Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Hello everybody--I just wanted to take a moment and wish all of my readers, commentors, and lurkers a great 2007.

2006 was a very good year for me, for several reasons, and it seems like it's only getting better. I can't wait to see what 2007 brings!

So have a great time tonight, enjoy yourselves, raise a glass of bubbly and give that special someone a kiss at midnight. I, of course, will be working, facilitating a good time for others once again, but I'm sure I'll have a little bit of fun and some low-grade buffoonery shall ensue while the boss isn't looking.

Above all else, be careful out there amongst the crazies and the drunks. Even if you are one of them.

Best wishes for a fantastic new year!


No Whammies!

Man, I love going to work this week. Chrismtas may be over, but everyone is still celebrating. And you know what that means--Las Vegas is busy with a capital B. We are making some great money this week, which is very nice--it all goes on my last paycheck before Sticky comes to town. Seriously, the casino has been packed every night, all of our table limits are up (very few of those vile $5 tables to be found, thank goodness), and our toke boxes are full.

Some of our best players are in town for the entire holiday weekend, and by 'best players' I mean biggest tippers, including the guy who once tipped me $200 because I cracked a joke that made him laugh out loud. And when it's busy with good players, the time just flies by.

Three nights ago, I came to work and found that I was actually scheduled to deal dice--that *never* happens. We only have three dice tables, but about 25 Craps dealers on our shift. Most of them are very territorial and get pretty pissy if they're not allowed to deal dice on any given night. So most of my dice time is always late at night, once other tables start to close down and the scheduled dice dealers take early outs.

But the best part of it was that I was scheduled on the High Limit game--$10 at first, then bumped up to $25. I *love* dealing the high limit game. It's like a well-groomed dog--no fleas! Of course, later on that night, I had four guys at my end just working me to death-- press it, press it, press it, take it down, always got to have lots of action--while the dealer at the other end of the table stood there dead, the extent of his effort was turning the puck from OFF to ON and back again every few rolls. I even broke a sweat, so it was quite a workout.

The table finally closed, and before I could go, guess who had to count down the bank with the boss watching. Yep, that'd be me. Normally, it's no big deal--anytime you close a table, you have to count down the rack. On most blackjack tables, it's only about ten grand or so, maybe $30K if there are pink chips involved. But this table was loaded. Banana chips, bitches!

So, it took awhile to count it all down, twice, and I believe it totalled up to something just north of 400 thousand dollars. Better double check my math...

As I was finishing up the second time, the boss noticed the beads of sweat on my head and asked if I was nervous or something.

I told him Not really, it's just that it's been awhile since I had my hands on half a million dollars...


Speaking of big dollars, a good friend of mine is a floor supervisor at Caesars Palace and told me an interesting story that happened earlier this week. They have a couple of high-limit roulette wheels under that main rotunda right there in the front of the casino. Well, it was a busy night and the dealer had his back turned for a couple of seconds and somebody managed to reach into the bank and take 18 'chocolate chips' and walk out the door, unseen.

What are Chocolate Chips, in casino parlance? The brown chips, baby--$5000 each. Yep, somebody had the audicity to reach into the middle of the bank and grab $90,000 worth of chips, pocket them, and calmly walk away. The interesting thing is that nobody noticed for like ten minutes. The floor person keeps a 'scorecard' for each game and they *always* know exactly how many of the big denomination chips are on every game at any time. When he got back to this particular roulette table and noticed that they were short almost a hundred grand, there was a minor freak-out.

They called surveillance, who backed up the tape and saw the guy do the old snatch-and-grab, Linuse Caldwell style, and walk out the front door. Amazing.

But good luck ever cashing those chips. Yeah, there are always a lot of 5-grand chips in play there at the Palace, but it wouldn't cost the casino but a few thousand to change the design, issue new ones and void all the old ones (it's not like too many people hang on to those, and those that do, well, they know who they are). Word around the campfire is that the dealer and the floorperson got canned, too, so if you can spin the ball, I think there's an opening at Caesars.

Lesson for the day--keep an eye on your rack.

Me, I've never had any problem at all keeping my eyes on the racks here in Vegas. Especially the big ones. But I'm a professional.

Anyhow, tonight should be a great night, money-wise, second only to Super Bowl Sunday. Before I left this morning I saw the roadmap of table assignments--I'm dealing Pai Gow all night long. I haven't been scheduled on Pai Gow in almost a month, so it should be fun--my table is separate from the rest of the Chinatown Pai Gow games--I'll be in the 'Party Pit', right next to the bar and the band. I hope it's a good one tonight--The jazz duo we've had in there lately just sucks ass on a stick.

But it's going to be a long night, so I guess I better take a nap.


Laid to Rest

Of all the stuff that was on tv yesterday, I found myself watching the State Funeral for President Ford for awhile. I remember a couple years ago, during President Reagan's funeral, that I found myself almost feeling sorry for the next former President to die, thinking that there just wouldn't be the same outpouring of admiration from so many people. And it's true, President Ford's passing doesn't seem like that big of a deal, nationally speaking. But while President Reagan holds a special place in the American psyche, President Ford was probably the President that most Americans knew the least about.

Honestly, before all of the coverage of the past few days, the only things most people knew about Gerald Ford was 1) He pardoned President Nixon 2) He fell down the stairs while exiting Air Force One, and 3) He had two failed assassination attempts on him within a very short period of time.

American history is a subject that always interests me, but as far as President Ford goes, I really knew nothing about him. I remember my grandmother, years ago, telling us that she didn't vote for him in 1976 because he wouldn't smile during one of his debates with Jimmy Carter. I'm afraid that if she were still alive today, she'd be one of those women who votes for John Edwards because "he has nice hair". Anyways... Did anyone know (before this week) that he was adopted? Also, I had no idea that he was such a good athlete in his younger years--winning two national championships as part of the University of Michigan football team (I bet they could beat Ohio State back then!). And everyone knows his love for golf--I heard that whenever he traveled to speaking engagements once he left office, he'd always bring his golf clubs with him and play at the local course, no matter how small or out-of-the-way it was.

As far as his Presidency is concerned, it seems to me that he was a very decent man that the country needed at the time, reeling from the events of the Watergate scandal and the end of several years of executive mis-management of the Vietnam War. Fate played a cruel trick on him--circumstances well beyond his control elevated him to national office, and then a short time later, those same circumstances cast him from the stage forever.

I never actually 'met' President Ford, but I had one encounter with the man. Back in the summer of 1990, I was a river rafting guide up in Alaska. One day the boss told us that President Ford was in town to give a speech and to play a round of golf at the local tidal flats, and might go out and about seeing the sites, so if he came down to meet with any of us we should be on our best behavior. Of course, there wasn't much to do out there in the middle of nowhere, but I truly doubted that a former President of the United States would want to come down and meet a bunch of ill-groomed river guides who'd been away from proper civilization for just a few months too long.

Anyhow, later that day, I was rowing a boatload of tourists, ten of them, down the river. Just above the first bit of rapids, there was a bridge that crossed the river that we had to pass under. Standing on the bridge was President Ford.

None of the tourists had any idea that he was in town at the time, so at first glance they paid no attention to the old man in a suit waving down at them. So I was nonchalantly doing my tour-guide thing Ok, over there, if you look in the top of that tree you'll see a mature couple of bald eagles and their nest, notice how they built it next to the stream that feeds into the river--plenty of fish right there. If you look closely in the woods over on the left, you'll see a moose standing there...

A pause, and then

By the way, if you look up on the bridge you'll see President Ford waving to you...

That got a pretty good chuckle from the crowd as we got closer and everyone realized I wasn't bullshitting them and wondered aloud Wtf is he doing out here?

That's what was cool about riding in my boat... Not only did you see lots of wildlife and hear some good jokes, but even out there in the middle of nowhere, random Presidential sightings.

Just another one of the services I provided.


Saturday, December 30, 2006

More Good News

Even though I've been super busy this week--lots of stuff going on, yesterday I had a few spare minutes to chat with my favorite Vegas visitor, Sticky. We're both pretty excited about her upcoming trip, and it seems that although work and the holiday hustle and bustle has kept us both busy, the anticipation has caused the days to seem like they're dragging. We were both a little bummed about the fact that her visit was only for three nights, so yesterday we came up with the brilliant idea of extending her trip by another day.

It didn't seem like it would be a problem because she still had a free room offer from the Mirage and changing her flight only cost her $40.

$40 Canadian!

So she called and got a free night arranged at the Mirage for when she arrives on that Tuesday, and we'll stay there one night before moving back to our usual home at New York New York the next day, and we'll stay there for the remainder of her visit. By taking advantage of the Mirage offer, even for just one day, we get, I think, $50 in free slot play and $25 worth of room-charge credit. And at NYNY I think she has $125 in free slot play, also.

While she was making those changes in her itinerary, I was on the phone with the payroll department at work, finding out just how much vacation time I had left and if I could take another day off and still get paid for it. As it turns out, I still had ten hours of vacation time I had to use by May 2nd (when I get another two weeks worth added to my account), plus I'd forgotten that on January 1st, I also get three personal days added. So the paid time off was there for the taking, I just had to make sure the day I needed to have off was available and get approval from my boss.

So, the first thing I did last night was talk to the assistant shift manager and got my name in the calendar book. Vacation time was approved! So now Sticky is going to be here for four nights and five days, and I'm off all but one night (gotta work on Friday, but she's gonna go kick ass in the poker room for a few hours without me there serving as a distraction--did I mention that she's turned into a helluva poker player now? Even better than me. And way better than Dougie, Terry and Doc Al).

