Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Weekend With Friends

Our friends Mark and Colin came up from Palm Springs to spent the weekend with us. We haven’t seen them in years and it was great to welcome them into our home and catching up on each other’s lives. They are so easy to be around with and it always feels like we’re just picking up from where we’ve left off the last time we’ve seen each other.

It also was perfect timing to have Mark and Colin in our lives for a brief moment. George was able to take his busy mind off his teaching studies and mine off the crazy every-day-life in general. Even though we did discuss some current affairs and some of the insanity of the political circus which is ravaging our country, it was nice to forget about the rest of the world for a little while.

There were no particular plans for that weekend. We just went with the flow, so to speak. Mark and Colin arrived Friday evening and after they got settled in their guest room we just relaxed, had some wine and got into chatter mode. George made some really delicious vegetarian style marinara sauce and pasta. They were amazed by the fact that there wasn’t any meat in it. I guess it was a success since everyone had seconds.

The next day we had breakfast at the coffee shop inside the Red Rock Resort & Casino, which was on the way to our next destination, Red Rock Canyon. We did a bit of walking, climbing and exploring some gorges and ravines, took photos and enjoyed the scenery. The weather was perfect with clear and sunny skies and not too hot.

Afterwards we came home to rest up for our big night out on the town. Just as the sun was setting we all took off and drove to the Las Vegas “Strip” and decided to have dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant simply called Pho, inside the TI Casino. Mark taught us how to pronounce Pho the right way and apparently my Bún Curry Gà was not quite how Bún is normally served. Nevertheless, the food was delicious. I couldn’t finish my huge dish as I wasn’t that hungry to begin with but the other guys could truly pack it away.

Then we walked along the famed Strip up the new
City Center complex, stopping at the Bellagio on the way to take a look at the current garden display inside the resort’s conservatory. Next up was the massive and contemporary City Center. George and I are having a kind of a love-hate relationship with this place but I think Mark and Colin were appreciating it. They really wanted to check out the Mandarin Oriental, which is one of the many hotel and condominium towers of the City Center. To get to the hotel lobby one has to get up to the 23rd floor first, where they also have a bar and a very fancy restaurant. Needless to say that the view was quite spectacular. The prices for drinks at the bar not so much. We all made a discreet disappearance after we recovered from the shock of reading the prices on their menu.

Since we really couldn’t find a bar to our liking and it was getting late we decided to go back to our place and have some drinks there. From this point on we where exposed to the most fascinating crowd this town has to offer. Las Vegas is great for people watching. Especially tourists coming from all these conservative places, where they all live out their precious holier-than-thou lives and trying to live up to the traditional, wholesome all-American family values lie. Because you see, all that is quickly forgotten as soon as these good folks come here. And all their rules by which they live by and want to force upon others are thrown out of the window. All of a sudden anything goes.

However, that’s a whole other story and I’m trying to refrain from ranting about all the religious and political hypocrisy that is going on right now. Making my blood boil is not very good for my health in the long run.

After catching one of the many Bellagio water fountain shows we were heading towards our car and drove home to enjoy some Gin & Tonic in a more relaxed atmosphere. Without having to pay an arm and a leg and maybe your first-born too. All in all, it was an amazing day.

The following morning, after enjoying more good conversation over freshly brewed coffee, we had breakfast at a local dive just down the street. Having an all-American breakfast twice in a row was a big deal for us since we rarely do that. And I love hearty American breakfast. Their pancakes were yummy and Colin’s breakfast pizza looked delicious.

Like all good things if life, this too had to come to an end eventually. We said our good-byes and promised not let years go by again to see each other. So there they went on their way back home to Palm Springs. Only to having to return to pick up something which they’ve left behind in the guest room. Back so soon? Are you missing us already? Good thing they were only gone for about ten minutes when we discovered that they have in fact forgotten something.

Now we’re back to reality again. Working. Studying. The daily grind.

Subsequently, we already do miss Mark and Colin. Too bad we don’t have great friends like them living close by. Maybe there will be a roadtrip to Palm Springs on the horizon in the near future?

Are we there yet?

Red Rock Canyon, just outside Las Vegas.

Colin, the chameleon, blends perfectly with the environment.

Mark and George are taking a break...right after we got out of the car.

Mark is observing and studying the strange rituals of the natives.

Mark, George and Colin

My turn to bear hug. Hey, I am as tall as Mark.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mark and Colin

It doesn’t seem like I’m on here that much anymore. I also noticed that some of my fellow bloggers are adding less and less entries to their sites. Looks like everyone is indeed having less extra time to spend writing. Or we just have switched to spend our time on sites like Facebook instead. I’m certainly guilty of that crime. I don’t necessarily have more time to waste on Facebook than spending the time writing an entry on here. In fact, I have even less time. Therefore, sites like Facebook seem more convenient and provide a more instant form of communication. So I have to pick the lesser of two evils.

The last few weeks just flew by. Work and George’s studying haven’t left much room for anything else anyway. Now the long Labor Day weekend has come and gone as well. We didn’t do much fun things or relaxing at all. Mostly chores around the house, homework and even more studying for George’s classes.

However, we managed to take time to feast on some really scrumptious food. And totally ignoring the scale in the process.

Mark and Colin took us on a hike through Tahquitz Canyon near Palm Springs.
But there’s a bright light at the end of this slightly monotone tunnel. Our friends Mark and Colin will come visiting us and staying at our casa. We haven’t seen them in quite a while, so it’ll be great to catch up in person. Granted, one can catch a glimpse of each other lives on sites such as Facebook, but nothing can beat spending quality time and having a face-to-face conversation with friends in real life.

Virtual living has its limits. And I would much rather “waste” my time with real, warm-blooded, breathing human beings than with some machine made up of chips and circuitries.

I’m old-fashioned that way.

Mark, Colin, George and I in Palm Springs, a few years ago.