Saturday, December 31, 2005

Movin' On Up

Hard to believe that 2006 is just a few short hours away. Since I'll be working tonight, the chances of repeating my usual New Years Eve tradition of drunken buffoonery and waking up with a stranger are slim at best. I feel a little bit cheated, kind of like that time during leap year when that extra day made my 'Countdown to March Madness' even longer. Oh well. At least I'll make some money tonight, if not gettin' some lovin'. (Now if I could just figure out a way to do both...)

That 10 to 6 shift really kind of sucks, although it was so slow by 5 am that they cut about 15 of us loose. We had about twice as many dealers as we had open tables, so unless we did 20-minutes-on, 20-minutes-off, there was no reason to stick around. So Jen and I hit the bar for our own 5am happy hour this morning. Not much going on there--we were about the only ones there. We only stayed for about 45 minutes and came home, just hanging out long enough to have a drink and lose $20 to video poker. (I don't know why I even bothered playing that--I hate video poker). At least we got our drinks 'free'.

The highlight of the night, however, didn't happen at the bar, it happened around 4am when the gal at the top of the Extra-Board list (that's the roster of all of us part-time peons at the casino) found out that she'd gotten promoted to Full Time status. Nice!

And then there were three.

Yep, I'm the fourth one down now. My time is coming. Hopefully soon I can start shopping for a replacement for the ghetto sled. Although, as long as I don't need to use the air conditioner, it's a perfectly fine car. And it miraculously stopped leaking all fluids as soon as I started parking it in the gravel turnout instead of on the driveway over a month ago, too.

While in the break room towards the end of my shift, I was talking to another full-time dealer who has a pretty good gig going. He does his 40 hours a week here at our casino, and gets all the great benefits from our company, and then he's extra-board over at the Venetian, working three days a week and getting $600+ each week for his efforts. Not a bad way to make a living. And he reminded me that the Venetian is doubling in size (hence that giant crater on the corner of LV Blvd and Sands) with it's new expansion in 2007 and will be looking for a few hundred more dealers at that time. Hmm... Might be something to consider when the time comes. I just hope the economy stays strong for the next few years. That last recession really kicked my ass and I have no desire to go through that again.

Anyhow, I guess this is the last post for 2005. It's been a helluva year! I hope y'all enjoyed it as much as I did.

Happy New Year everybody!


Friday, December 30, 2005

At Least It's Not an Xbox

I've never been much of a 'gadget guy'. I'm always the last person to get the latest thing. I didn't get a Walkman until my junior year of high school, when everyone else got one my sophomore year. I never owned a pager back in the early 90s, and I resisted getting a cell phone for years, until getting burned by roommates with phone bills forced me to provide for myself and nobody else. I still don't own an Ipod. My home computer runs the Windows Millenium Editon. Basically, I've always been on the trailing edge of technology.

But there is one new gadget out there that has caught my fancy and I'm thinking really hard about purchasing for myself--a new Razr phone from Motorola. I don't know why I want one so badly--it's just a phone. But it's sooooo cool. I've seen a few people at work that have them, and they all love 'em. And even though it's pretty thin, it's wide enough for my fat hands and the buttons seem to be big enough that I won't be pressing the wrong ones all the time like I do with my current cell phone. And it doesn't look like it'll be obsolete anytime soon, either. I've had three different cell phones now, and all three looked dated soon after I figured out how to use them.

Another plus is that the SIM card from my current phone will work with the new Razr. If I buy one, I won't have to spend an entire afternoon entering new information, and typing stuff in by phone keys is a special pain in the ass as far as I'm concerned.

Although my current cell phone is less than a year old, compared to the sleek and sexy lines of the Razr, mine is a '77 Nova with a primer-colored door and duct tape on the upholstery. I think it's time for an upgrade.


Looking Back

It's amazing how fast the calendar turns as I get older. Here we are getting ready to hit 2006. It sure doesn't seem like it's been six years since my buddies and I were bitching about having to be at work at 6am on New Years Day just in case of the Y2K Armageddon. It turns out that everything was just fine and we spent the morning setting up a miniature golf course around the office, finally getting cut loose after four hours of absolutely nothing happening.

But that was a lifetime ago. This year, I'm working overnight on New Years Eve, not finishing up until six am or so. I don't think I've ever had to work on NYE. Luckily I've got a fun job.

So 2005 is in the books. Looking back, I'd have to say it was a moderately successful year for me. I finished up 2004, New Years Eve being my last day at work with my job in Nashville. I spent the next two months or so preparing for my move to Las Vegas, arriving here the last weekend in February. The road trip out was a very trying experience, but luckily I had my sister Amy with me, and after the initial problems were overcome, we laughed our asses off all the way across the USA. I still have to write about the cyclops story and post it here--just the mere mention of it sends Amy into fits of laughter.

Anyhow, a few minor setbacks aside, I managed to meet the goals I'd set for myself this past year--I made it to Vegas, finished dealer school, got a break-in job dealing dice, and managed to move on up to a second-tier casino where the money is good but the atmosphere is better. I truly don't think it could've turned out much better for me. Yes, I'm still on the extra-board at work, but I think the dues I've paid over the past few months will pay off for me in the near future. I've hitched my wagon to a growing and dynamic company with a very bright future, and I'm glad to be where I am. And I wouldn't trade the experiences of the past year for anything.

Looking ahead to 2006 I have at least one heavy decision to make. Should I stay in Vegas working in the casinos or should I go back to the brokerage world? If I stay in Vegas past next December, the brokerage door closes forever--I can never go back. Those licenses and registrations that I hold were a cast-iron bitch to get, and giving them up is a decision not to be taken lightly. There is a huge fork in the road looming in my future, and whichever path I choose to take, I will not be able to go back if I find out it's the wrong one. We'll see how things play out over the next few months, but as of right now I just can't see myself back in the office again. But then I think, can I see myself in the casino for the next several years, either? I don't know, but who really knows what the future holds.

Ten years ago, I would've never thought I'd be in Las Vegas dealing dice and cards for a living. Back then I was under-employed as a database research analyst for a start-up company. I thought it would be a good opportunity, but after three years I became disillusioned--being passed over for a promotion to a job that seemed tailor-made for me and going to a gal with less experience and no education was the straw that broke this camel's back. (Less than a week later my resume was in the hands of the recruiters at Schwab, and within a month I was sitting in a training class full of strangers, some of whom were to become my best friends to this day).

But back then I was sharing a house with the original 40-year-old virgin, driving an old 280 zx with no air conditioner, spending all my free time practicing electric guitar and daydreaming about being in a band. I didn't discover the internet until summer of 1996, when I was taking some summer classes at ASU, and I had no tv, so it's tough to think about how I spent my free time. I worked on weekends as a doorman at a dive-bar in Arizona, where I met lots of cool musicians that provided me with some inspiration and also gave me several ego boosts over the next couple of years whenever they invited me to come play gigs with them. Funny--it truly was a lifetime ago. I haven't picked up a guitar in over four years.

But I'm not here to dwell on the past, although the past is much easier to write about. I've got a great year ahead of me. I'm going to be making good money again. I'm going to have lots and lots of visitors come visit me here in Vegas. I'm going to the Caribbean for a week. I'm going to go sailing again. I'm going to replace the ghetto sled with some smooth transportation more befitting a person of my economic station. I'm going to write more stuff that gets published. I'm going to get a new tattoo, a new hobby, and maybe even a new house. And I'm gonna make it home for the holidays.

It's going to be a great year.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

A New Blogger

I want to welcome a brand-new member to the Blogosphere, my brother Davi-san. He's the Pope, Pastor, and Chief Inquisitor at The First Church of Dave. He's a golf fanatic, but I think he'll also do a little writing about motorcycles, racing, fishing, shooting, and other general red-nekkidness.

Talk about living the life--Brothaman is a buyer/contract negotiator for a very large energy company, so he's had vendors and salespeople kissing his ass since the day he got out of college. I don't think he's paid for a round of golf, picked up a dinner check, covered a bar tab, or bought tickets to any major sporting event in the past seven years. So he's got some great stories to tell--I know, I've heard many of them already! And he's one of the funniest people I know, so his content should be good reading.

I feel kind of responsible, since he mentioned to me that he was thinking of starting a website of his own. Since then I've given him all kinds of unsolicited advice, and I wish him the best of luck.

I also told him that I'd be sending a boatload of traffic his way, so pop on over there, bookmark his site, and drop a note of encouragement into his comments section. Let's keep him motivated.


Can't Touch This

Finally I've had some time to relax, and I've needed it. I ended up working six nights in a row, and it's been busier than hell this week. Everyone's on vacation, and they're all coming to Vegas. Luckily I don't have to go back to work until 10pm tomorrow night (ugh--I hate that shift).

Well, I've had the new bed for about, oh, 56 hours now, and I think I've managed to sleep about 30 of 'em. Very nice. It's so comfy that it's almost impossible to wake up. I slept until well past noon today, and that's my plan for tomorrow, too.

In case you're wondering why I'm making such a big deal out of the new bed, it's because I haven't had one since I moved here. When I left Nashville, I was debating whether or not to rent a big truck and bring all my furniture out, towing my car, or go cheap and just get a small U-haul trailer and just tow the essentials behind the ghetto sled. Besides, my family was eyeing my stuff--my mom wanted my queen-sized pillowtop bed and bookshelves, Amy wanted my file cabinet, etc, so I figured it'd be less work to just leave it all behind, so I went the cheap route, thinking I could just buy new stuff once I got out here--hell, I had over five grand in the bank when I left town.

Unfortunately, sixty miles out of Nashville, the transmission blew out of my car, forcing me to pay for a big truck and trailer anyways (and at much higher last-minute prices) and then drop about $2000 on a new transmission once I got to town. So between all of that expense, plus the towing and rental car, I was tapped. My friend Dougie organized a 'rescue mission' to help me get back on my feet, for which I'll be forever grateful, but funds were really tight once I got to town.

