Burners and Buddies, Flav and Banjos.

First Friday is always a good way to start out the month in Vegas.

With more recent changes to First Friday since Zappos has gotten more involved in the Downtown community, themes were becoming more prevalent for each month. And for this month, the theme was a mini Burning Man style event.

Burning Man, for the uninitiated, is an event that is best eased into, rather than going without any sort of preparation or understanding. Its attitude and way of doing things could be a little overwhelming for the neophyte sort, so I wanted to see what this more “public friendly” version was about. My inklings of the event came from many conversations with Sarah Jane, and a documentary on Netflix called Burning Man: Beyond Black Rock.

Being new to the event (or “Virgin”, as first-timers are called), I figured it was either one of two things: An event of music, art, and creative ideas in a week-long city out in the middle of nowhere, or an excuse for unwashed hippies to get stoned out of their gourds (which I saw a lot in Kauai).

Then again, there’s also the whole adage of that you can find what you want to take out of it. For me, I want to go with a camera and my journal to document the the week-long experience. So I wanted to experience the experience, and actually check it out this year. But of all times, the event decided to hold this ridiculous “lottery” that doesn’t sound like it benefits anyone outside of the really lucky to randomly score one.

The event was starting with a rock opera of sorts talking all about the Burning Man experience for the hipsters and stroller crowds (probably the closest they would ever get to the experience). Sarah Jane was participating in the spectacle, so I went early to show my support.

Lucky Lady Lucy.

Lucky Lady Lucy.

Little did I know the role this sign would play in my life.

Little did I know the role this sign would play in my life.

I needn’t have worried about showing up early, however, everything was at least an hour and a half behind schedule. So 6:00 became 7:30, and so on. At 8:15, they were supposed to burn the Vegas version of “The Man” (called “Lucky Lady Lucy”), but that was pretty behind schedule as well. In the meantime, I amused myself by randomly running into groups of friends all night, and checking out some of the art cars:

Cars like these are a pretty common sight on the Playa.

Cars like these are a pretty common sight on the Playa.

The Dancetronauts' carship.

The Dancetronauts’ carship.

The plus side was that as the night wore on, people got pissed about the delay and left, meaning that by the time they lit the thing, I was up at the middle front to capture some pictures.

Lucy burns.

Lucy burns.

This was all well and good, but one of the big highlights for me was the performance of the Dancetronauts.

A little known factoid about me is that I do love a good dance party/rave. I’m not out there tripping with butterfly wings, but I like the colors and the energy, and I’ve had weird places to experience dance parties: From hidden warehouses in Deep Ellum, to Sega’s booth at E3 in 2000 (thank you, Space Channel 5), to the ElecTRONica event held the previous year at California Adventure. And I’ve been to some unique venues. Dancetronauts were comparable:

Lift-off to funk.

Lift-off to funk.

Yes, they have a hovering spaceship car. And lots of fire.

The mobile stage.

The mobile stage.

I was only going to stay a little while, but ended up staying the whole performance, and I’m like a moth to bright colors and thumping, danceable beats. They were absolutely freaking awesome, and the night made for one of the best First Fridays that I’ve attended.

A few days later, Danny and some of his family came into town. Being the good host that I am to my friends, I joined up with several of their adventures. I wasn’t, however, expecting martini lunches:

Vegas, baby!

Vegas, baby!

I met up with them at the Mirage at the Revolution Lounge, where Kelly (Danny’s Father-in-law) was treating people to sidecars all day. I foolishly did not each lunch, and by my third sidecar…. I excused myself to the bathroom, *ahem* lost at least one drink from my system, and then had a rather unremarkable sandwich before being “good” enough to go home. I slept for over 5 hours, then back out the door at 12:30 last night, to not get back until 3 A.M.

Down at the El Cortez.

Down at the El Cortez.

It was a whirlwind of a day, and I was fortunate enough to not feel any effects the next morning (outside of an “Ohmygod drinking” mumble as I got out of bed, but the “sidecar escapade” cured me from further libations that evening, and the next week or so after that.

But Spring was coming, and I was ready for whatever the rest of the month had planned for me.

Junie tries to hide during a vet checkup.

Junie tries to hide during a vet checkup.

I wasn’t expecting a dead body, however.

Someone did a hit and run right in front of the Museum, and getting into work was an awkward and uncomfortable experience. Fortunately, they caught the driver who bolted, and charged him appropriately.

As for the rest of my night, I had to review David Copperfield at the MGM, so I got to sit front and center to watch David’s act. Even up close, the things he was doing were untraceable and amazing. I even got to meet him after the show for a private meet and greet:

My hair is doing the "Superman" thing, and I don't know why.

My hair is doing the “Superman” thing, and I don’t know why.

Upon leaving, “The Spirit of Adventure”(TM) twinged at the back of my head like a twisted Jiminy Cricket and forced me to remember that Flavor Flav had opened up his new chicken place: “Flavor Flav House of Flavor”.

Love that chicken!

Love that chicken!

The line for chicken.

The line for chicken.

The line was crazy long, but bearable. While waiting, the staff handed out free cornbread and copies of his autobiography. The real draw was that it was rumored that Flav himself was cooking in the kitchen.

And you know what? He totally was:

You know what time it is!

You know what time it is!

It took three hours from getting in line to when we got our food. During that wait, Flav was perhaps one of the nicest, most gracious celebrities I’ve ever met. He came out, talked, posed for photos, signed autographs, joked around, but man that guy was a hard-working juggernaut in the kitchen. You would think he would sit back and let his staff handle the cooking duties. Nope. He was first and foremost in the kitchen, only coming out during prep breaks to apologize about the wait, and to let us know how genuinely appreciative he was for everyone being so patient and waiting, and that included getting down to the last order perfect. “If anyone were to get a raw piece of chicken”, he said, “you can come up and punch me in the face.”

I actually got to talk to him for a bit, and he’s super cool. Being one of the last ten customers, he gave us this special card for the wait that honestly, I have no idea what it will do when I present it. But as it hit past midnight (the next day was his birthday), I wished him Happy Birthday, and thanked him for all of his hard work. To that, he stopped, came over to me, and the night ended as any truly great story should:

And world peace reigned forever more.

And world peace reigned forever more.

With a handshake.

Back at work, I was allowed to deliver a baby shark in the Marine Gallery, as the shark eggs that we had at the Museum were due to hatch. It was actually pretty cool since it was premature, and I had to cut the egg, and *plop* the little guy into a little tub of water.

And then the American Country Music Awards happened.

Country artists are a different sort, and this applies to these types of shows. Everything is more laid back and friendly, and more often than not, the stars are polite, funny, will actually engage you in some light conversation, and want you to have fun and get into their music, encouraging us to cut loose a little, or laugh when we do. For example, I caught Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum singing a Justin Beiber lyric, to which I narrowed my eyes at her, and said “I can’t believe you just ‘Beiberized’ it”, shaking my head at her. She just giggled that I had caught her in the act.

The highlight, however, was the Rascal Flatts performance. I was half-listening to the warm up, when my friend Karen pointed out the banjo player to me:

It was Steve Martin.

Yes, the Steve Martin, in which I nearly lost it. I don’t get starstruck often, but he’s a legend to me, and I wanted to tackle hug him for being The Jerk. But then I was merely blown away by how awesome of a banjo player he turned out to be, which caused my respect for him to go even higher. As far as the day went, nothing else could top that experience. Here’s to you, Johnson, Navin R., you typical bastard!

And it wasn’t over yet….