A city such as Las Vegas brings out the suppressed foodie in all of us. Ever since the wheels of our plane touched down, I’ve been craving everything under the desert sun. In a futile effort to battle the calories, I went for an early morning run right on the Vegas Strip. My well-worn Nikes brushed past the asphalt sidewalks and concrete walkways of this slumbering megalopolis, still littered with the leftover carnality of the night before—a broken liquor bottle, a pile of vomitus and the litany of abandoned business cards from the various escort services. What a great way to start your day!
Yesterday didn’t start too great for our party. It’s never a good day when you get the dreaded “fraud alert” warning from American Express, and that’s exactly what happened with my brother Michael. Call it a Vegas coincidence, but someone, somewhere, somehow comprised his account. Whether legally or illegally, some shady huckster in this city is going to find a way to take your money. Everyone here has their own particular shtick, whether it’s “Serengeti” our cab driver promoting his Kenyan Safari tours, or “Gator” scrolling through seductive photos of his various girlfriends on his iPhone to show us pictures of his alligator farm. Although I didn’t just roll off a turnip truck, it does take a bit of effort to keep your money in your wallet in this town.
We closed out the evening last night in typical Vegas style with dueling pianos at the Times Square Bar in New York, New York. The scene was just as you might picture it. A couple of once talented “has-beens” tickling the ivories while playing long forgotten requests from over-the-hill patrons nursing overpriced drinks served by weathered, balloon chested waitresses. Honestly though, it’s not quite as sad and pathetic as I just described. My grandmother would have enjoyed the rousing rendition of Young Girl by Gary Puckett & the Union Gap.
Today is shaping up to be a bit better. It’s Spago in Caesar’s Palace for lunch and this evening we’re dining at Nobu in the Hard Rock. World renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa has brought his critically acclaimed signature fare from New York and we’re here to partake. We’re joined by my daughter Katie and her boyfriend Nick from Los Angeles. I’m meeting Nick for the first time so it could get kind of awkward. He’s a freelance music producer/Deejay by trade, but I’ve gotten over that by now. I’m used to the fact that no one in LA ever has a real nine-to-five job anyway, so I’m not holding that against him. In all the pictures Katie has shown me, Nick looks the part—unshaven, ripped jeans and hat on backwards—not exactly the kind of possible future son-in-law you’ve been praying for. I guess one man’s “cool” is another man’s “loser” look. Katie claims Nick treats her exactly how a husband should treat a wife as described in the fifth chapter of Ephesians. I don’t like any boyfriends in general, but if that’s true, then I told her it’s good enough for me.
I resist the urge to start the conversation by asking Nick to give me his theological discourse on predestination versus free will. Instead, we chit-chat about such mundane topics as Kentucky basketball and Katie’s business venture. At one point our discussions drift to spoken world languages. Get this—this homeboy from Nashville speaks Mandarin Chinese. We immediately start scripting out how we’re going to freak my brother out by speaking in our native tongue. Katie is the one that’s freaking though as we hammer out our imbecilic plot. It’s really surreal—kind of like Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in a scene from Dumb and Dumber. Like many moments in my life so far, things don’t quite go exactly as I had rehearsed them in my mind. Man plans while God laughs.
Our awkward moments together are only mollified by the scrumptious fare of our eight-course sushi tasting dinner. Our palates are tantalized with an initial serving of yellowtail jalapeno sashimi followed up by a delectable scallop and octopus sushi. In between courses of tuna sashimi salad and Chilean Seabass Pomodoro, I fantasize about Nick being served some exotic pufferfish, improperly prepared so that the poison seeps under his hairy chest, sending him into frightful convulsions before the paramedics arrive—a bit too late. I’m jolted out of my revelry with the arrival of the Wagyu Ribeye—one of the finest cuts of meat I’ve ever tasted. The aromatic mushroom soup and the apricot filled beignets ala mode made for the perfect climax to our food porn encounter.
There’s just something about a good food experience that speaks to us in ways that nothing else can. It’s not just what we are eating, it’s also who, where, and when we’re eating it with. How many of our most memorable life moments have been crafted around the communal dinner table. Take some great food, add some friends and family, throw in a pinch of Las Vegas and the unpredictability of meeting your daughter’s boyfriend and you’ve got the ingredients for a captivating narrative. I can’t say for sure where Nick will fit into the scheme of Katie’s future life, but as my taste buds were gently caressing and massaging that wagyu beef earlier in the evening, I just knew everything was going to work out fine.