So I was sleeping on the floor with a couple of foam pads that I use for camping. It's ok in a pinch, but it was a sucky arrangement. However, once I moved out of the 'Stripper House', my gal at the time, Lara, offered me the use of her bed for a few months--she had a spare. But it was only a full-sized one--too small for entertaining, and much too soft, so I usually had a slight backache most of the time. When I moved out of there, I had to leave it behind, because she was moving in and needed it. So basically I've been sleeping on the floor since the beginning of October.

Maybe I'm just catching up on all the sleep I've missed in the past three months.


I had an enjoyable evening again last night. Scott and Alice Lee were still in town, so we got together again for drinks and cigars over at Napoleon's Lounge at the Paris. Fortunately we got there early enough to avoid the crapass dueling piano show they have every night and got to enjoy an hour or so in relative peace. I had some crazy 'Mon Cheri' drink that featured copious amounts of booze and lots of cherries. I felt like I got my vitamins, at least, while they drank more normal stuff--lemon drops and the like.

But they were dead tired, and Alice Lee decided she'd had enough after just one round and headed up to bed, leaving me and Scotty to wander the town unsupervised.

We didn't get into too much trouble--we just found a $15 Pai Gow table and played for awhile. It was a fun group, one guy in particular ordering Apple Martinis for everyone. Now that I've had one, I can't say I'm a big fan. But we were still having a lot of laughs at the table and everyone was enjoying themselves. I usually never play the Fortune Bonus, it's kind of a sucker bet, but on one hand the dealer talked me into it and then was kind enough to deal me four Sevens with a pair of Kings on top. Very nice! I'll take the 25-1 payoff anytime, thank you very much.

We played for about an hour, I left with about a $60 profit (woulda been $90, but I stayed one hand too long, again) and I think Scotty actually lost about a hundred. We said our goodbyes and I headed back to the garage, intending on heading to the grocery store.

We didn't get much of a holiday bonus there at the casino, but we got a little something--a $25 Albertson's gift card. Normally I shop at Vons because Albertsons has the most ridiculous prices I've ever seen, but since I had the gift card I figured I could make an exception this time around. Unfortunately, I pulled up just as they were closing for the night. Another point in Von's favor--they're open 24 hours.

I was starving at the time, having eaten nothing that day except a grilled stuffed burrito from Taco Bell about 12 hours earlier, so I wanted to grab a bite. As luck would have it, there was a Blueberry Hill 24-hour diner in the same parking lot. I was actually thinking of going to the one on Flamingo, but it's always so crowded, and had forgotten about the one in my neighborhood. So around midnight or so I was happily dining on pancakes, bacon, eggs, sausage, coffee, and orange juice. Talk about hitting the spot!

While I was munching away I heard an annoying buzzer going off. I didn't think too much of it, but I was browsing all of the flip-card propaganda on the edge of the table and it mentioned that the buzz you hear while eating is a reminder for all employees to stop what they're doing and go wash their hands. Hmmm...I sure hope that hasn't been a problem in the past, otherwise I'd be pretty grossed out. But I think it's a good policy.

Since I moved out here, I've become a total germ-o-phobe. I'll use the public restroom in my casino two or three times a night during my shift, and I see three or four guys every time refusing to wash their hands. Unfortunately, since I'm wearing the ol' nametag and uniform, I can't call them out. (However, when I'm in street clothes and I see some nasty loser not washing his hands, I call them out all the time. Just doing my part to change the world, one dirtbag at a time...)

And there's one guy in particular, nice guy, just annoying as hell, who always wants to shake my hand when he's at my table. But I've seen him in the bathroom TWICE not washing his hands, so I refuse to touch the filthy motherfarker. I can't wait till he tries again and asks me why when I refuse.

No wonder I've been sick for the past three weeks--the casinos are full of people with nasty grooming habits. Just think about that next time you lick a Thousand Dollar Chip from Mandalay Bay and stick it to your forehead in a moment of spontaneous celebration.

I finally made it back to Albertson's this afternoon. My first purchase? Ok, a bottle of rum. But my second purchase--Hand Sanitizer.

I'm turning into Jerry Seinfeld, without the kooky neighbor.


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Back in Black

Christmas is now behind us, and Vegas has already started removing all token displays of seasonal reminders. Say what you will, but Las Vegas is definitely not a Christmas city. Decor was minimal at best in most casinos around town, except for the Bellagio which did an exceptional job of decorating for the holidays. But now that we've got that whole icky family-togetherness-and-religion thing out of the way, it's back to business as usual. The biggest bummer of it all, besides the fact that the casino is already back to playing that god-awful XM 25 'The Blend' station overhead instead of Christmas tunes, is that our cocktail waitresses have traded in their ultra-sexy and ever so tasty red velvet naughty Santa's helper outfits in and have gone back to the black leather biker-girl look. Not that there's anything wrong with that particular outfit, but the Christmas garb was much hotter. Almost to the point of distraction. Oh well. Only eleven more months until they dig them back out of the closet. I can't wait. It wasn't visions of sugarplums dancing in my head these past few weeks, that's for sure...


I was really looking forward to having yesterday and tonight off from work, but at the last minute they added me to the schedule for both nights. That makes it six nights in a row for me, and ten overall for the the two-week pay period. I may not be full-time, but I'm certainly working full time. Unfortunately, as busy as we've been, it's been about quantity of players, not quality of players, and our daily tokes haven't been as robust as I've gotten used to. Still, it appears that we're making more than some of the dealers on the Strip, so I can't really complain too much.

I had a great day yesterday--Scotty P and his wife Alice Lee were in town, and we met up around noon for breakfast at the Peppermill. We started with a few drinks in the lounge with my gal Krista, then after our meal we drove down to the new South Coast casino, which just opened on Thursday night, to check it out.

It's a typical Coast property--like a cleaner, more modern Orleans, but still with crummy table games. Double odds on Craps, no fortune bonus on Pai Gow, the usual. But I have to hand it to the Sports Book. It has potential to be my new favorite--lots of space and seats for watching the games, and the degenerates in the race book are kept separate. And the lounge has--I counted them--26 wide-screen tvs placed all around the perimeter, along with comfy leather chairs, so sitting in there and watching games is going to be rather enjoyable. Looks like a great place to spend the first two rounds of March Madness.

We played a little pai gow--Scott lost about $75 while I won fifty. After that we just wandered a bit, then settled in the lounge for a couple of hours for rum, good conversation, and fine cigars. Over all, it was a very enjoyable day. Afterwards, I dropped them back off at the Paris, then hustled in to work for another eight hours behind the tables.

It was a pretty fun night--I spent the first five hours of my shift on one particular Pai Gow table with some good players, then around 1 am I got moved over to blackjack for the balance of my shift. I don't know if it was the medication that put me in such a good mood, but I was cracking one-liners all night that kept everyone laughing. My tables were a lot of fun--it makes work seem not so much like work. Maybe that's why I like dealing so much--I have the freedom to be a goofball. My table is usually like a one-man version of that Seattle fish market everyone talks about. And luckily the people in charge encourage that type of silliness, so it attracts a lot of people just like me. I love the people I work with--they help to keep the work environment enjoyable. Of course there are some losers out there (on both sides of the tables) that sometimes suck the life out of you, but luckily they are the exception to the rule. Overall, I'm very happy to be doing what I'm doing, where I'm doing it.

Anyways, I worked until 4 this morning, then went straight to bed as soon as I got home. I set my alarm for 9:15 though, because I had a delivery scheduled between 10am and 2pm. Yes, the 'big' present from my siblings was finally arriving today. I had just put on a shirt and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes when I heard the telltale beep-beep-beep of a large delivery truck backing up my driveway. By 9:30 my new queen-sized bed had arrived and was stacked up in my hallway!

Apparently, the freight company that did the delivering was authorized for just getting the bed 'across the threshold' and just dropped it off inside my front door. I had to cut off all the plastic and put it my room and set it up myself. Not generally a problem, but I'm fighting the flu bug right now and wrestling the box spring into the hallway and around the corners took damn near all my strength. But I managed to get it all squared away and set up in less than half an hour.

So my plan today is to spend a few minutes thumbing my nose at The Man by ripping the tags off the mattress, then I'm going to give it a test drive for a couple of hours of blissful slumber. Hopefully soon I'll be able to give it a proper christening. And if I'm really lucky it'll be with one of those gals who have the naughty Santa's helper outfits tucked away somewhere in the back of their closet.

Bow chicka bown bown...


Monday, December 26, 2005

Better Than Church on a Sunday Night

Wow. I've come to the end of a very busy week and I'm exhausted. I worked five days this past week, and worked the entire five days--no early outs at all for me this time around. And I found out that I'm working again tomorrow night, too, giving me four days this week. That's 90% of the way to full-time, by my calculations.

Unfortunately, our tokes weren't as big as anticipated these past few days. I'm guessing that folks were spending their extra cash on toys for their kids or taking their families out to dinner and stuff instead of dropping it in our toke boxes, so I can't really fault them for that. While the money this week was still decent, it just wasn't enough to get excited about. But I worked hard for this cash--Unlike the 8 pm shifts where I sometimes take six breaks after midnite, all of these 6 pm shifts I've been doing really keep you hustling all night. It's like the Dread Pirate Roberts said as they formulated the plan for storming the castle--It doesn't leave a lot of time for dilly-dally...

Another positive sign is that they've posted more dealer positions opening at my casino, and we've had a lot of folks come in to do auditions this past week. I'm hoping this means that I finally move up to full-time status sometime soon. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to having Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday off so that I can lay around the house doing my slug impersonation for any crowds that may gather.

On another positive note, my new friend Steph stopped by work tonight to see me. She doesn't play Pai Gow, but that's what I was dealing when she showed up, so she sat down and joined the rest of the Paris Las Vegas Graveyard Shift Cocktail Waitress Crew who happened to be playing at my table at the time. (Yeah, sometimes it's good to be Mikey...)

