Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Tuesday Morning

Ok...another one of life's lessons that I've recently learned is not to drink an entire pot of coffee at 2am and stay up all night writing, unless I've got no place to go for a couple of days. That really screwed up my schedule. But it's almost 5:30 in the morning here in America's Playground, and although it's cold as hell outside (Yeah Doc, Minnesota is colder than hell), I'm wide awake and ready for the day.

But writing is going to be light-to-non-existent for the next couple of days. Vanessa arrives in a few hours and we've got lots of Vegas buffoonery planned. This morning, I have to go wash the last month's filth off of the ghetto sled (although I'm thinking about renting a 300M for a couple of days, just because...), I need to go to the bank, the cigar store (you've got to admire a woman who appreciates the simple pleasures of a fine cigar and a top-shelf martini), and find some decent clothes that match. Then it's off to the airport and the silliness begins. In addition to all the match-plays we have to burn, I still have a few LVA coupons that need to be used by the end of the year, and part of the agenda is to get a little more ink done. We should have a great time, and I probably won't be near a computer for the next day or two. However, once she heads home and I get some sleep, I'll post what I can, pictures included.

Before I sign off, I have to make a quick mention about last night's Steelers/Colts game. I've never been much of a Peyton Manning fan, often getting a perverse satisfaction out of seeing him choke away the big game. But after the season the Colts are having and seeing the first play from scrimmage last night where he made Pittsburg's vaunted defense look like his own personal bitches, all I could do is shake my head in amazement and admiration. Indy is definitely better than my all-time favorite team, the 1999 Rams, and I'd love to see them run the tables and make history, if only to shut up Nick Buoniconti and the rest of those old farts from Miami for the last time. I have a feeling that the case of champagne they've had on ice the entire year won't get opened unless they man-up and send it to the Colts locker room in Detroit for the post-game celebration in February.

19-0. That would even obliterate my old roommate Neil's Happy Hour Hook-Up Without Catching The Clap record. Here's to hoping they don't run into the NFL equivalent of a U of A sorority girl with a huge rack and an appetite for Cosmopolitans.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Friday Night Smokin'

I had Friday night off, which was a rarity. Luckily, longtime reader Habanaman, aka Chris, was in town for a quick visit and wanted to meet up. His offer of free drinks and Cuban cigars was more than enough incentive for me to make my way down to the Strip on a Friday night.

We decided to meet up at Napoleon's Lounge there at the Paris at 10 pm, as that was the wife's bedtime and as soon as he could 'get off the leash' as he put it.

I made it to the lounge on time, after driving around for ten minutes looking for someplace to park. But when I arrived at Napoleon's, I was quite a bit disappointed. I've always thought of the place as a nice, understated, almost elegant cigar lounge and bar. But Caesars Entertainment no longer owns the place, Harrahs does, and it has become Harrah-fied. Instead of a low-key jazz pianist playing mellow tunes in a dimly lit room, they had two 'dueling' keyboardists hamhanding their way through the same cliched versions of songs that every other dueling piano bar in the world does. And not only that, it was about 30 decibels too loud. Imagine some shitty band like Limp Bizkit playing a classy joint like Carnegie Hall.

Chris spotted me immediately, and had a table saved as far away from the noise as possible, but it was still impossible to carry on a conversation without yelling. No fun at all. I was looking forward to a relaxing evening sipping top-shelf liquor, smoking cigars, and enjoying pleasant conversation. There was no way that was going to happen, so we decided to try someplace else. While we waited, and waited, and waited some more for the waitress to come by so we could settle the tab, I filled out one of the request slips with the simple appeal that they play 'the 25-minute-long Woodstock version of Shut The Hell Up'. Unfortunately, we left before they made their way through the stack and got to that request.

We decided to try the main bar in the casino, but that was completely packed with no tables available. While making our way through, we encountered the lamest bachelorette party in the History of Vegas. First of all, the bride was older than me and there was no sticky candy available to nibble off of her body. Penalty points for that faux paus.

Their first request was a reasonable one--they wanted a condom. Of course Chris is married, so he didn't have one. And I stopped carrying them around in my wallet years ago, not wanting to lose them in the washing machine. So we couldn't help them with that one. Ok, no problem--then they asked if I was wearing black socks, which I was. Well they told me that they needed one of them. I told them that I didn't carry those in my wallet either, but they were insistent. Yeah right, like I'm going to give those chicks my sock. What kind of stupid-ass scavenger hunt is that? They were getting annoying and so I turned to Chris and told him that we needed to get out of there, but not before the chicks told us that since we didn't have anything on their list that we had to give them a dollar bill or a 5-dollar casino chip. That was my cue to leave, but Chris tried to offer her a two-dollar bill--but one of them started freaking out saying how seriously unlucky that two-dollar bills were and refused it. She wouldn't even touch the thing. About that time we realized that things had just gone surreal and we both looked at each other with the same confused What the Fark? look on our faces. Since any chance of intelligent conversation was shot, we kept on walking.

We wandered the casino a bit, finally finding seats in the sportsbook bar. Fuzzy Navels for him, Captain & Seven for me. He was kind enough to bring along two Monte Cristo #2's, so we lit them up, toasted the good times, and enjoyed a couple hours of cocktails, storytelling, and people watching. After about four rounds they were closing the bar down, and Chris suggested we find a pai gow table. Sounded like a good idea to me, so off we went in search of a game. There were none to be found in Paris, so we made our way to Bally's instead.

We found a $15 table right away and sat down to play. Unfortunately, the dealer went on one of those runs where they deal themselves three pair every hand and wiped me out before I got my first drink. Losing a hundred was enough for me, so I thanked Chris for the enjoyable evening and headed for the parking garage.

On my way out, I saw a girl I went to dealer school with talking on a cell phone. We chatted for just a minute, but then she asked me if I could give her a ride. No problemo--she said she needed to get to the Pecos/Lake Mead area. I said I'm not quite sure where that was, but since I live right off of Pecos and I knew that Lake Mead Pkwy went through Henderson, I thought it would be close.

Nope. Apparently, there is another Lake Mead up in North Las Vegas. Great. Only about 15 miles out of my way. Oh well, I'd already said yes. The ride was a little odd though--it's not like I knew the chick very well anyways, but trying to make conversation I never did find out where she got a dealing job, or even if she got one at all. I did however, find out how she managed to be at the Paris with no car--apparently her and her dude got into a fight and he left her there. Nice. I dropped her off in the parking lot at her complex, and he was standing outside waiting for her. I didn't want to get involved in that drama, so I took off but they started yelling at each other before she closed the car door.

Having never been to North Las Vegas before (and not really wanting to go back now that I've seen it--it seems to be pretty ghetto up there), on the way back I drove past Jerry's Nugget. I knew I had a matchplay in my LV Advisor coupon book which I keep in the glove compartment, so I stopped in hoping to make my gas money back.

I was less-than-impressed with the place, but it was nicer than say, the El Cortez. Kind of like a very poor-man's Gold Coast. There were a couple of blackjack tables open, both with $5 limits. One girl was playing by herself, so I just watched (because I know how much I hate it when I'm playing one-on-one against the dealer, doing well, and some jerkoff comes and sits down and ruins the flow of the cards). She either won or pushed every hand that I was present for, so she invited me to join her. I told her I'd wait until she lost two hands in a row, and she made another hundred bucks before I sat down.

