Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Google Takes a Hit

Well, since I posted my discussion on OEX options I've gotten some interesting responses, most prescient from 'The Shadow' saying to buy puts on Google--which is down about $35 per share today. Nice call, brotha.

Sorry Sean. The strategy of buying Google isn't exactly working out, as an $18000 investment would be down almost two grand today, had someone bought it at the open on Monday. The OEX, while down 5 points today to 581, is still well above my 'panic' price of 560.

If I had some extra cash to spend, I'd be looking pretty hard at Genentech April 85 calls. They're down about $ .90 today. $3.90 per contract actually looks pretty juicy (that's the ask price as I write this). We'll see how this one turns out over the next few days--I wouldn't hold it until expiration, this is a total speculative move--but it's one I'd be willing to gamble on.


Monday, February 27, 2006

Nothing On TV

Yep, I'm still bored and there is nothing on tv, so I figured I'd do one of those 'Imagination Prompts' that I talked about in the last post. At least my brain isn't going to turn to mush while I convalesce. One of the topics that got spit out was to list 10 titles for your own autobiography. That's a pretty cool exercise that got me thinking, so in no particular order, here goes:

  1. I Had A Good Time Anyways
  2. Too Much Wind - The Collected Writings of Hurricane Mikey
  3. Somewhere Beyond the Sea
  4. The Neon Peon - My Life in Las Vegas
  5. From Solid Ground to the Open Ocean, and All the Quicksand In Between
  6. Caribbean Soul - The Years of Rum, Sunsets, and Cigars
  7. Finishing the Puzzle When the Picture Keeps Changing
  8. King of the Green Felt Jungle
  9. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Goofiness
  10. Hurricane Mikey Struck This Island - Sailing Around the World with a Mildy Famous Raconteur
Actually, once I wrote out the list, it seems like most of those titles could be chapter headings of a much bigger book.

Damn, I've got some writing to do.


Blue Monday

The bug is back. I was feeling fine for the past few weeks, and then on Friday night, it hit me again. Whatever crud that is going around this town--and lots of people I know are afflicted with it--made another appearance. I muddled through, but was so sick on Saturday night that I went home four hours early, and called in sick last night. The drugs are helping, but not much.

I feel like shiat again today, but this morning I was finally able to eat something--I made breakfast of eggs, toast, grits, and coffee, and I feel a little better. I'd been subsisting on 7-Up and chicken soup for the past few days, but solid food and hot coffee seem to be doing the trick. As soon as my insurance paperwork is processed this week, I'm going to make a doctor's appointment, have him prescribe me some powerful antibiotics, and maybe I'll be fine once and for all.

I'd planned on doing some more writing yesterday, but I sat here and stared at a blank screen for hours trying to find inspiration. I know what I wanted to say, but couldn't figure out how to say it. That's a different kind of writer's block altogether. And it's tough to cobble together some good writing when you're feeling poorly, anyways.

Sometimes, when this happens, there's a good tool out there for writers called an 'Imagination Prompt Generator' which helps, and it gave me a few good ideas, but for the most part it seemed to be geared to the Oprah crowd. Lots of 'A bowl of oranges makes me feel...' type of nonsense. I did, however, write down about 15 good ideas, and discovered that I have an affinity for making lists. At least the topics that appealed to me were of the 'List 5 things.... and why' type. So if you see happen to read some posts of that ilk, you'll know I was bored at the time.

Right now I'm bored and sick, so we've got the double whammy going.

I think I'll go back to bed.


Saturday, February 25, 2006


I just realized that it was one year ago today that I arrived in Las Vegas. I'll have complete thoughts posted by Monday.


This Month's Gamble

Living and working here in Sin City has taught me more about the value of money than 37 years of previous experience out in the real world beyond the Nevada border. While I still consider myself a 'gambler', I find myself being no longer drawn to the siren song of the green felt jungle. Spending so much time behind the tables, I see just how often the dice and the cards turn cold. Actually, to be accurate, they're always cold, but every now and again they warm up just a little bit--enough to keep people playing and thinking they've got a shot at a big score. More often than not, it's a little more give and take, with the edge going to the 'take' side of the equation.

When I look back, all those years I was working in the brokerage were almost like stealing money. Yeah, I worked hard for my salary, but most days, a trained monkey could've done 90% of my job. And in the heady go-go days of the late 90's, making money was easier than falling into a Fremont Street gutter after too many sips from the river of free booze that runs through the middle of this town.

More than a few times, I'd take my entire paycheck and buy OEX call options (that's the S&P 100 Index) on a Friday morning, and make a thousand dollars by lunchtime, get out, and spend the night with my buddies smoking self-congratulatory cigars, buying rounds of drinks, and getting a lapdance or two, thinking that life just couldn't get much better than that.

I remember one day when a buddy of mine made over $50,000 in less than four hours on a couple thousand shares of E-Trade. And when the old gang gets together and starts telling stories, don't think that I don't remind my buddy Ed about the time he sold his Qualcomm options for a $2000 profit after two days, but had he remained in for another week he would've made about $60K more.

But that's how I discovered my affinity for Las Vegas--every couple of months, after a particularly good run in the market, my buddies and I would make a road trip up here for a long weekend of voluntary wealth re-distribution. Good times, indeed.

But there was one guy we could never get to come with us. His name is Wade, and he's probably the most naturally funny person I've ever met. Ed introduced Wade to the rest of us--they were best friends all through the Stand By Me years. While Eddie ended up in the white-collar brokerage world with the rest of us, Wade became a painting contractor. He made a pretty good living at it, but he would never come to Vegas with us, no matter how many times we invited him. When pressed, he finally summed it up fairly succintly when he said I work too damn hard for my money and I don't wanna go up there and piss it all away.

Those words have stuck with me for years now, but the lesson wasn't learned until recently. Back then, making money was simple. Go long on tech, that's all you had to do. I wish I would've kept and printed out all of the old inter-office emails from the good old days--

Dude--I'm already up $2100 on Juniper this morning... Think I should sell?

I'm telling you--as soon as Ciena drops below a hundred, buy calls! It works every time...

My OEX options are up seven points already. It looks like the girls at the Highlighter are gonna be breaking some rules tonight!

And so on...

But these days, I have to take a more measured approach. I guess it's a lesson that everyone learns eventually, but I think that part of my growing-up process has benefitted from me being here. I love the casino environment, and I love playing the games. For years, there was NOTHING I'd rather do than hang out at Binion's dice tables for 36 hours straight, make my way back to Phoenix, and crawl into work Monday morning with nothing to show for it but a hangover and a good story. But now, like Wade, I work too damn hard for my money to go and piss it away in the casino.

I see myself becoming more and more like one of those jaded locals who never gambles at all. Of course, March Madness is coming, and when my friends hit town I'll certainly spend some time throwing the dice and cursing the cards, but not nearly as much as in times past. Hell, the only casino game I play anymore is Pai Gow, only because I've discovered that it's a way to get free drinks while breaking even all night.

I guess the point is, I'm not getting any younger. I'm 38 years old and that sailboat I've been wanting for the past six years or so isn't any closer than it was on April 29th, 2001. In fact, it's much further away. Because on April 30th, 2001, I got laid off--the tipping point that began the series of events that led me to being a casino dealer here in Vegas five years later and making me start all over from square one.

Of course, I had to endure some fairly rough waters. The recession of 2001 literally wiped me out. Almost overnight, I lost over $80,000 that I'd saved up. All of my stock options evaporated into worthless paper (although my buddies still laugh about the stock certificate I mounted underneath the toilet seat lid at my old house, a parting gift from the buffoons that were running Charles Schwab at the time...), I sold my condo about a week before it went into foreclosure, and I successfully dodged the Repo man for a year before saying fuck it and buying the Ghetto Sled. All of my guns, my Les Paul, and the nicest Stratocaster in Phoenix ended up at the pawn shop, too. When I finally moved to Nashville to lean on my family for emotional support while I got back on my feet, I had $2500 to my name and everything I owned fit in a six-foot U-haul trailer.

But none of that even came close to teaching me the value of a buck like pitching cards to people who can't afford to play. Granted, a vast majority of the people I deal with every night are there to have fun and are goofing off with disposable income just like I did in years past. But I can always tell who shouldn't be there, and I guess somewhere deep down inside, I just don't want to be one of those people--I've already had a peek under the lid of Pandora's box of destitution and despair, and although my experience wasn't due to gambling, the parallels are a stark reminder.

Now that I've almost extricated myself from the quicksand of the past five years (well, the credit score is still suffering...), I'm ready to try and build up that elusive nest egg once again.

I don't think I'll be day-trading OEX options anymore. And I actually own mutual funds now. (Damn, I must be getting old). And instead of gambling on long options that expire worthless, I'm doing going to do more spreads until I get to the point where I can get a little more creative.

Like I said, I work too damn hard for my money to just piss it away.