Shortly thereafter I got tapped out for my break, and I spent my twenty minutes chatting with her. She then followed me to my next table, blackjack this time, where she managed to win about $50 during my hour on the deck. Not too shabby! But she came by to tell me that she's going back to Cali for the next few weeks (leaving in the morning) and wanted to give me her number.

Anyhow--when she gets back to Vegas, we're going to spend an evening sampling the smokey pleasures of ten-cent roulette at the Klondike and we might even talk the pit boss out of a comp for a couple of their 99-cent breakfast specials.

Brothaman knows how to treat a lady right.


Sunday, December 25, 2005

I Saw Two Ships Go Sailing In...

Hello Everybody!

I hope everyone got some nice toys and made some wonderful memories with their loved ones. I'm muddling through, here in America's Playground, having finally crawled out of bed around the crack of noon.

I worked last night until 2 am, and it was pretty tough. The casino was much busier than I imagined it would be on Christmas Eve. I suppose my idea of celebrating Christmas is a bit different than most folks I encountered last night.

I finally kicked that minor head cold a couple days back, but yesterday I managed to pick up the same sort of funk that put me down for the count last March. I was miserable. Around midnight I ran out of cough drops and spent the last hour-and-a-half at work trying to keep from hacking up a lung while dealing the cards. Luckily my floor supervisor is one of the good guys and closed my table at twenty minutes after the hour, basically giving me an extra break. The bottom line is that I got out of work about 40 minutes early, but still got credit for the entire eight hours (it's still taking some getting used to, punching a clock every day and having to account for minutes like this).

Anyhow, my friend Jen wanted to go out after work (Hey, Vegas is a town full of single people with no families, so going out on for drinks on Christmas morning is no big deal), and was already at the bar by the time I left the casino. Since I was 'dead man walking' and would've gladly paid $500 for the temporary relief found in a bottle of Nyquil, I drove to the nearest Walgreens, praying that it would be open. It was, but I felt sorry for the poor schleps stuck working there--the store was full of morons buying up gift bags and getting last-minute stocking stuffers. Except for this moron--I filled up a basket with all of the most effective medicines I could lay my hands on. No price was too extravagant. I sat in the parking lot popping a couple of Dayquil Liquicaps and washed them down by swilling Delsym straight from the bottle.

When I got to Chilly Palmer's, I told Timmy the barkeep to set me up with a glass of water, no ice. He looked at me like I'd fallen out of my tree, but he set me up, putting the Stoli Vanilla and Coke on hold. My first round was a rocks glass full of Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold Medicine, and I immediately started feeling a little better.

A couple of the other dealers I work with were already there, and Jen was busy keeping them entertained. She saw me self-medicating, and told Tim to bring me over a cup of boiling water and some other ingredients. So my next two rounds were Hot Toddies made with Grand Marnier. It sounded kind of gross, but a cup of scalding-hot water mixed with honey, lemon, sugar, and Grand Marnier liqueur actually made me feel pretty good. So good, in fact, that I had two...while my Stoli sat there in front of me slowly getting diluted by the melting ice.

I gotta hand it to Jen, I was kind of skeptical at first, but while the medicine I'd taken stopped the coughing, it took the hot toddies to let me regain my voice and make my throat feel better. And all this time I thought her only redeeming qualities were her huge rack and affinity for gambling and booze. She may be a keeper. (And she's going to kick me squarely in the nuts as soon as she reads this--HM).

I started feeling better, but couldn't really get into all the laughing and goofing off that was going on with my usual crowd, so I kind of hung out on the fringe, nursing my toddie, watching the muted SportsCenter highlights on the tv, and wishing I were somewhere else for Christmas. Not quite feeling sorry for myself, but the combination of exhaustion, sickness, and melancholy had taken the spring out of my step.

I was content to hang for a bit and then head on home, but about that time a very attractive gal came up to me and introduced herself as Stephanie. Turns out she was at the casino earlier that night, and is actually a friend of the same floorman who let me out early. We started talking and somehow something I said was enough to keep her interested and she pulled up a chair and joined me.

We kept talking, doing the usual gettin-to-know-ya banter and wouldn't you know it, I started feeling much better. She wanted to play a little video blackjack there on the bartop, but I generally avoid that kind of diversion like a welfare queen dodges a job application, so I tried to take a pass. But she insisted that I "help" her play on her money. Ok, I agreed. What else was I gonna do? So she put five bucks in the machine and we started playing blackjack at a quarter a hand. It was actually a lot of fun, and we actually started making a little cash back. We turned her five bucks into $22 and along the way the winning-hand knuckle-bumps became high-fives, which in turn just became little squeezes, which then became hugs, which then graduated to pecks on the cheeks, which then moved on to holy shit, I'm gonna get this poor girl sick...

We cashed out the $22, leaving two bucks for Tim the bartender, and decided to play some pool. My old roommate Derek can attest that I am a shiatty pool player, but for whatever reason I was making my shots last night. Of course I was throwing out the O'Bannion at the Emporium lines from Dazed and Confused -- Y'all are an embarrassment to the sport of pool, and should be proud that I let you play... at my table...

Our mutual friend, the floorman, showed up shortly thereafter with trays full of appetizers for everyone at the bar--buffalo wings, mozzarella sticks, taquitos, etc. He was also kind enough to send another round of drinks down to the pool table, too. We were having a great time, and we ended up splitting the wins before heading back up to the bar.

We decided on more video blackjack, and we turned another ten bucks into another $44. (We always wanted to make 10% on top for the bartender's tip). Before I knew it, it was after six am and a couple of very enjoyable hours had passed. Jen and the rest of my cohorts had already gone home, I'd gone from vodka and coke to drinking bottled water, and the sun was getting ready to make an appearance over the eastern mountains. Christmas morning had arrived in Las Vegas.

I was barely able to keep my eyes open, and Steph said that she had to head over to her parents house to do the whole Christmas-with-the-family thing, so we said our goodbyes.

I didn't ask for a number, but since she said she'd come back and see me again at work tonight, I figured I wouldn't act like every other guy in the bar that night who was trying to hit on her. If I see her again, great! If not, well, I guess two ships passing in the night would be just another one of the million stories in the naked city.

I made my out of the parking lot and headed home, racing west ahead of the encroaching sunlight. As I drove across Whitney Mesa and saw all the sparkling lights of the entire valley below me, I smiled to myself and thought not bad for a first Christmas in Vegas.

Knowing that Christmas had arrived earlier in Tennessee and everyone back home would be up having breakfast and opening presents, I made a few phone calls before taking some more medicine and collapsing in bed.

Before I passed out, I reflected on another small holiday bonus--our floorman friend was kind enough to cover everyone's tabs for the entire night at the bar, making all of my drinking free, allowing me to donate all of my video blackjack winnings to the bartender's tip jar.

One could say I that left there dead even this night, but I think I came out slightly ahead.


Saturday, December 24, 2005

Thursday, December 22, 2005

More Headlines

Ok gang...since I'm not feeling particularly inspired this afternoon, I'm just going to dive into the hard drive and post more of my favorite headlines from Remember, these headlines were linked to actual news stories. Enjoy!

White Castle buys Waste Management. The circle is now complete.

German tourists tape plane together in midflight. May be asked to join next shuttle mission.

Former Ben & Jerry's CFO pleads guilty to embezzlement, expects to receive continuous supply of Chubby Hubby from cellmate.

Bob Denver and John Denver now have two things in common. So long little buddy.

Death-row inmate bluffs his way out of jail. I mean, how often do you look at a man's shoes?

Indiana students design edible lunar rover. That means that something up there must be able to eat it.

For the first time since 1987, gold sells for more than $500 an ounce. Makers of printer ink remain unimpressed.

Investors consider buying Knight Ridder for $4 billion. That's a lot of cash, even if the car does talk.

Upcoming Charles and Camilla TV movie to omit sex scenes, citing bestiality concerns.

Record for shortest ambulance chase set when car smashes into personal-injury attorneys' office.

Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory can't account for 600 pounds of plutonium. Authorities are searching for an eccentric, wild-haired doctor driving a silver DeLorean with his spunky teenage buddy.

Monica Seles to take a stab at returning to professional tennis.

Honda's ASIMO robot now capable of menial office tasks like greeting visitors, making coffee, finding Sarah Connor.

Pope to abolish Limbo; Electric Slide, Macarena also on the chopping block.

The only thing worse than not having indoor plumbing is having relatives that use the outhouse for target practice.

When all you have is an ax, every ATM looks like a tree.

Man invents "solar purse" which can be used to power "small electronics." No word on what kind of small electronic items might be in a woman's purse.

Luther Vandross passes away from the Here and Now.

Guilty Pleasures

So I'm sitting around the house doing a bit of channel-surfing this morning, and what do I find on A&E? The Biography documentary about ABBA. Oh hell yeah. So I spent an hour learning all about them and their music. Guess that makes me an expert on Swedish Cheese. Who says there is nothing good on daytime TV anymore?

I'm moving a bit slowly today--last night I was kidnapped by ruffians and forced to drink all of the beer at the Monte Carlo Brewpub. We tried, but I think they might still have some left.

Anyhow, Rob was still in town, feeling much better, along with another longtime reader, Jeremiah, aka 'Korked Batz', and his fiance Christy. So we made plans to hook up at the Monte Carlo Brew Pub for a few beers and just a bit of buffoonery late yesterday afternoon.

I got there first, and made it about an inch down the glass of my High Roller Red before Jeremiah and Christy showed up. They picked me out of the crowd at the bar right away and sat down to join me. I could tell they'd had a head start, though, because they were carrying to-go cups from Commanders Palace at the Aladdin. They'd taken full advantage of the 25-cent martinis that Commanders offers at lunch, spending a buck each, impressed with the fact that a four-star joint like that would let you take your booze to go after eating a fine repast of turtle soup, gumbo, and the like.

I had some catching up to do, so I got after it.

The MC Brewpub has some great deals on their beer--only $3.75 per glass, which is about a buck and a quarter less than they could easily get away with. We ordered a round and started telling stories.

