Saturday, October 31, 2009

That Thing I Do

So the 'blustery' weather is now gone, and it's a perfect autumn day here in America's Playground. Last night, I got home around 2:30 in the morning, and there was definitely a chill in the air, and a bunch of my neighbors, the ones lucky enough to have fireplaces, had been using them. Who doesn't love the smell of wood smoke on a crisp autumn night? I have to admit, I'm pretty jealous about not having a fireplace. I miss my old in condo in Phoenix that had one--I used it almost every night from October to February, and right now the weather is perfect for it. Hell, I even miss the firepit back at Reuben's house.

Somehow, I'll muddle through without one.

After yesterday's epic post, I had quite the productive day, although, I still haven't put together the dining room table and headboard. I know, it's been over two weeks, but I just didn't get around to it yesterday. I don't know what I'm waiting for. Hell, one of my favorite gals even said she'd be willing to come over and 'make sure it works' as soon as I get the damn thing put together. Tell me again why I haven't done it??? On the other hand, I got so many household chores accomplished on Friday that by the time I finished up, I rewarded my efforts by taking the rest of the afternoon off.

I was pretty bored by about six o'clock that night, so I showered up, put on some good clothes, and headed down to Sunset Station to play a little poker. Their four-of-a-kind promotion goes every day, and the $200 for a straight flush promo ends soon, so I wanted to go down there and take a shot at getting a big hand. It never happened for me, but in the three hours I was there, I made $135 in profit at the 4/8 game. Not too bad. As the night wore on, a bunch of folks left the game at once, leaving it shorthanded, and when we drew for seats at the other tables, I lowcarded everyone, so I was last on the waiting list.

Instead of waiting around for a seat to open up, I decided to cash out and hit the road. It was still fairly early, so I drove over to the M Resort. That place has been my little honey-hole lately, as I've been consistently pulling a hundred bucks or more out of that room every session this past month. Besides that, my fave dealer Sammi was working last night, and that always makes for a good time.

It was a grind at first, but I was playing amazingly well. Seriously, I wish I would've been able to video tape my performance, just so I can watch it when I'm running bad and feeling discouraged. I was a machine! I took some horrendous beats though--Aces cracked three times, Ace-Queen losing to Ace-Jack twice, flopped sets losing to rivered inside straights. You name it, I suffered it! But I was still playing my A-game, and never really dropped below par. It's just tough to get ahead when you take a couple of bad beats.

While I was there, I met another gal named Amy who sat down next to me at the table. We hit it off immediately and it made the entire night that much more enjoyable. Even though I had my A-game going with the cards, I somehow managed not to get her number. That was a rookie mistake, because she's new in town and we had a lot of fun, even making plans to play together again soon. Oh well, I know where to find her, and she knows where to find me, so I'm sure I'll eventually be adding her to my own personal Playtone Galaxy of Stars.

She took a few bad beats, too, losing with pocket Queens twice and pocket Aces once in the span of about 15 minutes. Eventually, the law of averages evened out, and my big hands started holding up, and I got paid off on a couple of nut flushes and full boats. I ended up calling it a night at 2:00 am, giving my 'breakage' to Sammi and cashing out for another $165 profit, giving me a $300 win for the night. That's pretty damn good for a 4-8 limit game, where there's always some jackass staying to the river. But like Dell Paxton said, you gotta keep on playin', no matter with who...

Anyhow, I was completely wiped out when I came home--I'd done an eight-hour shift as a player, and it wears you down. I play a lotta cards, obviously, but I have no idea how those people in the World Series do it for 12+ hours a day, especially with so much money on the line. The pressure has got to be incredible.

But once I got home and crawled into bed, I offered up a silent prayer to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that the poker room wouldn't call. Yeah, I'd love to pick up a shift, and yeah, I'd jump on one if they called, but I was just so damn tired and my brain was completely fried by then. Luckily, my phone remained silent and I got a good solid six hours of sleep.

Today, I've got no plans. This is the first time since I've been in Vegas that I haven't had to work on Halloween, and I'm completely at a loss as to what to do. I have a bucket of candy handy just in case some kids come by the apartment, but after that, who knows? All of my friends are working, and I haven't given a single thought to any kind of costume or even going out. My guess is that I'll end up back in the poker room, trying to score another hundred bucks, and giving away all my leftover candy to the players.

I suppose I could put that damn headboard and dining room table together, just so you guys can stop hearing about it...


Friday, October 30, 2009

It's Been A Week?

Wow. Sorry about the long absence from the keyboard, but I've been a very busy dude all week long. And last night, during dinner, I was thinking to myself "When was the last time I posted anything on my website?", and I seriously couldn't come up with the answer. Obviously, it's been far too long.

I don't know why, but it seems like these last couple of weeks have just been a whirlwind. I feel like I haven't had a moment's peace. Not that anything bad or crazy is going on in my life, it's just that I've had so much to do, along with some very long nights at work thrown into the mix. And I'm just now finally starting to get over being sick (two weeks exactly--right on schedule!), so after getting almost a full nine hours of sleep last night, I'm starting to feel normal again. And there is absolutely nothing on the agenda today. I don't have to go anywhere, I don't have to see anyone, I don't have any errands to run that must be done anytime soon. I'm going to enjoy my coffee and kick it here at the batch-pad all day.

And the pot of hot coffee is especially welcome today. It's been downright chilly here in Vegas for a few days, and windy, of course, so I've had to shut all the windows and doors, turn off the fans, and later today I'm putting the flannel sheets back on the bed. It's totally against my code to turn on the heat, living in the desert like I do, so I find myself doing silly things like the other day when I baked a frozen pizza for lunch, I just left the oven door open when I was finished so that the residual heat would warm up the apartment a little bit. And lighting lots of candles helps, too.

Hell, right now, it's just 42 degrees outside, so a sweatshirt, wool socks, and a pot of coffee feel like necessities this morning.

So, what have I been doing all week? Well, besides work, I mean. I've had some doozy nights in the poker room lately, all of which have worn my ass out. Luckily, the money has been pretty good. Oh, and I'm back to my winning ways on the other side of the poker table, too, having booked some very nice wins these past couple of weeks.

On Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of attending Linda Lou's release party for her newly-published book Bastard Husband: A Love Story. It was an amazing success. She sat for almost an hour, signing books like she was some kind of big-time celebrity, and there was a very nice turnout. The first hour, it was more like a cocktail party for all of us attendees, while she was up at the front of the room, sitting at the table signing book after book and meeting all of her adoring fans. I was very proud of her and had a big ol' grin on my face all night long. It's awesome to see those closest to you enjoying some success from from the fruits of their labor.

After about an hour, everyone picked up their drinks and moved from the bar/lounge area, into the showroom. Linda and I ducked in the service entrance and made our way backstage. We chatted for a few minutes while we waited for everyone to take their seats. Then I went out on stage and spoke for a couple of minutes, warming up the crowd and doing Linda's introduction. I had prepared a small script that I'd practiced all day, and of course I forgot my first and best joke as soon as I hit the stage. Still, it went pretty well for me, and I didn't fumble around, get the flop sweats, or say anything embarrassing.

Before I knew it, I was introducing Linda to the crowd, and she got a huge round of applause as she took the microphone. I scurried back behind the curtain and discreetly made my way to the back of the showroom while she started her gig.

She spent the better part of an hour reading excerpts from the book and tossing in a few anecdotes here and there to flavor it up. Lots of laughs, a little bit of poignancy, but overall a wonderful experience for everybody. I got a picture or two from the evening, so here they are:

I wish I would've gotten some crowd shots, because the pictures here don't do it justice. It was a pretty good-sized showroom, and it was almost completely filled up. Lots of folks showed up, and like I said, the release was a huge success. I hope she makes a million bucks and winds up on Oprah's couch someday soon.

Afterward, we all shuffled back out to the lounge for more cocktailing and a bit of meet-and-greet. I met lots of nice folks, but eventually I called it a night. I said goodnight to Linda and a couple other friends, and headed back out into the blustery Vegas night.

I had to work that night, but I still had a couple of hours to kill. It wasn't really worth going home and trying to catch a catnap, so instead I drove over to the M Resort for some poker. My gal Sam wasn't working, which was a bummer, but on Tuesdays this month they have a promotion where you get a thousand bucks if you flop four-of-a-kind. Hell, in all the years I've been playing, I've made four-of-a-kind dozens of times, but only flopped it maybe three or four times, total. It's tough to do. But I wanted to take a shot.

Unfortunately, it didn't happen for me, but on the the other hand, I had a seat at a table populated by some of the worst poker players I've ever encountered, and that includes all the Friday nights at the Mirage and MGM Grand during the peak of tourist season. Seriously, it was an amazing display of poker incompetence. Yep, I got run down with brilliant hands like 3-7 offsuit or 10-3, but I just knew that patience was the key. Those clowns might've caught a few big pots by staying to the river with junk, but then again, I knew they'd eventually pay me off when I had the stone-cold nuts. It's a law of nature every bit as reliable as gravity. Thankfully, I didn't have to wait very long, and raked some huge pots when holding the nut flush or a monster full house. And since I had to work later that night, time was against my opponents--I wasn't gonna be around for them to suck out against me. After just two hours, I racked up a $275 win, quite a feat at a 4-8 limit game.

I was out the door and in a great mood when I got to work a half-hour later.

Like I mentioned before, work has worn me out this week--it takes a special kind of patience to do the graveyard shift with all the internet heroes and obnoxious drunks that sometimes find their way into the game, but overall, it was a pretty good week. But man, I sure was glad it was over yesterday morning when I finally hit the parking lot.

I spent a good chunk of yesterday spending money. First of all, after AC and I pulled the ripcord from the poker room, we motored over to the Valle Verde 'casino' for breakfast. It gets scare quotes because it is truly a dump. There's a camera on the door and you have to get buzzed in, like in the old days when the mob ran illegal speakeasies. And it used to be called Thirstbusters Casino. Yep, it's attached to a Circle K, I shiat you not!

Our intention was to make our parlays and teasers for the weekend, because even though it's a hole-in-the-wall joint, the little sports book booth in the corner is a Cal-Neva outfit out of Reno, and the payoffs are the best you can find in Vegas. With no more Stardust around to set the pace, most of the books in this town offer less-than-stellar odds on their sucker bets, so this dive bar has the best prices we've found. (Actually, I would've never known about it, but an old-skool degenerate gambler gave me the heads-up a few weeks ago).

Anyhow, we got there early in the morning, just after seven, and we found out that the book didn't even open until nine. And the rack with all of their odds sheets and parlay cards was damn near empty--nothing at all showing the college lines. So that was a bust. On the other hand, there is a little coffee shop in there, and it had a huge chalkboard on the wall listing a ton of daily specials, so we always wanted to try the place--we go out to breakfast a couple of times a week after work, and this place was on the list to try.

