Saturday, October 31, 2009

Life Imitating Art?

A couple of years ago, I wrote a novella called Check Ride , about two gay airline pilots who become lovers. In my (fictional) story, airmen Mario Freeman and Gill Savage discover their mutual attraction towards each other while flying their big 727 jet. I made it as realistic as I could, drawing on my days working at and around JFK Airport years ago. The book made the bestseller list, got excellent reviews, and even gained currency among LGBT airline professionals. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I was happy that it was even popular with the airline crowd. I thought it was a sweet little gay-lit story about two pilots who fall in love. I gave it little thought beyond my usual need to promote the book, until a week and a half ago. That's when the crew of Northwest Flight 188 from San Diego to Minneapolis, somehow overshot their destination by 150 miles. As frantic air traffic controllers and the company's dispatchers tried to contact the wayward plane, not a peep was heard from Captain Timothy Cheney and First Officer Richard Cole.

Since the first reports of this incident made the news, I have been bombarded with e-mails, phone calls, and text messages about the story. Then the two pilots changed their explanation for the error, first saying they "Lost track of time" while arguing over company policy, but later revised their statement to allude to using their laptops to surf the Web in the cockpit. That's when people started making some kind of connection (coincidental, I'm sure) between Check Ride and what was really going on aboard that plane. I was asked over and over again whether I thought this might be a case of two closeted fliers joining the Mile High Club. A person joins the "Mile High Club" when they have sex aboard an airplane flying above 5,280 feet. Did these two wayward pilots try to become members of this exclusive club?

Looking over Internet coverage of this incident, it seems the idea that the pilots were having sex on the flight deck has occurred to more than a few people. In the past wek or so, too many people have suggested the pilots read my book and decided to re-enact its plot on a real plane! This includes several airline personnel (who shall remain nameless) who are familiar with both my book and the Flight 188 incident. On closer examination, the circumstantial evidence is pretty damning for the pilots. Several elements in their story set off bells in my head like a cockpit stall warning alarm.

Usually, when airline pilots are called to account for errors or incidents that happen while flying, their first instinct is to shut their mouths until a rep from the Air Line Pilots' Association (ALPA) arrives to give them advice and counsel. Pilots under investigation do not ordinarily admit to the press their gross deviations from airline and FAA rules. Yet, in this case, both pilots almost immediately started bleating to the media, the FAA and the Minneapolis Airport Police that they were arguing, or surfing the Web, both forbidden activities for aircrew during flight. There is no way that making these statements would bode well for these men, either personally or professionally. I can only imagine their ALPA union rep and the airline's legal department must have been flipping out at these pilots' loose talk.

Given the obvious severe consequences of such admissions, I can only surmise both pilots were covering an even "worse" truth about what happened in that jetliner. The plane they were flying, by the way, was a thoroughly modern Airbus A320, which is equipped with satellite GPS links, computerized "flight management systems", and "glass cockpit" software. The plane literally "knows" where it is with relation to the flight plan, and its position over the ground. Because the actual flight plan is entered into the plane's computer, the cockpit should have been blasted by shrill alarms as soon as the plane overshot the airport. In addition to this, the air-traffic controllers were screaming for Flight 188 over the radio for over an hour. If, indeed the pilots were having sex, it must have been amazing, incredible, through-the-cockpit-roof action, because they would have had to totally ignore the hooting alarms, radio chatter, and warning tones from every navigation system on the aircraft.

Yet, there it is. Like many who told me this was the most plausible explanation for the whole thing, I am drawn to conclude that the pilots are willing to face the severe discipline of the FAA and Northwest Airlines to protect an even more explosive secret. The FAA, in issuing its "emergency revocation" of the pilots' licenses, used the passage "NW 188 was without communication with any air traffic control facility and with its company dispatcher for a period of 91 minutes while you were on a frolic of your own", (emphasis mine) in a scathing nastygram sent to the airmen. In using a loaded term like "frolic" to describe the pilots' actions, is the FAA hinting at sex? As we learn more about this incident, it seems certain that the truth, however colorful, will eventually come out. In the meantime, my response to media queries about any possible connection between Northwest Flight 188 and Check Ride is "any inspiration these pilots may have had to recreate scenes or activities from my book [if this is, in fact, what transpired], are solely products of the pilots own imaginations." I thank God the plane landed safely, and this episode will just go down as perhaps an especially vivid example of life imitating art. Now excuse me, while I catch an Airtrain out to JFK to see if any copies of Check Ride are floating around the pilots' briefing room...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Gentlemen Of A Certain Age, Part 1