Rob showed up a few minutes later, tearing himself away from the juicy 2-4 poker tables at the Imperial Palace and joined us in our libations, opting for a molasses-colored Porter that looked pretty tasty to the rest of us.

We did a lot of drinking, laughing, and smack-talking--turns out they are big Astros fans, and being a Cardinal fan, I had to do a bit of mouthing off. Turns out Christy is a UT alum, too, so she felt the need to give the 'Hook Em Horns' to anybody with the bad sense who strayed into her orbit wearing USC colors. You'd be surprised how many Trojan Men there were lurking around the Monte Carlo last night.

We stayed in the pub for several hours and had a great time. We even ordered some nachos at one point, just because I felt that if I didn't eat something, I might fall down on my next trip to the bathroom. They were pretty good--I like the food there at the brewpub, and they make a pretty good pizza there, too.

After god-knows-how-many rounds, we decided to explore the casino. I'd told them all about Pai Gow, and they were willing to give it a try, and we found an empty $10 table without too much effort. I wasn't going to gamble, but was willing to show them how to set their hands. Unfortunately, their first experience with Pai Gow was much like mine, and their hundred-dollar buy-ins only lasted about an hour. On a positive note, I found out what Pebbles The Cocktail Waitress's real name is, so I'm one step closer to that restraining order.

After getting ambushed by the Pai Gow ninjas, we decided to head over to New York New York for some grub at the ESPN Zone. It was a short walk, and actually not too cold outside, either. That end of the strip had some pretty heavy foot traffic for being the Wednesday Night Before Christmas, but we got a table as soon as we got to the Zone--no waiting at all.

Another round of beers hit the table along with more nachos and Rob even ordered a steak. The food was all really good, but a bit on the expensive side. An order of nachos, four beers, and a steak came to $75 before tip. Ouch. But Rob insisted on paying since he hadn't spent much money all week due to laying around in bed feeling like he'd been poisoned. We couldn't argue with that logic, and gladly let his credit card take the hit.

After all that, it was closing time. We'd been at it for several hours and were pretty wiped out. Jeremiah and Christy were staying there at NYNY, but I offered Rob a ride back to the Imperial Palace. We said our goodbyes, planning on doing it all over again in a few months, then went our separate ways. It was a hike back to the car, but we found it without too much trouble.

I dropped Rob off at his hotel, then made my way back home and went to bed. I'd say it was a pretty good day, for being kidnapped by ruffians and all.


(Rob, Mikey, Jeremiah, and Christy. Clearly the pendelum had swung back to 'sobriety' by the time this photo was taken)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Big Show

I'm not making this up, but there's a new act making the rounds here in Vegas that I've got to see. It's a KISS tribute band, four guys covering all their songs and wearing the makeup. Gotta love that--Vegas needs a few more 'tribute' bands--we're famous for Elvis impersonators, female impersonators, and a Neil Diamond impersonator, but we've got no Steel Dragon. Anyhow, the greatest hook that this KISS tribute band offers is this--they're all midgets! Hell yeah--Gene Simmons is like three feet tall! They call themselves 'Little Kiss', and currently they're playing gigs over at the Orleans Arena, entertaining the crowd between periods during the hockey games.

Once they play some sort of 'traditional' venue, where I don't have to sit through a minor-league hockey game to see them, I'll gladly give a full report. I'm just wondering how tall Ace's boots are.

I got another interesting email this morning. For the third time in the past month, I got a message from a recruiter representing my old employer back in Phoenix. Yeah, the same employer who laid me off on my birthday in 2001, the same employer who made 'unofficial' offers to rehire me twice, only to pull the rug out from under me at the eleventh hour, the same employer that laid me off for purely political reasons (I had the bad sense to ask a director a question he very much did not want to answer, about 72 hours before they announced that they'd be laying people off), the same employer who contributed to my credit score plummeting in 2002 and then having the gall last year to ask me to explain why my credit was bad.

Apparently, they need my services again. But I really don't know if I'm ready to go back to that world. I really enjoy the experience I'm having in Vegas, and once I actually get full-time status I'll be making money that I doubt they could match, at least not immediately. Yes, the whole Vegas experience has been kind of bumpy and sometimes it's been tough, but it's certainly been interesting.

More 'stability' would be nice, but no casino has ever laid me off--brokerages have done it to me twice. If the money was right, and if I could go back to working in the same type of job I was doing, and if I could teach the occasional options trading class, I'd consider it. But right now, I like living and working in Vegas too much. Besides, I don't have to make this decision until next December--my NASD registrations are good until Jan 2007. And I'm in the enviable position of not needing a new job right now, so if I go, it'll be on my terms.

But I sure miss the heady days of the late nineties, going to Aunt Chilada's Happy Hour every Friday afternoon for skirt chasin' and cigar smokin', taking the quarterly bonuses and heading off to Vegas with my buddies, after stopping at the Highlighter for the evening to share our largess with some of the local gals whose aversion to clothing was always a hit with my crowd. Those were some good times. But the two Eddies are now married, Derek and Neil now live in Texas, and the Frat House is full of people I don't know.

If I went, I'd be starting all over. Again. So I'll probably just stay here in Vegas. At least that's the way I'm feeling right now.


Be Careful Out There

Christmas is just a few short days away, and I want to wish safe travels to those of you out there criss-crossing the country trying to get home in time for the holidays, and especially to those good folks braving winter weather while delivering good cheer to others.

Even though it's natural to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays, slow down and take a moment to think about the things that are most important--friends, family, good health, freedom, love, faith, and home--and give thanks.

Not to be ghoulish or throw a wet blanket on this season of good cheer, but consider that in a brief moment the things that we sometimes take for granted can be lost forever. I remember several years ago reading about a terrible tragedy that befell a young family on Christmas Eve, and every year that memory creeps back into my consciousness and my heart goes out to them wherever they may be, thinking that although Christmas should be a time of joy, for some people it may bring memories too painful to fathom. Twenty families in south Florida are experiencing that very situation this week.

Pretty much everyone I know lives a very fortunate life where the daily problems we face aren't really that insurmountable in the grand scheme of things. Life is pretty darn good, and we're all in the position of celebrating Christmas in a manner that 99% of the rest of the world's population would think to be extravagantly wealthy. We don't want for food, clothing, or shelter, and nobody in my family has passed away due to anything besides old age in the past thirty-plus years.

All of these thoughts of how fortunate we are were brought close to home for my family this past weekend, as my sister and her husband were victims of a terrible fire in their home--their garage exploded like Lefty Rosenthal's Buick in the parking lot at Marie Callendar's. I don't know all of the details, but it destroyed two cars and rendered their home unlivable for the next several months. Luckily everyone got out in time and nobody was injured, and the fire department managed to save the rest of the house, but now they're living in a hotel for the foreseeable future.

This Christmas will be a little tougher on them than most, but on a positive note everything was fully insured and will be replaced. Hurricane Wilma hitting their area a few months ago is now considered a blessing in disguise, because they took pictures of everything in the house and copied it to cd for the insurance company before they evacuated. No damage came from the hurricane, but having that cd in the safe cuts down on some of the major headaches they're facing now.

I can't imagine the stress this must put on them, but everyone is alive and well, their friends and neighbors have stepped up to help in a myriad of ways, and they will still have a very Merry Christmas--their plans for ten days in the Caribbean starting on Saturday haven't been affected. It could have been much worse.

Stuff can always be replaced, but family and friends are priceless. Raise a toast to the truly important things and remember to be careful out there this week.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bloggin' or Scroggin'

According to this, blogging has become bigger than sex.

While I find both activities quite enjoyable, you can guess which one I spend more time doing. And you could also guess which one I prefer doing. But I can see how it got so popular so fast--

Blogging--don't need a partner. I guess you don't need one for sex, but then that's not much fun, either.

Blogging--free. You don't even have to pay for hosting. Sex, even if you don't pay for it, you still pay for it.

Blogging--lots of people like to watch me do it every day. The same probably couldn't be said for sex.

Blogging--never had to visit the free clinic after posting. Sex, uh...nevermind.

Blogging--organized religion hasn't stigmatized it yet.

Blogging--don't have to shower before or after.

Blogging--even Star Trek geeks can do it. Sex, not so much.

And even though having a few drinks beforehand tends to enhance the quality of both, I guess the main difference is this--Yes, one can always have sex at their desk, but until I get a new laptop, I can't blog from the back seat of the ghetto sled.



You want me fluff your pillow?

Ok, still no 'big' package from the siblings. I've been waiting around the house since Thursday (thanks for the heads up, Sherry... grrr...) for the delivery. Methinks next time I'd rather just be surprised by having no knowledge of anything being on the way, because now they've got me so anxious that I keep walking out to the front of the house every time I hear someone drive down the road. But yeah, I will let everyone know once it arrives. (Y'all ever hear of tracking numbers?)

I did, however, get yet another package delivered from my goofy friend Angy last night. Inside the box was one of the coolest gifts ever. She's a Photoshop expert, and took an old black & white print from the original Rat Pack version of Ocean's Eleven, and superimposed headshot pictures of me and all of my buddies standing around the pool table like Frank, Dino, Sammy, Joey, Peter, etc., then blew it up to 8x10 and framed it. Pretty cool, huh? Thanks again, Angy! You're much too kind to me.

(Jer, Ron, Bill, Sammy, Eric, Terry, Al, Mikey, Larry, Bosco, Leon, & Ross)

Also--a shout out to Scotty P from BFE Texas. Email me, if you would, so we can firm up some plans. I've got next Monday off.

Coming soon to a casino near you--Emperor's Challenge Pai Gow. I'll write more about this later, but it seems to be a cool twist on standard Pai Gow. Two big rule changes, one is very cool, one seems to be not-so-good. Once I organize my thoughts on the subject, I'll opine with my usual vigor. But my casino is the first in Nevada to offer it. Speaking of casino games, it looks like I'll be learning Three Card Poker and Deuces Wild Poker this week, too. Since they are 'Carnival' games, they don't really count as new games in the arsenal, but it's a couple more tables you might find me on in the near future.