Luckily I won my match play, and a couple hands after that, also. I bought in for just $40 and said I'd quit with a hundy, and after a few shuffles I scored big on a double down and pocketed a hundred-dollar profit. I told my new friend that I'd sit out because she was winning bigger when I wasn't playing. The cards kind of turned on her, but in the meantime I found out that she was a dancer across the street at the Palamino. Having just seen it for the first time from the outside, she confirmed my suspicions that it was indeed a dump. The cards kept getting worse and worse for her, and she lost about $400 in ten minutes or so. She was a cute girl and all, but she had the foulest mouth ever and the worst attitude I'd encountered in a long time. I can understand the occasional salty talk, even from chicks, but once it got to the point were every other word was an f-bomb and other such niceties, I decided to hit the cage. She went all gangster on me and I was afraid she might bust a cap in my ass for not playing with her. I got my cash and headed for the door, marking Jerry's Nugget off the list of places I need to visit. At least I won my pai-gow losses back.

On the way home, I saw yet another surreal sight, as I passed a block that was covered from one end to the other with bums sleeping out on the sidewalk. It was pretty chilly that night, so they were all covered from head to toe in blankets, making it look like dozens of body bags lying about. The fact that it was directly across the street from a mortuary just completed the bizarre scene. Overall, it was a very interesting evening.

I felt much better once I got back to my neighborhood. We keep our bums out of sight, and our strip clubs are much classier joints.


Saturday Night Tokin'

It's 2:30 in the morning, I just got home from work, I have a full pot of coffee brewing, and I just feel like staying up for a few hours and doing some writing. My shift was a little different tonight--I worked from 6pm till 2am and just got home. I like that shift, but unlike the 8-4 shift, this one doesn't give you any time to stand around and relax at a dead table. The first six hours absolutely flew by--I had the funnest tables ever. When I was getting tapped out, I couldn't believe that the hour had already passed. So let me tell you a few stories from the casino.

It all started before I left for work. I've been shaving my head for over ten years, and have gotten pretty good and quick with a razor. Normally that part of my daily toilette is done in the shower, without the use of a mirror. Well, I got in a hurry and managed to cut myself pretty good on the back of my head. Although, I didn't know it at the time. I finished up, dried off (with a maroon towel, so I didn't see any blood), got dressed, and drove to work. As I was walking back to the uniform room, somebody came up behind me and freaked out. The entire back of my head was all bloody and it had even ran down all over the collar of my shirt. According to her, it looked like I'd been smashed with a brick or something. I managed to get it all cleaned up and stopped the bleeding almost as soon as I put pressure on it, but I went through a half a roll of paper towels and everything withing three feet of me looked like the back seat of Jules Winfield's car before The Wolf showed up. Other than the dead nigga in the back seat, the car is tip top!

After that dramatic episode ended I got dressed and prepared for my evening at the tables.

One of the games I was scheduled on is called Super Fun 21. Basically it's a single or double deck blackjack game with a few different rules. Blackjacks pay even money, unless it's diamonds, then it pays double. You can double down at any time, not just after two cards, late surrender is offered, and a 5-card 21 pays double, a 6-card 20 or less wins regardless of what the dealer has, and all players' blackjacks win--no pushes, even if the dealer has a blackjack, too. Anyhow--it's a very popular game and we offer three tables of it.

So I'm on one tonight, just cranking out the jokes and dropping tokes after every hand. One dude had been at the table for almost twelve hours straight and had quite a stack of green quarter cheques in front of him. Unfortunately, he started betting big and I busted him three times in a row. I was a little bummed because he had a good personality and was a George (casino slang for 'great tipper'). After that, he said he felt like it was probably time to go, so he pushed out all of his green checques in a stack and said The hell with it--lets gamble!

So I called out 'Cheques play!' to alert the floorman that somebody is betting big. So he came over to watch the hand. I dealt the cards, and I had an eight showing. I get to Mr. Chips and he's got two cards that add up to seven. He takes a hit. Five. Now he's got twelve. He takes another hit and makes 16. Instead of surrendering the hand, he resigns himself to his fate and starts to wave me off to stand on his sixteen. Just being a dork, I said Hey man, a five-card 21 pays double... I'm just sayin'...

Everyone at the table laughed, even the floorman, but the player said Ok--hit me again.


I was beginning to feel as bad as everyone else at the table since I'd just beat this guy down three hands in a row, and was about to bust him again. A grey cloud of depression formed overhead, as everyone started shaking their heads, anticipating the train wreck they were about to witness. Another player kept telling him to surrender but he wouldn't listen, and insisted on taking a card.

So I tapped the table, wished him a sincere Good Luck, and pulled the next card out of the deck.

Naturally, I dropped a five on him to make his five-card 21! Pandemonium. The whole table went nuts. I looked over my shoulder and see the floorman laughing and he whispered to me--"A five card 21 pays double!" Nice going, dickhead. Actually, he really didn't care at all--they don't 'sweat the money' in my casino, but he just couldn't believe the guy would take the hit. Anyhow, the player turned his $600 bet into $1800 on that one card, and was kind enough to throw me another fifty bucks tip in addition to all the rest he'd given me so far that evening. Good times all around. Talk about putting the entire table in a good mood--they wanted to nominate me for Dealer of the Year after suggesting that hit... Shortly thereafter I got tapped out and took a break, the same time as the floorman. We sat around in the dining room laughing about it and telling anyone who would listen.

When I got to my next table, it was a six-deck shoe game. Fun crowd, made better by one dude who, although he was a terrible player, had a substantial bankroll and was betting $100 per hand for himself, and every other had--win or lose--he'd bet $25 for me. Very nice. The bummer of it was the play at the table was so bad that I only won about every third or fourth bet. Not bad money in the toke box, but it would've been much more if people would take the time to learn some basic strategy and not be afraid to hit hands like 14 or 15 on occasion. As much as I'd hoped he'd play correctly, I certainly can't complain too much about his generosity.

The best table of the night was one that just had a perfect mix of people. They all had decent bankrolls, weren't playing with 'scared' money (you can always tell who is--they are the ones most upset when they lose, and still gripe when they win...), they all got along well, and believed in the karmic power of tipping the dealer. Even when the cards went cold, they were still having fun. After a particularly bad run, during the shuffle, the guy on third base asked me Mikey, where have all the good times gone?

So I replied with I dunno, we're running a little bit hot tonight--I can barely see the road from the heat comin' on...

The whole table started laughing and he tossed me a green chip, thanking me for my quick comeback to his Van Halen lyric with one of my own. Overall, it was a very fun hour and it ended much too soon. I think I probably dropped about $300 in tokes on that table alone. That was awfully nice, because I'm sure somebody needed to carry the load for the four poor schmucks stuck on the dollar dice table for eight hours. They might drop fifty bucks between them for the whole shift.

One thing I almost forgot to mention that helped my mood somewhat was that all the cocktail waitresses got their new Christmas uniforms and started wearing them tonight. Instead of the biker girl leather motif, they've gone with the red velvet and white furry Santa's Naughty Helper look. You gotta love that. It's like if Hef were Santa Clause and all the elves lived at The Mansion. It's just lucky that dealing blackjack requires me to stand still all night. If I had to walk around I'd be all bruised up from falling down and walking into stuff, unable to concentrate. Babes in Toyland, indeed.