Of course, we've both been scrimping and saving every dime for the past month or so, because we've vowed that we wanted our budget to allow us to avoid places like the Klondike or Boulder Station on welfare check day. We'll give Mirage, NYNY, and Treasure Island a little love--just to keep those freebie offers coming, but we'll also take a requisite trip out to Green Valley Ranch and more than likely spend some time at the Golden Nugget. We were *thinking* of maybe catching a show, also, but at first we decided against it, just because with only three nights, we had to maximize our Vegas experience in a short time. Maybe now that we've got a little more time, we can see if there's anything available at the half-price booth one day.

As far as restaurants go, I just found out this week that Sticky has never eaten at the Peppermill. Normally, when she's in town, it's just coffee and donuts in the room, so maybe this time we'll get out of bed at a reasonable hour and go eat a proper breakfast. With cocktails. I think we're also planning on having dinner at Maggiano's Little Italy at the Fashion Show Mall one night. The food is excellent of course, but the ambiance can't be beat with the live crooner/piano music and the view of the Strip. But the deal-closer is all of the museum-quality photographs of Old Vegas that adorn the walls. Even if the food sucked, it's worth a visit just to wander around the restaurant looking at the pictures. Luckily it's very good, though.

Anyhow--that's the news. Sticky's coming to town again, and both of us are looking forward to another great week.

Is it 2007 yet???


Friday, December 29, 2006

A Short Drop and a Quick Stop

It looks like Saddam Hussein will be swinging from the end of a rope before the night is over, which pleases not only me, but several thousands of other people, greatly. Of course, it didn't happen nearly as quickly as we'd hoped--they found him in his rat-hole three years ago this month, but I guess they felt like they needed to cross all the T's and dot all the I's first before sending him to his just reward.

Myself, I prefer the Romanian's method of dealing with mass-murdering former dictators. If you recall, Nicolae Ceausescu was captured with his wife on December 22, 1989, trying to escape winds of revolution. There was a quick military tribunal, and three days later, on Christmas morning, they were marched out into the courtyard to face a firing squad. Nobody outside of Europe was paying much attention at the time, due to all of the turmoil and upheaval in the rest of Europe, Germany in particular, and the US military operation in Panama going on at the same time to oust Noriega.

The Christmas season hasn't been kind to dictators.

Anyhow, instead of hanging Saddam in a secret location at a secret time, part of me wishes they'd put him on public display and let his former subjects take turns pelting him with rocks, garbage, batteries, and hot coals before his execution. That would never happen of course, given the situation in the country right now, but it's certainly fun to think about. At least he doesn't get a firing squad, as he requested, but is being executed like a common thug.

Maybe Fidel Castro will kick the bucket this weekend and we can get a two-fer.

Justice, finally.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Another Surprise

My weekend is winding down, and I can't keep myself from doing the thing I hate the most--peeking at the clock and doing the mental countdown until I have to go back to work. But I shouldn't complain. I've got a decent job that I enjoy, and although the money has slipped a bit the past few months, it's still a fairly good living that allows me to pay the bills.

And I was reminded again today of the path not chosen. Every week or so, I get another email from a financial services recruiter, but I pretty much kissed that life goodbye when I made my decision to come out here to Vegas. Most of the jobs they offer are things I wouldn't even consider doing, but the one I got this morning made me grin a little bit.

My NASD registrations expire in 3 days, and once they're gone, that particular volume in the Book of Mikey will be closed forever. And I've made my peace with it and moved on. But I got this one last message, telling me of a position requiring my expertise at the same company I left two years ago. And the location? Nashville Tennessee.

Heh. Thanks, but no thanks.

I'm much happier now. I don't need or wish to return to that world. I swallowed way too many bitter pills in the past five years, and although it was a valuable experience, I'm glad it's over and I wouldn't want to go through that struggle again. I'll take the knowledge I gained and use it to help me enhance my own personal wealth and eventually turn those years of sour grapes into a fine wine that I can enjoy for years to come.

So now I'm taking a more enjoyable route to financial independence. No more licenses, registrations, continuing education requirements, oversight, compliance, or duplicate account statements going to my boss. I'm making decent money in the casino world now, and as tedious as dealing a $5 shoe game to a table full of non-tipping chainsmokers may be, it beats sitting at my desk attached to a headset and forced to listen to some dumbass's theory about a stock he'd never heard of before he turned on CNBC that morning.

Besides, going over the files, I can *almost* see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the six-year hiccup in my long-range plan is winding down and I can get back to the business of socking away the cash again.

But the occasional reminder of why I'm doing what I'm doing is a good thing. So I gave that email it's proper attention and then promptly deleted it. There is no going back.

While I was wandering the estate thinking about those things today, I found a box on the counter in the kitchen addressed to me.

More Christmas presents? Well, it would appear so. Putting aside my Deep Thoughts for a few minutes, I got out my trusty pocketknife and opened the package. Inside was a brief Merry Christmas message attached to a bag full of Partagas Black Labels.

Oh hell yeah.

I must've really tricked Santa into thinking that I was a good boy this year! Of course, Santa's emissary lives in Wisconsin and goes by the name of Drew, but that's just details. Thanks again, brotha... Between Nick, George, Drew, Skip, and Rich, my humidor is slowly filling up with my favorite tasty combustibles. It's been a great Christmas, and it doesn't seem to be ending anytime soon. I have some gifts I still have to give also, but not for another three weeks...

January might be even better than December.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Pretty Good Day Off

Hey Gang... I trust that everyone had a good Christmas, or otherwise known as "just Monday" by our Jewish friends. As my hat tip to members of the tribe of Judah, I've included The Hanukkah Song in my regular holiday music rotation. But regardless of your beliefs, I hope you all had a great Christmas season.

Mine ended with a whimper--Christmas night was business as usual, except with a touch of sadness knowing that the cocktail waitresses would be hanging up their naughty Santa's helper outfits for another eleven months once the night ended. We were much busier than the night before, and I'm fairly certain we made better money (we made crap on Christmas Eve). But it was a friend of mine's birthday, so a bunch of us took off an hour early and went out for a few drinks. Actually, it was me and four gals I work with--which made for quite a scene when we rolled into the bar.

Yep, I am The Christmas Pimp.

We had a good time, a lot of laughs, and the bartender thanked me for bringing in a lively crowd--I guess he ended up making good money that night.

I got home around 6:30 in the morning and slept until noon, waking up to my cell phone ringing. It was George and Marlisha calling, and we decided to meet up for breakfast the Peppermill an hour later. So I jumped in the shower, got dressed, and drove down to the Strip.

They'd already gotten a table with our favorite waitress, Sandra, serving us. Of course I had to take another run at the chicken fried steak and eggs, as did Marlisha, while George had something he called the 'garbage plate', which was pretty much every breakfast food available all mixed up in a skillet. They already had cocktails, so I was playing catch-up and ordered a tall coffee and Kahlua.

Breakfast was excellent, if unfinishable, and we had a lot of laughs while catching up on all the latest news. They were kind enough to bring me a nice Christmas gift, which I understood was to be a tin full of 'Buckeyes', but since I disparaged them in an earlier post, Marlisha put the brakes on that... So instead they gave me a bottle of Pyrate Rum (oh HELL yeah!) and a pirate's head decorative decanter. Talk about a gift that has 'Mikey' written all over it...

I think they might know me a little too well.

Anyhow, after breakfast, we retired back to our favorite booth in the Fireside Lounge, where we kept Krista busy mixing chocolate martinis. We also lit up some fine Cuban cigars from George's personal stash and spent the afternoon laughing it up and slowly catching a good buzz. After a few rounds of martinis, we decided to Man Up and ordered a couple of Manhattans. That did it, and after that we were in no shape to drive.

Luckily Marlisha had switched to bottled water, so she volunteered to be our chauffeur.

After about four hours in the lounge, we paid our tab and headed downtown to the Golden Nugget. The casino renovation is finally complete, and I have to admit, I was very impressed. So impressed that I posted a long review over at the Travel2Vegas messageboard earlier this morning.

So we wandered around for a bit taking in the sights and drooling over the gigantic lobsters on display at Vic & Anthony's. Marlisha decided to go play some cards, so she headed off to the High Limit room for some $50 blackjack while George and I went out to the pool area to smoke a couple more cigars and congratulate ourselves for being masters of the universe.

George's host stopped by to chat for a bit and told us that we were all set for dinner at The Grotto, which was especially nice since they weren't even staying at the hotel this trip. But it was a nice evening so we sat out there lounging by the pool under the propane heaters for about an hour before Marlisha came to get us.

Dinner was excellent, and we ate until we were stuffed. It was after 9 pm by the time we got out of there, so we decided to call it a night. We headed out towards the parking garage across from the south tower entrance, but George told me and Marlisha to wait down on the sidewalk and he'd get the car and then come fetch us. So we were standing around outside the parking garage exit, and decided that a little Vegas-style buffoonery was in order.

We were standing next to a fire hydrant right there on the corner, so every time a car drove by, we would stand around it palms down, acting like we were warming our hands over a fire. We'd blow on them, rub them together, and then act like we were getting warmed up. It looked so ridiculously stupid, but so funny at the same time that we couldn't help but crack up. And every time a car would drive by, they'd hit the brakes and do a double take. We really got a kick out of that, but I think Marlisha about peed her pants when I started singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot... But George finally showed up, and we saw him drive up with a WTF? look on his face and was so distracted that he accidentally drove over the curb!