Yesterday I had an enjoyable breakfast with longtime reader Falcon Rob from Bowling Green, Ohio. We dined at the Peppermill, and although he was feeling a little under the weather from a bad batch of midnite grub at the Barbary Coast, we still had a good time. He's considering 'making the jump' next summer like I did last year, and sought some advice. After breakfast we went back to the lounge sipping on comped cocktails, courtesy of my gal Krista, and I managed to restock my meager supply of official Peppermill stir-sticks. Since I broke my official Havana Club mojito-stirrer that I've been carrying around for the past two years, I've needed something more sanitary than my index finger to blend my rum and coke while sitting here at the desk pounding out literary genius day after day. Peppermill stir-sticks seem to do the trick.


Reconnection, reconnection...

Where does the pol-len go?

Ok, so I felt a little Grease-y when I came up with the headline...

But lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about old friends and family, and after I wrote my Thanksgiving day entry, I wanted to get back in touch with some of those old friends I hadn't heard from in years. So this weekend I managed to find my old friend Rich's number and we talked for about an hour.

I hadn't seen him in about eight years (last time we got together, we were busting crabs with hammers at some on-the-water joint outside of Annapolis) and I hadn't even talked to him in almost five years. It had been entirely too long. We were close friends back in those awkward Stand By Me years, but kind of drifted apart after college. He got himself a serious girlfriend and got married, while I went to Alaska to become a whitewater rafting guide and then rode my motorcycle across the western US, carrying everything I owned in two duffel bags, ending up in Arizona with a beard, a ponytail (what the hell was I thinking?), and a bunch of great stories.

But we had a nice chat, catching up on the news of mutual friends and sharing what we'd been up to for the past several years. The guy is three weeks older than me, and has three kids, the oldest is already nine years old. Damn. I can barely take care of my own self, much less a family--so I tip my hat to him for being a responsible adult! While he's turned into a Ward Cleaver type (and I mean that in a good way), I've become more like Homer Simpson. Alright, maybe not Homer. Probably closer to Barney. (Actually, if you get right down to it, I'm pretty much an Uncle Buck--right down to the piece of shit car). But you get the idea.

Outside of my family, he's the person who's known me the longest, and believe me, it's kind of humbling to admit that somebody out there knows just how dorky you were twenty five years ago. I used to drive a Mazda that you needed to push to get the engine started, while he had to drive an orange Volkswagen bus that the side door fell off of whenever you took a corner too fast. But we had some great times back in the early eighties, and we lived in St Charles before St Charles was cool--just try and buy a house there now!

Anyhow, it was a great conversation and lots of fun to catch up. I just hope we don't wait another five years for the next one.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

As Requested

Ok--here it is, the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, with it's single ornament and all of the gifts I've received so far. Notice the big score with three bottles of booze! And that tin on the right-hand side is still about two-thirds full of peanut-butter balls (I'm saving them for Christmas Eve--I even bought some eggnog yesterday, too).

Try not to make too much fun of my pea-green curtains. I think they're older than I am.


Catch & Release

I didn't have much going on for a Saturday night, not having to go spend eight hours on safari in the Green Felt Jungle. So I spent the evening relaxing and watching football. I was out of Coca Cola, and was getting a bit thirsty by the time the third game of the day rolled around. So I made the trip down the block and across the street to the local Vons to pick up some provisions.

There wasn't a lot on my list this time around, so it didn't take long. But the grocery store was fairly busy, being the last Saturday before the holiday weekend. Unfortunately, I was unable to utilize the express lane, having gone over the 15 item limit. So I got in the long line. About that time a couple of self-important bitches who spend way too much time in front of the mirror and on their cellphones walked up with their cart, loaded to the hilt with booze and last-minute party supplies.

The genteel folk from Green Hills might refer to them as 'New Money'.

Instead of getting in line like the rest of us, they cut off a tired looking elderly gent who was carrying only a loaf of bread and a carton of milk, and started unloading their goods on the conveyer belt in the express line, oblivious to the rest of the world. Several of the rest of us shoppers just looked at each other in disbelief.

For some reason, this really pissed me off. Maybe it was the old man, too timid to say anything, or maybe I was ticked that the cashier didn't say anything either, but I felt like I had to right this injustice. Leaving my cart where it was, I walked up behind them and announced loudly--

Man, the public schools out here must really suck. Nobody can count to fifteen anymore!

That remark got a few snickers from the bystanders, and the Guilty Ones paused for a second, the realization crossing their faces that somebody was actually going to shame them for their bad manners.

Oh, is this the express lane? Sorry, we didn't see the sign.

By that time, they'd already emptied most of their cart and felt safe that nobody would insist that they get in another line, so I took it another step further and applied a little more pressure.

You didn't see the sign? What, you've never been here before? You thought the rest of us were just standing in line leaving that lane open because we all have so much free time on our hands? But I see you have a Von's club card in your hand--clearly you've been here before. Maybe you decided to cut off that nice older gentleman there because you thought you were more important than the rest of us... That's just plain rude. I can't believe your parents didn't teach you better manners.

I was on a roll...

And I bet you didn't think somebody would call you out, either.

The cashier, not wanting to get involved, set a speed record in getting their purchases rung up and bagged. I went back to my cart and just stared them down, along with the rest of my line-standing compatriots, and the rude Paris Hilton-wannabes were afraid to even look up after that--everybody in the front of the store was staring at them by the time I finished my little tirade. They pushed their cart out the door as quickly as they could, and a couple of people gave me a pat on the shoulder telling me that they were glad I said something.

When I got to the cashier, she said the same thing, telling me that they weren't allowed to tell people to get in the right line if nobody was waiting. Of course, I generally want to avoid conflict, especially with strangers, but something about the whole situation just pissed me off. Shame works wonders in changing behavior, and I bet they won't ever do that again.

Anyhow, after that little drama had passed, I guess I scored some points with my fellow shoppers. One of the items in my basket was another bag of the lime-flavored ice cubes that I've mentioned in previous posts. As I was setting them on the belt, the rather attractive lass in line behind me struck up a conversation, asking if those ice cubes were any good.

I told her that not only were they excellent, but that's all I buy now--no more plain ice cubes for me. I said the best thing to do was get a bottle of coconut rum and some coke, and mix up a little bit of Caribbean vacation in a glass, and in fact, I was on my way to have some right then.

Her response was Oh man, I love Malibu rum--I could totally go for some of that right now!


That little lightbulb attached to the opposite-sex sensors in my brain started flashing like a railroad crossing. Having just become a minor-league hero in the grocery store, a golden opportunity presented itself to me right there in the check-out line.

Unfortunately, I didn't feel like I had my A-game with me--I hadn't showered or shaved all day, I was still wearing the same clothes I'd slept in the night before, and my current lack of bedroom furniture would likely put a crimp in my entertaining ability (it's like the ragging I used to do to Derek--Brothaman makes fifty grand a year, still doesn't own a bed...).

So instead of making an effort and closing the deal, I played my 'blissfully clueless' card and said Yeah, you outta go back and get you some, it's pretty damn good. And if all you get is three items, you can even use the express line!

Laughs all around. With that, I gave her a wink, grabbed my receipt and my groceries and headed off to the parking lot.

I rode off into the sunset, alone.

When I got home, I fixed myself a big glass of rum & coke, put my feet up, and happily considered how my night could have turned out. About halfway through the glass I realized that you don't always need to bag your prey to know that you're still a mighty hunter.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

More Holiday Music

Basically, all of the music I hear these days is of the holiday variety. Thankfully the people that make decisions at work have ditched the XM-25 'The Blend' station that's normally playing overhead (musically, the gayest shiat ever) and went with the Christmas station. And of course while I'm sleeping or just kicking around the house, I keep my tv on the 'Sounds of the Seasons' channel.

Since I listen to so much of it, I have to ask--Can anyone butcher a perfectly good Christmas song worse than your average jazz musician? And there is only one song that makes my ears bleed faster than Barbra Streisand's version of Jingle Bells--you know which one I'm talking about--that God awful Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney. I know, I rag on his shitty music all the time, but that song has planted itself firmly on the summit of the dung-heap of his post-Beatles career. I bet he hates the fact that John Lennon's Happy Christmas, War is Over is a huge favorite that has been remade and covered hundreds of times, while nobody will touch his own craptacular holiday offering. Unfortunately, the crack-addled brains of radio station program directors across the nation foist this musical bowel movement on us at least once a day during the holiday season. It's tough to avoid.

But enough is enough. Give me Perry Como, Burl Ives, the Boston Pops, Mo-Tab, Bing Crosby, and the rest of the greats that actually had a bit of talent. I can listen to them all day.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Can't... Stop... Eating... Them...

Well, mark two more items off the ol' Christmas list. Another box arrived early this afternoon from Nashville, included were some wrapped items to go under my Charlie Brown tree, but two things weren't wrapped. A 2006 calendar featuring tropical scenery (no boobies on this one, it came from Mom), and a bottle of Malibu rum. Oh hell yeah.

But also included was a huge tin of the family holiday favorite--peanut butter balls! I've already eaten about a half dozen of them, so I've got a bit of a sugar rush going right now. They're so tasty that I can't stop munching on them, even when I put the lid back on the container and set it out of reach. I must stop...

And if I didn't have to work tonight, I'd bust open that bottle of rum, too.


Random Thoughts

As I spend my day waiting for the delivery truck to arrive and drop off a load of Christmasy goodness, these are the random thoughts rolling around in the attic.

