Monday, March 29, 2010

Steppin' Out

Hey gang--lots going on around here, so I'm giving y'all some warning that I'm gonna be absent from the computer for a few days.

Maybe back by the weekend, but not sure just yet.



Friday, March 26, 2010

The Picture Doesn't Do It Justice

All that effort and expense has finally paid off! Yes--I got my puzzle back from the frame shop at Michael's earlier this evening, and now it's hanging on the wall in my dining room. I took a straight-on view picture, too, but the flash leaves a small hot spot in the photo, even though the puzzle is encased in glare reducing 'masterpiece' glass. So I took this offset view instead.

It's very hard to tell from the picture here, but it turned out amazing. The mat looks awesome--it really compliments the background colors, and yeah, you can totally tell the difference in the higher-quality glass versus some of the other stuff I have hanging on my walls. I swear that when I got it home, I just propped it up on a dining room chair and sat there staring at it for about twenty minutes--it turned out that well.

Anyhow, that's the news for today--but I'm pretty sure that they'll be some food pr0n posted over the weekend.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Taking A Big Hit

Man, is my ass sore. (And no, it doesn't have anything to do with March Madness, you sick freaks!) Although, it does kinda feel like I've been bent over and violated by a very large and very angry convict.

I just finished my taxes and Uncle Sugar just worked me over like a pimp who found out one of his girls was holding out on him. So yeah, I'm feeling poor and broke again. I coughed up some cash to The Man, but the rest is going on the installment plan. What sucks is that my 'reported' income was so low that I barely had any taxes deducted all year from the weekly bag of peanuts that the casino paid me. Then I got a stack of W2G's from all of my poker winnings and that pushed me up into a more costly bracket. All I can say is 'Ouch!'.

And I've got that whole 'when it rains it pours' thing going on too, because it didn't help that my shift got canceled last night, either. I got into work and there was a no-limit game going with several tall stacks in the game. That looked juicy, but then one guy immediately went broke, and from the time I walked from the poker room to the employee cage and back, another guy left, one more player went broke, and the game busted. So I turned right back around and clocked back out a minute later. I hate losing a shift like that, but then again, I've been picking up lots of weekend shifts lately, so I'm sure I'll make up for it over the next few days. (Hell, I even got a call during the Madness on one of my days off--they wanted me to come in and work one night). And I saw that next week's schedule is out and I picked up a weekend swing shift, so that'll help ease the pain a little, too.

But I'm off tonight, so I'm gonna relax and get some reading done and maybe catch a movie or two from the DVR. Two weeks ago, I signed up for HBO just so I could watch The Pacific during it's first run, and I got three months of free Showtime and the Movie Channel, so I've been recording all kinds of stuff that I've wanted to see.

First of all, The Pacific totally lives up to the hype. Just like Band of Brothers, it is one of the best mini series ever put on TV. I'll eventually get the whole set on DVD once they release it. I've also seen a couple of excellent movies in the past week--The Bank Job and Traitor. Both are totally worth checking out if you haven't seen them. One the other hand, I had high hopes for Miracle at St. Anna, but I thought it kinda sucked. It wasn't so much a good war movie as it was a thinly-veiled racial rant by Spike Lee. Yeah yeah, the Black Man was oppressed, we're all racists. Whatever.

I hate that--you know, when they tout something as a powerful war movie and it turns out to be something else. Remember when the previews for Pearl Harbor came out? Man, I couldn't wait to see it. Turns out it was a chick-flick. Talk about getting a shiat sandwich at the box office. I mean, how many other 'war' movies do they run every week on the Encore Love channel? I haven't seen any John Wayne there. And Ben Affleck is certainly no John Wayne.


So, yesterday I made my first attempt at meatloaf. Turned out pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. I made mine with half ground beef and half ground pork, added a bunch of spices, some chopped up bacon, plenty of veggies (mushrooms, onions, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes), some horseradish and A1 sauce, an egg, and instead of bread crumbs, I smashed up a few Club crackers. About three quarters of the way through the baking time, I brushed on some KC Masterpiece and topped the whole thing with a can of French-fried onions.

It sure made the house smell good, and now I've got some damn tasty leftovers, too. That'll probably be the extent of my cooking adventures for a few days while I subsist on meatloaf sandwiches. I also took a stab at making hush puppies last night, but they turned out awful. I couldn't believe how bad they were. But then, they came from one of those just-add-milk mixes I got at the store. Even the local pigeons that shiat all over my truck wouldn't eat them. Next time, I'll just make them from scratch.

That's about all for now... I should be getting my puzzle back from the framers in the next couple of days, so I'll take a picture or two of the final product once I get it hung on the wall.

Ciao for now!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Back In My Cage

Howdy, strangers!

I've had a wonderful break from the computer for several days, and I wish I could have a few more. But, no, here I am making sure you have a way to waste a few minutes on hump day. Last week, I just didn't have anything interesting to write about. Then a small cadre of buffoons came to town for March Madness.