Again, it turned out to be kind of a bust. No action available from the sports book, and the as far as breakfast was concerned, our 'waiter' was also the cook. It didn't stop us, though, because we were starving. We had biscuits and gravy, pork chops, chicken fried steak, hash browns, eggs, toast, coffee, and juice. It was just ok, definitely not worth making a trip for, and we certainly weren't gonna linger around for two hours waiting for the lone ticket writer so show up at the 'book' and then restock all of the paperwork. On the other hand, it was a cheap and filling meal, so I guess the whole experience was a wash.

After breakfast, I came back to the house for awhile to kill time until the bank opened. I needed to get down there and make a deposit, as I hadn't been in over a week, and I was carrying around way too much cash for my own good. I had a week's worth of tips plus several winning poker sessions worth of Benjamins in my wallet, and I get a little nervous when the coffee can gets too full (Not that it happens with any kind of regularity).

Once that little chore was done, I hit the drug store to replenish my stash of medicine. Two weeks of the flu pretty much emptied the cupboard, and even though living in this germ-fest of a city has toughened up my immune system considerably, I still get sick twice a year, just like clockwork. After the drugs were purchased, I went over to the 'Gentlemen of Stature' shop and spent a few bucks on some new clothes. I got a pair of jeans, since the weather is cold, and I don't feel like digging through the storage totes out in the closet to look for my old Levi's (seriously, I don't think I've worn jeans in almost two years), plus I picked up a very cool Cubavera paneled camp shirt. It was a little overpriced, but I've had my eye on it for some time. I bagged up a couple other essentials and headed home, my wallet a hundred and fifty bucks lighter.

Not satisfied with all the economy-stimulating I'd done up to that point, I logged onto the cruise line website and sent them another couple hundred bucks towards my trip next year. Have I mentioned that I'm going on a cruise? And that I cannot WAIT for it to happen? Have I? It's still a long way off, but that was just another early step in my journey of several thousand miles. After that, I said "No mas!" and I put my wallet up out of reach for the rest of the day.

I was tired, but I stayed up and watched the latest WSOP episodes I'd recorded on Tuesday night. This has been a very enjoyable World Series of Poker to watch--I'm finding that I'm much more engaged in this one than those in the past couple of years. Maybe it's because it's a likeable bunch of people that have gone deep this time, and no complete jerkoffs that ESPN loves to shine the spotlight on and celebrate.

Around 3:30 in the afternoon, I had to throw in the towel and take a nap. I'd been up for almost 24 hours straight at that point, and I was beat. I set my alarm for 5:30 and fell asleep immediately. But I couldn't just stay in bed all night, as much as I wanted to. One of my readers, Paul, from SoCal, was in town and wanted me to join him for dinner down at The Range, located on the second floor of the Death Star, smack dab in the middle of downtown Evil Empire.

We'd gone there before, and it was good, but for some reason, it didn't blow my skirt up at the time. I'm not sure why. But Paul is a great dinner companion, and his gambling stories blow mine out of the water. I should seriously have him do some guest blogging here and let him talk about some of his experiences. He'll be the first to admit that he's got that awesome combination of bankroll and crazy that makes for some unbelievable scenes at the tables.

Anyhow, the dinner tab was courtesy of the Gouger-in-Chief, Gary Loveman, CEO of the Evil Empire, so Paul's philosophy was to take full advantage of their hospitality since we had the chance, because they are starting to tighten the purse-strings as far as comps go. No problem, at all. I'm all about sticking it to The Man! Especially when The Man has been sticking it to everyone else for so long.

We started our meal with some really good French onion soup, served in a huge hollowed-out onion. It was damn tasty, and thicker than most of the traditional broth-based versions served around town. And our bread basket was great, too--there were some bacon-cheese rolls that were a huge hit, so good that we got refills on that.

For dinner, I had the grilled 20 oz. bone-in ribeye with a loaded baked potato (both of which were damn near the size of my head). Paul had the Kobe short rib. He also ordered a big plate of King Crab legs, which were just over-the-top amazingly good, a dish of creamed spinach, and another dish of sauteed mushrooms. Oh yes, we dined like royalty. Not the royalty with genteel manners and state-dinner protocol, more like Henry VIII on a bender... I also had a nice glass of Pinot with my meal.

There was no way we could eat it all, although we gave it the ol' college effort (although, I'm pretty sure we annihilated the crab legs). The food was great, as was the conversation. I was ready to call it quits when they finally cleared the table, but Paul insisted that we get dessert. Ok, twist my arm...

He went with the creme brulee, while I had some sort of 'Volcano Crunch' dish. It was a huge mound of Heath Bar ice-cream (about the size of a coconut), completely encased in Nestle crunch. There was a hole at the top, and they took a big dish of chocolate sauce, added a healthy shot of Bacardi 151, lit the whole thing on fire, and then drizzled it down onto plate. It was an attention-getter, and every gal in the place seemed to come over to the table to comment or ask about it. Apparently, chicks dig the Volcano Crunch, in addition to the long ball.

Once they got done pouring the flaming chocolate sauce, the waitress set it down in front of me, while it sat there bubbling and flaming for a few more minutes. Luckily I had my camera phone handy: (notice the blue flames!)

Even though I didn't have much of an appetite by that time, I still took a stab at it with my Spoon of Destruction. Oh hell yeah, it was damn good. Paul helped me out a little bit, and by the time we got done, there was not much left but a small puddle of rum-flavored chocolate sauce left on the plate.

By then, we were completely stuffed. It was loosen-the-belt and don't-bother-me-I'm-in-a-food-coma time. I have no idea what the dinner check was, it was all comped, but I know it wasn't a cheap meal by any stretch of the imagination. Whatever the cost, it was a fine time all around--good food, good wine, good company.

I was beat, having had not much sleep at all, and Paul was itching to get to the blackjack tables. So we said our goodbyes, and he headed for the pit while I made my way to the valet. On the way home, I *briefly* considered another poker session, but I was just way too tired. I drove straight home, stayed awake as long as I could, and then crashed, hard.

Around 3:00 am, the poker room was calling, seeing if maybe I wanted to pick up a few hours and a little extra cash. They were getting to the point where they had more games than dealers, and might need me an hour later. I told them that if they got in a bind, I'd certainly come down, but I'd rather sleep. And there was another one of my co-workers heading off on vacation early next week and would jump at the chance to earn a couple extra bucks, so I'd offer the shift to him. So the floorman said if he still needed me, he'd call me back in a half hour. Luckily, the phone didn't ring again, and I slept all the way through until seven this morning.

Since I got so much rest, I'm feeling pretty good today. I've already scrubbed the kitchen, ran the dishwasher, and did a couple of loads of laundry. And since I've got no place I have to go, and nothing demanding my time, I may just get that damn headboard and dining room table put together today.

But first, breakfast time. I still have some bacon in the fridge, and if I have to keep the windows and doors closed because it's cold outside, I may as well make the apartment smell good. I have no stripper perfume handy, so the scent of frying bacon will have to do...


Monday, October 26, 2009

A Five-Letter Word For Happiness

Surprisingly, I'm not talking about 'boobs'.

It's bacon. Is there anything it can't do? It appears that we are in the Golden Age of Bacon, and I'm ok with that. From the bacon-infused vodka to Baconnaise, everything tastes better with bacon. And if I could find a gal willing to wear the bacon bikini like in the picture here, well, breakfast in bed would be simply awesome all around. I don't care if the sheets get all greasy.

Speaking of Baconnaise, however, I'm less than impressed. Maybe it's because I had such high hopes that I was destined to be let down. I dunno, but having used it twice so far, I doubt I'll be buying it again. It's not that it's bad, it just didn't blow my skirt up. I expected fireworks, and all I got was a damp sparkler. I dunno, mayonnaise and bacon sounded like a winning combination in theory, but it just didn't deliver the goods in practice. From now on, when I make a turka and Swiss, I'll stick with just adding mayonnaise and bacon separately, letting each stand on it's own merits instead of incorporating their bastard child. Besides, $4.50 a jar? Please. I can take a huge jar of Miracle Whip, crumble up a pound of fresh-cooked Farmland bacon and have twice as much fresh-made 'Baconnaise' for the same price, which I'm sure would taste better, anyways. I dunno, maybe if they didn't worry about being kosher, vegan, and dolphin-safe, they'd have a winning product. But right now, it doesn't live up to the hype.

But I'm not here to condemn Baconnaise. I still have a mostly-full jar and I plan on using it all, eventually. I'm here to brag about the tasty breakfast I had this morning. Having not eaten a thing since about 1:00 o'clock yesterday afternoon, I was good and hungry this morning. So I started off with a pot of hazelnut coffee. And I used the peppermint mocha creamer, which is damn tasty. A couple of mugs of that certainly took the edge of my hunger, but not for long.

So back to the kitchen I went. I cooked up a few strips of that excellent Farmland bacon, made some O'Brien potatoes, two scrambled eggs (with a splash of milk and a drop of pure vanilla--yum!), and I rounded out the whole meal with some wheat toast topped with real butter and strawberry preserves. Out of coffee by then, I had a glass of fresh orange juice.

It was better than any late-night meal in any casino coffee shop. Granted, there were no bloody marys in sight, and no keno runner stopping by every few minutes, but still, it was a damn fine way to kick off a Monday morning.

Now that breakfast is over, if I could just stay motivated, I'd get my headboard and dining room table finally put together. Yep, they've been sitting in boxes leaning up against the counter in the dining room--I haven't touched 'em in a week. But I have an excuse--I was sick all week and just didn't feel like hassling with either one of them. I started to feel much better this past weekend, but I wasn't home very much, and when I was, I was sleeping. So perhaps they'll get done today. But then again, maybe they won't. I'm under no deadline here.

On the poker front, I had another wildly successful Friday night, and making it even better, I ran into that gal I had a little crush on this past summer, 'Sam', the blondie with the pierced tongue and the kookie hair. I hadn't seen her in months, but I was playing in one of the local rooms that night and she came in after the U2 concert. We had ourselves quite a reunion right there in the poker room and that was it for my poker game. Luckily I was up over $200 at the time... I ended up seeing her again on Saturday night, so yeah, it was a great weekend. I hope to be able to spend some quality time with her again soon, but our schedules are completely out of sync. We have one day off in common every two weeks. We'll see what happens...

Other than that, there ain't a whole lot going on around here today. I've got a shiatload of projects to do, but I'm finding it hard to stay motivated. I guess I should just buckle down and do it. I'd like to have this apartment in perfect order at some point, and that ain't gonna happen with all those huge shipping boxes stacked up in the dining room.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another Day Closer, Still Excited

Oh good lord, I'm gonna be a basket case by the time next fall rolls around. The whole fam-damily is excited about this trip, and I'm afraid it's going to be the longest year ever, followed by the shortest week ever...

I guess the reason for that is because I know what to expect. I've been on four or five cruises now, and each one has been spectacular--not because of the ship, or the destinations, or because of the awesomeness of leaving the real world behind for a week (although, they all play a part), but there's more. Consider the great times I've had with all of my best friends and T2V buffoons as we 'do' Vegas a couple times a year. As great as that is, it's not even a drop in the bucket compared to the fun I have when my siblings and I get together for a week on the high seas.

