Thursday, March 30, 2006

Quote of the Day

Another gem from the sick and twisted Patrick Hughes:

Kids, if you’re reading this and not sure what a VCR is, all you need to know is it was a magical box we used to look at cooters back in the 1980s, years before the Internet became such an efficient medium for delivering your pornography.

The context of that post is that he's talking about earning money from babysitting, in his own unique way, but when he mentions bees and mowing lawns it reminded me of a rather unfortunate incident from my past.

Back in the day when we lived out in the sticks about 20 miles outside of downtown Nashville, our house sat on about five acres of out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere wilderness. The lawn was only about an acre and a half, but since my mom ran over a stump with the riding lawnmower, all we had was an old-school push mower for years. So guess who's task it was to cut the grass every time? Yep, it was mine.

An acre and a half is a lot of grass, but it was especially difficult since there were no straight lines, dozens of trees and shrubs, and the backyard steeply sloped off into the oblivion of the deep dark woods that only moonshiners or adventure seeking kids in the days before video games and cable tv would brave.

But since my dad had been a closet hillbilly for most of his life, it was the ideal spot to live. Lots of peace and quiet, no neighbors anywhere close, and plenty of room. And oh yeah, we had plenty of fruit trees, too. Not good fruit trees where you could go pick a fresh apple right off the branch and eat it like in an idyllic farm scene, but stuff like persimmons and nasty shiat like that.

The down side of having a bunch of fruit trees in the back yard is that it attracted a particularly nasty pest--ground dwelling hornets, also known down south as Yellow Jackets. Vengeful little bastards, they are.

Well, one Saturday morning when I was about ten years old, I was out there cutting the grass about halfway down the hill in the backyard and had the bad luck to run over one of their nests. Immediately the whole colony went to Defcon-1 and swarmed me like groupies on a sweaty rock star. I knew immediately that I was in trouble and took off running up the hill screaming Help--Bees! Bees! My dad came out of the house and turned the hose on me but they could swarm and attack much faster than I could run, so by the time I got to the front yard about sixty yards away, I'd been stung about 40 times all over the legs, arms, and torso. Luckily none of them got me on the face or head, but I was screaming and crying like a baby while getting hosed off in the ice-cold water from our limestone well.

Talk about a miserable and painful experience. I spent the rest of the afternoon blubbering away in my underwear while my mom and sisters covered me from head to toe with paste made out of baking soda to help ease the pain. It worked, barely. Luckily our family has strong immunity genes and I didn't have to go to the hospital or anything like that and I made a full recovery. Unfortunately, besides the severe pain, the downside was that they weren't nuclear hornets or anything like that, or I else could've been a superhero today. Some people react so unfavorably to a single bee sting that they have to carry an adrenaline shot kit around with them (I had an old roommate where this was the case) but since that particular brush with mortality, my Kung Fu is too strong for mere insects.

But guess who didn't have to mow the lawn any more that summer? And as a bonus, I had permission to pour gasoline down any hornets nest I could find and light that sucker up. Of course I always lit it and ran like hell, not caring if I set off a forest fire behind our house--those bastards remembered me and tried to get me a few more times before we burned them all out.

We moved away to St. Louis a couple years after that, and last I heard, all the ones that survived the firebombing were living under a bridge somewhere wishing they never messed with me.


PS. Maybe later this weekend I'll post about the other time I was almost killed by the wildlife in our backyard...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Shout Out To My Homeys!

I was taking a break from reading, and decided to go to my site statistics tracker to see who's been lurking around here, and I saw a couple of recent readers from Wentzville and New Melle, Missouri logging on here earlier.

Whoever you folks are--Hey! That's sorta my old 'neighborhood'.

I went to high school at the original Francis Howell, back in the day when it was a surplus military base and it had the old water tower. I hear it's gone now, and I haven't been back in St. Charles since about 1994, but I'm glad to see that I have a couple of 'homeys' reading this blog. If they are children of the 80's, I'm guessing we probably know a few of the same people.


We Don't Need No Education

I spent another enjoyable day at poker dealing school, although it had it's exasperating moments. First of all, after just two days, I seem to be miles ahead of the three other students I'm grouped with, so my instructor is having me move on to join the next group tomorrow morning. For awhile this afternoon it was just like being back in some of my college classes--I felt like I was wasting my time waiting for the remedials to catch up so that I could actually learn something. Yeah, while watching them I'll pick up a nugget or two of good information, but those illuminating moments can sometimes be few and far between. Part of the problem is that the people I was grouped with don't have any kind of poker background at all. Playing a simulated game with them is like playing Monopoly with a bunch of three year olds--I'm trying to become a real estate tycoon and they're all fighting over who gets to be the race car.

Ok, maybe it's not that bad, but trust me, I've had some frustrating moments. Of course the instructors are all diplomatic and say that everyone needs to learn and such, which is cool, but I paid my $800 tuition and I don't feel like sitting there wasting my time while the same people have to be told to wait their turn to bet, and even how to bet, over and over again. Time is money, people! I want to get in, get out, and get paid. I don't want to sit there and hear stories about everyone elses casino experiences all day long. Ok, enough venting... But at times like this I can't help but remember my friend Hoya's Greatest Quote Ever Uttered: It's not that I'm conceited, I really am better than those people...

I just learn faster, that's all, and ever since elementary school I've gotten bored easily once I've grasped something and I need to move on to the next challenge, usually before most everyone else. Also, everyone seems to agree that we spend waaaaaaay too much time on 7-Card Stud. It's one of the instructors favorite games, so a good portion of the day is spent on it. But everyone seems to agree that once we get out, we'll never deal it except on very rare occasions. I've been going to poker rooms in Vegas for years, and I never see it offered. And if it is, there's just one table. There's a lot more Omaha and now the trend seems to be with all of the variations of lowball games, outside of the 99.9% of the tables that are Texas Holdem.

On a more positive note, Brad, the reader who I mentioned yesterday, just got an offer to start at the new poker room at Treasure Island which opens in a couple of weeks. That should be a great job, and I'm hoping maybe he could 'juice me in' over there too. I think I'll be able to find a pretty good job at a major poker room pretty easily. The instructors I have are well-connected and the recent products from the school are all getting good jobs--hell, ten guys who just finished school got offers from Treasure Island. Last spring when I was there, they were sending people to audition at the Poker Palace or Jokers Wild. So I think my timing, if not optimal, is pretty darn good.

So tonight I'm going to spend the evening reading my dealers handbook from cover to cover and preparing myself for the challenges of tomorrow. And I've decided that no matter how tired I am after working all night, I'm gonna stick with it and make it to class every day for the next month at least--hopefully it won't take a full two months to be ready to audition for a good job.


PS. I took a few pictures at school today, and I'll post them, but I want to get a few more taken before I do.

As If I Didn't Feel Old Already

I just realized that two of the Greatest Albums of All Time both turn 20 next year. Holy Shit, I'm getting old. Was it really that long ago?

1987 was a pretty damn good year, as far as music is concerned. That was also the year INXS released their uber-album Kick. I was living in San Diego back then, and spent most of my time driving a tire delivery truck all over the county listening to 91-X and all of the best new stuff like REM, The Hoodoo Gurus, The Beat Farmers, Oingo Boingo, The Cure, The Smiths, and New Order. That year pretty much set my musical tastes in stone.

Because of that, I can't think of any single album that's come out since then with as much excellent music, except for maybe the Gin Blossoms New Miserable Experience. But that one is pushing 15 years old, too. Has there been anything put out in the past ten years that's got any kind of staying power, not to mention at least six good tracks on the album? I'm wracking my brain and can't think of anything.

Hell, even Kid Rock's best effort is already ten years old.


Out Like a Lamb

Damn, this weather here sucks lately. Today, again, was cool, windy, and rainy, just like Seattle or Nashville or someplace dreary like that. Luckily it wasn't as cold as last week when all the out-of-towners who came here seeking warm weather were sorely disappointed.

I'm more than ready for springtime and sunshine. I've been living in the desert for the better part of my adult life and need the heat. I need to get a little bit of a tan working too, because I don't see much sun as it is, and running around on my day off under gray skies doesn't help at all. And I've got this huge pool in my backyard that I've yet to utilize, having moved here in October. Seems like a waste to not be able to kick it back there on my day off, sipping a Mexican beer or a rum drink, catching some rays, reading a sailing magazine, and fueling my escapism for a few hours.

I think the crummy weather has affected my outlook this week, too. I've been in a pissy mood for the past several days, and rain doesn't help. Like Pauly Walnuts, I took a ~figurative~ kick in the nuts this past week that's taken me a few days to recover from. All is well, but I realized that I can like some people too much for my own good even without knowing it. But I'll be fine. Lesson learned. I was going to write a long-winded and eloquent post, but there was no way to say what I wanted to say without sounding like a complete sap or a failed country music songwriter, because it just wasn't that big of a deal, and I didn't want to expend all of that creative energy just to end up sounding like a complete dork.