So my eight-hour shift just flew by tonight. It was one of those days where I had so much fun that it didn't even seem like work. Of course, by the time I left I was exhausted and my feet were killing me, but now I'm at home sitting on my ass, drinking coffee, and doing something else I enjoy--writing this stuff down for you fine folks.

It's been a hell of a day.


Friday, November 25, 2005

The Slippery Slope to Old Age

The more time passes, the closer I get to becoming that grouchy old man who stands on the porch yelling at the damn kids to get off my lawn. I'm only 38 years old, but that's three years beyond the magic 18-35 demographic that seems to carry the most relevancy, at least according to the experts on Madison Avenue.

The most recent I-just-don't-get-it moment came by way of the hype surrounding the release of the new Xbox 360 game console. Apparently, it is the latest must-have toy on all the Christmas lists this year, and the national news services have done a yeomanlike job of reporting the consumer stampede on retailers as demand is far outstripping supply. As a red-state borgeoisie imperialistic capitalist-dog investor, I offer a hearty congrats to Microsoft for the billions of dollars they are going to earn for providing the latest Better Mousetrap to the Ritalin-addled minds of today's yoots. But on the other hand, I ask myself, what's the big deal?

As far as I'm concerned, video game greatness peaked with the 2-D simplicity of Asteroids. Of course, having spent my formative years trying to convince my parents that the new MTV channel was not a Tool of the Devil, Hobie shirts were absolutely not the same thing as OP, and black nylon pants with zippers all over them were the pinnacle of coolness, it's unsurprising that a person like me would have such an affinity for a game that today's kids would consider downright lame.

Today's Xbox runs about $400 retail, if you're lucky enough to find one. But a quick glance at Ebay shows that some have gone for over TWELVE HUNDRED FRICKIN DOLLARS in the secondary market! Good grief. When I saw that, the first thing that came to mind were Gunnery Sergeant Hartmann's immortal words--You've gotta be shittin' me Pyle! Yeah, good luck getting my folks to spend that kind of jack back in the eighties. Especially for a video game. Hell, my parents wouldn't even get me the electronic Battleship for Christmas--the original version was perfectly adequate, I was told. But $1200 for a video game system? Are you nuts? That doesn't even include the cost of the actual games! I don't have kids, but even if I did, I know I wouldn't love them that much. For twelve Benjamins, I'm sure as hell not wasting money on a video game--even for myself. Maybe a box of Cuban cigars, a couple bottles of rum, another tattoo, dinner at Delmonico, and perhaps a new subscription to Girls Gone Wild. Clearly I've become a more responsible consumer as I've matured.

For the Ebay price of an Xbox, you could get almost five thousand chances to enter your initials as one of the Top Ten players. (And who among us never had a temporary alias that looked like A.S.S. after cracking that list???) Even the most uncoordinated buffoon could get to level ten and beyond with that kind of investment, and no 'cheats' would be needed. And with the Xbox, you're just sitting around on your ass in the basement for days on end. At least Asteroids had some social aspect involved--there were always other players around, and like a saloon pool table, your quarter sitting in line meant that 'you got next'.

My favorite machine was located at La Jolla Skate Village in Harvester, Missouri--the Saturday night social center of the universe when I was in junior high. All that was needed (besides parents willing to provide transportation) were three bucks for admission and skate rental (if you owned your own skates, you were clearly gay), a couple more bucks to cover pizza and cokes, and a few quarters for the Asteroids machine for when that inevitable awkward moment arrived and the lights would dim, a Journey ballad would start playing, and the DJ would make the dreaded announcement-- Couple skate, couples only... Since I never wanted to suffer the humiliation of Pam Epperly rejecting my offer to take a few laps around the rink holding hands, that was always the time I practiced making the cosmos safe from large electronic rocks and small ufo's.

I remember another time my buddy Brad Bateman and I had made $20 apiece doing some sort of odd job or another, and talked his mom into dropping us off at the arcade for the afternoon. We played Asteroids the whole time. Several hours later the money was gone and we had to endure a lecture for the entire ride home about wasting all of our money playing video games. Telling her that we spent some of the money on a box of donuts and a couple of cokes--so technically we didn't waste it *all* on video games--didn't seem to make a difference in her eyes. Damn kids--we didn't have any idea how long it took to make twenty bucks back in the fifties when she was a teenager...

Even after we got driver's licenses, going to the video arcade was still a favorite after-school pastime. And when one of my buddies actually got a job at the arcade, well, it was Free Game City! Somewhere around that time, we stopped going to the skating rink and the arcade and just started hanging out at the mall, able to shop at Chess King and buy zipper pants with our own money, without the parental disapproval.

Atari even released a home version of Asteroids to play on your tv (well, not the tv at my house--we still had Pong), and a buddy of mine was one of the first to get it. Unfortunately, it was such a horrible spinoff of the arcade original (what the hell was up with all the squares?) that a week later it met it's demise in the back yard courtesy of a pack of firecrackers after we'd run out of model airplanes to destroy.

Anyhow, the world is changing, and it's leaving people like me behind. I've tried playing video games with my nieces, but they all seem pretty senseless. Case in point--the snowboarding game, Tricky--you don't have to do anything, the game does it all. If you didn't touch a button after you've started down the hill, you'd still get to the bottom of the hill eventually. Speaking as someone who's actually tried to make it to the bottom of a hill on a real snowboard, that's not how it works in real life. There's a little more effort involved. I'm not saying there's no effort to become proficient with today's video games, but I'm pretty sure that asteroids don't split up on their own out in space, that's all.

Even after Asteroids popularity started to wane, I dabbled with the other classic video games for a few years. I was a sucker for Galaga and Tempest, and was infuriated with the difficulty of Defender/Stargate. Donkey Kong and Pac Man were fun in mixed company, and I even thought Joust was pretty cool, but I could see the handwriting on the wall because it was so popular with the Dungeons & Dragons geeks. I just knew that if I ever started playing that game on a regular basis, Pam Epperly would never skate with me.

Turns out, she never did. She moved to Florida before then end of eighth grade. But once that distraction was gone, I was unbeatable.

Looking back, I'd gladly trade a couple of those top-ten scores for a few laps around La Jolla holding her hand and listening to Who's Cryin' Now. I'm sure she's an uber-milf now, and I've discovered that there are much better ways to score than just with video games.


Friday Limerick

There once was a fellow named Mikey
Who met a waitress to likey

When he tried to hit it
She told him 'Forget it'

She must be a little bit dikey



Today I'm realizing that the worst part of missing a big family Thanksgiving is the utter lack of leftovers to munch on. No pie, no potatoes, no stuffing, and no can-shaped cranberry sauce. But the true bummer is having no turka sandies to chow on, so I went with ham & cheese. But on a positive note, that smoked chipotle mayonaise was pretty good. Can't wait to bust into the wasabi style bottle next time around.

I had to work last night--as did everyone else I know in this city. All week everyone was telling me that it was going to be sloooow on Thanksgiving night--just like last year. Well, they were wrong. We had all four dice tables open, and they were all packed. The entire pit was full--we even opened tables that never get opened except for Friday and Saturday nights. I'm looking forward to finding out just how much we made last night--I know I dropped a ton of tokes while I was dealing blackjack. About halfway through the night I got moved to dice and the table was ice cold, just wiping everyone out, so the tokes weren't nearly as substantial.