Seriously, there is nothing I'd rather do than hit the Caribbean for a week with the family. Given the choice to do just about anything, or take a cruise with the fam for a week, and the Sibling Revelry Cruise wins out every time. The reason for this is simple--back in the year 2000 (seems odd to say that, no?), we'd never done a cruise before. Hell, we kids (as we call ourselves) hadn't even been together in the same room but once in the previous ten years or so, and I hadn't spent time with any of my sisters in almost four years before that.

But Cyndi, the original gentlewoman of leisure, wanted to go on a cruise and got the ball rolling the first time. She made it sound so enticing, and once four of us agreed to go, (Sherry, Cyndi, Mikey, and Amy--Reverend Dave and Nancy were unable to join us), it was on! What made it even better was that it ended up costing us just about $375 apiece, for the entire week, since they had cabins that would hold four people (we didn't know any better at the time).

We didn't book it so far out in advance back then--maybe in June or so for a September sailing--and having never gone before, we weren't sure what to expect. Oh yeah, we were excited to go on vacation together, because 1) it was a vacation, and 2) we'd never done anything like this in our adult lives. The last time all of us were together for any length of time, we were all still living under the same roof, our parents were still married, and we were much too young to appreciate each other.

So anyhow, Cyndi booked the thing, we all sent her the money, and that was that. I guess the real excitement didn't start to build until we got our cruise documents and luggage tags in the mail. We talked it up a bit, but nothing like we do now. It was more of a "Hey--I'm looking forward to seeing you guys" type of brief conversation and that was it. I guess we just didn't know what we were in for.

Finally, September rolled around and it was time to go. I flew out of Phoenix on the red-eye flight to Atlanta, met Amy at the airport, and we were off to Miami. Sherry and Cyndi were flying together out of Nashville, and the plan was to meet them at the baggage claim in the Miami airport, since our flights were scheduled to land within 20 minutes of each other.

I'll never forget that flight to Miami--I mentioned it before, but the old lady in our row that was talking up how much fun a cruise was--Oh, you'll have such a good time. They have bingo, and shuffleboard, and square dancing!--she damn near ruined it for us. But Amy and I still laugh about that to this day. We found many more fun things to do other than the activities geared towards the nursing home gang.

Anyhow, we found Sherry and Cyndi at the airport, just like we planned, and the four of us found a crazy Russian cab driver willing to haul all of us and our mountain of luggage to the cruise ship terminal. (Seriously, I think Sherry brought 18 pairs of shoes for a seven-day cruise).

Being cruise-ship rookies, we didn't know what to expect, and shuffled through the cattle-call of the boarding process just like everyone else. We got our Sail & Sign cards done, did the check-in thing, and had our pictures taken for the first of what seemed like a thousand times that week.

Once we got embarked, the first order of business was to find our cabin and ditch the carry-on luggage. That's when reality set in. We had a tiny interior cabin at the very aft end of the ship, just above the screws. No big deal, we didn't mind--we were just glad to be there. But the room was tiny--about the size of my last bedroom, and it had two bunkbeds in it, with about two-and-a-half feet of space between them. Sherry and I claimed the lower bunks, Cyndi and Amy got the uppers. Since they had to use a couple of ladders to get up into them, Cyndi called hers 'the treehouse', and so Amy then decided to call her bunk 'the penthouse'.

What a week we had. We were on the Carnival Paradise, and at the time, it was a pretty new ship and completely non-smoking. Our itinerary took us to the Bahamas, San Juan Puerto Rico, and St. Thomas.

Of course, we made the usual rookie mistakes--bringing way too many clothes first and foremost. I mentioned Sherry's 18 pairs of shoes, but I'd brought two pairs of jeans with me, and they never came out of the suitcase. It was t-shirt, flip-flops, and swim trunks during the day, then a Hawaiian shirt and Dockers at dinner. Other than that, I wore nothing else except my James Bond tuxedo a couple of times for the two formal nights.

We also went crazy on the umbrella drinks. Back then, I was making a pretty damn good living, so my vacation budget was basically unlimited. I remember that the cruise went from Sunday to Sunday, and on Thursday night when they shoved your first Sail-and-Sign statement under the door, my bar bill was already over $700 for the week. But then again, I pretty much had a drink in my hand constantly, plus I bought a couple of bottles of wine in the dining room, not to mention a couple of times on sea-days I'd just buy a bucket of beer and go around making friends. But hey, it's like the Vegas Chamber of Commerce says--You can't put a price on a good time!

Besides boozing it up and getting the most out of our time at sea, we got very lucky with our dinner companions that week. There were the four of us, and we were seated at a table with six other strangers. But we hit it off immediately, and had a blast with them all week. Lucky for me, there was a rather attractive single gal as part of the group, and we naturally kinda gravitated towards each other and had a great week together, even keeping in touch for a long time afterwards (and thanks to the miracle of Facebook, we just reconnected last week!).

But the best part of the entire cruise was the time spent in our tiny, dark, overcrowded cabin. I swear, I laughed my ass off for the entire trip. I'm a goofball anyways, and Amy is even funnier than I am. Plus, when you add Sherry and Cyndi in the mix, it's just nonstop comedy. Every afternoon, we'd all gather back in the stateroom and have room service deliver some lunch or just a tray of cookies and brownies and a few cartons of milk. And we'd sit in there shooting the shiat, telling stories, joking around, and just basically making memories all afternoon. Those afternoons spent together really were the highlight of the trip, and it planted the seed that has kept us doing it almost every year since then.

Oh, don't get me wrong--we loved the islands. Blue Lagoon in the Bahamas was about the most awesome place I'd ever been, and my head almost exploded just trying to process the unreal blue color of the water. Sailing and snorkeling in St. Thomas was the best shore excursion we ever did--nothing since then has been able to top it. And spending the afternoon getting tattoos in the back of a sketchy record shop in San Juan by a guy who didn't speak a word of English was a bonding experience that most families can't brag about... But even so, just hanging out and laughing together each day was the best part of the whole experience. To this day, whenever we get together, we still tell those same stories and jokes from that week and we all still laugh about it.

The price has gone up a bit in the past nine years. Back then, I had to cough up about $400 to leave the dock. This time around, I'm paying almost four times that amount. But it doesn't matter what the cost of the cruise is. They can charge whatever they want, because the food, the scenery, the balcony, and all the umbrella drinks are just ambiance. The best part of our cruises are the memories we've made together, and nobody can put a price on that.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

I'm About To Lose Control

... and I think I like it!

I guess I should apologize for my lack of posts this week, but well, it's a free service, and sometimes you get what you pay for.

Anyhow--yes, I'm still sick, but I'm almost out of the woods. I was just telling Linda Lou a few minutes ago that I'm about 80% returned to normal. I can still feel that I'm sick, but most of the symptoms are completely under control. Luckily, living on oranges, soup, and about 14 hours of sleep per day has been good for me.

Work, of course, has kicked my ass, but my ass probably needed a good kicking, anyways. I feel ok while I'm there, but man, when I hit that parking lot at the end of the night, I am one tuckered out little trooper. Last night seemed especially long, but I had enough strength to go out and have a proper Vegas-style ham steak-and-eggs breakfast afterward.

But as tired and still sick as I am, I'm in a damn fine mood right now. The past couple of weeks I was seriously bummed out. I *really* wanted to go on that cruise with my sisters--hell, I was the one who planned the whole damn thing. But I chose to get a new place and get it all furnished instead, so I just didn't have the funds available to go. And that really harshed my mellow, especially on the day they all left. I didn't want that to happen again, so while they were gone, I started looking at cruises for next fall, a year away.

I found a couple of good ones, with itineraries that I hadn't done before, and put together a long email to the siblings asking them what they thought. There was one cruise in particular everyone seemed to like, but since they'd just gotten home from one, it was a little too early to be talking about the next one. Nobody really seemed that interested. I just happened to bring it up in another email this past weekend, while sitting at home doing nothing, and Sherry emailed back saying that her and her hubby weren't gonna agree to go on one until I actually booked one, since I always seem to plan them, but never seem to go (it's been five years since my last cruise).

I let that simmer in my mind for a couple of days, and on Tuesday, I said Farkit--I'm going. I never take vacation anymore, and time off is one thing that generally ain't a problem at work. So I got on the computer and booked myself onto a cruise next fall. I know--it's still almost a year away, but a brotha needs something to look forward to, otherwise, life is just a grind.

As soon as the confirmation email came back, I forwarded it to all my siblings, saying "Take THAT, non-believers!"

Not only did I make a reservation, but I booked myself into an upgraded balcony stateroom, too. I figured it was time to do it in style--no more putting four people in an inside cabin on a lower deck just to save money. I've got a primo location and a primo room, and I don't have to sleep in a twin bed, either!

If that wasn't enough to get me excited, check this out. The next morning, I got an email from Scottie and Amy--they booked right away. And this morning while I was at work, I got a call from Cyndi--her and Tim also booked. And then, about two hours ago, Reverend Dave called, asking for all the particulars, and he's also booked!

But that's just the tip of the buffoonery iceberg... Check this out--We all have cabins right next to each other--four in a row! Unbelievable. I guess it pays to book early, huh? I almost feel sorry for our neighbors, because that's gonna be one crazy section of hallway.

So, since all the booking has been done, it has created an avalanche of emails and my inbox has blown up. We're still waiting on Sherry and Steve, though, but I'm sure the peer pressure will get the job done. Oh, and as a bonus, a couple of our cousins from Cali may be joining us, too.

I. Cannot. Wait.

It will be an off-the-hook good time. My only question is, is it possible to remain this excited for an entire year?


Monday, October 19, 2009

Not Just Cough Medicine

After lying on the couch all weekend, and actually calling in sick to work last night, I finally had enough. I'd run out of cough drops, I had no cough medicine, and all I had left to treat myself with was a bit of Zycam and can of Chunky chicken noodle soup.

So around 1:00 o'clock in the morning, I shuffled my sorry ass out to the truck and headed to the nearest 24-hour grocery store. My objective was to pick up a bottle of Delsym (haven't found anything that works nearly as well for killing a cough), and a pack of Hall's. Even though it has only been three days, I am SICK of being sick.

First things first, I got my medicine. And since my throat has worn itself raw from all of the coughing, I was craving some ice cream. But late Sunday night is not the time to go grocery shopping, as all of the weekend consumers have pretty much cleared out the joint--the new stock hadn't reached the shelves yet, so I felt like I was in one of them old cold war-era stores in the Soviet Union. There was no Breyer's to be found. I guess it didn't help that it was up over 90 degrees this weekend here in Vegas, but all the good ice cream was gone. I had to settle for some off-brand shiat.