Besides, I can sound like a complete dork with minimal effort, anyways. Who needs to go to all that trouble?

I'm really looking forward to this weekend--this Friday is the last day of work for about 25 of the dealers at my casino who are transferring to the new Red Rock Station that opens in a couple of weeks, so we're all getting together after work on Friday night for a big farewell party. I'm sure it'll be a memorable event, and now that I've finally completely detoxed from the March Madness festivities, my liver is back in mid-season shape and ready to go again!

Then on Saturday afternoon I have plans to meet up with some of my readers who are coming to town for the weekend, and we're going to have a few drinks and a few more laughs. I'll try and remember to take photographic evidence from both gatherings.

Until then, it's sleepy time--I've got another full day tomorrow!


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Back To The Beginning, Vezzini

First of all, I want to thank everyone who called or emailed today to make sure I was up and out of bed on time to make it to school today. Yep--that alarm woke me from my deep and peaceful slumber, but I rolled out of the sack, took a quick shower and got to school before class started at 11:00.

I hadn't been back down to dealer school in almost a year, (has it really been that long?), and it was certainly a blast from the past walking back in there. It was interesting to see people starting out from scratch, just as green and clumsy as I was not so long ago.

But once I arrived, signed in, and sat down, I met the new instructors. One of the reasons that I never went back to poker school all this time, which I never mentioned in the past, was that the instructor at the time was a complete doofus. A nice guy, to be sure, and an experienced poker dealer, but not somebody who could impart any kind of knowledge on a grand scale. He spent way too much time telling table stories and the TMI details about his farked up life, but very little time actually teaching the basics. I felt, at the time, as if I'd thrown away my $800 tuition.

Luckily today I went back and met two of the instructors that replaced him, and the one I spent most of my day with is the graveyard shift card room manager at the Flamingo. I swear I learned more in four hours today than I did in two entire weeks last spring. It was a definite improvement. Also, Nick--the owner of the school--came out and gave me a warm greeting and a pat on the back, saying that somebody showed him this website--not only was he impressed with my work, but he thanked me for the nice write up. And he pointed at me and told the teachers to 'make sure to take care of this guy'. I think he's got a soft spot for me because he can brag to prospective students that just two months after walking into his door for the first time I landed one of the better dealing jobs in all of Vegas.

So I spent the first hour or so working on changing my blackjack dealing mechanics to poker dealing mechanics and learning to switch back and forth between the two before sitting down and actually practicing dealing a live game. And not that I'll be dealing too much of it, but we worked on the overhand pitch for Seven Card Stud for awhile first. In order to 'graduate', one has to become proficient at Stud, Holdem, and Omaha, and also be able to deal limit, pot limit, and no-limit versions of each, along with mastering the art of tournament dealing. Hopefully I can get most of it under my belt in three weeks or so, maybe a month. At least that's the goal.

This afternoon while sitting with a group of newbies, somebody walked by the table and gave me the Hey Mikey! greeting--somebody I'd never met before. Turns out that it was longtime reader Brad, also known as 'mebedaman' over on the T2V board. We'd exchanged emails several months back, when he was thinking of moving to Vegas and becoming a dealer too and needed some advice. He's been at it for just over a month, so he's almost ready to go out and get himself a real job fairly soon.

Class ended at 4pm, so after that I signed out and hit the road. After a quick stop at the grocery store and a box of pizza rolls for dinner, I was wiped out. I only got about three hours of sleep last night--had to watch Jack Bauer save the world before turning in. But I caught a quick cat-nap this evening instead of sleeping through until midnight and being up all night.

After just one day at school, I can say that I'm glad I went back. I enjoy the learning process, and even though I don't play as much poker as I used to in days past, I think dealing it will be a great part-time gig, and lucrative enough to help me reach several of the goals I've set for myself.

And early in the day I realized that I'm actually further along than some of the folks who've been there taking classes for the last week or two.

Because I... am not left-handed!


Monday, March 27, 2006

Oddball Request

Trying to supplement my meager collection of music less than ten years old, I heard a cool song about a month ago that I need to find.

Not being a fan of hip-hop at all, generally I hate it, but that new Beyonce song that was in the Pink Panther movie is one that I have to have. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the name of it is, and although it's featured in the movie, it's not on the soundtrack. So does anybody out there know the name of the song I'm talking about and what cd I can find it on? (I can no longer download music on my computer--the latest technology has outgrown my capabilities).

I'm trying to get a few things planned for the next Vegas get-together--like having a new Ipod and speaker system, and I'm putting together a collection of good party tunes. But besides that, I'd just really like to have that song handy.

I'd appreciate it if anyone could steer me in the right direction. Thanks!


Good Intentions

I'm pretty pissed off at myself today. I set my alarm to get my ass out of bed at 9:45, which would give me enough time to shower, dress, and eat a bite of breakfast before heading out the door and back down to my alma mater, Nick Kallo's Casino Gaming School.

The reason for this, is because after the poker tournament last weekend at the Plaza, I spent several minutes talking to one of the more personable dealers, along with the tournament director guy. If they're telling the truth, the dealer guy said he's making about $220 per day in tips between his live cash games and all of the tournaments he deals. Damn. That's good scratch. I've been feeling pretty good this week because we've made $200 per night in the pit. Add another Jackson to that and only declare six bucks an hour to the crooks at the IRS, and that's a pretty good livin' for a single guy with no kids.

So I was highly motivated to go back to school for a couple weeks, tighten up my mad poker dealing skillz, and then go try and get me a part-time day job in a poker room somewhere. That was the plan. And since I paid $800 for the school last summer, it's about time I took advantage of it, anyways.

Unfortunately, I set my alarm for 9:45 pm so I didn't wake up until after noon today. I am a dumbass.

I'll try again tomorrow.


Sunday, March 26, 2006

Final Four

LSU, UCLA, George Mason, and Florida. Oh yeah, that's exactly what my bracket looks like. I feel fortunate that at least I got one right--UCLA. That whole UConn-over-Duke in the final game pick seems just about as brilliant as all those times I went long on Lucent.

Go Bruins!


Lying Around On a Sunday Afternoon

Hey Gang!

I finally crawled out of bed after yet another long night at work, and decided to make an update while watching this excellent George Mason/UConn game. I picked UConn to win the whole thing, but since my bracket is so farked up now with no hope of competing for any of the cash prizes, I'm in full-on root-for-the-underdog mode.

Friday night at work was much better than Thursday. I was scheduled in the dice pit, but when I got there, they had about 18 dice dealers scheduled for four tables, so being at the bottom of the list, I got sent back to the blackjack pit for the evening. I spent most of the night there pitching cards until around 1am when they started closing tables and then got to relax for the last three hours of the shift dealing Pai Gow and 3-Card Poker. Since I was on such easygoing games, I made it the entire eight-hour shift, but the other three guys who were on the dice table from hell with me the night before all took early outs, still trying to recover. It was all worth it in the end, as every night this week has been a $200 night for tokes.

I woke up yesterday and had a message or two from my niece Jennifer. Her and her hubby Chad were in town for a quick weekend getaway, so I drove down to Treasure Island to meet them for lunch at Kahunaville. I didn't get the monster Asian chicken salad this time around, instead I opted for the Cuban sandwich which was just fantastic. I couldn't believe how good it was. Still trying to recover the system from last week, I just went with a Coke--no fruity concoctions this time around.

We had a great, although brief, visit, and I even taught Jen how to play a little Pai Gow after lunch. She won $35 bucks in about twenty minutes and took her winnings and ran. Still a bit tired, and not gambing either, I took off after that and got a quick nap in before heading back to the casino.

I wasn't scheduled to deal dice last night, but when I got back to work and checked the roadmap, I didn't have a table, just a note saying "Mikey B to Dice". Rebalancing the universe from the other crappy night, we had the best dice table ever. First of all, we opened the table, instead of tapping out an earlier crew on an already-full game. And none of the regular fleas that we enjoy so much came over to play.

The table started pretty cold, so we didn't have many players for the first couple of hours, which made it nice and relaxing. Finally a gal came over and waved at me, signalling that she'd be joining me in just a minute. The other guys were like "Hey, is that your girlfriend or something?", but although I recognized her, I couldn't immediately place her or remember her name. Then her husband showed up and I remembered--they come in a couple times a month and play at my blackjack table, and are great tippers when they start winning.

Well, since we had no players and the table was cold, our toke box was empty when they showed up. I got them to play at my end of the table, and luckily they started making money. Once they got a few bucks, they set the example for everyone else and started making a lot of dealer bets. Everyone else got with the program and we all started making money. Lots of money.

