my biggest disappointments on the tray. It’s Delaware Punch. Everyday, run-of-the-mill, there’s a case of it visible from where I am typing this blog Delaware Punch, just like in the U.S. Curse you, Richards!

6. Vegitabeta from Japan. The name of this soda seems to imply it would have a vegetable flavor, but we both agreed it tasted more like a sort of flat orange Hi-C than anything else.

7. Smart Watermelon from China. A simple watermelon-flavored soda, but really good. I could drink a 20 of this stuff.

8. Kinley Lemon from England. As Erin put it succinctly, it was like a carbonated lemonade.

9. Lift Apple from Mexico. Kind of a watered-down apple juice flavor.

10. Fanta Kolita from Costa Rica. I really loved this flavor, but I couldn’t quite tell what it was. Erin thought it was a combination of “bubble gum” and “antiseptic.” But she liked it too.

11. Krest Gingerale from Israel. Not really impressed by this one. It tasted just like American ginger ale, but weak.

12. Simba Guarana from Paraguay. I thought this one tasted kind of like root beer, Erin thought Red Bull.

13. Bibo Pine Nut from South Africa had a really strong flavor, like tropical fruit bubble gum. Erin thought it tasted like a coconut tanning oil — the smell, that is, not like she actually had tanning oil in her mouth.

14. Smart Apple from China. This second apple beverage was more like a Granny Smith than a Red Delicious, but weak. Erin added, “It’d be good with Sour Apple Pucker, though.”

15. Beverly from Italy. Oh, Beverly. Oh, oh Beverly. I wish you were last, because the final beverage on the list will seem inadequate in comparison. In fact, words are inadequate. Let the power of photographs explain to you the thoughts Erin and I had about… Beverly.

Erin: It tastes like every horrible medicine your parents ever gave you as a kid. God, get it out of my mouth! Where’s the mint?
Blake: I don’t know who Beverly is, but she appears to have some form of debilitating disease.

This is where the remaining Sunfill Mint soda came in handy.

16. Mezzo Mix from Germany. Kind of underwhelming after Beverly, we tasted Mezzo Mix anyway, and felt a “meh.” To me, it tasted like everyday Coca-Cola mixed with something else, but I wasn’t sure what. Erin thought it tasted like Pepsi.

Still, we had a lot of fun at the Coca-Cola store, and if you happen to go there, I strongly recommend you try the tastes of the world yourself.

Please send all photos of yourself trying “Beverly” to

We continued down the strip after the Coca-Cola experience, stopping at different shops, Casinos, and restaurants, including a stop for Erin’s first Ghiardelli ice cream sundae in four Vegas visits. She seemed pleased. Four hours after we began our trek down the strip, we decided to call it quits and walk back to the car parked at the MGM Grand. It took us an hour without stopping to make it there.

That’s a productive night.

Wednesday was more of a low-key day. Erin indulged my comic geekiness and went with me on a tour of three Vegas-area comic book shops, which we talked about that evening when we got back to the hotel and recorded Sunday’s episode of the 2 in 1 Showcase podcast together. Next to one of the shops, Maximum Comics, we made a second really cool find…

The Rocket Fizz Soda Pop and Candy Shop was a small bit of Heaven on earth. The shop stocked literally hundreds of different, unusual brands and flavors of soda and candy from all over America, plus a few assorted collectibles and souvenirs. Erin and I each picked out three bottles of soda to take with us and try later. One of my choices was a chocolate soda that I really enjoyed. The label said it was an “authentic New York Egg Cream.” I’ve often heard of these “egg creams,” but I’ve never actually tasted one, so I can’t say how authentic the soda was. It was good, though.

If you’re waiting for my analysis of the three comic shops… wait just a bit longer. I know not everyone who reads this particularly cares. So I’ll keep my reviews of those for Wednesday’s regularly-scheduled Everything But Imaginary column over at Suffice it to say, we had a lot of fun seeking them out. We also found a cool little used bookstore. After wandering it for a few minutes, I got a feeling of deja vu and realized we’d gone to the same shop on our last trip to Vegas. But the great thing about a used bookstore is that it’s never the same store twice. I picked up two novels to put in my classroom (several of my students, I’m proud to say, have become fans of Orson Scott Card thanks to my intervention) and we moved on.

