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...


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