They ended up sticking around until around 3:15 or so, and we filled the toke box up with green and red checques. And my brotha turned his $60 buy-in into around $700 and change. Even the boxman was impressed, telling me Good job bringing in the Georges! ('George' is old-school dealer slang for 'Big Tipper').

Overall, a pretty good night--we had fun players, a lot of laughs, and made a pile of money in tokes. You can't ask for a better night than that at the dice table.

Before I left this morning, they had tonight's roadmap posted, and I saw that tonight I'm dealing that new World Poker Tour all-in holdem game, Pai Gow, and 3-Card poker. It should be a nice relaxing Sunday night behind the tables for me.


Friday, March 24, 2006

Wiped Out

Good Lord, what a horrible night at work. I was stuck on the worst dice table in the pit for eight looooong hours. Just a bunch of moron players all night long. As one of the other dealers said around 2 am this morning, we were hosting a cocksucker convention on our dice table. And not only that, we were just singing on the stick--nobody would seven out, so we couldn't get rid of any of the idiots until after 3 o'clock this morning. It was a complete workout--I spent so much time bent over the table making payouts that my calfs are sore. It felt like I spent eight hours in the gym, with the extra bonus being surrounded by complete jerkoffs the entire time.

I remember several hours into our evening, the shooter had rolled 4 as the point. He kept rolling numbers and all of the annoying prop bettors kept getting paid off, so the stickman looked at me and said At this point, the only four I wanna see is the one with 'a.m.' after it...

The only bright spot is that I think we made big money last night--I dropped several dealer bets that paid off for over a hundred bucks each time, and the other pit dealers said we made some good money--the tokes have been good this week. At least it's over, but I'm on dice again tonight. Hopefully the drunks and jackasses from last night will take the evening off.

When I finally got tapped out for the last time, I dragged myself to the parking garage and made my way directly to bed--too tired to even stop at the fridge and get a bottle of juice I was craving. I may have been running a bit of a sleep deficit anyways, after all of the buffoonery of last week, so after last night's workout I slept for nine hours straight.

However, once I got home and went to bed, I turned the TV on to Sportscenter to catch the highlights from the basketball game, and I saw the score from the women's team at Chico State go crawling across the bottom of the screen. And I thought to myself--Gee, I haven't heard from Stephanie or Emily in like three weeks (Emily is a Chico State grad, so that's what reminded me), figuring that they found some new boys to hang out with.

And I swear not thirty seconds later my cell phone was ringing, and it was Stephanie. How's that for a coincidence??? She was driving home and wanted to know what I was doing--apparently she was up for some late-night silliness. She could tell however, that I was wiped out, and she was already close to home (we live in different directions from the casino), so instead of going to get some breakfast or whatnot, we decided to do it another time. Turns out that she got a new job that's been keeping her busy lately, too. She now works at Pure nightclub at Caesars, so she doesn't get out of work until the wee hours, either.

I'm supposed to call her tonight, and hopefully next weekend we can get together. Just the way our schedules are right now, it looks like late Sunday nights are going to be our only chances to hang out. But it was great to hear from her again--and I fell asleep in a much better mood.

But I'm awake now, and I've got about five hours until I have to be back at the table. Hopefully tonight's shift is an improvement over last night.


PS. Duke sucks. Adding to an already wonderful night, they lost last night and killed my bracket. Dirtbags.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Green Stuff & Empty Pockets

I think I've finally fully recovered from my 'Vegas trip' this past week. I'm working tonight--the start of a full week, so I had to make sure I caught up on all my rest. So today I'm doing all of the housecleaning and laundry and such.

Laundry was the first priority, as I had a pile of dirty clothes climbing about four feet up the wall in my room. So I sorted it all out and started washing it, and I had a mini memory blast while doing so. First of all, just checking the pockets (wait--where's my wallet???), I found several crumpled up singles, folded up cigar bands, and various poker chips from places we visited--each one has a story, unfortunately, most of them being the sole-survivor type of tale.

And while sorting dirty laundry is usually a hold-your-nose affair, a whiff of some of the shirts I was wearing still carry the combination of smoke and the various perfumes from the women in our group, so I know it must've been a good time. Even the front of my grey sweater from last Wednesday night's visit to Mon Ami Gabi still smelled like French onion soup (don't ask...).

But the thing that gave me the most pause was the white oxford shirt I was wearing over my green t-shirt during Angy's St. Paddy's party. Wearing the green feather boa around all night, the colors bled all over the shoulders and collar, so just sitting on the edge of my bed sorting laundry and seeing my green and white dress shirt immediately took me back to Angy's balcony, the Carnival Court, a middle-of-the-night breakfast downtown, and all of the laughter and good times that were involved.

It was a great week, and I'm sad that it's over, but today I got a little sensory reminder of just how much fun March Madness week in Vegas really is.

But it's back to the real world tonight, and I've got to build up the reserves, but now that I've had a bowl of Wheaties and three days worth of power naps, I'm ready to do it again!


Toys In the Attic

Ok, so I was digging deep into the hard-drive of this five year-old computer, opening old files and deleting crap that I no longer had any use for, trying to squeeze a little more speed out of the old girl.

And I found an old notepad entry that I have no idea where it came from. Check out this gem:
According to my bowling ball, my name is Lloyd. Also according to my bowling ball, I have a fucking huge thumb...
I can't take credit for writing that piece of literary genius, and I'm somewhat ashamed that it spoke to me enough that I saved it. But there you go, a glimpse into the not-quite-perfectly-round marbles rolling around in my brain.


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sifting Through the Wreckage

It's tough to remember where I left off as far as tales of last weeks buffoonery, but some some incriminating photos found on my digital camera are helping me put the pieces together.

Lets see, last thing I wrote about was staying at work all night on Thursday when the Mix crowd decided to go back downtown instead of coming out to my casino to play at my table. Well, I got several hours of sleep, which as it turned out was a Good Thing.

I crawled out of bed around 10 am, showered, packed a bag, and headed out to do my errands. The first stop was at the bank where the plan was to take out a cool grand for the weekend's activities. Once inside, I realized I still had $175 in my wallet left over from earlier in the week that somehow I forgot about. So I just cashed a check for $825, asking the nice gal at the counter for the last fifteen bucks in singles. She gave me a knowing look along with a stack of gubmint-issue greenery, and I was out the door.

First stop, Walgreens on Maryland Pkwy and Flaming-O to pick up the last of the essentials for Angy's party later that night. I got a small cart and filled it with more soft drinks, chips, and about 30 lbs. of ice. With surprising foresight, I also picked up an extra-large Foster's-sized can of some energy drink I'd never heard of before, but it touted that it had no sugar or carbs, so I was willing to give it a shot. I got the stuff loaded and was headed to the IP and Angy's room.

Angy met me downstairs at the valet, and we unloaded the cooler, my luggage, the grocery bags, and a big box full of Mardi Gras beads, plastic drink cups, and Girl Scout cookies, along with the rest of the booze that had been riding in my trunk for the previous two days.

A few minutes later the bellman dropped it all off and we set out preparing for the party. Two cases of beer went on ice, along with vodka and Jaegermeister, while we stocked the fridge and freezer with more vodka and soft drinks.

Once that task was completed, we decided to head downtown and meet up with a couple of my buddies for lunch. Ed W of previous trip report fame had just arrived, along with a couple other guys from his office.

We met up at the entrance to the Triple 7 Brewpub there at Main Street Station and were seated pretty quickly. The conversation hovered around our bracket picks, the upcoming party, and life as a dealer in Vegas. And oh yeah, my bbq bacon cheeseburger was fantastic. Angy was distracted by all of the incoming phone calls and decided to bail out and grab a cab, while I opted to stay with my buddies. I told her I'd be back later before the party got underway.

My phone was pretty much ringing off the hook that day--I had something to the tune of 58 incoming calls by 6pm on Friday, but I ignored most of them and embraced the madness.

After lunch, we decided to do a little gambling, and I won $13 at the Pai Gow table before we decided to head over to the Plaza. As soon as we got there, I saw the rest of my gang on their best behavior at the poker table. Well, as best as they could manage--I saw Doc Al, Cyndi, Terry, Jer, Larry, and a few others treating the seats at the green felt as their own personal open-mike night, much to the chagrin of the oldsters who had the bad sense to join them. I believe the saddest thing I heard all weekend was one of them complaining that they were having too much fun at the poker table, and they should stop because he needed this money. I believe the unanimous response was something along the lines of then get the hell out of the casino, dipshit.

At some point, I was introduced to Carmen, who is more commonly known by her nickname Sticky Fingers. Not knowing at the time how she got that name, I kept one hand on my wallet for the rest of the afternoon. Ed and I hit the blackjack table, with Sticky in tow, and I managed to double up my buy-in and cash out for something just north of $200 after just 20 minutes or so.