I opened the car door and the first thing he said was Is that fire hydrant heated or something? And with that we had our best laugh of the day.

We drove back to the Peppermill to fetch my truck, and we did a little bit of horse-trading amongst each other's cigar collections. He got a rare one that I'd managed to acquire some time ago which he'd been looking for, along with a Partagas Maduro, while I got another Cuban and a Fuente Fuente Opus X that's harder to find than Jimmy Hoffa. We both came away happy, so it's nice to have friends who share the same passion for fine cigars.

We said our goodbyes with plans to meet up again soon, and I drove home, exhausted. It'd been a long day at the end of a very long week, and I hit the sack as soon as I got my shoes off.

But it was a great day.


Monday, December 25, 2006

Better Than I Could Say It

I was browsing the forums at, in particular the survey of everyone talking about any crappy/inappropriate/funny gifts they'd received this Christmas, getting a chuckle from all of the funny stuff I was reading, and this post stopped me dead in my tracks put things in perspective. I've never met the person who wrote it, and he's a soldier (sailor?) over in the sandbox, and his screen name is 'FlyNavy'. Enjoy.

From Bastogne to Baghdad, Christmas & war have always seemed to travel hand in hand. Soldiers from most generations have endured Christmas in the face of battle. & in the past 36 hours in 3 distinctly different locations, I have learned two very important lessons about Christmas, the nature of war, & the spirit of the American Warrior.

One ... war is unrelenting. Despite the fact that today was a national holiday & a time normally spent relaxing, opening presents, & watching or playing football, the fighting didn't stop. Throughout the day the drone of war could be heard in just about every direction. Whether it was aircraft overhead, gunfire, or the thump of a distant explosion, it didn't stop. War continues at a breakneck pace. Even in moments of relative silence it hangs in the air.

Two ... Christmas is unrelenting. Last night we held a Christmas Eve service in celebration of the birth of Jesus. In that service, I came to realize that the American soldier is indeed a unique and awesome individual. Despite the roar of mortars in the background, smiling faces sang "Silent Night". Despite the complete lack of greenery for miles, men of all ranks shook hands and sang "Deck the Halls". And despite being away from friends and family, our battle-hardened coalition brothers joyfully sang "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". Men who look like they'd just as soon break you in half as speak to you, smiled at one another and hugged one another as wishes of "Merry Christmas" echoed throughout chapel. Gifts were exchanged & we laughed as men hollered, "Thanks, it's just what I always wanted" upon unwrapping a bar of deodorant, or a ball cap, or whatever else could be found at the Post Exchange. Today has been no different. With each soldier I passed a hand was quickly extended in greeting as "Merry Christmas" hit me like a freight train. I think I was patted on the back a million times today.

It would be easy for Christmas, and the circumstances we find ourselves in, to be an excuse to foster self-pity or to retreat into a shell of depression. However, our soldiers don't work that way. I am at a loss to express, today, my pride at being an American and my love for my brothers-at-arms. While I do not have my wife and children with me, I am nevertheless with family.

While this wasn't one of my top 5 Christmas's it was a good one, dinner was a feast of lobster, steak, tom turkey with all the typical vegs. We are all well & safe & our spirits are high. We have alot to be thankful for.

There was nothing crappy about this Christmas.
It brings to mind a favorite quote, from that otherwise lame 'Pearl Harbor' movie that came out a couple years ago--

Most people look at those soldiers and say 'Because of American there will always be young men like that', but I say because of young men like that there will always be an America...

Don't forget about those folks putting their lives in harm's way this Christmas so the we can all be here at home--healthy, happy, and at peace.


Merry Christmas, Everyone!

I hope everyone's Christmas is as wonderful and enjoyable as possible and Santa brought you everything on your list!

And I want to give a special shout out and thank you to Hoya for the wine glasses! I can't wait to use them. As a reward for all the hard work I've done in his counting house this past year, Ebenezer Station gave me a $25 gift card from Albertson's for Christmas, so I'm seeing a bottle of Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fouisse in my near future.

I'm waking up today after a long night of seeing just what kind of people spend Christmas Eve in a casino, and realizing how fortunate I am that I'm not wired like that. Yes, it's my job and I had to spend the night in the casino, but I'd have gladly given a day's pay to have been anywhere else. Last year, I was kind of curious to find out exactly what type of person would spend Christmas Eve grinding away at a blackjack table, but now that I know, I really want no part of it.

It's Christmas Eve, people. Go somewhere else. Go to church, go home and be with your family, or if you have no family, go home, get blind stinking drunk and watch the 'Christmas Story' marathon on TBS. Go back to your hotel room and get freaky with the one you love. Just don't spend the whole damn night in the casino. I can understand starting the evening in the casino, maybe going out to dinner, having a drink or two, hanging out with friends and family, celebrating the end of the hustle and bustle and just taking some time to relax doing adult-centric activites. But at some point you've got to call it a night and go do something else. Something more important.

As a casino 'professional' and a shareholder, I realize that it's bordering on blaspemy to feel this way, but I just can't help it. Christmas is important. It's important enough to me that I don't want anything to do with casinos or the people that would be there on Christmas Eve. Yep, the first part of the evening was very festive and Christmasy--everyone was in a great mood, the holiday music was playing, and it was a truly enjoyable time to be at work. I was surrounded by friends who were stuck in the same boat as I was, but there was lots of laughter and good cheer. But after midnight, I felt like the party should've ended and it was time for everyone to go home and do something truly worthwhile.

After 2:00 am, I found my mood changing considerably, from festive to Good Lord, people, get a frickin life, and the only word I could come up with to describe the way I felt about the people still parked at the tables was contempt. Absolute and utter contempt for every person sitting in that casino early this morning. I'm almost ashamed to admit it--I had my game face on, and was smiling and friendly--but underneath I thought the worst of everyone who sat down, or was still sitting down and refused to leave.

I realize that some people out there don't celebrate Christmas at all, and I'm cool with that, but even though I'm about the least religious person on the planet, I couldn't help but feel like I was doing something wrong with a capital W. And I felt pity for a couple of regular players who told me "Well, we don't have anywhere else to go or anything to do in the morning, so we thought we'd come down here and keep you company." Gee thanks. I guess the thought never occured to them that the rest of us might have somewhere else we'd rather be.

I guess the silver lining in all of this is that it reinforced my absolute commitment that next year I won't be found anywhere near a casino on Christmas Eve. Because of all the things one should feel on that night, I'm fairly certain that contempt is pretty far down the list. And it also made me realize how truly blessed I am. I have a great family who I cherish, a large circle of friends who I couldn't do without, and that one special person who constantly reminds me just how great life can be. Next year will be spent with them, whatever it takes. Thoughts like that were the only thing keeping me going last night, keeping me from unmasking my contempt, and I found myself smiling to myself because I realized just how much better I had it than all of those faceless drones who just had no place else to go, and nobody to go there with.

Bono said it best, in the creepiest lyric ever written into a Christmas song, when he said Tonight thank God it's them instead of you...

But the night wasn't without it's share of good times, either. Like the guy in the wheelchair who refused to tip even after I tripled him up, so as he rolled away I called out God bless us, everyone! and I thought one of the ladies at my table was going to pee her pants laughing. Or another guy, who turned a hundred bucks into six hundred, but was a complete asshole the entire time and when he left, he gave me a fifty-cent piece as a tip. I left it on the table until he was long out of earshot, and then when it was safe, I tapped it loudly on the rack, dropped it in the toke box, and in my best London-orphan accent, I called out Thank you and God bless you, Mr. Scrooge!, which gave the floorperson standing behind me a chuckle.

And it was Christmas Eve, after all, so most people were in a very good mood and early on the time just flew. And there was plenty of Chinese food available for dinner in the employee dining room, so in homage to one of the greatest Christmas dinners ever captured on film, I had some fried rice, egg rolls, and sweet & sour pork. But when 4 am rolled around, nobody was more ready to get out of there than I was.

I got home to a wonderful Christmas message that melted away all bitterness I was feeling, and put a smile on my face that's been there ever since. I got some much needed sleep and woke up this morning in a much better mood.

I'm spending my day polishing off the last of the holiday treats--the truffles, the peanut butter balls, the rum balls, and all of the cookies have all pretty much disappeared. I've got a quart of eggnog left, and a bottle of vanilla rum in the freezer to cut it with. And I'm going to burn up my cellphone minutes later this afternoon when the rest of the family gets together for Christmas dinner at my sister Cyndi's house and the phone gets passed around.

I truly wish I could be there attending the celebration in person, surrounded by the people I love the most. But I've got less important things to do tonight, like doing all I can to take money from the faceless drones...

So tonight thank God it's them, instead of you!

Merry Christmas, everyone. As you wrap up your holiday celebrations tonight, take a brief moment and give thanks for your Wonderful Life. Mine is pretty damn good, and I can't wait to see what 2007 brings.


Friday, December 22, 2006

A Couple of Minor Gripes

Hey, I know that everyone is out celebrating their last day in the office before the nice long holiday weekend, getting absolutely nothing done except for hitting the potluck and exchanging a few simple gifts with co-workers. That's one thing I miss about the regular 9-5 life--days like today where everyone is in a good mood, there is no drama or office politics, and it's like an adult version of indoor recess. And of course most people go home early, anyways, besides goofing of all day. So have fun out there, but be careful on the way home--the roads are full of crazy last-minute shoppers.