We did a little more shopping and stopped for dinner at Red Lobster — not the most “Las Vegas” of locations, I admit, but it did have a major advantage over many of the other restaurants available in Vegas… Erin had a gift certificate. We had a nice dinner and went back to the room to record the podcast. We’d intended to go out again after that, but by then it was already approaching midnight and, like a couple of old people, we were getting kind of tired, so we called it an early night. I got the podcast ready and Erin played with my Amazon Kindle, reading Stephen King’s novella Ur and deciding that she wants one of the devices too.

Thursday we got up early to head out to a little breakfast place we found on our previous visit to Vegas. The Egg and I is part of a small chain of restaurants (including two “Eggworks”) that makes some of the best breakfast foods you’ve ever tasted.

I love IHOP as much as the next guy. Considerably more tha many “next guy”s I could mention. But man, this place is just fantastic. Go there, get something loaded with cheese, eggs, and breakfast meat. You will thank me later.

Thursday is one of the few days we had a definite plan before heading out — dinner that afternoon with Erin’s family. We had about four hours to kill before then, so we decided to hit a couple of off-strip casinos. The Rio was a lot of fun. The place is done up in a sort of faux Mardi Gras theme, and the interior really does its best to imitate New Orleans architecture. It’s not my favorite casino interior — that honor goes to New York, New York — but it’s a close second. We also went to the Palms, which we found kind of unimpressive. It was rather small and didn’t offer much outside of the gambling itself, and we were looking for other things to do at that point. It’s a legendary Vegas casino, to be sure, but it doesn’t seem to be working very hard on maintaining its reputation.

After a while of wandering, we met up with her father and his wife Donna, Uncle Dee and Aunt Karen, Uncle Derek and Aunt Marsha and their son Josh for a dinner at the Macaroni Grill. I’d met all of them on my previous Vegas visit, but it was nice to talk to them again — especially since, this time, they all seemed to want to talk about the Saints. A favorite topic of mine these days, to be sure.

As we were leaving the next day, we gave Erin’s dad his car back and again took the hotel shuttle out to the strip for one last night. It wasn’t anything special, really. We walked around to some places we hadn’t gone yet, and managed to catch the classic Bellagio fountain show. I took a video of this one, if you’re interested.

Then back to the hotel to rest up for the long trips home.

After two visits to Vegas, Erin and I have both really gotten to enjoy going. There’s a lot of stuff to do out there besides simply the casinos and the strip, and most of the things there are to do have a lot of repeatability. We can easily imagine making this a semi-annual trip.

In the meantime, it’ll probably be summer before we can get together again. Spring Break doesn’t look like it’ll happen this year, and that’s a shame. But it’ll be okay. No matter how long it is, whenever I see Erin again, it’s like no time has passed at all.

I’ve only put a fraction of our pictures here in the blog. If you want to see them all, you’re welcome to visit my Flickr album!


2 in 1 Showcase Episode 159: Viva Las Vegas

Back in Vegas together, Blake and Erin get together for this week’s episode of the Showcase! The happy couple reviews a pair of new movies, including The Wolfman and Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, visit a trio of Vegas-area comic shops, and answer your questions about what there is to do in Vegas if you’re a geek like us! In the picks, Erin liked the novel Star Wars: Death Troopers and Blake gives a thumbs-up to Batgirl #7. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at!

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 159: Viva Las Vegas
Inside This Episode:


Home again…

Erin and I have both checked in through security at McCarran airport here in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, we’re on separate concourses, so we had to separate earlier than we would have liked. As I type this, she’s waiting to board her plane to Denver, which eventually will get her back to Pittsburgh this evening. I’ve got about three hours before my flight takes off, which makes me extremely grateful for free airport WiFi. Otherwise, I may be eyeing the airport slot machines in much hungrier manner.

(If you’ve never been in the Las Vegas airport I need to stress that the preceding sentence is NOT a joke. There are slot machines in the airport. There are slot machines everywhere in the airport.)

As always, it was a wonderful trip. As always, it ended too soon. As always, I’ll miss her terribly.

And, as always, I’ll tell you all about it right here in a few days.


A quick glimpse of Vegas…

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