I'm in crazy back-from-vacation-must-catch-up mode, but I wanted to scribble a quick note here. Angela and I drove to Las Vegas Thursday evening to meet up with my dad and stepmom and my little sisters (ages 14 and 15, turning with every tick of the second hand into WOMEN for God's sake) who were in town for my dad's fighter squadron reunion. We got back yesterday afternoon.

I'll spare you all the details, but I have to tell you that if you want to visit a real old school Vegas institution, eat at Battista's Hole in the Wall Italian restaurant, just behind the Barbary Coast and across from Bally's. It's dark and cluttered, has big leather (leatherette?) booths, and a little old man with an accordion wanders around playing old tunes. It hasn't changed since I visited it twenty years ago; you half expect to turn around and see Dean Martin digging into a plate of ravioli. It ain't cheap -- the dinners are at least $17.95 each, if you share they charge you an additional $7, the child portions are $8 -- but the food is great and comes with wine (the red wine was surprisingly good), salad, and garlic bread. Afterward we walked to the Bellagio hotel and ate gelato and gazed in awe and reverence at its splendor.

Here's the other thing I have to tell you, and that is that although Vegas can be a real son of a bitch, sometimes it will grant you moments of pure grace. When Angela and I got in the elevator at the parking garage of the Flamingo hotel and headed down toward the casino, the new JXL mix of Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation" started playing over the sound system.

Elvis, with the drum and bass cranked up like crazy. Playing in the Flamingo, the spot where modern Las Vegas was born back in the 1940s. When the doors opened, you know we walked in like we were there to rob the place, man.