OMG. When I tagged this picture of B-Boy Blues series author James Earl Hardy, author Taylor Siluwe (Dancing With The Devil), me, and Da Doo Dirty Show radio host DJ Baker and posted it to Facebook, reality hit me smack in the face. Not long after I posted it, James Earl Hardy pronounced it the "Gentlemen Of A Certain Age" photo! I was ready to run out to CVS right then and there to grab a case of Just For Men, to hide the encroaching gray hairs on my head. But then, it got me thinking, gee, I am getting older!

When I was born, Lyndon Baines Johnson was President of the United States. Barack Obama was still in diapers, and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was hard at work making it possible for Barack to one day move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Vietnam War was in full swing, and the resulting anti-war movement was just getting started. While I was attending kindergarten, local NYC gays and lesbians started the Stonewall Rebellion to protest police harrassment of LGBT's, and the crew of Apollo 11 landed and walked on the moon.

As I made my way through grade school, the world grew up, too, facing such serious issues as the Watergate scandal which destroyed Richard Nixon's presidency, and an energy crisis that made Americans realize their precious oil supply was not entirely under their control. I remember my parents complaining about odd/even gas rationing, at a time when just about every car on the road was a gas-guzzling monster. But the '70s also brought us disco, the soundtrack of the LGBT community in that era. It appeared that gays and lesbians were finding their way into the musical "mainstream" when the gay theme group, The Village People, appeared on the scene. They ushered in a musical genre that included legendary songstress Donna Summer, the Gibb brothers, better known as the Bee Gees, and perennial icon Chaka Khan.

For a time, disco personified a carefree lifestyle, where tolerance was on the rise, and it looked like bigotry was on its way to history's dustpile. I was in junior high and just beginning to struggle with my sexuality, when Harvey Milk was elected as a San Francisco City Supervisor. Milk was the first openly gay person to be elected to high municipal office in the United States. It looked as though I might actually grow up into an era in which my orientation wouldn't be an obstacle to life. Of course, harsh reality flooded in, when Milk was assassinated, along with Mayor George Moscone, by a homophobic fellow city supervisor named Dan White. White then skirted punishment for the murders by using an outrageous legal argument that has come to be known as the "twinkie defense". I clearly remember watching Dianne Feinstein, then also a San Francisco city official, announcing the murders on television, and that White was already in police custody. I was utterly (and secretly) devastated, and this assassination was one of the reasons I stayed in the closet for years to come.

It was around my junior year of high school that reports began surfacing in the news about a disease called "Gay-Related Immune Deficiency" (GRID), which later became known to the world as HIV/AIDS. A new challenge to the survival of the LGBT community had emerged, and together with a resurgence of homophobic bigotry, would shape my life and the lives of gays and lesbians everywhere, for the forseeable future.

In Part 2 of "Gentlemen Of A Certain Age", the Eighties arrive, and with adulthood, I see changes in the world scarcely dreamed of in the Sixties of my childhood, plus the more things change...stay tuned.

Update: Rally Against Hate In College Point

On Saturday, October 17, outraged members of the LGBT community gathered in College Point, Queens, to march and rally in protest against the brutal beating of gay resident Jack Price. Price, 49, was allegedly beaten into a coma by two local homophobes, Daniel Rodriguez and Daniel Aleman in an unprovoked attack which was captured by surveillance video. The suspects claimed Price "provoked" them by writing his phone number on the wall of a local deli. Price was taken to New York Hospital Queens where it was revealed he sustained multiple broken ribs, the collapse of both lungs, a lacerated spleen, and othewr injuries sufficiently severe that he had to be placed in a medically-induced coma to reduce the swelling of his battered organs.

Determined that this attack against Price and, in fact, the entire LGBT community, not go unanswered, local activists and community groups--myself included--took to the streets, in order to make it clear that homophobic violence will not be tolerated. Organized by LGBT community groups such as Make The Road NY and Queens Community House, the March brought several elected officials, including mayoral candidate Bill Thompson, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall out to speak. These officials were joined by Rally organizer and City Council nominee Daniel Dromm, LGBT community activist and organizer Brendan Fay, and Generation Q head Marissa Ragonese. Hundreds of gays, lesbians, and their alllies accompanied them on a march up College Point Blvd, past the 18th Avenue scene of the crime, and on to the Poppenhusen Playground parking lot, where the Rally was held.

