Cleopatra’s Barge Caesars Palace: Dance Like an Egyptian

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Cleopatra’s Barge in Caesars Palace. A true icon and staple in Las Vegas nightlife. No cover. Sensational live bands covering all the best dance music you could ever want to shake your booty to. And you’re dancing…on a barge…docked inside the world famous luxurious Caesars Palace casino in Las Vegas! Too cool! Stopped in on a whim after singing along at the concert of the eternally sexy and adorable Rod Stewart in the Colosseum on a Saturday night and we ended up dancing the rest of the night away!
Miraculously found an empty table right by the door, excellent dark red lighting for optimal Egyptian beauty , incredible sound system for such a small place, the high energy band playing on stage was seriously awesome (!!), the DJ who spun records in between sets was fabulous and the people watching was phenomenal as always! You really do get ALL KINDS in Vegas.
My sister and I shook our groove thangs as they played hit after hit and the cocktails were STRONG and oh so tasty! What more could you want out of a night out?
I am a huge fan of “lobby” entertainment in Las Vegas versus the big thumping nightclubs, overcrowded with barely-21 year olds. Not my scene. However, pick a lobby, any lobby and you will be sure to find entertainment that suits your late night needs, but be sure to keep Cleopatra’s Barge at the top of your list! Fantastic fun to be had here!

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Slim Cessna’s Auto Club: Children of the Lord

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I have been watching Slim Cessna’s Auto Club since their first Denver shows in 1992 and I have to say, this band still knocks me out! Sold out New Year’s shows at the Bluebird Theatre and the impossibly packed Lion’s Lair, oh those were the days! Fast forward 22 years and Slim Cessna and his banjo-playing partner in crime, Munly are still a timeless, hardcore alt country force to be reckoned with. This band eludes any specific genre, as you can find pieces of religious gospel, classic country, gothic hillbilly, blues and rock all commingling beneath a dark and gritty veil. With Lord Dwight Pentacost on the guitar and Daniel Grandbois at the standup bass, mix in the dark and lovely harmonies and a pedal steel guitar…oh how I love their rough eclectic sound! You can dance, you can sing, you can yodel, you can two-step, square-dance and bang your head, all at the same show. How many bands can you say that about?

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I was buzzing with excitement when I find out Slim and the gang were playing a show in LA, as I am painfully overdue for a shot of their musical brew. The venue was The Echo in the SilverLake/Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Gotta say, not exactly my cup of tea, but in all fairness, there were no major issues. The venue is nothing much to look at; basic small rock club… an all black room with some cushioned bench seating to the side and virtual future lung cancer ward on the back patio filled with your typical LA hipsters. However, the really noteworthy feature of this venue is its sound system. It ROCKS.

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This was a live show of the greatest of the Greatest Hits of Slim Cessa’s Auto Club. Starting the show with an extend-o version of “He, Roger Williams,” the crowd was entranced by Reverend Slim Cessna and was already begging for more. Munly’s “Magalina Hagalina Boom Boom” revved the crowd up even further with cheers that would rival a much larger venue. The energy in the room was ablaze with the edgy, sexy “Red Pirate of the Prairie.”  Fists were pumping and heads were bobbing along with “This is How We Do Things in the Country,” and arms were waving in unison for their hardcore gospel hit “Children of the Lord.” God damn, I LOVED watching the band blow people’s minds. Looking around at the 30-something-ish, uber-hipster crowd, some were singing along with all the lyrics while others simply looked stupefied and bewildered at what they were experiencing. I think they were waiting to witness a laying on of hands and hear Slim start speaking in tongues. I swear, I could actually SEE people at the point of connection to the music and letting themselves go with this strangely hypnotic sound that is Slim Cessna’s Auto Club.  There were most definitely a large number of converts last night at The Echo. As they played “A Smashing Indictment of Character” and “That Fierce Cow is Common Sense in a Country Dress” the crowd and the band had become one as Slim and Munly made their way in and out of the crowd, getting us all down on the floor with them and jumping up again like a bunch of kids playing Simon Says. It was such a thrill to see that Slim Cessna’s crowds love them just as much in cities outside their hometown of Denver. Why is this band not playing bigger venues like The Hollywood Bowl? People would go NUTS for these guys on a larger scale.

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Slim and Munly singing, swaying and dancing their fancy footwork in sync, their playful theatrics, just too much! “Cranston” is another one of those songs that just mesmerizes the crowd. They have always been such an amusing band to watch perform live. Regardless of your musical tastes, if you have a pulse, you will be anticipating their next move and dancing right along with them.

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Ending the night with “Hold My Head” as Slim surfed out into the crowd and was delivered safely back to the stage by his loyal congregation where he proclaimed, “We’re Slim Cessna’s Auto Club from Denver, Colorado. Thank you! We’ll see you next time everyone!” Whew! We made it! Hot, sweaty and satisfied. Ears and spirits have been filled and lifted with The Good Word of Slim Cessna. If only all preachers and sermons were like this, churches would be packed every Sunday. If given the chance, see them live or at least check them out online. You will be born again.

