Monday, December 22, 2014

It Doesn’t Pay to Be First

We go to Las Vegas every December, not to gamble or to celebrate any holiday, but to play in the US Nationals Table Tennis Tournament held in their huge convention center.

We stay at the Westgate Hotel, which is a short walk away, since they offer rooms to the players for only $49 a night, and don’t charge any exorbitant resort feels.

To get to the table tennis venue, you have to wend your way through the glitzy, smoke-filled, noisy casino.

For years we would eat at the Paradise Café near our elevators, and far away from the casino gambling raucous hullabaloo.

We ate there the first day, and were pleased to find familiar, friendly servers who were thoroughly acquainted with the menu offerings, and knew what they were doing. As we were leaving, the maître de told us that Paradise would be lost, for it would be closed down and replaced by Sid’s Café the following day.

Sid’s Café was totally unprepared to open, with the majority of the waitpersons still learning what was on the menu, how to serve, and how to use the computers.

Although the menu was similar, the meals were not quite the same. The cost of each meal was higher, the service was slower, and the orders delivered didn’t always match the orders requested. However, the silverware was wrapped in linen napkins, and all restaurant employees were garbed in drab black, funereal-looking uniforms.

You have to understand that when you try something new and untested, there may be a chance for some problems. You should never be the first to try either a new restaurant, or to purchase the “new and improved” model of any electronic device when it’s first introduced.

Some Things Last Forever
Sid’s Café sits in the middle of the casino’s cacophonous deluge of irritable sounds, accompanied by annoying flashing lights attempting to entice guests to come to try their luck at any of the many gambling choices.

While Paradise Café was devoid of these unpleasant sights and sounds, they surround you in stereo at Sid’s. The week before Christmas, there was the added joy to the world with the continuous playing of requisite music for the season.

The selections, which were loudly played again and again and again, seemed to be designed as waterboarding to the ears. Among the more stirring renditions played were “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “Oh By Gosh, By Golly, It’s Time for Mistletoe and Holly,” “Deck the Halls,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Jingle Bells” and “Jingle Bell Rock.” The holiday’s name is found in other musical numbers, including “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” “”Oh Christmas Tree,” ”I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Mele Kalikimaka.”

An exuberant and boisterously loud soul sister provided the grand finale to the musical loop, by bellowing out a song I had never heard before — “Merry Christmas, Happy New Years to All of My Friends.” I hope to never hear it again.

Happy Birthday, La La
When I was a lad of eight or so, the choir at our primarily Jewish elementary school was invited to put on a December concert at a Catholic convent on the other side of town. When my Mother discovered that the lyrics to one of the songs praised Jesus Christ, she convinced me to substitute the words “La La,” instead of using his name. Being a naïve boy then and not understanding why I was so instructed, I did as I was told. I still use the revised lyrics some seventy years later whenever I hear that music, and still sing to myself, “La La, Our Savior Was Born.”