Although Mayor Bloomberg did not attend the March or Rally, he issued a statement condemning the thuggish attack, and there was plenty of media coverage throughout the afternoon. I spoke alongside many others from city government, LGBT organoizations, and public agencies who will not stand for acts of hateful violence in our streets. We as human beings, New Yorkers and members of the LGBT community have the absolute right to walk our streets free from fear that we will be set upon and attacked because of who or what we are.

It will always be incumbent upon us to make ourselves seen and heard whenever any member of our community suffers this kind of tragic violence. There have been far too many (once is too many) beatings and killings of gays and lesbians in NYC and around the world this past year. Whenever bigotry rears its ugly head and strikes out at us, we must be ready to answer in numbers and with a strong message that homophobia is "socially unacceptable".

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Saturday: Join Me In A Tribute To E. Lynn Harris!

This Saturday, there will be a gala Red Carpet Tribute to an American literary icon. Everette Lynn Harris, whose untimely death this past summer at age 54 sent shock waves through the literary community, was a trailblazing author. His books, including eight New York Times bestsellers, brought black gay and bisexual characters into contemporary American literature, and made it possible for LGBT authors of color, including myself, to enter the publishing world, which had been closed to us before him. Lynn was a truly gifted man who always found time to assist and encourage other writers of the gay genre, even as his own works went on to greater and greater success. My own interactions with Lynn showed him to be a gentleman, genuinely interested in the efforts of other authors to bring our stories to the world.

Delvon Johnson, author of Love Yourself First, is hosting a tribute to Lynn, whom he credits as his inspiration. "I wouldn't have come this far if it weren't for E. Lynn Harris," Johnson notes. I think that's a sentiment shared by many of today's LGBT authors. It's fitting and proper that we pay our respects to Lynn, and honor his life and works in a symbolic and ceremonial manner.

The tribute, entitled Fulfilling His Legacy will take place this Saturday, October 24, at The Spot Lounge, 45 Commerce Street, Newark, NJ. Sponsors for this event include theNewark Arts Council, Open Doors, American Heart Association, New York City Sports Club, the National Aids & Education for Minorities, Urban Knowledge Book Store, Hoodywear Fashions, The Spot Lounge, and several other prominent groups and businesses. In addition to honoring Lynn for his literary works, the event also seeks to raise awareness of heart disease, which killed Lynn, and is a leading cause of death among people of color. After Lynn's death, seven unpublished manuscripts were discovered on his laptop. If Lynn had not suffered an early death from heart disease, who knows what other literary gems he might have graced us with?

The evening will begin at 6 PM with a Cocktail Hour and book signing for Delvon Johnson's book, Love Yourself First. Following this will be the Fulfilling His Legacy ceremony. Comedian Jonathan Martin is the Master Of Ceremonies, and live entertainment will be provided by musical guests Sushi Fresh and Orikl. Joining me in speaking tribute to Lynn will be noted publisher Karen Hunter, who edited and published Lynn's final novel, Mama Dearest, actor and screenwriter Maurice Jamal, and legendary songstress Madonna, as well as many other prominent literary, artistic, and musical figures.

Among the noteworthy invited guests attending this Gala are DJ Baker, creator and host of the award-winning radio talk show, Da Doo Dirty Show, Taylor Siluwe, author of the intriguing gay-genre novel Dancing with The Devil, and legendary author James Earl Hardy who gave us the incomparable B-Boy Blues series of books. Saturday promises to be a night to remember as we honor the man who changed the American literary landscape. If you're interested in attending, you must RSVP Delvon Johnson at Directions to the event are as follows:

PATH trains leave Manhattan from stations located at 23rd St. & 6th Ave. -or- 33rd St. & 6th Ave.
Take PATH train to Jersey City/Journal Square stop, get out there and transfer to the Newark train which takes you to Newark Penn Station.
Once you get out at Newark Penn Station
If walking out of Newark Penn Station:
Make a right and walk up Market St. until you hit Mulberry St.
Make a right onto Mulberry and walk to Commerce St.
The Spot is on your right, 45 Commerce St.

