Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Leaving Las Vegas

In about three hours or so, we'll be leaving Las Vegas, and I have yet to set foot inside a casino. I must be just about the only person to visit Vegas who can honestly say that. The truth is, casinos have never really interested me, although it would be something to see the spectacle that is the Strip. There will be other times for that, but the main purpose of this brief trip was to visit Michael's brother, Ryan, and his fiancee and future step-son, so we mainly stayed close to home.

Not that staying home can't produce the unexpected - I was standing in the middle of a Barnes & Noble yesterday, taking care of some last minute Christmas shopping for our southwestern relations, when I heard a voice exclaim, "Ruth Haggard?!" OK, so my name used to be Ruth Hagglund, not Haggard, but this was close enough to make me look up and take notice. I found myself staring across a display at a woman who, I realized after a second or two of sheer blankness, was a former high school classmate of mine.

"Kelly?" I said, thanking God that I remembered her name. I have been thrown for a loop several times in the past when meeting people from an earlier stage in my life unexpectedly. It's a little embarrassing.

"Yeah!" was the response. And I got to hear the brief synopsis of what had transpired in her life since high school, as well as a few other people who had been with me from kindergarten through graduation. None were part of my little circle of friends (I wasn't one of the popular people, but in a small town, you still know everyone), but it was still exciting to hear what they are up to, and, from the sound of it, to know that they are doing well. This is the first news I've heard of just about any of my classmates in years, and to think it would happen in a bookstore in northwest Las Vegas!

Besides catching up with old schoolmates, yesterday also introduced me to two wonders of the modern world: Guitar Hero and Lee's Discount Liquors. After an initial struggle getting used to the game, I now rock the bass as a Guitar Hero goddess, alongside Michael or Ryan on the guitar. Michael is now convinced we need our own Guitar Hero game at home, and while I can't say I don't like the idea, I'm not eager to spend the money quite yet.

One thing that cannot be brought home, however, is Lee's Discount Liquors. I laughed when Michael told me the name of this "Costco of Beers", as he put it. Red Neck, much? But this is Vegas, and Nevada has possibly the loosest liquor laws in the nation, although I'm not sure that they can beat the drive-thru daiquiri stands of Louisiana.

Red neck name or not, Lee's is pretty cool if you're into any kind of semi-obscure alcohols; they sell everything, and are certainly not limited to beer, which takes up only a small portion of the massive store. But beer is why we went, so that Michael and I could exclaim over the many Belgians, wheat beers, and other imports both familiar and unknown. We took home a variety to try: the one and only quadrupel ale in the store, a Belgian trippel, a six pack of Flying Dog's In Heat Wheat, which Michael was ecstatic to find, apple lambic, and blueberry oat beer (yeah, that's right - blueberry oat beer; I'd never heard of such a thing, either).

Of course, we did not drink all these beers last night! We saved the In Heat Wheat for later. We drank the Belgians, discovering that the La Chouffe Trippel was an IPA and intensely hoppy, not something Michael or I have really developed a taste for. The Urthel Samaranth Quadrium, my first quadrupel, was so rich and heady (this beer is 11% alcohol!), that I couldn't stay awake for long after finishing my glass. As for the blueberry oat beer, Ryan loved it, but I had a couple of sips and am still not sure what to think of such an odd mix of flavors.

So in the end, I did get to experience one Vegas institution, although I'm not sure that tasting "specialty" beers at home is a very Vegas thing to do. It actually sounds more like a Seattle thing, where, in truth, we could probably find all of these beers at a shop such as Bottleworks. But Bottleworks wouldn't sell about fifty varieties of vodka and cognac for $1400.00 per bottle alongside the beer, and therein lies the real Vegas difference.

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