Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tax Season

Ok, so I got an email this morning from Turbo Tax reminding me, again, that it was tax season. As an incentive, they were offering limited-time deep discounts on their service, too. Since my W-2 was sitting on my nightstand, along with the only other two other year-end forms I got for 2007, I figured it was time to go ahead and file.

Normally, I try to make it where I owe about $100 or so every year, just because I'd rather have my money in hand than giving the gub-mint an interest-free loan. But these past few years it hasn't mattered much, and last year when I found out about my underpayment of 2001, thereby immediately putting me in debt to the IRS to the tune of about $1300, well, I just didn't care anymore. I figured if I got any type of refund would be swallowed up. I've been diligently paying it down, along with my student loans, in the hopes that someday the federal government would get off my back.

Anyhow, as you're filing your taxes on Turbo Tax, they have a little meter at the top of the page that shows your current refund amount at any point in the process. It was sitting at $172 for most of the morning, but as I delved deeper into the questions and deductions, it started clocking over like like the Mach meter on the Concorde. By the time I was done, my refund was all the way up to $690! Woo hoo!

Of course, the chances of seeing any of that are slim to none, because they'll apply it to what I still owe from days past, but guess what--that's one less expense I have to deal with. And with this $600 credit/economic stimulus/vote bribe thing they're passing out, I might actually get a check from Uncle Sam for the first time in almost a decade.

Ooh, and it turns out that I got to file for free. No fees this year. Thank you, TurboTax.


Stealing From Kim, Again

I don't know why Kim has suddenly decided to start food-bloggin', but damn, I'm in favor of it. Some of this may be repeats, but oh well, it's a free site--you get what you pay for!

1) Where & what did you eat last night? In my living room--leftover pizza from Grimaldi's.

2) Are you a good cook? I think so. Like my writing, sometimes I'm lazy, but every now and then I hear the muse and just go nuts.

3) What's currently in your fridge? A gallon of milk, coffee creamer, three bottles of Michelob Light, 2 bottles of white wine, a dozen eggs, a few varieties of cheese and lunchmeat, condiments, leftover Spanish rice, three oranges.

4) Marmite? WTF is marmite? Is it like Skittles? I'm imagining something like a cross between Gnutella and mincemeat.

5) Do you have a comfort food? Pot roast w/ veggies. Fettuccine alfredo. Chicken noodle soup.

6) What is your favorite restaurant? I've got a few--Grimaldi's, Grand Lux, the Peppermill.

7) What was your most memorable meal? Dinner at The Palm at Caesars Palace two years ago. Fantastic food, even better company (about ten of my best friends), my "first date" with Sticky.

8) Do you have a favorite food scene from the movies? Well, of course Meg Ryan eating her salad in When Harry Met Sally is always a favorite. John Belushi loading up in the cafeteria just before the food fight in Animal House. And when Harold and Kumar finally get to White Castle.

9) What's your favorite cinema snack? Buttered popcorn and Junior Mints.

10) Raw Fish? Oh hell yeah. I loves me some good sushi. Spicy tuna rolls are about as good as it gets. And I've been known to experiment with other lesser-known freakier types of sushi on occasion, also.

11) What would your last meal be? Man, that's a tough one. Something that put me to sleep, hopefully. I guess I'd go with a big juicy steak and such.

12) Which TV cook irritates you the most? No question, Rachel Ray.


Kicking Off My Work Week

Happy Thursday morning everyone! While the rest of the world has no opinion of Thursdays, well, I have a very strong one--basically they suck. Yep, it's my Monday morning--time to dress from head to toe in black and go from ankles to neck in polyester. Attractive? Oh yeah, it gets all the ladies...

But I've got several hours to kill before I have to head back into the casino. Most of my around-the-house chores are finished, but there's always more to do. Yesterday, I was exhausted all day long--I stayed up pretty much all night on Tuesday, reading, writing, not so much arithmetic, and surfing the net. When I finally got to sleep around 9:00 am, my phone started ringing a half hour later. It was Lars. Oh yeah--lunch at Grimaldi's!

So I got another hour and a half of sleep, then took a quick shower, found a clean shirt and my flip-flops, and headed out.

Lars and his newly-shaved head arrived just a minute or two after I did, and we settled down into the menu. No, no salads, thank you for asking, we're all about the mission at hand.

This time, we followed the rules and did it right. I ordered an 18-inch sausage and black olive pie, and Lars went with tradition--pepperoni and mushroom. Needless to say, they were both amazing and we agreed that we'd finally found the perfect combinations. Or as Lars put it, The quest is over, now the worshiping can begin!

For whatever reason, neither one of us could put down more than four slices, so we both came away with two slices of each pie to take home for dinner. So eight hours later, when I was watching Anthony Bourdain eat his way through Ireland, I enjoyed my leftovers with a tall glass of Coke on ice, just as God intended.

And yea verily, it was good.

I think I'm becoming addicted to Anthony Bourdain's show, No Reservations. I missed most of the first-run episodes, so I've been recording them every chance I get. I swear, I always feel smarter, or at least more well-informed, after each episode. Now, he may come off as a smarmy jackass to some folks, but I totally embrace his travel philosophy--avoid the touristy stuff, eat what the locals eat, and keep an open mind. He's definitely more of a traveler, not a tourist.

As far as being a chef goes, who knows? I don't know much about the guy--I guess I could hit up the old Wikipedia and find out, but I'm guessing he hasn't picked up a knife or a saucepan in the kitchen in years. I think he does better as a food critic, although, watching him squirm in Emeril's presence in the New Orleans episode was a treat to watch. He used to slam Emeril all the time, but watching him eat at Emeril's table--where the food was top-notch, to be sure, was fun. Backpedal city. And the look on Emeril's face--you could just tell he was thinking, That's right asshole, you love this stuff because I actually cook for a living...

But he's grown on me. He may be a prick, but he's my kind of prick. At first, it seemed that unless the food was cooked in New York, San Francisco, or on the street in some third-world shiathole, it just wasn't good enough. And I think he used to harbor some sour grapes about being overlooked as a 'celebrity chef'--he seems to have a real problem with big time chefs who open restaurants in Las Vegas, and well, making fun of my new hometown just ain't cool. But if he sticks to wandering all over the planet and introducing the rest of us to the odd and the offbeat, well then, I'm going to keep watching.

I especially enjoy all of the episodes filmed in Asia. Talk about interesting--Because of his show, a visit to Hong Kong, Thailand, and mainland China are now high on the list of Things I Wish I Could Afford, while a visit to Vietnam, er, not so much...

So besides Beach Week and the occasional World Poker Tour episode, that's the only thing keeping me watching the Travel Channel. I've seen all the cruise and Vegas-related programming several times over, and Samantha Brown just doesn't do it for me. But watching Anthony Bourdain sample the wares in an open market in a city that I can't pronounce, relying only on the honesty of his interpreter, well, that's just must-see TV!

In the meantime, I'm just going to chill out here at the house and finish off my pot of coffee. No breakfast for me, but lunch will probably be another one of those roast beef-swiss-dijon sandies on an onion roll. But what I'm really looking forward to is my post-work meal late Friday night/early Saturday morning.

One of my buddies just opened his own Thai-Chinese restaurant, and it has it's official opening tomorrow. But I've eaten there already. He had the pre-opening 'sample the menu' party last Sunday, and I have to say, it was fantastic.

First of all, the name of the place is called The Golden Kitchen, kinda like your typical mom-and-pop style Chinese restaurant. But it's not a cheapass dime-a-dozen Asian buffet that seem to dot this town like degenerates in the bingo room. Oh no. It's *much* better than that.

The owner, Kenny, comes from the casino business, but has always wanted to own a restaurant. But he chose a location in Henderson near one major casino and within two or three miles of several minor casinos and a dozen or more 24/7 video poker bars. And he's catering to the neighborhood--so many of the people that live around there work in the hospitality industry and work oddball hours, so his restaurant is open from 11 am until 6 am every day, giving everyone who gets off after midnight an alternative to bar food or drive-thru dining.

So, this past Sunday night, after I got out of work, I headed over to the new restaurant (around 2 in the morning). When I got there, I was surprised to see about 15 of my friends there, and within the next two hours, about 30 more showed up. Pretty much everyone I knew in Vegas was there--seriously, if a bomb went off in the room it would've wiped out about 90% of the people I know in this town--there were dealers from other properties, my co-workers, bartenders, cocktail waitresses, etc. It was a great crowd of 'my people'. We just sat around socializing, while the waitress kept making sure that nobody had an empty bottle of beer for the entire time, and the kitchen staff just kept bringing out tray after tray of wonderful Asian dishes.