Being a true-blue Capitalist to the core, I've been spending a lot of my free time lately trying to get back in the game and start making a little money besides just the stuff that comes on the paycheck. Of course, I keep telling myself that I'm actually going to finish poker school and get a part-time job doing that, but my gift for procrastination has been especially generous lately and I haven't made the commitment to do it. But I will.

In the meantime, I need to practice actually making money, and get back to doing the stuff I used to recommend to clients back in the day. It took awhile to find an opportunity--the days of low-hanging fruit are long gone, but I think I found something while sniffing around my favorite old playground, the OEX.

Warning: We're gonna change directions here...

On Friday, the S&P 100 closed at 583.75, which was +.56. The 52-week low was around 542, and that was mid-October during the worst of the gas price spikes.

Being an optimist, I'm bullish on the market, so lets make the following trade and see how it turns out in eight weeks:

This will be a credit put spread, so the first leg would be--

Selling Puts to Open 20 of the OEX April 560 contracts Bid: 2.10 Ask: 2.55

The second leg would be--

Buying Puts to Open 20 of the OEX April 550 contracts Bid: 1.25 Ask: 1.60

Since you sell at the bid, and buy at the ask price, the natural difference on this trade is a $ .50 credit. (Option Trading 101--each contract covers 100 shares, so multiply everything by 100, so that for each contract, the credit is actually $50. Now you know).

In broker-ese, the trade would look like this--

SPO 20 OEBPL @ 2.10
BPO 20 OEBPJ @ 1.60

Now, there is a substantial gap between the bid and the ask on both of these contracts, so I'd put the order in as a limit order of $ .60, not at the market price of $ .50 shown. The market maker has a bit of flexibility, so I don't have to take what he gives me. If they turn down the trade, no problemo, I'll move on and find something else. But that $10, although it doesn't seem like much, makes a big difference. And there is no reason to leave money on the table for the market maker to pocket. Besides, I gotta pay comission to the broker, so I might as well get that extra dime.

So in real world numbers, if the order fills, I'd get $60 per contract credited to my account. I used the example of 20 contracts, so that's $1200 minus a reasonable and customary commission. And the beauty of it is, if the OEX closes above 560 on Friday April 21, I get to keep that $1200, all profit. (Remember, it's at 583 right now).

Now for the fine print. If something bad happens and the market takes a huge dump between now and then, I'm on the hook for $940 per contract. That's $18,800 I'm risking to make $1200. Of course, thems the chances you take. Hey, I said I'm still a gambler.

If I did my math right, that's still almost a 6.4% return in eight weeks. If you extrapolate the numbers out to an entire year, that's about a 41% yield. Not too shabby, if the S&P 100 closes above 560.

So basically, with this type of trade, my max profit is $ .60, my max loss is $9.40, and my break-even point is the OEX closing at 556 on the third Friday in April.

In real numbers, the most I can make is the credit amout, $1200. The most I can lose is $18800, so that's the amount the broker wants to see in cash available in my account. Of course, if you don't have $20K lying around to invest, you can cut the numbers down smaller, just like a recipe. Do it with ten contracts and make $600, do it with five contracts and make $300. Of course, the fewer contracts you do, the commission starts to loom as a higher percentage of potential profit.

Any questions?

Some folks flip houses in the real estate market to build their wealth. Others sell shiat on Ebay. Luckily my experiences at Schwab taught me how to use the option market, so this is the path I'm choosing. Almost makes all those years in the quicksand worth it.

Hmmm.... Quicksand. Sounds like a great name for a sailboat.


Give It Away Now

I truly wish some of you loyal readers would've been playing at my tables last night. If you had been, you'd be waking up this morning with stacks and stacks of crispy new Benjamins. Yep, I was giving away money like a lottery winner at the strip club.

I was on an oddball string--Let It Ride, Deuces Wild, and Pai Gow. Didn't matter which table I was on, I was dealing straights, flushes, and full houses like I'd set the deck. Damn near every hand was a big payoff. I even dealt a four-of-a-kind to one lucky fellow on the Let It Ride table for a $1050 payoff, then two hands later gave him three-of-a-kind. It was insane. Luckily it was a busy Friday night and I didn't have any heat on the table or I might find myself dealing the $5 shoe game in the bar for the next three months.

I guess nights like last night make up for all those times where I just wipe everyone out.

So yeah, I dropped my fair share of tokes last night. I can't wait to find out how we did. But, it was a Friday, so everyone was working. That means the toke pool is going to be somewhat diluted.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Paradise Lost

I just got back from lunch at Bahama Breeze with my good friend Jen. Actually, my day started much earlier, when I had to be back at work at 9:00 am this morning for my benefits meeting. After a quick stop at one of the many Starbucks in the area (this one was actually in the casino) for a Venti something something pretentious double cappuccino, I spent two hours filling out paperwork to sign up for such things as health insurance, life insurance, dental & vision (all free except the extra life insurance I took out), 401k, and stock purchase plans. Finally, I get to graze at the table with all of the goodies that make Station Casinos one of the top 100 companies to work for.

The only snag I ran into was that I didn't know my sister Amy's info, and I needed it to name her as a beneficiary on everything. But I finally got hold of her and all the paperwork is squared away. Of course now she thinks I'm worth more to her dead than alive, so I can't be going back to Nashville any time soon or she may just accidentally bust a cap in me...

Once we got out of the meeting, Jen and I headed down to Bahama Breeze over on Flamingo & Paradise for lunch. When we arrived, we were some of the first customers of the day, so we were seated immediately. I hadn't eaten there since 2000, and was looking forward to trying it again.

Initially, the main reason for going was to order some of their habanero bbq wings--Jen loves 'em. Of course we had to have drinks, too, so Jen had an Aruba Red beer and I went with their Ultimate Pina Colada. Yes, the wings were excellent, as was my pina colada, but it was a bit small for the price. I think it was like $6.75 and it might've been 8 ounces. Needless to say, it didn't last long.

For entrees, Jen went with the waitress's recommendation and had the Crispy Chicken Club Salad, that was pretty sizeable and actually looked pretty good. It was covered with cheese, bacon, and chunks of crispy-fried chicken that were pretty good when dipped in the leftover wing sauce. I had the Calypso Shrimp Linguini, which sounded really good in theory, but was pretty much non-descript in practice. It's not that it was bad, but it just wasn't that great, either. Certainly lacking any Caribbean spice as far as I could tell. Bland is the word I'm looking for.

Jen said her salad was just ok, so we were less than impressed with the entrees. Calling the menu offerings 'Caribbean food' is like calling the Olive Garden 'Italian food'. I've had much better, mostly in much smaller and simpler venues. Yeah, I'm guessing you won't catch too many Rastafarians or West Indians eating there--the menu is geared more to the fanny pack-wearing midwestern tourist crowd. (Check me out, I've become a jaded food critic! HM)

Trying to rev up our lackluster offerings, we hit the tropical drink menu again. This time we ordered a Yellowbird and a Mint Cookie. Both had potential, but the bartender screwed them both up. The yellowbird had waaaaay too much Chambord (sp?) [edit--it was Galliano] in it and while the drink was yellow in color, the banana and rum was killed by the licorice. It was a horrible drink. The mint cookie thing was supposed to be a 'girl scout thin mint' in a glass, but they went overboard with the mint and it killed any hint of chocolate, giving it a mouthwashy taste, not to mention aftertaste. And it came garnished with a pineapple. When it arrived, we both had that puzzled WTF? look on our faces. Clearly they need a little help in the bar.

Not wanting to give up completely, we ordered a slice of Key Lime pie for dessert. It was actually really good--a very generous portion, enough for two to share, with a thick graham cracker crust. My only gripe was the inch of merengue layered on top. I hate that shiat. But the rest of the pie was good.

The bill came to $72 and change, and while the service was helpful and enthusiastic (earning her a generous tip), the food left me feeling like Teddy KGB after Matt Damon broke even--so unsatisfied.

Overall, I'd give the place a thumbs down. It wasn't 'bad', but it certainly wasn't great. And in a town full of great restaurants, it'll likely be another six years at least until I get back.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Quick Trip to the Islands

All this talk of Bahama Breeze and Caribbean food have put me in the mood. No, not that mood... But I've been revisiting some of my favorite sailing sites, and just now I fixed myself a Lime Coke with a splash of Malibu. I've got my oscillating fan pretending to hit me with a sea breeze every few seconds, my bare feet are digging into the deep shag carpet like it's warm sand, and Brother Jimmy is providing the island soundtrack. Of course, the nearest salt water is the lobster tank at Albertsons, but I'm not gonna let that stop me from enjoying a few minutes of escapism.

Ahh...to be back in the Caribbean. It seems like a dream, especially to you unfortunate folks in the cold states. One of my favorite spots is Isla de Cozumel, just off the eastern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Yeah, it's a bit touristy, but nothing like the spring-break atmosphere of Cancun, twenty-something miles away on the mainland. I like the fact that you can hop on a scooter and head south along the coast road, and every few hundred yards there is another thatched hut 'beach club' serving ice cold Corona, Pacifico, or Coca Cola in old-school glass bottles. If you're hungry, a plate of authentic nachos or some variation of fresh shrimp cocktail is there for the asking.

