I haven't been to VMworld since 2008, which was the fifth annual VMworld. It was in Las Vegas--city of sin, locus of all that is wrong in the world and one helluva fun place to visit. I don't gamble but it is still fun to go, look around and take in all the sights along the strip--and trust me, you'll see some sights. But, alas, I'm not going to VMworld 2011 in fabulous Las Vegas this year. It's too perilous. Well, that, and I'm just too darn busy. At least that's what I'm telling myself and anyone else who asks.
VMworld is a "you shouldn't miss it" opportunity to go to VMware's mega party, to discuss virtualization with the field's prominent movers and shakers and to enjoy some crazy nightlife that can only be described by Tool's "Learn to Swim" lyric line: ...three ring circus sideshow of Freaks. Yep, it's that. And, more.
Unfortunately, for those of us in the "Press" or Media, we often don't get invited to the real parties. Oh, sure, we get the mass invitation to the ultracool, super king kamea-mea, blowout a la VMware but not the 'secret' parties that only paying customers get invited to. Our Press badges prevent that from happening. And, it's too bad too, 'cause nobody parties like your ol' Texas buddy, Ken.
I can be funny. I can be shamefully rude (I know, hard to believe, right?) and I can be a quick-witted conversationalist who can hold your attention away from your smartphone for more than 30 seconds at a time--no minor accomplishment.
But, as I walked through VMworld 2008 brandishing my Press Badge like one of Flavor Flav's giant necklace-clocks, I was shunned. In fact, not only did people not invite me to parties, one guy actually asked for his invitation to be returned upon closer inspection of my attendee badge. Wow, really?
Apparently you just can't get that Press stank off of you at these things.
Trust me folks, when I'm in party mode, the term "off the record" applies to me as well. You have nothing--absolutely nothing--to worry about. What happens at a Vegas party, stays at a Vegas party. I'm no tabloid journalist nor do I care what you do or to whom you do it.
Speaking of parties, I did get an accidental invitation to a party that's worth an honorable mention though. It was a party in the Venetian (I think) at a new club that opened that night. It was very difficult to find but well worth the hotel orienteering trek required to locate it.
Outside the converted hotel room were two bikini-clad girls, half painted in silver and wearing stark white wigs. Inside was a bar where the bartender poured Hypnotiq Martinis (yum) and two other young ladies, similarly costumed as the two "greeters" who took turns decanting variously flavored vodkas through an ice sculpture, which you had to catch with a shot glass at the bottom of the display (very awesome).
My good time was interrupted by a phone call from my publisher who sponsored the trip.
"Where the hell are you?," he asked.
"Um, somewhere in the Venetian at a party."
"Well, get your ass over to the Ghost Bar for the Press party, the last bus is about to leave," he gently nudged.
I had never heard of the Ghost Bar--a fact which still irritates my wife who claims that the shear celebrity quality of the venue was wasted on me. I made my way, somehow, down to the last waiting bus.
It hauled me and several other stragglers to The Palms hotel. We were escorted to a private elevator that took us up to the top of The Palms to the famous Ghost Bar. The Ghost Bar was cool. I met my publisher. I met an editor who later hired me for a writing gig with ServerWatch.com and who became my co-author for Practical Virtualization Solutions. And, I met some great people from other magazines, Cisco and VMware.
I neither knew, nor did I care, that the likes of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears frequented the Ghost Bar. I was there, it was fun and I liked it for what it was: Cool.
But, the real fun outside of mingling, schmoozing and boozing at VMworld is on the Vegas Strip. The Strip is Vegas. It's the ultimate in nasty, crazy and weird that you just can't experience in your basement, online game or data center.
To take in the full aroma of indescribable decadence and unparalleled peril that awaits you, you should walk along the strip. Yes, walk. Walking affords you the full-contact experiences that you don't get by riding in a taxi. Smart taxi drivers avoid the strip and take you down one of the side streets to your destination. You could also take the Monorail but at a top speed of 55 mph, you're bypassing all of the street-level awesomeness that you shouldn't miss on your annual trek to Babylon.
On your walk to see the fountains at Bellagio, collect every set of call girl cards that the vendors flip and pop your way (take an extra bag for that) and mingle with the 'street people' that are more entertaining than the most expensive cross-dresser cabaret that you can find.
And, if you go to Vegas and don't walk down to Serendipity for the Frozen Hot Chocolate, you've missed one of the best non-alcoholic, chocolate-induced comas of your life.
VMworld is a good time. Las Vegas is a good time. But, be careful as neither are places of rest or relaxation nor are either for the weak-willed among you. VMworld sucks you in like a child who enters a candy convention and Vegas is as seductive as the Sirens of the Odyssey. In Vegas, there's no one to tie you to a mast to protect you. And, no one can hear you scream. Much peril awaits you inside and outside of VMworld's confines.
Maybe someday I'll go back and face the peril too. Until then, I'll live vicariously through you, the lucky ones, who attend VMworld and the city of Las Vegas. Godspeed.