There were the old reliables on display--sweet and sour pork, fried rice, lo mein, Chinese short ribs, kung pao, broccoli beef, etc., but damn it was all good. First of all, the fried rice was far superior to the basic rice/scrambled egg/frozen peas and carrots crap you get at most places. It was all fresh and the veggies were crunchy. And the sweet and sour was the best I'd ever had. Besides just pineapple, onions, and peppers, there was some sort of sweet Asian fruit in the recipe that I'd never had before--it was just a bit bigger than a cocktail onion one would use in a gimlet, but it was sweet like candy, and hollowed out like an onion. I had no idea what it was, and I made a point of finding out, but I didn't write it down, so I've forgotten what it was called. But damn, it was good--and made a fine addition to an otherwise common entree.

There were also great soups--hot and sour, and egg drop. Both were delicious. The spring rolls were some of the best I'd ever had, and the pan-fried dumplings, they were oh-my-gawd good. I had some wonderful shrimp kung pao, and some mildly spicy cashew chicken, but the best was a special dish he cooked up at the end--spicy shrimp and scallops. It was just amazing--the seafood was so tender--not overcooked at all, like in most Chinese restaurants, and it was flash-wok'd with ginger, sesame, and garlic, and came with water chestnuts and green onions. And there was just a hint of that fiery Thai red pepper, so when you first ate it, it had a little zip to it, but a few minutes later, it lingered with a nice satisfying heat that made you keep licking your lips. It was one of the best Asian dishes I've ever had.

We sat in there for over four hours, drinking his beer cooler empty and sampling everything he brought out. And it was all just amazing. Everyone loved it and agreed that he was bound for success. Hell, he's gonna get rich off of my co-workers once they start paying for their own beer! The plan was to open on Wednesday (yesterday) but there was a problem with the menus, so they had to send them all back to get reprinted, so it's not opening, officially, until tomorrow. And guess where I'm eating after work? That's right. I cannot wait to get my hands on some more of those dumplings, and that sweet and sour.

Americanized Chinese food? Maybe. But way better than anything you'll get at China Panda. Hell, they don't even have pork on their menu. WTF is that about?

Maybe I'll take the camera with me and do a full-on review.

Oh, and next Wednesday I'll have another review of a very upscale restaurant from my list. It seems that one of my readers from out-of-town is on a quest to have 12 amazing Vegas dining experiences this year, and has invited me to join him on Tuesday night for the first meal of his culinary adventure. I'm not going to reveal anything else, but let's just say that it'll be the nicest joint I've been in since that trip to Andre's.

To say that I'm looking forward to that would be an understatement on par with the original "Houston, we have a problem."

Anyhow, not much else is going on here in America's Playground today. The weather has finally warmed up, the sun is out, and I think winter is finally behind us. And I've got a few hours of freedom left before head back to the neon treadmill, and I hope to enjoy it away from the computer.

Y'all have a great day!


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mikey's Fine Fifteen

Funny how great minds work alike. I've been thinking of making the exact same post that Kim did this morning for a few weeks now, but just never got around to it. I guess I have no excuse now. I don't know if these foods are as 'simple' as Kim likes, but hey, different strokes.

Here are 15 of my favorite things to grub on, in no particular order, with apologies to my vocal minority of readers who hate it when I write about food topics.

1) Thin crusted New York style pizza--more precisely, a Grimaldi's 16-incher with pepperoni and mushrooms. It just doesn't get any better than that.

2) French toast, bacon, and coffee. It's gotta be Texas toast, butter and maple syrup only. Real butter. And not a hint of powdered sugar to be seen anywhere.

3) PB&J, chips, a tall glass of cold milk. That's smooth peanut butter and strawberry preserves on wheat bread, and Ruffles sour cream & onion chips. Some days, it's just the perfect lunch.

4) Grilled steak, baked potato, spinach salad, crescent rolls, red wine. I've gotten to the point where a big juicy ribeye is about the only steak I want to eat. The potato will have all the toppings that are bad for me, the spinach salad will have oddball toppings like red grapes and wasabi chips, along with a vinaigrette dressing, and the wine will be a Pinot Noir from Oregon or a South African shiraz. Oh, and the steak will likely be topped with sauteed mushrooms and onions.

5) Mamasan's homemade meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas, and corn muffins. And yeah, I'm one of those people who put ketchup on meatloaf instead of gravy. And it's even better if we're playing cards when we're eating, too.

6) Grilled beer brats, potato salad, cole slaw, bbq beans. The brats are simmered in beer and onions for about an hour before hitting the grill, and then topped with the beer-soaked onions and brown mustard. A good poppy-seed deli bun completes the masterpiece.

7) Chicken fried steak and eggs, hashbrowns, wheat toast. The offering at the Peppermill on the Strip here in Vegas is still the best I've ever had. By the way, I prefer my eggs over-easy. But sometimes I'm feeling a little saucy, and I'll order them scrambled.

8) Clam Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. The best clam chowder I've ever had was so far from the ocean that it was almost comical. It was at Noah's Ark Motor Inn in St. Charles Missouri, just off I-70 after you crossed the Missouri River leaving St. Louis County. When we first moved to St. Louis, we had to stay there for a week or so before we could get into our house, and we ate at their restaurant every night. It was a campy ark-shaped restaurant, complete with animal statues and such, but damn, it had the best clam chowder ever. It's been over 20 years since the last time I ate there, and I don't even know if the place still exists. (Behold, the power of the internet-- Update HERE).

9) Shrimp cocktail, a French Dip, and a draft beer. For years, this was the ritualistic first meal whenever my buddies and I got to Vegas. It was always in the steeped-in-history deli at the Golden Gate casino in downtown Las Vegas. For years, all they had on tap was Old Milwaukee. Seemed appropriate at the time.

10) Hebrew Nationals, topped with no-bean chili, yellow mustard, and shredded cheese. About as basic as it gets. I steam the buns by putting a couple of chopsticks across the saucepan as the hot dogs are boiling, and lay the buns on the chopsticks. And I *try* not to put on so much chili that I have to use a fork, but sometimes, good intentions and all that....

11) Chicken Satay with peanut sauce, Pad Thai noodles, crab Rangoon. Oh hell yeah I love me some spicy hot Thai Food. There's a place off of Pecos and Tropicana called Mr. Chop Chop that has some awesome Thai food. I don't get there often enough.

12) A carne-asada burrito from any 24-hour taco stand ending in O-apostrophe-S located anywhere in southern Nevada, southern California, or Arizona--Roberto's, Filiberto's, Alberto's, Abierto's, etc... It doesn't matter--they're all good. I like mine with pico de gallo, shredded cheese, and a touch of sour creme. And if I'm especially hungry, I'll get three rolled tacos with guacamole, too.

13) Americanized Chinese Take-Out. I know, most of it is as far from authentic Chinese food as St. Charles is from the ocean, but, Kung Pao, sweet and sour pork, lo mein noodles, fried rice, orange chicken, broccoli beef? Who doesn't love that and crave it every now and then? And do the Asian Nachos at Grand Lux count?

14) Spaghetti, garlic toast, green salad. I prefer my spaghetti sauce with all kinds of veggies in it like peppers, onions, mushrooms, and both beef and Italian sausage for flavor. When I make it, the sauce is an all-day affair in the crock pot, and I'm eating leftovers every day for a week. Then I'm good for about six months, as far as spaghetti goes.

15) Fish & Chips. This is especially good in a dimly lit pub, accompanied by a pint of Newcastle. Maybe even with a side of peas, if you're needing a veggie fix.

Damn. I'm getting hungry for breakfast now.


Getting Back to Normal

Thanks again everyone, for everything--it's been a roller coaster these past few days, but life goes on. Cyndi wanted me to tell you that she's read everyone's comments and thoughts, and appreciates them, but as you can imagine, she hasn't really had time to sit down at the computer and respond.

Anyhow, where are we now...

Well, I'm right in the middle of my weekend, and I've had a fairly good day off. After getting some much-needed rest, I puttered around the house a bit and then had a wonderful conversation with Angy that went on so long that it damn near killed my cell phone. But it was just what I needed because we always end up laughing our asses off about the silliest stuff.

After the phone call, I was starving because I hadn't eaten anything except two bags of microwaved popcorn in the past two days. The offerings in the employee dining room sucked ass on Monday night, and I didn't have much in the cupboard here at the house. So when hunger finally overtook laziness around 7:00 pm last night, I put some shoes on and headed to the grocery store.

I only got a few things, but I ended up making a pretty damn good sandwich for dinner--an idea that Mamasan planted the idea in my head earlier in the weekend. I got some fresh onion rolls from the bakery, Dijon mustard, some Boar's Head premium roast beef, and some sliced baby Swiss cheese. I put it all together open-faced under the broiler and let it get all toasty and melty, and oh my gawd was it good!

Unfortunately, I forgot to get any coleslaw while at the deli counter, so y'all can just chill on that can o' worms. I had to make do with cool ranch Doritos instead.