I know it's Christmas and all, but I'm a little sad that one record I was going for fell a bit short. I'd made it all the way until December 21st before having to listen to that execrable and repugnant Wonderful Christmastime by Paul McCartney. Seriously, I can't think of a worse Christmas song that's ever been produced. Even the folks running the Sounds of the Seasons channel on Cox Cable have wised up and seem to have pulled it from the regular rotation. As Ricky Bobby would say--Thank you dear lord baby Jesus!

But I was stuck at work at a dead table late at night and it came on through the overhead sound system, so I was truly a captive audience and couldn't get away from it. But that's a helluva record--I've been listening to Christmas tunes for several hours a day since the week before Thanksgiving, and just yesterday was the first time I had to experience that musical turd.

And I know that during all this festivity going on around us, I probably should talk about such things, but I discovered the latest sign that the Apocalypse is upon us... While nibbling on my Chickin In a Biskit crackers, I noticed that Rachel Ray's picture is posted FOUR times on the damn box. I couldn't turn it away and get away from it--She was everywhere! So I took the Exacto knife to it. No, I didn't stab it, I just cut her head off--it was just too creepy to look at, and frankly, I thought she made my crackers taste funny. She had to go.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Late To the Party

I just spent a very enjoyable two hours watching the coolest movie I've seen in a long time. I'm talking about Serenity, a spin-off, or maybe just a continuation, of the cancelled Firefly series on Fox.

I know that the Geek Universe has loved this movie (and series) for some time, but I never saw a single episode. And I heard good things about the film on several occasions, also. I even put in on my Amazon wishlist a few months back, sight unseen. So a couple months ago when I saw that it was playing on Showtime, I tivo'd it. But it's just been sitting there taking up space on my DVR since like October, and I finally got around to watching it today.

I'm glad I did--it was just short of spectacular. Normally I hate hate hate science fiction. I never liked reading it in high school or college, and only did it when assigned to. I'm anti-Star Trek in any incarnation, and was so disappointed in Attack of the Clones that I refused to see The Phantom Menace. Star Wars is basically dead to me after the original trilogy. Trekkies, as they like to be called, are as off-putting as strident Mormons--they both dedicate their lives to learning every bit of minutia about something that some dude just made up--and for the most part are socially inept unless surrounded by other true believers. I just can't hang with people that take fiction so seriously. And since most of the hard-core science fiction fans in the world are uber-nerds on the order of the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, I've stayed away for the most part.

But I have to make an exception for Serenity. It may technically fall under the 'science fiction' genre because it takes place mostly on a space ship, but it's a very thinly-disguised western with the most clever dialogue this side of Pulp Fiction or O Brother Where Art Thou. I found myself laughing out loud several times, unlike pretty much every Ben Stiller 'comedy' I've had the bad sense to try and sit through.

I loved the characters, it was a good story that moved along at a good pace, and the special effects were just good enough that they didn't overpower the enjoyable script. I rate it just below Raiders of the Lost Ark, as one of those timeless action/adventure movies that can be watched over and over again.


Not Much Going On

It's a slow day here at the Hurricane Hole. Half the roommates are out of town for the holidays, although Mr. Flashback is still lurking about. Luckily he finally put the golf club down...

But I've got nothing of importance going on today. I'm thinking a pot of coffee and some French Toast might be in order, and then I'll probably spend the balance of my day turning cds into mp3s. After that, it's back to work for the holiday weekend.

I wish I had something interesting to write about, but I'm drawing a blank.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Such A Night

Here it is Wednesday the 20th of December, and in the spirit of being an electronic advent calendar (which unfortunately does not dispense candy), I'm here to remind you that there are only five days left until Christmas. So those of you blessed with family and kids to spend the holidays with, I offer the sage advice of Larry the Cable Guy-- Git 'er done!

Also, I want to give a special shout-out to Mamasan, it's her birfday today--Happy Birfday from your favorite son! (She sometimes says that while I'm not really her favorite, I'm *definitely* in the top six!). And although it wouldn't be gentlemanly of me to reveal a woman's age, I will drop a little hint by telling you the two numbers involved, and leave it to my readers to figure out what order to put them in, thereby figuring out her real age. One number is a six, and the other number is a six. Again, I won't tell you which order to put them in, but my more astute readers should be able to figure it out...

Last night was fairly interesting--around eight o'clock or so I got back on the computer and logged onto my Yahoo messenger and waited for Sticky to show up. Instead of burning up the cellphone minutes with international dialing rates, we can get on the computer and do the voice chat--which is every bit as good as a phone call, except that it's free. And as a bonus, Sticky also has a webcam (although I don't), so I can see her when we talk. Well, we've discovered that we pretty much share the same brain, so once we get talking, time just flies by. She logged on a few minutes later and the next thing we knew, it was getting to be almost 3:00 am! We were doing more yawning than talking by that point, so we wrapped it up and said our goodbyes after over six hours of interesting conversation.

I was wiped out, and immediately went to bed. I turned the tv on to the Christmas music channel, turned off all the lights except the ones on my tree, and promptly fell asleep.

About an hour later, I was startled awake by pounding on my bedroom door, and while barely coherent, seeing a flashlight in my face and a man's voice saying in a rather stern tone Sir, I need you to get out of bed and come with me!

Holy shit!

In my half-asleep state, I thought it was a home invasion or some other such scary shiat, but then that little voice in my head said that a criminal wouldn't be calling me sir, and I wouldn't be hearing the constant chatter of the radio traffic unless it was high-tech gangsters like the kind that took over Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard.

Needless to say, I was a little slow moving and quite out-of-it, but I got encouragement from the silhouette standing in my doorway--they hadn't turned on the lights, and all I saw behind the beam of the flashlight was a dark outline of a guy in tactical gear, and he wasn't being very patient.

Sir, I need you to come with me to the living room!

So I got up, gathered my senses enough to ask What time is it? What's going on? What do you need? as we were walking to that part of the house.

I sat down on the couch, and a couple of my roommates were in there already, the double entry doors in the front of the house were wide open, making it freezing cold, and there were a couple of cops standing in there asking questions.

Finally, it was explained to me that there was actually a call from our address reporting a break-in and home invasion, and they needed to get everyone that lived here in one spot so they could search the property.

Again, Holy Shit!

Now, I've lived here for over a year, and there are still rooms in this sprawling house that I've never even seen, and hell, just a few weeks ago I found another 'hidden' closet. This house is over 40 years old, over 4000 square feet, all one level, and goes on forever. So the cops were going around with one hand on their sidearm, opening every door in the house and searching every room and closet while questioning all of us.

Of course, I hadn't seen or heard anything, and I was a little skeptical of anything happening because our dog goes absolutely apeshit when the mailman or UPS driver shows up, so I can't imagine him just sitting around watching if someone was breaking in. Besides, he's old and his eyesight isn't that good, and when I drive up sometimes he starts barking at me until he realizes who it is. So while I'm hearing all this, there is some sort of disconnect.

So I'm asking the cops all kinds of questions too--I was confused as to who reported what--Was it a neighbor or one of the guys that live here? Where's the dog? Where are the other guys that live here?

Apparently, according to the information I got (remember, I may be wide awake at this point, but still not altogether coherent...), one of my roommates got up and went to the kitchen and saw the lights on in one of the other bedrooms that's built off the side of the 'empty' living room. So he peaked in and saw two guys that he didn't recognize (at four in the morning), so he said something to them, and then, according to him, they chased him back to his room and tried to get in, and he was trying to barricade the door. He said he yelled at them that he's calling the police. I guess he had his cellphone right there, and called 911. The cops actually showed up within about 3 minutes--with a home invasion call, I guess they drop everything and get right over, and as soon as he yelled that they were here, the two guys took off, according to what the police told me. (The 911 dispatcher stayed on the phone until the cops showed up).

But our house is on the dark end of a dead-end street, sitting in the middle of two heavily-wooded acres with storage sheds and all kinds of other hiding places all over the place. So if anyone took off running it would be almost impossible to find them, unless the cops brought out a K-9 unit. They could also scale the wall in back or on the side and get into another neighborhood that is totally separate from ours. In fact, if you drove from our driveway to the house closest to us (about 60 yards away from the north end of the house), it's actually over a mile away, because of the dead end street and the line of trees, there is no direct route--the two neighborhoods aren't connected at all. So it makes a great escape route if you're on foot.

Anyhow, the cops were swarming all over the house and property, and I was sitting in the living room in a pair of boxer shorts and a t-shirt, freezing my ass off, answering all kinds of questions about the house, property, and what I did or didn't see or hear, and still wondering just what the hell was going on.

And then it got interesting...

It's not much of a secret that a couple of my roommates like to get high. And they like to smoke almost every day. Me--I've been known to hit the pipe on occasion, but ever since I've been working in a casino with their pre-employment and random drug tests, I've given it up. In fact, I haven't smoked in a couple of years. Especially since in the back of my head I keep telling myself that I need to get a second job, and that would require yet another whiz quiz. So I've got nothing to worry about when the boys in blue come calling and start looking around my nest with the flashlights and rubber gloves.

Well, not so much with a couple of the guys that live here. So when the cops started searching one of the bedrooms and saw all of the baggies and residue all over the desk, they came back and started asking a lot of pointed questions.

The best exchange that almost had me laughing out loud went something like this:

Cop: We found lots of drugs in your room. Do you use drugs?

Roommate: I smoke pot.

Cop: When was the last time you smoked?

Roommate: I dunno, what time is it?

