On second thought, I probably shouldn’t have told anybody I was going to Vegas.
Everyone in my life now thinks that I had some massive adventure that I just don’t want to talk about, because it’s Vegas. But I really didn’t.
They’re all 100% sure this was a vacation. Like, “Who goes to Vegas to work?”
A writer, for one.
But I actually went to support my wife.
My wife is an interior designer, focusing on kitchens and bathrooms. And I’m as supportive as I can be, although for reasons of professionalism I’m above advertising for this in my columns. I’m not that supportive. I just advertise for my freelance writing services, my stand-up comedy, and my books. I would also say “my teaching”, but nothing I’ve ever said in my columns is a solid advertisement for my teaching.
She’s very good. Every frum designer has to be good, because we’re fitting three times as many dishes into the same kitchen space as the non-Jews are. Did you know that the average non-Jew has like one set of dishes? Why do they even need kitchen designers?
So anyway, the reason we went out there was a trade show for the kitchen and bath industry. I think every industry has some kind of trade show. Except Jewish newspapers, because if they did, every single attendee would try to get in for free as Press.
My wife went to network with complimentary businesses, such as cabinet makers; countertop manufacturers, which are an entirely separate thing; whatever the people are called who make handles for drawers (Drawer handlers, I want to say?), which are an entirely third thing – everything but the kitchen sink.
And also kitchen sinks, obviously.
I was there in case people wanted to shake hands. Except that I had a cough, so I wasn’t shaking anyone’s hand. My wife’s like, “I can’t shake hands,” and I said, “I can’t shake hands either.”
“Well, you gotta. We can’t both not shake hands.”
“No, we’re both sick. That’s our story.”
That is what I was doing. I didn’t take off in middle of the school year and leave my kids and my students with other people (See?) so I could galivant around the country. And if I did, I wouldn’t admit it. Which is why people think I did.
I was hoping to get an exciting article about something that happened there – preferably one that was relatable to people who are not specifically in the kitchen industry. But we actually spent so little time there – not even two days – that we basically ran from the airport to the show to the hotel to the show to the plane.
There’s only one other show that I generally attend, and that’s Kosherfest. Which I go to because 1. It’s local, and 2. It’s about food. This one’s about food prep, which is not the same. And it’s six hours away. (But five hours back. I don’t know how that works.)
And the show was huge. Each kitchen sample was the size of an entire room, and each company had several samples. We spent the entire time walking up and down aisles the length of the Las Vegas Convention Center, which is, conservatively, about the size of Manhattan. And then we went to the hotel and collapsed.
And people are like, “Yeah, but what about the hotels? Aren’t they gorgeous?” And I say, “You think we stayed in a gorgeous hotel? We stayed in our price range!”
To be clear, I didn’t want to go. I understand that there’s a thriving Jewish community there, and that they live where they live, but Vegas is ridiculous.
First of all, there are slot machines everywhere. Hotel lobbies, the airport, 7-Elevens, the laundromat…
“Wait; what happened to all my quarters?”
It’s like gambling is legal there, so they say, “Why don’t we put casinos in the bathrooms?”
Because you don’t have to. Someone’s coming all the way out here; he can’t walk into the actual casinos if he wants? When I go to Niagara Falls, I don’t expect to see water gushing in the hotel lobby. The laundromat maybe.
Also, I don’t know if you know this, but an entire town that glorifies gambling is maybe not the most Jewish place in the world. In fact, the point of Purim is that there’s no such thing as coincidence and luck in the first place. And if Hashem was going to have unearned money fall into your lap, he wouldn’t need you to buy a ticket to Vegas to do it. That’s an unnecessary amount of hishtadlus for your unearned money.
(In fact, if you ever do need to go to Vegas, the best idea is to ask a rav. To come with you.)
That said, I didn’t know how many Yidden would be at the show, so I went in a baseball cap because I didn’t want to be immediately identified as Jewish. Just as a Semitic-looking guy who wears baseball caps with casual business clothes. Indoors.
But we ended up running into way more Yidden than I expected, a large number of them Chassidim. In fact, there was one cabinet-making booth that was almost entirely staffed by Chassidim. Most of the booths were giving out tchotchkes – pens, tape measures… The Chassidishe booth was giving out food. And not stam food. They had complete meals – fruit, coffee, wraps, latkes… We’re in middle of a dessert; they have Cholov Yisroel milk. They did not fly with that. They just found it, somehow.
So at some point I took off my cap, because it was giving me a headache, and I was like, “What am I doing? I’m definitely not the most Jewish-looking person here.”
And anyway, there were people there of every ethnicity, because this was an international kitchen convention, and everyone cooks. It’s not like the African-Americans were wearing caps so no one would know they were African American.
I had to tell some people I was going. I had to tell the principal of the yeshiva I teach in. And when I got back, he asked me, “How did it go?” and I said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” And he said, “Oh, I’m sorry. How much money did you lose?”
I didn’t gamble. I’ve only gambled once in my life, and it was when we went to Niagara Falls the year we got married. They say the way to gamble and not lose everything is to walk into a casino with a certain amount that you’re willing to lose. So we walked in with two dollars. And we lost it in under five minutes, playing slot machines. And I have to say: I don’t really see the appeal.
And some people say, “Yeah, but that’s because you didn’t play enough!”
Okay. I don’t see how losing more money will be more fun.
“Yes, but sometimes you win!”
Yeah, that’s how they could afford to build these huge, gorgeous casinos. Because sometimes the guests win. Haman decided what day Purim should be based on a lottery, and even he didn’t win.
But these people are trying to at least get something out of me.
“What was the weather like down there?”
To be honest, it was sixty degrees. It was twenty up here when we left.
“So did you enjoy the weather, at least?”
“For the ten minutes we were outside after the sun went down?”
“Yeah, but what about during the day, when she was at the convention?” everyone asks. “What did you do then?”
I don’t know; I came with her. She didn’t ask me to come so I could have fun without her.
See, the other reason she brought me was that she’s found, at other conventions, that exhibitors are more likely to speak to someone if they’re with a companion. So my job was to just be there.
And it kind of backfired. Most of the exhibitors started talking to me instead of my wife. They assumed I was in charge. Despite my indoor baseball cap. Even women did this. I tried subtly hinting that I was just the assistant, and that it said “spouse” on my badge, but nobody looked at the badge, because they were busy making professional eye contact with me.
They would start talking about styles and models and distribution, and I would glaze over and periodically say, “Yeah,” while my wife paid attention and asked all the questions. I couldn’t voice any of my questions, such as, “What does that mean?” and “How do I tell what this is?” But I also couldn’t wander off during those 20-minute conversations, because the people still thought they were talking to me. I had to stand there and nod and pretend I was listening and try not to cough.
Basically, I spent two supportive days tired and bored and unable to say possible humorous thoughts into a voice recorder. I did have a clipboard, but these people were standing really close, and they might’ve been flattered that I was taking notes, but only until they looked over and saw that I was writing, “This guy has spent the past 20 minutes thinking he’s talking to me, but I have no idea what he’s saying.”
This is why you wear a cap.