Before working last night, I had a pretty relaxing day. On Wednesday night (Ok, actually it was Thursday morning at 4am) all of the dealers that I hang out with got together over at our local bar for a few drinks and a lot of laughs, although I bugged out just before the sun came up. I wanted to go straight to bed, but couldn't sleep, and then my phone started ringing because the rest of the family is a couple of hours ahead of me. I finally collapsed just as the Atlanta/Detroit game was starting and missed the entire thing. So basically I slept all day in front of the tv, waking up here and there to catch bits of the later game.

I had my turkey/stuffing/etc dinner that night once I got to work, and even managed to get a piece of pumpkin pie. It was decent, but not nearly as enjoyable as spending the day with all of my goofball siblings and relatives around the family table.

But today is my day off. I've got the Arizona/ASU game in the background and a rum drink in the foreground, the bills are paid, I've got it made in the shade and all I need, is a beautiful girl...


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thanksgiving 2005

On this Thanksgiving holiday, I would like to take the opportunity to share with all of you the things that I am most thankful for.

First and foremost, I am most thankful for my family. As much as I love living here in Vegas, there is a tinge of sadness because I can’t be back in Nashville celebrating turkey day with those closest to me. So I a raise a toast to them—

To Dad and my stepmom Karen—thank you for always being a great example of how people can live their lives by always putting other people first and respecting the choices that your kids make. We all turned out pretty well, in no small part due you your guidance and example.

To Mom—thank you for all of the effort you put into being close to your kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. Some of my best memories of Nashville are all the times we sat outside by the fire, drinking coffee, watching the lightning bugs, and talking about whatever came up. Oh, and all the times I kicked your ass at Sequence—that was pretty cool too.

To Sherry—thank you for all time good times we’ve had over the past couple of years—Road trips, dinner at Raz’z, or just hanging out and watching the Cardinals. And letting me raid your liquor cabinet was always nice, too.

To Cyndy and David—thank you for EVERYTHING! From opening your home to be the social gathering place for the entire family, to all of the helpful things you do, both big and small, which make life easier for everyone. I couldn’t even begin to compile a list of all the kindness you’ve shown me over the years, but I am truly thankful and blessed to have such a wonderful sister and brother-in-law.

To Nancy—thank you for always making me proud of you and all you’ve accomplished. You have no idea how often I brag about you. Lurking around Russia like a cold-war spy, traveling the world, training astronauts for cryin’ out loud? Are you kiddin’ me? You and Mark need to come to Vegas and get silly with me for a couple of days. Enough of that globetrotting stuff…

To David and Angie—thank you both for always making sure we have a great time whenever we get together. Not only are the stories epic, but I never knew that I could have so much fun in Alabama. And thanks to you, I firmly believe that no holiday weekend with the family is complete without alcohol, tobacco, and firearms.

To Amy—thank you for always keeping me laughing. No matter what we talk about, it’s always served with a generous helping of laughter. Your zest for life is contagious, and I always look forward to hearing from you. I think everyone would agree that our family would be most incomplete if you hadn’t come along. You are truly the glue that holds us all together.

To all of my gorgeous nieces and handsome nephews—thank you all for keeping me young. Even though the beard is getting gray and the calendar has started to mock me with it’s progress, the simple joy of watching you all grow up into wonderful young adults is one of life’s great pleasures. I love spoiling you when I get the chance, and doing my duty as an uncle by introducing you to all of the things your parents would never approve of is kind of fun, too.

To Ed, Eddie, Derek, and Tamm—thank you all for being such great friends for the past several years. They say that you can judge the character of a man by the friends he has. That can’t be true, as you guys are some of the finest people I’ve ever known—I know that I don’t deserve to be associated with such a great crowd. I hope we can all grow old together, irritating our handlers at the old folks home by fingerpainting with our own poo and other such silliness.

To Kelly, Dane, Al, Dougie, Dawn, Jer, Terry, Sammi, Angy, Ron, and Bill—thank you for all of your kindness, generosity, support, and friendship, especially over the past year or so. Without all of you in my life, things would have been much tougher. Words cannot adequately describe how lucky I feel to know all of you and include you in my circle of friends. I know we have a lot of laughs when we get together, but behind all of that I have a deep appreciation for you all as just being ‘some of the good guys’.

To Old Friends whom I’ve lost touch with—The South County gang, Mark, Steve, Matt, Jim, Adrian, Kimmie, and Richie—you guys were the greatest, probably still are. I hope that wherever you may be you are finding happiness and fulfillment with the diverse paths you have chosen. Some memories will never go away, and a lot of them include you fine people.

To Lost Loves—Stephani & Jennifer, Maria, Trisha, Kathryn, and Brenda—thank you for the experience and perspective that I gained from our times together. I could pour my heart out for days writing about each of you, but let me just say that the lessons in love and experience with heartbreak still shapes my outlook to this day. I treasure every moment I spent with each of you.

To the people that inspire me the most—Kim du Toit, Tania Aebi, Herb Payson, Bill Whittle, Bob Bitchin, Jay Nordlinger, and Victor Davis Hanson. Not only is your writing top-notch, but the depth of your life experience is something others can only aspire to. You are all equally responsible for keeping my dreams alive.

Finally I’m thankful for my friend Vanessa—sometimes people come into your life that brighten it more than you previously thought possible. You're one of those people that always manages to make me smile, no matter how bad a day I might be having. You laugh at my jokes, share the same interests as I, and make me feel important. But most of all, you make me feel like I’m not alone. For that I am most grateful.

In addition to family and friends—there are lots of other things that I am thankful for that I remember in moments of quiet introspection. I’m thankful for the foresight and fortitude of the Founding Fathers. I know how lucky I am to be a citizen of the greatest country in the history of civilization. I don’t know if I’d have the cajones to do the things they did. Lives, fortunes, and sacred honor—it’s amazing to think about. I’m thankful for the volunteer soldiers, sailors, and Marines who are sacrificing much, sometimes all, to keep the rest of us fat, safe, and happy back at home. May God watch over and protect them and bring them home as soon as the job is done. I’m thankful for a Commander In Chief who has the stones to stay the course, regardless of the vicious slings and arrows thrust at him on a daily basis. History will judge him far more objectively than the pundits of today. I’m thankful for the giants of humanity that created so many of the things that I take for granted today. I couldn’t imagine living in a time without telephones, air travel, automobiles, healing medicines, or even computers. Two days without hot water damn near drove me crazy. Again, those that came before were much tougher than me. I’m thankful for their hard work and sacrifice, which benefits all of us. I’m especially thankful for the creative process and those gifted enough to harness it. I am constantly awestruck by beautiful art, architecture, literature, and especially music. The power to create something that speaks to so many people on such a deep emotional level is an amazing thing that I find endlessly fascinating. I’m thankful for the small serving of talents that I possess. I’m a fair teacher, writer, and cook. And I can always manage to find some humor, no matter how grave the situation may be. I’m thankful that I have a quick wit and the ability to share it. I’m thankful to live in a wonderful city that provides me with so many opportunities. Most people only dream about living here, but I’m here living the life 24/7. As some would say, the juice is worth the squeeze. And finally I’m thankful for the trials and experiences that have marked my life for the past five years. I’ve had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but I’ve managed to survive, thrive, grow, and learn. As Brother Jimmy once said—some of it’s magic, and some of it’s tragic, but I’ve had a good life anyways.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


Bustin' the Homeys

I had a pretty good night at work last night. It was fairly busy and I'm sure I dropped more than my fair share of tokes. That tends to happen when you are dumping the money. 'Dumping the money' is dealer slang for giving away your rack--busting all the time, dealing lots of winners for the players, and making lots of 17s. I'm completely in favor of dumping my rack when I've got fun players at the table--they tend to tip better when they win, and it makes the table that much more enjoyable because they will stick around longer, too. Even as a stockholder in the company, I don't much care how much the house loses at the tables (I'm sure I'd be a pretty easygoing pit boss) because no matter how much people win, they always go lose most of it back on another game. Nobody knows when to stop. Well, maybe they know, but they just won't.