But an interesting thing happened at the grocery store. When I first got to the deli counter, there were about six people waiting, and there was some sort of controversy over who's turn it was, so I just moved on and kept shopping. I came back about ten minutes later, and everyone was gone. So I gave the guy behind the counter a smile and cracked some minor joke which seemed to make his day.

I told him that I wanted about three-quarters of a pound of the Boar's Head beef, and he gave me a side-to-side glance and motioned me to come closer. In a lowered voice he said "Man, you're the first person all night that's been nice to me, so I'm gonna give you the good stuff for the same price as the store brand. Don't tell anybody in here..."

Wow, I was shocked, but I agreed to his conditions, and he gave me a full pound of the premium stuff for five bucks less than it should've cost. As he handed it over the counter to me, I thanked him, and the last thing he said to me was quite profound, and gave me a moment's pause as I walked away.

See? It always pays to be nice to people, because you never know where your blessings will come from.

Who knew there was such a wise old sage working behind the deli counter at the grocery store, but it's a very true statement nonetheless. I guess it just goes to show that you can find wisdom in the most unexpected places. With that, I picked up a few other necessities (coffee, creamer, and pack of those strangely addicting chocolate chunk pecan cookies), and came home to make my sandwich.

After dinner, the weather was so nice compared to how cold it's been, that I put on some swim trunks, loaded up my Poor Man's Cocktail Shaker with rum and Coke (a Lexan sports bottle with a screw-on top), grabbed a fine Cuban cigar, and headed out to the jacuzzi for an hour of relaxation and introspection.

It was just what I needed.

When I got back to the house, I found Rob puttering around in the kitchen, so of course we sat down to watch four or five episodes of Jeopardy that we'd recorded earlier in the week. (Seriously--nobody knew that the Panama Canal was considered the greatest engineering feat in the world in the 1910's? WTF? Morons.)

Anyhow, that's how I spent my Tuesday. Today, Chris and I are talking about having lunch at, wait--you'll never guess--Grimaldi's, and afterwards I'm going to try and repeat a vehicular miracle that I performed last Wednesday. I have to go pick up some pants at the alterations shop, and last week when I dropped them off, I drove down Eastern Avenue all the way from Horizon Ridge to Sunset without hitting a single stoplight. That's like five miles in Vegas traffic, and I swear there is a stoplight like every 400 yards.

I was so proud of the feat that I was tempted to call Ripley's. Or at least the local news channel. I probably made the trip faster than an ambulance does with it's siren and all of it's lights flashing. I seriously doubt that it can ever be repeated, because traffic in this town sucks, especially on that stretch of road. But the funny thing was, I only noticed I had a chance to make history because when I turned the corner from Horizon Ridge to get onto Eastern, a bottle of aspirin came out of my center console and was rolling around by my feet, and I told myself I'd reach down and grab it at the next stoplight.

Well, I didn't stop again until I pulled up in front of the alterations shop.

We'll see how it goes this afternoon, but I'm not expecting lightning to strike twice. I'll just be happy to be face down in a 16-inch circle of sausage-and-olive happiness. After that, I won't care how bad the traffic is.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

In Memoriam

David J. Knox, 1950 - 2008

First of all, I want to thank everyone for their kind words in my comments section and in my email box. It all means very much to me, and I'm sure it means even more to my sister Cyndi. It gives me great comfort to know that so many people care about me and my family, especially at this difficult time.

The services are today, and I wish more than anything I could be there with the family. Circumstances prevent me from doing so, but in some weird way, it just serves as a reminder that life goes on, no matter what.

It might seem odd, but the only music I've listened to in the past two days is the CD from Phantom of the Opera. It's fitting, though--that was the last thing we did together socially--Cyndi, David, and I--we went to see Phantom at the Venetian. So it reminds me of him. He actually traveled to Vegas on business quite a bit, and I'm glad for all the times we got to spend together after I left Tennessee.

Everyone close to our family knows that Cyndi and David were separated, and were actually getting a divorce. But he was still a big part of our family, and I saw him and got to spend a little time with him in September when I went back to Nashville for a few days. That was the last time I saw him, and at the time he seemed perfectly healthy, upbeat, and optimistic. He knew he had cancer, but the plan was to go get an operation, do some treatments, and leave it behind. It all seemed so simple then. He made it sound like it would happen, and I believed him at the time.

But cancer doesn't conform to anyone's plans, and it was much more aggressive than we thought. And it finally caught up to him on Sunday.

It's hard to believe that he's gone, but talking to Mamasan on Sunday night, we both remembered all of the good things and the fun memories we had. When our gang thinks of David, we remember all the cookouts and parties at their house, where he'd always make his famous bar-b-que ribs that everyone loved so much. That's what we remember most--Their home was always party central, and it seemed that almost every weekend (while I was living in Nashville) the whole family would gather there for dinner, movies, cookouts, parties, whatever occasion came up.

Last year, about this time, I wrote a post about the first time I ever met David, and that kicked off several years of laughter and good times.

One of the best times we ever had was one scorching afternoon down in Key West. It was hot as hell that day, and we were just killing time until early evening when my sister Nancy's wedding was to take place. Of course we were pub crawling on Duval Street, and we ended up spending the whole afternoon at the Hog's Breath Saloon, two-fisting pina coladas and watching the endless parade of local freaks and tourists on display while we got drunker by the minute. Eventually he had to catch up to Cyndi, and we split up while I took my niece Becca to get a henna tatoo.

Once that chore was done, I was on my own, and realized that I was much too hot and much too drunk to make it back to the Truman Annex gardens under my own power, so I saw a dude with a brightly-colored bicycle-powered rickshaw/taxi thingy sitting on the side of the road, and inquired about his services. His price seemed right, at the time, but the truth is, I would've paid anything to avoid walking the mile or so back to the wedding in that heat and humidity. So I hopped in and said "Through the park, James". He proceeded to give me an unofficial tour of the island, dropping me off at the gate of the Truman Annex about ten minutes before the ceremony started.

Of course, David was the first person to see me, and he was just busting a gut laughing when he saw my drunk ass cruising up to the wedding in a rickshaw, completely festooned with rainbow flags and gay pride banners flapping proudly in the afternoon breeze.

It was quite the entrance.

He asked me something along the lines of "So, did you get a discount for joining the brotherhood?" and I told him that we shall never speak of these things again. So he only reminded me about it a couple dozen times in the ensuing years...

Another time, we were going out to dinner one Friday night, and ended up at J. Alexander's down in Franklin--Cyndi's favorite restaurant. We didn't have a reservation, and the waiting list was an hour long. So David sent me over to the bar to fetch us a couple of cocktails while we waited. The bar was packed, and it took forever to get a drink. Not wanting to do that chore twice, I told the bartender that I needed two Gentleman Jacks on the rocks (David's favorite whiskey), and I needed them to be doubles.

Well, the bartender was in the weeds, as they say in the business, so he just grabbed whatever glasses were handy and filled them with ice and booze. When I went back outside to the patio carrying two PINT glasses full of whiskey, David was cracking up and Cyndi knew she was in for a long night. Yeah, we killed the booze off just before getting our table, and the bottle of wine that came with dinner didn't help our sobriety at all. We were laughing and carrying on like a couple of rednecks all night, and I'm sure Cyndi was just thrilled to have to drive us home after dinner.

That was a fun meal.

The thing I remember most about David was his generosity. Not only with his money, but with his time. He was always willing to help anyone who needed a ride somewhere, needed a piece of furniture moved, or all of the endless little chores that came with having three sons and two step-daughters. He never let anyone else pick up a dinner check or bar tab as long as I knew him, no matter what the size of the party. And when I first moved back to Nashville, and had been out of work for three months and flat broke, he insisted on buying me a new suit and tie for my interview for that good job I finally found. And he made sure I went to "his guys" to get it altered in time so that I'd look my best. That was really cool of him to do.

But the thing that really gave him the most joy was coaching pee-wee football. Every Saturday morning in the fall he'd be off coaching the little guys, even though his sons were grown and in college and beyond. I'd go over and meet him afterwards to spend the afternoon watching SEC football with him at the house, and to listen to him talk about the kids playing, well, he had so much enthusiasm that you'd think he was talking about the Super Bowl every weekend. You could just tell that it was the hobby that he loved the most.

He will be sorely missed, and not just by everyone in our family, but by the hundreds of people that called him 'friend'. He truly was my brother, and the world was a richer and better place because of the time he spent here.

Goodbye, David. Rest in peace.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Sad Day In Our Family

Hey gang.

I was all motivated to write a bunch of interesting stuff and detail the adventures from my weekend, but it's just not happening right now.

