It was Autumn 2002.
I was turning 60 years old and she and I were going to Paris.
Paris, Las Vegas.
Neither of us had ever been to the Desert Mecca. I thought it might be fun. She had her doubts but after talking to friends who’d been she decided “yeah what the hell”. Besides it was my birthday.
Now my wife had never been to the great American West. Most of our trips were to see family in Florida and to trek the kiddies to Orlando. (It’s a Small World After all!). Now the kids were grown. (You mean you’re going to Vegas without us?!)
So here we are landing in the desert when she sees the pyramid and starts to laugh. We grab our bags and soon we’re in France – ehh Paris. She is still looking with wonder. So fun! So tacky! And no kids! At least not ours.
Our room is great and we start to explore. She walks into a casino for the first time in her life. Slowly seeping up the atmosphere and ambiance. The ceiling of the Paris is constructed and lit so it looks like the sky. No windows of course. No clocks.
She sits down in front of a Wild Cherries slot and pulls the lever. She smiles the smile of a little kid. She loves this place. Of course she is blessed with beginner’s luck. She wins.
After exploring Paris and the attached Bally’s I take her to a sports bar. She’s never done that either. It’s a small bar at the back of the Paris. Sawdust on the floor. We have night caps at a small table with a view of the casino floor.
We go to our room with a bucket filled with dollar coins and make love.
Next day she talks to our daughter. Seems she never had so much fun. “Mom! You went to a sports bar??!!! Shock and awe.
We spent 5 days in Paris, Venice, Rome, New York, Egypt. We gambled, drank, went to nice restaurants, made love, saw shows both tacky and fun. Shopped.
Toured the car collection at the Imperial Palace; had my picture taken standing next to Mussolini’s Alfa Romeo. She took a pic next to Patrick Stewart at Madame Toussaud’s.
We had breakfast at a small restaurant every morning on the Paris casino floor.
“I love the sound of a casino in the morning!” says she. Most of the sound is piped in of course, with an occasional winning shout from a craps table or the ding! ding! Ding! from a slot jackpot. The sound is low, constant and mesmerizing. It makes you forget the real world and your troubles.
During a morning stroll we find the Bellagio Art Gallery. The exhibit at the time was Nicholas and Alexandra – the Last Romanovs.
On display among the treasures was the clothing actually worn by Czar Nicholas II at his coronation as well as Alexandra’s gown. Nicholas wore the uniform of a Colonel of the Preobrezensky Life Guards, the oldest Russian regiment originally founded by Peter the Great. It was simple and blue. Nicholas added a few of his many honors and medals.
In the middle of his chest over his heart the uniform was cut through so that the cloth could be lifted and the Holy Oil of Anointing could be applied directly to his body by the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church.
We stood there staring at the uniform and the gown mounted on mannequins. The coronation uniform of the Czar of all the Russians sitting here in Vegas.
“They couldn’t know the future. None of us can”she said In 21 years they and their children would all be dead. Yet they were a couple and here was the clothing they wore on one of their happier days.
That evening we rode the Paris elevator to the top of the “Eiffel Tower” and had our picture taken. It was October 15, 2002 at 10:24 P.M. The date and time are on the picture, which sits on my bedroom dresser.
In 18 months and 4 days she would be gone. None of us can know what the future holds.
We had a great time in Vegas, just the two of us. So much so that we traveled back every three months in 2003. We cancelled a trip scheduled for early 2004 because she was not feeling well enough to travel.
We made love for the last time in Vegas. We didn’t know it of course. After returning from our last trip she quickly deteriorated and had to sleep downstairs on a hospital bed in the living room we had brought in to make her comfortable. She couldn’t climb the stairs anymore. She whispered quietly to me that the worst part of her illness was that we might never love each other again. I told her she was being silly and laughed it off. But she was right. We never did.
I’ve had invitations to Vegas since her passing. Well meaning family and friends. “Come to Vegas with us!”
But I don’t go to Vegas anymore.