Monday, September 12, 2011

This Blog Is On Hiatus

Part of the stipulation of my fellowship is a requirement that I stop working and focus on my academics, my long-term projects and my life among the other fellows. I know others don't understand that, but there really is no way to be truly in this extraordinary experience and keep one hand in my "normal" life. That's why the podcast has ended, and that's why this blog must cease to be updated.

I have no doubt I'll return to blogging, either here or in another form, after this is over. Trust me, you'll know what that time comes. Or check back here around May 2012.

In the meantime, we conclude with this Flickr slideshow below. It shows our new home in Ann Arbor followed by some images of the quaint houses in the handsome neighborhoods behind us as well as images from the first Michigan football game we attended and shots of campus life. This slideshow was created before Aces died, but I've opted not to edit it because she will always be a part of our first weeks here. The only change I've made is to remove the photo of the street where she died. I couldn't handle that, I'm sorry.

See you sometime next year.

R.I.P. Aces Smith-Friess

Two nights ago, the littlest, newest and spunkiest member of our gang, Aces, slipped out of the backyard through a gap in the fence and was hit by a car. Even as I write this, it doesn't seem quite real that any of this has happened.

The house we are renting in Michigan fronts to a very busy street -- think Desert Inn or Eastern in Las Vegas -- and Aces was the sort of fearless puppy who bolted after whatever got her excited. It was dusk, I was running around the yard playing with the dogs and didn't realize she had run off. We knew there were some gaps in the fence, but it had rained nonstop for days, so we hadn't gotten to filling it.

When I noticed she was missing, I raced out front to call for her, expecting her foxy little face to turn up grinning at me. It did not.

Instead, I spotted an unrecognizable lump in the first lane of the street. I won't describe her; I just can't except to say that she seemed to have come unraveled. I thought she might still be breathing, so we raced to the animal ER about three miles away. It was futile. We left in sobs, her little pink collar and tags in my blood-soaked hands.

Needless to say, this has put a traumatic damper on our first weeks of this new life. Grief for a pet is very complicated because the pain is real and present and yet there's a fear the world will find it trivial. I've seen it referred to it as the ultimate "first-world problem." But even if you can't relate to the impact an animal can have in your life, you must be able to comprehend the dizzying, nauseating experience of encountering such a sudden, violent death to something so sweet, defenseless and dependent. That I did not realize she was gone for those few minutes -- the entire awful thing took place in the span of less than 10 minutes -- will haunt me for as long as I have other animals. That she is so instantaneously gone is disorienting, confusing and painful for everyone in this household.

We know there are many friends, family, readers and listeners who have enjoyed hearing about our life with Aces. She's a dog that had been abandoned by someone in dire economic straits who dumped her in our neighbor's arms at a supermarket a couple days before Christmas. The neighbor brought her to us, and we took her in.

Since then, she was the centerpiece of countless photos and Tweets. She was brought into the household to bond with Miles because the other two, Black and Jack, had taken to me in a way that left him alienated. It worked; Miles and Aces drove 2,000 miles together from Las Vegas a few weeks ago while I took the other dogs on a more scenic route. That photo above was taken by Miles in a hotel room in Nebraska during their drive.

Unlike the other dogs, Aces was an equal-opportunity lover. In doing so, she seemed to teach her brothers to be kinder and more open to people other than me, and Black and Jack have been unusually doting and cuddly towards Miles in the past two days. May that be her legacy.

We know many of you will feel compelled to do something or write to us. All we'd really like is for you, if you feel so moved, to toss a few dollars to the Humane Society of the United States in Aces' name to honor her memory. Had our neighbor not accepted Aces from her desperate prior owner, she would have surely ended up in a shelter. She was a rescue animal, minus the paperwork.

This blog will stop being updated as of tonight, so I urge you to "friend" us on Facebook if you'd like to keep up with us. We just felt strongly that we wanted people to know what had happened, how wonderful an animal we've lost and how heartbroken we are.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Leftover Funnies Before I Shut Up

OK, so I've got to stop blogging, as I'll explain in the next and final post. But before I go, allow me to empty my files of odd, interesting and weird stuff. Like, for instance, I don't recall if I ever posted this photo anywhere but on Twitter, but if that's not Vegas, I don't know what is:

I think I took this screenshot because I wondered how the Monte Carlo and New York-New York was so unlucky as to be the skyline image of The Strip for, of all things, the web banner for the police:

I think Hanging With Friends might be right about this being a proper noun...