My favorite stop is Playa de San Francisco--a great little beach club with an infinity pool overlooking the bar and the beach. One can splash around in the cool waters of the western Caribbean, then dip in the freshwater pool and relax while the waitresses deliver huge Pina Coladas served in hollowed-out pineapples garnished with hibiscus flowers. And if you really want to relax, an attractive Mexican gal will give you a half hour massage--right there under the palm trees on the beach--for just twenty bucks.

If relaxing doesn't do it for you, there is always somebody willing to rent you a high-powered jet ski or take you parasailing, right off the beach less than thirty yards away. I could spend an entire week there, doing absolutely nothing but staring at the beautiful blue water and drinking island cocktails.

But too much of a good thing would ruin it, so eventually I have to hop back on my scooter and head back to town. My favorite spot in San Miguel is the Havana Club, a Cuban restaurant/cigar store/nightclub on the second floor overlooking the Malecon. I always make it a point to spend some quality time in there, drinking mojitos, smoking Cohibas, and eating some excellent Cuban food. And you can't beat the view from the balcony.

One of the best gifts I've ever received was acquired from the Havana Club--an 18th century-style 'treasure' map of the Caribbean drawn on parchment. My sister purchased it, had it matted, glass, and framed in bamboo, and then presented it to me at Christmas a couple years ago. It is truly one of my most prized possessions. Every time I look at it I'm reminded of the great trips I've had, and motivated to explore more undiscovered destinations.

One of these days, I'm going to take a month-long sabbatical and head back down there. I'll lounge on the beach all day, and hang out in the hotel bar all night, smoking cigars and pounding the keys on the laptop, cranking out an epic like Papa Hemingway did all those years ago in Cuba.

He had Havana, I'll have San Miguel.


If You Must Know...

I'm having Taco Bell for lunch. I haven't been to the grocery store in about two weeks, and I didn't feel like doing it today, either. Certainly, I would've rather had Del Taco, but it's a longer drive and it's a little pricier, too.

But tomorrow--Lunch at Bahama Breeze. It seems that I've got to spend most of my morning back at work in a benefits meeting signing up for all of the goodies that Stations offers it's employees (yep, get off at 4am, have to be back at 9 for a few hours, then have to come back and work that night, too). Anyhow, my friend Jen and I have made plans to hit Bahama Breeze for lunch. It's not one on my 'list', and I've eaten at the one in Phoenix several times--the last time was on my 33rd birthday--but it should still be pretty good. I'll try and give a full report. Maybe a picture or two, also.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

National Geographic Day in Vegas

It was such a beautiful day that I figured that I should get out and do something, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money. The first stop was for lunch, and the local by-the-slice joint down the road from me offers a pretty good weekday deal of two slices of cheese pizza and a Coke for $3.75. Not quite as tasty as Metro Pizza, but still not too shabby. For another fifty cents I added pepperoni, so it's not a bad lunch for less than five bucks.

After lunch I went on a little photo safari around town, starting south of the airport and ending up down on Fremont Street. Here are a few of the shots that I got: (Remember, clicky for full-sized goodness!)

This one was taken from the McCarran 'overlook' on Sunset Road. A load of happy tourists descends upon my fair city, with a thousand new stories about to unfold.

From this vantage point, Circus Circus is behind the Wynn, not across the street. It's just another one of those Vegas optical illusions, kind of like how everyone here is rich and attractive.

The sign out in front of the Hilton worries me. Advertising for Barry Manilow and the Star Trek experience tells me that they're not marketing to my particular demographic--straight guys that don't live in their parent's basement.

The Turnberry Towers. If I were a meat packer from Nebraska, I'd probably buy a condo here. Especially since they almost block the view of the Shiatasphere.

If I ever meet Ms. Right, we'll be getting hitched here by an Elvis Impersonator. How will I know when I meet Ms. Right? Because she will agree to getting hitched here by an Elvis Impersonator.

Traffic on Fremont Street came to a complete stop so that one of the high rollers at the Western could relocate.

A bum's eye view of the Fremont Street Experience, taken, appropriately enough, from the sunroof of the Ghetto Sled.

When shopping for toiletries at the local Walgreens, it's customary to actually pay for them upon departing the premises.

That's all for today. I really wanted to get a picture of the new 'Hairspray' sign on the front of the Luxor, but there was no place to pull over with a good vantage point until it was too late. Maybe next time.


Cross One Off the List

I haven't been getting much sleep lately, and as much as I wanted to post last night, I had to trade pounding the keys for some quality sack-time. It was a good trade, and I'm Wide Awake in America, so hopefully I can get a few things done on my day off, not the least of which is writing about my experiences yesterday.

It too was my day off, and I'd made plans to have lunch with George and Marlisha before they headed back to Phoenix. Yep--they're from the 'old neighborhood' but we never met until they came to Vegas. Anyhow, for whatever reason I was up early and started thinking about places to eat lunch. Of course I was up for anything new and different, but Metro Pizza, the various brew pubs around town, or even the Grand Luxe Cafe all sounded good to me.

Scanning over my list of restaurants to try and thinking of which ones might be a good lunch stop, I didn't get very deep into it before realizing that I'd never eaten at everyone's favorite place, Mon Ami Gabi at Paris Las Vegas.

It was around 10:00 am at the time, so I called George to finalize lunch plans. When he asked where we should go, I gave him a rundown of spots, and we settled on either Grand Luxe or Mon Ami Gabi. Marlisha nudged us over to the Mon Ami side, so we agreed to meet there an hour later.

I was ten minutes early, having not hit a single red light on my way to the Strip and being fortunate enough to get a primo space right next to the elevator in the parking garage, so I made my way to the restaurant, thinking I'd have a beer in the bar first. No such luck, as I found out that the place didn't open until 11:30 (the website just says 'Open for lunch'). Off to the sportsbook I went, where I sat at the bar and ordered a Newcastle draft (I've had it a few times lately, and as good as it is in the bottle, it's ten times better coming out of a tap!). Since I had some time, I lit up a Partagas and watched a little tv while nursing my beer and waiting for George and Marlisha to arrive.

They showed up just as I was getting to the bottom of my Newcastle, so we ordered another round. I then made the mistake of ordering the weakest Captain & 7 I've ever had. It was a $6.75 lesson that I won't be repeating.

We lingered for a bit, finished our drinks, then headed over to the restaurant. It had been open for about ten or fifteen minutes by the time we got there, but there was still a short line. It seemed a bit chilly out, but it was a bright and sunny day, so we opted for a patio table right on the rail overlooking the foot traffic on the Strip, and of course it gave us a premium view of the Bellagio fountains right across the street.

Our waiter was a young college kid named Zachary, and he was pretty well versed in all of the offerings on the menu, making appropriate recommendations. There was so much that looked good that we spent several minutes deciding. While drooling over the menu, they brought us some warm baguettes and butter to nibble on, a wonderful start which every restaurant in Paris offers, only making us anticipate lunch that much more.

The offered several good wines by the glass, and I couldn't resist the Latour Pinot Noir. George had some sort of white wine, but I honestly can't remember if it was Chardonnay or something like Pinot Grigio. I remarked that it was the first time in my life I'd ever had a glass of Pinot during daylight hours, and sitting out there in the sun made it look lighter than usual. However, it was still a fantastic glass of wine.

We ordered a couple of soups and appetizers to start--I went with the French Onion of course, one of my all-time favorite soups, while Marlisha ordered the soup du jour which was some sort of pureed white-bean offering with tomatoes and basil. For appetizers we had a tray of baked scallops with cheese and fennel and a smoked salmon platter. Basically we just shared it all (except I didn't eat any of the salmon, although it looked pretty good) and sampled everything. The scallops were a big hit, the baking process mellowing the fennel while giving a little zip to the scallops. And the soups were enjoyable, although I still think the best french onion soup I've had is a toss up between Binion's Ranch or the Cafe at Paris. The crock I had with my lunch, although delicious, was a little light on the onions.

While eating the appetizers, we were treated to a couple of good fountain shows--the first being Lee Greenwood's Proud to be an American and the second, which I'd surprisingly never seen, was Elvis Presley's Viva Las Vegas. Of course all foot traffic on the Strip and all conversation in the restaurant came to a complete stop during the show. Behold--the power of Bellagio!

After clearing the remnants of our baguettes, soups, and appetizers, we were treated to our entrees. Marlisha, being a self-proclaimed 'foodie', took a little heat from us for ordering a hamburger, but she said that since she'd been eating seafood for the past three days straight, she was craving a big hunk o' meat. And the hamburger seemed to deliver--it was pretty big and looked damn good. Served with a pile of steak frites, she was soon in her happy place.