This year was easily the most mellow and least drunken of the seven-plus years I've been participating. First of all, we had a few no-shows. And none of my original Phoenix gang came up, either. So attendance was way down. On the other hand, I had a wonderful visit with Angy, CoolP also came to town, and I cashed in the T2V Poker Tourney, which is especially impressive because when the thing kicked off at 1:00 pm on Saturday, I'd been up for 25 hours straight.

I think the highlight of the weekend, for me, was late on Saturday night after Angy's party wound down, CoolP, Bill Gates, and I took over a $25 Pai Gow table at the MGM Grand and laid waste to it for several hours, coloring up with several purple chips. After that, the lovely Erica joined us and we had a late dinner at Wolfgang Puck. And for those of you who don't have nearly enough cholesterol in your diet, I heartily recommend the 'Croque Madame'--seriously, I felt like I'd eaten a full bucket of bacon grease when I finished that thing. Basically it's a triple-decker grilled ham and gruyere sandwich, covered with melted cheese, Bechamel sauce, and then, if your arteries aren't already hard enough, they top it with a fried egg. Oh, it's tasty and all, but damn, I think each time you eat one you lose six months at the end of your life. I ordered it on CoolP's recommendation, but I think I'm one-and-done on that particular treat.

As far as the rest of the weekend went, it could be more easily summed up in the things I didn't do. I didn't play craps or blackjack at all, I didn't make a single bet on basketball, and I didn't play one hand of poker outside of the tournament. I didn't even take any pictures this time around, either. I did, however, play quite a bit of Pai Gow with CoolP, and there were a couple of group dinners that were a lot of fun (Maggiano's and PF Chang's). I also pulled an all-nighter with Angy on Friday, and by the time I finally got to bed, I'd been up for 30 hours straight. Even then, I only took a two-hour power nap, then got up, slammed two bottles of Five Hour Energy, and got back in the game.

The bummer of the whole thing was that I had to work on Sunday night, and I've worked every night since then. Like the song says, ain't no rest for the wicked.

But the weekend is over, my bracket is in tatters, and the buffoons have all returned home. We're back to our normal programming now.

If anything interesting happens, you'll be the first to know.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Journey of 2000 Pieces

... Begins today!

Yep, I'm starting on the next puzzle. The first puzzle is resting comfortably at Michael's craft store here in Henderson--I dropped it off there yesterday. What an adventure that was.

First of all, remember all those prices they were quoting me that were upwards of $200? And then remember in the comments section of that last post how I got excited for the 55% off coupon Sonya clued me in on? Well, as it turns out, those prices I was quoted already included the so-called discount. Basically, they jack their prices up a few days a month, and then their framing services are constantly on 'sale'. No coupon needed. Whatever.

The problem I faced is that the puzzle, with mat and frame, is so big that it's off their standard size charts. The 'regular' price of matting and framing for something that big runs around $600. Ouch. But by then, I'd resigned myself to the fact that I would pay a hefty fee to get that thing mounted and suitable for hanging, so I just bit the bullet, said f*ck it, and assumed the position.

I figured that if they were gonna charge me an arm and a leg to frame it, than I was gonna make sure I got my money's worth in the shopping process. I'm sure that their custom framing manager was good and ready to see me hit the exit, because while I was in there choosing mats and a frame, I was every bit as picky and undecided as a past-her-prime trophy wife shopping for shoes at Neiman Marcus. After looking at dozens of textures and color combinations, I ended up going with a double mat, gray and forest green, and a dark bamboo-style frame. It'll be ready in two weeks.

The total damage, with tax, came to just over three bills, and believe me, I immediately had buyer's remorse after I walked out of the store with nothing but an empty wallet and a receipt for my troubles. Of course, that nagging feeling of getting jacked faded a bit after a good stiff martini. While drinking it, I convinced myself that I was getting a very cool and unique piece of art, regardless of the price.

Anyhow. I've moved on. Just tonight I opened up the second puzzle and started the long and arduous process of sorting the pieces and turning them all face-up. This is what I've got after my first hour or so:

There's one thing that I immediately noticed--this is not the same puzzle I had ten years ago. Oh, it's the same picture, but it's definitely a different puzzle. This one has a black border all the way around it, and then it has a white-lined inner border surrounding the actual picture. The inner border will be a snap, but the outer edge pieces will be a pain in the ass of epic proportions. Remember all that indistinct brown I was bitching about on that last one? Well multiply it by a hundred here. I guess the puzzle maker realized that most people do the easier outer straight-edge pieces first, so he threw me a curve ball and said Here you go, biatch--I'm gonna make the edges be the hard part. Pretty tricky, that puzzle maker guy.

So I spent some time sifting through all the pieces, and in the left box I have the straight-edge pieces, and in the right-side box I have the inner border pieces that have the white pinstripe on them. I haven't found all the 'easy' pieces yet, I'm sure, but I'm off to a good start. And I've already found the corner pieces and got five or six pieces of the title put together, too.