By that time the poker game broke up and everyone disappeared. Ed wanted to go over to the Nugget and hook up with his buddies, so Sticky and I decided to head back down to the Strip and meet up with Angy.

A half hour later we were kicking back in her luxurious penthouse suite at the Imperial Palace, and I decided that it was time to make a few drinks. One of my favorite party cocktails is called a Spicy Beaver, which is Goldschlager, Captain Morgan, and Coke over ice. I made the first three for Angy, Sticky, and myself while we laughed it up and waited for the party to get underway.

Since it was almost 6 pm by that time, we called room service to bring up some more party favors. We ordered a tray of fruit, cheese, and crackers, three or four trays of hot wings, four buckets of ice and an OJ knife. Luckily lots of folks started showing up immediately and the party was on! I kept busy making Spicy Beavers for everyone, while Terry was armed with a load of shot glasses and an industrial-sized bottle of Patron tequila. By seven pm, there must've been about 25 or 30 people packed into Angy's suite, and making the evening complete, my favorite Vegas girl Andrea showed up ready to rage with us.

Since it was St Paddy's day, there were lots of party favors if not green beer. I was victimized by Angy and forced to play dress up.

This is your humble host, starring in Green Man Group

The feather boa is always a hit with the ladies, but I felt that the green wig made me look a little too much like that dude in the Princess Bride who said Nobody survives The Machine! It also made my head sweat, so the wig never left the party. Unfortunately, that picture of me is now featured on a dozen cellphones scattered across the country. Senator Reid's re-election is safe once again... But as good as I looked in that wig, I think Andrea looked a little bit better:

The party raged for several hours, lots of shots were drunk, stories told, photos taken, and a few derailments happened along the way. I can't remember having a better time.

I love hanging oot with those friendly Canadians

Of course, nothing says 'good time' like sitting in a hot tub with two hot women, although more water and fewer clothes may have enhanced the experience.

After drinking way too much tequila with Ed and Terry, and way too much Crown with Andrea, we decided to take our buffoonery on the road. Some folks hit another limo ride, others went to the casino, while Andrea and I decided that dancing at Carnival Court would be the place for us. Of course, we were completely drunk, so our dancing skills were much better than normal by that time.

The band was awesome and we were having a great time, and we met some nice girls on the dance floor who liked to practice their mad grinding skillz on me, so I was thoroughly enjoying the vibe. Of course I had to pimp out Andrea to make a few bucks, and she performed like a trooper.

My best-earning girl gets some cab fare for later

We'd obviously been drinking pretty heavily by that point, but Andrea had a brilliant idea. We figured that the law of averages was on our side, so we decided that we'd ask ten random chicks if they'd be interested in a threesome with us that night, figuring that eventually somebody would say yes. Unfortunately, the thought of it was too much to handle coherently, and we forgot to proposition anyone. Although we had fun picking out the ones we would've asked.

Sober as a couple of judges, we are

I vaguely remember heading up to Toby Keith's bar at some point and getting more Jack & Coke for our already-pickled systems, and seeing the aliens constructing another pyramid:

After that we made our way back to the IP and found a bunch of our fellow buffoons lurking about the casino. Angy needed to get a couple of extra room keys made for her friends Cyndy and George, so we waited by the slot machines while she did that. Cyndy, being complete blonde hotness, was at a poker table taking money off of all the poor schmucks who were hitting on her when they should've been paying attention to their cards. I decided to have a little fun, so I got her room key from Angy and strolled into the middle of the poker room, trailing my green feather boa.

I walked right up to her table, where she was clearly the center of attention, gave her a hug from behind, dropped the key card on the table and announced loud enough for everyone to hear Here's your room key, honey, don't stay out too late. Me and the boys are going to Cheetahs later--you want me to bring us back a redhead or a brunette this time???


Cyndi played it cool, like it was a typical conversation we always have, and apparently this pissed off the dude sitting next to her that was trying much too hard to impress her, and he wouldn't move his chair out of the way to let me pass, even after I asked him twice to scoot up for me. So I just leaned down, pushed him out of the way and whispered You've got no shot, junior before making my way out of the poker room.

After that we decided to go downtown so about six or seven of us got in the cab line. Lucky us, we were behind the girl who decided she needed to puke every three feet. But they wouldn't let her in a taxi, and shortly thereafter we were back at the Plaza wandering around looking for everyone else. We found a group of familiar faces at a poker table, most notably Dougie and Dave (the squid steak guy from that night at Andre's)

While everyone gathered around trying to figure out what to do next, I had to take care of a little drama. At some point, Andrea had picked up a stalker, a married dude no less, who was trying so hard to get into her pants that night that he was starting to creep her out. He kept calling her every five minutes and sending text messages trying to hook up. Finally she'd had enough so I called his ass back and gave him the Get off my Kool-Aid, bitch! speech and he was sufficiently chastened, trying to tell me that he was just looking for the group so that he could hang out with all of us. But I'd read and heard all the messages he sent, so I knew he was full of shiat. However, after that we never had a problem with him again.

We'd had a bit much to drink over the course of the evening, so Andrea wanted to get some food. So about six or seven of us wandered back to the brew pub at Main Street. Unfortunately, this visit absolutely sucked. Poor service, and the breakfast we ordered was about the shittiest I've ever had. First of all, our food didn't arrive until 15 minutes after everyone else's, and they don't butter the toast. They bring out the dry stuff with cold butter pats. Fucking retards. Worst breakfast ever. Although the food sucked, the company was good and we had a lot of laughs, especially Marty doing his Hef impersonation, stumbling around downtown wearing Angy's Imperial Palace bathrobe.

After breakfast, everyone pretty much split up and went their separate ways. Andrea was needing a place to crash that night--her original plan was to stay at the IP with Angy and the girls, but there were four of them and only three beds, so I stepped up and told her she could hang at the Plaza. Besides, my luggage was also up at Angy's room, so I had to go get it anyways.

So we walked back to the cabstand at the Plaza, and it was so windy that Andrea lost three cigarettes before we got there. We finally made it back to the IP, and we had a room key to Angy's penthouse. When we got in, it looked like a tornado, or at least a mild hurricane, had struck. God what a mess. Feeling bad, we left $40 behind with instructions that Angy give it to the housekeeping staff. We then fetched our luggage and headed for the parking garage.

By that time sobriety had set in, so we drove the sled back downtown. Tired of gambling and drinking, we just went back up to the room. We stayed up laughing and talking until almost 5am when Cyndi stumbled in from the poker room and joined us. Just about the time the sun started peaking up over the Fremont Street canopy we turned off the lights and tried to sleep.

You know you've brought your 'A' game when you can talk a girl into the rollaway bed... But nothing happened--no threesomes, and all she got outta me was a foot rub this night. Even so, you've got to respect that come-hither look she teases me with

Unfortunately, I was unable to sleep--my phone started ringing again, and I kept myself busy checking all of the messages from the day before.

I also called Sticky to find out if she was still alive after her derailment at the party the night before--I guess Doc and Angy had to put her to bed at 10:30 the night before and she missed the lion's share of the buffoonery. The lesson here is that there may be such a thing as too much of a good time... Especially when shot glasses are involved.

But she was alive and kicking and told me that she'd be ready to hang out later that day after everyone got up and moving again.

Since I couldn't sleep, I decided to just get up and take a shower and do a little gambling. I told the girls to meet me downstairs so we could go to breakfast, then I headed to the casino, where I made about $150 courtesy of the blackjack tables at the Plaza.

Doc and Dougie met up with us a couple hours later and the five of us piled into the sled and headed south towards our ultimate destination of the Peppermill, but first we dropped off Andrea at her car in the IP garage and she headed home to sleep for the day.

We got to the Peppermill and met up with Eddie B and Chuck, who had arrived in town late the night before. We had to wait a few minutes for a table big enough to support a group our size, but killed the time by diving into a little hair of the dog and partook of such concoctions like bloody marys and kahlua & coffee.

Breakfast was great, and we had a lot of laughs catching up with Eddie. Sadly, Chuck was a bit of a wreck and couldn't do much with his chorizo & eggs except stare at it and sweat. I think he ate tortillas and water for breakfast. Once the bill was tabulated and the waitress was paid, we headed back down to the Plaza for the Official March Madness No Limit Poker Invitational, after making a quick stop at Treasure Island to pick up Sticky.

Once we got there and signed in, the smack talk started in earnest, and I heard myself telling Doc that his $50 buy-in would last longer at the Palomino Club.

While waiting to get started, Eddie B hit a royal flush on video poker for a cool grand, so he suddenly felt much better about his chances, while I lost 11 hands of pai gow in a row, again, witnessed by Doc Al and Big Stogie.