...and I know my iPhone's predictive text is right about Matt Goss:

Gosh, this from our HOA's monthly circular is great news!!!

click to enlarge

I have no idea how this gibberish came to be, but I do think that Caesars Entertanment ought to consider, in rebranding Imperial Palace, calling it Impiety City instead:

click to enlarge
I didn't know airports have slogans, for what it's worth:

 Juvenile, I know, but it was a porn convention:

Am I the only one a little thrown by the fact that Flickr used what appears to be this guy's Manhunt pic to promote their service?

Meanwhile, the crack, uh, staff at Caesars Entertainment has a squatting problem because THIS is CaesarsEntertainment.Com:

Yikes, right?

And, finally, Miles wants me to have this enlarged and hung over my desk to deflate my ego whenever necessary:

I put The Olds to sleep.

Stuff I Found Cleaning Out My Vegas Office

As you may have read in my acclaimed love-letter essay to Las Vegas and my life there in Las Vegas Weekly, I spent my final days in Nevada packing up a house and office stuffed to the gills with historical and peculiar Vegas stuff. There was a shelf in my office closet with at least a six-foot pile of press materials that proved akin to an archeological survey, newest to oldest layered upon one another like a geological formation.

The stuff I unearthed was Vegas in its most optimistic, boosterish form, such as the above document outlining the expansion plans for the airport. I also found this promo for CityCenter...

...which is technically true because, uh, the future always begins now. Duh.

I loved this relic...

...and made sure to put this piece of Frontier glass in a safe place.

I found this magnet from the late, great Dive at the Fashion Show Mall, where I used to take my little brother all the time for fries and to peer through the periscope that offered a Strip view. It was just last month that a listener of the podcast asked me something about this place:

I found these artifacts of the earlier days of our podcast...

We used to send CDs and thank-you notes to all our guests, and once we got this back from the amazing Paula Poundstone:

Here was one of the table centerpieces from the final performance of Siegfried & Roy, a fundraiser for Keep Memory Alive, the foundation that funds the Lou Ruvo Cleveland Clinic for Brain Health in Vegas:

I found it rather unsettling that I did not and still don't remember that I had actually been a patient in 2002 of the most infamous endoscopy doctor in America:

At the same time, I find it awesome beyond words that I found this, which my old R-J friend Natalie Patton sent to me in 2000 when I was about to depart for China:

And I have no idea whatsoever how I came into possession of this rather invaluable bit of family history...

...but I'm so glad I have it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Show is UP: The Finale

We're having some sort of problem with iTunes and our final -- and several recent special -- episodes of "The Strip" have not been making it into the RSS feed. We're working on fixing that right now, but all of the recent episodes since the iTunes snafu began are listed with links to your right on this blog. I hope to have TheStripPodcast.Com fixed and updated as soon as possible. FYI, We urge you NOT to unsubscribe from our RSS feed because you just never know when a random special might surface there. I still have some good stuff sitting around waiting for my time to edit and post. It could be a while, but it will happen.

Anyhow, here's the show you and we have been simultaneously waiting for and dreading. Enjoy, and listen all the way to the end.

Sept. 7: The Finale
Special Reissue: The First Episode from 9/1/05

After six years, this is the final regular episode of "The Strip." The show, which debuted on Sept. 1, 2005, was co-hosted by journalists and life partners Miles Smith and Steve Friess. In this emotional episode, we recount the top 10 moments of the show as voted on by listeners, talk about the changes in their lives and play some classic old clips including a never-before-published 6-minute rehearsal in which they discuss what they show should be about and how they'll go about doing it.

The top clips include great moments from Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Curtis, Jim Murren, George Wallace, Johnny Mathis, Sheldon Adelson and, of course, Steve Wynn.

Links to the original episodes that spawned the Top 10 moments list:

10. Whoopi

9. Johnny Mathis

8. George Wallace

7. Jim Murren

6. Steve Wynn touring Encore

5. Tony Curtis

4. Sheldon Adelson Slamming Steve Wynn

3. Steve Wynn touring The Wynn

2. Miles doing Neil Sedaka (various shows)

1a. Steve Wynn Slamming Adelson in Macau

1b. Steve Wynn calls Adelson "delusional"

Links to stuff discussed:

Steve's LVW column updating old columns
Steve's four blog-and-Flickr shows for The Road Trip: 1 2 3 4
Flooding closed the St. Joseph, Mo., casino
The Knight-Wallace Fellowship that Steve is now on
Jersey Boys moving to Paris
Hunter Hillegas on KNPR on the Plaza
The Luxor is sinking?
Bradley Ogden out, Gordon Ramsay in at Caesars Palace

Sunday, September 4, 2011


IMG_6465Hoo boy... This is really it! We are really, really here, and if you don't believe us, here's a shot of the dogs in their new abode to prove it. It's time to be a fellow and improve ourselves.

