Thursday, August 31, 2006


In the past, I've written about restaurants I'd like to try, and yeah Dave, I'll update that restaurant wish list one of these days, but I'm just not feeling it right now. As much as I love to eat at good spots in this city full of good spots, I just haven't been feeling in a 'foodie' mood lately. But my little Escape from LV last week just whetted my appetite for even more getaways.

I don't get my full two weeks of official vacation until next May, but I've got a few days here and there where I can schedule some time away from the casino.

Some friends are hitting town in early November, so I may take some time then, but that's not really a getaway. I also need to get back to Phoenix again before the holidays, but that'll only cost me one day.

So I guess I need to actually write down what I want to do and where I want to go over the course of the next year or so.

Normally, about this time of year I'm on a cruise, and I'm especially bummed right now because two of my sisters are going on cruises next week, and it seems like my sister Nancy is on a cruise every other month, too. I can't rave enough about what a fun experience a cruise vacation is, even a cheapie on Carnival is a good time. Maybe it's just because of the quality of travel companions (nobody makes it more fun than my sisters), but my best vacations have always been the week-long trips aboard a floating resort down in the Caribbean.

I haven't been on one since late 2004, so there is absolutely no way that I'll miss out next year. So I guess that's my first priority for next year's vacations.

That'll leave me with eight more days to blow, and I know I'm going to use two of them during March Madness next spring, bringing the account down to six days.

I'd really like to get down to St. Croix for a few days to hang with Cyndi before her job assignment ends, and of course I'll need to get back out to Nashville to hang with the family for a couple days, too.

And next April I turn the big 4-0. Certainly some sort of celebration is in order. I keep thinking about a few days down in Cozumel at an all-inclusive resort might be a good way to go. That would be a lot of fun. I love all of the little beach clubs on the island, the good food, and my favorite Cuban cigar shop in the world is down there, too. Yep, Cozumel is a must-do.

I can't forget about our guys fishing trip to San Diego that we've planned for next May, plus Ed and I were talking about a refresher sailing course out in Marina Del Rey for a few days, as neither of us has been at the helm in over three years. After that, we'd like 'get our pillage on' and take a few days to sail out to Catalina and celebrate Buccaneer Days next October.

With the random trips back to Phoenix, that'll probably kill all of my paid time off for next year. Sometimes it makes me miss working at Schwab back in the day when I had damn near five weeks off a year.

Oh well. I can't complain--I live in Vegas!

Not a bad trade.

But looking forward to spring of 2008, Mike and I were also talking about heading up to Idaho for Boomershoot. Basically, a bunch of dudes get together for a few days of camping and shooting. But even better than just plain old shooting, the targets are packed with explosives, so when you hit 'em, they go BOOM. It sure beats roasting my nuts off out in the desert and watching grapefruit vaporize when hit from 80 yards away with a .270 round.

I figure that by the time Boomershoot 2008 rolls around, I'll have acquired a beautiful rifle like the CZ 550, or if I really feel like splurging, maybe an M-1A or even a Garand.

In the meantime, I'll just be vacationing in my backyard, hanging by the pool and sipping on the occasional rum drink.


It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

It's the most wonderful time, of the year!

Today kicks off the best five months of the year, as far as I'm concerned. Of course it had nothing to do with the 'toys' waiting for me when I woke up a couple of hours ago--my music from Amazon had arrived this morning, and was sitting outside my door. (Under the tree, of course)

But no, the college football season officially gets underway tonight, and as much as I love that, it means that the NFL is not far behind! In addition to the start of America's Real Pastime, we're on the cusp of several months of wonderful weather here in the desert southwest, plus the baseball pennant race is heating up, we've got the World Series to look forward to--where yet another sacrificial lamb from the NL marches happily to the slaughter--the Nascar Chase gets underway for all of the gearheads, the Ryder Cup is just around the corner, and of course who can forget the wonderful holiday season that starts (for everyone else) on the last Wednesday of November after work and keeps chugging along until the BCS National Championship game.

My buddy Eddie B offered a great quote in this morning's email, along the same lines. He said Personally, I'd like to fall asleep the night of the Super Bowl, wake up again for March Madness, and then go back to sleep until that first college football game comes around.

Sounds good to me, but I'd set my alarm clock for the Daytona 500, The Masters, and the US Open, too. And maybe wake up long enough to catch a few Cards/Cubs games, too. Other than that, I agree with Eddie 100%.

Yep, sports is a huge part of life for me and my buddies. Of course it's all about spectating now that we're all too old or too out-of-shape to play anything but golf. It pains me greatly to watch stuff like SportsCenter, PTI, or Around the Horn and hear all of the commentators talking about how some of these 30-year-old kids are getting too old and worn out to play their respective sports.

I used to think that pro athletes were 'grown-ups', and now here I am older than damn near anyone playing in any of the Big Four. Oh well, it doesn't matter. I never harbored any fantasies of being a professional anything except maybe a guitar god or more recently a poker pro. But reality has tempered those notions, too. I don't have the chops or the discipline to give Stevie, Eddie, Jimi, or Slowhand a run for their money, and I certainly don't have the patience to become a poker pro.

But now that football season is here, I make a helluva couch potato spectator!

For several years, I would field a fantasy football team or two. But damn, even that is a lot of work. I'd do it again if I could find nine other like-minded guys who would be willing to do a modified keeper league with some sort of salary cap. But that ain't gonna happen, at least not this season.

In the meantime, I've joined a weekly college football pool with 22 other guys from around the country. Basically, you pick one school to be your 'Homer' for the season (I chose the Georgia Bulldogs), meaning that you have to pick them every every week to win or lose, and then you choose five other games, with point spreads. You can designate one game per week as your Pick of the Week and it'll count as two games. We have an official scorekeeper/commissioner tracking all picks, and at the end of the season, the guy with the best record gets $50 from everyone else.

I could sure use $1100 around the beginning of the new year.

In case you're interested, these are my week one picks:

Thursday Aug 31
1) IOWA STATE over Toledo -7

Saturday Sep 2
3) VANDERBILT over Michigan +25.5
4) ALABAMA over Hawaii -17
5) --CALIFORNIA over Tennessee-- +2 *PICK OF THE WEEK*
6) NOTRE DAME over Georgia Tech -8

You'll notice that I didn't pick Georgia. Unfortunately, they're playing against a Division II powerhouse, Western Kentucky, so no self-respecting book offers a line.

Anyhow, like most of the rest of the dudes in this country, I'm excited that the whole thing gets underway in just a few short hours.

I'll get off the couch in February.


Just Because It's My Favorite JPG File


I haven't been able to download music in over six months. Back in the old days, I used Napster, Grokster, and a few others whose names I can't remember that always kept one step ahead of the lawsuit jackals before getting shut down. Most recently, I used I-Mesh, which was actually a pretty good file-sharing service. But then they upgraded their software, and my machine could no longer support it.

So here I am, probably the last guy in the universe who can't download music on his PC. So I decided to go legit and head on over to ITunes. A buck a song doesn't seem like that much to pay, especially if it keeps me from buying an entire crappy cd just to get that one good song. (Eric Johnson, pick up the white courtesy phone...)

Well, I've been denied by ITunes, also. Minimum system requirements are Windows 2000 or Windows XP. Guess which loser still has Windows Me?

Yep, your humble host is still barely hanging on to the trailing edge of technology.

Damn, I really needs to get me a new computer.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

On A Biscuit...

The Good Reverend has found his stride, and knocked another one out of the (trailer) park. While the bachelorette party at O'Charleys was a fun story that gave me a giggle, his latest offering is a gold mine of Southern Humor--a level of writing that even Lewis Grizzard would tip his hat to, iffin' he weren't dead.

I hope Dave can keep it up--he's set the bar pretty high with this last one.


A Day in the Life

Ok, once Tuesday morning's buffoonery had concluded and I made it home to sleep it off for a few hours, I was good to go.

I've been rotating my work shoes every night, hoping to make them last longer, but I have literally torn the insides out of those Propets I bought a few month back, and because of that, they leave a huge and painful blister on the side of my right foot every time I wear them. Also, when I was moving all of my belongings to the new room, I dropped a box on that same right foot while wearing flip-flops, and it's been tender for over a week since it happened--I may have cracked something--it was swollen and still tender to the touch.

So basically by the end of the night at work I'm gimping around like an old man with sore feet. Wait... I am and old man with sore feet... Even my Reeboks, which used to be the most comfy shoes ever, have started to show their age. I put a *lot* of miles on my feet nowadays, and burn through expensive shoes much faster than I'd like. Hell, I burn through cheap polyester pants faster than I'd like, too, but those dice tables can eat through dealer pants faster than Roy McAvoy going through a sleeve of Top Flites when confronted with a water hazard.

I've been asking around and a lot of the other dealers are firmly in one of two camps. They either swear by Rockports or have an almost religious affinity to those thick-soled man-clogs. The 'shoe truck' comes out to the casino about once every six weeks for people to buy work shoes right there onsite, and they have a big display of their wares on the wall by the uniform room. Lately I've been paying more and more attention to them, and have decided to give the man-clogs a try. The sole is almost 3/4 of an inch thick, the uppers are wider than usual, and I love the fact that I can kick them off when standing behind the tables, or at least kick off one at a time to give my feet a rest.

If I find that I'm unsatisfied with these, then I'll go ahead and cough up the big $$$ for the most expensive set of Rockport mailman shoes on the planet. But I think the man-clogs will be especially comfy.