I can't say that I was happy with my tournament table draw either--two married couples comprised four of the nine players, but I was most concerned with not being the first one busted out of the tournament nor being the first one busted out of my table. Luckily I was neither, and had a decent run, making it beyond the first break and all the way to 12th place when my jacks ran into Steve B's aces.

On a positive note, my sister Cyndi, who has never played no-limit poker in her life, busted Andrea's stalker out early and we never saw or heard from him again the rest of the weekend. But I was happy with my showing, busting out Larry the surfing sailor just before getting knocked out myself. And I finished ahead of the two people I take the most shit from at the poker table, Dougie and Doc Al. Oh yeah, and Eddie B made it to the final table, but didn't quite make it into the money.

After getting busted out, the folks that run the poker room set up a private table for those who still wanted to play a little low-limit holdem. So I found myself with the mutants at table nine, buying in for a hundo at a $2-$4 game. Ugh. I suddenly remembered why I hate playing such low limits--big hands never hold up, and my pocket aces cost me about $28 or so instead of earning me anything. As crappy as the game is, I sure had a great time and a lot of laughs, although I didn't rake a single pot. Giving up after losing sixty bucks, Sticky, Chuck, and I decided to hit the dice table. We finally found a hot shooter and I made some money back before moving to the blackjack tables and winning back even more.

The tournament went on for about three hours total, and I was there to witness Rambill knock out Steve B on the final showdown by one card. It was pretty damn cool, and Rambill got a bracelet, a pile of cash, and a mini bottle of tequila fashioned into a Special Olympics style gold medal necklace.

I'd have to say that the poker tournament was one of the funnest things that we did all weekend. Out of 27 entries, I knew 23 or 24 of the people there, and the Plaza poker room did a fantastic job of organizing and hosting it. Everyone agreed that we'd be doing it again next year. Who knows, thirty years from now it could get big enough to have at the Rio...

After all that everyone kind of split up to go gambling or whatnot, but we only had a couple of hours before having to leave for dinner at The Palm, so I figured on relaxing a bit before getting ready to go. I invited Sticky to join us, so her, Cyndi, and I went back up to the room to hang out for a bit before dinner.

I showered, shaved, and got dressed, then confirmed our reservations. Everyone met down at the valet at 6pm and we headed towards Caesars Palace. I'd forgotten about Strip traffic on a weekend, but luckily we made it in time, and although the chumps at the Forum Shops valet stand turned their nose up at the ghetto sled, they parked it anyways. Unfortunately, we were a good mile or so from the restaurant due to the crackhead architect who designed the place.

But we made it, well, most of us did, Eddie and Chuck were MIA, but the rest of us got seated immediately.

Our waiter took drink orders, and Doc Al got the ball rolling by ordering at Sapphire Martini, so the rest of us followed suit. That got the party started, and just about that time Eddie and Chuck showed up.

I had a proper-sized shrimp cocktail for an appetizer, and ordered the veal special for my entree. Basically it was a huge veal shank grill with a wine sauce and covered in mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes, and served with three large grilled shrimp. To say that it was the best piece of veal I've ever eaten would be a vast understatement--it was fantastic! Everyone else raved about their meals, too, except those that had the pasta special--word was that it was just ok. Everything else was excellent--we had creamed spinach, mushroom caps, and grilled onions with garlic as sides, and Eddie picked out a couple of bottles of excellent Pinot for the table.

The meal was excellent, and of course the good company made it even better. I was joined by Sticky, Dougie, Cyndi, Doc Al, George, Marlisha, Eddie B, and Chuck. I can't remember having a better time at dinner--just a great experience all around.

We even ordered dessert--Sticky and I shared the tiramasu, while other desserts found their way to the table, the only other one that stood out was Doc's creme brulee which I mangled with my spoon while trying to get a rasberry, the 'broken glass', and some creme filling all at the same time. It was good--like Doc says--you gotta respect a dessert that calls for plumbing tools during preparation, but I really liked the Tiramasu much better.

The bill wasn't too bad, about a Benjamin apiece after appetizers, salads, entrees, desserts, and wine, and we were happy to pay it. I wouldn't hesistate to go back there again.

After dinner, we found a shortcut through the bowels of Ceasars Palace, past several 'Authorized Personnel Only' doors and about thirty seconds later we were back at the valet.

We met up downtown for a couple of hours of dice at the Fremont, but we couldn't win a damn thing. People started splitting up and heading in different directions, but I didn't feel like going to a club (Andrea's plan for that night) so Sticky and I stuck together, stayed downtown, and played a bunch of those video penny slots that I don't understand, losing about forty or fifty bucks in the process.

We pretty much lost everyone at that point, so we headed back to the Rio where she was staying. Once we got to the room, we decided we wanted some water, so back downstairs we went. Trying to pay, I freaked out a little because my wallet was missing--talk about panic, I had no idea where it could be unless I dropped it in the bathroom upstairs. We hustled back upstairs and breathed a sigh of relief when I found it under the sink in the bathroom. For a minute there I was a little scared.

After that it was smooth sailing however--we drank our water and stayed up until the wee hours talking and laughing and enjoying the strip view.

Around 5:30 am my phone was ringing--it was Cyndy, Angy, Andrea, and George calling from the hooker bar at the Paris. Cyndy had left me like five messages that night and was pissed at me for not hanging out with them, but I figured that all of the girly-girls didn't need me around keeping them from getting all the free drinks they could with all of the guys sniffing around them all night. But she was drunk and started calling me a loser for not hanging out with them so I ended that conversation right there.

I managed to get a little sleep there at the Rio, but got up and took a shower before putting on the same clothes as I had on the night before. Sticky didn't feel like going to brunch, and had to check out by noon anyways, so she opted to stay behind, while I left to pick up the gang back at the Plaza.

Once free from the slowest valet service in all of Vegas, I got to the Plaza by 11:15 or so and Doc, Dougie, and Cyndi were waiting for me out front. They piled in and it was off to the Sterling Brunch at Ballys. Our reservations were at noon, and we got there just in time. Angy arrived a minute or two later, and George and Marlisha showed up shortly after that.

We were seated in a private dining room, and our wait staff filled our three glasses--one with orange juice, one with champagne, and the other with Evian water. Then it was time to hit the buffet.

Oh hell yeah.

There was some excellent offerings available, and I loaded up--a 'robster omret', some smoked salmon, a country benedict, bacon, sausage, pan seared scallops with forest risotto, beef tenderloin, robster craws, a small filet, some sort of pasta salad, sushi, shrimp cocktail, the list goes on and on... It hit it a couple of times before giving up and going for dessert--bananas foster, vanilla bean ice cream, and a miniature carrot cake thingy dipped in honey. Man, it was soooo good.

Dougie and Angy ate enough lobster to make them an endangered species, and the only bad thing we encountered were the sugar-free desserts. Good god they sucked.

Was it worth $65? I don't know about that--they didn't keep the food stations full enough--the dessert area looked wiped out the entire time, and I could never get seconds on the scallops. For that kind of jack, you'd think they'd be johnny-on-the-spot, but it was a small gripe that didn't distract that much from a great brunch experience. Our servers were excellent, and in order to actually finish the glass of champagne you had to tell them to stop filling it up every time you took a drink.

Would I do it again? Probably, but I'd go earlier I think. It was excellent, and overall I'd give it a B+. I'm glad I could finally mark that one off my list.

By that time I was completely exhausted, having not gotten any sleep at all for the previous two nights. So when we finally got back to the Plaza, I went up to the room and crashed for a couple hours of precious sleep.

It felt like five minutes had passes when the alarm started going off. So I shuffled off to my house, took a shower and went to work. Sitting in the break room before hitting my tables for the night, I was staring at a glass of milk and a sprinkly donut. One of the girls I work with asked why I was just staring at my milk, and I told her it was because that was the first thing since like Thursday I'd had without any alcohol in it.

Work was tough, but luckily I was dealing all Pai Gow that night. I signed up to leave early, and around 11 a few familiar faces showed up to play at my table. I kept kicking Steve B's ass (revenge for taking me out of the tournament the day before?), although Cyndi was winning a little bit, and Doc caught a hand or two. Angy was well into the red zone, so she and Patti took off after about 20 minutes or so.

After an hour with them, I got tapped out and cut loose for the evening. We decided to go down to Boulder Station and play a little there for a few hours.

We found a $5 pai gow table and did that for awhile before hitting the dice table. Unfortunately, I couldn't win a damn thing and lost almost $250 before giving up for the night. Around 3am we headed back downtown, and I said my goodbyes to Doc Al. It was Monday morning and people were heading home.