I was cracking up at that one, but got a look from one of the cops that told me it wasn't exactly funny. So I just sat there watching as they directed all their attention to him. Apparently, weed wasn't the only thing they found, so they suddenly got very interested in questioning him (who, by the way, was the one who placed the original 911 call).

The other cops eventually found their way back to the living room and said they could find no evidence of forced entry, break-in, damage to his bedroom door (where he said the two 'perps' were trying to break in and 'get' him). Butch, the dog, wandered in and laid down on the floor at some point, and I questioned why the dog didn't start barking if there were strangers breaking into the house.

Since there was no evidence of any break-in, and lots of evidence of heavy drug use, the cops were fairly skeptical at this point. I didn't know what to think--I've always thought of this place as the Vegas equivalent of the type of house where Manson and his cronies offed Sharon Tate and the gang--A big, sprawling, isolated, dark, 60's-hip type of place in a neighborhood where that kind of thing Just Didn't Happen. So I was hoping that it was just my dumbass roommate seeing things instead of some bad people showing up in the middle of the night with evil intent.

So under the heavy questioning about the drugs, my roommate was clearly getting very nervous. They could've easily hauled him away and locked him up, but one of the cops said Listen, I'm not here to bust you for narcotics--but you've got to start telling the truth. What exactly did you see? The dog wasn't barking, nobody else heard anything, there is no sign of forced entry, nothing is missing... What exactly is going on here? Are you on something else besides weed right now?

If this were a porno, what happened next would be the money shot.

My roommate said Well, I used to do a lot of heavier stuff in the past, so it might've just been a flashback...

I couldn't help but laugh out loud when I heard that, and all I could do was roll my eyes and say You f*cking retard...

The tension level in the room immediately dropped in half among everyone except the roommate on the hot seat, and I could tell by the body language of the police that they all relaxed just a bit.

At that point, the investigation was over, but I got to enjoy the cops lecturing him about drug use, not unlike Dog the Bounty Hunter giving his 'Come to Jesus' motivational speeches to the fugitives he catches every episode. Clearly the police were relieved that there were no criminals to be found, and my roommate was relieved that he wouldn't be wearing the matching bracelets that night or spending his holidays sporting an orange jumpsuit, but I could tell that the cops were just exasperated that they wasted all that time on a basic dumbass call. It was truly a surreal scene.

Of course, it was still a little nerve-wracking there at the house after the police left, and I took a just-in-case attitude with me back to bed and basically slept with one eye open and one hand on a means of personal defense. The roommate who was at the center of all this spent the rest of the night skulking around the house and the back yard with a flashlight and a golf club, dog at his heels, looking to slay whatever demons had come after him.

Once the sun started to come up, I finally got a few hours of sleep. I woke up thinking What the hell was that all about last night?, but so far everything seems normal today--except that Mr. Flashback called in sick to work and he's currently sitting out on the patio with a cup of coffee in his hand a thousand-yard-stare in his eyes.

I think that getting called out by the cops in front of the rest of us may have put the fear of God into him. He came this close to getting hauled away last night, so I'm guessing that that little episode won't be repeated. Or at least he'll have enough sense to hide all of his drugs before he calls the cops next time.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

More Goodies!

After last night's snowstorm, I was looking forward to seeing what the backyard looked like this morning when I got up. I woke up around 11:00, but I could tell that it was much to bright and sunny outside for any snow to be left on the ground. So I went out to the carport to take a look around, and yep, all the snow was gone, but the melted remnants were dripping off the roof all around (no raingutters here in the desert), and let me tell you, a huge drop of freshly melted snow hitting you right down the back of your shirt first thing in the morning will *definitely* wake you up.

I was thinking about making a pot of coffee, but got distracted when I threw in a load of laundry and then went to the kitchen and unpacked my new set of silverware and washed it. Once that little chore was done, I came back to my room and sat down at the computer, but heard one of my roommates yelling Mail Call!, and could see the mailman walking back down the driveway to his truck. Obviously there was something that wouldn't fit in the box.

I went back to the kitchen, and on the counter was a huge box addressed to me, the return address saying nothing but 'Connecticut Santa'. I knew that had to be Dave P, and I figured there were some quality munchies inside.

Attacking the packing tape with a pocketknife, I had the box open in no time. Inside was a huge plastic tub filled to the brim with goodies--every sort of Christmas cookie and candy you could imagine. Not only that, everything was labeled and organized in plastic bags.

The first order of business was to pour a tall glass of milk and then sample one of everything. There were sugar cookies, sesame cookies (suprisingly good!), chocolate chip/raisin cookies, truffles (oh HELL yeah!), fruit-filled cookies, RUM BALLS!, little pretzel/chocolate thingies, and of course, his version of peanut butter balls.

So I got to samplin' and emailed him a thank-you note.

There was some good stuff in there, and I'm not too proud to admit that the pretzel/chocolate treats are already gone (I had to do the Seinfeld cereal/milk thing and nibble until all the milk was gone...), and I've got the package of rumballs attached to my face like a horse with a feedbag strapped on, and I plan on spending the rest of the afternoon stumbling around in an enjoyable haze.

As far as the peanut butter balls go, they are damn good. Are they better than Mamasan's? Hmm... tough question. Further research is needed...


Snow Blind

Holy Winter Wonderland, Batman! It's almost 4:30 in the morning, I just got home from work, and it is and absolute BLIZZARD outside.

Earlier in the evening, I got a text message from my friend Anna Banana, and she told me that it was dumping snow outside. Then the word got out. As people would come in, they'd all be saying stuff like Man, you wouldn't believe how hard it's snowing outside! Better get to the store and stock up before the rest of the town wakes up! There's already two inches of snow on the ground up on Horizon Ridge!

I didn't really believe much of it--people who live in the desert tend to exaggerate bad weather, but when I got tapped out to go home, every single dealer coming in for the next shift was telling us It's getting pretty bad out there--be careful!

I took it with a grain of salt and shuffled off to the parking garage. But when I stepped off of the elevator, I could not believe my eyes. Big, heavy, wet snowflakes were just pounding the landscape. Of course the roads were just wet, like during a rainstorm, because they are warmer than the surrounding ground, but the roof of the parking garage was nice and cold and it was a big slushy mess! Every vehicle up there had a new quarter-inch thick blanket of freshly fallen snow. And of course I no longer own an ice scraper, but snow hadn't frozen, so the windshield wipers took care of it.

But it was a slippery mess coming down that ramp, and I put Sid into low gear, hoping no jackass would be parked at the bottom, because once I turned the corner, there was no turning back. Luckily everyone was out of the way, and I slid down the hill and shot out of the garage exit like a fat kid on an innertube hitting the pool at the bottom of a waterslide.

Of course I had the Christmas music playing on the drive home, and with no other traffic on the road and the huge snowflakes coming down all around me, the high beams made it look like I was traveling just fast enough to get into hyperspace.

It's only about six miles from work to my house, but it was amazing. The snow in Henderson was really hard, but the closer I got to my house, the accumulation had thinned out a bit. I stopped by Wayne Newton's house to look at all the decorations and lights, wishing I'd had my camera with me. But no such luck. It was very pretty though.

When I got home, I could tell my neighborhood hadn't been hit as hard, but it seemed like it was coming our way--it was snowing harder here at the house than at work. So I ran in and got my camera to snap a few quick pictures before I turned into a very large popsicle.

This is the truck after I made the ten minute drive home and the engine had warmed up. Some of the original accumulation had melted off, but you get the idea. Oh, and do you notice how hard it was snowing when I snapped this photo? Global warming, my ass.

Here's another view--and you can see how little snow there was on my roommates car, which had been parked at the house all night. But there's gonna be a lot more there when he gets up--it's coming down like a son-of-a-gun right at this moment.

I'm guessing that it'll all be melted off before noon, but still, it's very pretty out here right at this moment, and the newly fallen snow has a way of muting most of the sounds one normally hears around here, so it's very peaceful.

Too bad it couldn't happen again in a week.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Perhaps I Spoke Too Soon

When I made yesterday's post, I thought that I'd come to the end of the holiday gift trail. But no--there was more in store! Skip, aka SoreEyes, showed up last night at my table, and he didn't show up empty-handed. He came bearing a nicely wrapped present for me--a hand-picked sampler box of some premium cigars. I mean, he brought the good stuff--special occasion cigars that reside in a place of honor in the humidor. We're talking about cream-of-the-crop aged tobacco that is hand-rolled on the thighs of Caribbean virgins, and can only be fully appreciated by a true connoisseur.

Thank you again, Skip--I can't wait to light them up.

Unfortunately, I couldn't reciprocate, and proceeded to beat him down to the tune of a hundred bucks in just under ten minutes, giving him a taste of Doc Al's pain. As much as I wanted him to win--since he was setting a good example to the stiffs at the table--we just couldn't get the cards to fall the first time around. Luckily he came back later and made a couple bucks back, but it was truly a rocky start.

The rest of the night was fun--when I wasn't spending time dealing on the Ked's table ($5 shoe), I was dealing Rapid Roulette. It seems like that combination is my usual Sunday night assignment--it's where I've been the past three Sundays. It's not bad--dealing rapid roulette is very relaxing and there are two dealers shooting the shiat and no floorpeople around. The only downer is the fact that we're right outside of Club Madrid, where the Sunday Night Karaoke takes place. So the first three hours of the shift we were subjected to something not unlike the sound of cats being tortured.