Via NY Penn Station:
Take an NJTransit train.
All trains that say EWR and/or SEC go to Newark Penn Station.
2nd stop on NJTransit.
If walking out of Newark Penn Station:
Make a right and walk up Market St. until you hit Mulberry St.
Make a right onto Mulberry and walk to Commerce St.
The Spot is on your right, 45 Commerce St.

From All Points West: Take I-80 EAST. Stay left near the exit 45 to get into I-80 EAST express lane. At exit 47A (left exit), merge onto I-280 East towards the ORANGES/NEWARK. Take the First St. exit (exit 13 - left exit also) towards the Branch BROOK PK/UMDNJ/NJIT. Make a right onto FIRST ST. Turn left onto W MARKET ST. Turn left onto MULBERRY ST. Turn right onto COMMERCE St. Address is 45 COMMERCT ST.
From All Points East: Take the HOLLAND TUNNEL into NJ. HOLLAND TUNNEL becomes 14TH ST. 14TH ST becomes NJ-139 WEST. Merge onto US-19/1 & 9/1/9 SOUTH. Take the RAYMOND BOULEVARD exit towards NEWARK. Stay straight to go onto FOUNDRY ST. Turn right onto RAYMOND BLVD. Turn left onto MULBERRY ST. Turn right onto COMMERCE ST.. Address is at 45 COMMERCE ST.

From All Points North: Take RT 15 SOUTH towards I-80 EAST. Follow directions from points west.

From All Points South: Take I-95 NORTH/NJ TURNPIKE NORTH (toll). Merge onto NJ-81 NORTH via exit 13A towards NEWARK AIRPORT/ELIZABETH SEAPORT (toll). Stay on NJ-81 NORTH. Take slight right onto US-19/1 & 9/1/9 NORTH. Merge onto NJ-21 NORTH/MCCARTER HIGHWAY towards NEWARK. Merge onto BROAD ST. Turn right onto RAYMOND BLVD. Turn right onto MULBERRY ST. Turn right onto COMMERCE ST. Address is 45 COMMERCE ST.

See you there!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

March And Rally Against Hate Crimes This Saturday!

In response to the vicious gay-bashing attack against Jack Price, a 49-year-old out, proud gay man living in College Point, Queens, there will be a protest March and Rally on Saturday afternoon. The March will begin at 2 PM at College Point Blvd. and 20th Avenue in College Point, Queens. The March will then proceed up College Point Blvd., past the scene of the attack on 18th Avenue, and contnue to the Rally and Speak Out site at Poppenhusen Playground on 14th Avenue and College Point Blvd.

You can reach the March via the 7 train to Main Street, then take a Q65 bus to 20th Avenue. Please bring signs without wooden sticks, your friends, and your spirit of solidarity with Jack Price. A second suspect has been apprehended by the NYPD and Norfolk, Virginia police, at a relative's home in Norfolk, where the suspect ran immediately following the beating. Watch the shocking video of the attack below, then make your plans to join me and your neighbors at Saturday's March. We will send a message to those who might think their hatred and bigotry will make us run in fear: we will not run and hide, like those who attacked Mr. Price. We will not live in fear. We are who we are, and we will never tolerate atrocities like this. Be there.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009



This is the horrific video footage of gay-bashing victim Jack Price being savagely beaten on 18th Avenue in College Point over the weekend. No one should ever, ever suffer an attack like this because they are LGBT. To watch this video is to be reminded that the day has not yet come when we can be out, proud, and safe in the streets of our own cities and towns.

There will be a march and rally this Saturday to protest this outrage. I'll post the information on that as soon as it becomes available.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Worth Every Minute, Every Mile: National Equality March

Yesterday, I traveled to Washington, DC, to participate in the National Equality March. More than just a mere cry for legalizing gay marriage, we came to our government's doorstep to seek an end to our lives of subjugation, persecution and second-class citizenship. I rode to DC aboard a (free!) bus organized by Broadway Impact, a group of Broadway theater people who are passionately committed to LGBT rights. I would be remiss if I didn't publicly thank them and the cast of the Hair musical for the fantastic job they did in bringing us all there and back. I rode a lightning-fast bus, on which I even won a few prizes playing trivia challenge. They even paid all of out DC Metro fares to and from the March and Rally. Do go see the revival of the Broadway musical Hair as soon as you can. The cast and crew are something special.