This one is gonna take a few months. As always, I'll keep you posted.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Down On The Corner

Ok, so maybe Thursday wasn't so boring after all. Maybe it was because I actually left the house and got stuff done. Seriously, earlier in the week I'd forgotten where I'd parked my truck because I went from Saturday morning until Tuesday night without leaving the apartment complex. And since it was cold, windy, and rainy that entire time, the furthest I got from my living room was a stroll to the mailbox and a trip to the trash dumpster. So when I left for work late on Tuesday night, I had to think pretty hard about where I'd parked as I was locking my front door.

But I guess I'd had enough of the boredom, so I made a break for it yesterday around noon. Like I mentioned previously, I'd been on a frugal kick lately, and part of my overall strategy was to stay home. I knew that if I were out running around, I'd have to spend money. So I went back into 'Early 2002' mode, when I was flat broke, unwilling to spend my last twenty-dollar bill. It worked for awhile, but I can't be a hermit forever. Besides--the sun was out, finally.

Oh, it was still a bit chilly out, but knowing that, I'd left the truck out in the open instead of the covered parking, and I got a bit of the greenhouse effect going for me.

Anyhow, after visiting Aaron Brothers last week and getting an estimate of around $260 minimum to get my puzzle all framed up, I was kind of at a loss as to what to do. I mean, I really want to get a nice looking wall-hanging, but man, three bills sure seemed like a lot. And another thing--the guys at Aaron Brothers were insisting that I glue the puzzle together and then get some double-sided tape and stick it to a foam board before I brought it in. They would take it from there, then spend about ten days or so working their magic, and still charge me almost three Benjamins. For some reason, I just got a nagging feeling that there was a better way.

Doing my 'due diligence' on the internet, it's almost gospel truth that puzzles should not be glued at all. I mean, even though I'm a total rookie at this arts and crafts stuff, common sense dictates that if you spread a bunch of white goop all over the front of your puzzle, you're gonna alter the image--even if it dries clear. And even gluing the back isn't ideal, because the liquid can and will seep through. The bottom line--the more I thought about it, the more I just didn't like the overall concept I was getting from Aaron Brothers.

So yesterday, I drove down the road to Michael's craft store. First of all, oh holy hell, it was a tabernacle of craftiness. The place was *huge*. And they were busy as all get-out, too. No sign of a recession in there. So I made my way to the back of the store to the framing area, and told the dude at the counter what I needed and wanted. Yes, they could certainly help me--I was told that they frame puzzles all the time for people. Nice! Not only that, he told me of their method of heat-transfer, where no glue is required.

The way I understood it is basically, I just bring in my loose (finished) puzzle on the foam board or a big piece of plywood or whatever, and they just slide it onto their backing material. Their backing material has some sort of chemical on it and when they put down the mat and such, they just put the whole damn thing into an industrial-sized panini maker and cook it for a few minutes. The chemical turns into an adhesive, and without gluing the puzzle together, each individual piece is attached to the backing material, along with the mat. Then it's just a matter of glass and building a custom-sized frame (that's where the expense is--glass ain't cheap, and neither are one-off frames). Anyhow, the whole deal is gonna come to just over $200, which is much more reasonable. Not cheap, but still, a whole lot easier to swallow.

So I told the guy that I'd be bringing it in today. It'll still take almost two weeks to finish, but then I will finally have something to hang on my bare walls. And as soon as I drop off this one, I'll start on the 'Belem' puzzle on my newly-vacant dining room table.

Once I took care of that business and wasted a few minutes browsing around at the craft store, I headed over to one of the smaller local poker rooms to kill an hour or two. I was tempted to hit Costco or maybe take in a nice lunch, but I decided against spending the money. Besides, I convinced myself that I needed to keep my poker game sharp and that even if I lost a few bucks, that's still better than dropping two bills at Costco on a bunch of staples and cleaning supplies.

When I got there, there were only a couple of low-limit games going, no tournaments, and no no-limit. I got a seat at the 4-8 table, and just a few hands into it, a gal I know showed up and took the seat next to me. We had a good time catching up, and even though I started off in the hole (two draws that never made it), eventually I caught a few hands. Surprisingly, pocket Jacks even won a decent pot without improving. I played for about an hour and a half, and on my last hand I had 8-9 of Diamonds. I limped in, as did four or five other people. The flop hit me right upside the head--it was 6-7-10 rainbow, so I had the nuts and didn't really have to worry about a flush.

I bet out, a couple people called, and then somebody raised me. So I re-raised, and it knocked everyone else out except the raiser, who just called. Hmmm. Right then I figured him for a straight draw. Any set probably would've re-raised, and if we had the same hand, he definitely would've re-raised me.

The turn was a red Ace, putting two hearts on the board. Now, I was about 99% sure that my opponent wasn't holding hearts, but he could've had low connected hearts and the turn would've just given him nine more outs. I bet, he just called.

I must've been zeroed in yesterday, because I remember thinking Damn, give me a black four on the river, and I'll be damned if the dealer didn't burn and turn and toss out the Four of Clubs!

I still had the nuts. So I bet out. My opponent immediately raised! That sent me a mixed signal. I was either going to win a nice fat pot or we were going to chop it, basically just getting our own money back.