After about midnite or so, the Rapid Roulette game goes completely dead, so it's usually just the two of us just standing around discussing whatever topic comes up--it certainly beats standing at a dead blackjack table staring at an empty restaurant late at night with nobody to talk to. But last night was especially enjoyable--I was talking with another dealer I usually don't work with very often, but because of some of my readers, he's familiar with my body of work. He's also an aspiring writer, so we had a great discussion of our 'craft'. At some point, I was telling him a few things I've learned over the years and spat out a particularly lucid observation which we both thought was especially pithy:

Most people write in black and white. I try to write in color.

I guess that about sums it up. If only I could remember it every time I sit down at the keyboard... Anyhow, it was a great discussion, and I felt invigorated and motivated after all was said and done. Hopefully it will be reflected, at least a little bit, in the stuff I post.

Being that it was a Sunday night, we were dead slow after 2am. I hadn't left early all week, so I decided to treat myself to two hours of Early Out and get some sleep. I think I spent my last 20 minutes standing on a regular roulette table mucking chips because they'd closed so many other tables and we had too many dealers, so the decision to leave early was an easy one.

I got plenty of sleep, but woke up today with a to-do list a mile long:

1) Dust, polish, and refresh the humidor
2) Hang up all my clean shirts, on hangars, instead of the closet door
3) Clean and dust my desk, file all the crap that I've been stacking up
4) Dust the TV
5) Call MetLife about cashing that stray $200 that's been floating around for the last three years in a dead account
6) Bust out the Lysol handi-wipes and clean all the fixtures in my bathroom
7) Sort out the basket of socks and pair up everything in the sock drawer
8) Rip all of my Jimmy Buffett cds and convert them to mp3 files
9) Wash and put away the new set of silverware that's still in the box
10) Make the bed

I'm about halfway through it, but the chances of total completion aren't looking very good. Sticky's home from shopping, so that's pretty much it for my afternoon.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Gifts Just Keep On Comin' !

Although I didn't have a chance to play with my favorite new toy yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised by the arrival of more goodies in the mail. First of all, I got a card from Papasan, and even though I've been out of the house for 2o years or so, he still sends a little cash in his Christmas card every year, as many times as I've told him not to. But there was a nice note and a copy of a heartwarming Christmas short story included, too, so it was a nice piece of mail to recieve.

I also got a package from my favorite crazy person, Angy. She sent along a basket of gourmet cookies from the same outfit she used on Halloween to send me a bunch of outrageously good pumpkin cookies. I haven't actually tore into these yet--the basket looks so nice that I just put it under my tree--but I'm hoping that this batch of cookies is at least half as good as the last ones.

Also, while I was working last night, a long-time reader of this site, whom I've never met before, (and for the life of me whose name I can't remember... sorry!) stopped me on my way to taking a break and said hello, and also presented me with a small gift- a Trilogy Maduro cigar!

Whoever it was, please drop me a line. I had about three people pulling me in different directions right after we talked, so ten minutes later when I had a moment to chill out and relax, my mind went completely blank. I'm bad enough with names anyways, and with all of the distractions going on around me, my slate was unfortunately wiped clean. Regardless, I appreciate the gesture, and will definitely enjoy the smoke.

Aside from the Christmas cards that are still trickling in, I'm pretty sure that's about it for the packages coming my way. Again I have to give thanks and acknowledge just how lucky I am. I may not be *where* I want to be for the holidays, but it's nice to know that so many people are thinking about me. It makes it much easier to be here on my own.

Word around the campfire is that I'll also be having some visitors next week, too. Skip, aka Sore Eyes, is coming to town, and I just got an email from Fighter Pilot Nick, who will be downtown again--hopefully this time we can get together for a drink. And George and Marlisha are coming up on Christmas day, and we're hoping to get together for a nice dinner somewhere and spend a nice relaxing evening with cocktails and cigars.

And of course, everyone I work with who is stuck working on Christmas Eve will be getting together afterwards for a drink or two at our favorite watering hole, and my friend Stephanie told me two weeks ago that she'd be there to run a few bucks through the video blackjack machine with me, just like last year.

Christmas in Vegas will take some getting used to, although I'm going to do my damndest to not have to be here next year. One thing I really hate about this town is how half-assed they do Christmas. With the notable exceptions of the Bellagio and the Wynn, none of the casinos in town really do much as far as decorating or creating any holiday spirit.

My casino, for instance, looks so damn chintzy. They put a single solitary Christmas tree inside the buffet, and did some half-assed garland strings around a couple of railings outside the bars and the cafe. I swear, most of the houses on my block have a bigger decorating budget than the people in charge where I work. I mean, why even bother?

Oh, and the other day I was talking to a dealer that used to work over at the Flea-esta, and she told me that last year they wouldn't even play any Christmas music in the casino because too many of their patrons complained that it was too depressing. I don't know if I believe that as 100% truth, but it's not too much of a stretch, having seen the clientel that frequents the place. Talk about your Island of Misfit Toys...

I'm sorry, but I'm a Christmas kind of guy, if you couldn't tell already. If I owned my own home, I'd be the guy on the block giving the Griswolds a run for their money. When I had my condo back in Phoenix, the first Christmas after I moved in I got a note from the homeowners association to remove the lights from my outside banister or else... So when I see businesses, who are supposed to be creating a festive atmosphere, just mailing it in, it just pisses me off.

At least department stores get it right. But their very survival depends on maximizing the Christmas experience. Casinos are under no such pressure--people will gamble no matter what. But if it were me, I'd give 'em a reason to show up during this time of year, especially with so many other distractions competing for people's time.

In the meantime, I'm going to spend the rest of my afternoon enjoying the distractions of the NFL, and celebrate the fact that the Rams are beating down the Raiders, and oh, what's this I find in my wallet? A sportsbook ticket that says Rams +3 over the Raiders...

Here it is week 14 of the season, and I finally have a winning ticket from my favorite team--Merry Christmas to me!


Saturday, December 16, 2006


Ok gang, as requested, here is Mamasan's recipe for her traditional and now-famous Peanut Butter Balls that not only taste great, but provide endless holiday entertainment as Amy and Reverend Dave spend all their free time trying to figure out how to steal each other's stash. Oh, don't get me wrong--they'll steal peanut butter balls from anyone--they can easily spot a target of opportunity. But they both derive some sort of perverse pleasure from shoplifting each other's personal allotment.

For one batch: (I usually double this, though)
1 1/2 sticks butter/margarine.
1 lb. powdered sugar
2 Heaping Table Spoons peanut butter
1 pkg. chocolate chips
1/4 slice of paraffin wax - yes WAX

Melt butter in microwave. Add to powdered sugar, add peanut butter. Mix well. Refrigerate till chilled. Take out, roll balls size of walnut and place on cookie sheet. Chill again in freezer.

Put chocolate chips in a Pyrex bowl (or the like) over a pot w/approx 1-1 1/2 cups of water (use double boiler if available). Boil, then lower temp to Low. Don't let water touch bowl.

Melt wax in small pan. (does not microwave well). Once it is completely melted, add it to the melting chocolate chips. Stir. Keep stirring. Once the chocolate mixture is melted, drop a few balls in and coat w/spoon. Roll them up the side of bowl with the spoon to remove, leaving excess in bowl, place the now-coated peanut butter balls back on the cookie sheet.

When finished refrigerate or freeze again to set up. Place into containers later for storing in fridge/freezer.

Hope I didn't leave any steps out... heheheh...

Yep, it's a fairly simple recipe and lots of fun if you have a couple of people working on it together. I've heard of some uncouth louts from Ohio making the same candy except leaving a small portion of each piece 'naked'--a small circle of the filling is *not* covered in chocolate--and calling them 'Buckeyes'.


They might have a decent football team back in Ohio, but their candy is f*cked up. Would you want to eat an M&M if you could see the inside? I didn't think so...


Friday, December 15, 2006

That Sucking Sound You Hear...

... is the vaccuum created by the sudden mass exodus from the Seattle Seahawks bandwagon as it prepares to drive off the cliff into the obscurity of a first-round loss in the playoffs.


Yes, I know my team sucks this year, but we're in a rebuilding cycle with a new coach, not coming off of a Super Bowl appearance (which you would've won, by the way, had the league not told the refs to make sure they handed the game to the Steelers!).


But don't worry, we'll be back to beating you guys three times a year in no time at all.

In the meantime, that can't feel good, being OWNED by the 49ers. But look at the silver lining here, Seattle fans. At least the game was on the NFL network, so most of the country was unable to witness your shame as it unfolded.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Deck the Halls With Lots of Goodies

Proving once again that I'm one of the luckiest people in the world, at least in my current household, another package arrived for me yesterday, this one from Mamasan back in Tennessee.

One holiday tradition that our family *must* adhere to, lest the universe split open and render all existence null and void, is that Mamasan makes peanut-butter balls for all of us tots every year, no matter how old we get, and she's been doing since before we can remember. I've been looking forward to mine for several weeks now, but was worried they'd never arrive, as Reverend Dave had spent last weekend with her when she was doing her Christmas baking. For those unfamiliar with our family dynamic, Reverend Dave eats peanut butter balls like a Pac-Man on a double espresso. He and Amy are always raiding each other's stash like a couple of junkies searching for drugs and it's always entertaining to watch the antics go down when only one of them has access to the goods.

Anyhow, the box arrived last night, so I tore into it immediately. I saw a couple of nice gifts, a box of Goo Goo Clusters, and a can of my favorite coffee, Don Francisco's Hawaiian Hazelnut. But no tin full of the Real Christmas Treasure, peanut butter balls...

