Friday, January 7, 2011

Viva Las Vegas - Live from CES and T.H.E. Show

Okay - this is how it all happened.

Woke up Tuesday morning to hear the unmistakable sound of Nikita (my dog) heaving and getting ready to urp, urr, throw up, as dogs do from time-to-time. Right next to my pillow. Thanks, Nikita. Two heaves wasn't enough warning for the ENTIRE BREAKFAST to land there.

I had been considering going to Vegas to the CES and T.H.E. Show for about a month, with usual concerns about time, travel time, cost, etc. After the cleanup, I went to @PuretoneAudio headquarters and checked the weather forecast - hmmm, northwest Connecticut, snow Friday and Saturday. Okay, another sign.

Checked the available travel packages, and finally some flights popped up that didn't involve spending 18 hours each way in airports...the audio gods were conspiring. They were clearly saying, "yes, son, by all means come to Vegas and hear new gear!"

So as I am wont to do, I booked the trip for gear, Las Vegas, getting out of Dodge for a few days (I've been carefully compiling Western references and cliches to use). Fly across the country on two days notice, meet with my fine reps from Rega (Steve and Adam), Cayin Audio USA (Steve), KEF (Steph and Brian), and Musical Surroundings (Steve) as well as some (*apparently every other person in the audio industry is named Steve).

Hang out with my good buddy and gear guru Jeff Dorgay from ToneAudio magazine.

Eat, drink, be merry. Maybe even put a few dollars down against the Jets.

So Thursday morning I set out for Bradley Airport to begin a hellish journey courtesy of American Airlines.

Three words of advice - don't fly American. Ever. Even if they become the last airline in the country through cross-mergification.

It's been a few years since I was a regular weekly traveler but I can't even begin to tell you how lousy this airline has become. I always thought Southwest and US Air were the undisputed kings of the cattle car journey, but they have been surpassed. CT to Dallas part of the trip was smooth on a completely jam-packed plane. Not another ounce of luggage could possibly have been stowed.

Problem #1 - seats the size of a child carseat. I'm 6'3 and 200 lbs. My shoulders are about eight inches wider than the seats. Yogic contortions follow. Keep the elbows tucked. Keep the shoulders tucked. Don't mind the fact that my head is eight inches over the headrest. Don't mind the fact that my seat is pitched forward at a 15 degree angle, it's good for the abs.

Arrive in Dallas-Fort Worth, DFW, the airport made famous in song by Stevie Ray Vaughan. Stretch. Pray that circulation resumes in all appendages. Take the tram halfway across Texas to the other American terminal to find that I could have easily made an earlier flight to Las Vegas. Asked at the desk, received a look like I had just asked for the clerk's personal ATM PIN numbers; "no, sir, every seat is booked on this flight"...okay thanks, American.

Sit back to wait another two hours for the next flight. Shop at the Dallas Cowboys team store, conveniently across from my gate. Alas, no red-headed Jesus icons or garden statues available. Yet.

Return to gate desk. Ask if there is any possible way I can bribe someone to get out of the dreaded E (middle of three) row seat that was staring at me from my boarding pass. Of course not "no, sir, every seat is booked on this flight"...okay thanks again, American. We now know the first phrase taught in American Airlines' customer service training sessions.

Finally board the plane at 6:00 PM central time. I had a cinnamon pretzel at the airport, which was my first food since 11:45 AM at BDL. Will there be any snacks or food served, since we are flying right at dinner time?


But I can buy half a chicken sandwich on a kaiser roll for $10.00, credit or debit card only. Or a stack of Lay's chips for $5.00.

Uhhh. No thanks again, American.

THEN the captain makes an announcement "our primary ______ (airflight control?) system is down, we will be flying on backup. Our protocol is for the co-pilot to go back into the cabin and check the function prior to takeoff."

A collective groan erupted from the sardines packed into the aluminum tube at the mere thought of being unpacked and repacked.

At American, apparently they have only the best, the oldest and most archaic planes in the sky. THEN the co-pilot walks back down the aisle WITH A FLASHLIGHT and shines it out of the porthole window on the wings on each side.

Not exactly confidence inspiring. AT ALL.

Finally we take off into the night sky. It got dark in about 10 minutes in Dallas. The Flatlanders song "Dallas" pops into my head. And yes, the plane we are flying was probably the equivalent of a DC-9.

Hell, I have no doubt American would still be flying
Lockheed Super Constellations if the FAA would let em.

Vegas bound.

West-Texas-Waltzing over the panhandle in the night sky. Not many lights down there. Or is is thar?

(to be continued...)

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