So the first thing I did once I got on the computer today was to order a pair of size 13 D's.

I also had every intention of going back to school to practice my mad poker-dealing skills this week, but you know how things get in the way. First of all, it was my first day off since I got back from Phoenix, so I had a whole bunch of errands to run, not the least of which was getting back down to the post office and sending off the last batch of shirts for all of the people who got in at the last minute, along with George and Marlisha's, which I'd somehow neglected to give them when I was in Phoenix.

So finally the t-shirt business is on hiatus for awhile, and I'm ok with that. It was an interesting experience. Maybe next time it'll be a financially rewarding one, also.

After the post office, I made a special point of getting over to Big Five Sporting Goods on Sunset and Green Valley. It's one of their smaller outlets, but I get mailers from them every week featuring Bolle sunglasses on sale. I've wanted a set of Bolles for at least 16 years now--the first time I tried them was in Alaska back in 1990 when a photographer friend of mine loaned me an extra set of his for a few days. They were the best sunglasses I'd ever used, before or since, and now that I'm a man of more substantial means, I can justify the expense of spending more than $20 on a pair of non-prescription shades.

Unfortunately, none of the Bolles that were on sale were quite complimentary enough for my sexy bald head, so I had to go with some alternates. I got two steps out the front door before one of the lenses popped out, so I turned back around and did some more shopping. I finally found a decent set of 'Boarders' that seemed to do the trick, and I was on my way. But not, however, before spending some quality time at the knife and gun counter drooling over the big boy's toys.

My next stop was Target in Henderson. I needed to get a few things like new bath rugs, power strips with flush-mounted plugs to fit behind furniture, cleaning supplies, etc. I also got a dvd copy of Groundhog Day on sale for only $7.50. The number one priority on the shopping list, however, was a plain-old box fan to put in my window at night and draw the cool air in to the bedroom. Unfortunately, the shelves were completely bare and my quest for a fan was denied.

That's ok, Walgreens always has plenty of cheapo fans for sale, so I'll check them out tomorrow. But by the time my shopping was done, it was past 5 pm I wanted to come home and get something to eat for the first time all day. I was thinking of hitting one of my usual stops and eating out, but I was craving a Hebrew National hot dog, and I knew I had some back at the house.

That and a couple of beers made me feel like I was at the ballpark while watching SportsCenter on my surround-sound enabled television. About that time I had an entertaining conversation with Reverend Dave, who told me that he'll be joining us for the festivities next March during the Madness, too.

Overall, it was a pretty good day and I got a lot accomplished, even though I didn't go to school. Today is Mission: Organization as I try to get everything else put in it's proper place and figure out a permanent home for that huge Coleman cooler that's taken up residence at the foot of my bed.

I'd like to treat myself to a nice lunch and do some sort of review too, because, well, I like to eat, and also I know that Dave P starts getting the shakes if I don't devote a certain amount of my blogging time to food and restaurants. I wouldn't want him to snap and have to hear about him on the evening news, so hopefully soon I can share my thoughts on whatever tasty treat I stumble upon in my weekly wanderings.

Have a happy happy.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Lettin' It Ride

Finally, after a couple of weeks of just horrendous tokes, we finally seem to be making better money again. We have about 30 brand-new dealers now, and damn near every one of them came from some crummy place with bad money, and to a person they've all said something asinine like 'Well, anything over a hundred bucks a day is great to me!'

Newsflash here, kiddies, if you're satisfied with just a hundred bucks a day, then I don't want you in my casino. Don't float along just happy to be here and drag my tokes down with you--step up, hustle, smile, tell jokes, and be nice to people. And do your damndest to not be satisfied unless you're happy making closer to two hundred a day. Otherwise, go back to your break-in joints and grind out a living there. I work too frickin' hard being nice to people to roll into work on a Friday night and find out that I busted my ass for only $125 the night before.

Anyhow, I was either dead wrong a few posts back, or the bosses have been reading my blog, because on Monday night I was exiled to Let It Ride for four of the longest hours of my life. I swear I'd rather be getting dental work done for four straight hours while Kevin Federline's latest cd played on an endless loop in the background than have to do that again. Seriously, I'd rather deal a quarter dice game in a leper colony than be on the Let It Ride string. I'm a firm believer that people who play Let It Ride for hours on end are those not quite swift enough to have mastered the whole 'pick a number' concept of difficult games like Roulette.

Can you tell that I hate that game?

As soon as I learned of my fate, I ran over and signed my name on the Early Out list, since it was my Friday night anyways. But when 2 am rolled around and the guy ahead of me on the list was still pitching cards, I figured I'd be doing the whole shift. Once they moved me to dice for the last couple of hours, I told the floor manager to just take me off of the E.O. list and I would be perfectly happy at the craps table for the balance of the evening.

Once the clock struck 3:40, I was lucky enough to get away from the table and empty the toke boxes for a few minutes before heading home. Once I clocked out and headed for the garage, I was taking a shortcut through the lobby outside of the bowling alley when I saw my friend Cindy sitting at a penny machine giggling away at the video bonus screen. So instead of going home, I sat down with her and put a buck in the machine on top of her credits. Since we were the only players in the area (at 4am on a Tuesday morning), and the waitress knew we were dealers, she was Johnny-on-the-spot with the cocktails, knowing she'd make a couple of bucks every few minutes instead of wandering around in a mostly-empty section getting stiffed by the random chain-smoking degenerates still up pounding the slot machines at that hour.

I honestly have no idea what constitutes a win on those damn penny machines--losing screens look just like the winning ones to me, so I was content to just sit there yukking in up with Cindy and enjoying my bottomless glass of Captain and Seven. After a few bucks were sucked up, we moved over to the giant UFO-sized Wheel of Fortune machine outside of the movie theatre and dropped $20 apiece in, hoping to spin the big wheel.

I was shocked, shocked I tell you, when the machine ate our entire forty bucks without giving us a single spin. Pat and Vanna can kiss my hairy white ass. I heard it was a fun machine, but my experience indicates otherwise.

After that quick prison-shower-scene at the hands of the WOF penny machine, we were off to find another machine that might give us our money back. We didn't want to wander too far and knock the cocktail waitress off our scent, so just a few feet away we camped out at the Pay Dirt penny machine. For those of you unfamiliar with Pay Dirt, it's theme is old-west gold rush. But after about five minutes, we discovered another feature of the machine that was more fun than spinning the wheels and coming up empty while staring at a screen full of cartoonish gold miners, pick axes, and dynamite.

There were five buttons to choose from to select the amount of lines you wanted to play; either 1, 3, 5, 9, or 15 lines. But the cool thing we discovered that whenever you pressed one of those buttons, it played a unique musical note. Once that feature revealed itself, it took me all of about thirty seconds to figure out how to play Ode to Joy on the slot machine. After a few shots of vodka (for Cindy), and a couple of glasses of the Captain for me, there was seriously nothing on earth more entertaining than sitting there pretending I was a lounge performer asking random people if they had any requests.

Due to having only five notes to choose from, my repertoire was somewhat limited. But I thought Cindy might pee her pants when I figured out the intro to Ring of Fire, and insisted on playing it before every spin.

Of course we didn't win a dime--we lost another $40, but damn, did we ever get our share of laughs. While I was sitting there being the Amadeus of the penny machines, I couldn't help but giggle to myself and think how much more fun it would be if Angy and Andrea were there too.

Cindy is a lot of fun, but her buffoonery threshold is almost as limited as my musical talent.

After the money ran out, we decided to call it a night (isn't that how most nights end in Vegas?). I came home and went to bed, glad that my night that had started out so shiatty had ended on a positive note (or five).


Today's Sign of the Apocalypse

Are you kidding me? I just saw a commercial for this on ESPN.

I may have to head down there and check it out--it's just a couple miles from my house--and wear my 'Picked Last at Dodgeball' tshirt.


Potato Soup and Dirty Lingerie

Again, I have to refer you to the witty goodness of The Good Reverend for his most recent screed. I see bachelorette parties in progress several times a week here in Las Vegas, but only Reverend Dave can report on the festivities, Alabama-style.

Go take a peek. There was at least one line in the story that had me shooting Coke out of my nose. And by the way, you probably don't want to play poker with Dave. The Reverend is one of the best liars I know!


Monday, August 28, 2006

Facing My Demons

Having gone without a tv, dvd player, stereo, or even sound on my computer for over a week, I finally broke down and started getting all of the audio components hooked up again.

Although it's been nice and peaceful around here, I couldn't even pop a cd into my computer if I wanted some music. Previously, I was running the sound from my computer through an old bookshelf stereo system, and the speakers were pretty shiatty. And it took up a lot of space--I needed a separate table next to my computer desk for the receiver, and the speakers were about the size of shoeboxes. Overall, it was pretty ghettofabulous.

So a couple weeks ago, on one of my numerous trips out to Fry's Electronics, I picked up a set of surround sound speakers with a subwoofer for the computer. They've been sitting in the box unopened since I brought them home. And since I'm the king of procrastination, it's taken me this long to get them hooked up.

But, man, what a difference! The powered subwoofer makes a nice rumble, and the sound that comes from the little bookshelf speakers just blows me away. It's only 45 watts, but it's enough to get the dog barking and make windows rattle when I turn it up. As much as I bag on this obsolete computer, at least it has a decent sound card. I suppose that in the interest of it's own self-preservation, it's delaying it's inevitable replacement and destruction.

