So I am a Las Vegas virgin no longer.

My boss took me to Vegas with him to WebBuilder 2.0 December 3rd through the 5th. I learned a lot of cool stuff there, like I almost had a heart attack when I found out that you can import layered Photoshop PSDs into the latest version of Flash, no doubt due to Macromedia being bought by Adobe. Yes, that's right, with all the layers intact. That would have saved me SOOOO much time if I'd known about that a few weeks ago! /msg me if you would like to discuss anything else I might have been enlightened on while there.

But Vegas... what can I say? I have had trouble when people have asked me what it was like. Maybe it was because I didn't exactly take it all in. I lost $20 on a slot machine and $5 on video blackjack, but I could have done that at the casinos in and near St. Louis. We didn't have time to go to any shows. What I find myself saying is "Well, it's like you think it is, what you see on television and in the movies, it's lit up like a Christmas tree and it never closes!" A Mecca of decadence? Sure. Gambling. Food. Entertainment. Varying degrees of pictorial female nudity. None of those things are ever very far away. The only surprise to me - something I never saw in any of my television Vegas schoolings - was the people standing around on the sidewalks trying to hand you little cards featuring nude chicks, no doubt advertisements for various cabarets. I found them exceedingly annoying, mostly because they don't stand any farther than five feet from each other and they can clearly see that your attention was not wavered by any of the previous card people. Also, the way they flick them as they try to hand them to you like handing out little pictures of female private parts is the coolest job in the world, it contributed to my perturbence as well. Sorry, my friends, the coolest job in the world is more likely being the person who takes those pictures.

I was at the Paris, though, right on "The Strip." Maybe other areas aren't the same.

It's not still hot in the winter, by the way, my mislead Midwesterners. It was almost as cold there as it was in Missouri. No, not just at night. Especially at night, but not just. Sweaters and jackets are needed past November.

It was, however, warm in Los Angeles. We had a layover there on the way back to Missouri. Yes, we went further west before heading back east. I don't get it, either. So now I can say that I've visited LA, too. Sort of. Well, I got to see the Hollywood sign..

...from a distance... the air.

If you're ever traveling to Vegas, though, or really anywhere, I highly recommend you travel with somebody who is a VIP, is loaded, and gambles enough to get lots of comps, or that you be that person. First class is pretty swank. I'd never ridden in First Class before. Free drinks, full meals, and in-flight entertainment. Oh, and leg room. Oh, the leg room! And sometimes they give you free headphones. Yes, you can take them home if you like. Well, they're the cheap little ones, the buds that just go inside your ear, but still.

Another thing about Vegas that I should go into more detail on is the food. There is nothing special there food-wise, I should start out with. Indeed anything there you can find anywhere. However, the difference is, it's all in one place! In one casino! In Planet Hollywood! (The Paris is right next to it.) One place in particular that I should mentioned is the Pampas Brazilian Grille Strip in PH. Oh. My. God. If you ever go there, or a Brazilian restaurant near you, get the rodizio! Along with a salad bar with various tasties, guys come around with a bunch of meat (various kinds) in a skewer and cut pieces off for you. Let me tell you that, without a doubt, it is teh awesome. Each one I sampled... and sampled again... and again... was the best I've ever tasted. And they will come with more and more until you turn over this little coaster-like card they give you to the red side (green side means "Bring me more!" and red side means "Hold on, I'm taking a break!") If you have never experienced this, I implore you to go... right now... onto Google and find one in a city or town near you and eat there tonight.

I found it odd that more than a few people joked about me getting hookers while there. I didn't see any.

Or did I?

Well, I'd better not give you guys any more details and stop here. After all, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

You just knew I'd say that at some point, didn't you?

They forget to tell you, when you become a parent, that your heart never belongs to you again.

One week ago I had my AIM thing open on the computer and a message came through from someone I intended to have no contact with whatsoever for the remainder of my unnatural life. This person, who I once referred to as "The Muse," and I had a rather unpleasant parting following her suicide attempts, intense cutting episodes, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and her time spent in the locked ward of psych hospital. And, for all that, when she was taken off to another state by her family because she could no longer take care of herself, she was unable to grasp that these were not the reasons I was cutting her completely out of my life.

The reasons I was cutting her out of my life were related to her blatant infidelity, the lies she spread about me, the manipulative emotional abuse she subjected me to, and how she continued to do whatever she felt like doing no matter what impact it had on anyone around her, including me. In the end, it was a case where it became obvious that nothing and no one mattered to her other than herself.

She seemed to be trying to instant message me in order to apologize for how she had treated me, although there was a curious wording to her "apology." She didn't say she was sorry for treating me so poorly. She said she was sorry she never realized how good I was to her.

She never asked how I was doing or how I was handling my recovery from the events that transpired when we were together. She proceeded to give me an update on her activites, which included another major breakdown, another cutting episode that involved an emergency room visit, another suicide attempt by overdosing on pills, a month spent in a psychiatric hospital, and being kicked out by her family because they could no longer "deal with" her. In knowing her family as I do, I tend to believe the actions they took had more to do with her abusive behavior towards them than her general psychotic actions, but it isn't likely she'll be capable of understanding that anytime soon.

She wanted to know about her possessions, most of which she was forced to leave behind in New Hampshire when she was spirited away by her family. I told her I only took one thing and left the rest for our landlord, a kind-hearted woman who put up with a great deal in having the former muse as a tenant, to sell at her weekend yard sales.

"No, I didn't want anything to remind me of you."

She asked me what I did take, what this one item was.

She collected a lot of what was, for the most part, junk. She spent time at flea markets and garage sales and the like looking for strange and offbeat items. What I took was a picture. It might be an antique for all I know. It is a sepia tone print of a painting.

The people in the painting are wearing what looks to be 18th Century clothing. There is what looks to be a father seated on a bench outside. There is a young girl in a long dress kneeling beside him with her hands in his lap, being held by his, with her face pressed against his cheek. What looks to be a brother is standing beside them, holding the reins of two horses. Below the print of this painting is a single word in capital letters, "Forgiven."

When I told her this print was the one thing I kept, something she acquired just because of the horses, she asked if the reason I kept it was because I had forgiven her.

"That isn't the reason, but I do forgive you and I hold no ill will towards you. I simply do not want you to be a part of my life in any way ever again."

She didn't like that answer.

Ever since then I've been looking at the print and wondering why it is that it captivates me in such a strong way. Today I had a bit of an epiphany.

I still haven't forgiven myself.

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