I had the steak sandwich, which was thin-sliced London Broil grilled medium-rare and topped with grilled onions on a French Roll. It also came with a pile of steak frites, which one supposes are the original French Fries, some very tasty au jus, and a serving of stone-ground dijonaisse. I was a little envious of George's lunch--he went with the daily special and got the grilled grouper over rice with wild mushrooms--that is, until I took a bite of my entree. Good stuff! George said his fish was excellent, and I believed him, but by that time my taste buds had turned their back on the grouper and didn't want to be interrupted from fully enjoying my tender and flavorful steak sandwich.

We completely enjoyed our lunch experience. The service was excellent, we raved about the food, and the atmosphere and people-watching were some of the best in Vegas. After they cleared the dishes, our waiter even talked us into staying for dessert.

The dessert menu was quite extensive, and we had a hard time picking anything out. They even offered a cheese tray, but we couldn't believe anyone would want to sit there and eat a bunch of cheese after tackling such a huge meal.

Marlisha went with the waiter's recommendation and ordered the creme brulee, George went with an esspresso martini, and I opted for the pecan tart. They were all excellent. My pecan tart was HUGE--it was like eating a half-pound pie-shaped Tobleron bar, covered in caramel and whipped cream. The creme brulee was pretty tasty, although I thought it was a little shallow for the price they charged, and George's martini was a big hit, too. Unfortunately, as good as it was, it was pretty rich and after such a big meal it was impossible to finish it all, although we certainly tried.

Once we gave up for good and the dishes were cleared, we felt like a bunch of house cats with full bellies lying there in the sunshine ready to take a nap. To say we were contented would be a vast understatement. It was a wonderful meal.

The check came to exactly $155 for the three of us, before tip. Granted we had a couple of glasses of wine, appetizers, soups, desserts, and the grouper special was somewhere slightly north of $20, so it seemed pretty reasonable. Most of the entrees run about $12-$15 during lunch, but we splurged a little, so a couple could easily get out of there for half of what we paid. I thought it was well worth it, and it turned out to be the only thing I ate all day.

It was an excellent experience and I can't wait to go back and do it again.

Once we paid the tab, we waddled out of there looking for a comfortable place to sit and digest for a bit. We found a couple of seats at the main hotel bar located right near the lobby and collapsed. It was all we could do to force ourselves to order a drink and justify taking up the real estate, but we managed.

I'd forgotten to bring my camera with me, but Marlisha had her digital camera with her and took a picture of me and George as soon as we hit the couch. I'll add it in here as soon as she sends it to me. We've already decided that we'll entitle it Fat & Happy.

Fat & Happy. Although *both* of us were happy

We hung out for a little while, but much too soon they had to hit the road and head on back to Arizona. We said our goodbyes and I made my way back home where I went straight to bed--I hadn't had any sleep in the previous 22 hours, so I slept all the way through until around 4 this morning.

But we made plans to get together again, maybe as soon as March Madness. I know George wants to hurry and get back to my Pai Gow table at the very least. Five minutes after I met the guy, I dealt him a Four-of-a-Kind.

Who says only the chicks get lucky with Mikey?


Monday, February 20, 2006

Speaking of Threes

Ok, I got me some batteries today, so now I can share the pic of Emily, me, and Stephanie from the other night:

It's a little blurry, but then again, so were we. I've got some more pics to share, but I'm waiting for the go-ahead from Steph.

Last night was a pretty fun night at the ol' casino. A couple of loyal readers 'Big Tips' and 'Big Stogie' happen to show up looking for me, and they found me shortly after I arrived. They ended up playing Crazy 4 Poker and Pai Gow at my tables for a couple of hours and we had a few laughs. Before they left for the evening, we made plans to hook up for breakfast at the Peppermill this morning.

Knowing that I had to get up around 9:00 am, I went ahead and scooted out of work an hour early--the decision being easier to make at 3:00 am when I got back from break and they couldn't find a table to put me on. So instead of mucking chips on the roulette table, I offered to take off. Always wanting to cut payroll expense (the house needs that $5.15 per hour!), they agreed.

I got to the Peppermill a couple of minutes early, and brought the camera along. The first stop was next door at that cheesy little gift shop for some new batteries and a pair of Cheap Sunglasses (insert guitar riff here). When I told the guy I needed four double-A's, he felt bad that they charged so much and said that I'd be better off buying them up the street at Walgreens. I told him that I didn't have time to go up there, so he gave me the sunglasses for free.

After those purchases were made, I walked back over to the Peppermill and had a seat back in the Fireside Lounge and had Krista make me up a kahlua and coffee. A few sips later George and Marlisha showed up (yeah, they have real names...). Krista had also reserved us a table, so the hostess was paging us before they even got their drinks--a mimosa and a coffee with brandy.

We were having a pretty good time looking over the menu, but after several minutes, George decided to make a run at the chicken fried steak, as did I. Marlisha ordered a waffle.

Unfortunately, it looks like the end of an era at the Peppermill. I've been raving about their CFS for a couple of years now, and last time I visited I mentioned that it looked like they were going cheap and cutting corners, well, this time they've really done it. Their new chicken fried steaks are about half the size of the ones they've been serving for years, yet they still manage to charge about $13 for the breakfast platter. Yeah, they still taste good, but I could tell the difference and the portions aren't nearly as generous as they have been in years past. So I think I've eaten my last chicken fried steak at the Peppermill. I'll try the eggs Benedict again, but if they've gone cheap on that too, then I think I'll be finding a new spot for my Monday morning breakfasts.

Expecting what used to be the Grotto-at-the-Mansion of breakfast food, George prepares to dive into the plastic-kiddie-pool-from-Walmart instead.

So, killing off the breakfast platter wasn't much of a challenge this time around, and afterwards we headed back to the lounge. Luckily they haven't farked up the bar yet, and Krista hooked us up with some awesome martinis, while we did a little horse-trading from each of our personal stashes of cigars. I brought him a couple of Partagas, a black label and a #10, while he packed the travel humidor with him and I scored a nice Padron and a La Gloria Cubana, both of which were excellent.

We sat back there for about three hours, smoking cigars, telling stories, and having a lot of laughs. Turns out that Marlisha's greatest fears were realized, and George and I share the same brain. So we're not allowed to run around loose together in Vegas. Only the combination of Angy and a bottle of rum would be more dangerous. But we had a great time.

After two cigars and a higher number of cocktails, we decided that it was probably time to wrap up our visit. They still have plenty of Vegas to do, while I needed to get home and get a couple hours of sleep before I head to work again tonight.

Of course, I couldn't just hit the sack without the update, so I hope you all appreciate the sacrifice I'm making. I'll be thinking of you all while I'm yawning my ass off at 1:00 am and thinking only three more hours of this nonsense...


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Three Rivers

Some nights I just wish I could leave my nose at home--especially on weekends.

Whenever I get tapped out to go on break, I have to go to the TDR, or Team members Dining Room. We're not allowed, for obvious reasons, to hang out in the bars or even in the sportsbook while on break. The only problem is, you have to run a gauntlet of pretty foul odors to get where you're supposed to be.

The entrance to the 'back of the house' at my casino, where we have to go to get to the the dining room, lockers, HR, uniform counter, etc., is at the confluence of the Italian restaurant, public restrooms, and the oyster bar. So on a busy night, you have to pass through the heady aroma of garlic, ass, and bad snatch every time you go to and from the break room. Oh, and once you're inside the back corridor, it's not over. One also has to walk past the loading dock entrance where all of the dumpsters and garbage mashers are.

What a wonderful smell you've discovered...

Kinda makes you lose the appetite for one of those tasty hotdogs floating around in the meat-swamp they have panned up on the buffet line, doesn't it?


I Was Kidnapped By Two Women

... and made to pose for the cover of Vanity Fair.

So, just as I was getting ready to leave work for the night, *extremely* pissed off at one of the floor supervisors, my friends Steph and Emily showed up at the casino and brightened my outlook considerably. I guess they'd been up all night watching movies, but came down to hit the coffee shop for some breakfast, then their plan was to take a bunch of cool pictures of the sunrise and whatnot. They had a trunkload of expensive photography equipment with them, along with their regular digital cameras. But they saw me leaving the pit and asked me to join them.

Anyhow, once I clocked out and such, I ambled over to the coffee shop to meet up with them. We hung out a little bit drinking coffee and nibbling on breakfast, but then we headed for the parking garage. The plan was to get some photos of the sunrise from the roof, but once we got up there, we were reminded that there was too much ambient light from all of the streetlights up there--no good at all.

So then we decided that we needed someplace darker. My house is at the dark end of a dead-end street, with no outside lights around. It was about as dark as you could get. So we had some fun taking dorky glow-stick pictures for awhile, pretending we had light-sabers and such until the sun actually started coming up and messed with that plan.

Once it got too light out, we went inside because my room has those thick black-out curtains like hotel rooms do, and we burned up two sets of batteries taking some very cool long-exposure pictures. Of course I couldn't let them leave without us getting the requisite 'threesome' pic in my bed, but unfortunately, my batteries died after letting me download every picture but that one... So you pervs will have to wait.

I can give you a quick teaser with this one, though--

Pretty cool, huh?