And I went to get some oranges, too, but the produce section had also been annihilated. It took a few minutes, but I finally found four decent ones to take with me. Wandering back to get another carton of juice, I saw that the holiday varieties of coffee creamer were now available, so I crabbed a big bottle of the Peppermint Mocha. I love that stuff, but it's only available a couple of months out of the year. After that, my shopping excursion was pretty much over. However, I took a stroll down the condiment aisle, working off of a tip I got from Dougie the other day. While there, I spotted another must-have item. Behold:

Oh hell yeah. I can't wait to fix myself a turka-and-swiss sandie later this afternoon. Thankfully this bug I got hasn't affected my sinuses or taste-buds, so I'm good to go once I feel hungry again.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Trifecta of Awesome

As much as I was looking forward to all of the great college football yesterday, I was sorely disappointed. Seriously--that Oklahoma/Texas game was downright painful to watch. And didn't it seem to draw out for like 4-plus hours? I thought it would never end.

All I learned from watching that game, is that if Texas is the third best team in the country, there are some *really* shiatty teams out there. I watched a lot of football yesterday, and the only legitimate Heisman candidate I saw was that dude from Alabama who ran for like 240 yards against South Carolina--even when they were direct-snapping the ball to him and the defense knew he was gonna run it, they couldn't stop him. Simply awesome. The rest of them? Not so much. Texas stunk up the joint, and Colt McCoy looked like JaMarcus Russell playing against, well, pretty much anybody. How they ever managed to win, your guess is as good as mine. USC almost gave the game away to Notre Dame on several occasions, and Florida barely escaped with a win against Arkansas. Just a day full of crappy play all around from teams that should've blown out their opponents.

On the other hand, something happened yesterday that I don't think I've ever witnessed in my lifetime, and it gave me the giggles for hours. The three teams I love to hate--Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Nebraska--all lost outright. Oh hell yeah! It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it.

It may have been a crummy day to watch the big boys play, but seeing the wannabes get smacked made it all worthwhile. How awesome would it be if it happened again next week?

BTW, it looks like the National Champ is coming out of God's Own Conference once again this year. (Roll Tide!)


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Getting Worse

Man, I feel like total shiat. My cough had gone nuclear for a few hours, I've got a slight fever, and yet I still feel slightly chilled, too. Luckily I don't have the nausea or the body aches (well, except for those muscles that instantly contract whenever I cough), yet, and so far I've avoided that whole run-over-by-a-truck feeling. (And I don't need a bucket, either).

However, like Brigid mentioned in the comments, I think this will be a quick bout--hopefully it'll only really kick my ass for about three days. As bad as my cough was earlier, it's not as severe tonight as it was earlier in the day, and my lungs are starting to feel like they only have crumbs in them instead of the whole damn cookie like they did most of the day.

But I'm far from out of the woods. I've got a long way to go before I feel like I can leave the house and do anything productive again. At least I've got the sense god gave a coconut and am staying home tonight, instead of going down to the poker room and spreading my germs around, like some people...

Am I bitter? Hell yeah I am! If I would've just stayed home on Thursday night and plowed through all the junk on my DVR, I'd have an extra $150 in my wallet and I wouldn't be spending the day trying to hack up my lungs. In fact, I feel so crappy that I called up Eddie W and begged off of going down to the Rio for some old-skool Vegas-style buffoonery with one of my Original Gangsters. Instead, I'm sitting in front of the computer wearing some old sweats and trying to slurp down a still-too-hot cup of instant noodles. It sucks to be me right now.

And as tired as I was last night, I never got any sleep at all--I stayed up all morning cleaning the house, watching TV, and farting around on the computer until AC showed up to watch the Dodger game. It was a fun afternoon--I took enough drugs to temper most of my symptoms, and we chilled out drinking Sam Adams Octoberfest and eating a damn good pie from Villa Pizza (their wings--only so-so). After the first game, we hung out on the patio smoking cigars and drinking cocktails made with premium booze and Mexican Coke. He went with the Crown Royal, I had Appleton's.

Once we came back inside, I made it until the fifth inning of the Angels game before I passed out--I'd been up for over 24 hours straight, and in my weakened condition, I couldn't keep my eyes open. So AC headed out to the casino to make his football bets and maybe play a little poker, while I took a hot shower then packed a couple of cough drops in my cheeks like a squirrel and headed off to bed. I got about five solid hours of sleep before my phone woke me up, but I ignored it.

I may kick around for a little while, but I'm about to take another hot-as-I-can-stand-it shower, swallow a few pills, and probably go back to bed.

I hope the rest of y'all have a good weekend.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Gotta Have That Funk

I guess my immune system isn't as strong as I thought it was. I caught some kind of bug in the poker room last night, and I'm already feeling it. I know exactly who I caught it from--one of the regulars who is waaaaay too touchy for me, but he managed to get his hands on me several times while we were playing. I hate it--it gives me the creeps, but he's a nice guy--I was just stuck sitting next to him for a couple of hours.

It's not like he's a perv or anything like that, he just insists on patting my hand or grabbing my arm whenever we're talking. And he was coughing every few minutes, telling the dealer that he's been sick lately. Nice, huh? And even though I changed seats as soon as one became available, I still picked up his crud. It sucks, because I've already started with the occasional cough, even though I Zicamed the shiat out of my throat as soon as I got home. I can just feel my system going into overdrive trying to fight it off, but I can tell that my body is already sick.

And to make matters worse, I got completely hosed in the poker game last night, too. Bad beat after bad beat. I was living in River City, and not living well. I could run them down and tell you all about 'em, but just let me give you a taste of the two worst ones--Two different people crushed me with one-outers on huge pots. Coupled with the germy funk in the air, it was a sick night all around.

Being used to the graveyard hours, I stayed up once I gave up and came home at three this morning. Unable to sleep, I've been scrubbin' the house--doing the oddball stuff that sometimes gets overlooked--like cleaning out the fridge and reclaiming all of my Rubbermaid storage bowls from the science projects growing within each of them. Yep, the ol' garbage disposal got a workout this morning. After that, I 409'd everything, inside and out, and now all I have left to do is take out the garbage and mop the floor. That comes in a few minutes--right now I'm taking a break.

Once I got the dishwasher running and the rest of the kitchen sanitized, I hit the bathroom with a vengeance. My eyes are still burning from all of the bleach, but now the tub, toilet, and vanity are scrubbed cleaner than the luv-tub at the Imperial Palace after Angy checks in. Of course, the whole back half of the apartment smells like a swimming pool, but I'm hoping the fumes I'm breathing kill all the little nasties that are trying to take up residence in my lungs.

I've got to go to bed at some point--I'm tired, but not sleepy yet. And AC is coming over to watch the baseball games this afternoon, so I've got to get some rest. And after that, I've got to head over to the Rio and meet up with Ed tonight, too.

I'm hoping that once I lay down and get some sleep, I don't wake up feeling like complete shiat. But I just *know* that it's gonna happen that way. Crappy way to spend the weekend, huh? I'd hate to miss out on an opportunity for quality buffoonery because I'm laid up in bed for three days. At the very least, I guess I could hit up Walgreen's and buy a bagful of drugs, because somehow or another, I've got to tear this mother out...


Thursday, October 15, 2009

And Then There Were Two...

I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel-- All of my household projects are finally winding down. I finished the home theatre setup around 8:00 pm last night, fiddled around with it for an hour, and then tried to get a couple of hours of sleep before going into work. I say 'tried' because one of my gals decided to call and wake me up a couple of times. (You know who you are!)

Eventually, I gave up on the sleep, disabled my alarm, and got ready for work. I headed in a bit early, and it was a looong night. But a fairly decent one, though. Once I got done at seven this morning, AC and I decided to stick around and play some cards with the morning gang--it was a fun table, and I doubled up in the two hours that we were there. On the way home, I stopped at the bank to deposit most of my cash, and now I'm home for the day. Luckily, I have the night off, too.

Anyhow, back to the household projects. While I was out last evening to pick up the fiber-optic audio cable and speaker mounts, I took a chance and stopped by to see if maybe a particular dining room set I had been looking at was back in stock at the furniture store. It was the one I wanted for awhile (well, once I realized that I had to go with a smaller table), but it's been sold out every time I looked. And I've even gone to a couple other outlets around town looking for it, but always coming up short.

Well, last night, on a whim, I stopped to see if there might be one in stock. And I got lucky--they had one on hand, and it was on sale! So I told them to load it up in my truck and I was on my way. I didn't really want to spend the money, but it's now or never...

So in addition to the electronic components, I also brought home a new dining room set. And it's still boxed up, leaning up against the wall in the dining room. I may get to it today, but then again, I may not. I'm pretty tired, having been up since noon yesterday, and I'm also kind of hungry. All I had yesterday was a bowl of noodles around seven o'clock. So I'll probably fix a bowl of cereal and doze in front of the TV, enjoying the way-better-than-I-expected sound quality of my new system.

But once I get some rest, all that's left to do is put together the dining room set and then the headboard. And then I am DONE--this place will finally be finished. It's amazing--when I moved in here in May, all I really had was my bed, a desk, an old TV, kitchen stuff, and a shiatload of books in Rubbermaid storage totes. And as bad a month as July was, I've done pretty well since--well enough to get this whole apartment furnished. It's been a sacrifice though--I haven't been able to do anything but go play poker on occasion (and I've been running well again, and that's helped, too), and as much as I wanted to go on that cruise with my sisters, I had to make a tough choice. I could've gone, but if I had, I'd still be sitting on a camp chair to watch TV and using a Coleman cooler as a coffee table.

Now I feel like a grown-up again. I haven't had a household full of 'stuff' in almost nine years--back when I had my condo in Phoenix before the bubble burst. But enough about that. Life is good, and I just found out that my buddy Ed W. is coming to town this weekend. I've got a couple of days off, so I may find my way down to the neon this weekend.



Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Explaining My Absence **UPDATED**

Sorry for the weak posting schedule this week, but I have an excuse. This is the project that I've been working on all afternoon:

Yep, my new headboard and the home theatre system both arrived at the same time this afternoon, and well, the headboard can wait--I want the sound system set up right away. So once my toys were delivered, I got right after it, carefully unpacking everything and making sure all the parts were in order.

This system seems to be going together much quicker and easier than my old one did eight years ago. I remember when I bought that one, Derek and I spent the better part of a full day measuring and stripping speaker wire, and then we pulled up the living room carpet in my condo and ran the wires to the rear surround channels--a royal pain in the ass if there ever was one. This time around I paid a few extra bucks and got the wireless surround speakers (if you look closely, you can see the black receiver unit sitting up on the shelf on the left, near the lamp).

Anyhow, it seems to be pretty straightforward, and I've got the extra HDMI cables already, so hooking everything up should be a breeze. My only problem is the right-rear surround speaker. I'm gonna have to rig some sort of funky speaker mount to deal with the problem of the two windows right next to each other at a 90-degree angle, because I want to put the speaker in that corner. Actually, I may just go take a look at Best Buy and see what they have. I'd hate to order something online and wait around for another week.

I'd like to be listening to music or watching a DVD with full-on surround sound by tonight, but we'll see if that happens. So that's what I'll be doing with the rest of my day.

Y'all have a good one.