So I re-raised him, and I saw him grit his teeth. He called and said I'm gonna pay you off, but I'm guessing you had me all the way. I said Yep and showed him the nuts, and he mucked his suited 5-8. It was a nice fat pot and at that very moment, I had doubled my buy-in to $200. So I racked up, cashed out, and hit the door. Not bad for an hour and a half's work.

I came on back home and attempted to take a cat-nap for a bit, but since I use my cell phone as an alarm clock, I can't avoid the text messages that come in on a constant basis. So sleep never happened. I'd been up since 11:30 the night before, and I was dog-ass tired. But I had to haul my butt over to Silverado Ranch and pick up Andrea at 5:30--we had some furniture to move.

I got up after about fifteen good minutes of shut-eye, put on some shoes, and loaded Linda's furniture dolly into the back of the truck. Yes, it's still sitting in my storage closet after all these months. I keep telling Linda I'm bringing it back, but the truth is, I haven't been to her place in months. So I'm babysitting it. Anyhow, the dolly has a problem with the tires--they have a slow leak and go flat after a couple of days. And since I rarely use it, I had to stop at the gas station and air 'em up again.

Oh, and since pretty much the entire population of Vegas (I mean, the people who don't live in Summerlin or Spring Valley), lives in Silverado Ranch, traffic was a cast-iron bitch at 5:30. I finally got to her place and had a Holy Shiat! moment. Andrea and Kimmy are next-door neighbors. I mean right next door to each other--they almost share a driveway. Yeah, that Kimmy, the one I used to call the Future Mrs. Of course I hadn't been to her place in almost two years now, and I knew that her and Andrea lived on the same street, but damn, next door neighbors? Small world. (On the other hand, it gave me a great idea for a reality show. I'd call it The Girls Next Door, and... what? Oh, never mind).

Anyhow, we headed off to my old neighborhood in search of her couch. Turns out that her friend lives about a block away from Lars Vargas. But the couch wasn't that heavy--just bulky as all hell. The two gals and I could easily lift and carry it, so we had it loaded in about 30 seconds. I tied it down with a bundle of rope that's been riding in the suicide door of my truck for over two years now (Rob and I bought it at the Walmart in North Vegas when we were moving his stuff from his first ghettofabulous apartment into the Man Cave).

We took the safe route back to her place, crawling along Horizon Ridge, avoiding the rush hour traffic on the 215. Loading the couch was easy enough, but getting in her front door was a challenge. I can't really come up with an appropriate and colorful dirty metaphor for the act of deflowering her narrow doorjamb with that huge love-couch, but after much pushing, pulling, panting, and sweating, we finally got it in there.

She had to go to work, and I had to go to sleep, so we said our goodbyes, planning on meeting up next Friday night at the MGM. Suddenly I realized how tired I was, so I came straight home, not tempted in the least to go play poker at one of my favorite spots. I kicked off my shoes, hit the shower, and grabbed a cold Mexican Coke from the fridge. I think I lasted about fifteen minutes before passing out with the light on, face down on the corner of my book.

At some point I must've reached up and turned off the lamp, but then I slept straight through until almost 3:00 this morning, damn thankful that work didn't need me last night. Tonight however, is a different story.

But I'm up and ready to get my Friday on. I've already made a pot of coffee and a can of biscuits. Once the rest of the world starts moving, I'm gonna take that puzzle down to the craft store, hit the bank, and maybe play a little more poker. And then it's the weekend!


Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Monk Blog

Yeah, it's like I've taken a vow of silence or something. I mean, they already stuck me with that vow of poverty, and if the past couple of weeks are any indication, I think they're trying to hang 'chastity' on me, too. I guess what I'm trying to say is, that if I had anything really interesting to write about, you'd know about it. But right now, the blog-mobile is broken down on the outskirts of Dullsville, and the tow truck of creativity is nowhere in sight.

I've worked the past couple of nights, but there hasn't been anything really interesting or memorable happening. Just a couple of normal low-limit games with the usual players and the usual hands. No epic bad beats or crazy-huge pots to speak of. And it also doesn't help that I'm in my frugality mode right now, either. March Madness is next week, and I'm saving every penny.

In fact, instead of going out for breakfast after work as Sierra Gold or the Gold Rush, or any of the late-night VP bars around town, we've been hitting the 24-hour joint in the casino where 1) we get a 25% discount, and 2) I can pay with my points I earn from grinding away in the poker room for hours on end. So it ends up being 'free'. And even though the employee dining room is free, I won't go there, because, well, sometimes free just ain't worth it...

Speaking of The Madness, word around the campfire is that I have a freebie room at the Flaming-O next weekend if I want it. Oh yeah, I'm sure I'll take it. It'll be much easier (and safer) to cab it back there from the MGM after the party than to try and drive home to Hendertucky.

The buffoons start arriving en mass on Wednesday, but I have to work that night, so I won't be doing too much that day. But then I'm off the rest of the weekend, so you're likely to find me with a bottle of The Captain duct-taped to my left hand if you run into me on Friday.

