I Was Just Thinking…

. . . about Las Vegas and all the money its hotels, casinos, and restaurants have missed collecting during their Coronavirus-force hiatus. And, of course, the income its thousands of employees have left, as they might say in Vegas, on the table.

No other city deals so much in cash—after all, you can’t charge your bets on a credit card in a casino.

Maybe you knew it, but I didn’t until I read about it on Michael Trager’s website called Travelzork that the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Vegas closed in February after 25 years in business.

Once the Vegas hang place for young, moneyed players from LA—sports figures, actors, rock stars, and their dates in little dresses—the Hard Rock expanded and lost the intimate vibe its small, circular casino engendered.

At my last visit three years ago, I found myself seated at a $100-a-minimum-bet blackjack table with Dennis Rodman and his posse. It was April 2017, and Rodman had gone missing from the basketball team he’d just joined, the LA Lakers. Disappeared.

Fans, coaches, and sports media speculated on his whereabouts.

Even though I’d ended my DC career as a reporter, I couldn’t resist slipping away from the table and calling a friend at the Los Angeles Times. And that’s how the Lakers learned where their wayward new star was. I seem to recall Rodman was fined $1,000 a day for each day of practice he’d missed. Which was less than he was betting on a single hand of blackjack at the Hard Rock.

The Hard Rock’s small venue for music acts called The Joint was always popular, but the big party was on Sunday afternoons when the hotel’s pool hosted REHAB, a party that attracted Vegas casino employees and others (like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian) who stood cheek by jowl in the hotel’s pool while sipping drinks. The music was deafening, and it was sometimes difficult to get a ticket to join the fun.

The day the music stopped was February 3rd. Richard Branson’s Virgin group and other investors will reopen the renovated property later this year as a Virgin hotel and casino.

No word yet on REHAB Sundays.

Footnote: Speaking of Richard Branson, his Virgin Australia airline (co-owned with Delta Airlines) entered bankruptcy last week. He’s asked the British government for an $8.79 million loan so Virgin Australia can resume flying when possible. He reportedly said he’d guarantee the loan with his Caribbean estate, Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands.

Short Takes

  • In a letter to employees, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz tells employees that many of them will be let go on Oct. 1. There will be no pay cuts or furloughs before then, part of the agreement United made in accepting funds from the government. But the airline says it’ll be a smaller airline this fall so will need fewer employees.
  • In Memoriam: Sirio Maccioni, the Italian restaurateur who brought New York and the world Le Cirque, passed away on Monday. He was 88 and died of natural causes in the Tuscan town in which he was born, Montecatini Terme, Italy. And world adventurer, raconteur, and photographer Peter Beard, 82, was found dead near his home last Sunday on Montauk, NY. He suffered from dementia. Here’s a nice piece remembering his life and loves from Town & Country magazine.
  • The International Air Transport Association forecasts global passenger numbers will fall 55% compared to last year.
  • Boeing revealed that last month customers canceled orders for 150 jets. Watch for Boeing’s quarterly earnings report on April 29th when the company may disclose how much Boeing will have to pay airlines that have lost the use of their 737 MAX planes since they were grounded late in 2018.
  • Delta announces that if you book travel now through the end of September, or if you’ve canceled flights from March through September, you can make changes without paying a fee through Sept. 20, 2022. So you can take advantage of any deals on offer now, and change your plans if needed without paying a change fee of at last $200.
  • That empty middle seat many airlines in the world promise right now? First of all, the aisle and the window seat aren’t six feet apart. And an airline can’t operate profitably for very long with a third of its coach seats flying empty. Alaska says it’ll abide by that rule until the end of May; most airlines haven’t announced a deadline.

And Be Careful Crossing The Street

Something more to worry about: According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, pedestrian fatalities in the US are going through the roof. In 2009, 4,109 American pedestrians were killed; last year, that number rose to 6,590.

There are two suspected reasons for the sharp increase:

Firstly, the increased use of cell phones by pedestrians. And secondly, alcohol. More than 2,000 victims were found to be “drunk walking” with a blood alcohol level over 0.08%.

Be especially careful when crossing streets overseas where drivers drive on the left side of the street. Remember this mantra: (Look) “right, left, right.” Every 12 hours a pedestrian is injured in London; one dies each week.

On The Virtues of Walking

And speaking of walking, many of us have been walking more since staying at home became the orders of the day. And travelers have long known walking is the best way to sightsee.

Now, in a Wall Street Journal excerpt of a book published this month, a professor of experimental brain research at Dublin’s Trinity College says science has documented surprising benefits from walking.

According to Dr. Shane O’Mara, walking benefits us both psychologically and physically. And I don’t just mean the general good feeling of getting outdoors. Turns out essential molecules produced by movement help our brains repair wear and tear, assist in the growth of cells that regulate metabolism, reduce inflammation, and grow new cells.

If you’re sedentary—or a normal, desk-bound office worker—those molecules aren’t produced sufficiently to relieve hearts and muscles of stress and strain.

Dr. O’Mara reports studies show walking reduces depression and increases creativity. Need to tackle a tough problem? He suggests you take a 20-minute stroll and think about it. A walking brain is a more active brain.

You may read the entire article here.

Travel Quotes in English

“The Englishman has all the qualities of a poker except the warmth.”

  • Daniel O’Connell, 19th-century Irish political leader

“The English think incompetence is the same thing as sincerity.”

  • Quentin Crisp, English writer & actor

“The most dangerous thing in the world is to make a friend of an Englishman, because he’ll come sleep in your closet rather than spend ten shillings at a hotel.”

  • Truman Capote, author

Chef, food writer, and food television personality Andrew Zimmern joins me along with travel-agent-to-the-wealthy John Dekker today (Thursday April 23rd) on my webcast at noon Pacific time. Register here for entry and to receive a reminder. Join & participate!