In addition to getting music and sound on my computer, yesterday I finally got down on the floor and set about re-wiring the surround sound system for the tv, cable, and dvd system. It's not that it's hard--it's just damn tedious, and of course there is a lot of trial and error before everything works the way it should. The biggest pain in the ass has got to be all of the speakers. On Derek's recommendation several years ago, I got the largest-gauge speaker wire possible. Running all six of them into the back of the receiver, with no male/female connecting ends is especially frustrating. It's cut, strip, twist, figure out which side is positive (no small feat without a flashlight and a third hand) and then force the whole thing into holes designed for wire half as thick. Repeat eleven more times.

And now that I'm in a bigger room, the tv is a few feet further from the end of my bed, which has got me thinking about 'needing' a new flat-screen HD model. My current television, although perfectly fine, is a standard 27-inch Sanyo model that I bought one day after making about $500 on a successful index option day trade back in 1999. But it *really* seems a little small now that I've got a bigger space.

I think seeing Ed's 60-inch widescreen monster last week may have spoiled me. Of course 60 inches of electronic happiness wouldn't even fit through the door in my bedroom, but 36 or even 42 might. But not anytime soon, although a flat- and widescreen system is definitely now on the shopping list.

But I'm just happy to be connected to the outside world again. As soon as I got everything working, I pulled up last week's episode of Entourage from HBO On-Demand, bringing me up to speed, and I also recorded last night's episode, watching it as soon as I got home this morning. Now I'm all caught up! And I also heard that Jeremy Piven got an Emmy last night for his role as Ari Gold, which he deserved, because he absolutely makes that show.

Now that I'm all hooked up, rewired, and networked again, it'll be nice to rejoin the ranks of the couch potatoes.

I've got some movies to watch.


The bane of my existence

It's Like Pizza...

Even when it's bad, it's still pretty good.

The question was posed over on the Vegas Message Board as to what were your best and worst Vegas experiences. Anyone who has browsed through the trip report archive in the left-hand column will know that I've had several great experiences in this city, and luckily very few bad ones.

I love to talk about memorable events and things that make Vegas special, and share my thoughts with others. But now that I live here in Las Vegas, it's got more of a day-to-day flavor. And while still very tasty, it's not the special treat that it used to be--an every-few-months indulgence that was to be savored. Now it's the everyday meal that I use for sustinence.

Using the labels of 'best' and 'worst' is sometimes difficult--superlatives smack of absolutism. I have several favorite songs, but they change with the times. Same with food, restaurants, movies, etc. What is currently a favorite may not be tomorrow, and my tastes evolve or the passing of time can either dilute or enhance a memory of those experiences. But some things will always stand out, so I'll try to share them with you here.

Let's start with the not-so-good:

-The first time I stayed at Harrahs in 2002. God-awful, tiny orange room. Just a hideous place, and one of the worst rooms in all of Vegas, except for maybe the Stratosphere in 2000 or the Sahara back in 1994.

-Middle of the night breakfast at the Triple Seven brewpub down at the Main Street Station this past March. Horrible meal and service, which was hopefully an abberation. Normally it's a great place, but this time it was just plain bad. I would've sent the meal back and demanded a refund had I not been having so much fun with such good company at the time.

-Every frozen drink purchased down on Fremont Street in the past year. Maybe I've lost my taste for the Grain Train, but lately anything coming in a tall plastic glass from Mermaids or Le Bayou has tasted rotten. It's like both places really need to drain, clean, and sanitize their drink dispensing hardware. Just plain gross.

-The demise and rebirth of the Horseshoe. Man, what a great place that it used to be. But it's a microcosm of why royalty doesn't work. The offspring just can't live up to greatness of the original founder's vision. Benny Binion would be ashamed of what happened to his once-great casino in the past decade. I used to absolutely love that joint--it was my temple, my Mecca, my Happy Place. Sometimes I'd go there on a Friday and not emerge until Sunday, happily throwing the dice and playing cards until either I went broke or needed to get out and spend my new-found fortune. Now it seems almost soulless.

-The Upper Deck at the Vegas Club. Easily the worst restaurant in Las Vegas. Haven't been there in over two years, probably never will go back.

-The advent of the 6:5 payoff for single deck blackjack. It's my personal line-in-the-sand against the incrementalism of casino greed. Of course, I have to deal the very same game on a weekly basis, usually to a full table.

-TV's influence on live poker. Yep, I love that poker is so popular nowadays. But it's created a subculture of complete jerkoffs that make every trip to the poker room an exercise in restraint of killing someone who desperately needs to go in the most gruesome, painful, and humiliating manner available.

-Panhandlers. I'd like to go two weeks straight without somebody approaching me in some parking lot with a sob story about needing money.

-Nasty hookers. If you have missing teeth or visible scabs, you shouldn't be allowed to be a hooker. All hookers should be required to be at least as hot as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. And sticking your head inside my car window while I'm sitting at a stoplight, and insisting that I 'give you a ride' is probably not the proper approach, either.

-Video Slot Machines. Man, I have no idea how to play these things. A complete farking mystery as far as I'm concerned. And it shouldn't be allowed to be called a 'nickel' machine if it takes $3 per spin to win the top prize.

-Circus Circus, The 'New' Frontier, and the Riviera. Please... bring the wrecking ball. Soon.

-The 'Midwest Tax'. Some things here in Vegas are ridiculously expensive and would completely fail if they used the same pricing strategy anywhere else but Vegas. Concerts--Jimmy Buffett tickets are over $200. Same ticket in Nashville is $35. Cigars--it's so bad that even off the strip, I'm expected to pay $12 for a Partagas #10. Screw that, I will no longer purchase cigars here. Whenever I buy new sticks, it's always online--JR Cigars sells the #10's for only $4.60 per. Golf--exclusive North Scottsdale prices on municipal style courses. Shows-- Mama Mia for $120? Please. Celine Dion for $300? I like to see good shows just as much as anyone else, but I'm not going to spend a third of the ol' paycheck on a couple of tickets!

-Traffic. It's getting very bad. I love the opportunity that rapid growth brings, but we have our fair share of growing pains, too.

-Service at the Orleans coffee shop. It's never been good. I used to like the Orleans a lot, but Coast casinos have pretty bad rules on their table games, so bad service in an otherwise decent coffee shop won't bring me into the joint.

-Parking at the Venetian. Just plain bad all around. Uncle Sheldon could take a lesson from his next door neighbor, Mr. Wynn, on the proper way to design parking/valet services.

-Drink service at Mandalay Bay. If you're not playing at the tables, you seem to be persona non grata.

-Dining at Gallagher's steakhouse at NYNY. Loud, overpriced, no ambiance to speak of. There are much better alternatives out there.

I think that's probably enough for now. I wouldn't want people to get the wrong ideas. I'm sure we can always find something wrong, but these are the things that stand out the most for me.

Let's move on to the better stuff--some of my favorite Vegas experiences:

-Breakfast at the Peppermill, drinks in the Fireside Lounge. Yeah, it may have slipped a little bit over the course of the last year or so, but nothing says Quintessential Vegas Experience quite like a couple of hours at the Peppermill for a monster breakfast after a long night of casino hopping, or snuggling with that special someone in one of the nooks and crannys of the lounge while sipping martinis. It's a must-do for every Vegas visitor.

-The all-nighter that I pulled with Angy and Andrea back in January at the Bellagio. Just a fantastic night all around. We drank expensive martinis, played a little too much Spot the Hooker, and laughed all night long.

-Dinner at The Palm last March with about ten of my degenerate friends. Wonderful meal, wonderful company.

-The old WB Lounge at the Venetian. Back in 2000 during March Madness, my buddies and I killed an afternoon there sitting in the comfy leather chairs, smoking cigars, and drinking funky martinis for several hours, escaping the circus (and gambling losses) going on all around us.

-That trip in July of 2002 that I took with Eddie B. A lot of readers rave about the excesses of the 'Left Turn' trip, but I have to say that the July trip was actually better. Hooking up with a hottie little blonde gal and having her say yes-yes-YES! all night after the first hour of no-no-no was an excellent way to end the trip. And oh yeah, winning about $3500 at the dice tables helped, also.

-The original March Madness Limo Ride up and down the strip. It has often been duplicated, but never surpassed. Seeing Dougie in action after four quick shots of Patron was especially entertaining.

-Dinner at Fiore with my four best friends. Another great steakhouse in this fine city. Everything about it contributed to it being almost the perfect evening.

-Taking Angy and Cyndy to dinner at Blackstone with winnings from the craps table. If you have the means to roll into a nice restaurant with two attractive blondes on your arms, by all means, I recommend it. Just the looks from the other patrons was worth the big tab. Oh yeah, the food and service are excellent, too.

-The T2V poker tournament at the Plaza this past March. I can't recall having so much fun playing cards. It was the highlight of the weekend.

-Mon Ami Gabi. Never had a bad meal or bad experience there. I love that restaurant. The espresso martinis are especially good, but I've got to give a nod to their wine list, too.

-When driving to Vegas, catching that first glimpse of the city when crossing the summit just past the Hacienda casino, coming up from Boulder City.

-25 cent martinis at Commander's Palace. The best dollar you will probably ever spend.

-Walking up and down Fremont Street with Doc Al.

-Going to the Palomino Club with Doc Al.