We got the bad news that we've sort of anticipated for a few months now--my brother in law David passed away yesterday after battling lung cancer/mesothelioma since late last summer. Even when you know it's coming, it's a shock to the system. Especially since he was probably the healthiest person in our (extended) family. Hell, he just ran a marathon last summer.

I had a chance to go home to be with my family this week, but I called work to find out the policy on bereavement pay, and they don't cover any "in-laws". So basically I'd be putting myself back into a hole that I've been working so diligently to dig myself out of these past several months. I just can't afford the time off to make the trip.

I will be staying in Vegas.

Services and such are on Tuesday in Franklin, Tennessee. Blogging and such will be light to non-existent for awhile.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Not Even Tired Yet

Damn. Here it is 6:30 on a Sunday morning and I'm wide awake. I can't blame it on the coffee--I haven't had a single cup in over a week. Maybe it's the big Thirstbuster full of Coke I picked up on the way home from the casino. Perhaps if I'd added a splash or three of rum I'd be blissfully snoring away the morning by now...

Work just flew by last night. I was back on my favorite string of games again--2 Pai Gow tables and Deuces Wild. I had some fun players, dropped a bunch of money, and had a lot of laughs. Oh, and I got the half-hour early push, too, so that was like a little bonus for me at the end of the night. (Sometimes it pays to be the teacher's pet, too. I won't lie--I know I catch a lot of breaks other folks don't get. Heh. But the key to happiness at work is to always try to make the boss look good, and always be friendly to the people who make decisions that directly affect you.)

Anyhow, I couldn't believe it when 2:00 am rolled around--and instead of going on break for twenty minutes and having to come back and deal another round (instead of getting the half-hour early out), they boss came by and told me to come see him when I got tapped out of my game. While all of the other dealers on our rotation had to go on break, then come back and finish the hour on the tables, another dealer and I were told to go pick up tokes on all the dead games and then go home. Score! Seriously, it's hard to describe what a cool bonus that is. We still got paid for the full hour of tokes, but yet we got to go home long before anyone else.

I had plans to go out with DeeDee after work, but she never showed up, never called, and her phone went straight to voicemail, so I'm guessing she got a better offer. I was kinda pissed for about two minutes, but then realized that I wasn't really in the mood to go out drinking and carrying on, and if I just came home I'd probably save a wad of cash, too.

But seriously people, if you're gonna email me and tell me you're coming in town and want to get together and such, don't be f*cking rude and just not show up--at least call a brotha and cancel. It almost cost me even more money, because the plan was for her to come down to the casino at 1:30 and I was going to take an early out. But when 1:15 rolled around and they asked me if I wanted to go home, luckily I was able to talk them out of it. If I would've taken off early from work and gotten stood up, I'd probably be pretty pissed off right now instead of just mildly irritated.

We did, however, get to go out for a couple hours last night. Once I got out of work we headed to a little bar nearby the casino, which one of my cocktail waitress friends told me she was working at part time. So we decided to check it out.

It was lots of fun, and my waitress girlie was there too, so we chilled for a couple hours, playing video poker and bar games with the other people in there. But we didn't stay out all night--I was home and in bed by 3:30.

And I was wiped out, too. When I got to work that night, I didn't have any tables assigned to deal, so they rounded up a couple other 'homeless' dice dealers and we just gave crew breaks all night long. Basically, that meant that we'd go to each dice table for twenty minutes, and that entire crew would take a break, then once they came back, we'd move on to the next one. There were three live dice games going, so we'd do all three tables in an hour, and then take a break ourselves.

First of all, it was nice because I only had to put up with our world-famous strokers for 20 minutes at a time. But it was tough because I'd come into a full game and not be used to all the action on the table and it would take a few minutes to familiarize myself with everyone's weird-assed 'systems'. But the cool thing was, the three of us were just stone-cold killers when we got on a table. As soon as we got there, the table turned ice-cold and everyone lost their asses. We just wiped everyone out all night long. You did *not* want to be anywhere near a dice table in my casino on Friday night, because if you were, you were going home broke.

I know, I sound like a complete asshole for saying that, but seriously, our regulars are some of the most annoying damn dice players on the planet. They're all strokers--every bet is either pressed, reduced, taken down, or "off one roll" every frickin' time. The words 'same bet' do not exist in their vocabulary. Now, I don't mind people pressing--if they're not asshats about it. Taking a $24 six to $42 doesn't impress me. It makes me think you're an annoying prick. And taking $30 or $40 odds on the six and eight tells me you're a complete cocksucker for making me pay you off in three colors. And don't even get me started on the ridiculous prop bet action.

I got crap like --

  • $5 action on the hopping six, high on the easy ways
  • $8 Yo, $8 Horn
  • $20 Whirl, 3-way seven, and hop the hard six and eight
  • Three-C, One-E
  • Horn-High aces, dollar on midnight
  • All the hard ways hopping and a $2 C & E
  • Crap check!
  • $6 Yo
And this was the action on pretty much every roll when I was on stick, so of course I was just giddy whenever the dice landed on five or nine. Wipe down the prop box, start all over... But they can't keep that nonsense up forever, so after twenty minutes of me not calling anything except Point-Seven Out!, we pretty much cleared out every game.

I was not unhappy at all when the night finally ended.

After working my ass off at the dice tables, then going out after work, I was exhausted when I got home. I took my usual hot-as-I-can-stand-it shower to get all the casino funk off of me, and went straight to bed. And you know what--I slept all day on Saturday. I was awake long enough to get up and make a bag of microwave popcorn and surf the net (while lying in bed) for a couple of hours late in the afternoon, but I pretty much snoozed all day long. It was wonderful.

Today, I have no plans. I was hoping to sleep for a few hours and then wake up in time to catch the Nascar race at 1:00, but I might still be asleep by then if I don't hurry up and get started on my shut-eye.

I guess I better get after it.


Friday, February 22, 2008

The Prisoner's Dilemma

Sorry for not posting yesterday, but sometimes I just don't have much to say. Yesterday was one of those days. Those that know me personally are probably shocked--shocked--to hear that sometimes I have nothing to say, but it's true. For the past ten or twelve years, I have basically talked for a living, and sometimes, especially nowadays, I like to just embrace the silence. On my weekends, I usually spend my entire day on Tuesdays living like a hermit in my room. After five days straight in the casino, it's nice to get away from people.

And when I go back to work on Thursdays, it's my ultimate desire not to have to say a word to anybody until I'm sitting down at my first table. Then I flip the switch back to "ON" and start jabbering and joking basically nonstop for the next eight hours. But that ultimate desire never works out. Unfortunately, the people with their lockers right next to mine live in homes where it seems that nobody ever listens to them, but I'm guessing it's because they all suck at reading body language. Sometimes people, especially guys, just don't want to talk. Especially if it's small talk that accomplishes nothing.

It's especially true on Thursday nights, because that is "Monday morning" for me. And everybody who's reading this can relate because you all have that one moron in your office that you just don't want to talk to first thing every Monday morning.

Anyhow, I don't know how I got off on that tangent, but there it is...

On the other hand, I am coming down with an *extreme* case of job satisfaction right now. They have eliminated much of the dead weight in the casino (even though Rob got swept up in the purges, they got rid of several asshats, too!), and because of the fewer tables available, it seems to have put the squeeze on some of our worst fleas. We eliminated an entire pit of $5 games, which are fine to have in a tourist casino down on the Strip, but in a locals casino, having cheap games is like ringing the dinner bell for every degenerate gambler living in a trailer on Boulder Highway. So a lot of them have been weeded out.

And now we're starting to get some bigger action, too. The dealers on my shift used to complain about having to deal 'BJ 1' and 'BJ 2' all the time, because they were two $25 double deck games. Now everyone seems to like it because they've started dropping a lot of tokes on those two tables. And just tonight, a guy came in who I'd never seen before, and he was playing two hands of Pai Gow at $200 per hand, plus having me up for $5 on both hands every time. In Chinatown, that's what we call an Uber-George. Pai Gow is a tough game to make tokes on, and this guy was very good to us.

It also helps that we are busier much deeper into the shift every night, too. And our tokes have improved vastly over the past two months. I just got my W-2 form the other day, and found out that in 2007, I made $6000 less than I made in 2006. It was a bad year. (Could any of you imagine having to take a $6000 per year pay cut and keeping your job?) I've mentioned previously that we didn't have a single day of tokes over $200 in *all* of 2007. We've already had two in the past two weeks. And one day this week was one of the top five days for tokes ever since I've been there. Hell, even on Monday we made $175, which has been unheard of...

And last night, before I left at 2:20, another gal and I went around emptying the toke boxes off of the dead tables, and managed to fill up one of the main 'treasure boxes' completely before the main toke drop happened at 2:40 am. That *never* happens. So I'm sure we made good money again last night. All I can say is, Thank you, Flying Spaghetti Monster, it's about damn time!