Anyhow, I had a fairly attractive gal following me around from table to table for the first couple hours of my shift. She started with about a hundy and turned it into almost two grand. Of course since I was the one dealing to her, she stuck to me like glue. That made the evening more fun for me. Finally she wised up when her luck started to turn and left with plenty of black chips when I took a break around 11pm.

But the entire time I was dreading going to another table in the pit that I was scheduled for later in the evening. It was full of the most ridiculous bunch of wannabes I'd ever seen. You know the type. Malibu's most wanted. Bling Bling Pinky Ring all about the East siiiiide, yo! Mere words cannot describe the level of jackassedness and moronitude on display. Clearly they were representin' Henderson's Wonder Bread Posse. The leader of the pack was wearing enough jewelry to make Mr T proud, the crowning jewel being a lion pendant that looked like it was stolen from the front of an MGM Grand limo. Most definitely a 'hood ornament.

So while they were bringing all the attention to themselves at their table, everyone else around them started to get a little tired of it. A few complaints were lodged, but then the heckling began. If they won a hand and started celebrating a little too loud, some random player at another table would yell out something along the lines of 'Shut up White Bread!' Even the players at my table, 30 feet away were making fun of them. Unfortunately they loved the attention. I kept saying a silent prayer that the other dealer would bust them out before I got there.

My table shift ended, I took a break, and twenty minutes later I came back to the pit to see that they were still at the table that I was about to tap into. Great. That's when I go into my 'Shut up and deal' mode--they've chased all the good players away, they're drunk, and they're acting like idiots. In situations like that, I clam up, put my hands in a higher gear, and crank out as many cards as I can.

Luckily the cards came back to the house's favor after my three hours of dumping. I couldn't lose! I made every hand--four-card 21s, five-card 21s, a face under every ace. If they all had an 18 or 19, I pulled a twenty. It was uncanny. Due to all the noise and heavy action, every camera in the joint was on that table, and of course every boss in the pit was watching too. Before long, I had every one of their green and black cheques, and not too long after that, it was down to the true signal of desperation, Money plays! followed by the inevitable Money Down!

It was a thing of beauty.

They walked away completely broke, and a cone of blessed silence surrounded my table. But the general consensus around the pit was that they'd be back as soon as they made it to one of the local 24-hour pawn shops and sold off some of the bling.

Not my concern--I went home shortly thereafter.

Generally, as a dealer, I want the players to win. If they're happy, I'm getting tokes and making more money. I do my best to make sure everyone is having fun regardless of which way the cards are falling. But it's no secret that if you're acting like a jackass at the table, every dealer in the joint is gonna do their best to bust you. With a big smile on their face of course. But that's only because we're not allowed to laugh.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Answering the Question...

Ok, so one of today's posts generated an extra boatload of traffic to my inbox, all carrying an underlying theme/concern.

But the Hurricane Mikey blog (this site that you're reading) is going nowhere. Ok, maybe that doesn't sound so good...what I mean to say is that this website will remain active, and actually, will probably benefit from my new-found freedom. Maybe now I can direct more creative energy to this blog. I'm not going Witness Protection on ya, I'm just limiting my exposure to the idiots and fools.

By the way, it's not permanently posted here on the site, but I can always be reached at mikey-at-hurricanemikey-dot-com.


Lust In My Heart

Browsing one of my favorite sites this morning, I came across this wonderful boat for sale in Florida. Unfortunately I don't have $300K lying around, so I'm afraid I'll have to pass on this obvious bargain.

If only those knuckleheads that run the Powerball would get their shit together and finally call my numbers, we could right this injustice. And the bonus for you, dear readers, would be that this blog might finally have some content of interest. Although, once I get my hands on a sailboat and my title changes from 'Clock Punching Dice Monkey' to 'Captain' there is a slight chance that you'll never hear from me again...


Moving On...

I’ve often wondered whatever became of Norm once Cheers closed. Of course we know what happened to everyone else—Cliff still lives with his mom and sometimes delivers the mail, Woody hooked up with Juliette Lewis and went on a crime spree across the American southwest, Frasier found success in Seattle, and Sam apparently went to med school and became a doctor with a questionable bedside manner.

But whatever happened to Norm? Everybody’s favorite—the funniest character in a cast of funny characters. I could relate to Norm; I too am a fat guy that drinks a lot of beer and has sometimes been less-than-fully-employed. I still use one of his best lines ever—when Sam asked, “Hey Norm, whatcha up to?”

My ideal weight if I were nine feet tall!

Still funny after all these years.

But all good things come to an end, and life goes in cycles. Norm had to move on. Nothing good lasts forever.

I first noticed this phenomenon at an early age, and it’s still true today. Radio stations are the greatest illustration of this. As soon as a great radio station comes along, you’re amazed that nobody has ever done it so well before—good deejays, a great playlist, no repetition, and very few commercials. It lasts for several months, then word gets out, popularity spreads, and then the folks that make decisions forget what got them there and start making changes—tweaking the playlist, adding a couple of extra minutes of commercial time each hour, gimmicky promotions, and the absolute killer—trying to be more ‘inclusive’, by trying to appeal to more and more people—and it goes downhill from there. Good radio stations never last. Even K-SHE 95 in St. Louis, who avoided that trap for nearly a quarter century, finally succumbed. Sweet Meat rolls in his grave…

It’s the same with all things in life. In the current lexicon of the day it’s called ‘Jumping the Shark’, derived from one of the later ridiculous episodes of Happy Days where Fonzie jumped the shark during the water ski competition and the audience collectively realized that Happy Days had run it’s course—it was no longer an enjoyable show. The People In Charge had clearly run out of ideas.

I would’ve loved to see Seinfeld go on forever—but the creative forces behind the show had tapped the well dry. People change, the fuel gauge of ideas inches closer to E, and it becomes almost too popular. The Simpsons are just about there. Same with The Family Guy. The Sopranos have suffered the same fate. I’m using tv shows and radio stations as examples because they’re easy to relate to, but it’s the same way with just about everything in life. Great restaurants—once they get discovered—find it hard to maintain their greatness. The temptation to get more recognition, to have a bigger audience, to make an extra buck or two becomes too great and quality slips. Before long the old regulars are making reservations at other places. As Yogi Berra so eloquently put it, “Nobody goes there anymore—it’s too crowded”

Which brings me back to Cheers. I’ve been the ‘Norm’ at a Cheers type of place for several years now. One of the regulars—an Original Gangster, if you will. It was a great place that I’d visit several times a week. I had lots of friends there, and I held court from my ‘barstool’—keeping folks entertained and having lots of wonderful discussions—most of them extremely funny because of the good company which kept me inspired. I didn’t own the place, but I certainly had my own set of keys, and the owner trusted my judgment.