But even though it's still a week away, I'm starting to finally get excited about it. I know that the folks who live in the far-flung corners of the earth and don't see the bright lights of the Strip every night are going crazy in their office cubes this week, waiting for the vacation to start, but now that I'm here, well, it's a little different for me. That's ok. Once I see Suite Madame Angy rolling down the hall with a couple of bellmen pushing two luggage carts full of booze, I'll know that the party has officially begun.

Until then, I'm gonna get some rest and not spend any money. Maybe do some meditation or something, too.


PS: BTW, I have to give myself a pat on the back for picking Citigroup and Exact Sciences when I did--I'm getting close to doubling my initial investment. Woot! (Of course, it's pretty easy to be a genius in a bull market...)

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Monday Morning Feel-Good Story

Hey Gang--Happy Monday!

I apologize for the late start this morning, but I have a good excuse--I actually got a full night's sleep for the first time in what seems like forever. I've been fighting a mild head cold for the past several days, and last night was the first time in a week that I haven't woken up every two hours completely stuffed up.

Oh, I've still got a little bit of the bug, but the coffee is brewing and I've just taken my drugs, so I'm feeling pretty damn good, if not 100%. Here's the thing, though--the past couple of times I've caught the funk, I knew exactly who gave it to me. So now I just stay away from those people and their nasty germs.

I had a semi-busy weekend. I got called in on Friday night, and worked a couple of hours, but Friday night is the busiest night in the casino, so basically every dealer was there. But about an hour after I arrived, the games started breaking, and before long, I was done. One of my gals had come down to play that night, so I hung out for a bit, and eventually sat down in the 4-8 game instead of going home.

That was a good move, because I ended up making an additional $160 on top of what I made for my couple hours of work. I was tired and cashed out in the middle of the night, locking up my profit, but I ended up hanging out with some friends until almost 8:00 in the morning on Saturday. Somebody had the bright idea to do shots while we were playing, and I swear I had seven shots of Goldschlager over the course of the night. So I had to stick around and sober up before driving home the next morning. Overall, it was a pretty good night.

But that ruined the rest of the weekend for me. I felt like crap when I got home, and although I was exhausted, even the medicine didn't help and all I could do was catch little tidbits of sleep here and there on Saturday. I finally collapsed for good around 6:00 pm and completely zombied out for the rest of the night. I was told that I'd probably be needed to work on graveyard again that night, so I was good with resting up for a few hours anyways, but then my phone was ringing and one of the gals wanted to do something, and then a bit later it was ringing again because one of my buddies wanted to go down to the M and play some cards and then get some dinner. Normally, I'd be totally up for this sort of weekend buffoonery, but I had to decline. I felt like crap and was just too tired. Besides, if I got called into work that night, I would need some sleep beforehand.

Around 1:30 or so, I woke up and called the poker room, but they had the situation under control. The floorman asked could tell that I was sick and asked if I'd be willing to come in around 3:00 am if they needed me. I said I would if they got into a bind, but otherwise I'd rather just stay in bed. Turns out that he didn't need me and I got a couple more hours of rest.

I ended up just wandering out to the couch and clearing a bunch of junk off my DVR that morning, and then watched the Nascar race from Atlanta (BTW, Carl Edwards is a punk-ass biatch that needs to a tire-iron to the nutsack, if you ask me). Also, while hanging around the house that day, I figured my apartment, and my bed in particular, was a germ factory that was probably keeping me from getting better. So I sanitized everything I surface I could, even using the Clorox wipes on all the light switches and door knobs, and then I stripped my bed down and washed everything--mattress pad and pillows included. That took pretty much the entire afternoon, but man, what a difference it made. I slept like a baby last night.

On the other hand, I learned that a fleece blanket will hold about fifty times its own weight in water, which will send the washing machine into a conniption fit if it's the slightest bit unbalanced...

So what else is new around here? Well, besides that couple of hours of poker I played on Friday night, I've been away from the game for a couple of weeks. I keep getting called in on my nights off (a good thing!), and I'm still smarting a bit from that ridiculous series of bad-beats I took a few weeks ago at the M. Even though I prefer to play no-limit, buying in for $65 into a 4-8 game is a sure way to make sure you don't take a ridiculous beating.

Besides, I was just sitting in for the social aspect of it, fully prepared to KISS that money goodbye, drinking with my friends and just having a few laughs for a bit. But there was one guy in the game who decided to come after me, thinking he could re-raise me all the way down and get me off a hand, and both times when the show-down came, I forced him to show his cards and both times they were absolute rags. He just figured that he could get me to lay down and fold whenever a 'scare card' hit the board, but both times I had pretty good hands and rode them out.

But since I haven't been playing very much, I haven't had any good poker stories to tell. On the other hand, all of you poker-heads out there need to get your fix, so I've got good news for you. Remember Josie, my guest blogger? Well, she plays all the time and started up with her own poker blog. So if you want some more tales from the green felt, add her to your daily rotation.