  • Does ESPN really need five different channels of programming when they're showing the World Scrabble Championships from Reno on their main network station at midnight? I shudder to think what may be showing on the other channels.
  • I saw a twenty-ish hottie lurking around the casino last week, pushing a stroller, and wearing a shirt imprinted with the letters 'MILF' across her chest. If she was wearing it, shouldn't it say 'MYLF', instead?
  • Every time I think that toothbrush technology has reached it's absolute zenith, along comes another breakthrough. But do I really need a toothbrush with an onboard computer?
  • I think that if Steven Spielberg remade Jaws with current digital technology and made the shark as real-looking as the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, it would probably be the scariest movie of all time.
  • Speaking of sharks, I can't decide if Shannon Ainsley is the luckiest or unluckiest guy on the planet. Haven't heard of him? He's the South African surfer who was attacked by two great white sharks at the same time, and survived. Three years later he was attacked again, with only minor injuries, again. If it were me, I'd probably be so afraid of water that I'd be nervous getting in the shower.
  • I think that the next time Ed, Eddie, Derek, and I all attend a Halloween party together, we should dress up like the members of KISS. Of course, I'd want to be Gene Simmons, if only on the odd chance that Shannon Tweed shows up at the same party.
  • I think that the Nextel 'Dance Party' commercial belongs in the pantheon of the Greatest Commercials of All Time.
  • Does anyone still order anchovies on their pizza? Have they ever?
  • Sigfried and Roy started the trend of using big cats in their magic shows, now every magician in this town does the same thing. I'm waiting for the first guy to use poisonous snakes. Training tigers and cheetahs to help with magic tricks? Feh... Get a King Cobra or a Bushmaster to behave onstage, then I'll be impressed.
  • When channel surfing, it's impossible to pass up a movie with the following description: A rich woman needs a retired martial-arts champion to protect her from Ninja assassins. Oh yeah, my evening just got more interesting.
  • One small quibble withe the latest Coca Cola commercials. Polar bears are only found in the northern hemisphere, penguins are only found in the southern. Doubtful they would be enjoying a refreshing beverage together in the wild. Don't know how I know this...
  • I may be the only person in the entire civilized world that has never read a Harry Potter book or seen one of the movies.
  • So is it a bad sign when I'm out guitar shopping at a local pawn shop and I see one of the final table players from a recent World Series of Poker, a very famous guy in the poker world, standing in line at the Payday Loan window?
  • I've never wanted to be black, but after watching a few episodes of My Name is Earl, I think Darnell the crab man is a lucky fellow, being married to Jaime Pressly and all.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Christmas Story

No, it's not about getting my mouth washed out with soap, being pissed off about my secret decoder ring, (Ovaltine? A crummy commercial? Son of a bitch!) or even my quest for a Red Ryder BB Gun. This is actually a true story.

The epic struggle which follows lives in the folklore of Cleveland Street to this very day.

For several years, I lived in and around Phoenix, while my mom lived in San Diego. The rest of the family lived back east--either in Nashville or Atlanta. Most of those years I couldn't make it back east for the holidays, so when that was the case, I'd always manage to make the five-and-a-half-hour drive to San Diego to spend Christmas with my mom. We kept the usual family traditions alive, but we had one other activity that we'd do every Christmas Eve.

Mom had some friends who invited us to their church for their Christmas program. Not being a religious fellow, I was apprehensive the first time, but agreed to go, figuring that I could always use a few points on the good side of the ledger.

Let's face it, most of us are scoffers. But moments before zero hour, it did not pay to take chances.

So we went the first time, and I'm glad we did because it was an excellent program--dramatic scripture readings, excellent chorale music, a wonderful non-preachy sermon from the pastor, and the whole thing was followed by a candle-lighting ceremony that set the tone for a perfect Christmas Eve. It was such an enjoyable program that I had no problem with putting a small donation in the envelope when the baskets were passed around. Of course I marked it 'Anonymous', not wanting to get on any recruiting lists...

After the service, we'd drive around looking at all the Christmas lights in the neighborhood--everyone nearby really went all out with the decor, and on one street we could actually park the car, drink hot cocoa, and walk around listening to holiday music while enjoying the decorated homes and yards.

Only one thing in the world could've dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.

After that, we'd head home for our traditional Christmas Eve celebration of eggnog, snacks, and gifts.

We plunged into the cornucopia quivering with desire and the ecstasy of unbridled avarice.

We enjoyed the presentation so much that we made it a custom to attend every year, doing the same thing every Christmas Eve for several years running. We'd go to the same church, sit in the same row, with the same people, watch the same program, then go out looking at all of the homes in the neighborhood. It was always a wonderful evening.

The last time we attended was four years ago, and when the presentation was winding down, it was time to fill out the donation envelopes again. Not wanting to be 'Anonymous' again, I decided to add a little humor and wrote down that the donation was from The fat guy that only visits on Christmas Eve! and put it on top of the stack of other envelopes.

My mom saw it and tried to give me The Look, but after about two seconds, she started laughing, as did her friend sitting next to her. Of course the people around us kinda wanted to see what was so funny, so my donation envelope stayed on top while the basket made it's way down the pew. Pretty soon I started laughing too, and the whole row got the church giggles.

We made it to the conclusion of the service, barely, and after it ended the pastor made a point of coming up, saying hello, and shaking my hand.

Now I know that some of you put Flick up to this, but he has refused to say who. But those who did it know their blame, and I'm sure that the guilt you must feel would be far worse than any punishment you might receive. Now, don't you feel terrible? Don't you feel remorse for what you have done? Well, that's all I'm going to say about poor Flick.

--Adults loved to say things like that but kids knew better. We knew darn well it was always better not to get caught.

I'm sure that by the time he sorted through all of the donations the next day, he knew exactly which one was mine.

It was all over - I was dead. What would it be? The guillotine? Hanging? The chair? The rack? The Chinese water torture? Hmmph. Mere child's play compared to what surely awaited me.

Luckily it was a generous donation, and the lightning bolt with my name was diverted to someone more deserving. I didn't get a BB Gun that year, but then again, I didn't get my mouth washed out with soap, either.


Iron Chef

Although I have several roommates, I basically live alone. I see one of the guys lurking around the house a few times a week, but otherwise I never really see anyone here. This house is HUGE, everyone has different schedules and/or travels a bit, and we all pretty much keep to ourselves. It's a little different from the 'frat house' environment from back in the days when I was living in Tempe, as those guys were all my buddies--my current crop of housemates are all basically strangers.

So what that means is that when I cook anything, it's always just for one--not for a group. I love to cook, but cooking for one always presents some unique challenges as most recipes and packaged foods are for several servings. No worries--I can adapt. But it limits my creativity--I rarely make a big pot of soup or spaghetti anymore, and if I buy one of those Stouffers lasagna trays I end up having to eat it every night for four days straight to justify the purchase, or else it will go bad. So I guess I've fallen into a routine--lots of salads, sandwiches, canned soups, quesadillas, etc.

But even though I may have fallen into a culinary rut, I still have to heap a little praise on my favorite kitchen accoutrement--my Lodge cast iron skillet. It is seriously the most useful pan in my arsenal. I use it to make quesadillas, grill burgers, cook sausage patties or links, and it makes the absolute greatest grilled cheese sandwiches in the history of mankind! Since it's got so much heft, once it heats up, it stays hot for a good long time and I can actually turn off the stove once I get about halfway through the cooking process. So I'm guessing it saves a few pennies a month on the energy bills.

About the only thing I don't cook with it is bacon (the low edges don't hold the grease in) or eggs (I have another favorite pan for that). And in a pinch I can use it for home defense if Mr .45 isn't handy and the same ruffians who lifted the faceplate from my car stereo show up again looking for more loot.

I like my skillet so much that I'll end with the sage advice from Ferris Bueller--If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up!


Thinking of a Home Christmas

Even though I'm still a bit under the weather, I managed to sleep all the way through the night and get lots of much-needed rest. I think it may have something to do with the fact that instead of leaving my tv on ESPN News turned down low all night (and of course the commercials are much louder, so sometimes they wake me up), I turn it to channel 941 and listen to 'Sounds of the Seasons' for constant Christmas music--much easier to sleep to, and it keeps me in a good mood. And since I have the digital cable wired through the surround sound system, I can turn off the TV monitor and just listen to the music playing. Next thing you know, it's eight hours later and I wake up refreshed and full of the holiday spirit.

The agenda for today is to finally get all of the Christmas cards written and the envelopes addressed, and hopefully I'll get them mailed out by the weekend. I'm really bummed this year because of my lower-than-usual income (still only working part time and picking up odd jobs here and there), I'm not able to go nutso on the Christmas shopping and load up all my family members with nice presents.

I learned a long time ago the simple truthfulness of the old adage 'tis better to give than to receive', as the best Christmases for me have been the ones where I've been able to spend money like a drunken sailor and fill up all the empty space under the tree. The funny thing is, although I totally appreciate all the gifts that I've received over the years, I can only recall very few of them. But I remember with surprising clarity just about every gift I've ever shopped for, wrapped, and witnessed being opened Christmas morning. That's the best part of Christmas--seeing the look on everyones faces when they are truly surprised by a nice gift of something they mentioned in passing months before that they said they'd like to have.

To me, nothing is more fun than Christmas shopping with my sister Amy--normally I hate shopping and wouldn't set foot in a mall unless there was a gun to my head. But we always have a blast window shopping, goofing off, telling jokes, people watching, sampling chocolate from the candy shops, and actually getting a few purchases made. Of course, with so many females in the family, a lot of my shopping is done at Victoria's Secret--talk about comedy potential--especially when you tell the salesgirls that you're looking for stuff to give your sisters and nieces. (Yeah, I buy them perfume, you sickos!). But we always have more laughs than we should.

Then it's back to the house where the smack-talking silliness of the two of us trying to wrap packages ensues. (Basically, all I do is hold down the ribbons, tear off tape, hand her the scissors, etc.--I'm a typical guy when it come to gift wrapping). After that, we've got days of 'I know what you're getting' taunts and pretending to shake the packages under the tree to keep us occupied until Santa's big night.

I'm really missing that this year.

Another family tradition that I'm sorry to be missing is the Christmas Eve get-together. My mom always says that Christmas Eve is her favorite holiday, and I think I agree with her.

Around 6pm or so, everyone gathers at one of my sister's homes, there is holiday music playing, a bowl of eggnog to drink, lots of snacks--ham & cheese logs, pumpkin rolls, Hello Dollies, crackers, nuts, candy, and the family favorite--peanut butter balls. We talk about past Christmases, pass the phone around and talk to those who are absent, and although nobody in my family except my dad and younger sister have much to do with any type of religion, a bible can usually be found, dusted off, and the Christmas story is read.