But just like a pack of dogs who have been beat down too much, every cynical dealer in the joint is hoping that "they don't do anything to f*ck this up!" Hey, nothing good lasts forever (just ask the dealers at the Wynn), but I'm hoping to make hay when the sun shines, get out of debt, and stop having to live paycheck to paycheck like I did for most of last year.

Still, I don't think they're done with the cost-cutting measures just yet. I heard about another floorperson on the graveyard shift getting canned yesterday, along with another dealer or two. So everyone is still kind of walking on eggshells, hoping that the good times keep rolling, and that nobody else gets fired.

But just as I was sitting down at my second table for the evening, one of the bosses came over and put the fear of God into me. He said in a stern voice, Mikey, go see the shift boss on your next break.


That's never good news.

I sweated for an hour thinking of all the stuff they could have on me, kinda like a kid going to the principals office. You know you're probably guilty of all kinds of shiat, but you don't know which stuff they know about. And I'll admit, sometimes I'm a total smartass at the table, so I was guessing that I probably offended somebody. (My first guess was earlier in the week when I was dealing Pai Gow, and turned over a hand with a pair of Queens on the bottom and a 10-8 on top, and I said Ooooooh, topless ladies! Just like at the Rhino! We got topless ladies at the Pai Gow table!)

Anyhow, it turns out that it was all for naught, I just had to go sign a form showing my current address, phone number, and email address, and another affidavit certifying that yes, I was still a white male. Whew...

But I guess I shouldn't have much to worry about. I get a lot of positive comments from the players, all the floorpeople like having me in their section because I rarely screw things up, and I drop a lot of tokes. Oh, and in three years of being a total smartass, I've never once been written up. And almost everybody in that joint has been written up for some sort of nonsense at some point.


In the past, I've written at length about how the casino business is so different than any other business in the world. You just can't leave one job for another, and expect to be full time. Whenever you move to a new casino, you start all over on the Extra-Board as a part-timer. And that sucks, because it's tough enough to budget when you're making tips for a living, but then factor in the crumminess of not knowing how many days of work you'll have from week to week. Oh, and there's that whole thing about not having health insurance or any other benefits, either. So it's totally like having the neon handcuffs. Once you're in a decent place full-time, it's *really* tough to move on unless you get on with a brand-new top-tier resort.

But you know what the kick in the balls is that comes with that? Bet you didn't know this dirty little secret. Places like the Wynn and Palazzo and such over-hire like crazy when they first open. Better to have too many dealers than not enough. So they'll need about 400 or so dealers to be fully staffed, but then they'll hire 600 or more. And guess what happens 90 days after the place opens for business? They cut loose 200 or more unlucky souls. Granted, when you hire that many people, some toads slip through that you'll want to get rid of, but a lot of those people quit very good paying jobs because they saw the dollar signs, and then a couple months later, they're back on the street, begging for their old jobs back. It really sucks.

And back when times were so bad at my casino a few months back, and every dealer I knew was applying for a job at the Palazzo, they all thought I was nuts for not trying to get a job there. I *knew* what would happen. And I'm sorry, Sheldon Adelson might be a billionaire, but he didn't make his billions in the casino business like Steve Wynn did, so his properties aren't nearly as smooth when they open. And they opened the casino before they opened the hotel, so they had no players for the first several weeks. The hotel still isn't completely finished, so they're not getting near the traffic in the casino that they expected. So guess what--there are a bunch of former Palazzo dealers out looking for jobs right now. Luckily, I am not one of them.

Now, here's my dilemma.

I paid my $800 tuition for Poker Dealer School. And I've been going on and off for the past two years, mostly when I became fairly disgusted with the way things were going at work. I've had offers to deal poker, but I've had to turn them down because they interfered with my full-time job. If I had taken them, I would've taken a sharp pay cut immediately, and lost all my benefits too. And now that I have a regular truck payment and insurance of over $500 per month (when you add them together), in addition to all my other obligations, I just can't afford to take a poker job unless it is the *perfect* situation. Basically, I'm kinda trapped. I'd need to find something that was part-time on day shift (I can't just switch shifts at my casino, either. I'm pretty well stuck on swing shift for the foreseeable future), and it'd have to be someplace that paid well enough to make it worthwhile, while also having a shift structure that ended at 6:00 pm.

That's asking a lot.

I've always thought that the worst mistake I made when I came here to Vegas was listening to everyone who said "Learn how to deal dice first, you'll always find a job". Hell, when I got here and was sitting in dice class every day, the poker boom was just hitting Vegas, and the folks at MGM Grand came down and hired everyone they could get their hands on for their new poker room.

Those guys are making BANK now. And you know what? That's the job I'd want the most. Ideally, I think the perfect situation would be to work there full time in the evenings, dealing poker at MGM, and then pick up a part-time day job and a top-tier place like Red Rock, Bellagio, Wynn, or Caesars dealing dice or Pai Gow three days a week. A guy can dream, can't he?

I just don't see a clear path to get from here to there. And now that we're doing so much better at my current place, well, it makes it even tougher. We're on pace to have a very big year, if all things stay the same. But I don't want that $800 tuition to go to waste, and I'd really like to deal poker too.

And no, before you ask, I cannot deal poker in my current casino, and if I go to any other casino in the 'family', I'll have to forfeit my current job, go back to the Extra Board, lose my benefits, yada yada yada... Basically, if I get a poker job, I'll have to work two jobs, at least for several months.

So, I'm not quite sure what my next move is. The 'poker season' is ramping up again, and casinos are looking for dealers. And for whatever reason, I seem to be blacklisted at MGM/Mirage properties. Twice I've gone down to do their screening interview kabuki dance, and both times they've basically blown me off after spending an afternoon jumping through all of their hoops. It's not like I'm not well qualified to work for them...

I dunno. Can I see myself working at my current place for the next ten years??? Man, I don't know. It's a nice place, the bosses are cool, the money is ok, the benefits are good... I *do* know that I like the casino business, and I really love living here in Vegas.

I guess we'll just have to chill and I'll revisit this again after the March Madness circus rolls back out of town next month.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Not My Night

Some days you're the windshield, and some days you're the bug...

We'll chalk up yesterday as a "bug" day.

Actually, my day didn't begin that badly. After all that writing I did early in the morning (that entry that takes five minutes to read took me almost an hour and a half to write, I'll have you know...), I pretty much slept all day until late into the afternoon, waking up because I'd left the window open to get some fresh air in my room and the jockey riding the leaf blower outside decided to give the bushes outside of my bedroom window some extra-special attention. Well, that, and Dougie called too. So between the drone of the lawn maintenance equipment and the buzzing of my cellphone, I figured it was time to get out of bed.

Anyhow, I had big plans that night to go out to dinner with three of my gals, and as the afternoon wore on, one by one they all dropped out. So instead of pimping around beautiful downtown Henderson with three smokin' hot ladies, I ended up flying solo.

Since I knew I wouldn't be dining at Grimaldi's, as per the original plan, once I got moving for the day, I grilled a hamburger for a late lunch. I also caught up on a few episodes of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations that I'd recorded.

But when it got to be six or sevenish and I still had no plans for the night, I grew a bit restless. I'd set aside about $80 or so to go out with last night, and I didn't want to end up using it on something boring like going to the grocery store, so I had to decide what to do with myself. My first choice was to head over to the Silverton, because on Tuesday nights at 10 pm they host an 'Industry Night' tournament in their poker room. It's open to casino employees only, with just a $40 buy-in. And I keep telling myself that I need to get over there and participate every week, and somehow I've yet to do it.

On the other hand, playing in a poker tourney is usually and all-or-nothing proposition. Only a few people actually cash in, the rest go home broke. Besides, I know I'm a little rusty, having not played any real poker in a couple of months. So I wasn't sure if I wanted to do that.

The alternative that I came up with was to head over to the Fiesta for some $5 Pai Gow. It's become one of Rob's favorite time-wasters, and I know that he's staying over there with his parents this week anyways. I figured I could probably play for a couple of hours, break even, and maybe get a free drink or two out of the deal. And maybe run into Rob and his folks at the same time, too. So instead of heading over to Silverton, I pointed the truck eastward on 215, and just five minutes later, found myself in the parking lot of the Flea-esta, as it's known in casino dealer circles.

I took a quick wander around the pit, and didn't see any familiar faces, but the $5 Pai Gow table, which I absolutely detest at my casino, was sitting there empty. So I grabbed a seat. (I've become that which I despise...) Immediately after I sat down, a miserable old bitty in a walker came shuffling over, sat down, and started to complain nonstop about pretty much everything. I couldn't help but give the dealer a knowing glance.

I feel your pain, brotha.

I should've just realized the bad mojo at the table and abandoned my evening plans right then and there, but no, I was stubborn and had to sit there and take it.