Since I was a little under the weather, I didn't mind at all being stuck here at the Batch Pad for the weekend. It kept me from spending any money, and it was rainy and yucky outside all weekend anyways. And it looks like it's probably gonna stay that way until Wednesday. But it was still nice to sit out on the patio last night once my chores were done and enjoy a good smoke and a glass of Grand Marnier.

I think I got that whole pipe-smoking thing down. Fifteen years ago or so, when I first tried it, it was so damn frustrating that I gave up in disgust and stuck with cigars. But now I figured it out. Last night I managed to keep a bowl of the Captain Black lit (with one match) for a solid half-hour without having to re-light it. Those of you pipe smokers out there will understand that that is some kind of impressive feat, especially for a rookie like me.

And as much as I love my Partagas Black Label cigars, smoking one of them is an hour-long commitment. I don't mind that at all, but I can fire up the pipe for just fifteen minutes if I want and be done with it (especially if its cold outside). And did I mention the wonderful smell of the pipe smoke? It's like aromatherapy for straight guys. While I was out on my patio last night, one of my neighbors wandered by, about fifteen feet away on the sidewalk and said Damn dude, that smells awesome!

So I think I'll add pipe smoking to my ever-growing list of vices.

Speaking of vices, they're coming to town in a big way. March Madness is just a week-and-a-half away, and with it comes the Harmonic Convergence of Buffoonery; Three-plus days of gambling, drinking, and debauchery that would make the ancient Romans blush. I'm looking forward to it, although this year seems to be a bit more low-key than the others. My Phoenix gang won't be here at all, nor will Doc Al, but most of the other usual suspects will be in attendance. I didn't even reserve a hotel room this time around, so unless I'm sleeping in a planter outside of the valet at the MGM Grand, I'll have to keep myself sober enough to drive home late at night. Either that, or talk some young lass into letting me stay the night...

Anyhow, that's about all I got this Monday morning. I hope you office drones are enjoying your day. I think I'll spend the rest of my morning enjoying my coffee, curled up on the couch doing some reading. My workweek starts tonight.


Friday, March 05, 2010

The Miracle Cure

First of all, I want to thank all of my readers who clued me in to the fact that the 'good' drugs were behind the counter at the pharmacy, there for the asking. I had no idea. I just thought that the good stuff was banned by the Nanny State a few years ago and that was that.

So this morning, after I got myself out of bed, showered, and looking like something other than a meth-head, I drove over to the local CVS and asked the guy at the pharmacy counter if he had any 'original recipe' Sudafed on hand. He did, and even went one better--he said he had the generic stuff made with the same formula.

Sold! said I.

I bought that, two boxes of cinnamon Altoids, and a bottle of 7-Up, and I was out the door, getting my fix in the parking lot just a couple of minutes later. It helped.

From there, I made the long drive over to the west side, my objective being Mr. Bill's Smoke Shop over on West Flaming-O. It's a bit of a haul from Hendertucky, but it was such a nice day out that I enjoyed the drive. I found the store without too much problem, it's in a nondescript strip mall on the corner of Arville and Flaming-O. Most of its business is geared towards cigars, trendy hookahs, and the usual hippie stuff, but they had a nice display of Meerschaum and briar pipes on hand. Most were fairly reasonable, and I found a nice curved briar pipe for less than thirty bucks. I looked at a few more expensive ones that I really liked, but since I was undecided if pipe smoking was really something I wanted to do, I decided to hold off on the high-end stuff. But I'm determined to give it another try, just because it smells so damn good.

Anyhow, I got my pipe, a three-way 'pipe tool' for cleaning and tamping, some pipe cleaners, wooden matches and two pouches of Captain Black in the white package. That's what my Grandpa smoked for years and that's the smell that triggers the memories, so I purchased some of it as a tribute to him. I got out of there for about fifty bucks, but they had so many other varieties of good-smelling tobacco on hand that I'm sure I'll be back.

Since I was in the neighborhood already, I drove west a few more blocks to Archi's Thai Kitchen on my friend Kellee's recommendation. It's a small joint, and at first I didn't think that I'd get a seat, the restaurant being packed to the gills with the lunch rush. But I only had to wait a minute or two to get a table.

Once I was seated, I browsed the menu, but I knew what I was getting--the chicken pad Thai lunch special for $6.95. It came with a bowl of the daily soup (some sort of tasty chicken/coconut thing), a small side salad, bean sprouts, a fried wonton, and an egg roll. I ordered mine at heat level 7 (on a scale of 1-10) and also got some hot jasmine tea, also. Still fighting a sinus cold, I figured the tea and the spiciness of the pad Thai would work wonders for me.

It did. First of all, the pad Thai was excellent. And it was a great bargain for the price, too. No wonder the restaurant was so crowded at lunch. Also, I'd never had jasmine tea before, and I absolutely loved it. I didn't add any sweetener or anything to it, and I thought it tasted wonderful. Funny how I've gone this long in life without ever having tried that before. I'll probably buy some to keep here at the house, because not only did it taste good, but it made me feel a little better too.