-Upon leaving work one night at the Golden Gate, getting swept up as a 'guest of honor' with about 14 chicks having a bachelorette party. It was truly a memorable evening, one that I had no idea I'd be participating in when I got out of bed that morning.

-Seeing Derek, the Vegas Virgin, turn his last $20 into over $2000 at the Luxor blackjack tables. He was pretty much hooked after that.

-Prime Rib at the Cortez Room at the Gold Coast. It was surprisingly excellent.

-Speaking of the Gold Coast, seeing the two old geezers ditch their walkers and come after me and Rambill, ready to rumble in the lounge. It's still a hilarious memory of a golden WTF? moment.

-Crashing the Diamond Lounge at the Rio with Dawn. Sending me in there was like if Big Papi sat down in the middle of the Yankees clubhouse after a win and helped himself to the postgame buffet.

-Watching Terry make an entrance into the poker room--always a good time. And he invariably puts some stranger at his table on tilt as soon as he sits down.

I think that's about all for now.

But if absolutely have to cough up my absolutes, I will.

My all-time worst Vegas experience would've had to been the trip in October of 2002. We had too big and too big of a diverse group, so we couldn't plan anything that everyone wanted to do. I also got very sick while I was here--I ended up spending Saturday night in my hotel room, feeling miserable, with a six-pack of beer and my other broke-ass buddies watching the Angels/Giants Game 6. I was staying in a really shiatty comped room at the Horseshoe, and I did nothing but lose the entire time I was here. Additionally, I lost my ATM card on that trip. Just a crummy weekend all around.

If I have to pick my best Vegas experience, it was a trip that was never written about, long before I'd ever even heard of the concept of a 'trip report'. But I'd say that having my own Fremont Street Deflowering Experience back in the good old days, and having my first visit to the Golden Gate and Binion's Horseshoe happen on the same night was something truly special. All those that were present still speak about it in wistful tones. It cemented lifelong friendships with my own Vegas gang, and pretty much set me on the course which got me to this point in my life. It was one of those forks in the road that had a major impact on the future, but I had no idea at the time that it would be so.

As fun as it would be to sit here and ramble on and on about all of the great times that I've had here in Las Vegas, I have to wrap it up--I could probably go on for days. It's a great place and I'm fortunate to be able to experience a little bit of that magic regularly, and even better, share it with some of you guys, too.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Give It Away Now!

Don't stop, continue...

For those of you unfortunate enough to have not been sitting at my Pai Gow table for the past two nights, I send my heartfelt condolences on your loss.

You could've won HUGE.

Yes, I was dumptrucking my rack so badly I was afraid that they'd banish me from Pai Gow and send me to exile at the Let It Ride table for the next six months. Lucky for me we don't have a Big Six wheel, or I'd probably be stuck there tonight, instead. After giving away about six four-of-a-kinds, three straight flushes, and a royal flush (and sitting down just after five aces was dealt to a lucky player) inside of three hours, plus dealing myself a pai gow damn near every hand, they finally moved me back to the dice table, where I cooled my jets at a $25 game until 4 am this morning.

Pretty much everyone who sat at my table won some big $$$ last night. One guy showed up with $40, gave me a twenty to make change for his fortune bonus, then went 'money plays' for the other $20. And for the entire hour, that $20 bill layed facedown on his betting circle--he either pushed or won every hand for the whole hour I was there. And everyone else was winning, too. I don't have a problem with that at all, but after I gave him a four-of-a-kind and he fucking stiffed me, then I was gunning for him. Luckily a few minutes later, I dealt another four-of-a-kind to the gal sitting next to him, and she made a show of tipping me and saying Here's a little extra since you got stiffed last time!

I couldn't help but smile when she did that.

It was beautiful, so I tapped the checks on the edge of the metal rack as loudly as I could, stared right at the stiff and said Thank you so much for taking care of the dealers--we really appreciate it! You're a fine example of a good player... I think he got the message after that, because then he started tossing a random $5 check my way every few hands after he won. But he turned his $40 buy-in into something north of $800, which is quite a feat at an even-money game like that, even after picking up $200 in bonus money.

He was upping his bet after every win--a sound strategy on a hot table--but when the floorperson saw him stiff me, she walked up and changed the cards, which earned a knowing grin from a couple of the other players.

That's one of the reasons why I love working where I do. So many houses have an us-verses-them mentality when it comes to dealers and floor supervisors. Not my joint. Our bosses rarely sweat the money, and if they do, they certainly don't show it. But if they see a player winning big and not taking care of the dealers, then they will do things like change up the cards, or have the dealer alter the shuffle, or cut the cards differently--all the little things that can change the luck--yeah, it's mostly superstitious, but there is no more superstitious activity in the world than gambling. But I've never, and I mean NEVER, seen a floorperson at my casino try to ice a player who was taking care of the dealers.

In fact, one time I wiped out a very big 'George' at the blackjack table, and while I was walking back to the dining room a few minutes later on my break, the assistant big-boss, the highest ranking person in the casino at the time, who has absolutely no vested interest in our tokes, but very much on the hook for the table hold, was walking with me and said Nice going doofus--you just killed your biggest tipper in the casino tonight... Try not to pull so many twenties next time and you might make a little money!

She didn't care how much the guy won or lost. They know that they'll eventually get it all back.

Anyhow, in a lot of casinos, that dynamic doesn't exist. The floor generally doesn't give two shits if the dealers make a dime all night. Luckily where I work, they understand the concept of win-win, and it makes it an enjoyable place to work. Yes, I could make even more money someplace else down on the Strip, just because of sheer numbers of players. But the money's decent where I'm at, and you can't beat the benefits. And there's something to be said for the mellow environment with easy-going bosses, which is probably the biggest perk of all.

So no, I'd never actually get banished to Let It Ride or the Big Six wheel for paying out a lot of winning hands. They'd sooner send me to a high-limit table to try and maximize our tokes.

But the law of averages has to catch up sometime. Tonight I'll probably wipe out everyone.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Prius Envy

I absolutely love my new truck. Especially when I think about my previous vehicle. Of course, one can never be completely satisfied, and I have one minor complaint.

My gas mileage absolutely sucks. I drive six miles each way to work, my bank is two miles the other direction, and the grocery store is just down the block. And I usually only make it down to the Strip when visitors are in town.

So in the grand scheme of things--I don't drive that much. Hell, I bought the truck on June 14th, here it is three months later, and the odometer just turned over 2000 miles last night on my way to work--and that was after my round trip to Phoenix this week of somewhere around 550 miles.

But I track the gas mileage religiously. And every time I fill up, I calculate the mileage from the previous tank, and it's always been about 13.5 mpg around town.

Damn long-ass stoplights. The one at Warm Springs and Green Valley Parkway is especially a pain in the ass about this. It sees me coming and immediately turns red for about four minutes every time.

Anyhow, on this trip to Phoenix, I thought it would be a great opportunity to take the truck out and stretch her legs--maybe improve the mileage a bit. I filled up here at my usual stop just before leaving town, and didn't have to fill up again until I was leaving Phoenix. I got almost 337 miles out of the tank, but the warning light was on and the needle was resting on the post below the 'E'. However, when I filled it up, it only took 19.2 gallons of gas (and it's a 22-gallon tank), so I figure I've got a little reserve in there. Doing the math, it tells me that I getting just about 17.5 miles per gallon on the drive down to Phoenix and with all of the driving I did while there. Not too shabby. But that whole Hoover Dam obstacle with it's stop-and-go tourist dodging, plus several big hills to climb, taxes that efficiency.

On the way out of town, I stopped at the Mobil station closest to Ed's house, filled up, and decided to refill with the cheaper Arizona gas in Kingman. From Phoenix to Kingman, I sqeezed 19.96 mpg out of the girl, and I was doing a lot of 80 mph+ driving. Very impressive. In fact, I only had to put $25 in once I got to Kingman, and by the time I got home to Vegas, 95 miles later, it was still showing that I had almost 3/4 of a tank (using mid-grade).

Although I hate that I can't get 14 mpg here around town, it helps to know that by the time another payday rolls around, I've barely used a half a tank whenever I go for a fill-up.


Beer of the Day

While at the store today, I decided to treat myself. Nope, no Ben & Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch. Instead I took a detour down the beer aisle. And instead of picking up my usual Michelob Light or Pacifico, I decided to try something new and different that I'd usually never purchase.

Browsing all of the different selections (and Von's has a great beer selection), I decided to pick up a six-pack of Pete's Wicked Stawberry Blonde. The fact that it was on special had absolutely nothing to do with it, either. The also had Coke products in 2-liter size on sale for a buck apiece, so I picked up a bunch of mixables for the rum, too!

Anyhow, while sitting here at the desk enjoying the make-believe tropical breeze coming from the oscillating fan, I'm sipping on a nice cold beer, and I have to say that it's pretty damn good. I'm not a 'beer snob' by any stretch of the imagination. I like pretty much anything except Miller Lite, although I've had some truly bad microbrews in the past. But this is a damn fine microbrew--not too heavy, not too sweet, with just enough strawberry flavor to make it interesting. I don't know how I'll feel after the fourth or fifth one, but this first one went down pretty quickly.

Time for another.

Oh, and did I mention that I keep a bottle opener on my keychain, just for occasions such as this?


Kill 'Em All...

Let God sort 'em out!