I couldn't get a hand to save my life. I'd get a few pairs here and there, but never had anything good on top to win with. I made a couple of bets for the dealer, and on the second try I got a straight with a King-Ten on top. Of course he turned over a flush with an Ace on top, yoinking my ten bucks away, but paying me two silver coins as a sad consolation prize. At least he won three bucks.

I decided to bank whenever it was my turn, and got lucky a couple of times. But the first time I got a big hand--a full house with Jacks up--the Shufflemaster machine malfunctioned, voiding the hand.

And then came the real kick in the balls. I'd banked three times in a row when it was my turn, and had set my next bet up as $20 on the hand and $3 on the Fortune Bonus. But in a perfect storm of bad timing, the cocktail waitress came up to deliver a drink and while I was futzing with the drink holder and trying to tip her, the dealer just dealt out the next hand, not offering me the chance to bank.

The cards had come out, and it was too late to do anything about it, as Grandma Sunshine had already looked at her cards. I put up a mild protest, but picked up my hand to see that I got another straight with a King-Three on top. No big deal, until I saw the dealer turn over a STRAIGHT FLUSH with an ACE on top!!!

That was supposed to be MY hand.

I was livid. Of course, it beat the hand I was holding, and the dealer just turned white, knowing that he completely screwed the pooch. He knew I wanted to bank that hand, but got lazy, and he also missed out on a big tip, because that hand would've paid me $170. And the old grouch in seat three was pissed at him too because she was playing the envy bonus and lost out on twenty bucks. I'm sure the dude just wanted to crawl into a hole at that point.

After that, I faced the inevitable beat down as I didn't win another hand. Somehow I knew it was gonna go that way, and what was left of my $80 buy-in evaporated before my eyes.

At least the dealer made three bucks off of me. And I was back home less than an hour after I left, feeling like I wasted a perfectly good night off.


I was going to drown my sorrows in rum and Coke, but as soon as I opened the fridge, I realized that I was out of Coke, too.

At that point I just gave up, not wanting to leave the house to buy more, afraid of what other kind of bad luck might befall me if I went to the grocery store. So I just went to bed thirsty, keeping one eye on the alarm clock, relieved once it finally turned over to 12:01 am.

I'm sure today will be much better.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Feel Pretty...

By the way, I wanted to give a shout out to everyone who either emailed or used the comment section to tell me just how dead sexy I look with my new glasses.

Thank you, thank you, one and all!

A couple of things, however.

I'm not old enough to need reading glasses, maybe in another ten years or so. Hopefully not. And bifocals? Are you kidding me? I only need glasses for distance. Why spend all that money on lenses that don't do shiat when I look through the bottom of them? I find it easier just to take them off when reading or doing arm's-length tasks. Seriously, that's gotta be the worst idea ever, as far as my eyes (and wallet) are concerned. Besides, my optical insurance only covers one pair per year. I sure as hell ain't gonna use it to get old-people glasses.

And the Drew Carey frames? No way. Even Drew Carey didn't look good in those. But if the Mrs. finds that sexy, Dougie, maybe you should get some Drew Carey glasses...

Bow chicka bow bow!

But the bottom line is, now that I have them, it's like the whole world is in Hi-Def. Of course, I have to take the bad with the good, and some of the people I see in the casino aren't flattered by this at all, and would look much better if they had remained a bit fuzzy around the edges.



Woo Hoo! I finally made it to my weekend! Actually, work was pretty enjoyable this week--a side effect of my income going up, I suppose. But the truth is, I spent the last four out of five days dealing my favorite string of games, I had fun players for the most part, I completely wiped out one of our most annoying asshats one night, and we made much better money than usual.

On the other hand, I got a huge serving of Karmic payback last night, as I was sitting on one of the $10 Pai Gow tables and one of the casino hosts was standing behind me at the podium, using the computer terminal. And he let go a nasty gut-bomb, so intense that I actually heard it, and just crop-dusted that entire end of the pit as he made his escape. And I couldn't do a damn thing about it but sit there and take it. I guess I had that one coming to me after blaming that flea at the other Pai Gow table last week for the one I blasted.

Aside from the stanky gas-bombs, work has been great lately. Seriously, I can count on ONE hand all the days in 2007 that we made over $175 in tokes on a weekday. We've already had four or five so far this year. We didn't have a single day over $200 last calendar year--We've had one already this year (Saturday night before the Super Bowl) and a couple more tantalizingly close to that magic number this past week. If this is a 'weakened economy', then I'm all for it!

I know, I know, I feel bad for Rob getting laid off and missing out now that we're finally making decent money again. But he'll be fine. He's got a good personality, a calm demeanor, a good set of gaming skills, and he speaks almost perfect English. He won't be unemployed long. But one would have to be blind to not see how much better things are at work now that they've made their cuts. Morale is much higher. We seem to be much busier. And I think that the layoffs put the genuine fear-of-God into a couple of our sketchier co-workers who somehow managed to survive the purges.

But since then, I've been on a personal tongue-in-cheek crusade at work to bring Rob back and fire somebody else--another dealer who is a complete moron with questionable personal hygiene and poor customer service skills--and so far I have the support of pretty much everybody except the actual decision-makers.

Oh well, they can't get everything right.

Yeah, we still have a handful of dipshiats working behind the felt. For instance, I saw one of our more, ahem, 'experienced' dealers color a guy up at the blackjack table last night.

He had $1200 worth of green $25 chips.

As a dealer, when we run green chips down for the Eye, they have to be in stacks of four ($100) and rows of five stacks (20 chips, $500).

Well, this genius ran down three rows of four hundred (instead of two rows of $500, and an extra $200 on the side) and then she pulled out $3000 worth of pink five-hundred dollar chips, somehow in her demented brain thinking that his $1200 was worth three grand. Of course the player wasn't going to say anything--he almost got away with an extra $1800! But luckily the floorperson caught it. Although, a few of us were talking about it later, and we decided that it was probably worth seeing the house take an $1800 hit just so they'd have a good reason to fire her stupid ass.

Besides dealers who can't count, I'm constantly following dealers at the Pai Gow tables who don't know all the house ways as far as setting their hand, and have no clue on banking procedures. It's a real pain in the you-know-what, too, especially when players have been conditioned by the previous dumbass to expect the wrong procedures and rules.

But the ones I find the most infuriating at the ones who sit in the breakroom and do nothing but gossip and bitch. I have my own little circle of friends who I hang out with, but sometimes they're not on the same break schedule as me, and I find myself surrounded by idiots, kind of like last night. And it's not like I go and join them at the table, they seem to search me out... And they travel in pairs, too. I know it's going to be a long and miserable break when the first one starts out with "Did you hear what...." and of course the second one always replies with "Well, I heard that...." both of which are equally full of shiat and/or stupidity.

For instance, last night I was party to this little gem of wisdom as I sat at the table, drinking my orange soda and trying to enjoy a few minutes away from the games:

I heard that [our new casino director] was told that this was her last chance to get it together and turn things around or she's fired...

I couldn't believe the stupidity of that statement, and like Captain Barbossa, I don't suffer fools gladly, so I had to respond.

Really, somebody in Upper Management thought that it'd be a good idea to 1) Not only promote somebody from the crappiest casino in the empire to the third shiniest jewel in the crown because they were such a fuckup?, and 2) then decided that to provide that extra motivation, they'd just 'let it slip' to the front-line employees that this person wasn't really expected to stay long, that she was just a real-live Peter Principle experiment, I mean, since there aren't, like, millions of dollars at stake or anything. Really, is that what you heard? And you believed it?

Her shrugged response: Well, I never said I believed it...


I felt much better after that, and all conversation about our new casino director (who has made nothing but positive changes) ceased, and I got to enjoy my can of Tropicana Twister in peace.

Anyhow, since it was my Friday, and I was tired of listening to rumor-mongering fools, I took the opportunity to bail out an hour early, and I've been home ever since 2:30 or so. I made myself a bag of microwave popcorn and enjoyed a tall beverage made of Coca Cola, lime juice, and a spirit made of distilled sugar cane, coming together to create a tasty elixir which has fueled this wandering rant of a post.

My plan for today is to do a whole lot of not much, followed by an evening of fine food, tasty adult beverages, and good conversation for several hours with a couple of ladies. Yep, Mikey is playing Pimp Daddy tonight and going out with a couple of my lady friends. No, not *that* lady friend (you know, the one in the short skirt, low-cut top, high heels, carrying the drinks around in the casino who I have no shot with), but a couple of other gals I work with.

We've decided to get together and have a few drinks and laughs away from the prying eyes of the casino, where we can discuss the latest changes and such in an intelligent manner. And get blind stinking drunk, too.

So that's how I'm gonna spend my Tuesday. Sure beats workin'. At some point however, I've got to go fill up the gas tank. Otherwise I'm gonna be pushin' my truck to Grimaldi's tonight.