Anyhow, we took over 50 pictures doing all kinds of funky things with the glowsticks and such, but I promised Stephanie that I wouldn't post anymore of them until she sent me the 'finished' products later--she wants to edit them with Photoshop and make them look even better. Some are pretty dumb, but we got some good ones, too.

They finally rolled out of here around 7am this morning, and plan on doing more tonight. Once I get approval from her, I'll post some of our better ones. I may not be an Annie Liebowitz, but with Stephanie and Emily lounging around my pad, who needs Charlotte Johansson or Keira Knightley?


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Jittery Horsemen

I just realized this past week that on my daily commute to the casino, I pass four Starbucks outlets, but not a single McDonalds. And it's less than five miles each way. That's one pretentious coffee house every 1.25 miles.

I don't know if that illustrates the fact that my financial situation has improved so significantly that I'm now living in a more desirable zip code, or if it's just another sign of the Apocalypse.


Friday, February 17, 2006

Riding on the Metro...

I've been out running errands all morning long, but I wanted to post a little bit before I took an afternoon nap. Work was dead slow last night after midnight--I spent an hour standing around not dealing a hand, so when they asked me for the third time if I wanted to go home, I took three hours of Early Out time. Ugh. I've been trying to avoid it, but I figure if I only have five or six hours in a pay period, then it's probably worth my sanity. But the last time I left three hours early on a slow Thursday night, I came back the next night to find out that I would've made $230 if I'd worked the entire eight hours...

Anyhow, I got up early this morning, got dressed and headed out the door. I had to go to the bank, the gas station, the post office, the dry cleaners, etc etc etc. I also took a swing by Best Buy for a quick reminder of why I hate to shop there--buncha damn unhelpful pimply faced teenagers cranking up shitty hip-hop music to annoying levels. Plus they didn't have the office chair I was looking for, either. But I found one on sale at Office Max (they weren't there last night) for only $59, and there were only two left by the time I got there. So I snagged it. Since it was so much cheaper than I budgeted for, I picked up a few more office supplies and treated myself to a nice lunch.

I wanted to go to a place that I drive by a couple times a week called the Chianti Cafe--it's in a strip mall about a block and a half off of Sunset and Green Valley. But when I drove up I saw that they're only open for dinner. Since I had my mind set on Italian and not really wanting to drive all over creation or down to the Strip to satisfy my urge, I opted for the old reliable Metro Pizza on Tropicana. Not only was it as wonderful as ever--about the closest I'll ever get to real NY Pizza until I go to Brooklyn and visit Sammi & Frank--but a couple of 24 oz. Newcastle drafts put me in a good mood after my frustrating stop at Best Buy.

While I was out I also visited 'The Gun Store'--that place, also on Tropicana, where you can rent machine guns. Besides going full-on Bonnie & Clyde style, they have a retail store too. The fellow I was talking to at first was really nice--he showed me a pretty sweet Modified Springfield 1911 .45. It had all the work done on it that I would do, but it's brand new in the box that way. Of course it was a bit pricey at just under $700. I'm finding out that like real estate, guns ain't cheap out here in Nevada. They also said that they normally stock Walther P-22's, which I'm actually in the market for first, but they were currently sold out.

I think I'm gonna wait until I get the new computer before I buy any new guns, though. I use the computer much more... Besides, after I expressed interest in the Springfield, the guy in charge at the store really turned me off with his hard-sell, trying to get me to believe that Springfields are hard to get and I should act right away. Whatever dude...I can *always* find a 1911 for sale somewhere...


Thursday, February 16, 2006

I Need Tickets!

There's not too much downside to living in Vegas, but I guess I could find some if I looked hard enough. But since the casinos have a monopoly on gambling, it means that unless I make the drive down to Kingman, it means that I can't get tickets to this weekend's Powerball drawing.

Wait--do they have Powerball in California? I believe they actually have convenience stores on the California side of the state line, unlike heading to the Arizona side, where Boulder Canyon and Hoover Dam conspire to keep out the forces of unbridled capitalism.

Anyhow, somebody is gonna win a cool $365 Million this weekend. I just hope that that somebody is somehow related to me....


It would seem that I have retained legal counsel and a volunteer to get me a ticket...

Edited at 9:28 am local time to add the following:

Be it known, that on this 16th day of February 2006, Courtney Monique DiMarino( Hereinafter referred to as " Courtney") and Michael XXX ( Hereinafter referred to as " Mikey")do hereby enter into contract under the following terms and conditions.

Scope of Services

Courtney hereby agrees to furnish the following services:
Purchase one (1) Powerball ticket for the drawing to commence on February 18th, 2006. The numbers to be purchased are as follows: Seven (7) Eleven(11) Twenty-three (23) Twenty-Seven (27) Thirty-Six(36) and Thirty (30) as the Powerball.
This ticket will be purchased at a retailer of Courtney's choice, and further be purchased for the sole purpose of Mikey's use.

In consideration of the services described above, Mikey hereby agrees to pay Courtney the sum of $1 (One) U.S. Dollar on or before April 15th, 2006.
Courtney hereby agrees to furnish above mentioned ticket to Mikey, regardless of it's winning, or non-winning status, on or before April 15th, 2006.
If progress and/or completion to the reasonable satisfaction of the contract is not obtained, Mikey reserves the right do nothing.

Mikey hereby agrees that he will give Courtney 2% (Two percent) of his gross winnings, should the above mentioned ticket prove to be a winner.

Termination for Cause

Courtney may terminate this Contract for cause based upon the failure of Mikey to be nice to her. Mikey must also give Courtney proper "props" on his public blog for offering to buy him a ticket, and for being the funniest, well versed movie quoter in the world! ( Courtney is a narcissist who enjoys attention, in any form)

Any claim or controversy arising out of this contract shall be resolved by the provisions
of CPA- R.S. 39:1524 - 1526.

THUS DONE AND SIGNED AT Yahoo.com, on the day,
month and year first written above.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties have executed this Agreement as of this day of (02/16/06)


Electronically Signed: Courtney M. DiMarino, C.L.A; N.A.L.P.

And people accuse me of having too much time on my hands!

Lunatic Fringe

Well, it looks like the wind finally died down last night, but it was a cold one. I woke up this morning feeling a little chilled--having one entire wall in my bedroom made entirely of glass keeps me fairly tuned in to immediate temperature changes--so turning on the weather channel I saw that it was in the mid-30s. Screw that--that's too cold for a thin-blooded desert-dweller like myself.

On the plus side, the high winds that we had yesterday made the sky about as clear as it's ever been. Last night around 7:30 I had to run down to Office Max to pick up a couple of things, (and of course stopped by Del Taco for a 99-cent burrito and a couple of Macho Tacos), but when I got back home I was fascinated by the scene in the eastern sky.

First of all, the moon is still nearly full, and since it was just a few degrees above the horizon at that time of night, it looked especially huge. But what completed the surreal picture were all of the airplanes lining up for approach as far as the eye could see, and the straight line of lights in the sky gradually getting smaller in the distance until they faded into the blur of the moon behind them, like a bunch of lunar spitballs coming right at me.

Made me wish I had a high-quality digital camera and the ability to shoot decent night-time photos.

Actually, that's the second time in a week I wanted to take a cool picture of the night sky. Last week during the 'official' full moon phase, I was outside in the driveway around 2:00 in the morning thinking that it was especially bright out, but over on the western horizon the full moon-from my vantage point-was directly behind the beam of the Luxor, giving it a pretty cool science-fictiony effect. I couldn't help but to stand and stare for a few moments.

Maybe a telescope would be a fun toy to have instead of a Red Ryder BB gun.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

It Drives Me Nuts

Yep. That's what the pirate said when asked why he had a steering wheel mounted on the front of his trousers.

Actually, the point that I'm trying to make is that sometimes writing can drive me a little crazy. Being my own worst critic, I'm constantly revising, updating, changing, editing, and re-posting stuff. A lot of times after I post something, I go back and re-read it and find five different things I want to change--even stuff as mundane as the title of the post. Lately I've found that I've been doing it more than I probably should. I don't know why, but mostly I think that I can always do better. But it's just a blog, fer cryin' out loud, so I should just post and then shut the hell up. It doesn't have to be polished. For some reason, I can never remember that bit of self-advice.

But the fact that I spend so much more energy editing instead of being creative kind of pisses me off. I've got to find a balance in there somewhere or else I really will go crazy and post nothing but All work and no beer makes Homer something something over and over again for a month straight. And nobody wants me to end up running around the estate with a crazed look in my eye and an axe in my hand.

I guess part of it is the fact that once I get a new computer/printer setup, I'm going to go back and save all of my old blog entries at my end and print them every month for a 'hard copy' journal type thing, and I just want it to be good. Nothing embarrasses me more than bad writing, and when I go back and read some of my old Vegas trip reports, or even that article I sold to the sailing magazine a couple years back, I just cringe.