Ok, one thing that I hadn't reported on, is that after I got home yesterday, I sat down at my computer to start typing and noticed a bunch of ants crawling around all over my new desk. So I started smashing them.

But they kept coming. So I smashed them all again. But that didn't stop the hoard--I smashed all afternoon, and still they kept coming! I tried finding the source. There were some empty DCWL* cans on the edge of the desk, but the ants didn't seem to be too interested in that. There was also a plastic trash bag that had some old Taco Bell wrappers and whatnot in it, but again, there were a few ants in there, but not a full-scale deployment. It seemed that they were just ambling about all over my desk on holiday, with no real purpose.

Wondering where they were coming from, I got down on my hands and knees and went exploring along the edge of the walls, behind the furniture, and in the closet. No luck. But then I asked myself, If I were an ant, how would I get in here?

Remember that hole in the wall that was drilled for the Cat-5 cable coming down from the roof and along the side of the house? Well, upon closer inspection, that thing was a huge ant freeway--there were thousands of them going back and forth through the wall, along the cable, and right up onto my desk. The first thing I did was stick a wadded up paper towel through the little gap between the wall and the wire. Then I started smashing in earnest. I looked around the house for some bug killer, but couldn't find any.

So I went to off to work, thinking I'd tackle the problem when I got home. When I got back this morning, there were a few more ants wandering about on my desk, again, getting into stuff, mourning their fallen comrades, the usual stuff. But I was too tired to mess with it, so I just smashed a few to send a message. The message was ignored, so after a few hours of sleep I went to the grocery store and picked up a huge can of Raid unscented kill-on-contact insecticide, and had myself a little ant genocide party this afternoon.

I can now proclaim World Headquarters to be Bug Free.


*Diet Coke With Lime

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Eight Tracks & Mud Flaps

It's good to be back home here in Vegas. Although it was a very quick trip to Phoenix, it was just what I needed. I'd like to say that I'm refreshed and recharged, but honestly, I'm still a little tired.

Once I made my last post on Tuesday morning, I loaded up the truck with my luggage and such and took off by 11:15. I had to make the requisite stops for drinkables and cash, but after that it was just me and Sid on the open road with nothing but a collection of traveling music to keep me company.

I hit Hoover Dam at exactly 12 noon and figured I'd be in Phoenix less than four hours later. I popped in my favorite 'Redneck Road Trip' cd once I hit the Arizona line, and lead-footed it towards Kingman. Included on that disc are such hits as Ramblin' Man, Gypsy Road, East Bound and Down, Open Road Song, On the Road Again, Convoy, I've Been Everywhere, Home Sweet Home, and of course, the Most Holy Anthem of All That Is Righteous and Southern--Free Bird!

Traffic was easy once I got past the winding mayhem of Black Canyon, and I cruised at a leisurely 85 mph all the way to Kingman, where I noticed that gas was only $2.85 for regular, even at the usually-more-expensive travel stops.

But I didn't stop. I had a long way to go and a short time to get there, so I put the hammer down, good buddy. As soon as I turned on to I-40, I immediately thought of Angy driving east in new car with the top down and $370,000 of Warden Norton's money, severence pay for 16 years of service, and it made me laugh all over again.

Wait... that's not it.

But it made me think of Angy's road trip she took just two weeks earlier, so I had to give her a call and leave a voicemail. Then I popped in the ABBA cd, which is actually a pretty quick listen, and it got me almost all the way to Wickiup. At that point, it was time for some more authentic driving-across-the-southwestern-desert music, and out came ABBA and in went The Joshua Tree.

Ahh, much better.

I've got to tell you, seeing the wide-open vistas of the American west laid bare before me, cleansed by the daily monsoon showers, with emotionally charged songs like One Tree Hill playing in the background, it was a sublime pleasure racing my shadow along that meandering black highway, hopscotching between the shady parts where the clouds crossed between me and the sun. Some folks say that the drive between Vegas and Phoenix is dull and boring. They are either unenlightened or just aren't traveling in the right frame of mind. There's plenty of beauty to be found in the Sonoran desert, you just have to know where to look.

It's taken me several years of making that drive, but now I know.

I was shaken from my hypnotic behind-the-wheel trance when suddenly about 40 miles outside of Wickenburg, the non-existent traffic suddenly materialized at the bottleneck created by road construction. I was lucky enough to spend the next five miles crawling along behind a concrete truck doing 45 mph. It was kicking up all sorts of debris, doing his level best to ruin my paint job or crack my windshield, so I backed way off, certainly pissing off the drivers behind me.

Suddenly, there I heard the distinct clicking sound of a playing card shoved in the spokes of a bicycle moving at full speed, and my air conditioner stopped blowing cool air. Actually, it stopped blowing any air. I turned off the cd player while I tried to diagnose the problem.


Obviously, I picked up a leaf or a piece of plastic and it was blocking my air duct. I tried turning the fan off and on. I tried turning the AC off and on a few times, I switched from 'fresh' to 'recirculate' several times. Nothing worked. And I was at least forty miles from civilization, out in the middle of the damn desert in August, with temperatures somewhere in the triple digits. Slowly, the cab of my truck started to feel like my old bedroom in the middle of the afternoon. Beads of sweat started to form on my forehead and ran down my face, stinging my eyes.

Not wanting to stop and poke around under the hood next to a very hot engine, I kept going, trying to figure out what to do.

I tried the fan again--the clicking sound was gone, so the obstruction was gone, but there was no cold air. So I rolled down the window, providing a little relief while I literally and figuratively stewed, knowing that a trip back to the dealership was in my very near future.

Ticked off, because the main point of having a brand-new vehicle is the fact that everything should work like it's supposed to, I was getting madder and madder by the mile.

But then I noticed something. Highway 93 through central Arizona is one of the most dangerous roads in America. As such, a prudent driver like myself will drive with their headlights on at all times, even in the middle of the day. Well, it was super-bright outside, just like it always is, and I had my sunglasses on. And I noticed that with the headlights on, the interior and dashboard lights, like in every other vehicle on the road, go dimmer. With my sunglasses on, I was unable to read stuff like my odometer, trip mileage, or the radio display. Nor was I able to notice the amber-colored on/off switch for the air conditioner. So I took off my sunglasses, pushed the power switch to the AC, the light came on, and I was relieved by the blast of cold air that immediately greeted me.

Oh hell yeah! My truck didn't need a repair, I just learned the vitally important lesson that if you want to have air conditioning, you must push the 'On' button first.

Lesson learned.

Before long I was slowing down to avoid the speed traps that Wickenburg is famous for, and a few minutes later I turned onto the Carefree Highway, 30 miles from I-17, 40 miles from Eddie's house.

I called him and told him where I was and he said he'd be there about five minutes ahead of me. That last little bit of the road trip is always the worst, when it seems everyone ahead of you is conspiring to slow you down, but I finally pulled into the driveway at Eddie's new house, just as he was bringing in his garbage cans from the curb.

It was great to be back.

We grabbed my stuff out of the passenger's seat and I went inside, happy to be standing up after three-and-a-half hours in the saddle. Eddie has prospered in the 3+ years since I left Phoenix, and in addition to a huge new home in an upscale neighborhood, he actually has a beer fridge out in the garage. Back in the old days, the beer fridge was in the kitchen of his old house. And it held juice, pop, leftover pizza, and the occasional vegetable, too. Anyhow, he fetched a couple of ice-cold Pacificos with lime, and we relaxed for a bit while catching up on all the latest news and gossip.

I also presented him with his brand-new Hurricane Mikey t-shirt, which took a place of honor on the back of one of his dining-room chairs.

We had a few beers while relaxing and unwinding--his day was very hectic, too. He's heading to India on business for five weeks, and is buried under a flurry of last-minute preparations at work. So a beer with Mikey and a day off in the middle of the week was just the ticket for his mental health.

About the time his wife showed up, we'd moved on to chilling Patron in the martini shaker. Normally she's game to join us, and can pretty much drink me under the table, but she was heading to the gym to work out, and left us degenerates alone with the open liquor cabinet. We didn't do too much damage to it, as we had to drive down to the Camelback area for our evening's activities.

First thing on the agenda was dinner. I was starving, having not eaten a thing all day. Eddie was ready to eat, if only to provide an alcohol filter/sponge in the bottom of his stomach. One of my favorite joints in all of Phoenix is a place called NYPD Pizza down on 20th Street and Highland--it's easily the most authentic Gotham-style pizza in Arizona, at least at least to my semi-refined palate. We pulled in and were seated immediately, and attempted to order a pitcher of beer.

No more pitchers, unfortunately. But pints were available, so we went that route. Our waitress informed us that on Tuesdays it was Buy One, Get One Half Off, so we got pretty excited until we learned that it only applied to the pizza, and not the beer.


Oh well, the pizza is damn good, but we certainly weren't hungry enough to order two pies, much less carry around the leftovers in my truck all night, negating the power of my coconut-scented air freshener. Perhaps if we'd ordered the Hawaiian pizza instead...

We shared an order of honey BBQ wings, and our 16" Brooklyn Family pie arrived shortly thereafter. And yeah, it's better than Metro here in Vegas. Perfect thin-sliced pepperoni and Italian sausage, with enough fresh basil sprinkled on to give it good color and flavor, along with piping hot mozzarella and just enough sauce to glue the whole thing together. Their pizza is a work of art on a greasy silver canvas, and cultured fellows like me and Eddie can certainly appreciate fine art like that.

