Monday, February 13, 2006

Further Vegas Adventures

Monday, February 13, 2006
A view of one tiny portion of the SHOT Show in Las Vegas.

Great last day in Las Vegas. The giant SHOT Show on its last day was less busy, so we had more time to talk shop. After the end of the show we headed to the opulent Bellagio to see "The Impressionist Landscape" art show on display there. No guns, no ammo, no Ted Nugent, just lots of amazing paintings from the 1800s--Van Gogh, Renoir, Millet, Corot. I found the landscapes most appealing of all. This was a nice antidote to a busy day of talking business. I didn't even mind using the gallery narration unit. It was a hand-held unit--sort of a combination nightstick and cellphone. You pushed the numbered buttons corresponding to the painting and heard the gallery curator's spiel about the artist and one or more of the works on display. And yes, she explained the circumstances behind Van Gogh's ear-cutting episode.

Later, Linda (BWD's ad. director) and I met Jeff Bouton, Leica's pro birder, for dinner at P.F. Changs, where we scored a really excellent table in spite of the maddening crowd. Likely because we looked like such high-rollers. After ordering and enjoying our entrees family-style (each plate passed round and round) we decided to adopt as our nicknames for the night, the name of our respective dishes. Linda would go by Ginger Chicken. Jeff became Orange-peel Beef. I, sadly, was Golden Honey Shrimp.

At 10:30 pm we decided to go birding on the Strip and the only place to do that was at the courtyard ponds at The Flamingo. A year ago, our late friend Jason Starfire had shown Jeff this peaceful spot where the banded, wing-clipped waterfowl on display are often joined by wild ducks. We found the spot, bought four beers, one for each of us and one in honor of Jason and for the next hour we enjoyed the pale-pink flamingos, Mandarin ducks, ruddy ducks, wood ducks, and a small flock of hooded mergansers.
The most photogenic and cooperative of the ducks at The Flamingo was this male ruddy duck.

The rushing water masked the sounds of the bustling city. A huge full moon shone down on us through the palm trees. We toasted our friend, who left us way too soon. We felt it was appropriate to remember him by doing a bit of midnight birding.

Midnight at the oasis, in the center courtyard of The Flamingo.

Now, it is Monday evening and I am headed east on a huge jet full of sneezing, coughing people (are planes ever full of anyone else in the winter?) Looking out the window of the airplane, I can see the snow-covered ground of the Midwest below me, uniform white rectangles bordered by gray, icy roads--square miles of farms. Out of the settling dusk I can make out the twinkling lights of tiny towns. At the horizon, the slight curvature of the Earth proves without a doubt that this planet is round and we're all just spinning in space.

I am headed home, eager for this journey to be over.