But I noticed about a year ago that my beloved ‘bar’ was starting to change, and not for the better.

Just like a radio station or a trendy restaurant, it was almost too good and the word got out. The ‘audience’ started getting bigger, and in an attempt to be all things to all people, more than a few undesirables managed to get past the doorman and become self-proclaimed regulars. At first, it was flattering—everything I did, several other folks wanted to imitate—and imitate they have. But now it’s gotten kind of creepy in almost a stalkerish kind of way. Some of my closer friends have even complained to me about some of the people there ‘following’ them wherever they go—basically having to endure one-sided friendships because the stalker-types have no friends outside of the Cheers world… It’s gotten a bit weird.

On top of that, a few assholes have made their way in and diminished the quality of the experience. It used to be a great place to hang out, but now several of the patrons wish to do nothing but argue, debate, or just be annoying for the sake of being annoying. The spirit of the place is long gone.

On one hand, I still love the cachet that it brings me, and of course I certainly don’t mind all the free drinks and free meals I’ve gotten just for being me and being there. But sometimes even that tab is too high. I’ve told the owners my concerns over the past few months, but it’s fallen on deaf ears as the desire to get along with everyone trumps the perfectly acceptable reason of wanting to associate with folks you like. The Kum-Ba-Ya mentality has taken over. I get enough diversity and other such political correctness in real life, so escaping it used to be a real treat.

And not that there wasn’t a diversity of ideas—some of my dearest friends there occupy the far opposite end of the political spectrum as I do, but we’ve managed to become good friends in spite of such differing outlooks. But some folks there are so attention-starved that they act like monkeys in a cage, screeching and flinging feces until they get noticed, desperately wishing they could be part of the cool crowd. Unfortunately, what they don’t realize is that by ingratiating themselves into the crowd, their mere presence sucks the coolness out.

Anyhow, it’s gotten so un-enjoyable lately that I’ve decided to relinquish my barstool. I still have some great friends that still frequent the place, but the ratio of obnoxiousness -to-enjoyable company has exceeded my personal limit. As Christian Slater said in the movie Heathers, I see that they have an open-door policy on assholes.

So I’m saying goodbye to Cheers. We had a good run. I’m sure it’ll still be there years from now in a new and more modern incarnation, but the inmates have taken over the asylum. It's time to move on. Someday I might stop in for a drink and a quick hello, but at the rate it's going I doubt anyone will still know my name.

But maybe someday somebody will wonder Whatever happened to that fat guy in the Hawaiian shirt--what was his name anyways? He sure was funny.



I had Monday off, and of course I slept in--this time only until ten am, not past noon like I usually do--but I managed to get a lot accomplished. My usual Monday ritual is to get up, shower, shave, get dressed, stop at the local Barnes & Noble and pick up some reading material, stop at the cigar shop and pick up a favorite stogie, then head over to the Peppermill for a nice leisurely breakfast, followed by drinks and good conversation with my girl Krista back in the Fireside Lounge for a couple of hours. Since I left the 9-to-5 world behind several months ago, one could say that my Mondays have become much more enjoyable.

However, I'm trying to become a little more goal-oriented and save a few bucks here and there, so today I stayed home. I made my own breakfast of eggs, English muffins, and coffee, and had a wonderful couple of hours reading yesterdays paper while the sunlight flooded my kitchen. Of course there was no cigar, no booze, or no Krista, but I managed to enjoy the day. I also managed to get a lot of housework done--the bathroom is clean, the laundry is done, the trash is taken out.

While doing laundry, I hit the jackpot... I found $42 US and $17 Belizean in the washing machine! Woo Hoo! My excitement was tempered, however, when I also found my drivers license, debit cards, credit cards, social security card, and other assorted things that I normally associate with my wallet. Oh yeah, you can guess where this is going--I managed to wash my wallet, again. Luckily my cellphone, checkbook, or car keys didn't get laundered this time around, but I think that this is the fifth time I've tossed the wallet into the washing machine. It looks like I'll be needing a replacement--this one isn't even a year old, but I've managed to ruin it.

The funny thing is, I remember the exact day that I bought it--December 1st of last year. How do I know this? Because when I got back from my lunch hour that I'd spent at the mall purchasing said wallet, my boss asked me to join him in the conference room for a meeting. The only other person in there was the HR toad, and that's where I got the word (again) that my position was being eliminated (and this time they meant it!). So this ratty and shredded leather Fossil from Dillards marks the beginning of my journey out of the boredom of Nashville one year ago and into the random silliness that marks my existence here in America's Playground.

A worn-out wallet. I cannot think of a more fitting time capsule.


Long Week Indeed

I've been a busy dude this week. I didn't even realize that I haven't posted anything since last Saturday, but since I'm home tonight and wide awake I thought I'd give a brief update. First things first--work has gotten busier all of the sudden, but I think it only has to do with the Thanksgiving holiday week that is upon us. Two months ago, we 'extra-board' lackeys were lucky to have one day of work a week. I was poor and broke but luckily the experiences of 2002 taught me to survive that bump in the road with minimal consternation. Then suddenly we were getting scheduled three days a week and the daily toke average went from about $120 per shift to about $175 per shift--very nice. It seemed much busier, but the unofficial word we were getting was that extra-board dealers still weren't allowed to work more than three days a week. (I figured something was amiss when on three different occasions other dealers tried to give me shifts and each time I was denied picking it up...)

Then the tokes started going way up and I was getting spoiled (last week each shift was over $200!). It was nice, as working just three days a week I was bringing home bigger paychecks than I was five years ago at Schwab working full-time (of course, that was after a fortune worth of deductions were taken out, but my life is much simpler now, and the bottom line is all that matters at this point).

The big toke days were attributed to a few bigger players that came in every day, one in particular that I'll call 'Dick'. He came in every night with tens of thousands of dollars in cash carried in a man-purse and basically just threw money around the casino. While it was nice to have him playing, it was an absolute pain in the ass to have him playing at my table. He was truly the rudest, foulest, biggest loser of a human being I've encountered in my brief sojourn here in Sin City. Luckily he didn't like me much--I only dealt to him twice and just crushed him both times.

Anyhow, it turns out that that particular gravy train has run it's course. Apparently he somehow crossed the line and got banned from the property. So this next paycheck will mark the end of the 'Dick' contribution. I'm not sorry to see the guy get booted, but as rude as he was, he was a good tipper. On the plus side, those guys are a dime a dozen here in Vegas, and I'm sure he'll be replaced shortly. In the meantime, instead of just having my usual three days of work that I've become accustomed to, this week I have five days scheduled. Since I know that I'm not allowed to work more than 32 hours a week, I'm sure I'll be getting off early on one of those nights (yeah, being a peon I'm scheduled to work on Thanksgiving--no prob--I've got no family here and I planned on having my turkey dinner at work anyways...) But it's nice to see a full work schedule again. Hopefully soon I'll be off of the extra-board and finally get a full-time paycheck and full-time benefits.