Arriving in DC, we reported to the Assembly Area, which quickly became mobbed with thousands upon thousands of LGBT people and their supporters from all over the United States. I felt a tremendous sense of awe at the sight of so many gays and lesbians proudly preparing to march through a Southern city, in numbers never before seen for the LGBT community in DC. Among those who turned out to make a statement yesterday was U.S. Army Lieutenant Dan Choi, a gay West Point graduate, Arabic linguist, Iraq veteran, and decorated soldier who was forced out of the Army for daring to reveal his sexual orientation. Lt. Choi represents the absurdity of our military's official policy of homophobia, known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT), first put into practice by President Clinton. That the military, engaged in two foreign wars, and desperately in need of qualified, special-skills sailors, airmen and soldiers like Lt. Choi, could fire them because of their sexulality, is barbaric and not in the best interests of our national defense.

I spoke with Lt. Choi, and he made it plainly clear that he felt the DADT policy was a shameful travesty of everything he learned at "The Point" about duty, honor and country. "So many other servicepeople--just like me--are forced out of the military every day, because they are gay or lesbian," Choi says. "We want to fight for our country, but our country fights against us." It's astonishing that Lt. Choi earned his bars for his excellence, but was stripped of them for his gayness. Nor is this kind of discriminatory practice limited to the military: it's still legal to fire gays and lesbians in 29 states, for no other reason than their sexual orientation. You can still be evicted for being gay in states like Utah, and there are, at present, no federal laws to mandate that all 50 states end such homophobic practices.

As we marched past President Obama's home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, we shouted "this is what democracy looks like!" In a powerful message about the progress the LGBT community has made in the 40 years since the Stonewall Rebellion, over 100,000 gays, lesbians and their allies visited the White House, a scene that wouldn't have been possible even ten years ago. We've come far, and although we marched from the White House to the Capitol, we needed to make enough noise for Congress to hear us, too.

So, we gathered on Congress' front lawn for the Equality Rally, where we heard stirring words from such luminaries as Lady Gaga, NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Jamaican-born lesbian author and activist Staceyann Chin. Ms. Chin raised the crowd to its feet with her cry for "Equality, equality. equality!", as she described her shock and dismay at having escaped the rampant homophobia of her native island, only to discover it alive and well here in America. The Keynote address was given by NAACP chairman Julian Bond, who proclaimed himself and the NAACP as allies of the LGBT community in our struggle for human rights. He confirmed that LGBT rights "are civil rights", and invoked the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King's 1963 March On Washington, and recalled that a black gay man, Bayard Rustin, "brought us here that day, and made it all possible". His was a rousing, memorable speech, made more so by the fact that he publicly acknowledged that the black community needed to do "much more" to help all gays and lesbians achieve our rights, just as he and Dr. King worked so heard to do for people of color, in the 1960s.

I rode home with a sense of optimism and fulfillment, feeling privileged to have taken part in a moment which will go down in American history. But as you'll see in my post below, that optimism was shattered when I got home, and the realities faced by all of us came flooding back in...

Gay Man Of Color Beaten Into A Coma In Queens

While we marched and sang at yesterday's National Equality March, an out, proud gay man of color was fighting for his life after being beaten within an inch of his life by a pair of rabid homophobes who hurled slurs at him during their attack. 49-year-old Jack Price was beaten so severely he suffered a broken jaw, ruptured spleen, every one of his ribs were fractured, and his lungs both collapsed. He languishes in a coma, on a ventilator, in a city hospital as the NYPD hunts down the second of Price's two attackers.

Price's assailants reportedly taunted him in a deli near his home, then deliberately chased him, cornered him, and attempted to murder Price. Witnesses quoted one of the two thugs as screaming "My father's a C. O. [NYC Corrections Officer]! Nothing will happen to us!", echoing similar rants made by transwoman Carmela Etienne's attackers in St. Albans last summer. This prevailing sentiment that people can injure and kill gays and lesbians, and get away with it because we are "less than" our attackers, or that our mere existence is justifiable provocation, is increasing. The Anti-Violence Project's Kim Fountain told ABC News, "It's not just that people are being shoved or punched. It's that their lips are being split or they're ending up in the hospital or they're being murdered."