I got an hour of sleep before Cyndi woke me up--she had to be at the airport at 5am. Luckily, the exodus was still a trickle and not yet a deluge, and I was out of the airport and home in my own bed by 5 am. But I had to get up again at 10 and get Angy. I got to her room by 11:30 or so and she was mostly all packed and ready to go, but I had to get the cooler out to the car, and it was full of all the leftover booze from Friday night. We made a serious dent in it, but with all the stuff Angy had, and all the stuff other people brought, I ended up with another ten bottles of liquor in my collection, plus all of the leftover Mardis Gras beads for future trips.

Her flight didn't leave until almost 4pm, so we had time to get some lunch--so back to Metro Pizza we went. Of course we had leftovers, so between the pizza and the booze, we decided to make a side trip back to the house to drop off the goods before heading to the airport. We got everything unloaded and put away, and sadly it was time to say goodbye.

I dropped her off at the skycap desk and the curtain closed on another March Madness. While it was a total blast, I'm still bummed at the end, regardless of how tired I am. I laughed so much that my cheeks hurt for three days straight, I ate some fantastic meals, and I made some memories that will last a lifetime.

Only 51 more weeks until we do it all over again!


Extending the Madness

And here I thought March Madness ended on Monday afternoon once I dropped Angy off at the airport. But once I did that, and made a quick update, I got a quick nap and then went back to work. I managed to make it most of the night, but since it was my 'Friday' night, and the beginning of a brand-new pay period, do you think I stayed the entire eight hours? Nope--I left at 2:00 am, came home, watched the tivo'd episodes of 24 (good) and The Sopranos (completely sucked ass) before crashing hard.

But I forgot that my friends George and Marlisha (of Mon Ami Gabi fame) were still in town, and we made plans to have breakfast at the Peppermill. So instead of getting a good 16 hours of sleep like I was hoping for, I got another 4-hour catnap before heading down to the Strip again.

Breakfast was excellent--I had the eggs Benedict, George has a seafood omelet, and Marlisha had the corned beef hash. But since my girl Krista took the day off to go snowboarding, we skipped the Fireside Lounge. Wanting to relax with some cocktails fine cigars, we decided to drive over to the Hilton instead.

It was a cold, grey, and blustery late winter day, and being a dumbass all I was wearing were a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. Hey, it was sunny when I left the house--I thought the cold weather was finally behind us. Not so. But we made it to the Hilton without getting trapped in a snowbank and left the cars in the capable hands of the valet.

I hadn't been inside the Hilton since last summer, but the improvements just keep happening. They've expanded the buffet entrance and the 'sports' side of the sportsbook, added a poker room, and built the coolest retro lounge ever, called 'Tempo', in the rear part of the casino. We were pretty impressed with the changes.

We wandered a bit, looking for a good place to settle down and smoke, but it looked like our options were limited. Preparing to just have to sit at the bar, we asked the friendly bartender, Richard, what time the lounge opened. Not until 4:00 pm--more than three hours later, but he offered to let us in privately if we just came to him whenever we needed a drink. Score!!! So we entered on the side and found a table hidden from the view of the casino and settled down for some rum drinks, Cuban cigars, and good conversation.

First of all, we were extremely impressed with the excellent service--Richard went above and beyond in making us feel welcome and comfortable, and he spent the rest of the afternoon earning a very generous tip by pouring us premium cocktails whenever the our glasses started to get a little light. And the lounge, even though we had the entire place to ourselves, had an excellent retro vibe that we all anticipate seeing again, next time with a crowd of beautiful people besides ourselves.

I brought a couple of Partagas black labels with me, but George had the travel humidor stocked with some excellent Habanas. The first one I smoked was a Cohiba Siglo VI, a most excellent and flavorful road flare-sized offering smuggled here from Fidel's island gulag. They call it a 'Titanic' cigar, meaning you could light that baby up just as you're loading Titanic into the dvd player, and just about the time old Rose tosses the Heart of the Ocean back in the water, you're taking your final puff. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon. And the smell of Cohibas turn me on almost as much as Dream Angel from Victoria's Secret. In a different way of course, but still rather enjoyable.

Luckily we had no particular place to go, so we got to have seconds on the cigars. The second time around I had a very mellow Bolivar cigar that had some fairly complex flavors, but mellow nonetheless. And since we were sipping Pyrat rum on the rocks at the same time, we were having a Caribbean moment, regardless of how cold it was outside.

While lounging around in our private club, we were treated to another exclusive surprise--it seems that the folks in charge were auditioning new cocktail waitress uniforms, so we had a couple of hotties wandering around in different revealing outfits doing their runway poses. And we were sitting right in the middle of it. Of course I gave every outfit an enthusiastic thumbs up, so I doubt my input is going to carry much weight in the final decision.

Did I mention that it was an enjoyable afternoon?

Sometime during our stay, we decided that next year we're going to make the Hilton our March Madness headquarters. The rooms are excellent--they have some great suites, the sports book is one of the best, their casino has vastly improved since the Park Place days, they've got a great selection of restaurants on the premises, and it's a helluva lot easier to get in and out of than the Imperial Palace, Caesars, Barbary Coast, or even the Mirage. And it's not far from downtown, either. Since Angy said once was enough after hosting a huge party this past weekend, I'll pick up the torch from her and do it next year.

Finally, around 5:00 pm we decided that it was probably time to go. The velvet rope had parted for the masses of conventioneers staying at the hotel, and our exclusive club was starting to get loud. We'd downed an entire bottle of rum that afternoon, smoked cigars for about five hours straight, and laughed ourselves silly rehashing the events of the past week.

We said our goodbyes and headed for the valet. I came home and slept in front of the tv for a few hours before waking up again. Today I have absolutely no plans except to do laundry, do some writing, and upload some more pictures.

Unfortunately, I'm not able to do a whole trip-report style of update mainly because there are a lot of gaps in the weekend--some memories are lost to the fog of alcohol, and some memories are better off not shared in a public forum.

But you'll be happy to know that it was a legendary good time. Just like always.


Monday, March 20, 2006

First I Was Afraid, I Was Petrified...

Whew! Didn't know if I'd make it, but I managed to survive the weekend, barely. I just got back from dropping Angy off at the airport, and since everyone I know either left late last night or sometime today, another March Madness is in the history books.

I had a great time.

I am sooooo exhausted right now--I had a stretch from Friday at noon until 2pm yesterday afternoon--that's 50 hours straight--where I didn't sleep at all. And I have to work tonight, so I'm gonna take a nap for about four hours before heading in, but since I'm off the next two days, I'll start updating late on Tuesday. I've got a few pictures to share, too.


Friday, March 17, 2006

Worst Kidnappers Ever

Nobody except Steve B from DC showed up at Sunset last night, and he didn't even stay that long. I was stuck dealing carnival games until about 1 am, then went to the dice pit. But everyone who didn't show up to play at my table really missed out--I was giving away the monster hands. I dealt another four-of-a-kind at Let It Ride, and a few minutes later I was on Deuces Wild and the first hand I dealt, I gave the guy five Kings. But I was just dumping my rack for the first four hours of my shift.

Once tables started closing down, I moved over to dice. I was having so much fun over there--we had a really fun crowd going, so I decided to stay and work the entire shift. I talked to both Cyndi and Angy at different points during the evening, and Angy went back to her hotel early after the happy hour get-together, but Cyndi said a few folks got together to gamble downtown later on and had some laughs.

Instead of sleeping on that crummy hideabed couch at the Plaza, I decided to just come straight home from work and snooze for a few hours before catching up with everyone tomorrow.

This may be my last post for awhile.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

And So It Begins...

The Madness is officially underway, and I can tell it's going to be epic as everyone was too hung over this morning to get down to the sports book and get any bets placed on the early games. As I write this, Winthrop is only down by a point to Tennessee about midway through the second half of the game, and the spread was -8, so I'm kicking myself for drinking too much last night. Oh well, what can ya do?

After I posted yesterday, I left the house and washed the Ghetto Sled before hitting the airport and picking up Angy.

I have a jar full of quarters and half-dollars acquired from dozens of hours at the pai gow table, so I used a few of them at the local carwash to blast about five pounds of bird shiat off of the sled and give it a clean and shiny look for all of the valet guys that get the ultimate pleasure of parking it this week.

Angy's flight was on time, and I didn't wait long before finding her and her huge-ass over-the-weight-limit suitcase jamming up the chute at the baggage claim carousel. We scooted out of the airport and made our way over to our first stop of the day, Lee's Discount Liquor Warehouse on Sunset. Angy is hosting a party on Friday night in her 'Penthouse Suite' over at the Venereal Palace, and we needed to stock up. So we spent about a half hour in there and loaded up to the tune of almost three Benjamins. But we got some good stuff, and nobody is going to go thirsty tomorrow night.

Behind those two cases of Pacifico, you'll find a case of Red Bull and another of Labatt's Blue, two bottles of Crown Royal, two bottles of vodka, two bottles of rum, and various other goodies that will of course be enjoyed in moderation...