After all that, everyone gets to open ONE present, and not the one of their choice. Usually Sherry or mom decides who gets to open what, and a lot of times it's the boring stuff like socks or sweaters that get unwrapped, although one year we ran out of rum, so that's what I got to open... Merry Christmas, indeed!

By that time the party is winding down and we just sit around talking quietly, sipping our drinks, listening to music, and staring at the Christmas tree, basking in the glow of the fireplace, while everyone silently gives thanks that we could all be together once again.

Before it gets too late, the party breaks up and everyone heads home to do their last-minute 'elving'--stockings get stuffed, the 'big' presents come out of hiding, and the gifts that the 'givers' didn't want the 'receivers' to see under the tree finally get placed. Usually by then, all the activity and rich food takes it's toll and everyone falls fast asleep, the only sign of life in the entire house being the twinkling of lights on the tree.

Usually, around six am or so, somebody wakes up to go to the bathroom, and does the 'Hey--you awake?' to somebody else. Before long, everyone is up and gathered in the living room. The first order of business is open the stockings--that's always a lot of fun, because even though they're full of little stuff like gum, mints, toiletries, candy, magazines, etc., one of the traditions in our family is that we still wrap every little thing, so it's more fun and it makes the whole Christmas morning experience last that much longer.

After the stockings are done and the mess is cleaned up, we have our traditional family breakfast of Danish Ebelskivers, bacon, and orange Julius. It's one of my favorite meals of the entire year, a close second only to Thanksgiving dinner.

Finally, once breakfast is finished, it's back to the living room and the unwrapping of presents begins in earnest. All of the hype and anticipation of the season finally culminates in a heap of giftwrap and bows, and the secrets everyone has been holding onto for the past month no longer need to be kept. Although there aren't many young kids in the family at this point to watch tearing into a bunch of toys, just seeing everyone getting a surprise or two is still great fun to see. And it goes on all day long because the rounds are made to everyone else's house to do more exchanging of gifts.

At some point late in the afternoon, everyone gathers again for Christmas dinner, which is usually an informal affair with snacks, finger sandwiches, and more eggnog. If there's a football game on, it plays in the background while the evening takes on a typical family get-together vibe. Lots of laughter and silliness, stories getting told, and the inevitable announcement from mom that you can set your clock to--Well, I'm glad it's finally over.

This year, however, I'll be missing out on most of these activities. Being the low man on the totem pole at my particular casino has left me in the unenviable position of having to work overnight on Christmas Eve. Somehow I don't think dealing blackjack or dice that night will be nearly as much fun as being back in Tennessee, spiking the eggnog and having my niece Becca sit on my lap, tweezing the gray hairs out of my beard while we watch It's A Wonderful Life.

This year I'll be the guy on the other end of the phone that gets passed around while the party goes on without me. It makes me a little sad, but next year I'll be there. Count on it.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Quick Football Rant

I know, I should've posted on this subject on Monday morning, but I've been trying not to turn my website into a place where all I do is rant about is politics (too many of them already) or the NFL (not enough of the people that read this give a damn). I could write at length about both subjects, but I choose not to (although I'm thinking about doing a weekly football column next season, but in addition to all of my other blatherings--just something I'm kicking around upstairs...)

Anyhow, after watching all of the highlight shows and hearing all of the commentary after last weekends NFL games, one game in particular stands out--the Dolphins defeat of the Chargers. The Chargers have all the talent in the world, yet they keep losing games that they should win. How they're not challenging Denver for the number two seed in the AFC is beyond me.

I'm completely convinced that this past Sunday Nick Saban could've taken Marty Schottenheimer's players on the Chargers and played them against his own Dolphins and won that game also. (Like Bum Phillips once said, He can beat hizzun with yourn, and yourn with hizzun...) I said it before, I'll say it again--the Chargers win games in spite of their coach, not because of him, but Saban has the look of a coach with a very bright future in the NFL--all he needs is a quarterback. Schottenheimer can get an already talented team to the playoffs, but not much else. He certainly can't win a close game or get his team 'over the hump'. It makes me feel sorry for the San Diego fans--they deserve better. I just wish NFL owners would quit hiring retread coaches like that.

Speaking of retreads, word around the campfire is that the Texans are going to hire Wade Phillips once they dump Dom Capers at the end of the season. Wade Phillips doesn't really have a spectacular resume, either, but he's Bum Phillips' son, who was an extremely popular fella down in Houston back in the day. I think Steve Mariucci would be a better pick, but then again, I'm not a GM.


The Elves Are Busy...

So I had nothing to drink in the house besides milk, OJ, or coffee, and I'd already had all three with breakfast. I was thirsty and needed a Coke to get the creative juices flowing this afternoon. So I put some pants on and made my way down to the nearest convenience store to pick up a couple of bottles. By the time I got back, there was a big brown box on sitting on my front porch, addressed to me! Woo hoo--Toys!

Well, it wasn't from my sisters, but another one of my kooky friends, Angy. I brought it inside and spent a few minutes attacking the packing tape, but I finally got it opened. Inside were all kinds of goodies, a so-ugly-it's-cute miniature Christmas tree, some wrapped presents, and a couple of packages of holiday snacks. Oh hell yeah--that 'moose crunch' ain't gonna make it until sunset, I'm afraid... Anyhow, I set up the tree on top of my bookshelf and put a couple of the gifts underneath it. One of the wrapped packages sounded suspiciously like a box of Captain Crunch, and another one was clearly a department store box designed to hold a wallet.

So I called Angy to make sure that I was supposed to keep them under the tree until the 25th or if I could open any of them now. She said that she didn't care, so I left the two packages whose contents were unknown under my Charlie Brown tree, and opened the replacement wallet (since my other one is hanging together by a thread), and the Captain Crunch (since I ran out just this morning...) So I have some treats to nibble on, a new wallet, and some presents to open on Christmas morning!

And the big mystery present arrives in a couple days too.

It's a Festivus Miracle!


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Don't Buy the Cheap Stuff

Just like with shoes, I've learned that whenever you buy ice cream, you get exactly what you pay for. You pay top dollar for a pint of the good stuff from them hippies in Vermont, you get a pint of rich butterfat and chocolate goodness that leaves you in a satisfied stupor for several hours after consumption. You go cheap and buy a quart of Jersey Maid Tin Roof Sundae on sale for two bucks, you get a craptacular quart of mostly air which leaves an aftertaste so bad that it helps you understand why cats happily lick their own asses.


Worst. Christmas Package. Ever.

The whole fruitcake thing got me thinking... I know my family is a bunch of practical jokers--what if, heaven forbid, they decided to be cruel this Christmas and send me a box full of stuff that would give them a laugh while managing to piss me off at the same time? Oh no! I swear, I've been a good boy this year! But just in case, this is what I'd expect to find once I opened the package:

  • Bath salts
  • Fruitcake
  • A red and green sweater with reindeer or other shiat on it
  • Any movie on VHS
  • A bottle of Shiraz
  • Domino's Pizza coupons
  • Already-scratched-off lotto tickets
  • Cheap Walgreens-checkout-line cigars
  • Romance novels (except the ones with Fabio on the cover--he's sooo dreamy! I keed, I keed!)
  • A calendar featuring unicorns or teddy bears
  • A Paul McCartney & Wings cd
  • A Bill Clinton Presidential coffee mug
  • Tennessee Titans crap
  • An ice scraper
  • Gay porn
  • A 'Vote for Pedro' t-shirt
  • A doll that wets itself
  • Tightie Whiteys in size 5xl
  • Instant oatmeal packets
  • A decaf coffee sampler
  • Something orange that says 'University of Tennessee' on it

That should just about do it. I'm thinking that if any of those items showed up on my front porch, it would be a Blue Christmas indeed.


Tuesday Update

Hello Everybody...

I just wanted to check in and let everyone know that I'm still alive, but still suffering from the effects of my head cold. It's been just over a week now, so I figure I've got about five days left until I start feeling 100% again. At least I'm off from the job for the next couple of days so I can get some rest--My plan today is to lay around watching the NFL Network and drinking lots of fluids.

I'd like to do some writing, but it's tough to find inspiration when the brain is addled with double doses of Zicam and Alka Seltzer Plus.

I worked last night and it was very enjoyable. Doc and Johnny were planning on coming out for a visit, but they sent me a text message saying they were too drunk to drive. Probably a smart move, since it's too far to walk. On the other hand, I had a couple of rather attractive ladies following me around from table to table last night, so it made the whole blackjack-dealing thing seem not so repetitive. Of course I was bummed when I'd get tapped out--I don't want to leave a fun table, but whenever I got back from break, there they were waiting for me at my next game.

But I came home, alone, and hit the bed hard. It was nice to get several hours of uninterrupted sleep.

But when I woke up, I got a cryptic phone call from one of my sisters, trying to make sure I would be around the house on Friday afternoon for a delivery. A "big" delivery... hmmm... Word around the campfire is that they all chipped in and got me something cool for Christmas. I asked if I'd have to wait until the 25th to open it, but she said no, that once I see I'll know what it is. Ok! I like the sound of that. So I told them that I'll be waiting patiently for my new Chrysler 300M with a big red bow on it to show up. I was then told I'd be waiting a loooong time.

Whatever it is, as long as it's not a fruitcake, I'm excited for the surprise.


Sunday, December 11, 2005

A Night That Probably Shouldn't Be Repeated

I was having a nice casual relaxing Saturday, resting my burnt-out voice and trying to recover from a minor head cold that's been plaguing me all week. Then my pal Doc Al decided to make the trek down from the frozen northern Viking territories and pay me a visit. Actually, it was him and his buddy Johnny (who's real name should be 'Bad Influence') who are out here for a couple of days of Vegas buffoonery and invited me to join them last night.