Dinner was excellent, and we ate until we were stuffed. Eddie wouldn't let me pay for dinner, so he covered the tab. Unfortunately, I'd left all the cigars back on his kitchen counter, so we had to make other arrangements for 'dessert'.

Luckily, one of our other favorite establishments was right up the road. Again, being well-cultured, moderately successful fellows, we figured that a night at the local ballet might be a good way to kill some time. Of course, you've got to be a bit optimistic about the show when there's a big sign on the door advertising $3 Heinekens on a Tuesday night.

We were properly frisked and metal-detected before being allowed entry to the pleasures awaiting us behind the red velvet rope, but luckily we were carrying no liquids and they didn't need to x-ray our flip-flops. We were granted admission, and we hoped that the girls inside did a better job of frisking us than the guy with the earpiece out on the front porch.

The first stop was the cashier.

Eddie said 'Cover and two Heinekens'.

That'll be $21 please.

What the...? How much is the cover charge?

Five bucks--you two are together, aren't you?

Yeah, but we're not on a date! How much for the beer?

$5.50 each.

But the sign says $3 on Tuesdays!

What day is it?

It's Tuesday!

Ok, $11 then.

Luckily she's working there at the strip club instead of the the drive-thru at Starbucks, or else you'd never get your Venti Frappuccino.

Then the tuxedo-wearing fellow took us to our seats, right down front and center. Not a good spot to be--along the wall is much better--so after about oh, thirty seconds, we moved to a better piece of real estate, opting for two seats in the back corner where we could scope out the entire club. Plus we figured with all of the handprints on the mirrors behind us, our seats were every bit as good as those guys sitting behind the dugout at Wrigley Field.

It took us about half an hour to realize that Tuesday night must be 'Regulars Night' at the Hi Lighter, because pretty much every chick was camped out in one spot. Only the especially freaky ones came trolling by us, but we refused their advances. I struck up a conversation with the hottest girl in there, the cocktail waitress, and since we were tipping her well, she hung around with us when not delivering drinks.

Damn, I love me some ASU coeds.

She said she'd be willing to hang out and go drinking with us, but she hadn't made her $200 for the night yet (hint hint), so it just wasn't possible unless we covered her losses.

Tempting as it was, because she was smoking hot, we opted to let her earn her money that night and do what she did best--fetch the girls we wanted and bring us more beer.

Pretty soon Eddie and I were both enjoying the company of some rather attractive and talented young ladies, while I kept them entertained by sticking water bottles to my head. But I think they got the better deal, at least financially.

And he's peelin' off those dollar bills, slappin' 'em down. One hundred! Two hundred!

Not to say we didn't enjoy ourselves, because we certainly did. So much so that after we'd reached our daily limit, we decided that we had to do it again--soon.

Eddie finished off his last Heineken, and I pulled the bottle off of my head to polish off the last of my water, and we headed for the door.

Creepy earpiece man was still out there, so while we walked by I raised my hands over my head and asked him Hey, wanna frisk me again? Last chance!

That got a laugh from both Eddie and the dudes waiting in line, but luckily he declined. I called Eddie B, but got his voicemail--we were pretty sure he was already in bed, as he has to get up at 4:00 am to oversee all of the electronic trades being placed for market open. I also gave George a call, but since it was after 9:00 pm, it was getting to be too late to meet up, since he lives in the far southeast part of Phoenix, and Ed lives on the far northwest side.

Instead of opting for more buffoonery or nekkid chick-flesh, we decided to head back north. We stopped by a local pub called Legends for a few rounds, got to see a little drama with a drunk Indian, and laughed a bit as we relived the previous few hours. By that time, we were dragging and needed to get back to the house. We stayed up for a bit watching tv and such, but we were so tired that we called it a night. I took a glass of icewater for my nightstand and headed up to the guest bedroom. I collapsed and passed out around midnight.

I must've really needed my sleep, because I didn't wake up until 10 am the next morning. I stopped by the facilities to do my morning toilette, put on some swim trunks, and went downstairs to find Eddie working in his office. Of course, he wasn't all business--he had a tall Bloody Mary in his hand and ditched the work as soon as I made an appearance.

I told him Dude, I've got to say--with this new house, and working in your office like Mr. Brady with his 'plans', and having a beer fridge in the garage and such, it's like you're a *grown-up* now.

He told me he felt the same way, but he didn't actually feel like a grown up until the day Michelle (his wife) made him buy a wine fridge for the kitchen.

Yep, that would've never happened at his old house... She even made him take the R2-D2 cookie jar off the top of the fridge and hide it in a cabinet. (And remember kids, those are dog treats in there--not cookies!)

Quick story about R2-D2. A long time ago (in a galaxy far far away), long before he ever met Michelle, Ed used to host two excellent pool parties every year--One on Memorial Day weekend, and one on Labor Day weekend. It was always a great time with about 20 or 30 of us hanging around, tapping the keg, grilling steaks, playing volleyball in the pool, getting high in the toolshed, doing shots around the kitchen island, and basically getting good and liquored up before crashing in various spots around the house and sleeping it off.

Well, one time Ed got started a little too early, had done too many shots, and was basically unable to continue his duties as a host by like 7 pm. Somehow, he'd also lost his swimming trunks, too. He was running into the house though the sliding door off of the patio, slipped, fell down, and decided that he'd just had enough and was going to lay where he fell. Luckily for the rest of us, he was face down at the time.

So there was this drunk naked guy passed out on the threshold between the kitchen and back patio, with a party raging around him. His party. At his house.

One of his other buddies decided that we should salvage what was left of his dignity, and maybe find something to cover his ass-crack, so the rest of the drunks there weren't temped to do naughty things to him (there was a crockpot full of Little Smokies in BBQ sauce on the counter, and several people came up with the same bad idea at the same time). So instead of a towel, or at least a dishcloth, somebody set R2-D2 on the crack of his ass and left him there while the party continued on into the night. And since the robot was full of dog treats, the dogs were especially interested in sniffing around. As you can imagine, at the time it was about the most hilarious thing any of us had ever seen, so those that had cameras took the opportunity for blackmail material.

Luckily Eddie eventually tracked down every copy of that photo and destroyed them, but I think he's still afraid to run for public office, because somebody will somehow dig up an old copy to sell to the Enquirer.

Gotta love partying at Eddie's house...

Anyhow, breakfast drinks were the order of the day, and I went with a Skyy Screwdriver topped with a splash of Grand Marnier. Damn, was it ever tasty. We downed those and headed for the pool.

It was a beautiful sunny day, and just like old times, we were floating around drinking Pacificos and listening to Jimmy Buffett. You can't ask for a better day!

It was hot as hell, but the water was a perfect temperature to keep us cooled off. The only time we got out was to change the cd from Boats, to Beaches, to Bars, and to fetch the occasional replacement bottle of Pacifico.

At one point, there was a huge crack of thunder, followed by an immediate rainshower, so we took shelter under the covered patio and spent the remainder of the afternoon smoking our Partagas and nibbling on some hot wings and sandwiches we had delivered from Barro's.

Finally, the sun and beers had taken their toll, so we went inside and fell asleep in the family room watching tv. I woke up just as Michelle was getting home from work, because my cell phone was ringing. George was calling, saying they were heading down to the restaurant a little early to hang out in the lounge before dinner, and if we wanted to join them to come on down.

We thought that was a good idea, so we all three set about to getting ready for dinner. The plan for the evening was that ten of my best friends in the world were going to join me for dinner at Donovan's Steak and Chop House down on Camelback Road. We had a group reservation, and they even went above and beyond and gave us a private room adjacent to their cigar lounge.

When I made the reservation, they also offered us complimentary limousine service, and for some unknown reason, I turned it down like a dumbass. I told Eddie about that perk and we decided to use it, so I called them back hoping we wouldn't have to drive, but unfortunately, three other parties had reserved it already.


Oh well. We got dressed and prettied up, and all piled into Michelle's car for the trek down to the city (Did I mention that Ed lives way the hell out in West BFE?). We got there about 15 minutes early, and found George and Marlisha already sipping martinis in the lounge. As soon as I walked up, one of my oldest and closest friends (Mike) who I hadn't seen in almost five years was sitting there with them. Somehow they'd already met each other and figured out in that crowded bar that they were in the same dining party--having never seen each other before that night. Pretty cool. We all gathered around, ordered cocktails and waited for the rest of the gang to show up.

Finally, about a half hour later, everyone was there and they led us to our dining room. First of all, a word about Donovan's. It reminded me of an old-school supper club--lots of dark wood and subdued lighting, tuxedoed waiters and waitresses 'Captains', and the ghosts of Rat Packers and mob bosses lurking about. It had an excellent vibe. It was definitely upscale, and most everyone we saw was 'dressed' for dinner. It had the potential to become a favorite spot.

Our private room was only semi-private--they left the doors open, but we weren't planning on being loud or obnoxious--it just looked like we were VIP's to the rest of the patrons in the dining room.

The wine list went to Eddie to pick out some good bottles and he chose an excellent Oregon Pinot and some sort of Red Zinfandel that was a big hit. Appetizers were ordered, and pretty much everyone got the bacon-wrapped scallops, except for Marlisha, who went with the Calimari, and Julia, who is pregnant with twins and 'saving room for dessert instead'.