A couple hours later, and I'm still right where I left off. Turns out that my new system only has 1 HDMI port, and it's an 'outie'. I just took for granted that it would have 2 ports--an input and an output. Alas, it does not. So after checking with Tech Support (Big Stogie), it turns out that all I needed was an fiber optic audio cable. So I had myself a little shopping trip this afternoon, and I just got back from doing the Best Buy-Radio Shack-WalMart shuffle. Spent a few bucks that I really didn't want to, but now I've got the necessary cable, plus a couple of wall-mounts for my surround speakers.

Eventually, I'll have this place all put together.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday Trip To Costco

You know you lead a fairly dull life when the highlight of the week is a trip to Costco. Actually, I wasn't really planning to go inside the warehouse and buy anything--I just stopped by to fill up the tank on the family truckster (at $2.57 a gallon), but as I was driving off, I saw something as rare as Bigfoot and Elvis riding in a convertible down the Strip.

There it was, something I'd never seen before--an empty parking spot right in front of the entrance!

I had to have it.

So, the next thing I know, I was pushing a cart around in Costco, not really shopping for anything in particular (well, maybe a decent dinette set if they had one), but shopping nonetheless. The first stop was at the optical department. Since I got glasses a couple of years ago, my eyes have become very weak and now I must wear glasses when I drive, see a movie, or do just about anything that requires me to look more than thirty feet off in the distance. And since The Man revoked my benefits when I made the jump to the poker room, I'm afraid that my next exam and eyeglass purchase is gonna be expensive. My trendy Seven Hills doctor that I used to go to is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination, and I didn't want to cough up four Benjis or more to get another exam and a replacement set of glasses that I'm sure I'll eventually need.

Browsing around, I found their prices to be pretty damn good, and the selection of frames was much more extensive than anything they offered at my old optometrist's office. So yeah, I'll probably pick up another pair of glasses--maybe two--in the near future.

Then I shuffled over to the cellphone kiosk, and came about thisclose to getting a new LG phone. There were a few stumbling blocks in the way, however. The two phones that were on sale today were butt-ugly, in colors that only a 13-year old girl would like. The one that I wanted was $89. And then, since I'm not on contract right now, in order to 'go legit' in the eyes of the bean counters at AT&T, I'd have to change my phone number. It's a complicated process, but I'm guessing it has more to do with the fact that I'm dealing with a vendor instead of Ma Bell directly. I'm gonna have to think about that one for awhile.

On the other hand, one of the gals who was familiar with the process told me that the phones *always* go on sale on weekends, so maybe if I check back on Sunday, I might get a better deal. Hmmm... By then I may be able to square myself with getting new phone number. We'll see.

After that, I just wandered a bit. Didn't find any decent tables, but the Christmas decor is already out in force. I spent a bunch of time browsing the wine selection, and while I love Louis Jadot vineyards, I have no experience whatsoever with Beaujolais. That was the only variety they had, and I was a little skittish. And I also like J. Lohr Merlot, but their Cabernet was the only thing offered, so I pretty much window shopped at that point, almost buying a bottle one can never go wrong with, an Oregon Pinot. Instead of wine, I just picked up a case of Sam Adams Octoberfest, having lost a bet with my buddy AC this week. He's a Dodgers fan...

I picked up a few other groceries, but the one thing I was most excited to bring home was a case of 'Hecho en Mexico' glass-bottled Coke. Made with real cane sugar instead of corn syrup. Oh hell yeah! Every time I mix that with some top-shelf rum and a squeeze of lime, I'm instantly transported back to a sunny place full of shady people. And it ain't bad straight, either.

In the meantime, I'm still in the market for a new dining room table, but after that, this apartment is DONE. My new headboard arrives tomorrow, as does the home-theatre system, and once all that stuff is put together, I can finally stop bleeding cash on home furnishings and maybe do something fun. Of course, I'm sure I can find other stuff that I'll want soon enough--kitchen gadgets always come to mind--but just the fact that I'll finally be done furnishing this place brings a great deal of satisfaction on it's own.

I just hope that when my lease is up next summer, they don't pop me for the regular price to renew. I got a smokin' deal on this place, and doubt I could afford to live here if they charged me the full-on normal rent. (I got $300 off per month for signing a 12-month lease). I like it here, and I certainly don't wanna move all this shiat again anytime soon.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

One Of My Favorite Authors

It is done!

My good friend and muse Linda Lou has finally finished her book. It's the culmination of five years of hard work, a little bit of heartache, a few tears, and maybe a beer or two, and the first couple of cases of the first edition are back from the printer, ready to be shipped out.

I've read the book, and found it to be thoroughly entertaining. She's got a great writing style (she's much more talented than me!), and the story is a good one. If you'd like to buy one--or more--you can get 'em here. Tell her that Mikey sent ya, and she might even autograph it for you.


Henderson's Got Talent!

What a whirlwind weekend it's been for me. No, it wasn't quite up to the level of drunken tomfoolery when the September Madness buffoons were in town a couple of weeks ago, but I still had a great Vegas-style couple of days, and relaxing all day on Sunday was just what I needed. I'll tell more of my adventures in another post, but right now, I'm here to sing the praises of a new act I caught this weekend.

First of all, I hadn't seen my gal Linda Lou in a couple of weeks--we had lots of catching up to do. She finally got her book back from the printer, and not only is she proud of her effort, but I'm very happy for her--it's been a five-year labor of love and she's finally seen it to fruition. Anyhow, our plan was to meet up for drinks on Friday night, and she suggested the Ovation Lounge at Green Valley Ranch.

I was all over that, and at six o'clock, we were sitting in the bar tipping back a couple of beers. She presented me with my very own personalized copy of her book, and we settled in to share our latest adventures with one another. Our plan was to hang out for a bit, and then go inside the lounge (on the other side of the bar) and check out the live band at seven.

I guess I wasn't expecting much, but damn, what a band it was. We walked in and grabbed a cocktail table just as they were getting underway, and I was immediately hooked. The stage was crowded; there were the usual suspects in attendance--lead singer, guitarist, bass, drummer, keyboards--but then there was a horn section, an organist, a percussionist, and a couple of back-up singers. There were so many people up there that it kinda looked like a Parliament concert, minus the dreadlocks and the dude wearing a diaper.

The name of the group was The Michael Grimm Band, and the music they put out was nothing short of incredible. Absolutely fantastic. I seriously don't have enough superlatives to relate how good it was. They played a great combination of blues, soul, rock, and funk, and everybody in the room was down on the dance floor letting their freak flag fly after about the first minute or two. You couldn't help but get up and dance. Off the top of my head, I heard some Skynyrd, Al Green, Delbert McClinton, Blues Brothers, and the list goes on and on. And once they wore everybody out with the high energy stuff, they slowed it down and played a soul-rendering cover of Marc Cohn's Walking in Memphis.

The band leader, and main singer, Michael Grimm, has an amazing voice. At first I thought it sounded like a cross between Stevie Ray Vaughn and John Cougar Mellencamp, but the more we listened, we narrowed it down to 'Joe Cocker back when he spoke English'. Simply an incredible musician. There was also a singer who did a few turns out front and center who went by the name 'B Soul', and I guess he was a contestant who went fairly deep on American Idol, but I don't watch the show, so I wasn't familiar with his work--and he was also a great singer. But they weren't the only ones who knew their craft. You could tell that everyone up on that stage was just oozing in talent--it flowed out of their pores, puddled up at their feet, and ran out on to the dance floor. The synergy of having so many great musicians in one place was nothing short of being total ear candy. They were a 'tight' band, and I could've listened to them all night long.

We stayed for both sets, and danced ourselves into a decent-yet-civilized sweat. And we had a few rounds, too. Linda stayed with the Marsden beer, and once I spied a bottle of Montecristo rum on the bar, I did my best to empty it--one lime wedge and glass of Coke at a time. We also talked with the trumpet player from the horn section, an amazing talent in his own right, Michael Ray Taylor. He's got his own project going on, and was an interesting person to talk to. And yeah, I'm buying every CD they're selling at the next show.

They only played for about three hours, and it went by way too fast for me. They could've played all night and I would've stayed and listened. But we paid our tab, promised to do it again soon, and then said our goodbyes.

As I was heading out to fetch my truck from the valet, my phone was blowing up from one of my other gals, who wanted me to come meet her over at Club M to see one of her favorite dance bands, 'Envy', who were taking the stage a half-hour later. So I broke a few speed laws, eluded the ever-diligent Henderson cops, and got to the venue just under the wire.

Oh my god, what a difference. And not in a good way, either. That Envy band has got to be about the worst group I'd ever sat through. How they ever conned their way into a paying gig I'll never know. It was a six piece band--a bass player, a drummer, and a keyboardist--the rest of the music coming from sequencers. The other three people--the 'main' group on their posters, were just singers, and only one of them was any good. There was modernized Eddie Haskell (he actually had some talent), a blond-from-the-bottle bimbette with fake boobs and too much makeup, who's only contribution was to be eye candy, as far as I could tell, and then another dude who did their 'rap' stuff, but seemed like a huge Myspace d-bag come to life. Together, they were awful. But the gals in the crowd seemed to love 'em for some unexplained reason, and the waters were deep for trolling--I swear there were about ten chicks on hand for every guy in attendance. Even so, the music was awful. And they only did about a minute and a half of each song, running about five or six of them together at a time. Coming from seeing a professional, polished act, to seeing those lip-syncing poseurs was a monumental letdown. The best part of that show was that beers were only four bucks at the bar.

I could only take about an hour of it, so I made my apologies and excused myself before my head exploded. I was home by midnight, having to work early on Saturday morning.

So while I'm sure I'll never sit through another set with Envy, no matter what the venue, I can't wait to get back over to GVR and hang out at the Ovation. Besides Michael Grimm, they've got some other great free acts on constant rotation--Yellow Brick Road and The Lon Bronson All-Star band, too. It appears that I've found a new place to hang out when I tire of the poker rooms around town.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Rome Is Right

Let me begin by saying that I'm not a big fan of Jim Rome. He's awful on radio--the undisputed KING of dead air, but I watch his show on TV almost every afternoon. It's not bad, but the man can be an arrogant prick. On the other hand, the format of his TV show, and the constraints of time, combine to keep the topics flowing, so I guess you could say I'm kind of a fan, but not a big fan. And I still giggle about the time he cowered like little girl back when Jim Everett came over the table and threatened to beat his ass on national TV.

However, his 'Final Burn' today kind of stole my thunder--it was a rant I wanted to address the other day, but figured it could wait. But he jumped on the subject, and now thousands of viewers are already in the know.

Basically, his issue (and mine), is the annoying habit of NFL analysts to constantly say 'National Football League' over and over again, instead of just saying 'NFL', like it carries some kind of gravity and mystical importance. Just pay attention some Sunday morning before the games start, and listen to how many times the talking heads say the drawn out 'National Football League' instead of just going with the more common acronym. And it's even worse once the games come on. The color commentators, most of which are former players, do it even beyond the point of annoyance.

Seriously, test the theory with a drinking game--do a shot of tequila every time an announcer says National. Football. League. next time there is a marquis matchup on TV. You'll be dead of alcohol poisoning by halftime.