Rise and shine and give God the glory…Children of the Lord!

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Head in the sky and feet in the sand: A Weekend of Connecting in San Diego

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How about a weekend in San Diego, hanging out with my dear buddy Troy, checking out some sights and watching the Air Supply show? Count me in!

Arrived in to San Diego on an unusually hot day, greeted with a big smile and full on hug. Troyyyy! With not much time to spare before he had to report to the concert venue for work, we landed at a cool little place called The Living Room Coffeehouse. It felt like we were eating in a treehouse. Enjoying our small window of time together under the shade of a ginormous tree. Troy is one of those friends that makes you feel good the minute you lay eyes on him. Glowing with a warm energy, totally easy going and always smiling and happy to see you. What a delightful, albeit brief interlude.

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My friend Troy. One of the sweetest, most genuinely cool people I’ve ever known.

I dropped him off at work and started a day of exploration with my little man Elliott.
We made our first stop at the bay, sitting in the shade of the Palm trees on soft green grass, staring out at millions of boats, taking in the cool breeze off the water.

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What a gorgeous day to be by the bay.

Feeling rejuvenated, we made our way to the Sheriff Museum in Old Town.
What a fantastic little museum! Full of educational history and artifacts, staffed by incredibly friendly retired Sheriff Deputies who are more than happy to share their stories with you.

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Impressive collection of Sheriff badges!

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You play, you pay. Sally and Elliott locked up for having too much fun.

Took a stroll through Old Town looking in shops and people watching before I came upon a mariachi band concert…in a shady park. Ahhhh!
You would never know these talented musicians were kids from Chula Vista High School! Such a festive happening!

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Casa de Estudillo. 1827 Spanish architecture of the first settlers in the area.

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Immaculate Conception Church in Old Town San Diego. Love it! Look at that blue sky!

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Old Town San Diego is a spicy blend of cultutral activites, shopping and dining topped off with fascinating history.

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Art sculptures in Old Town San Diego. There’s a new Sheriff in town.

Drained by the hot sun, we retreated to the hotel for nap time

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Absolutely pooped out after a long day in the sweltering coastal heat.

and a little dip in the pool

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Ahhhhh aquatherapy.

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Lushly landscaped pool areas are a must!

After a salad and a shower, I was finally ready to head over to the show!
I was really looking forward to an evening of Air Supply!

Humphrey’s by the Bay is a fabulous and intimate outdoor venue, nestled behind the hotel and bordered by the boats on the bay. The foliage is so thick, you feel as though you’re in some hidden tropical destination. Really cool!

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Humphrey’s by the Bay. What a super fantastic outdoor venue. Can you see all the lights of the boats in the background? What a perfect concert setting!

Please see my forthcoming review of the show, but in a word, spectacular!

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Graham and Russell of Air Supply. Wow. Can you say “staying power?”

Got to hang out for bevvies after the show… what a memorable evening! My how time sure does fly when you’re having fun.

In the blink of an eye, it was morning and I had to say so long to my friend. Even on no sleep, Troy is a happy camper! So sad to see him go. I have such limited social interaction here in LA, that my time with special people is beyond precious to me. My dear friend Troy. So very thankful we are still so close after all these years. Wow!

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Sleepy but smiley after a great night! See you soon my friend!

Once again returned to solo status, I decided I better fuel up for another day in San Diego with Elliott. And what better fuel than vanilla French toast delivered to the room?

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Perfect start to my Sunday morning. Vanilla french toast and pineapple coconut water. Yummmm!

On a whim, I found myself at the Junipero Serra Museum (Founding Father of California Missions) in Presidio Park. Awesome find!

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The Junipero Serra Museum in Presidio Park above Old Town San Diego. What a treasure!

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The site of the original Mission has been turned into a preserve/park and the bricks used to make this cross were found among the ruins. What a wonderful tribute to Father Junipero Serra! The “Father” of California Missions.

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The site of the real first Mission settlement in San Diego’s Presidio Park.

Drove through the historic Gaslamp District. What a bustling, jumping part of town! Mostly restaurants and bars, with a few boutiques thrown in. This section of town is definitely thriving.
Good to see all this action!

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Historic Gaslamp District in San Diego is full of restaurants of all kinds.

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Hard Rock Cafe…An oldie but goodie!

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The hustle and bustle of the Gaslamp District on a Sunday afternoon.

It was already blazing hot and silly me, I thought we could cool down at the coast. Cruised through Ocean Beach and ended up at Sunset Cliffs National Park. Whoa!! This scenic stretch of coastal driving, looking out over the cliffs. Just stunning. The dirt and sand were so hot I had to carry Elliott to save his paws from burning. We squatted for a few minutes watching kids jump off the cliffs into the water below while screaming all the way down. Poor Elliott wanted to jump in and cool off, and I did too! SO HOT!