I guess it would make more sense if I identified the Usual Suspects in attendance. Besides your humble host, my best friends from the early days at ASU, and the first people I met once I got to Phoenix, Mike and Julia were there. I hadn't seen them in over four years, so it was great to have them join us. Of course from Vegas trip report fame, Eddie B. and Eddie W. were both there, with their lovely wives Regina and Michelle. And rounding out the group of buffoons were George and Marlisha, who some of you might recognize from my comment section as 'Big Tips' and 'Big Stogie'.

Not everyone in the group knew everyone else beforehand, so I was more like the hub for all of the spokes. But everyone got along famously and we had a lot of laughs, and I'm fairly certain that new friendships were formed and everyone is going to keep in touch with everyone else. Mike is even going to join George, Eddie, and me for that fishing trip out to San Diego that we've been talking about, so just on the strength of that plan, the evening was a smashing success!

Anyhow, once the appetizers and wine arrived, they also brought out hot-from-the-oven bread and butter to nibble on, too. Julia had to make a run to the ladies room, and while gone, went on a scouting mission around the dining room, and came back to report that the steaks were indeed huge and they all looked fantastic.

Or maybe she said They're real, and they're spectacular. I can't remember which--she had some good lines though.

I opted for the 24 oz. Ribeye 'Chop' which was a huge bone-in ribeye steak. Other people tried that, too, but I remember Michelle and Mike both ordering the peppercorn filet and raving about it. Eddie W had the lamb chops, Regina had a HUGE lobster, and Eddie B and George also had some variation of super-sized prime cow flesh. And it was all excellent. The dinners came with potatoes, not a la carte like most upscale steakhouses, but I still ordered some delicious wine-sauteed mushrooms on the side. The entrees also included sugar snap-peas and baby carrots, both of which were excellent.

The food was so good that most of the conversation almost came to a complete halt once the entrees arrived, except for the the occasional grunt or moan of satisfaction. But once the initial shock wore off, it was back to our usual entertaining banter.

As good as it was. I could only get about half of my steak eaten. I had them box up the meat and the mushrooms, (which of course I drove off and left in Eddie's refridgerator), while a few others had leftovers, too. But that didn't deter us from dessert. Eddie and Michelle split a chocolate mousse cake, Mike and I had warm apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream, Julia and Regina went with the triple fudge chocolate brownie, and Marlisha had strawberry cheesecake. In honor of Doc Al and our trip to The Palm in March, George ordered the Creme Brulee, and refused to let me near it with my Spoon of Destruction.

It was all very good, my only small gripe being that the cobbler crust was way too thick--it was almost like an Apple Pot Pie. Otherwise, the entire meal was excellent, as was the service. They broke up the tabs individually, and mine came to $98 before tip. Eddie had the wine on his tab, and I think the bottles were between $40 and $50 apiece. So for a great meal in an almost elegant setting, it was well worth the price. Everyone raved about the experience and there was a unanimous vote of 'Lets do it again next time!'.

After dinner, Mike & Julia and Ed & Regina headed home. I walked them out to say our goodbyes before joining everyone else--the Diehards--in the cigar lounge for a smoke and a nightcap. George and I really loved the lounge--it was adjacent to the bar with comfortable leather chairs and couches, and adorned by pictures of famous cigar smokers. And the wait staff was excellent, cutting and lighting your smokes for you and bringing whatever drink you could imagine from the bar. Just a fine, fine place to relax and enjoy the company of good friends.

We were in there quite awhile, being the second-to-last party to leave for the night. As tired as we were, nobody seemed to want the night to end, it was that much fun. But again, we said our goodbyes in the parking lot and I headed back up north with Ed and Michelle.

We were all quite exhausted when we got back--a day out in the sun, followed by a huge, rich meal with wine and cigars was almost anesthetic. I spent a few minutes packing before succumbing to the come-hither look of the guest bed, and I was asleep almost before my head hit the pillow.

But we were up bright and early this morning. I grabbed a quick shower, gathered up my things and got on the road about the same time Ed and Michelle left for their respective day-cubes. I filled up the tank with (relatively) cheap gas, and followed the signs pointing to this neon playground I call home. I would've gotten home sooner, but Highway 93 is only two lanes wide for a whole lotta miles through the desert, and I somehow managed to land in the middle of my own Convoy of big rigs, with me and my pretty red truck playing the part of the eleven long-haired friends of Jesus in a chartreuse microbus. It took me awhile to get around all of the trucks and up to a good cruising speed, but I finally made it home around 11:30.

I almost forgot--I was delayed getting to Hoover Dam, too, because somebody had a suspicious looking rental van at the security checkpoint, and they made them turn around, drive all the way back to Kingman, and go through Laughlin to get to Las Vegas. And all of us at the checkpoint (I was first in line) had to wait in the distance while the state troopers made them turn around and go back the other way.

Interesting times we live in.

But it's good to be home!


Home Sweet Home

Hey Gang!

I'm safely back from Arizona--having just pulled up in the driveway about a half hour ago. I left early--got up at 6:00, on the road by 7:00 and home by 11:30. I had an absolute blast seeing everyone, and we had some great laughs. Unfortunately, I didn't take a single picture the entire time I was there.

Anyhow, I'll write about that in a bit, but in the meantime, I've got to give a couple of shoutouts to my readers; To the 'anonymous' reader who sent the 'Walk the Line' dvd, it was here waiting for me when I got home. Thank you, and don't worry--your secret is safe with me. Also, I have to give some love to Dave P and Jack21. There were a couple of boxes from Amazon waiting for me outside my door when I drove up, one of them being a book entitled And a Bottle of Rum--A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails, which covers three of my favorite subjects--History, Rum, and Sailing. (Not--as Churchill said when speaking about the history of the Royal Navy--Rum, Sodomy, and The Lash...)

I also received a book from my wish list that I could've written had I been more motivated, called American Pie--My Search for the Perfect Pizza. Can't wait to consume that one, too.

Anyhow, thanks very much, everyone! I appreciate the thought and I only hope that I can keep my writing entertaining enough to deserve such generosity.

More soon...


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Outta Here!

I'm a little tired today, but I'm overcoming it with anticipation of my impending road trip. I remember resetting the time on my clock radio at 5:12 am this morning, just before I hit the sack for a few hours. I set my alarm for 9:00 am, and of course woke up a half hour earlier than that. I thought I had a ton of stuff to do this morning, but thankfully that was not the case. I got the old room vacuumed out and dusted, the last of my junk moved except for a few items in the closet, and I started doing some light organizing here in the new abode. I still haven't hooked up the tv and the rest of the electronics yet (except for the computer), and I'll wait until I get home later in the week to tackle that project. But most of my morning 'to do' list has been completed.

Luckily, I have no laundry to do, so packing is just a matter of digging through all of the laundry baskets and finding what I need to take with me. Gotta remember the Hurricane Mikey shirts for everyone in Phoenix, along with some cigars and other goodies. (Can't arrive empty-handed!)

Speaking of shirts, everyone seems to be satisfied, at least from the feedback I've received. I'll probably do a second batch, but they will be from a different vendor, so they'll look just a wee bit different. The initial shirts that I bought for Angy and I came from a different vendor, and overall, they have better service. Of course, they're more expensive, but they don't have near the restrictions that this vendor had. And even though I made a 'deadline' for ordering shirts, of course some folks came in under the wire at the last minute. Changing the bulk order was like pulling teeth, so I've decided to go with a different company next time around. It will be reflected in the pricing, but hopefully it won't be such a headache. If anyone is truly interested in ordering shirts, let me know.

Anyhow, that's about it. I've got to pack a bag, take a shower, load the truck, hit the ATM for some traveling money, and I'm outta here for the next 2+ days. Blogging will be non-existent until at least Thursday late afternoon, and maybe even until Friday afternoon.

I'll post pictures and stories of Phoenix buffoonery with my original Vegas compadres upon my return.

Peace out, y'all.


Indecent Proposal

Ok, so I was sitting on a dead game at the World Poker Tour table--actually, I had just opened the table and didn't have any players yet--when one of my regular players walked up and sat down. She sits with me about once a week and always flirts and such, and occasionally we've had a beer together after work. But nothing too scandalous, although a couple of my co-workers accuse me of Hittin' that!

But the first thing she said to me was Hey guess what--my husband is out of town for the next three days... *wink*


I'm usually pretty quick on my feet, and the only response I could come up with was Yeah? So am I!

I played dumb and didn't deal her very good cards for the first hour, so she lost patience with me and left to play blackjack. It was good for the ego, but I don't particularly care to get involved with that kind of nonsense. Especially since their whole family is mobbed up.

I remember what happened to Joe Pesci at the end of Casino...


Monday, August 21, 2006

Monday Afternoon

Hey gang...

Word around the campfire is that the shirts started arriving today, and a couple of people have emailed with glowing reviews. Glad you liked them. Don't forget to bring them on your next trip to Vegas!

I'm still in the process of moving rooms--about 90% of the junk is moved, but not much is hooked up (still haven't hooked up the new speakers and subwoofer to the computer yet, and I'm really not looking forward to battling the dragon of the surround sound system again, either). At least the bed is put together and I've had the sublime pleasure of sleeping with the windows open when I get home from work.