We'll record the finale of The Strip from our new Ann Arbor home on Monday evening at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. It'll be a stroll down memory lane in many ways, and we encourage everyone to join us in the live chat room.

Do NOT forget to vote on the Top 10 moments of the series, too. I'll compile the clips we'll use mid-day Monday. And then, after that, dim the marquee lights on Las Vegas Boulevard, folks, because The Strip as you know it will be over.

The Road Trip, Part IV

We concluded our big road trip from Vegas to Ann Arbor, Mich., by waking up amid the Springfield cornfields. Again, there's a Flickr slideshow player at the end of this post or you can watch it here.

As Amy and the dogs relaxed at the hotel on Thursday, I headed to the splendorous Illinois Capitol, where I ended up on a tour given by a fellow who could not have been less interested in giving a tour.  When I asked if there was any way to get to the top of the dome, as I had the day before in Missouri, he claimed asbestos and bird poop prevented such things from happening. It didn't sound very credible to me.

He also seemed not to notice that of the three of us on his tour, two wore hearing aids. When he was asked him to repeat himself, he seemed absolutely aggravated by the chore and frequently dumbed down what he had said before. It wasn't that we were stupid, sir, we just didn't hear you because you muttered and didn't wish to be there.

That said, the Springfield capitol is very impressive and extremely historic. But a few things struck me. First, the Abe Lincoln obsession is totally understandable, but there are other U.S. presidents with significant Illinois ties such as Ronald Reagan (born in Dixon, Ill.) and Barack Obama, the former state senator. I had to ask when we were in the Senate chamber where Obama sat. Roughly, it was here:

Third one from right was Obama's

That was a seat in the back, denoting how junior a member of the body he was. That furniture was not used by him as the prior stuff was replaced a few years ago. His old desk was destroyed. "We didn't know he'd become president," the guide wryly remarked.

And I think that's my takeaway from Illinois, that that building and that whole scene is yet another reminder of just how totally unlikely it was that this guy was ever going to become president, let alone within the decade. He was one of so many legislators, and he served in a building that is a monument to so many incredible historic figures. It doesn't matter what you think of Obama; his path to this office is just extraordinary and almost without precedent in American politics.

Illinois is also known for having several recently convicted governors. I wondered how they'd play that here, but they just put up their portraits nonetheless, as seen by the one here of ex-Gov. George Ryan

Govs. Ryan & Edgar portraits at IL Capitol

The guide said "the controversial Gov. Rod Blagojevich's portrait will be here someday, too." OK, then.

I'm often asked what's the difference between one and another capitol, and they do blend together. But stopping in on those in Illinois and Indiana on the same day really hit home the differences. Illinois was gorgeous and artistic, a monument to the affairs of the public and our way of life. Indiana? Meh.

The Springfield dome was amazing, Indianapolis' perfunctory:

IL Capitol DomeSteve w IN Capitol Dome

The legislative chambers in Illinois were august and dramatic...

IL Senate Chambers

...and Indiana's was decidedly not.

IN House chambers, 2

 One state takes good care of even its restrooms. The other doesn't care.

Ornate Ladies' Room at IL CapitolPaint cracking at IN Capitol

  The entryway for Illinois is grand and imposing, Indiana less so.

Lincoln before Springfield CapitolOne public entrance to IN Capitol

The artwork and sculpture throughout in Springfield was first-rate, relevant and historic. This is how Indianapolis has left Christopher Columbus' bust desecrated by pigeons:
No offense to the fine folks of Indiana, but you Capitol is s... on Twitpic

Gross! Lord only knows what Columbus' relevance to Indiana was to merit him as a major piece of art, but if they do have it they kinda owe it to him not to look like he just participated in a gay gang bang.

I also have never seen an informational marker that ran out of space as this one did:

Dead Lincoln Stopped Here, 1

You may also wonder who the hell else does this hobby. Actually, loads of folks:

Other sign-ins at Springfield Capitol

And here's the page I signed for, perhaps, the last time as a Las Vegan:

Signing in From Vegas, for now

On the drive, Amy and I debated the proper spelling of "capital" v "capitol." So you know, the city is a capital, the building is a capitol. Google Maps didn't know that, either, though:


There's much more, including more terrific puppy pix, in this Flickr slideshow of this segment of the trip, which did conclude in Ann Arbor. I'll get into that in another post. In the meantime, here's the fourth slideshow, which begins in the cornfields of Springfield, takes us to the capitol, then on the Indianapolis before one last car shot of we road warriors. Enjoy!