Uh oh...

I panicked and cursed the Good Reverend, thinking mom had the bad sense to have him ship the package for her. But then I noticed that the coffee can was sealed with duct tape Alabama Chrome, which led me to believe that it wasn't coffee in there after all.

Whew. Disaster avoided! Now I just have to figure out a way to make them last until the 25th. I swear, I've only eaten about five of them since last night. And I've got the can sitting out of reach across the room on the bookshelf, so the temptation is somewhat tempered. I've got Hoya's cookies handy, which helps, but I've been sharing them with the roommates (after I ate all the rum cookies, of course), but nobody around here gets any peanut butter balls. When it comes to sharing those, just call me Ebenezer!

Unfortunately, since I'm stuck here in Vegas, (Good grief Charlie Brown, did you ever think you'd hear me utter that sentence???) it seems that peanut butter balls are the only traditional holiday treat I'm going to be able to indulge in this year. No Ebelskivers, no Orange Julius, and no pumpkin roll.

Well, I might be able to have a little bit of pumpkin roll at some point, but it won't be the same because my sister Sherry didn't make it, and I won't have my family around, either. It just won't taste as good.

But the tins of Christmas goodies sent by good friends and family remind me of everyone's favorite ingredient in their holiday traditions--good food! With big family meals, snacks at parties, the office pot-luck, or the traditional baking and sharing of treats, food plays a big part in this season of celebration.

I was talking to Mamasan this past weekend about all the different snacks and goodies that make the cut with our family, and it was quite an extensive list...

I've already talked about our traditional Christmas morning breakfast of Ebelskivers, Orange Julius and either bacon or 'piggies' (link sausages--but my mom and sisters have been calling them piggies since before I was born). And Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without everyone's favorite peanut butter balls, but here's a list of reasons why everyone gains a couple of pounds in December:

  • Frosted Christmas Cookies - We don't do these too much anymore, more so when we were kids and had a drawer full of holiday-shaped cookie cutters to play with.
  • Hello Dollies - Probably the richest dessert on the planet--coconut, graham cracker crust, chocolate, and some sort of evaporated milk-derived filling. Two square of that and you're full.
  • Lemon Bars - Always a favorite of mine, but not as popular with everyone else.
  • Corn Flake Wreaths - When we were kids, we made wreaths out of Corn Flakes, corn syrup, green food coloring, and used those red candy cinnamon dots as berrys. Lots of fun, and tasty too.
  • Pumpkin Rolls - Sherry's specialty, with the cream cheese filling. Oh hell yeah.
  • Cheese Logs - this is one of my favorites, with cream cheese, grated cheddar, chopped olives, deviled ham, and wrapped in chopped walnuts, and the whole thing is spread on crackers. I prefer 'Chikin in a Biskit' crackers, myself.
  • Egg Nog - I know that bourbon is the tradition. But I prefer Captain Morgan Silver in my nog.
  • Honey Baked Ham - We almost *never* do a full-on Christmas dinner, but we usually put out a ham with a cheese and condiment tray and everyone just makes their own sandwiches whenever they feel like it throughout the course of the evening.
  • Fruit Salad - Mamasan perfected this recipe over the years. Our family version has the multi-colored mini marshmallows on top.
  • Sparkling Cider - This used to be a favorite back when the non-drinkers were in the majority. Luckily most of them have switched their affiliation and appreciate a good holiday buzz as much as I do. The sparkling cider is now for the next generation of kids now that my nieces are starting their own families.
  • Hot Chocolate - I used to love hot chocolate with a piece of peppermint candy dropped in the cup. This has been supplanted by Bailey's and Coffee. Although coffee with peppermint schnapps sounds pretty damn festive, too.
  • Banana Bread - Nothing makes the kitchen smell better than fresh banana bread baking. The scrooge in me always thought we gave away waaaay too many of the loaves.

Sadly, I'm going to miss out on most of these treats this year, but the packages keep coming, so I'm sure I won't go hungry. I really enjoy all of the goodies that come my way but I know that everything tastes just a little bit better when you're sharing it with the ones you love.

Here's to hoping that everyone has somebody to share with this Christmas!


Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Since I've gotten my new iPod, I've pretty much spent all of my free time playing with it--either listening to it, discovering all of the features it offers, or just uploading more music to it. I mentioned that X-Play software in yesterday's post, and the more I use it, the more I like it. And the extra bonus of not having to kiss the ring of i-Tunes is just gravy on my latest biscuit of good fortune.

By the way, I am the KING of mixed metaphors!

Anyhow, after writing up my thoughts yesterday, and posting a link to the XPlay web page, I got an interesting email this morning:

Hello Hurricane Mikey--
I wanted to drop you a quick note and thank you for the nice write-up of XPlay yesterday.
We work very hard to make our software not only simple to use, but also invisible, so you can get done what you're trying to do and move on.

Anyway, just wanted to say thanks for using our software and the nice write-up. As a small gesture of our gratitude, when you are ready to take the plunge and purchase the full version, here is a discount code to get you $5.00 off the full price. During checkout enter "BLOGGING" when asked for a discount code. Hit recalculate and the price will drop to $24.95.

Please feel free to share it with your readers, it appears that some of them were interested in XPlay also.
Thanks Mike!

Jeff Jorgensen

Somebody there is watching where their web traffic comes from. If you are an i-Pod user and don't wish to use i-Tunes, feel free to use this promo code if you're interested.

Anyhow, after using this software for a day or two, I thought it was a bargain at thirty bucks. And now with a discount, I'm sure I'll be purchasing the fully licensed version soon. I haven't had a single problem with it, and I love the fact that it makes my old junky-ass computer run like a top-of-the-line machine when it comes to playing with my i-Pod. No lockups, no slowdowns, no crashing. It's a good product.


From the Outhouse to the Penthouse

Even though Tuesday was another mellow day, there was still fun to be had later in the evening. While I was sitting at my desk marvelling at the wonders of modern technology, Doc and Ross were out wandering the Strip unsupervised. I got a call from Scott, aka 'VegasJones', and he left a message saying that he was in town also and wanted to get together. I tried to call him back, but the game of phone tag was underway in earnest.

Later in the afternoon, I managed to get on the same page with everyone, and we all decided to meet up at Ellis Island for dinner at 5:30. I got to the bar right on time and immediately saw Scott and his buddy Earl, and then just a minute later Doc and Ross showed up. We put our names on the waiting list for the restaurant and they told us it'd be about 45 minutes before we got a table.

They weren't lying.

I've never been *that* big a fan of Ellis Island. I mean, I like the breakfast offerings and their prices can't be beat, but is it worth waiting 45 minutes for? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say "no". But everyone had LVA coupons and some free drink coupons, so I couldn't really argue with that motivation. But it was fun to just hang out in the casino drinking microbrews and bullshittin' with the fellas while we waited for a table.

We were finally seated and ordered a few minutes later. I went with some mozzarella sticks (very good) as an appetizer, and a Frisco Burger for an entree. Three of the guys ordered the nightly Italian special--salad or soup, bacon-wrapped scallops, a choice of three different entrees, tiramasu, and a glass of wine. Doc Al ordered the $5.95 steak special, and out of the clear blue, Ross asked What's that?

Talk about tossing up a softball, he was immediately pummelled with good comebacks like Hey, why don't you ask if the $20 trick works here! or Hey Ross, what should I do with my luggage if I have a late check out? and Ross, how much are the martinis at Commander's Palace? Heh. I love dining with a bunch of smartasses.

Dinner was ok. My burger was pretty bland--tasted like it was made out of a bad meatloaf recipe, but the conversation was fun. And the bill for five of us was only like $60.

After dinner, we had to get Ross to the airport for his imminent deportation to OCanada, well, actually Doc Al did, but I dropped them off at the only Escher-esque structure in Las Vegas, the Imperial Palace parking garage with an agreement that the four of us left standing would meet up at the Parasol Up bar at the Wynn for drinks and cigars.

I pulled into Le Steve just a few minutes later and as soon as I got to the bar, Earl and Scottie were there to greet me. We were directed to a corner of the bar with a good view of the talent parade passing by that offered a long curving couch and a couple of leather wingback chairs. I broke out my oh-so-classy ziplock bag full of cigars, and a statuesque Russian beauty came by to take our drink orders.

Since we had gone upscale in our surroundings, we decided that it was time to change from beer to specialty martinis and the like. Actually, I had a rum-based cocktail and a snifter of Grand Marnier, Scottie had a martini, Earl got some Scotch on the rocks, and when Doc showed up after his airport shuttle he ordered something in a martini glass with a twist.

The conversation was most excellent, and instead of an evening of over-the-top drunken buffoonery as would normally be expected with this group, it was more like a six-hour-long Dockers commercial. Only more interesting and with a lot more laughs. At one point, early in the evening, just after we'd lit up the cigars, Scottie pointed out a guy walking through the casino and said Hey, that looks like Peanut from LV Talk! so I yelled out his real name--Randy--and he turned around and said Damn, when I smelled those cigars I just *knew* it had to be friends of mine!

We invited him to join us, but unfortunately he was off shopping for chocolate-dipped strawberries for the Mrs.

Clearly his evening plans were far more interesting than ours, but he said he'd be back down in about oh, four or five minutes... Heh.

Actually, about an hour later he stolled up with a stash of his own cigars, and another round of cocktails were ordered. The five of us spent the balance of the evening yukking it up, telling stories, and just enjoying the surroundings. It was a great Vegas experience--cigars, cocktails, and relaxing with good friends in the luxurious trappings of the Wynn. You really couldn't beat it.

