looking for a few good ideas

  amongst the irregular verbiage

Finally, it can be told

Many of you will know of Stan's friend Don H, who lives in England and with whom Stan has been corresponding via email for some time now. The way I heard it, they were both radio operators from way back and had met in an Internet chat room. (I'm sure I can't imagine of a friendship developing this way!) They have never actually met in person, being located some distance apart geographically.

Those of you who don't know of Don, but who frequent our online photo album may remember that Don draws cartoons to complement Stan's poetry, and in fact, with our help, managed to completely surprise Stan with a custom cartoon cake for his birthday last year.

Little did Stan know at the time, but it was more or less during the planning of this birthday event that Don let Lisa, Jeanne, and myself know that he was planning to be part of a holiday/lawn bowling tournament tour to the States some six months later, and that it would be passing through Vegas, and wouldn't it be funny if he could surprise Stan by showing up on his doorstep?

Obviously I couldn't write about this here, because Stan reads my newsletters too.

Over the last few days, as Don left for the States and traveled with his team on the bowling tour, we kept in touch with him, and the arrangement changed to that of a "chance meeting at one the casinos". The plan was this: Jeanne would keep Stan busy at the Venetian with an arrangement to meet Lisa and myself at 6:30pm in front of the restaurant at which we were going to eat prior to going to see an exhibition at the Guggenheim (Yeah, the Venetian has a museum in it - see http://www.venetian.com/guggenheim/lasvegas.cfm ). Lisa had told them she had tickets for us all to go to the Goog, but this was only a pretext and was not exactly true.

Meanwhile, Lisa and I planned to be at the Golden Nugget where Don's tour was staying, and assuming he'd settled in and freshened up, we'd take him with us to met Stan and Jeanne.

The bus was due to get in at 4:00pm, so we figured we had plenty of time to coordinate, but unfortunately Don had rung earlier in the afternoon to say that the bus would be delayed because they'd discovered that under the new security measures, buses with luggage were not allowed to drive over the Hoover Dam. This meant a 2-hour delay on their part. Nonetheless, we stuck to the plan, so this evening found Lisa and myself hovering in the lobby of the Golden Nugget, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the bus. As 6:00 approached, we were debating whether I should go ahead with some excuse - "She met an old friend...er..." - when apparently the bus arrived because Don came walking energetically through the lobby.

L recognised him almost immediately, but I didn't, although in hindsight the baseball cap with the Union Jack on it should have been a dead giveaway. He had bushy eyebrows and thick glasses that made his dark eyes seem a little larger and more mischievous than you might expect.

After he'd collected his room key, he insisted we leave straight away so that we could get to the restaurant in time. We walked back, collected the car, and drove up the 'Strip to the Venetian, found out how to park, and walked through the maze of corridors, following Lisa's casino map printout so that we didn't get lost.

Jeanne told us later that she had ad a terrible time with Stan because he got tired of playing cards (must be a world first) and wanted to make sure to meet us if we were early (which of course was NOT going to happen now). After all, an early dinner would make sense, we'd have more time at the museum, everybody wins, right?

As we came down the escalator we saw then anxiously hopping from one leg to the other, so I bounded up to let them know we were here, with Don and Lisa a little way behind.

"Here they are!" shrieked Jeanne.

"Why is he smiling?" asked Stan, pointing at me.

Lisa kind of hung back, while Don walked up to Stan with his hand out, grinning.

Stan's face was priceless.

".... Don?" he managed, walking forward to greet his old friend.

Recovery was quick, and we retired to the restaurant and proceeded to get acquainted, or re-acquainted, and rather well-lubricated. Lisa put it best: "Far from our worries that Dad might not be able to "switch gears" and even farther from Jeanne's concern that they might be awkward with each other in person... they were off and running, in pretty much the same joking style as they have in e-mail, almost immediately... They were really cute."

It was a splendid meal, and great company, and we promised never to pull a stunt like that again.

After walking around the shops in the Venetian, we left Don with Stan and Jeanne and drove home.