I guess it wouldn't be so bad, except that they choose to go the drawn-out route, instead of choosing the economy of words and using the acronym like the rest of the world does, but it sounds even dumber when you consider that none of them can muster up the effort to say 'Roethlisburger' when referring to Pittsburgh's quarterback.

To a man, he's just 'Ben'. They say Peyton Manning's full name. Same with Tom Brady, Drew Breeze, Donovan McNabb, etc, but where the Steelers are concerned, it's just Ben, like they're all on a first-name basis with him. 'Roethlisburger' apparently takes way too much effort, but National. Football. League. is beaten into the ground like a dead horse every week. I don't know why I find it so irritating, but I do. It's like annoying country music fans, always referring to the stars by just their first names, like they were best of friends or something-- I saw Tim and Faith at Vittles yesterday!


I don't know why they do it. I'm guessing that Roger Goodell came down with an edict from On High, and like Alyson Hannigan in American Pie, directing all TV personalities to Say my name, Bitch! Either that, or it's just a case of mass group-think. One moron did it, and it just caught on, kinda like the first newscaster jerkoff who decided that Quatar now rhymes with 'gutter'.


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Still Around, Just Not At The Keyboard

After posting that feature-film length epic 'trip report' about my weekend with the buffoons, I damn near wore out my keyboard. Well, at least the desire to sit and pound on it for any length of time. So I've been layin' low for the past couple of days. Not only that, but I *did* actually get called in to work on Saturday night, and I've worked every night since then, so I hope y'all appreciate the effort it took to crank that baby out and get it up and running late on Sunday afternoon.

I'm a little bummed out right now--all the sisters are off on the Sibling Revelry cruise this week, and I'm stuck here in Vegas. Would I rather be down in the Caribbean right now, laughing my ass off with the family? You know I would. I came about thisclose to going, but the whole furnishing-the-apartment thing got in the way this summer, and that, coupled with a very lean July kept me from attending.

Today, they're in Belize, and I wish I were there too, complaining about the heat and the humidity, while finally being able to get rid of a pile of Belizean currency I somehow brought back with me five years ago. Seriously--I'm using a Belizean $2 bill as the bookmark in all of my literary adventures, and I've got a few more bucks tucked away in the nightstand. Not much, but enough to buy a round of drinks at a thatched-roof beach bar.

Oh well, speaking of furnishing the apartment, I'm just about done. I found a dining room table that I wanted, but then when I took the measurements, and then taped them out on the floor like a chalk outline of a crime scene, it was just too damn big. Instead of seating for six, I'll have to settle for a smaller table with only four chairs. My dining room is not nearly big enough. I mean, it looks huge when it's empty, but now that the booze cabinet is there, it takes about three feet of usable space off of the length of the room. I tell ya what, nothing fills up a room like furniture. What was once a big empty warehouse is now a small cozy apartment. And my search for a suitable dining room table continues.

On the other hand, I have ordered a new headboard for the bed--I've been without one for so long that I'd forgotten that people use them. I haven't gotten an email letting me know when it ships out, but I'm sure that once I get it, it'll be a *much* simpler project than the booze cabinet was. And I doubt that I'll be in danger of bleeding out during the assembly process, too. I've also got my eye on a new surround-sound home theatre system, but that's iffy--I found a decent deal on one, but if I buy it, I'll be feeling broke again. And I hate feeling broke. But I really do need a real DVD player and speaker setup for my awesome TV. We'll see--I've had a pretty good week at work, plus a good run at the poker tables during my off time, so I've got the extra scratch, and I'd really like to get this place finished. I mean, I gave up a Caribbean cruise to get my house in order, and I'm anxious to finish the job.

That's about all the news from here. I've been running myself ragged for the past ten days or so, and there is no end in sight--I've either worked or been tied up with other commitments ever since a week ago Friday. And I don't even back-to-back days off this week, either--there's another tournament on Saturday, and I'm on call this Friday, too. We've got a pretty damn good promotion going on right now, and it seems to be working--I keep getting called in--so I'm not sure when I'm gonna be able to enjoy a full day off again.

But as far as the rest of today goes, well, it involves a whole lotta relaxin'...


Sunday, October 04, 2009

One More Round of the Madness

I must be getting old. Three days of buffoonery with the varsity drunks from T2V damn near killed me. Well, maybe it wasn't that extreme, but September Madness certainly put a hurtin' on me. It took me all week to recover, and I'm still popping aspirin six days later. I'll probably need to train for March if I want to keep up...

Anyhow, after the booze cabinet finally went together last Friday afternoon, I barely had enough time to take a shower and get dressed--Doc Al's plane was about 45 minutes early and I'd promised to pick him up at the airport.

Instead of meeting at the baggage claim Starbucks where I normally gather up the folks I pick up at the airport, once I got on the road, I called Doc and just told him to scurry across to the parking garage and take the elevator to the Excalibur level, where I'd be arriving in about five minutes. That was easy enough and just about the time I pulled up next to the elevator, he stepped off. Our weekend was underway.

The entire crew was staying at the MGM Grand, and Angy had booked an extra room for Al on the same floor, so that's where we headed. No need to hit the liquor store or drugstore first, as Miyagi so famously said, "Buddha provide", so we arrived empty-handed, save for one carry-on bag. Standing there at the valet, we had our first only-in-Vegas moment, as we saw an outrageously hot blond gal get out a mini-van wearing what appeared to be just a tank top and panties. Maybe she had some shoes, but our gaze never made it that far. And being out of practice, she disappeared while we were both fumbling for our cell phones, hoping to catch a quick photo...

Once we got inside, we called Angy to find out which room we were supposed to go to, and all she said was It's the room at the end of the hallway on the 15th floor. I don't know the room number.

Um, how's about maybe you go to the door and check it for us, since there are four hallways at the MGM Grand, once you get off the elevator, and each one is about a quarter mile long. It would suck to have to walk two miles if we guessed completely wrong...

Turns out, she wasn't exactly in the room at the time, she was up on the 17th floor, preparing the Terrace Suite for the party later that night. But the 'living' room was based down on the 15th floor. Eventually we figured out where we were supposed to go, and we knew we were headed in the right direction when we could smell the cigarette smoke about 30 feet from double doors at the end of the hallway. Yep, definitely a sign that Sticky, Angy, Sin, and Renae were there--chain smokers, all.

We knocked on the door and were greeted by all the gals--hugs all around, help yourself to a beer in the fridge, sit down, join the party... Besides the Cribs-style Terrace Suite upstairs, Angy had rented out an extremely pimped out two-bedroom suite for the gals to live in that served as the Mother Ship for the entire weekend. It was huge, and had a big damn dining room table and a bar, in addition to lots of extra couches and chairs, so entertaining was not a problem.

We spent some time catching up, then Angy came downstairs and gave Doc Al his room key--his room was on the same floor, in the same wing, about halfway back to the central hub where the elevators were. A couple of the gals accompanied Doc to his room, while I stayed in the suite, enjoying a cold Corona and the company of a few ladies.

Apparently, the gals had decorated Doc's room for him. There was an inflatable donkey in the bed, wearing the famous 'Superstar' panties from March Madness, condoms scattered about, and lots and lots of reeking crab and mussel shells.

Waaay back in the day, a bunch of us went to the Bally's Sterling Brunch one Sunday morning, and Angy had kept all the lobster shells and snuck them out in her purse. She also had a key to Doc Al's room at the time, and while he was off gambling that afternoon, she filled up the pillowcases with the shells. They were quite ripe by the time he made it back to the room the next morning, and ever since then, it's been an ongoing prank. I guess the gals had gone to dinner at SeaBlue the night before, kept all the empty shells, and then used them to class up the room before Doc arrived.

Mission accomplished--it stunk to high heaven in there. Heh.

He was a good sport about it, and there were a few pictures taken. Luckily, the gals weren't too cruel and decided to *not* put shells in the air vents, and somebody had also brought along some Febreze, so the room was habitable by that night.

Anyhow, we hung out in the main suite until around 7 o'clock, then, like a mass sponge migration, everyone headed up to the Terrace Suite on 17th floor. For those of you who've never seen one, I highly recommend it. It's a nice room, but even better, it's got a huge balcony that overlooks the south Strip, everything from NYNY all the way down to Mandalay Bay.

Not only was there an abundance of booze and at the bar, but room service had hooked us up with a full on buffet of cold cuts, condiments, bread, fruit, and cheese, plus several trays of chocolate dipped strawberries. And out on the patio there was a party tub filled with beer on ice. Angy is definitely the hostess with the mostess.

Now, my plan was to just hang out and go to the party for a couple of hours, and I guess that the original plan was that it was just going to be a happy-hour type of gathering, but as time went on, it got to be a full-on blowout, and since there was plenty of booze on hand, well, we kept it going until the wee hours. And there was plenty of buffoonery to be had. Let's look at a few pictures, shall we?

Scottie, Marty, Doc, and I pour out a sip in honor of our homies who couldn't be there. (Sonya, T, we're lookin' at YOU!)

Cheran is obsessed with making sure everyone has nametags, like we're at a convention or a VFW picnic or something, but we rarely use them for their intended purpose. In fact, most of the tags are slightly irreverent, as you can imagine. My favorites were Marty's that simply said Do Not Resuscitate or Tara's that said If you think I'm hot now, just wait till the Beer Goggles kick in. I think mine said If we wake up together, my name is Mikey. If you wind up pregnant, my name is Terry... Doc Al, of course, was sporting a variety of tags by the end of the evening.

I call this one "Imminent Derailment"

Me and mah bitches. Actually, I think they were Snert's bitches, I just borrowed them for awhile. That's Tara, Mikey, and Shawna.

Andrea, Haidy, Angy, and Sandra. This must've been taken early in the evening, as all of them still have their clothes on.

Just like Clemens on steroids, Angy and Cheran can still bring the heat, even from the far side of forty.

This is what the camera doesn't show, every time a picture is taken at a T2V gathering.

Al and Snert in a moment of male bonding. All the gals must've been in the bathroom at the time.

Marty, Sticky, Snert, and Sin. In the poker world, I think they're known as 'railbirds'.

Just a group shot on the patio--looking through all my pictures, I don't think I got a single decent photo of the view we had up there, but believe me, it was excellent. On the other hand, it looks like Sin was actually shocked at the latest indecent proposal sent her way.

Van, Sticky, and Wilson from 'Home Improvement'.

It was a helluva party, and I had a great time. I got to catch up with a lot of old friends who I hadn't heard from in months, and Sticky and I actually had a really nice conversation for awhile. We haven't talked in what seems like forever--there was a little awkwardness there--but it's all water under the bridge now and we had a good time together. And not only that, but because everyone there is just plain damn funny, I laughed my ass off all night.

The party started to wind down around 1:30 in the morning--I know, early for Vegas, but then again, we started at seven. Some folks started trickling off to their rooms, but there was a contingent of die-hards that wanted to go to Carnaval Court before it closed at three, then head to the Peppermill for the inevitable early morning breakfast.