While I was there, I couldn't help but laugh at the poseur at the table next to me. The guy was about 60 years old, wearing a French beanie, a black leather biker jacket, and huge Bono glasses that went out of style about ten years ago. He was dining with some young slacker in desperate need of a job and a haircut, but he spent the entire time name dropping and talking about his 'first film'. I tried not to be obvious with my eye-rolling, but the guy was a total caricature of the lecherous producer-type you read about. If I could've pulled it off, I would've tried to get his picture with my phone, but there was no way to be discreet about it--he was sitting only about three feet away from me.

I guess that was the free entertainment that came with my meal.

Once I finished and paid the tab (less than ten bucks!), I took the long way around 215 back here to the Batch Pad. I took a couple more pills, but decided to go even more proactive with my self-medication, and poured myself a snifter of Grand Marnier. That'll clear the sinuses all by itself.

But the siren song of my new pipe was calling me too, so I broke out my new purchases and sat out on the porch for a bit. I packed a bit of Captain Black into the bowl and loosely tamped it down, then put more in and did the same. It took me about three tries with the wooden matches to get it to stay lit, but I eventually got it figured out.

Damn, did it ever taste good, and the smoke was wonderful. I've known for years that cigar smoke is good for head colds (well, at least it makes me feel better), and the pipe smoke is just as effective.

Now, a briar pipe is different than meerschaum because it gets hot and has to be broken in. Meerschaum is porous and needs no break-in period, but with briar, the bowl actually burns a little and you have to build up a protective layer of carbon. Eventually, it helps keep it cool and mellows the smoke a bit. Or so I've been told. And the secret to smoking a pipe is to keep enough airflow going through it so that the moist tobacco stays lit, but at the same time it doesn't get too hot. It's a fine line to walk, but I managed to do ok this first time out. I sat and smoked that thing for about a half hour, refilling the bowl twice, and I really didn't run into any problems with having to relight it over and over again like I did back when I was a total rookie with a pipe. Still, practice makes perfect.

But between the cold medicine, the Grand Marnier, and a pipe full of mellow tobacco, I felt absolutely fine--like a million bucks.

Oh, I'm still somewhat under the weather, not sick, but the sinuses aren't quite cured yet, either. But at least now I know what to do about it.


Thursday, March 04, 2010

Mikey... Be Shoppin'!

Damn head cold.

Well, ok, I'm technically not sick, but my sinuses are clogged like the plumbing in the men's room at the Big Texan after the entire Longhorn football team stops by to take the 72-ounce challenge. Seriously, can anybody make an effective pill that will clear my sinuses? Tylenol's version doesn't work, neither does Comtrex, Equate, or even Sudafed. It all sucks. Afrin 12-hour spray works for about twelve minutes, and while it hasn't hurt me, the Zicam stuff has killed the sense of smell for hundreds of consumers. Short of sticking wasabi paste up my nose, I'm at a loss for what to do.

I should be out having fun tonight with one of my gals, but instead, I'm staying home and resting. I had another sleepless day, and I'm pretty tired, going back and forth between wishing I get called into work tonight and hoping that I don't. Originally, I was gonna help Andrea move a couch earlier this evening, but we're doing it on Saturday instead. And then my cell phone has been blowing up for the past couple of hours because Holly has the night off and wants to go out and drink play. I'm just not feeling up to it right now.

Anyhow, I got a lot done today, but I spent some money, too. First of all, I hit the bank and made a deposit. After that, it was over to Costco to fill up the tank. Then I hit a local smoke shop that has a huge sign out front saying that they had pipes. Well, they weren't exactly the kind of pipes that I was looking for--plenty of ceramic and glass pipes, but meerschaum and briar were nowhere to be found. If I didn't have to take drug tests and spent all my disposable income on the hippie lettuce, that place would've been right up my alley. But for legitimate pipe smokers, it was a total bust.

Also, I don't understand why, but quality pipes are ridiculously expensive. A decent entry-level model will cost thirty bucks minimum, and my online searches revealed some truly stratospheric prices for the good ones. I don't get it. But I guess it's like everything else--if you have a hobby, you're gonna have to pay...

Since then I discovered Mr. Bill's Smoke Shop over on west Flaming-O, and they seem to have a pretty big selection and extensive knowledge of real tobacco pipes, so I'll probably pay them a visit on Friday. Hopefully they'll be able to help me.

After my head-shop adventure, I made my way over to Aaron Brothers Art & Framing to try and figure out the best way to hang this puzzle on the wall. Well, I didn't think it was gonna be cheap, and now I have confirmation. In order to get it backed, matted, glassed and framed, it's gonna run a minimum of $160. We went through all of the scenarios, and actually, the guy at Aaron's was extremely helpful--not giving me the hard sell or anything, and explaining in detail why some of my ideas wouldn't quite work. So while I was there, I spent about twenty bucks on materials (a couple of huge foam boards--one of which I will use as a backer board to mount the puzzle on--a sponge brush, some good quality glue for the back of the puzzle, and a few other odds and ends), and then once I have the thing glued and mounted, I'll bring it back to them and they'll cut the foam board down, mat the puzzle, glass it, and then do a custom frame for it.