Once we got everything loaded into the trunk of the Sled, it was off to lunch at Metro Pizza on Tropicana. They only serve beer and wine, no liquor at their bar, so we put the Captain on hold for a little while and just had plain old Coke with our large pepperoni & sausage pie. The 'large' was much larger than I remembered--I usually just get the 9-inch individual pizzas--so we had plenty of leftovers which I'm munching on as I write this.

After lunch, we still had plenty of time to kill before having to go back to the airport and pick up my sister Cyndi, whose flight landed at 2pm. So we came back to my house to kick it for an hour or so while we waited. Of course I had a bottle of the Captain Silver on hand, along with some diet Coke, so we fixed ourselves the first cocktail of the Madness while answering all of our text messages and voicemails from everyone either on their way to Vegas, or jealous of those who were already here.

Angy checks her messages while we relax on my balcony that overlooks the Virgin Islands

Before long, it was 2pm and we were on our way back to the airport. Cyndi's flight was delayed about a half hour, but she finally made it down to the baggage claim, but not before we made friends with a local limo driver and got his card--we may be utilizing his services before the weekend is up. But she was good and ready to get her Vegas on, having travelled on three different planes to get here from the eastern Caribbean.

Once we got Cyndi and her luggage loaded up--she had two suitcases, one full of clothes, the other full of duty-free booze from St. Croix--we were on our way to our next stop, the grocery store to get snacks and mixables. With all three of us, the luggage, and all of the booze, the Sled was a low-rider once again. Yet we managed to get another cartful of groceries squeezed in before heading to the Strip.

While I was trying to squeeze more groceries into the trunk there in the Von's parking lot, Angy and Cyndi were playing a lot of grabass with me, making me jump and bump my head on the underside of the trunk lid while they laughed hysterically. I guess a guy driving by in a red Cadillac thought it was pretty funny too because he stopped and rolled down his window. Cyndi turned to him and said "Hey, I bet you didn't expect to see that when you came to the grocery store today".

He replied with "I know that guy--he deals at xxxxxx!" and then he waved and drove off. Then Cyndi and Angy rolled their eyes and asked "Jesus dude, is there anybody in this town who doesn't know you yet???"

But we finally got everything loaded up and squared away and made our way down to the Imperial Palace to drop off Angy and half the junk in my trunk. The bellman about shit when he saw all of the booze we were unloading, so Angy invited him to the party. For some reason, I don't think he's gonna make it. After dropping her off, Cyndi and I headed for downtown to get checked into our luxurious accomodations at the Plaza.

She booked a petite suite, which ended up being on the fourth floor of the north tower, directly behind the Center Stage dome. Still a decent view, but they had a lock on the balcony doors, trying to discourage us from going outside. The room was fairly crummy, smelling of stale cigarettes and showing it's age, but it was good enough for it purpose this week--a place to party and crash.

Cyndi was hosting a small get-together last night, justifying the suitcase full of duty-free booze. So we unloaded everthing and got settled in. She also had small gifts for several folks who were attending, and gave me my stuff first--my own bottle of vanilla rum, a couple of shot glasses, a palm-tree drink stirrer, some bourbon-vanilla cigars, and a skull-and-bones baseball cap that said 'Surrender the Booty'. Arrrgh...makes me want to go a-plunderin'.

Although we were a bit tired and could've easily used a nap, we couldn't stay long. We had to go back and get Angy and then head to dinner at Mon Ami Gabi.

We had reservations at 6:30, and by the time we drove back up to the Strip, got Angy down from her penthouse in the world's slowest elevators, and left the Sled in the capable hands of the Paris' valet, it was 6:25. I stopped to use the men's room, and while I was in there Cyndi put $10 in a slot machine and turned it into $50.

We were seated immediately, but we opted to stay indoors because it was pretty chilly out. Even so, we still had a nice view of the Bellagio fountains. We didn't order appetizers, but the baguettes and onion soup were enough of a starter. Angy had the fish of the day--red snapper, while Cyndi had the filet and I had the NY Steak in a merlot sauce and a glass of that Latour Pinot I like so much. Of course the food was excellent, but even Angy said that as good as it was, it still wasn't as good as our dinner at Ortanique last October--we both agree that that one was the best meal we've ever had in Vegas. But we have absolutely no complaints about Mon Ami Gabi--it's a fantastic meal and the service is some of the best in all of Las Vegas.

As good as the steaks were, I think the highlight of the evening were the Espresso Martinis. They were sooooo good. Cyndi had one, I had two, and Angy had three. Not quite a bargain at $10.50 a pop, but it's an indulgence I'll gladly pay for.

We didn't linger too long--we had plans to meet everyone down at the Keno bar at the Plaza for drinks at 8:30, so we had to scoot. I think dinner for the three of us came to almost exactly $200, and since Cyndi is now The Boss down there at her tough gig in St. Croix, she let the expense account cover it.

We scooted out of there, fetched the Sled and headed north. First of all, we swung by the Mirage and picked up our friend Sin, and the four of us made our way downtown. We strolled into the Keno bar and the party was just getting started. In attendance was Don D. and his lovely bride Jennifer, Keno and his wife Emily, Illinois Marty and sidekick Derek, Patti from Ontario, Kikky, Chef, and a few minutes later my favorite girl Andrea showed up to join us. Don had plenty of drink comp tickets, so the stories and the booze were flowing, along with random buffoonery. And of course no gathering of these freaks would be complete without spontaneous nudity, and some very disturbing photos were taken.

Two of my favorite slices of bread used to make the classic Mikey sandwich

Cyndi and Angy made friends with an old gent a few feet away in the Keno lounge, so they brightened his trip by giving him a free lapdance. We laughed it up there for over an hour before deciding to move the party upstairs to Cyndi's suite.

The Ipod was set to all-party music and plugged into the speakers, we filled up a laundry bag full of ice, and had housekeeping bring up a load of plastic cups. And the party was on. Derek and Chef picked the lock on the balcony door giving us a little more space, and Cyndi put on her bartender hat.

Much laughing, dancing, and drinking ensued for the next several hours. At some point there was a knock at the door and Vegas Jer showed up carrying a duffelbag and the lines for the morning games.

Angy and Emily demonstrate how Brokeback Mountain could've been a commercial success as well as a critical one. Cowgirls instead of cowboys...

Derek and Cyndi mug for the camera. Notice Derek, the longtime March Madness veteran, has learned from long experience to write his room number on the back of his hand, just in case...

I captured the moment we first found out that Blackjack had arrived at the airport. So I made the obligatory announcement--The Monkey Has Landed!

A threesome times two

Andrea shows the proper way to carry an invisible tray full of drinks

After the party wound down, it was decided that we needed to do some gambling, so the whole caravan headed over to the LV Club. I said my goodbyes to Andrea, who had to work early this morning, and joined the crowd across the street. We couldn't find any tables right away, but before too long Angy and I squeezed into their only Pai Gow table, while others found happiness at blackjack or the penny slots.

Angy played one hand before deciding to head back down to the Strip, courtesy of Chef's taxi, so she left me her red chips and the following instructions: Clark, here's two dollars--go win our money back! I played for quite awhile, building up a $90 profit, but then the dealer went on one of those unheard of streaks where they won seven in a row from me, pounding my chip stack into submission. By then, it was around 2:30 in the morning and pretty much everyone had headed back to bed, so I played one last $80 adrenalin hand for Angy. I got a pair of queens with an ace-king up top, feeling pretty good about my chances, but the dealer showed a pair of deuces on top and aces on the bottom, taking me out for good.

I got back to the room and found Derek and Cyndi on her laptop trying to get brackets submitted, so we told stories from our night in the casino while I wrestled with the rollaway bed. It seems that the fancy rollaway beds at the Plaza are about thirty years old, my particular model featuring a tied-up trash bag used to hold it together.

I untied and set the thing up, and hopped on to give it a try. I couldn't stop laughing because it was easily the worst rollaway bed in the history of rollaway beds. The support bars came right through the mattress, which was full of oddball springs pointing in various directions, and it sagged terribly right in the middle.

I got up and told Derek to give it a try, he wouldn't believe how bad it was. He laid down and tried a few positions, and the only thing he said was Holy shit what a crummy bed!

Of course about thirty seconds later, he started snoring so we just left him there. Luckily the loveseat had a pop-out bed in it, which was slightly more comfortable, so I just crashed there while Cyndi turned off all the lights and climbed into the queen sized bed. But we giggled for a few minutes at Derek snoring away on the rollaway.

He finally woke up around 6:30 this morning, stumbled around confused for a few minutes, looked at his hand, and headed out the door and toward his own room. And we laughed at him again. We finally got up sometime after eleven and killed a few bottles of water before we were anything close to functional. I finally gathered a few things and put my clothes on, leaving Cyndi there in bed half awake.