Way too tired to participate, and way too drunk to drive home, Doc Al graciously offered me the use of the extra bed in the Seafood Suite. I left with the Die Hards, but halfway to the elevator, I said goodbye to the caravan of drunks about to be unleashed on the Vegas Strip and took advantage of Al's generous offer, on the condition that he didn't try to spoon up with me when he got back later.

I kicked off the shoes and the smokey outer layer of clothing, washed my face, and hit the bed. Oh my dear god those beds at MGM are comfy. I swear, I thought the ones at TheHotel were the best, but that bed at MGM was just pure awesomeness. I crashed, hard, not stirring again for a couple of hours until I heard the drunks rolling down the hallway like an incoming thunderstorm. For a moment I felt bad for all the guests who had the bad fortune of staying in the east wing of the 15th floor at MGM that weekend. They got no sleep.

Doc Al gave me a brief rundown of the experience, and it was pretty much what I guessed--drunken buffoonery followed by lots of toast. We closed the curtains against the approaching sunrise, and finally called it a night.

Sometime around 10:30 or so, we started to stir. I had no extra clothes with me, having not planned on sticking around but for a couple of hours on Friday night, but I was caught up in the whirlwind by that time. We were both pretty damn hungry, so we decided to hike over to America over at NYNY. I'd worry about clothes later.

Now, even though MGM and NYNY are right across the street from each other, and connected by a catwalk, we were at the far east end of the property, and it was a hike to get to the restaurant. It did us good, working the kinks out, and luckily there was no waiting for a table by the time we got to the cafe.

I've been to America many many times, and I know a lot of people swear by the place, but me, I've never thought it was that great. In fact, I'm pretty much over it. Their service is a little sketchy, the prices are a bit high, and the food ain't that great. This latest visit confirmed my opinion--we both had a serving of the driest pancakes in captivity, and even though it was an all-you-can-eat deal for like $5.99, each of us could only eat two of 'em before giving up.

Over breakfast, Doc Al pointed out the obvious fact that I was now officially part of the gathering, and like a street gang, I couldn't leave unless I were dead. Blood in, blood out. I agreed, and so after we paid the check, we headed back over to the valet at MGM to fetch the truck. We drove back over here to the bachelor pad, and I propped Al up on the couch to doze in front of the Wisconsin game while I showered and gathered a few belongings in a suitcase.

Thankfully we never made it to a sports book that morning, as I was planning on betting heavy on Miami. While getting dressed and packed, we watched the highlights of Va Tech kicking the crap out of them and both gave a sigh of relief--another bullet dodged.

Once I had all my gear packed for a couple of nights at the hotel, we headed back towards the Strip. I had to stop and get gas, so while we were doing that, I picked up some bottles of Coke and water, and also a few packs of smokes for my gals Sin and Sticky--they were paying $8.50 a pack at the casino, but at the gas station, it was only five bucks or so. So I grabbed some Marlboro reds for Sin and some Lights for Sticky, hoping at the very least that it would bring some good gambling karma (although, I hadn't gambled a cent at the time).

We got back to the hotel, ditched my suitcase, and headed back down towards the end of the hallway to hang out with the girls. Sticky, Marty, Snert, and a few others had gone to Treasure Island, but there was still a decent-sized crew at the MGM. We just hung out in the suite for the afternoon, having a few drinks, socializing, and I'm embarrassed to admit it, watching Jerry Maguire. (Once it was over, however, the gals obliged us by letting us watch some football).

Eventually, we made plans to have dinner at Isla at 6:00 pm. I managed to get us a reservation for 12 people, but when it got down to it, our party was down to six--Me, Doc, Sin, Patty, Linnie, and Angy. Four of us got there first, and chilled at the bar drinking strawberry margaritas. Yes, they were quite tasty. Doc Al and Linnie eventually showed up, and we made our way to the table.

More margaritas were ordered, and we dug into the chips and salsa--everyone loved the chipotle, and we also ordered some shrimp ceviche, some guacamole, and a dish of queso fundido with chorizo. For some reason, the only picture we took at dinner was of the queso. So, here ya go:

It was damn tasty, too, and a big hit with everyone. Eventually we got around to ordering a proper dinner, and I think five of us ordered the steak and shrimp special of the day. It turned out much better than it sounded--a marinated sirloin cut, covered in spiced and sauteed veggies, with three large grilled shrimp on top. Of course it came with rice, beans, and tortillas, too, and everyone loved it.

As much fun as we were having, we couldn't linger for too long--we had to get back to the hotel and get ready for our evening out. Anyhow, after dinner, we bypassed the peasants in the taxi line and piled into a waiting limo, which took us back up to the MGM. We had about an hour and half before the party bus was meeting us downstairs for our night at the Voodoo Lounge, so everyone split up to shower, get dressed, and make themselves pretty.

At 9:30, the herd, now dressed up and looking good, had gathered outside the limo staging area and a few minutes later, our chariot arrived. We all piled on, and for the first time, it was a party bus ride that didn't have a single drop of alcohol involved. Actually, even though it was almost ten o'clock at night, the day was pretty much just getting started, and there was a quiet, subdued vibe going on. No dancing, no drinking, not much buffoonery at all. I swear the driver must've thought that he had the lamest group of partiers ever to cut loose on a Saturday night in Vegas. It was like a bunch of retirees heading from the rest home to the outlet mall for their monthly outing...

This was the extent of the buffoonery on the Party Bus as we made our way over to the Rio. I feel so ashamed.

It was a short, and quiet, limo ride, and just as we were pulling into the Rio, I told Marty that it was so quiet I kinda felt like Ox arriving at boot camp in Stripes. So of course the first thing out of his mouth when we saw a uniformed security guard at the hotel entrance was, How's it goin', Eisenhower?


Angy had arranged for a VIP area and bottle service up on the roof at the Voodoo Lounge, and a few minutes later, we were escorted up by her host at the Rio--private elevator, private entrance, and a grand spectacle as we made our way through the teeming masses to our roped-off couches. Actually, since it was only 10 pm, the masses hadn't really started to teem just yet, but still, it was pretty cool to walk through like a bunch of D-list celebrities.

Now, I've never been one for that whole VIP concept, and especially bottle service. I would never ever ever in a million years cough up $300 for a bottle of Captain Morgan, or $350 for some Crown, just for the privilege of being able to sit down in a club. But I see the attraction now. Angy, Marty, and Snert had arranged for all of us to have a high-end good time, and I believe we had 12 bottles to start with. The bill must've been staggering, but hey, you only live once, right?

So we had a huge roped off area up against the rail, overlooking the Vegas strip, right next to the dance floor. We had tons of booze, an endless supply of ice, mixers, and garnishes, and the hottest damn cocktail waitress I've ever seen. As smokin' hot as she is in the picture, it doesn't even come close to her real-life hotness. Behold:

That's easily the best picture of Marty, EVAR. In fact, brothaman said he was gonna have a copy made into a huge Fathead and have it mounted over his bed.

But that's not the only picture that was taken--here are a few more to give you the 'flava' of the evening:

Everyone was a big fan of Tara's legs. Especially the fellas.

It wouldn't be a proper night at the club without a few Hawaiian Tropic gals in attendance. I had to snap a few close-ups, too.

Cocktails in the foreground, Bellagio in the background. Vegas, baby. Vegas.

The beginnings of the bottle service. It didn't look that way for very long.

Dancing With The Stars, Sticky-style. You just know she was thinking something like "Damn, my partner better keep his zipper up until the end of the song..."

Of course, the gals in the neighboring VIP area couldn't resist the gravitational pull of our merry band, so they came over to dance with us.

Another view of our waitress...

Me, Angy, and Doc, doing what we do best.

The gals of T2V

It was also Angy's birthday that weekend, so we secretly passed the hat and raised enough money to get a couple of magnums of Cristal sent over. We raised a toast to her--with real glasses this time, not paper cups--and wished her a happy one. Good times--I'm tellin' ya, this group just knows how to have fun in Vegas.

I really wish I had more pictures of our gang at the club, but there is a reason--first of all, a lot of the pictures are somewhat naughty, and maybe not safe for work, and definitely not safe for some folk's dignity, so those stay in the vault. And the batteries in my camera died later that night, so my picture-taking wrapped up earlier than most. But trust me when I say that we had a great time. Even though I'm not a 'club' kind of guy, we really had a fantastic evening up there. It probably helped that I met a nice gal and spent an hour snuggling with her on the couch. Oh and guess what her name was...


For real, yo.

Anyhow, here we be:

There was no deal-closing, however. She was with her married friend, and that's a tough obstacle to overcome even for the best of wingmen. Besides that, by the time we hooked up, I'd pretty much lost my voice entirely, but we still had a nice time together.

Around 3:00 am, I was spent. I'd had a drink in my hand for five hours straight, I danced, partied, schmoozed, flirted, took pictures, and just carried on like a typical buffoon all night long. A few of our party had trickled off back to their respective hotel rooms, the luckier ones with new friends in tow. And the really lucky ones with two friends in tow. I'm not naming any names, though. Me? I made my way down to the cabstand by myself and headed back over to the MGM.

In a stunning coincidence that defies all odds, just as I was getting out of the cab and crossing that big damn huge lobby at the MGM Grand, making my way to the elevators, I saw one of the gals we were dancing with earlier in the evening coming towards me, catching a cab back to her hotel. She saw me and grinned, and I said A little early to be doing the walk of shame, don't ya think? She just laughed and said I don't know what you're talking about...

Doc had called it a night much earlier than I did, and he was there half asleep when I came stumbling in. So I turned on the light and we sat up for about a half hour, laughing our asses off, retelling our adventures from the night, and cementing a load of great stories forever into the memory banks.

At some point, we could laugh no more, and both of us crashed, hard.

But a full night's sleep was not to be ours. There was a pounding at the door, and I said to Doc, You know that's just Angy--you want me to get it? He said no, he'd take care of it. But first, let me put on some pants.

I was like, Dude, it's just Angy--I think she's seen all of us without pants at some point...

Luckily, he insisted, because it wasn't Angy--it was a whole platoon of MGM Security guards. Apparently, somebody had pointed to our room and said the words "Domestic Disturbance". Once they realized that me and Doc weren't a married couple on the outs, all Doc could say was Thank god I put my pants on before I opened the door.

But there were knocks on other doors and such, and some kind of drama out in the hallway. And a few minutes later, Angy and a few others *did* show up, but by then, the storm had passed, all was quiet. Eventually, we got back to bed and got some sleep.

I still wanted to get up and watch some football somewhere, but unless you're up at the crack of dawn, you ain't gettin' a seat in the sports book. We were up closer to the crack of noon, so we knew our chances of getting seats anywhere were kind of slim. The original plan was to go to the Hilton and sit in the theatre, just like we normally do, but for some reason, that idea went out the window. Doc finally suggested that we have breakfast at the Grand Lux and decide from there.

I was cool with that, so we fetched the truck and headed north on Koval. Instead of the Grand Lux at the Venetian, which is kind of a clusterf*ck, we decided to go to the one at the Palazzo instead. And I'd never set foot inside the Palazzo before, so now was my chance.