Monday, February 18, 2008

The New Specs

So, I've been wearing my new glasses for two days now. I'm slowly getting used to them, but I've realized a few things--they are made for long-distance viewing only. Trying to look at the time on my cellphone or write stuff while wearing them is kind of a pain in the ass. I have to take them off for up-close stuff. Also, when walking, they gave me a mild case of vertigo the first few times, making the floor seem much closer than it was.

Other than that, everything else is cool. I love being able to read road signs at night and see if the hot chick on the other side of the casino is really a hot chick and not just a skinny biker dude. Oh, and when I'm sitting at the Pai Gow tables, I can actually read the scores on the TVs in the bar now, too.

Anyhow, here are my new glasses, without my face detracting from their beauty:

And here is a picture of me wearing them. Not the most flattering image in the world--seriously, you probably shouldn't accept candy from somebody who looks like this. But I have an excuse--I just got home from a long night of work, and I've got eight hours of casino funk on me, plus I haven't seen the sun in months.

This one is better, it's my obligatory 'Flounder' pose.

Since I've been wearing them, I've gotten lots of compliments, even a few backhanded ones. One of the gals on the dice crew said Hey Mikey, nice glasses! You look really smart now. If you don't say anything, nobody will ever know otherwise...

Yeah, ok...

Actually, everyone seems to like them, and even Rob said so last night when he saw me wearing them for the first time. And I like the fact that I can now see about a thousand percent better. (Actually, my prescription is fairly mild, but to me it makes a helluva difference!)

Another benefit I've discovered is that when I wear the glasses at the table, they block about 95% of the second-hand smoke I encounter, and my eyes don't burn at all, even after spending an hour dealing blackjack to a bunch of rude f*cking pig Italians Europeans. Seriously, WTF is up with people from that sunny peninsula? They are damn good-looking people, but the have the worst farking manners I've ever encountered.

I'm talking about first-generationers here, not Italian-Americans. And don't even get me started on the ones I see on cruise ships, wandering around the entire ship in their raisin-smuggler Speedos...

Anyhow, sorry about that. I didn't mean to get off on a tangent...

The bottom line is, I'm very pleases with my new specs. They make me look good, and see better.


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Too Busy

Talk about worn out--I feel like I actually have to *work* for a living, now. Yes, it seems that my employer has decided that we were overstaffed (Duh, every month they kept announcing "We're hiring ten more dealers!"), so in addition to all the Food & Beverage personnel that got shiat-canned last week (one entire restaurant was shuttered and all employees let go, for example), they decided to let the axe fall on a few dealers, too.

Originally, there were 11 dealers, that I know of, that got canned, and unfortunately, Falcon Rob was one of them. Truly, that sucks. But he's got a few irons in the fire, and his 'Coming to Vegas' bankroll is still intact due to not having to, say, buy a new transmission or move out of a house full of thieving strippers a month after arriving in town... So I'm sure he'll be ok. No panic yet. Besides, he deals dice, so he can find a job anywhere. At least that seems to be casino business dogma. Anyhow, adding up everyone else that I know of who got the boot last week, it seems that there were a couple more than just the original eleven. We lost at least that many on my shift alone.

Ten oughta do it, don't you think? You think we need one more? You think we need one more. All right, we'll get one more.

I feel bad for Rob--I was the one who told him to apply there, and did all I could to help him get hired. It feels like a big waste of time and effort, now. And believe me--I can name at least five other dealers they should have gotten rid of instead. But I guess they went by seniority instead of ability, attitude, or personal grooming habits...

But, there are side effects to all of this 'right-sizing'. On the plus side, I cannot deny that our tokes have gone up, noticeably. On the other hand, with fewer tables open, we are much much much busier. (I walked into the pit last night and was like Holy Shiat! Where did all these people come from? And then realized, for the first time, that we're in the midst of a three-day holiday weekend.) And this is the first time out of three that, when working for a company that was downsizing, I didn't get the pink slip. Yep, I was laid off twice from the brokerage business. If the casino business was gonna do it to me, too, well, I might've had to turn to a life of crime. Or sloth. I mean, even more sloth than I'm into already.

But when I saw the roadmap, I found that I was scheduled to deal one blackjack game, one Pai Gow game, and one carnival game (Crazy 4 Poker). It was a fairly cool string, and I had some fun players, and since I was so busy, the night was just flying by.

But suddenly, all my happiness and good times evaporated.

Instead of heading over to Crazy 4 Poker at midnight, they told me to take out the 2nd base dealer on Craps #1.

I walked over to the dice pit and was instantly depressed. The dealer I was taking out gave me a big shiat-eating grin. He asked for an early out, and got it, and I realized why. He was on the most jammed-up game I'd ever seen, and all 16 players were a Who's Who of our A-list strokers. Unless you work there, you have no idea, but it was just the worst possible game you could ever imagine dealing.

Not only that, but the gal on stick was just singing like a canary, so all the oddball bets were paying off and everyone had racks full of bullets. Now, I certainly don't mind people winning, and I love a hot dice table just as much as the next guy, but not for these asshats. The boxman had a resigned look on his face that just screamed Please--anybody but these morons...

So I tapped into the game and I was just immediately overwhelmed. There was so much action and so many chips stacked up all over that the layout looked like the map room on Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was ridiculous. Of course, I was praying for an immediate Seven-Out, just so I could clear the board and start over. But it didn't come for a good long time. I was getting worked so hard that I had sweat literally dripping off of my forehead. The boxman was kind enough to grab me a towel to pat myself down with after each roll, otherwise I might've turned that craps table into an indoor salt pond.

And besides the seven jackasses at my end who wanted to press or change every bet after each roll was one particular dipshiat who was doing Come bets, but changing them from $5 to $10 every roll. (And for his bets on the five and nine, he insisted on having his odds at $18. Cocksucker.) Seriously, I haven't seen so much douchebaggery on display since somebody handed Mercury Morris a microphone.

But I survived, and when I got on stick, it was time to pay. Not one prop bet landed, and my calls were pretty much point-seven-out for the entire twenty minutes, finally chasing away the worst of the offenders.

Originally, I was high on the list for the half-hour early out, which I usually get. And because of my original table rotation, the latest I should've gotten out was at 2:40, getting the last break of the night. But no. Getting sent to dice screwed up my whole night--not only did I *not* get out early, by the time the table got closed and the bankroll counted, it was well past quittin' time. I was one of the last people out of there. And I was worn out!

I came home and took one of those wonderful post-work scalding-hot showers, and then collapsed on the couch while Rob and I watched a little bit of recorded Jeopardy (it's the teen tournament this week, so the questions are a little easier).

But after sitting there for an hour or so, it was all I could do to lift my carcass off the couch and shuffle off to bed, where I crashed until 11:00 this morning, waking up only because my phone was ringing. It was the gal from the eye doctor's office--turns out that my new glasses had arrived, so I got up and headed down to pick them up before the office closed at 1:00 pm.

Holy shiat! I can see! It's a miracle! Oh lord, Oh sweet Jesus!

Yep, the difference is amazing. At some point this weekend I'll snap a couple of pictures and post them up so everyone can see my new, more sophisticated look. And they even gave me a nifty new protective hard case to carry them around in when I'm not wearing them, so hopefully they'll last longer than my typical pair of sunglasses, which get just downright abused.

But, that's about all for now--it's time to put in another load of laundry and make sure my wallet and cellphone don't get washed.

More later--


Friday, February 15, 2008

A Quick Thanks

I wanna give a quick thank-you to whoever the anonymous readers were who hit the tip jar on Thursday, showing a little Valentine's love. That's always helpful, and waaaay better than chocolate, especially this month, as I've been trying to pay off as many bills and expenses as possible before the circus comes to town in March.

Yes, the Madness will be upon us soon, and like a stressed out parent feels at Christmas time, it seems to get here quicker every year. And if past performance is any indication, I shall wake up at the end of my March Madness adventure drunk, sticky, and broke... So I appreciate any and all consideration.

As far as the rest of Valentine's day goes, I sadly didn't get my hands on any boobies that day, as much as I tried. But I had the next best thing. Lars Vargas and I went to lunch at Grimaldi's, and I got my hands on an 18" pepperoni and mushroom circle of happiness. He wrote all about it, so if you must hear about another trip to my favorite pizza joint, you can read about it here.

Today was spent re-distributing all the wealth I'd accumulated over the course of the past couple of weeks, and now I'm just about ready to head into the casino for eight hours of Pai Gow and other such frivolity. Somehow, spending a Friday night in the casino just isn't nearly as fun when I *have* to be there...


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

I hope everybody gets some good lovin' today.

If not a bunch of good lovin', at least get your hands on some boobies.

Everybody likes boobies. Even the ladies. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

If all else fails, go the traditional route.


