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Monday, March 23, 2015

Viva Las Vegas, and all that

Elvis impersonators on the Strip (not the gal in the middle, the two dudes!)

I just got back from a trip west, which included a stop in Vegas-the site of a mini reunion of the Fairview High School Class of '72.  Weather was perfect and the entire area is one large amusement park! To end the suspense, I gambled $100 at the craps table and walked away with $175. The biggest attraction, however, was not the two Elvis impersonators in the photo above.

Dinner at Bouchon at the Venetian Hotel

It was the time spent with my best friends from high school, Anne (Smith) Hasson, left, and Amy Mellencamp (far right-in photo terms, only).  This is the second reunion I have attended with the duo. We met for the first time in almost 40 years, in 2012,  in Chicago. I missed the reunion in San Francisco and New York City, and wasn't about to miss this year's reunion in Las Vegas!

 Anne retired 5 years ago after teaching 4th grade for 30 years in Portland, Oregon.  Amy is currently a high school principal (Dr. Mellencamp, by the way) in Burlington, Vermont. Anne is a grandmother of two- her son is a firefighter in Portland.  Amy has two children. Her daughter is a successful fundraiser for the Democratic Party in D.C. and her son is in graduate school, having clerked for various member's of Emily's List in D.C.  Anne's husband is retired after a career with 3M, and Amy's husband is working on various business ventures in Vermont.

We had a great time catching up on happenings in Erie, Pa.  (Ann's mom still lives there) and sharing news about our families. We have all lost our fathers, and had many heartfelt discussions about eldercare.  If you haven't reconnected with your high school buddies, I highly recommend that you do so. There is a wonderful shorthand as part of the underlying conversation which is refreshing. These are  friends that know all about  the trouble you had with your sibling, what your parents were REALLY like, when you first fell in love, and, so on.

Each dancer charged us $5 for the photo above

Of course, on the downside, they know all about your D in Algebra and other dark secrets of youth. While  at the airport, we observed a group of college women that were gathering for a pre-wedding blitz with the bride. We stopped by to tell them that they might still be meeting each other almost 43 years hence and they seemed delighted to hear that!

We stayed at the MGM Grand. A wonderful selection made by Anne. The timing was perfect: the Grand was hosting the PAC 12 basketball playoffs and Anne's team from Oregon was there. Duck this and duck that everywhere! Not to mention it was spring break and the hotel pools were crowded with lovely co-eds and eye candy for us all.

More importantly, the Bellagio was the scene of a Doritos commercial and we just missed being in it!

After 3 nights, Anne headed back to Portland and Amy headed east to Burlington. I, on the other hand, extended my vacation by heading to California to visit family for a few more days.

View from our hotel across from Doheney State Park Campground, Dana Point, Ca.

Arriving in Temecula on Sunday, I spent the afternoon at the Mall with 13 year old niece, Kelsey. It was such fun to sponsor a shopping spree and see what would develop. H&M was a popular store for school attire.

Marine Drill Team in San Diego Depot

I didn't see nephew Kacey as he recently entered boot camp as a Marine recruit. At age 18, he was determined to enter on the ground floor of the military establishment and work his way up to officer from there. Graduation is the end of May and our family is anxious to see what assignment he draws next.

 On Monday, Mom and I headed for a short trip to Laguna Beach. My parents retired from Westport, Ct, in 1981,  and moved to LB to be closer to Aunt Alberta (see earlier blogs), Aunt Iola, and Grandmother Blanche (my mom's mom) for 18 years before they moved to be closer to  my brother and family in Temecula.

The ocean breeze hypnotized us and the next thing you know, we were both shopping for condos in nearby Laguna Hills where Alberta, Iola, and friend "Aunt Dottie" lived for many years.

Laguna Hills (formerly Leisure World) was developed in 1964 as the first gated community for 55+ residents. There are 14,000 units and currently 18.000 residents. Average age in 74.  With a 29 hole golf course, stables, 7 clubhouses with 5 swimming pools, over 200 clubs and more, it was intoxicating to consider living just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean in such lovely year round surroundings.

However, the condos are small, with the largest only 1,300 square feet!!!! I tried to imagine reducing living quarters from 3,000 square feet filled to the brim, with a full attic and basement (and I do mean full) plus a 2 1/2 garage with two extra single space garages, 2 Standard Poodles, 1 miniature schnauzer, 2 cats ( who don't like each other yet), one husband, and condensing it all into any one of the  condo's we toured. We felt like we were in  an episode of Househunters.  We loved the first house, tolerated the second, hated the third. My mom was very interested in  the first one, but, it was already sold within 12 hours-at full price! We toured four more options and decided to ponder it for a few more months.

Next on the agenda is to convince Ron, Bob, and Paulette, to spend a few days in the area and check it out with me to see if I'm California Dreaming or I have lost my mind within the first 6 months of retirement! Well, we already know the answer to that, but, to be kind, let's see if it is a temporary condition.

Stay tuned for further adventures.