Of course, when I wake up at 11, it's almost a hundred degrees in here (which is fine when lurking about out-of-doors, but not so much in the house), so I shut everything up and turn the air on. But believe me, coming from that oven of a bedroom to a place with windows that open on two sides allowing fresh air to circulate is a slice of heaven. And it's starting to get *really* nice at night out here too--it's cooling off again, the oppressive summer heat has broken, and we're hovering around a wonderful hundred degrees during the day with no humidity and somewhere it seems in the high 70s at night. Add a little breeze to that and it feels pretty good.

Anyhow--once I finish the blogging this afternoon, I'm going to spend a couple of hours moving the rest of the stuff (mostly boxes out of the closet and a few odds and ends) then hit the carpet with the vaccuum. But most of it will sit here and wait until I get back at the end of the week before I organize everything and get officially finished with the move. Yes, I've been taking my own sweet damn time.

Once that chore is finished, I've got one more night of work, then I'll grab a few hours of sleep before hitting the highway bound for Phoenix. I'll drop the tailgate and see if I can improve on that 14 mpg I've been getting around town. I've also noticed that my gas gauge absolutely races to the half-tank mark, and that's usually about the time I fill it up, not wanting to cough up $75 for a fill up. But I've let this last tank run down, and happily the needle has been stuck on a quarter tank for the past three days. I'll fill up tomorrow before I hit the road, and I'm *sure* 22 gallons will be more than enough to get me all the way to Phoenix, but I still have to figure out just how far I can go before I need to start looking for a gas station.

Back in the day, I lived on the southeast side of Phoenix, down in the Tempe/Mesa/Chandler/Gilbert area, and the drive to Vegas took about four-and-a-half hours. But I imagine that this trip won't take four hours because 1) I'm not leaving from the Vegas Club, which was our usual destination--my house is 20 minutes closer to Hoover Dam, 2) I don't anticipate much traffic on a Tuesday afternoon between here and there, and 3) I'm going to my buddy Ed's house, who now lives way the hell up on the northwest edge of civilization in Phoenix, about a half hour closer to Vegas than when Derek and I lived up the street from Sun Devil Stadium. So it should be an easier trip than previous jaunts across the desert.

I can't wait to get there and see everyone. It should be a great time! I just have to put in another eight hours behind the tables first...

Work was interesting last night--I made it the entire eight hours, but damn, it was tough. I dealt mostly Pai Gow for the first six hours, and longtime reader and occasional comments-section poster 'Jimbucc' and his wife stopped by and played for an hour or so at my table. They basically broke even, maybe even made a buck or two before calling it a night. I wish I could've given them a good hand--I dealt two four-of-a-kinds last night, but nothing that big landed in front of them.

At 2:00 am, they moved me to the dice table, and I was glad to see that it was an easy game with just two players. But as soon as I got there, the dang table filled completely up with players, most of which were a lot of fun. But this complete tool, betting $5 on the line with no odds or any other bets kept whining like it was my fault that the cocktail waitress wasn't coming around quick enough for him.

Yeah pal, like I can summon scantily-clad chicks bearing free booze while standing there making payouts to five other players... Whatever, douchebag.

I was glad to see him lose his last twenty bucks before he ever got that Corona he was holding out for. Everyone else was a lot of fun and we had a good time for about an hour before the table turned ice cold and chased everyone away.

We dropped down to a three-man crew with me sitting box for a few minutes before falling ass-backwards into the 20-minute early out that I clearly didn't deserve. But I'll take it! I spent a few minutes collecting tokes (basically carrying around a bank bag while two of the gals I work with emptied the toke boxes into it--that shiat gets heavy with all that silver!) before punching out ahead of the mass exodus, and was home in bed enjoying the cool breeze a half hour later.

One more night just like that and I'll be good to go.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Back in the Saddle and Counting My Chickens

Having already borne the cost of the shipping for all the t-shirts, and clearing just enough profit on the original order to get an extra one to send to my mom, I figure any other payments that arrive are just going to be gravy. I got an email from one of my overseas readers who assured me that the international money order was 'dropped in the post' a few days ago, leaving me with only two shirts whose potential owners are MIA.

So I figured that I'd celebrate the conclusion of the t-shirt business by treating myself to something nice, if not extravagant. Nope, no Metro Pizza or lunch at the Grand Luxe--I decided to peruse the ol' wish list at Amazon and see if I could find just enough goodies to get me over that $25 Super Saver hump for the free shipping.

And by the way, I don't know if it gives anyone else a grin like it does for me, but one of the greatest things about buying stuff over the internet is dodging the sales tax. And you know I'm all about sticking it to The Man!

Anyhow, I hadn't bought any music in awhile, and regular readers know of my constant blathering about how music just isn't any good anymore. So I ordered The Essential Dean Martin CD--great stuff by one of the greatest vocalists of any era. I also broke down and ordered the CD single of Check Up On It by Beyonce. I know, it's not really my preferred genre, but a catchy tune is a catchy tune. Having put that one in the cart, it still left me with a few bucks I had to spend in order to get the free shipping deal.

And then I remembered...

Now that I have an actual working stereo/CD player in my vehicle, I've been listening to the radio again. And there are a couple of damn fine radio stations out here in Vegas, most notably an outfit called Area 108--it's just at cool as 91X back in San Diego. Anyhow, there's a song that I've heard a few times in the past couple of weeks that to me is the best thing to hit the airwaves since Franz Ferdinand released Take Me Out a couple of years back.

I don't know if anyone out there has heard of a Finnish group called H.I.M.--but their latest tune, Wings of a Butterfly is just a fantastic piece of work. I'm even gonna go out on a limb and say that it's my current favorite song. It's got that cool retro late 80's power-pop sound with a nifty guitar hook and vocals that on some level remind me of Linkin Park. Just a great all-around song, so of course I added that CD single to the shopping cart.

That got me to $27 and my shopping day was done.

Aaaahhh... the Internet. Is there anything it can't do?


It's Alive!

Finally--I have a fully functioning internet connection! And believe me, it wasn't nearly as easy to fix as I'd hoped. But I'm live-blogging from the wood-paneled cheesiness of the new world headquarters of

(Side note--I believe I had an English professor back in college that told me I should never use three prepositions in the same sentence unless I was walking through the valley of the shadow of death... HM)

I finally got the Desk from Hell assembled, and all of the bits and pieces of my own personal I.T. department moved over and hooked up over the course of the last three days when we had no internet service. But the Cox cable repairman showed up bright and early at 9:00 am on this sunny Sunday morning (Hat tip for weekend service--they could've just as easily told us to go scratch...), and was most helpful.

Turns out that there was no 'hub' issue like we were told over the phone--the problem was just a bad modem that coincidentally decided to die at the same time we lost our cable TV signal the other night, leaving us to believe that the two were related. And I actually have a spare cable modem, thanks to Dougie's generosity over a year ago... But since we were getting power to the modem, we didn't think that was the problem (because one light came on), and my roommate wanted to wait until the tech guy came out before we switched it out. The guy wasn't in the house thirty seconds before he diagnosed the problem.

Yeah, looks like your modem is fried.

And I had the other almost-new modem sitting there on the counter for the past three days collecting dust. But my roommate decided to just buy a replacement from the cable guy on the spot instead of having to replace it whenever I move out sometime in the future. A minute later it was hooked up, and both of my roommates that were home tested the connections in their respective bedrooms and proclaimed them good.

The cable man was walking down the driveway to the street when I tested mine, and almost got away when I realized that I still had no internet connection in my new room. It was all hooked up correctly, it appeared, but I could get no IP address to show and didn't have any connection whatsoever.

So we chased him down and brought him back in, and he did a few tests, scratched his head for a bit and we started running down wires. We have a hub/router in the back of the house with a tangled spaghetti mess of Cat-5 cables branching out in all different directions. Mine was the only blue cable, and it runs along the floor, through a hole in the wall to a closet, through another hole that goes outside, runs up the wall and over the roof, down the front of the house and through a hole in the wall in my new room--about 150 feet altogether. From there I connected a 15-foot patch cord that runs directly into my computer.

The initial diagnosis was that the router had a bad port on it because the blue cable at that end wouldn't 'light up' when it was plugged in. But we tried other cables in the different port outlets and they worked fine.


I envisioned myself spending my Sunday afternoon down at Fry's buying half a football fields worth of new Cat-5 cable and then sweating my ass off while running it through the walls and across the roof and such. Either that or coughing up the cash for a wireless card for my computer. It's much too early in the year for a fat guy to be climbing around on the roof, and I certainly don't want to spend any money on this obsolete computer, so neither option seemed particularly attractive at the time.


Just double checking the run of the cables, we noticed that once they got into the storage closet, there were two different blue wires--one going into the closet, but two blue ones going outside.


Unfortunately, it was another tangled mess of wires under the rug with about five years worth of my roommate's crap stacked on top. So the cable guy, my roommate, and I started pulling all of the junk out of the closet, tore up the carpet, and eventually found the unconnected end to a blue Cat-5 cable. We forced it through the hole in the wall, ran it to the router, plugged it in, and it lit up.

Hey, that's the one that goes to your room--it works!

I was skeptical, but the cable guy said it wouldn't have lit up if there wasn't a computer on the other end of it receiving the signal. I ran back to the other side of the house just in time to see my inbox filling up with 70 new messages...

Woo hoo!

So I asked my roommate if Tim (the guy who moved out, leaving me his room) ever complained about not having an internet connection or if he just went wireless.

Nope. He didn't have a computer.


But all is well, and I'm back in business! Good thing, too. Because lately this computer has been nothing but a twelve-hundred dollar deck of cards.