So You're Saying I Have a CHANCE?!?!?

Well well well, lookie here--just in time for Valentine's Day. According to this article, women at work think about sex 34 times a day! That works out to once every 14 minutes...

And I happen to know that where I work, there are these women called 'cocktail waitresses'. And they have to make their rounds to all of the tables in the pit, then go get the drinks, and then deliver them.

And that takes about, oh, 14 minutes or so, every time.

Coincidence? I think not.

How could it be when 53% of the women polled admit to having a crush on somebody at work, hmmm?

Sadly, my favorite cocktail waitress, who all of these findings obviously apply to, doesn't work on Thursday nights. So she won't be around tonight--Valentine's night--to collect her share of that highly-sought-after prize, Mikey love.

I guess I'll just have to print up a raincheck of some sort...


Ridin' The Storm Out

Holy shiat! The last several hours have been crazy with the most ridiculous wind gusts I've seen since I've been living here in Vegas. We've had gusts over 50 mph tonight, and I *know* they went even higher--I was out in it, and at one point I swear I thought my truck was going to roll over--I just put it in park, stood on the brakes with both feet, and braced my hands against the roof, waiting to get flipped over.

I am totally serious--I thought I was going to be joining Dorothy and Toto in Oz.

It had been windy all day yesterday, but as the sun went down, it clocked it's way around to the north, picking up in intensity and dropping the temperature. I was watching the news and they were saying to stay off the roads if possible, that the wind had caused a bunch of accidents around the valley already. But I had to meet Hoya and Dane over at Mandalay Bay at 7:00 pm--just how bad could it be out there?

So, I scooted out of the house around 6:15, stopped at the grocery store and picked up a bottle of wine, some Coke, a can of cashews, and a package of dark chocolate to nibble on up in the room. It was breezy, but as soon as I got out of the store, it really seemed to start to howl. And of course my truck is as about as aerodynamic as a cinder block, so as soon as I got out on the road, it took both hands to keep me going in a straight line.

It got bad once I got on the freeway--lots of dust, dirt, and debris flying around, and it was damn near impossible to stay in one lane--so traffic slowed to a crawl. Once I got past Warm Springs and next to the airport, it was like the Wrath of God was coming down to wipe Vegas off the face of the earth. It was like driving in a blizzard--total white out conditions with sand and dust--I swear I couldn't see 20 feet beyond the front of my truck as I got off at the LV Blvd. exit. It got so bad that other drivers just turned on their hazard lights and pulled over, opting to wait it out. And it sounded like my paint job was getting sandblasted the whole time, too. Not good. While sitting at a complete stop on the exit ramp, I gave Hoya a call and said that I'd probably be a few minutes late, that I was in the middle of a dust blizzard and couldn't even see the traffic light fifty yards away.

She said that it was howling like crazy on the 25th floor of the Mandalay Bay, the building was shaking, and the windows were flexing in and out, giving it an especially scary vibe up in their room.

It only took a few minutes for a few brave souls to start creeping along, so I joined the pack. Of course, as soon as I accelerated, I threw the back end of my truck out, almost causing a wreck--big torque-y engine, road slick with sand, no weight in the back...

Once I turned right onto the Strip, and caught a headwind, it was a little easier to drive, but it felt like I was pulling a heavy trailer--yes, the wind was that strong. All the palm trees in the median looked like they were about to snap off, and I could see the ground crew at the executive terminal across the fence at the airport scurrying around with chains and whatnot, trying to keep the helicopters and private jets where they left them.

When I finally got to Mandalay Bay, the adventure wasn't over. It took about ten minutes or more to climb the driveway from the street to the valet drop-off. I swear Mandalay has the *worst* valet service in Vegas, except for maybe the Rio. Anyhow, while I was sitting there, the wind really started to go crazy, and the body of my truck got lifted all the way to the stops on the suspension. Seriously, a couple more knots of wind, and I was going over the railing, landing in the bushes below. There was an SUV in front of me, and it was rocking back and forth like a boat on a mooring during a hurricane. Everybody but the driver bailed out and ran for the hotel entrance, and that's when I got just a bit scared--you see all those pictures of trains or boats piled up after a huge storm, and I could just see myself trying to dig out out of the bottom of a carnage pile like that. It was just crazy windy.

But I finally got up under the porte cochere, and it offered a bit of relief. Not much, but at least I wasn't worried about rolling my truck anymore--it was the valet's problem at that point. But it was still so windy that they had the revolving doors locked down, and the low pressure outside was sucking the other doors open. Even once I got inside, it was still blowing like stink in the lobby, but with much less garbage flying around.

I made my way to the elevator, got off at the 25th floor, and found the Hoya's suite at the end of the hallway.

And if you think the wind was bad on the ground, try 250 feet up in the air! Holy shiat it was howling. Dane had me put my hand on the window just to feel how much the glass was buckling, and I swear I thought it was gonna blow out and we'd all get sucked out like in the movies when a window breaks on an airliner.

But gifts were exchanged--they got a bottle of wine and a cd, I got a bottle of geniune NC Bar-B-Que sauce, and Kelly poured the first round of drinks. I had to avail myself of the spacious facilities, and while I was standing there in the smallest room in the entire resort, takin' care of business, it felt like my nose was running. So I grabbed some TP to wipe it up, and it turned out that I had the Mother of All Bloody Noses.

Luckily I'm not anemic or anything, and it stopped bleeding pretty fast--before I could make a mess out of my shirt or the rest of the bathroom, but I used up about a half a roll of TP trying to keep the water closet from looking like a crime scene.

I emerged none the worse for wear, and we settled in with cocktails and started catching up on all the latest news, rumors, and gossip. We lasted two rounds before getting hungry enough for dinner.

We had a lot of options available to us, but since the weather was so bad out, and the tram wasn't running, we decided to stay there at the Bay. We narrowed our choices down to the Noodle Shop and the Border Grill.

Now, I've been to the Border Grill before, and was waaay less than impressed. I thought it was an overpriced, bland Tex-Mex nickel and dime joint that Mandalay Bay is so famous for--ok food, ridiculous prices. But they wanted to go, and hey, it was their trip, so I agreed to make the best of it, just making sure to avoid the same dish I had last time I was there.

This time around, I have to say, it was *much* better. I had a marinated skirt steak with avacado and tomato salad, black beans, and some sort of sweet and sour corn salsa. It was damn good, and very tender--cooked to absolute 'prefection'. Kelly had some sort of grilled halibut in a smoky broth, and Dane had an assortment of tamales. They both had beer, but knowing that I'd need all my wits about me in order to get home later, I stuck with water (besides, I had two very generous cocktails in me already!)

So the food was excellent, the conversation was pleasant, and the view of the trees standing up to the hurricane outside was spectacular. We lingered for about an hour and a half before calling it an early night. It was only 10 pm or so, but they're on East Coast time and had to get up early in the morning. Me? I was just tired from having a full belly.

We wandered back up to the room so I could gather all of my stuff, and we said our goodbyes until summertime (hopefully). I trekked off down the hallway, still amazed at the impressive scale of Mandalay Bay. Seriously--It may not be as nice as Bellagio or the Wynn, but it's damn opulent and just plain HUGE. Whenever I walk through there, I get almost the same feeling as I do when I lie back and look at the stars--I feel small and insignificant. I'm just amazed that somebody could come up with the idea for, design, and build something so massive and so detailed. It's truly an architectural masterpiece, as far as I'm concerned.

And you know how scent triggers your memory? Well, I haven't spent hardly any time in that place since the 'original' March Madness back in 2004 when Dougie and I stayed there. So wandering around in there, smelling the perfumed air that they pipe in brought back a flood of fun memories, and it kinda got me a little more pumped up for the upcoming Madness festivities.

I got down to the valet desk and gave them my claim ticket, and there were a few people sitting on the floor of the lower lobby waiting for their cars--everyone afraid to go outside. A gal standing next to the door initiated some conversation, and told me that she was waiting for the shuttle to Green Valley Ranch.

I immediately had a dilemma on my hands of my own creation. I said, Oh, I live right up the block from there... But I'm driving, as I headed towards the outside waiting area. As I walked outside, I didn't know if I sounded rude by saying that and just walking off without offering her a ride, or if I would've sounded like some freaky pervert trying to pick up strangers at the valet stand if I would've offered her a ride...

I guess it was a no-win situation, so I just faced the other direction until my truck showed up a few minutes later.

The wind was still howling like a banshee, but it had tempered a bit. I made my way home without incident or further bloody noses. But they say it's supposed to remain windy all day tomorrow, too.

Rob took off as soon as I got home, heading for some cheap dice on the west side. So no Jeopardy tonight. I'm just chillin' here with nobody but the neighbor's angry wind chimes to keep me company.

I think I'll make myself another cocktail.