...And now that I've been--meh.

I'm not a big fan of huge airplane-hangar casinos, and that's what Palazzo is. If feels like an overpriced Monte Carlo on the inside. Not my style. Anyhow, when we got to the Grand Lux, there was no line at all, and there were a couple of games on the TVs in the bar, so we opted to just sit there and have breakfast and watch the games.

I had ham and eggs, I don't remember what Doc had, besides a bloody Mary. I had a screwdriver made with Stoli Vanilla, and it was good and stiff. Breakfast was really good, although a tad on the pricey side, but we sat there for quite awhile. The problem with watching football on those high bar chairs is that your ass falls asleep--not the most comfy place to lounge for three-plus hours trying to watch a football game.

So we paid the $70 breakfast tab and headed off in search of greener pastures. We checked out the Legasse Stadium, which is a great concept, but not nearly big enough for the size of the hotel it's in. Seriously, somebody needs to tell Uncle Sheldon that if he's gonna have a hotel with 5000 rooms, the sports book needs to be able to seat more than a couple hundred people. Same with the pool. Trying to score seats was a fruitless endeavor, so we ended up sitting at one of the bars in the middle of the casino.

It was there that we reached the breaking point--we ordered a Captain and Coke and a Screwdriver, and Doc laid a $20 bill on the counter. The waitress looked down at it, and then said to Al, Sorry sir, the total is $21.50.


Why don't you just bend us over and take it out of our asses instead?

Seeing the disgusted look on our faces, she offered up an alternative. Just put $20 each in the video poker machines and I can comp them. I countered with, Oh yeah, good plan there, now it's gonna cost us forty bucks...

But we did. And of course there were no quarter machines there at the bar. Only dollars. Doc lasted four spins, I played minimum credits, but then changed to video blackjack about halfway through my twenty. Removing any hint of pleasure from the ass-raping they were giving us, the video blackjack was set so that you couldn't split or double down on anything. And blackjacks paid even money. I played it just long enough to get all my money back, plus one dollar (not for the bartender, but for the valet back at MGM), and we called it quits.

I doubt that we'll be going back to the Palazzo anytime soon.

On the way back to the Emerald City, we called Angy, and she said that they were just starting to stir back at party central, so come on over.

We did, and spent the balance of the afternoon lounging in their suite with the gals. I went on a mission of mercy to fetch cold Cokes and ice (all of the drinks down in the sundries shop were room temperature all weekend), and we made a few drinks and passed around the cameras and such, laughing at all the buffoonery caught on digital 'film'.

Al had to head back to the Great Purple North that afternoon, so he was the first of the party to bail out on us. Renae followed shortly thereafter. It sucked that they were leaving--Doc Al is a great Vegas compadre and a buffoon of the highest order. I always have a good time when he's around.

While we were kicking it there in the suite that afternoon, Sin and I were talking about a trip out to Grimaldi's for dinner, but then everyone else wanted pizza, too. I said that the only way we could get the whole crowd out there in my truck was "if everyone rode in the back like Indians going to a Metallica concert", and that sent Sin into a major fit of giggles. It was contagious, and coupled with all the other silliness we'd encountered over the weekend, it turned into a full-on epidemic of laughter.

Eventually, we composed ourselves, and Sin offered to go down to the food court and pick up a couple of pizzas there. Being a pizza snob, I wasn't too sure I wanted to go that route, but it was obvious that we weren't going to dining at Grimaldi's that night. So we all chipped in and she took off to go fetch dinner for everyone that was lounging around in the suite.

Well, we were pleasantly surprised with the pizzas she brought back. Absolutely excellent, especially when you consider it was from the restaurant row downstairs in the casino. Maybe we were just hungry, but we tore into them with reckless abandon and everyone commented on how good it was. I don't know the name of the pizza joint at MGM, but they make a damn fine pie.

Our plan for the evening was to head downtown and do some old-skool Vegas. Dougie was in town for one night, on his way to San Diego with the wife and kids for a family vacation. But he had a free pass that night, after 8:00 pm.

There were about eight or nine of us still lurking about at the MGM at that point, and we took a couple of cabs down to the Golden Nugget once the sun went down. Dougie met us, and the party was on once again. The first order of business, once we got drinks in our hands, was that we decided that we'd take over a poker table at Binion's and get a private game going.

But during the walk from the Nugget to Binion's, we ran into Don D, and he had arranged with his host at the Plaza for all of us to come up to Firefly for drinks and appetizers. None of us were really that hungry, but Firefly is the shiat, and free drinks will always get this group's attention, so that's where we went.

If you haven't been to the Plaza lately, they've changed it up once again--that big glass dome out front that used to be the Center Stage restaurant, and then a sports bar, is now a branch of the Firefly restaurant. I'd been to the original out on Paradise, and loved it. Now that there's one downtown, I'm *sure* I'll be visiting more often.

We got a bunch of seats together in the lounge off of the main dining room and bar, and everyone ordered a round of drinks. Everyone got their normal favorites, but I can't go to Firefly and not drink the house special, so I ordered a sparkling Sangria, as did Kara.

Oh my god it was good. Seriously, it was one of the best cocktails I've ever had. I could've parked myself under the vat and suckled directly from the teat all night, given half a chance. Kara agreed--it was damn good.

Not too many of our group had been to Firefly before, so they weren't quite sure what to order. Somebody got some marinated steak skewers and there were some garlic fries and diablo shrimp on the way, too. I said no way, and had to introduce my peeps to the awesomeness that is their bacon-wrapped stuffed (with an almond an blue cheese) dates. They are fantastic--God's own finger food whenever he throws a cocktail party.

I told the waitress to bring five orders, and if need be, I'd cover it out of my own pocket (we were on a comp at the time). When they arrived and everyone tried them, it was an instant hit. I think we ordered six or eight more servings once that first round disappeared. Oh yeah, they're that good. If you ever find yourself at Firefly, you simply must order the bacon-wrapped dates. Definitely a crowd pleaser.

We ran up quite a tab, but Don D and Marty managed to get the whole thing comped. So we passed the hat and gathered enough for the entire wait staff to have a very good evening, and we headed back out to Fremont Street. Eventually, we made it to Binion's--not exactly in a straight line, but we got there. While waiting to get a poker game going, we wandered a bit.

It seems that Binion's has been bitten by the Harrah's and Venetian philosophy--Times are tough, so let's gouge the hell out of everyone who walks in the door. Every single one of the blackjack games in Binion's was one of those 6:5 abominations. And we're not talking single deck here, folks--they were doing that on the shoe games. Hell, we even saw a continuous shuffle game that paid 6:5!

Not one dime. They won't get a single dime from me.

I will never play another table game at Binion's until they come to their senses. Not a chance in hell. Living here in Vegas has kinda soured me on blackjack and dice and pretty much everything except poker, so it's no big deal to me. I can easily walk through the valley of the shadow of neon and not be tempted in the least to step up to the green felt. But folks that come here only once or twice a year? I'm afraid that if they start to feel like they're getting ripped off--which they are--they won't come back at all. Brilliant strategy, morons.


We eventually rounded up ten people who wanted to play some poker, and we got our private game on. It's always a great time, and the smack talk came fast and furious. Of course, we sorely missed Doc and Terry's money at the table, but there's always March. I started out doing pretty well, but Marty was just running over the table.

At one point, I was down about $60 and flopped a straight. Snert had the bad luck to be holding pocket Aces at the same time, and I got damn near back to even on that one hand. I caught a few more, and by the time the game broke up after about three hours, I'd made $80. Woot! Is there nothing sweeter than winning money at the poker table from everyone who's been talking shiat all night? I think not!

Once the game broke up, we all made our way back over to the Plaza for more gambling. I should've sat out and just drank, but Marty led the invasion of a dice table, and I had to join the party.

Of course, we all stunk up the joint with our shiatty rolls--I think only Sticky had a decent one, but after an hour or so, we were all crushed. I lost $180, some lost more, some lost less, but the bottom line, we all got our asses kicked by the dice gods. Kinda sucked.

It must've been about three in the morning by then, and everyone was looking for breakfast. Binion's coffee shop is no longer open 24 hours, so that idea was a bust. (But by then, I didn't mind, the thievin' bastards). We eventually found ourselves at Magnolia's at the Four Queens, asking for a table for 12 people.

Not surprisingly, our drunken rabble pretty much drove everyone else out of the restaurant. By then, the endless chorus of "Cuz you mah FAM-LEE!!!!!" repeated to the point of annoyance in a loud, irritating southern accent, was the catch phrase of the weekend. (I think Angy's host, a complete hillbilly chick, uttered it after a heavy shot of Patron at the Rio the night before, and it got repeated about a million times since by everyone in attendance). Oh yeah, it'll find it's way onto a t-shirt by the time March Madness rolls around.

Breakfast was an adventure to say the least. Everyone was smashed, loud, and hungry, and some outsiders might even use the word 'obnoxious' to describe the pack of drunks who eventually had the entire dining room to themselves. Yep, I think we wore out our welcome there at Magnolias. But at least everyone got lots of toast...

After the tab was paid, along with a very generous tip to kind of make up for the behavior on display, we shuffled out to the street to catch a couple of cabs back to the MGM. It was a quiet ride, as the evening's craziness had started to catch up with everyone.

When we got back to the hotel, we saw a couple of smokin' hot hookers coming into the lobby at the same time we were, and they engaged Marty and I in conversation. But after just a few minutes, they could tell that they weren't gonna close the deal, and they headed off for the more lucrative waters of the main casino, and our herd of drunks slowly made its way to the elevators.

Doc Al was gone, so I had the Seafood Suite all to myself for the night. I took a quick shower, packed up my suitcase, and set my alarm for 8:30 in the morning--just four hours hence. Angy had a cabana booked for the day, and although I really wanted to go, I was pretty sure I needed to go home and get things done, plus catch up on some rest--I had to work on Monday night.

The four hours passed much too quickly, and I laid there in bed for about ten minutes after the alarm went off, debating whether or not I should spend the day sipping umbrella drinks and ogling fake boobs at the cabana, or being responsible and heading back to the house to run some errands and rest up before my workweek started. Eventually, the adult consciousness won out, and I grabbed my suitcase and headed down to the valet. I sent a text message to everyone, thanking them for a great weekend, and saying goodbye, and then left Angy a voicemail, telling her how much fun I had and that I'd be heading home instead of spending caddie day at the pool.

My September Madness had come to an end. Honestly, when I woke up on Friday morning, I had absolutely no notion of the weekend I had in front of me. I had no plans at all to be living like a tourist at the MGM Grand for three days, and my system was definitely not prepared for all the alcohol I tried to poison it with.

But I had a fantastic, wonderful time. Superlatives alone can't describe all the laughs and good times I shared with my friends. I think it was even better just because it was wholly unexpected. But now I can't wait for March. September, as good as it was, is only the appetizer. The main course is six months away, and what a feast it will be.