For as little as I've been working, it sure seemed that I didn't have much time on my hands. Of course I've spent lots of time looking for a suitable second job--although I don't need one at this point, it'd be nice to have a little extra income. Earlier this summer I had three incomes, and now I'm down to one part-time income--which I can survive on--but it's tough to save, and another commitment would instill a bit of discipline that I've been lacking. (I haven't even used an alarm clock in two months for cryin' out loud!)

There's still poker school to finish, and since I paid $800 it would be a damn shame to let that go to waste by not finding a job in a poker room. But I have seriously lost all interest in poker, whereas two years ago it was all I lived for. Since my interest in playing has waned, my interest in dealing the game seems to have done the same, also. Although, if I think about it logically, there's no reason to not deal poker--I don't much play craps or blackjack anymore either, but I still enjoy dealing those games. And with poker I'd get to sit on my ass all day with the added bonus of not having to report all of my tips to the IRS! Hell yeah--stick it to The Man!!!

Although I'm rambling about it, I guess that I just haven't thought it all through yet. But the smart money says that by the turn of the new year, my days will be spent dealing Hold Em, and my nights will be spent doing the blackjack/dice/pai gow trifecta.

On the social side of things, I've had a few visitors lately, too. My friend Sammi was here last week and we managed to get together for a few drinks and a few more laughs. And the setting was fantastic--one night we hung out in the Parasol Bar at the Wynn. To say that it's a nice bar would be a tremendous understatement. Yeah, it's a bit chic and frou-frou, but we bohemians managed to fit right in and enjoy the upscale vibe. It helped that all of the martinis were top-shelf varieties, they offered my all-time favorite wine by the glass, and we were served by yet another Greek Goddess of a cocktail waitress that this town is so famous for. I've been to the Wynn twice now, and both time were extremely positive experiences. Nice place if you've got the ducketts.


Sunday, November 13, 2005

Oldie Butt A Goodie

I was going through all of my old picture files this evening and I found this gem from my buddy Eddie B. I'd have to say it's one of his finest Vegas moments.

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Padding The Ol' Resume

I recently posted about my new favorite casino pastime, Pai Gow poker. Since I enjoy the easy-going aspect of the game, I decided to go ahead and learn to deal it. My casino has about five or six pai gow tables going at any one time--it's hugely popular--so I figured it'd be a good break from dealing dice and blackjack. And having a third game in the arsenal of mad skillz doesn't hurt either. If I went back to dealers school to learn it they'd charge me a couple hundy, but luckily I can learn it free of charge at work, if I just choose to do it on my own time. So I chose to.

First of all, on Wednesday night (ok, early Thursday morning) I went over to my friend Jen's house after we got out of work and she gave me the basic procedures and got me started on all of the 'House Ways' of setting hands. We did that for about an hour or so, then downed a 12-pack of Pacifico and watched Dazed & Confused until around 6:30 am or so. Alright alright alright....Lemme tell ya what ol' Melba Toast is packin'...

Anyhow, I rolled out of there with a better grasp of how to deal the game, which brought me to today. It was my day off, but the training room is open every Friday for game-tutoring, so I spent two hours this afternoon going over the finer points of the dealing it (heavy emphasis on the 'banking' procedures) with the training manager, then spent an hour and a half on a live game dealing to real people. And I then proceeded to just crush everyone, so they're gonna probably put me on that game a couple nights a week now. No problem, it's much less tedious than dealing blackjack (especially if I'm stuck dealing single- or double-deck games all night), and I won't have to deal with all the jackasses that hang out at the dice table, so I'm looking forward to changing it up a couple times a week. Not that blackjack is that tedious, but we don't have enough 'shoe' games--if I'm stuck dealing 'pitch' games all night, it really wears me out having to shuffle every two minutes on a table thats about 3 inches too short.

And--bonus-- if the folks in charge at Sunset don't hurry up and get off of their asses and make me full-time (I've been on the Extra board for six months now), I've just made myself more valuable on the open market.

Either way, I'm trying to learn as much as I can because I've still got a year to decide if I want to stay in the casino business or go back to the equities game. My NASD registrations expire in January of 2007, and if I let them go at that time, they're gone forever--I can never go back to that career unless I start over at rock bottom. So I've still got a year to make sure that this is right for me. Right now, I'm thinking that I prefer Vegas...


Monday, November 07, 2005

Gonna Need A Bigger Boat

Some folks think I lead a pretty interesting life. And although I manage to have my share of fun, nothing I have done is nearly as cool as something my buddy Sam has done recently. One of his hobbies is scuba diving, and every time I catch up with him he regales me with tales of all of his travels. Nothing, however, compares to his most recent adventures he shared with me--he hooked up with San Diego Shark Diving and took a five-day Great White Shark Dive to Mexico. I was so impressed with the pictures that I've decided to post some of them here on the website.

According to Sammy, all of these fish are between 12-16 feet.

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You go in the cage, cage goes in the water...shark's in the water...our shark...
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And here I thought my spot at the top of the food chain was secure...


My Favorite Game

No, I'm not referring to that cool Cardigans tune. I discovered a new casino game that I enjoy playing. Since I moved out here, my gambling tastes have changed dramatically. I used to love to play craps and blackjack, but now that I work in the industry and see just how often the dice table is ice cold, and dealing 21 from the back of the table and beating the ever-lovin' piss out of people every night, I don't enjoy it as much as I used to. Besides, now that I live here my strategy is basically hit and run--make a quick profit and hit the Eject button, because I see every day just how cold the tables are for the folks that are playing.

So what's a degenerate like me to do? I've never been bitten by the video poker bug that afflicts so many Vegas residents. I mean, really, you have to get a pair of jacks or better just to tie and keep your bet? Two pair is just a push? What the fuck? People actually agree to this? And to me, slot machines are the dumbest thing ever. But of course, I've been known to throw the occasional twenty in and chase a jackpot--I guess which goes to show that we all need a dose of sucker bets at some point.

Betting the ponies doesn't really interest me very much, either. Well, mostly because I enjoy showering and brushing my teeth on a daily basis, and the regulars I see in the book don't look like personal hygiene is a big priority with them, so I guess I just wouldn't fit in. I used to enjoy betting sports until I realized that every time I made three bets and won one, lost one, and tied one, I still lost money. Not that I don't still do it, but a 10% vig is too excessive--at least to me.

So that brings me to my new favorite game--Pai Gow Poker. To me, it's the epitome of drinking games. Gamble all day long, get free drinks from the waitress, pay a 5% vig on your winnings, and still get dinner comped at the end of the day--all the time never really losing big nor winning big. My buddy Dougie is a huge Pai Gow fan (winning a cool half-million dollar progressive jackpot will do that to ya, I suppose). Anyhow, he tried to get me to play it about a year and a half ago when I was at the top of my game as a fair Texas Holdem player. I didn't really think I'd enjoy playing 'that Kung Fu shit' very much at all, preferring good old American Poker. But he told me that since there are so many ties you never really lose more than three hands in a row. So I took out $125 and sat down at a $25 Pai Gow table at Mandalay Bay and proceeded to lose my first six hands. Yeah...great game, Doug. Ass. After that I never sat down at a Pai Gow table again. Until this weekend.

My buddy Eddie was in town for his bachelor party, along with a few other dudes we've hung out with for the past several years. The first night, one of the guys kept bitching about how he hated blackjack and that we needed to find a pai gow game. Eventually we did, but I spent the first night just watching. The second night--after a 20-minute beating that cost me almost $200 at the blackjack table--I was ready to give it a try.