I used to keep a handwritten journal for years, ever since I was like 12 or 13, stopping about ten years ago or so, and I'm deathly afraid to go back and read just how bad that writing is. So they're under lock and key. I'm afraid that if I went back and re-read some of that stuff, all three volumes would end up in the fireplace.

Maybe I just don't want to be reminded of all the stupid shit I said twenty years ago. But who knows how I'll feel twenty years from now. Hell, by then it might be worth something on Ebay. You just never know.


License To Chill

Here it is 11:54 and I'm already finished with all of my errands I had to do. That must be some kind of world speed record. Speaking of, I got the Ghetto Sled up to 75 mph on the freeway after I left the house this morning. I was heading to beautiful downtown Henderson, so I had to cruise a couple of miles down I-95 towards the dam. I was afraid of what might happen, since I haven't driven it that fast in months. (Being a local, you only take surface streets and avoid The Strip and the freeways at all costs).

It was still gusting pretty heavily and the big trucks were getting blown all over the road, and I had a moderate buffet in the nose at highway speed. Kind of like the pre-supersonic flutter that test pilots would complain about back in the day. So I slowed down a bit, getting that uneasy feeling that Steve Austin must've gotten a few moments before they decided to rebuild him.

I drove around old town Henderson for a few minutes before I found the storefront for the Cox Cable office. I actually passed it three times before stopping for directions. It was a tiny little place that was obviously designed not to be found. But I was in and out of there in less than ten minutes, and I got my $900 bill from the collection agency adjusted down to just south of seventy bucks.

A quick word about downtown Henderson. It is totally old-school. Like Hill Valley in the 50's without the clock tower. Actually, it's a lot more like Mayberry RFD, if Mayberry would've had miniature casinos and payday loan stores on Main Street. But they're catching up. There is a LOT of new money in that town, and the courthouse and city buildings are expanding--the whole city center area is under construction.

After that adventure, it was off to the DMV. I was smart and went to the website first to find out what all I needed to have with me, and of course they offered the helpful reminder to show up in the middle of the week and the middle of the month. I figured I couldn't get more middled than 10am on Wednesday the 15th. Luckily, it paid off and I was only in line for about five minutes, then it took just another ten minutes to do the paperwork, take the vision test, register to vote, and get my picture taken. Oh, and the ladies at the DMV loved my I Do All My Own Nude Scenes t-shirt. They also told me that I have the cleanest driving record they saw all week, so I got that going for me, which is nice. But now I'm officially a resident of the State of Nevada, with quite a handsome photo, if I do say so myself.

Once I got out of the gub-mint offices, I made a quick stop at Tar-zhay to pick up a few non-perishables. Yes, the one in Henderson is pronounced Tar-zhay, while the one over on Maryland Parkway is Tar-ghetto. First thing was to get a new Gillette Sensor razor handle so I can use all of those blades I've mistakenly bought over the past few months. And hoping to get gang-tackled by a group of hotties next time I go to the grocery store, I picked up some Tag body spray, among other things.

There was some good milf talent lurking about at Target, but I didn't dilly-dally. Soon after that I found myself at the Green Valley Branch of the Clark County Public Library. I got myself a card and browsed the stacks for about a half an hour before settling on three different books I've had my eye on for some time, the most notable of which is Sun, Sin & Suburbia - An Essential History of Modern Las Vegas. Granted, it's an incomplete history, as my name is nowhere to be found within it's pages. But I'm willing to overlook that little detail for the sake of expanding my historical knowledge of my new hometown.

So now that all the running around is done, I've got the whole afternoon to laze around and do nothing but read or nap. But it sure was nice to get some sun and fresh air this morning--it's been a long time since I've had either.


They Call Me the Breeze

Good Morning everyone!

It's not even 8am and I'm bright-eyed and bushy-tailed today. I actually went to bed before midnight and got a good five hours of quality sack time before waking up without the alarm early this morning.

It's pretty damn windy here in Vegas-land this morning, even the news is talking about wind advisories. I don't know exactly what you're supposed to do with that info here in Sin City, except for maybe go one club longer than normal... But the breeze is screaming in from the west, so the sounds of the planes taking off at McCarren (about a mile east of here) make it feel like they're using my back yard as a runway. It's pretty cool, and it drives the dog nuts.

Since I was up, and hungry, I decided that instead of making a mess in my kitchen, I'd rather go out and grab a bite. No, no Peppermill for me this morning. Instead I went with another local favorite, Blueberry Hill. I gave their chicken fried steak a try, and while it was very good, it wasn't as wonderful as the offering at the Peppermill. Of course, it cost about half as much and I was able to finish it, so we'll call it a wash. But it was nice to get out of the house and enjoy a cup of coffee while reading the 'newspaper'. Although, USA Today isn't much of a paper, and every time I purchase one, about a half hour later I feel like I wasted 75 cents.

So, now that I'm up, I've got to go and make myself pretty--got to have my picture taken for my new driver's license today, so I'm violating my code and actually shaving on my day off. And wearing shoes might really put me over the edge.


I Love This Bar

Everybody knows how much I like to hang out in the Fireside Lounge at the Peppermill with it's winners and losers, chain smokers and boozers, and drink for free, courtesy of my gal Krista. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to make it down there in the past two weeks. And the neighborhood bar that my fellow dealers and I like to hang out at, Chilly Palmer's, is a great place to relax after a long night behind the tables.

The other night, we were hanging out doing the usual banter--telling stories from the previous night's work, complaining about stiffs, and bragging about beat downs we'd put on deserving characters. But one guy had just got back from a weeks vacation and he pointed out an interesting thought. He went back to hang out with his buddies and when they went to a bar, he was all bummed to find out that they didn't offer video poker like every bar in Nevada does. He was like Holy shit...What did I ever do before I moved to Vegas? It got a laugh out of everyone, especially since most of the people I work with are total degenerates when it comes to video poker, but it got me thinking.

I never had a favorite bar back in Nashville. I did most of my drinking either in my backyard sitting next to the firepit and watching the lightning bugs, or over at my sister's houses watching football games, or at restaurants whenever I'd go out with Cyndi and David. I was a member of the Nashville City Club for a year, and although it had a very nice bar, it was completely overpriced and I couldn't stand the bartender.

Back in Phoenix, we had a few favorites we liked to hang out with. For a long time we'd spend our Friday evenings at Gallaghers, Rock Bottom, or Dos Gringos in Scottsdale. But my favorite spot for happy hour was Aunt Chilada's at Squaw Peak. It was a fair Mexican restaurant (although I only ate there once), but every Friday night they'd put out a nice free appetizer buffet and it would be packed wall-to-wall with all of the local office drones, of which I was one. They had a great outdoor patio that was fairly conducive to meeting members of the opposite sex, and with the monster-sized margaritas and plenty of good Mexican beer on tap providing the social lubricant, my buddies and I had a pretty good record of success there.

But as much as I liked Aunt Chilada's, it wasn't my favorite bar.

My favorite spot was a total dive called Jakes-O-Mine, or just Jake's for short. And the funny thing is that it was about 20 miles away from anywhere convenient. It was actually way the hell out in the east valley, all the way out in Apache Junction. It was a total biker joint, and usually the Harley's outnumbered the pickup trucks in the parking lot.

I would've never heard of the place, except that back in my 'band' days I was friends with several working musicians, and if you were in a cover band, playing at Jake's was a favorite venue. So one night about ten years ago I made the drive out there to see some friends play a weekend gig. I'd heard that it was a rough place, so I was a bit apprehensive, imagining a stage enclosed with chicken wire and lots of Hell's Angels types lurking about.

But it wasn't that bad. Yeah, it was an official dive, right down to the jukebox, pool tables, and wall art consisting mostly of mirrored beer signs. But it had a decent stage and a pretty big dance floor. It was crowded with mostly salt-of-the earth type of folks, and when a waitress wearing spider-web fishnets and sporting about a dozen visible tattoos brought me a pitcher of beer for less than four bucks and dropped off two glasses instead of one because one person isn't allowed to have a pitcher all to themself wink-wink, I figured I was onto someplace special.

But once the band started playing, the joint turned from a smokey pool-hall into a white-trash ultralounge with everybody dancing and having a great time (but crime-scene tape instead of a velvet rope). All it took was a few chords of Jesus Just Left Chicago or Can't Get Enough of Your Love and the house was rockin'--don't bother knockin'. The reason that bands liked to play there, besides the free beer, was that the audience truly appreciated the live classic rock--it was probably the funnest room in the entire county to work. As a musician, it didn't matter how many times you might've played Mustang Sally in the past, because when you played it at Jake's, they just went nuts.

And the bar was populated with it's fair share of surreal characters. The prison was in the next town over, Florence, so more than a few newly-minted Free Birds stopped by on weekends to enjoy their first beer in 3-to-5 years. And just a couple of blocks away was Apache Junction's only strip club, the Desert Flame, so several of the 'entertainers' would come down during their breaks and dance for free while trying to drum up some additional business.

