Friday, December 14, 2007

Going Out In Style at Fancypants Hospital

To some, this may seem a strange and possibly completely inappropriate post, but I write what moves me and I find the setting I've been in for the past week to be somewhat surreal. As most know, my 65-year-old uncle, Richard Goldman, is in the final stages of pancreatic cancer. It is heartbreaking especially because he is a lot of pain and still his heart seems far from quitting and also because he will leave behind my aunt, one of the neatest women I know who just lost her father six months ago, and my 18-year-old cousin. Rough stuff.

That said, this section of this hospital is NUTS. This half of the 9th floor of New York Presbyterian Hospital is known as the McKeen Pavilion, a relatively elegant section where, according to the rate card at the concierge desk, patients may enjoy the corner suite with a river view (that's the HUDSON River) for $1,150 a day. I shit you not. That comes, of course, with "daily New York Times delivery; complimentary spa robe and slippers, complimentary telephone and television, upgraded menu and afternoon tea service (room service style.)" Here below is the tea cart comin' round.

Here is what the view looks of the George Washington Bridge to the north and lower Manhattan and New Jersey to the south. (The NYC skyline is often much clearer, but weather has been overcast and gloomy all week.)

If the corner suites are a little steep, the same amenities apply to the junior suite ($990/day), delux river view room ($717/day) and private riverview room ($650/day). Each room allows one cot for visiting guests, but if you've got more fans in need of lodging, there are eight hotel rooms, each with two twin beds, private bath, TV, phone, fridge and coffee pot for $225/night. Frankly, THAT'S such a good deal in New York that I wonder if you can rent them even if you don't know anybody who's sick.

This is one of those hospitals that has a sense of fame surrounding it. While it's unclear what parts of the hospital or whether the McKeen Pavilion is involved, Richard Nixon, Joey Ramone and Malcolm X all died here or were pronounced dead here. Sunny Von Bulow, the wife of Klaus Von Bulow (a role that won an Oscar for Jeremy Irons in "Reversal of Fortune") has lain in a persistent vegitative state here since 1981. And most recently, Bill Clinton recovered from his heart surgery on this floor. There's a large atrium where a live pianist plays a few hours a day on weekends. The entire area is carpeted, which is one way you know you've left the ordinary, more hospital-like section of this floor and wandered into the Wynn of health care.

My uncle is neither rich or powerful and is not paying these rates. (For that reason, we actually don't get the tea, the robe or the daily newspaper. Fair's fair.) He ended up here because when he was brought into the ER, he needed a certain type of morphine drip that required him to be admitted immediately to a room, but there were no normal rooms available for another several hours. So the admitting ER doctor forced him into the posh section, and here we are.

One of the most intriguing parts of all this is the Windows on the Hudson restaurant, a white-cloth eatery with views of the river, a gourmet chef, a waitstaff in formal attire and calla lillies on each table. (The name is a little eerie as the World Trade Center had a famous top-floor restaurant called Windows on the World.) The menu changes regularly; tonight's offerings included tequila grilled shrimp ($7.50), kobe beef burgers ($14), grilled halibut ($18) and patti pan squash and baby carrots ($3.50). Below is an empty table with a view of the bridge that is unseen because of my flash and a group enjoying a night on the town.

We were going to eat in the restaurant tonight but when my aunt told my uncle she was leaving the room for a little while he surprised her by responding (he's been largely unresponsive) by grabbing her hand and rasping, "No." So we had the food delivered, and here's a shot of that.

We were having the grilled strip steak (with mushroom ragout and mashed potato), gemelli al pomodore and the orange tarragon chicken (with rice pilaf and haricot vert). Oh, and all the entrees come with popovers and strawberry butter.

Quite a place, huh? Oh, and I almost wi-fi, too. Like I said, NUTS. But in a good way.

Two Million Reasons

Here's this week's Las Vegas Weekly column, which is largely about, um, you.

Two Million Reasons: Why some Vegas-lovers won’t live here


Just as I was putting together the biweekly poll question I post on my podcast and blog sites earlier this month, the Review-Journal thudded on our driveway with a World War III headline declaring the Valley is now unofficially home to 2 million people.

Beyond acknowledging the fact that it’s a mystery to me how the housing market could possibly be crashing—and more spectacularly than almost anywhere, they say—if we’re having an unabated parade of new arrivals, I returned my focus to the audiences who listen to and read our Internet work and respond to our polls.

What you need to know about them is that they are a very large contingent of Vegas-loving people delightfully obsessive about this city. It is an incomparable but enormous groupie community centered around a unique geographic and cultural concern, with every minor change in land ownership on the Strip, every legal battle Downtown, every planning commission hiccup being thoroughly stewed over by attentive devotees throughout cyberspace.

So, I wondered, why do they live where they do? Or, as I asked in the poll with all due deliberate snark, “If you love Vegas so much why don’t you live here?” Of course, I must make the caveat that this is a totally unscientific survey except to say that it’s a self-selected group of people who are, by definition of being in my audience, enthralled with some aspect of Las Vegas.

Read the rest here

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ladies Nights and Vegas

I have a piece in The New York Times today about a complaint filed against the Las Vegas Athletic Club claiming their discounts for women constitute discrimination against men. If the Nevada Equal Rights Commission rules against LVAC, it could have a far-reaching impact on the Vegas nightclub scene where ladies-free and ladies-drink-free promotions are an important part of the business model.

The piece is here.

Any thoughts? Are any women offended by getting discounts?

We love Paula Poundstone but...

This is really, really weird. Paula Poundstone posted this trainwreck of a YouTube Xmas letter. Don't think you're alone if you shudder when her scary look first appears on the screen. But then it gets worse, with Paula reading off her lap some sort of not-funny Xmas letter of the David Sederis ilk. Her delivery is awful, given she's a comic who appears on TV and in concert regularly.

Check out the un-hot mess here. The cat at the end is cute, tho.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Show Must Go On

Alrighty... we're in a holding pattern here in New York, so we will be having the regularly scheduled LIVE episode of "The Strip" tonight. I'll be joining by phone for part of the hour and Miles and guest-host Amy will be in the studio with Brian Burke, artistic director of "...A New Day" and "Le Reve" to discuss Celine's final week as a Vegas headliner.

Join us live at 7 pm PT at LVROCKS.Com or grab the podcast later in the week!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Update from New York

Thanks to all who have been in touch regarding my uncle and his pancreatic cancer. I flew into New York and prebooked on the Super Shuttle from LGA to the hospital in New York, figuring that was the fastest and least expensive option. Please, y'all, never, never, never do that. It took nearly three hours for me to get from LGA to North Harlem, a crime and outrage.

My uncle, who is 65, was quite frail and a little deluded from the morphine. He was able to chat although he got irritable and tired after a short bit. But he was surprisingly gleeful to see me. I say "surprisingly" because he's always been a bit distant. This is my aunt's husband, and while I've known him most of my whole life, I've always had the sense he looked down on my part of the family. My aunt and uncle are the interesting ones, the DEMOCRATS who lived in THE CITY, exercised with a RACEWALKING group in Central Park and went to the OPERA, the BALLET and other such cultured activities. We were the unwashed but moneyed suburbanites.

In recent years, Uncle Richard has seemed to warm to me, largely because I followed such a
different path than my family and I turned out to be gay and a writer. But still, I didn't expect the gratitude I experienced when I entered the hospital room, un-self-consciously
embraced him despite his frightful appearance and asked him very bluntly if quietly about why he had chosen to pass on further care and what he was thinking about.

I stayed for a while, then went to Brooklyn to stay with my friend Adam. Now I'm heading back to the hospital. Still not sure how long I'm staying.