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Sunset Cliffs National Park in Ocean Beach. You can drive or walk along for miles.

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Elliott yearning to jump in and cool off!

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Reminds me of Cabo San Lucas. Just beautiful!

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Rules are for fools not cools, right?

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Come on…everyone’s doing it! Kowabungaaaa!

Our last stop for the day, Mission San Diego de Alcala. It is now 95 degrees outside and I’m melting. I won’t let Elliott’s feet touch the ground. This is insane heat for the coast. But alas, we forge ahead.
Southern California’s first mission. Beautiful architecture. Fascinating history. Lovely and lush landscaping.
Peace. Serenity. Quiet. We made our way through the self guided tour, fanning us with the brochure to avoid fainting. I’m pretty sure I sweat off 6 or 7 pounds as I wandered the grounds of this historic monument. I have such an attraction to Missions and religious art. They are simply intoxicating to me.

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MIssion San Diego de Alcala. Southern California’s first offical Misson founded in 1769. Stunning!

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The cathedral of Mission San Diego. Note the stone cross on the floor in honor of a slain Father in a brutal attack.

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Fray Junipero Serra. What a pioneer and religious hero!

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Fountain at Mission San Diego de Alcala. I love all the colors, textures and shapes in this photo!

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The iconic symbol of Missions, the bell tower.

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As Elliott and I made our way back to Manhattan Beach with the A/C blasting and the stereo turned up, I ruminated on this weekend with a bittersweet taste on my tongue. I’m so incredibly lucky and grateful for my weekend adventures, they have exceeded any and all expectations I could have ever had, but the good times always seem just a little bit better when you have someone great along for the ride! Thank you Troy for sharing a moment of your hard earned and well deserved life with me this weekend. What a special treat that our paths could finally intersect. You’ve come a longggg way, baby! Maybe all this Air Supply music is getting to my brain but here’s my thought for the weekend: Whether a passing moment, a fateful night or a life long bond, our spirits need to connect with others in a loving way. And just like the hokey pokey…that’s what it’s all about.

Route 66: America’s Favorite Highway, Part 1

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Gettin’ my kicks….on Route 66!

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Sand and Sage Motel, just one of many rest stops along Route 66 in the San Bernardino area of Southern California.

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Stop in to this old school diner for some authentic huevos rancheros, potato tacos or stir fried cactus. Muy bueno!

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The glorious and grand historic California Theatre where Will Rogers once performed.

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HIdden behind a wall of ivy, take a step into the past when you walk through the doors of Carl’s Liquor & Mart.

Any Americana history buff would tell you the San Bernardino area is a pure gold mine of Route 66 memories, both past and present. It is so cool to see surviving signs of life amongst otherwise renovated or economically devastated parts of these towns. I snagged a fantastic tip from a fellow traveler at the Wig Wam Motel about a Route 66 app called Road Trip 66 that maps where you are and shows every vintage old school sign and business along your route. I happily accepted the challenge and decided I would attempt to track down every location I could until it was time to head back home for the night. Not exactly prime real estate out there, so I planned to be long gone by dark. This is not a simple child’s game, but an exciting scavenger hunt that requires a keen eye and nimble driving skills.

A slew of vintage signs and old school businesses are scattered throughout the now busy roads, mixed in with the newer lackluster bunch, but I loved imagining how it looked back 30, 40, 50, even 60 years ago. Back when you could actually “cruise” Route 66 instead of having to dart in and out of heavy, stop and go traffic to catch a glimpse and a snapshot of these timeless treasures. Below is Part One of highlights from my trip back in time.

I had a blast pulling in to the parking lots of cozy roadside inns such as the Sand and Sage Motel, which appears to be in great shape and working order. Oh how I would love to see that sign at night!
The Mitla Cafe is a down home, family-owned Mexican diner that opened in 1937… so fabulously old school and still very much alive and kicking.
The California Theatre, a true Spanish colonial beauty, erected in 1928 and the location of Will Rogers last performance.
Dating back approximately 100 years is Carl’s Liquor Store and The Deli. The sign is almost completely covered by thick ivy and must look incredible when lit up at night. Inside you are surrounded my proof of this gem’s age. Old school freezers and coolers, original wooden floors, I loved it! The Deli is around other side of the building with a walk up window to order from and made to order sandwiches that are out of this world! You can sit under the ivy covered overhang and eat your sammie, have a beer and watch the traffic wiz by.
As a bonus, directly across the street is a vintage gas station that is actually under reconstruction to return it to its original splendor. Long live the original inhabitants of America’s Mother Road! Stay tuned for more!!

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With a little money and TLC, this Route 66 gas station in Rancho Cucamonga will soon be returned to its glory days.