So I showered, shaved, and made myself pretty, then drove down to the Four Seasons of Fremont Street, the El Cortez. The plan was to meet for dinner at Roberta's, their 'fine dining' establishment. Doc and Johnny hadn't arrived at the bar outside the restaurant by the time I got there, so I purchased a bottle of Michelob and took a wander thru the casino, thinking that the combination of Michelob and clean clothes might mark me as a high roller, as opposed the the other folk drinking out of paper bags and such.

It was early on a Saturday evening, and the colorful characters that populate the ElCo were already out in force. There were so many interesting folks lurking about that I totally missed Al and Johnny when I walked by them at the roulette table. That's ok, they found me just a couple minutes later and we headed back over to Roberta's, hoping that some of it's class might rub off on us.

We had no reservations, but got seated immediately. And I've got to admit, as much as I bag on the El Cortez, it's really not that bad. It's just that it's location is more conducive to attracting the 'salt of the earth' type of clientele which give it an extra seediness that it wouldn't have if it were in a different neighborhood. Regardless, Roberta's is actually a pretty nice place--one of the nicer downtown restaurants, I've discovered. While the atmosphere falls short of elegant, it is certainly a surprisingly quiet and relaxing oasis, and still manages to be a pretty good steakhouse, with prices guaranteed to keep the riff-raff out.

A quick perusal of the menu yielded the same results for all three of us--we were going with the prime rib. Doc also had a coupon for a free bottle of wine, and we chose a Merlot in a corked container, instead of the screw-on ones we'd seen some of the casino patrons swigging from earlier.

The wine arrived along with our salads and some warm bread and butter. It was all very good and we passed the time telling stories and laughing our asses off. I think the goal was to make each other laugh so hard that we either cried or wet ourselves, and we came pretty close a few times.

The meat arrived shortly thereafter, and believe me when I tell you that our dinner came from some very large cows. To say it was a generous portion would be a complete understatement. In addition to the large slabs of prime rib, we each got a serving of sauteed mushrooms and a baked potato. The food was actually very good--much better than I anticipated. And the horseradish was the pure industrial-strength stuff--not cut with sour cream or any other mellowing agents. Being typical morons, we had to outdo each other and between the fits of laughter and having our eyes water from all the horseradish, it looked like we were just sitting at the table happily blubbering away.

We were much too stuffed for dessert, and thanks to Doc Al's free booze coupon, the total tab was only $51 for the three of us. Quite the bargain. And the food was much better than the menu offerings from the Center Stage restaurant down the street at the Plaza, which has a reputation (although slipping) of being one of the better steak joints downtown.

After we paid the bill and wiped away the last of our tears, we waddled back out into the casino. The first order of business was to take over a $5 pai gow table. Of course it was back-and-forth gambling-wise, but we took advantage of the ElCo's quick cocktail service and made our way through a bottle of the Captain for about an hour before deciding it was time to move on.

We hit the cage, then got the Ghetto Sled out of the garage and headed out for more slumming--this time the ultimate destination being North Las Vegas and all of it's low-rent goodness. Of course since it was the weekend, we took a detour down East Fremont street just to watch the human drama unfold, and weren't disappointed to see some of Sin City's finest handcuffing a couple of perps to the grill of a police car in the 7-11 parking lot while they 'interviewed' one of the nice girls with bleached hair and high heels who scratched out a living on that stretch of road.

Saturday night in Vegas--Good times!

After the sightseeing part of the expedition had been covered, we made our way down to Jerry's Nugget with the idea of burning up some matchplays and having a few more laughs. We accomplished both, in spades. Our first order of business was to hit the blackjack table with our matchplay coupons, but the dealer pulled a 20 or 21 dang near every hand, and we quit less than halfway through the shoe, humbled, but looking for revenge.

We found it at the dice table.

We bought in with our remaining chips, and I immediately set out on a monster roll. Of course I played too conservatively, but made a small comeback. Once I made my fourth or fifth point, the rookie stickman started telling me that I could no longer set the dice, that I had to just pick 'em up and roll 'em. Fark that--they wouldn't have said a word if I'd been losing so I took my bets down and sevened-out a few rolls later. We didn't much care for the fact that they were sweating the money so hard, so we colored up with our profits and headed for the cage, having no reason to ever go back and visit the place. At least I took them for about $180. Heh--take that, bitches!

As we were leaving the casino, Johnny pointed out that there was the Palomino club right across the street. Knowing that we'd probably never get the chance to visit again, instead of heading to the car, we walked over to see what kind of talent would be on display on a Saturday night in N. Las Vegas.

We were a bit disappointed when we got inside and the sign said Long Haired Freaky People Need Not Apply, er, I mean "Non-Nevada ID $30 Cover Charge". I immediately voiced my displeasure with a two word rejoinder, something along the lines of 'Fark this!' and we started to turn back around, but the Goodfella in charge of the place immediately went into damage-control mode and offered us a 'special for you guys only' and let us in for the bargain price of $20 which included our first two drinks. Feeling flush from our winnings at the dice table, a twenty-spot seemed like a reasonable price to be to see nekkid chicks and have a couple of drinks.

The velvet rope parted, down the hall we went, through the curtain, and into what could only be described as 'if the Barbary Coast were a strip club, this is what it would look like'. Lots of red velvet and dark wood. Of course the talent line-up left a little to be desired--I'd seen a better looking group of women down at the DMV while getting my tags renewed, so we opted to just sit and watch the show and enjoy our two-drink minimum.

The first highlight of our visit came when a surgically enhanced Asian dragon lady sat on Doc Al's lap and started giving him the grind/sales pitch. She had freakishly large hands, so Johnny and I had to throw a little smack his way and tell him to check for an Adam's Apple and outdoor plumbing. She made the play for all three of us, but Doc made the rookie mistake of giving her his real name. Of course whenever I go to 'the ballet' I tell the girls that my name is Sid. That's been my stage name for years. Johnny knows the rules too, and told all the ladies that his name was Carl. A few more visits and we'll have Al up to speed.

But she couldn't stay long on Doc's lap, as shortly thereafter it was her turn on the stage. She said goodbye, but he asked the waitress to change a ten-spot into a bunch of singles for him.

Of course our opinion of her improved when she started her stage-time by pole dancing to Fire Woman by The Cult. Doc took a couple of singles with him and grabbed a seat on Sniffer's Row, while 'Carl' and I were content to just sip on our libations and enjoy the show from afar. Of course a couple of other gals came by and made the pitch, but since we were experienced strip club veterans, they were rebuffed.

After a few minutes, Doc came back to the table, but he didn't stay long. Apparently, he had an appointment in the Champagne Room.

"Great", said Johnny. "We ain't never gettin him outta there..."

We watched the stage show for a few more minutes, but then a tiny package of Asian hotness found her way to my lap, and after a song or two she had convinced me to part with some of my craps winnings and accompany her to the VIP room.

I left a twenty-spot with 'Carl' to get some more drinks, and upstairs we went.

I won't bore you all with the details, but I can clearly attest that a half-hour in the VIP room is a great way to dispose of ill-gotten gains from the dice tables. I came back downstairs with my shirt buttoned wrong, and if I had any hair, it would've been messed up. Thinking back, I probably should've tipped the girl with a bottle of Zicam. She's probably gonna wake up with a cold today...

Doc had made his way back to the table by that time, and Johnny had his hands full fending off a nice girl with more tattoos than teeth, so we decided it was probably a good time to end our evening at the Palomino. Actually Doc decided that when the ATM stopped giving him money.

We laughed our way out of there and back across the street to the casino to fetch the car. Overall, we really had a great time there at the Palomino, as it had a great ratio of seediness/what you could get away with, even though they gouge a little more than they could if they were anywhere but Vegas. I guess I'll just have to bring my brother David out here to get his opinion. He's a worldwide expert on Strip Clubs, and could probably write a decent travel guide on the subject if his wife wouldn't beat his ass for doing so. (Sorry for throwing you under the bus dude, but that whole 'blind guy at the strip club' story was a brilliant stroke of genius that I never get tired of telling...)

Since we'd all split up for a bit while in there, the ride back to Fremont Street was a hilarious re-telling of our experiences from three different perspectives. I swear I was laughing so hard that it was almost impossible to drive.

We finally made it back to the valet at the Fitz, where Al and Johnny were staying, and headed up to the room. Johnny and Al needed to hit the room safe for more funds, and all three of us somehow felt the need to wash our hands (and I think Doc probably had to wash his face, too...) The biggest laugh came when I walked out of the bathroom and announced "Ok--tomorrow morning's contest is to figure out 'Which washcloth didn't get used...' "

Once the funds were replenished and the cheap perfume was scrubbed off, we headed back downstairs and outside. The first order of business was another round of drinks, but Johnny made the bad decision to go to one of the vendors outside that specialized in 'flair' bartenders. You know, they type that take five minutes to pour a drink because they have to display their mad bottle-tossing skills. We just wanted a drink and kept yelling for the guy to knock it off and just pour the damn drinks, but he would have none of that. We finally got a round of Captain and Cokes, and at least the circus bartender put a chunk of dry ice in each of our glasses, so they had a little smokey volcano action going as we wandered back down towards the El Cortez.

No pai gow or prime rib this time. After our monster run at Jerry's Nugget, we wanted to play dice again. Unfortunately, none of us could roll worth a damn and it was back-to-back-to-back episodes of Point-Seven Out. Ugh. Nasty table.

Doc and Johnny decided that they wanted to go to the Plaza and play poker, but I was getting very tired and had left my jacket in the back seat of my car at the Fitz, so I didn't want to walk all the way down to the Plaza freezing my ass off. I decided to stay at the ElCo and try to make a little money back at the dice tables. So we said our goodbyes, with plans to get together again tonight.

They shuffled off to the Plaza, and I gave the dealer $27 and told him to put me on every number.

Seven out!

Too tired to chase down Al and Johnny, I just walked back to the Fitz and got my car, drove home, took some medicine, and went to bed.

I'm hoping that tonight's adventures are nothing like last night's. I don't know if I could survive it.