We attempted a few rounds of Spot the Hooker, but the pickins were kind of slim on a Tuesday night in December, so we gave up and called it a night sometime around 1:00 am. We said our goodbyes, split up, and I headed headed for home.

It was a great evening in a great city.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Playing With My New Toy

Ok, after getting the Ipod last night, I stayed up for a couple of hours learning how to use it, but ran up against a brick wall when trying to move songs from my computer hard drive to the Ipod. Sticky loaded about 150 songs on it, but I've got about 500 more on my computer, plus a shiatload of cd's I've never ripped yet, and I'd like to get it all on the Ipod. According to the directions, I *must* have I-tunes in order to put music on the device. Dragging and dropping from 'C' drive to the new 'G' drive just doesn't work.

Hmmm... Sounds kinda fishy to me. There are millions of people out there using Ipods, and I highly doubt that they're all ponying up a buck a song to get their music through I-tunes. Besides, my POS computer still runs on Windows Millenium, and I-tunes is not compatible with it. In other words, unless I get a new computer and/or operating system, I cannot use I-tunes.

Luckily the world is populated by lots of computer and software hackers, and most of them are *not* employed by Microsoft or Apple, and some smart people out there have designed a workaround. A few minutes on Google using the words 'millenium ipod mp3' and I was directed to the website of a company by the name of Mediafour and their X-play software.

Not only did they give me a free two-week trial of their software (more than enough time to get all of my music organized and transferred to the Ipod), but the software is completely easy to use and very powerful. And their FAQ's in the technical support section shows how to avoid all of the pitfalls of using I-tunes, such as that whole 'automatic synchronization' thing that will erase everything once I use I-tunes for the first time. Screw that. With this software, I have no use whatsoever for I-tunes. So yeah, I'll use the trial version for a couple of weeks, but then I'll most likely spend the $30 for the licensed version. And I-tunes will never get a dime of my money.

It's so easy to use, a simpleton like me could master it in just a few minutes, and I've already created and uploaded a playlist of about 100 good party songs that will serve as great background music in case of say, I dunno, a party in a hotel suite during March Madness... Oh, and did I mention that the stereo in my pickup truck has an auxiliary outlet for electronic mp3 devices? All I need is a $5 patch cord, available just about anywhere, and I can listen to the Ipod through the truck speakers. Pretty nifty.

Hey, I haven't bought any type of gadget outside of a cellphone in at least four years, so this is all pretty damn cool to me.

I guess the point of all this is that I'm really digging my new toy. So far, it's a lot of fun.


12 Days of Christmas

Monday was one of those days my old boss would call a 'mental health' day. Lately it seems that I'm just getting totally burnt out on work, and although most nights are a lot of fun, I just *really* need to get away. Too many little things are starting to annoy me, so it was nice to wake up yesterday and know that I didn't have to deal with any of it for at least 72 hours.

I had a few things to do yesterday--first of all, I had a couple of $25 free-play bet coupons for Green Valley Ranch that were set to expire, so I wanted to make sure I used them. I was hoping for the same kind of luck as I had last year after I went to the Imperial Palace to use up my matchplays and ended up making almost a thousand dollars. No such luck this time, the dealer was too hot and I would've gotten more use out of those coupons had I set them on the back of the toilet and used them when the Northern ran out. Besides, I didn't have my favorite Pai Gow Freak sitting next to me, so it was probably doomed from the start.

On the way back to the parking lot, however, I stopped at that same dollar machine I where I won $350 a couple weeks ago and ran a twenty through it. I hit a few things and ran my credits up to $94, and was hoping to hit a hundred, but I had no such luck. Gotta work on a better stop-loss strategy, as I cashed out with only $40 instead of something more reasonable like $60 or even $75. Yep, I am a dumbass. But a dumbass that doubled up, at least.

After my brief sojourn to GVR, I hit the Target across the street from Sunset Station to purchase a few essentials. Every few months I go and stock up on stuff like laundry soap, razor blades, toilet paper (since I'd just used the last of my free play coupons....), body wash, deodorant, toothpaste, etc etc etc. Somehow I forgot that the economy was surging along like a runaway train and every frickin' housewife in the 891 was out Christmas shopping on Monday morning, so my trip to Target was a little more lengthy, complicated, and frustrating than I anticipated. I spent just under a hundred bucks, not buying any toys or anything, yet everything I bought fit into three plastic bags. If I were smarter, I would buy Gillette stock, because those guys have somehow convinced the American male population to hand over $17 for eight razor blades created out of about 35 cents worth of materials. It's almost as genius as those guys in Seattle figuring out that people will stand in line to pay five bucks for a cup of filtered bean water. But if I want to maintain my ultra sexy and smooth dome, I have to pay for the premium blades. And having a cup of Starbucks in my hand makes me look cool, too, so I guess I'm just part of the problem...

Anyhow, Doc Al and Ross were out chasing the little white ball all over the expensive real estate all day, but we had plans to hook up for dinner, so I came home, made a ham samminch, and took a nap while waiting for the Chicago Bears to lay the smack down on my lovable, yet pathetic, Rams.

We ended up bagging the dinner plans--I didn't hear from them until almost six, but they had to go exchange rental cars at 8pm, so by the time I could shower and change dinner would've been a rush job, so we skipped it.

I was exhausted anyways, and so out of it that I must've been bordering on incoherent when I talked to Al on the phone, but I was working on paying off that sleep deficit I've been running, so the nap and relaxing evening at home did me good.

I finally got up out of my nest and went exploring around the house--actually, I shuffled off to the fridge to grab a bottle of diet coke, and lo and behold there were two big boxes sitting on the floor outside my bedroom door. One came from the wilds of rural North Carolina, courtesy of Hoyaheel, and the other one came from the Great White North, from the office of a famous photographer, who has a real name, but I just call her Sticky.

I opened the one from Hoya first, because I was under strict instructions not to open Sticky's package until I had her on the phone or at least on the voice messenger on Yahoo. Hoya, who obviously knows me too well, sent me a small bottle of Mt. Gay Rum--which probably won't see the light of day tomorrow, a box of homemade goodies, a bumper sticker for my truck (Time Flies When You're Having Rum), and a wrapped-up gift for under the tree. And the tin of cookies had come open when I was opening the box, so I had to spend a few minutes segregating the styrofoam packing peanuts from the treats. I think I got 'em all, but we'll find out soon enough..

However, I *know* that Hoya knows me too well, and I absolutely knew what wrapped gift was as soon as I picked it up... I didn't cheat, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that there is a box of wine glasses waiting for me under my tree. I know I mentioned the fact that I don't have any, and I'm guessing that Hoya went out shopping the next day to correct that situation. Just a guess, but I'd bet my paycheck on it.


Thanks Hoya!

Later on I sent Sticky a text message that her package had arrived, even though she told a little white lie to the Customs people to smuggle it into the country, courtesy of the US Postal Service. Nope, it's not Cuban cigars...

So we got on the computer and she dialed me up on the voice messenger and had me open the box. It was triple-sealed with packing tape, and after I managed to cut through it, I was told to open the card first, and it was a funny one, reflecting both of our twisted senses of humor. There were three gifts in the box though, and I was instructed to open the flat black box first.

Inside was an 8x10 print of a picture she took here in Las Vegas on a previous trip--it's a black and white night shot of the Strip, looking north from the pedestrian overpass on Tropicana. I'd seen an online, and smaller version, of it, and complimented her on taking such a cool picture (she is, after all, a professional photographer), so she was kind enough to give me a copy. It was very thoughtful and I can't wait to hang it up.

There was also a fun gift in the box, which she had me open up next. We have an ongoing joke about her coffee addiction, and the fact that the only commercials on Canadian TV are for snow tires or Tim Horton's donuts. But Tim Horton's apparently makes awesome coffee, so she sent me a big can of it. I'm not sure exactly how big it is, metric system and all, but I hope I don't like it too much, otherwise I'm gonna have to start importing the stuff.

Then came the last present in the box.

I knew she'd been browsing my wish list on Amazon, so I figured she'd sent me any one of about two dozen different sailing books I have picked out. But no, the box was too small to be a book--it looked more like a double-wide cd or dvd case.

It was neither.

Sticky sent me the most unbelievable gift I've gotten in a long time. I was shocked, almost speechless, when I unwrapped my new 30 gig video Ipod!

Oh hell yeah.

It took me a moment to compose myself, but I was blown away. There was also a very nice note included that made me realize just how lucky I am to know somebody like her. All I could say was "Wow!" and about a million thank-you's.

But it gets even better. I mean, a new Ipod is a very nice and thoughtful gift, especially to somebody like me who values music as one of the most important things in life. But she went above and beyond and searched the archives here on my website and found that post where I listed my 100 Greatest Songs of All Time, and then spent a week loading them all onto the Ipod for me.

I was floored.

Truly, the coolest gift ever. Sticky is one in a million! She also loaded up a few dozen other songs that we've talked about in conversations over the past couple of months--songs that we've thought each other would like and should add to our collections.

So here I sit, nibbling on Hoya's homemade creations, sipping a little rum and coke, listening to Jimmy Buffett's cover of Southern Cross, and thinking that I'm one of the luckiest guys on earth.
I have amazing friends.

Merry Christmas, everyone, especially Sonya, because without whom I otherwise would've never met Sticky or Hoya (or Angy, or Andrea, or Dougie, or Doc, or Dawn...and the list goes on and on!)