While waiting for the Sled from the valet, I ran into Marty and the boys, heading out to the golf course. I stopped at Walmart on the way home to pick up a cooler for Angy's party tomorrow, then got home to see a huge box sitting on the porch that Angy had shipped me last week. It's full of Girl Scout cookies and Mardi Gras beads, although there were no instructions enclosed.

Somehow, I'll figure it out.

I've got enough time to grab a quick nap this afternoon, but then I have to go to work. Apparently, the whole gang is going to happy hour for drinking and dancing at Mix this evening, but word is that later on they're going to find their way out to the casino and kidnap me after playing a few hands at my table.

If I ever escape my captors, I'll post another full report.


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Slim Pickin's

Well, I finally got my bracket done, but I don't feel very good about it. I didn't pick enough upsets and I have Duke, UCLA, UConn, and Villanova in the Final Four, with UConn winning it all over Duke. I would've liked to have Carolina going further, but I don't think they can get past UConn. I also think that Syracuse shot their wad last week and I have A&M knocking them out in the first round. Besides, I needed a 12-seed upset, and that one seemed perfect.

My first-round upset special, however, is #15 Winthrop knocking #2 Tennessee out. It could happen, and I'm certainly gonna take the points.

But that bracket was for my brother-in-law's pool, and like I said, I'm not too happy with my final picks. I may pick up another bracket at the sports book today and do another one, just to carry around with me so I have something to add when my buddies start talking about the games this week.

Angy's flight arrives in just over an hour, so I've got to go ahead and put some pants on and head for the door. I have to wash the bird shiat off the ghetto sled again and gas the ol' girl up. I was going to rent a Chrysler 300 for the week, but Thrifty jacked up their rates fairly significantly this week, and couldn't guarantee me a 300, but told me I was likely to get one of those Pacifica Minivan/SUV's instead. So I cancelled the rez. I know, I know, the Pacifica is the Cadillac of undersized SUV's, but I didn't think it was worth the money. Besides, the Sled is luxurious enough for the crowd that's hitting town this week...


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Pizza Envy

Here I am sitting at my desk munching on a couple of slices of Red Baron frozen pizza, when guess who calls--my gal Sammi from Brooklyn. She's calling to say hey and tell me how bummed she is to be missing the festivities this week--can't get a babysitter, although JetBlue still has seats available through the weekend. Of course she's jealous that we're all in Vegas without her this week, but once she found out I was chowing on store-bought frozen pizza, she gave me the business.

Brooklyn, if you're not aware, is home to a couple of world-famous places that can honestly make the claim to serving the Best Pizza on Earth, Grimaldi's and Di Fara. Of course, I have been to neither, my only trip to The City was a quick don't-slow-down trek along the Cross-Bronx expressway on my way to Connecticut. So we didn't get to take a side trip to Brooklyn for pizza. Some day, I'll get there. But every time I talk to Sammi, she asks me when I'm coming to Brooklyn for dinner, and every time my mouth starts watering thinking of those perfect NY-style slices.

Long-time readers will remember my complaints about the dearth of good pizza in Nashville. You want grits, fried chicken, or biscuits and gravy? No problem, they've got it in spades. But if you wanted a good pizza, fuggedaboudit--there was none to be had. I tried a couple passable joints in my two years there, but I had nothing that could be considered great pizza.

In Phoenix, there was a fantastic place on Highland Ave. and 20th St. called NYPD pizza, and it was by FAR the best I'd ever had--two slices of 'Brooklyn Family' and I was in heaven--a thin crunchy and chewy crust, topped with pepperoni, sausage, and fresh basil. It was soooo good that sometimes I went back and got a third slice. And some may call me a heretic, but I loved dipping the crusts in ranch dressing, too. Rumor has it that they were one of those places that imported NYC tapwater which they used to make their dough. I don't know if that's true or not, but whatever it was, it was like heroin to this pizza junkie.

Since I've come to Vegas, I've found a couple of decent places--the brew pub at the Monte Carlo makes surprisingly good pies, and of course there is Metro Pizza which has made a few nationwide 'Top 10' lists by people who compile that sort of thing. And Metro is my current favorite--a nine inch pepperoni pizza and a Newcastle draft is my lunch of choice about every two weeks. They have an outlet at Ellis Island, but the slices there don't seem to get the love and attention that the main restaurant on Tropicana provides.

When I first started as a dice dealer at the Golden Gate, a couple of guys on my crew were New Yorkers, and they swore up and down that NY Pizza & Pasta on Jones & Sahara was the best pizza in the city. I've been wanting to try it out, but since it's on the opposite side of town from me, I haven't made the trek yet (We East-siders don't like to cross the Strip if we don't have to). I'm thinking that the next time I go to the man-spa at Whiskers, I'll treat myself to lunch over there since it's in the same neighborhood, and of course post a review.

In the meantime, I'll sit here and dirty my shirt with the droppings from my Red Baron, wishing that I were under the Brooklyn Bridge, gorging myself on some Grimaldi's instead.


PS--That link for Di Fara is to of my new favorite websites. I never before considered the genius of a pizza blog, but there it is, catering to geeks like me!

Bad Guys and Goodfellas

Ok, now that I've got my normal day-off afternoon tv watching done for the afternoon (Jim Rome, Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption), I'm in full-on let-the-Madness-begin mode. Angy called, up to her ears in her last full day of work before making the trek westward, and of course I talked to Steve B from DC on his way to the airport--it looks like we're doing a late dinner at the Peppermill around midnight or so.

I remember those times back in Nashville before I made trips out to Vegas--it was impossible to get any work done, and I was totally bouncing off the walls waiting until that magic moment when I arrived at the airport, finally on my way. There's a lot of that going on this week at various locations around the country, and this week is shaping up to be a harmonic convergence of degenerate drunks and gamblers, all of which I'm proud to say are my people!

Kicking off the festivities here at the Hurricane Hole, I'm about a third of the way through a monster-sized glass of Diet Coke w/Lime and Malibu rum, the cd changer is full of Vegas-y tunes--everything from Elvis and the Rat Pack to Abba, and I'm sorting through my collection of Hawaiian shirts and off-color t-shirts, coordinating my wardrobe for the rest of the week. Rumor has it that there is a green feather boa in my near future, too. St Paddy's day should be a good time, and of course I'm renewing my quest to wake up with a nice redheaded Irish lass the morning after...

Ok, now that I've got the anticipation part out of the way, lets talk about the fellas from New Jersey and the baddest mofo this side of Leroy Brown, Jack Bauer.


First of all, I thought I'd seen every episode of the Sopranos from the previous season, but I had no idea that Janice was pregnant or that her and Bobby had a kid. And frankly, seeing her breastfeeding the munchkin was more disturbing and creepy than that whole scene where the Florida guy hung himself in the basement. It's like the time they promised nudity on NYPD Blue and it was Sipowicz's nasty ass. Ugh.

And I'm glad to see that Adriana made the obligitory dream sequence appearance. I'm hoping that her, Big Pussy, and the other popular rubouts get their own spinoff--The Sopranos, The Afterlife or something like that. Who wouldn't watch that? Of course, they also had the token scene with Dr. Melfi who, besides AJ, is the biggest drag on the show.

The big question, however, is if Tony is going to survive getting capped. I'm sure he will. But my wild-ass guess is that somehow Leotardo put Uncle Junior up to pulling the trigger, now that Johnny Sack is in the can, and Uncle Junior isn't nearly as far around the bend as he's been putting on. But that's just a guess. Who Sunday we might see another funeral and the next 15 episodes deal with the aftermath before they wrap it up for good.

But they've certainly got me interested in seeing the next installment.

As far as our friends at CTU are concerned, I knew beyond the slightest doubt last week when the previews said "Somebody from CTU will make the ultimate sacrifice..." that it would be Rudy. I would've bet the entire paycheck on it. Of course, they had to throw in the innocent security guard family man in with him so that we couldn't feel good about it.

The logic I can't seem to follow is with all the hostility that Kim is harboring towards her dad. What, they needed a soap opera sub-plot also? I can't give you what you want... Who says that to their dad? Good grief, talk about sappy.

And last night's episode jumped from sublime to ridiculous when Robocop awoke from his coma and stabbed Tony in the gut with the torture juice. What the hell? It was Michael Myers-like resurrection right there in the medical unit. And suddenly the invincible Agent Almeida folds like a cheap suit? By the way, doesn't the Robocop villain guy look a little too much like Red from That 70s Show?

And now that we have the Homeland Security gang taking over operations, we've got more of that turf-war intrigue coming that the writers seem to love, making a modern-day badass superhero like Jack Bauer have to fight not only the bad guys, but the bureaucracy hacks, also.

Clint Eastwood and John Wayne never had to answer to Division.