But the owners were truly one of a kind. Their names were Margo and Beaver. Margo must've been on the far side of 50, and Beaver ten years beyond that. But they were an old biker couple that everyone loved. Beaver was a little thin on top, but had a grey ZZ-Top beard that covered his belt buckle. And Margo was a trip too. She'd always wear leather shorts and a black leather vest every weekend, along with her biker boots, but what made her stand out was the fact that she was all of 5-ft tall, but her hair was a good four feet long--big curly blonde poofed-up Lady Godiva locks that must've added 30 lbs to her body weight. I always wanted to get a picture of them together to frame and put on my mantle, just so I could tell people that they were my parents. For some reason, I didn't bring any consumer electronics, like a camera, with me whenever I was out there. (Luckily, due to the miracle of Google Image Search, a picture exists for your viewing pleasure).

So I used to go out there a couple times a month to watch the bands play, drink some cheap beer, and watch the human drama unfold before me. And on several occasions I ended up on stage playing guitar with the band, riffing my way through old favorites like Low, Brown Eyed Girl or Cumbersome, which usually qualified me for a few free beers and an occasional proposition from one of the local chicks whose "old man was still locked up"...

But those days are long gone. I've forgotten how to play any Van Morrison, I sold the guitars and my house when the tech bubble burst, and I haven't had a beer at Jake's in over four years.

One of these days I'm gonna get back to Phoenix and spend another evening nursing a pitcher, watching the band, and enjoying the hustlers, fighters, early birds, and all-nighters at Jake's.

Vegas needs a good biker bar like Jake's, because just walking through the front door would put a big smile on my face...


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Unintentional Comedy Channel

Guilty feet have got no rhythm...

Ok, so I've had VH-1 Classic playing in the background most of the afternoon and evening. Normally I would've never known about this station and never watched it, but whenever I accidentally switch off my cable box, the default station it comes back to is #359, VH-1 Classic. So whenever I can't find any other suitable background noise while sitting at the computer, I'll leave the tv there.

Anyhow, since it's Valentine's Day, they've got Anne & Nancy Wilson from Heart hosting dedications all day--reading emails from viewers who want them to play a particular video for 'that special someone'.

It's the typical stuff, lots of ballads and whatnot, but the one that made me damn near spit out my drink laughing was a dedication from one lesbian to her "wonderful girlfriend". Not too shocking in and of itself, but the song she requested was Careless Whisper by Wham. What? Who requests that? The typical guy that I am just assumed that they'd request some Melissa Etheridge or some other headliner from the Lillith Faire. I just can't imagine any couple looking dreamily into each others eyes when they hear the opening notes of that tune and saying Honey, they're playing our song...

Isn't that a song about cheating? However, since the lesbians requested it, it also reminded me of one of the funniest and most tasteless t-shirts I've ever seen, that sadly isn't part of my collection. Yet.

Eatin' ain't Cheatin'

That does it for me. I'm never gonna dance again.


Time For An Upgrade

I've just about had it with my square-headed girlfriend. She's been becoming obsolete since the day I brought her home over four years ago, but now it's really starting to irritate me. Yes friends, I'm talking about my Compaq Presario desktop.

Over the past several months, sometimes I'd follow links from fark.com or NRO to different news videos and almost every time I'll need to download a new plugin. Unfortunately, my system won't support new plugins from the past year or so. And just today and wanted to get on I-mesh to do some more music 'shopping' and I got a popup that wouldn't let me go any further until I upgraded--my current version was no longer supported. Ok, no problemo... Unfortunately, my system can't support the new upgraded version. It was unable to even download it, either. So my only recourse was to completely uninstall the useless program.

Yep, the technology of the past five years has completely outrun my sorry little processor, and now I can't even steal music properly anymore. It's time to get a new machine. I was hoping to wait a few months, because I just didn't need this expense at the moment. Yeah, this current computer is just fine for writing, blogging, and general netsurfing, but doing anything beyond that is like trying to cook eggs in the toaster. It's just not up to the task.

Oh well. If I didn't spend the money on a new computer, I'd probably just piss it away at the tables during March Madness. In other words, No Dice.


Modern Love

I don't want to go out... I want to stay in, get things done.

Finally--a day off! I've been working hard these past few days, and as tempting as it was to leave early last night (it was slow and the opportunity was there, plus it was my 'Friday'), I toughed it out and lasted until 4am. In fact, while everyone around me was standing around on dead games, my table was hopping right up until the bitter end. Luckily I managed to bring in my fair share of tokes to supplement our meager scrapings from the day (the 'treasure chests' where we dump all the toke boxes looked a little light when I left), so I'm hoping we clear at least $125 for the night.

My new shoes arrived yesterday from the UPS gal, so I decided to break them in last night, hoping for another shift in 'Chinatown' where I wouldn't be on my feet the entire night. Nope--no such luck. I wore the new shoes to work, but as soon as I got there I found out that I was on one my least favorite strings--all blackjack; single deck 6:5, a 6-deck shoe, and single deck Super Fun 21. That meant I'd be standing all night, plus walking The Beige Mile every hour. I was afraid my feet were gonna be killing me by midnite. But it wasn't bad at all. In fact, my feet hurt less when I got home this morning than they normally do after a long shift in my old comfy Reeboks. The Reeboks are great shoes, they just weren't made for walking and standing all day long. So the Propets seem like a good purchase so far.

The other day, I also got a new CD in the mail. One of my favorite readers, Fighter Pilot Nick, burned me a copy of a show that Frank Sinatra did at the Sands with Count Basie and his orchestra back in the old glory days of the Rat Pack. I've been listening to it quite a bit over the past few days, and it's a great throwback to Vegas's martini days. It was especially interesting to hear Frank talk about how they were planning on renovating the hotel and expanding the Copa Room. Makes me feel like I was born too late.

Tonight is Valentines day, but since I'm flying solo this time around, I've got no plans. Andrea mentioned going out and doing something tonight, but she's got one of her friends from home in town for a few days and I don't really want to intrude on their buffoonery. Besides, we'd never get a seat in any good restaurant tonight, anyways. So I think I'm going to just kick it here at the house and putter around a little bit. I've also got a couple of ideas for 'bigger' topics that I want to post here in the upcoming weeks, but they will likely take several days to write, so I might get started on that tonight, too.

Tomorrow I have to go down to the Cox Cable office and return a couple of old cable boxes from when I lived in the 'condemned' house before moving into my present fancy digs. They were supposed to come and pick them up, but that never happened, even after they billed me $30 for doing it, so I've been carrying them around in the trunk of my car for the past three months. And just the other day I got a letter from a collection agency saying I owed Cox $900 for cable boxes. Nice. Should be a fun morning straightening out that mess.

After that I'm gonna go to the DMV and make myself an official Resident of the State of Nevada--yes, I'm still sporting the Tennessee driver's license, which doesn't do me much good. Normally it wouldn't be a problem, but eventually I want to trade in my old GI .45 for a Mil-Spec 1911 with better sights, (I can't hit a barn door with this one) and you can't legally buy a handgun in this state without a Nevada ID. Once that errand is taken care of, I'm going to follow the advice of some of my more 'nagging' readers (you know who you are) and get a library card. The Henderson Public Library is pretty close by, and it's cheaper than Amazon.

Other than that, there's not much new in the World of Mikey. I'm just working hard, looking forward to March Madness when dozens of my favorite readers descend upon Vegas for several days of gambling and debauchery. I did, however, get an email last night telling me that one of my all-time favorite girls might be making the trek out after all, which is good news, since these past few months I was afraid she wasn't going to make it. A good time just got even better!


Sunday, February 12, 2006

Not Very Fond of Chris, Either

I have raved about the wonders of Tivo on many occasions in the past, especially since I'm working during 'prime time' and would miss most of the shows I'm interested in seeing. At the beginning of this latest season of TV shows, there was quite a buzz about Chris Rock's latest project, Everybody Hates Chris.

I've been a fan of him since his early crackhead days in New Jack City, so I had high hopes for this show. Unfortunately, I've seen five or six episodes so far and I've yet to have a laugh-out-loud moment. It's mildly entertaining--very mildly. It seems that he's taking his R-rated stage material and watering it down and trying to turn it into family entertainment. Eddie Murphy has successfully made the jump from foul-mouth comedian into G-rated entertainer and found much success at it, but I'm afraid Chris Rock isn't up to the task just yet.

I've watched the show with an open mind, waiting for the big laugh each week, but it never comes. And even though I can fast-forward through the commercials, it still feels like I've wasted 22 minutes of my life each time I watch it. As much as I wish it were so, it's just not very funny.

Sorry Chris--I won't be recording or watching the tv show anymore, but I'm all over your HBO specials and stand-up tours-- and of course who doesn't love your musical ode to the strip club experience in Can A Nigga Get A Table Dance?

There may not be any sex in the Champagne Room, but at least we can laugh about it.


Oh What A Happy Day!

So I was at my usual Saturday night pre-shift meeting last night, and our new casino director announced that all of the game layouts in the Pai-Gow pit ('Chinatown' in dealer parlance) are getting re-covered with purple felt over the course of the next few weeks. Oh, and by the way, we started re-covering other tables last night, starting with Craps #4.