Public apathy towards these brutal incidents is nowhere more clearly reflected than in the silence of our political leadership, both here and on the state and national level. Another gay man of color hovers near death in the hospital, a victim of his rightful choice to be out and proud in his neighborhood, and I have yet to hear a peep about this from Mayor Bloomberg, his opponent Bill Thompson, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, or even Queens DA Richard Brown. What a way to return from marching in Washington for our right to be treated fairly and decently as human beings.

Friday, October 2, 2009

What Happens In Vegas...Ends Up On This Blog!

Yup, that's the High Heel Car, one of the more delightful sights from my recent trip to Las Vegas and the Dallas, Texas area. My trip was a fascinating one, in which I discovered how the LGBT community lives and thrives in a notoriously homophobic state (Texas), and in a city (Vegas) where almost anything goes. The Dallas-Fort worth area made news last summer when the the Rainbow Lounge Gay Bar in fort worth was raided by police, leaving one patron severely injured. In the aftermath of this raid, Fort Worth police used the "gay panic" defense" to justify their actions. So the Rainbow Lounge was definitely a place to visit, and so I did.

There was a big show of solidarity among the normally discreet LGBT community here. Texas is a state where, although the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that states may not prosecute gay sex between consenting adults, homosexuality is still criminalized. This particular raid, which left a patron fighting for his life in a Fort Worth hospital, galvanized area gays and lesbians to rally, making sure this incident would not be repeated. Homophobia is rampant in this part of the country (I was reminded by several people not to walk holding hands with another man, definitely no gay public displays of affection, and my host emphasized particularly no wearing of Pride or LGBT-related clothing, unless I wanted to provoke a beating, or worse, arrest under Texas' notorious "public decency" laws.

Even with all of that, I came away with the impression that Texas' and the DFW area gay community is steadfastly determined to overcome the homophobia of their neighbors. Everyone I spoke to said they would keep fighting the good fight until true equality and freedom was won. I think, like all great struggles for LGBT equality, from Harvey Milk to Stonewall, to today's other LGBT struggles, the gays of Texas will gain their well-deserved freedom from persecution.

After a few days in DFW, where I did a lovely book signing before a very enthusiastic crowd, and visited the Sixth Floor Museum, overlooking Dealey Plaza, site of the assassination of President Kennedy, it was on to Las Vegas, where my family lives, and home of the world-famous Strip. Besides being an entertainment center where people go to lose their money, Las Vegas is also home to one of the engineering wonders of the world, Hoover Dam. During the Great Depression, an artificial lake was created on the Nevada-Arizona border, Lake Mead. This lake was situated on the Colorado River, and is the source of the dam, a structure so massive that concrete is still curing in it, over 70 years after its completion.

The dam now provides the Las Vegas area with hydroelectric power, and Lake Mead is the source of Vegas' drinking water. I'm used to New York City tap water which is known to have psychiatric drugs in it, so Vegas' tap water always tastes funny to me. But this project made the modern city possible, so I tip my hat to the thousands who worked--and gave their lives--to "make the desert bloom". Vegas does have a considerable LGBT community, with an LGBT Center just like the one here at home. Like Hoover Dam, a city like Vegas would not be possible if not for its gays and lesbians, who literally operate the city's many casinos and entertainment venues. Of course, we need our own entertainment as well, and so I walked around the corner from the Strip, onto Sahara, to check out The Entourage Gay Spa, which is so much more than just a "gay gym". They even have private rooms for rent, and the staff works extra hard to make the experience a pleasurable and unforgettable one!

After all, the thing to do in Vegas is MISbehave! The Entourage was another highlight of my trip. (Look for an upcoming review of the spa in a future blog post!) I would be remiss if I didn't mention the great casinos and hotels along the Strip (Las Vegas Blvd.), including the Bellagio and its "Dancing waters" display out front, as pictured above. There's also the fabulous Wynn and Encore, a mammoth twin-tower casino and hotel at the north end of the Strip, whose elegance and style must not be missed. I just about broke even playing penny slots and a few hands of Blackjack, so I was cool with that. It was with a heavy heart that I headed home to NYC, after spending time with my family and relaxing, but the miles traveled were worth the experiences!