I tried it, and now I'm hooked. We played for about four hours, and I never got down more than thirty bucks or so, and ended up walking away with a $50 profit, not to mention all the free drinks that we took advantage of. The next day we played for eight hours straight at the Stardust, and I left with an $80 profit and a $20 dinner comp. This is the perfect game for me now, because I've become such a tight gambler that the other games have become too volatile for my tastes. (That being said, on special occasions--like March Madness--I'm still going to toss money around at the dice table like candy from a parade float).

Anyhow--now that I've found a game that I enjoy that doesn't cost much to play and chances are good that I'm never going to lose very much, I feel much more comfortable when I get visitors coming out every weekend that want me to hang out with them in the casino. So now I'm preaching the Pai Gow gospel loud and proud. Can I get a witness from the congregation?!?!?

By the way--I offer my apologies to those folks reading this looking for another Monday Morning Quarterback column like last week. After the weekend I had with the fellas, plus working until 5 am on Sunday morning, I spent the entire day in bed, only waking up occasionally to check the scores, then immediately falling back to sleep. So I saw very little football, college or NFL. And I had to work last night too. So now I'm headed back to bed for a little beauty sleep, then later on I'm heading down to the Peppermill for my usual Monday morning breakfast. I think this time I'll go with the eggs benedict and a pot of coffee. Best breakfast in Vegas.


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Fueling My Escapism--The Ultimate Timewasters

Sometimes I have to remind myself of the Big Picture, because it's easy to lose focus--especially under the neon glare of my new hometown. But I always try to remind myself of the reason why I'm here. No, not just because I want to have the experience of living in Las Vegas, but because it provides me with the means of sometime getting to that ultimate destination that awaits just over the horizon. As much as I love it here in Vegas, I would still rather be somewhere out on a sailboat, working my way around the world one exotic port at a time, eating the local food, drinking the local wine, and never quite catching up to that beautiful sunset.

But the internet is a wonderful thing. As recently as ten years ago, the only way to get a small taste of what I've been so hungry for was to visit the library and read a handful of books that I could have finished during summer break. Now I've found that there is an entire subculture of people just like me out there. Ok, actually better than me due to the fact that they are actually out there doing it. I may be temporarily landlocked, but since there are pioneers out there blazing the trail for the rest of us and sharing their adventures via the internet, it doesn't seem so far away.

I've read literally dozens of sailing logs over the past five years, but I've got a couple of favorites. The first one really gave me the bug--they were leaving on their big adventure about the same time that I discovered that that's exactly what I wanted to do. Since then I've followed their travels with an almost evangelistic devotion. I don't know if they know it or not, but Douglas and Bernadette Bernon are the inspiration to an entire generation of 'future cruisers'. You can read all about their travels at the Log of Ithaka website.

If, sometime in the next several weeks, you finish off all of that reading, I highly recommend following that up with the adventures of the USS Maverick. It's the logs of a two-year circumnavigation by the pithiest Captain ever to set sail upon the seven seas and take pen to logbook. You don't even have to like the ocean to enjoy his great writing style. Bookmark it and read it whenever you get a free hour or two. You'll feel smarter once you do, and your vocabulary will eventually rival that of William F. Buckley.

And one of my new favorite websites would be the Adventures of the Bumfuzzles. They are a great couple who are fortunate enough to be able to sail around the world while still in their thirties, much to the chagrin of several grouchy old armchair sailors who never leave the harbor. Ali and Pat are the exception to youth being wasted on the young, and their knack for having fun keeps me waiting impatiently for new updates every week. Another point in their favor is that they also make the effort to stay in touch via email to people like me, in addition to maintaining a fantastic website. When they get back to this side of the world again, we're hitting the brewpub at Monte Carlo and all the drinks are on me.

If that doesn't give you enough to read, may I suggest the following books: Blown Away by Herb Payson, and Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi. Both are fantastic reads that hold an exalted place in my personal sailing library.

Anyhow--this is the kind of stuff that keeps me motivated even though the days can sometimes be a grind. A lot of people think I'm already 'living the dream' out here in Las Vegas, and it's not too bad. But as great as the view is from here, I still have to close my eyes to see the ocean.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Some New Favorites

I've had the pleasure of having a couple days off after barricading myself in my Unabomber cabin last weekend and cranking out about 20 pages of writing for this website and another Vegas travelogue for the degenerates at Travel2Vegas.com. Of course I also worked a couple of days in that span, so basically I spent four days straight either dealing blackjack or staying up all night writing whatever nonsense popped into my head. So when I finally got home early Tuesday morning, I hit the bed hard and caught up on some much needed sleep. It's been nice to sit around doing nothing but surfing the net, watching ESPN, and sampling the various flavors of Haagen Dazs on sale at the nearest Von's. Since I've been trying to eat healthy stuff at work all the time (chicken, salad, cottage cheese every night before I hit the tables), I figured it would be ok to have some ice cream for the first time in a couple months.

Had to go with the old reliable mint-chip for starters, and of course that was excellent, but then I took a chance with Bananas Foster (but really, when you combine two of my favorite treats--rum and ice cream--how can you possibly go wrong?). Living in a town with dozens of fancy-schmancy restaurants that offer Bananas Foster on the menu, I felt it might not have held up to the competition, but it was still an excellent choice. So if you find yourself in the frozen-foods aisle at your local foodmonger's, give it a try. That being said, I still think my all-time favorite is Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch offered by them two old hippies from Vermont. But since I don't want any of my hard-earned cash going into the Hillary for Prez war chest, I have decided to forego that pleasure for now.

Speaking of food, I have also started dabbling in the mysterious new world of designer mayonaise. Yep, grilled chipotle pepper mayo, wasabi mayo, herb mayo--it's all there for the taking. First I discover lime-flavored ice cubes, and now garlic mayonaise! Is this a great country or what? And here I thought food evolution had peaked at chocolate milk or mac & cheese. It's great to know that greater minds than mine are working on this stuff, doing their part to keep my pantry on the cutting edge. Anyhow, the next batch of tunafish sandwiches should be especially tasty. A full review shall be forthcoming.

Now that I've got a fully-functional digital cable box, I can also get back to enjoying favorite stuff like the National Geographic channel, the NFL Network, ESPN News, and all of the movie channels. Normally I'm right there with the whole popular culture thing, but I never quite got on the Desperate Housewives bandwagon, and although I tried to sit through a couple of episodes of Lost, it just doesn't hold my rapt attention like it seems to do for the rest of the civilized world. And although I came to the party almost a year late, I absolutely *love* Entourage. I consider myself a competent writer, so it's a real joy to see the product of someone so talented at their craft. I only wish I were half that good. Just because your aunt ran numbers out of a deli it doesn't make you a made man, Drama... Great stuff.

As good as Entourage is, my favorite show has got to be Pardon The Interuption on ESPN every afternoon. There is nothing on tv today more entertaining that watching Wilbon and Kornheiser banter back and forth about the current events in today's sports world.

Wilbon: Tony, doesn't it bother you that Brent Barry kissed the Commissioner David Stern last night before the game?

Kornheiser: (deadpan) No, not at all--David and I haven't been an item for years.

I swear I laughed about that all afternoon.