Craps #4 is everyone's least favorite table in the casino. It was that miserable dollar dice game with quarters that attracted every flea in a twenty-mile radius. It was the worst table in all of Vegas to have to deal on--everybody hated it.

Give me $6.75 across, young feller, and get the hell off my lawn!

So the natural follow-up question to that announcement was So... did we change it to a real dice game?

And when the new bossman said that he looked at the numbers and we weren't making enough money to justify a dollar dice game, a huge cheer went up in the meeting room, followed by several minutes of thunderous applause. Yep, the quarter game is no more!!! You talk about some happy dice dealers, you should've seen us last night. Even the boxmen were walking around high-fiving each other.

Unfortunately, the only bummer of it was that I was dealing blackjack, so I wasn't in the dice pit to see the looks on the faces of the old regulars who line up every weekend waiting for the quarter game to open, when they saw that the table was now a regular $5 game. It would've been priceless.

But after about four or five hours of blackjack, they closed down my tables and went ahead and moved me to dice for the rest of the night. I thought I'd lost my touch, having not dealt it in over a month, but I only fumbled around for a few minutes before I remembered what I was doing. But dice is just like sex--sometimes it lasts a long time, sometimes it's over much too quickly, but once you learn how, you're not likely to forget.

And oh yeah, you always want to hit the back wall, too.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

I Saw the Governor Nekkid

Not only are the Pittsburgh Steelers the hottest thing in the sports world, but it turns out that Lynn Swann is running for Governor of Pennsylvania.

But I've met Lynn Swann in the past--and he's a genuinely nice guy. Back in the late nineties, I was living with some friends in their spare room up in North Phoenix for a couple of weeks while waiting to move into my new apartment. Anyhow, my buddy had a part-time job as the 'towel boy' at the spa at the Scottsdale Princess--one of them uppity resorts where folks like me are looked upon with disdain...

Anyhow, he was working one weekend, and I was just miserably sick with the flu. I barely had the strength to get out of bed, but my buddy (his name was Mike, also) told me to come up to the spa on Sunday night and he'd let me in to use the facilities, that maybe it would help me feel better. So I drove up there and he snuck me in.

Let me tell you, the spa facilities at the Princess are top notch, not only do they offer the usual amenities, the thing that I liked the most at that time was the Eucalyptus steam shower. They also had individual neck-deep jacuzzis, which I took full advantage of. After an hour in the jacuzzi, I made my way to the steam room.

It was around 10pm on a Sunday night when I went in there, and there was only one other patron present. I recognized him immediately as Lynn Swann. He was in town that weekend either calling an ASU game or doing something for the Cardinals and the NFL, but he was staying there at the Princess. Anyhow, I said hello and sat down on my bench enjoying the rejuvinative powers of the steam.

Before long, we started chatting about football. There I was, wearing nothing but a towel, sitting in a steam room talking about the Super Bowl with Lynn Swann (I'm a Rams fan, so I had to tell him about the daily ass-kickings I suffered in junior high because I was the only one not rooting for Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XIV) Sidebar--my buddy Eddie B was actually at the game, too.

It was a pretty cool moment, except for that part when he got up to adjust the steam and his towel fell off. Otherwise, he was very gracious and easy to talk to, and we sat in there for over a half an hour before it just got too hot to be comfortable. He headed off to the locker room, while I headed back for more eucalyptus treatment.

After that conversation, I became more of a fan of Lynn Swann and the Steelers (and it had nothing to do with the brief nudity, you sickos). So I wish him the best of luck in his political endeavors, as long as he keeps his towel cinched up.


Quote of the Day

I just spent the past fifteen minutes laughing my ass off courtesy of fellow blogger Patrick Hughes. If only I could write so well...

"You see, Billy? Keep yourself parked in front of the Xbox instead of going outside once in a while for a football game and you’ll eventually end up on the other side of this rope with Baron von Clownypants and his band of half-assed D'artagnans, instead of out here where the pussy is."

His 'Christmas with the family' posts are pretty spectacular, too.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Oops...Almost Forgot

That $206 dinner bill at Andre's was after the $25 was taken off from our restaurant.com certificate. So dinner was actually priced at about $230 for the two of us, not including a generous tip. I don't know what Dave & Mary paid, but I know their tab was somewhat less, due to not ordering any wine or dessert.


Continuing Education

Back in the old days at the brokerage, an email from the Compliance department was usually met with unease--they were the Internal Affairs of the stock trading world, the Eye in the Sky, the people who's radar screen you didn't want to be on. Fortunately, I never had an ethics problem so my annual email from Compliance was just a friendly reminder that I had to spend a day offsite doing more NASD Continuing Education.

It was generally regarded as a pain in the ass because I'd have to drive way out to the west side of town and site at a computer terminal all day reading rules and scenarios. After each section I had to take a test over what I just read. Unfortunately, I couldn't tell you one thing I learned from being continually 'educated', but at least I was meeting my regulatory obligations.

On the plus side, we were given the entire day to do it, but I was blessed with the ability to read and comprehend at lightning speed (Case in point: You're given six hours to take your Series 7 exam. I finished with flying colors in an hour and ten minutes... toot toot goes the Mikey horn). So that meant I'd finish up in about an hour and spend the rest of the day getting paid for lounging around by the pool and drinking beer waiting for my buddies to get off work. (Wasn't I saying something about ethics just a minute ago?)

Anyhow, the point is, nobody in the brokerage world likes the whole 'Continuing Ed' thing. It's a mild annoyance that one deals with for the privilege of manipulating hundreds of thousands of dollars of Other People's Money every day.

Now that I work in a casino and only manipulate tens of thousands of dollars of Other People's Money each day, the rules are much simpler. Yes, I still had to go through the ten-year history and rectal exam from the NGC, but now that I'm in the club, I'm In The Club.

Sidebar: VH1 Classic is playing in the background. Shirley Manson from Garbage is totally hot. Makes it hard to concentrate. She goes on the laminated list...

Anyhow, basically all I have to worry about now is protecting the game, following procedures, and dealing for the benefit of the player, the floor, and surveillance all at the same time. It was intimidating at first, but green and black chips no longer make me nervous, nor does the thought of taking 25K off of somebody that should know better. Dealing to a banana-chip player makes me stand up a little straighter and be a little more cautious, but in the end, most folks playing with thousand-dollar checques treat them the same way you or I would treat a $25 greeney. Nice to have, and we certainly don't want to leave them laying around, but it's probably gonna sting a little if we lose them.

So now that I've been dealing for almost a year, I feel like I've learned about 90% of everything I'll need to know to be a casino dealer, short of picking up new games. Yes, there's always something new to learn, and there are always surprises lurking on the horizon, and there are always better dealers out there I can pick up new techniques from, but overall I've pretty much got this shiat down pat. (That being said, I really need to work on my dice game--I was never that strong in the first place, but I'm gradually losing it by not getting much table time anymore).

I guess the point is that my brain needs more stimulus. Writing helps, as does reading, but like I said, I read so fast that I feel like I get short-changed whenever I buy a book--kind of like I don't get enough value out of it because the experience didn't last as long as I would've liked. So I've been looking for other stuff to help me keep the synapses firing.

A couple of weeks ago a piece of junk mail arrived that has me intrigued. It was from the UNLV Educational Outreach program, offering all kinds of interesting adult-education classes. Unfortunately, I missed the deadline of most of them, and scheduling conflicts keep me from others. However, there were plenty of classes to choose from that piqued my interest:

MS Powerpoint/Publisher
Digital Photography
Conversational Spanish and French
Travel Writing
17 Ways to Make a Living as a Writer

There were some other really good ones that I was quite bummed to miss out on:

Exploring Chardonnay
Taste of Wine I & II
Intro to Beer (Although we'd been formally introduced years ago...)
Cooking Basics: Shellfish & Seafood
Cooking Basics: Sauces & Vinaigrettes
Gourmet Breakfasts & Lunches

However, there was one class that had 'Mikey' written all over it:

Writing Las Vegas & Nevada

The description was as follows:

This two-session workshop is for feature writers and authors who want to tap into the ever more fertile mystique and magnetism of Las Vegas that attracts millions of visitors annually, as well as stirring the imaginations of millions more readers across the country and around the world.

We will review the potential genre and discuss a spectrum of Las Vegas and Nevada topics from working out cliches that need to be avoided, to evergreen angles that just keep on giving, to the new and different emerging in this no-holds-barred, post-modern city of the 21st Century.

Following a first evening of exploration, you will have the opportunity to try your own hand at scribing yet another perspective of Las Vegas or Nevada with a personal writing assignment. You will file your story with the instructor "on deadline" for review and critique and in session two hear more from A. D. Hopkins, special projects editor for the Las Vegas Review Journal, as well as other veterans of the magazine wars.

Had it not been meeting on Thursday nights, the check would've already been in the mail. But that's ok, there's always the summer term.