It'll probably take about a week to get it back, and although it's a bit pricey, it'll be professionally done and will look very nice. Besides, even getting a cheap poster that size done like that on still costs almost $200, so the price is actually kind of reasonable in comparison.

When I got home this afternoon, I got the puzzle up off the table and onto the foam mounting board (trickier than I expected). Now I have to go down to the casino and swipe a couple of pencils from the sports book because I don't have one anywhere in this house! I need it to make centering marks on the mounting board before I turn it over and glue it. (Yeah--It's turning out to be a much more complicated process than I first imagined).

Besides the art store, I hit Costco for a few things. I was out of granola bars, turkey jerky, and Mexican Coke. I got a few other groceries, and managed to get out of there for less than $125, but still, I think Costco does a better job of emptying the locals' wallets than any casino ever did. On the other hand, I probably won't have to buy laundry detergent again until sometime in 2012.

That's all for now...


Killing Time Before the Bank Opens

Hey Gang!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful week... Me? Well, I was scheduled to work three nights this week, but the first one got canceled. Luckily the other two have been crazy-busy. I just got home from another long night in the box, and although I'm tired, I'm not quite exhausted yet, so I'm going to stay up long enough to get down to the bank and make a deposit, and then maybe run a few other errands.

Due to being massively busy at work the past two nights, I haven't had much time to do anything else. I tried to sleep yesterday, but my phone kept ringing, and then I had to get up and help AC again. He wanted to go over to Big Lots and pick up this white pantry cabinet thing to put in the utility room in his new place, and needed my truck to bring it home. So we headed down there yesterday afternoon to do some shopping.

Now, I've never been to Big Lots before, but man, I wish I would've discovered it back when I first moved into this place and the Batch Pad was just an empty shell--they had all kinds of good stuff as far as home decor goes. Of course, they were sold out of the pantry cabinets that AC wanted but he did a bunch more shopping, stocking up on paper towels and bottled water and such. I only got a few things--a meatloaf/bread pan for baking, some copper scrubbers for cleaning my cast iron, and four cans of discontinued Tag body spray (I liked their original versions, and they had a bunch of 'Step Out' for only $2.00 a can, so I bought them). Most of the stuff in there is complete shiat, but every now and then, there are treasures to be found.

After we bailed out of there, we drove over to a new pizza place to give it a try. Remember how I was bummed that Pie Town Pizza had closed down a few months ago? Well, one of the owners plays poker in my room occasionally, and I ran into him last week. He said that he partnered up with some other guys and they opened a new restaurant, called Unique Pizza. It's there in Henderson, almost right next door to Sunset Station, in the old Pier 39 Pizza space.

So we stopped in there last night. It was decent, but nothing to get too excited about. I liked Pie Town much better, and of course it doesn't even come close to approaching the awesomeness that is Grimaldi's. But it was pretty good, if you're in the neighborhood.

After dinner, I went over and checked out AC's new place--it's pretty sweet. I was fighting some stuffed up sinuses and suffering from lack of sleep, so after that I came home, took a hot shower, and went straight to bed for a few hours. I woke up to my phone ringing--the poker room wanted me to come in to work early.

Like I said, it was another crazy-ass busy night for me--I was locked down the entire time and made some great money. But I'm not scheduled again until next Monday night. Of course, I'm on-call all weekend, and I'm hoping that I pick up another shift or two like last weekend.

Oh, and yesterday, I saw my boss for the first time in forever, and while talking to her, I got my vacation time approved for March Madness and also the cruise later on this fall. And just a few minutes ago I sent another $150 to the cruise line to pay down my balance. That balcony stateroom is almost all paid off, and I cannot wait until October!

Anyhow, once I get a bite to eat and go to the bank, I've got a couple of other stops to make. I'm going to hit Aaron Brothers to see about getting a backing board and a mat cut-out for my puzzle. Then I'll have it framed and glassed. I may also hit Costco for a few things and also one of the local smoke shops. I don't know why, but in addition to my cigars, I've been wanting to get an old-skool meerschaum pipe like my Grandpa had and smoke some Captain Black out on my patio at night.

Back in the day, Reverend Dave and I tried our hands at smoking quality pipe tobacco, but it was just too much work--tamping and re-lighting. Clearly we were doing something wrong, but I enjoyed it, and I love the smell of pipe smoke, so I think I'm going to try it again. Besides, everyone knows that a proper sailboat captain smokes a pipe, anyways.


Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Finally--It is done! Here it is:

Man, I love me some jigsaw puzzlin', but I will be the first to admit that this one was a cast-iron bitch to finish. Maybe I'm just out of practice, but there were a few sections that just gave me fits. All that brown on the left, for instance. Oh, and all those trees in the middle, off in the distance--they suck too. But the worst was the blue sky. The clouds were tedious, but not nearly as hard as the sky in three different shades of blue that required me to use three different lights shining down from above to be able to see the subtle differences.

The final piece went in about ten minutes ago, and it was a plain-blue piece in the upper right quadrant, between the three clouds. And this puzzle was especially tricky because so many pieces were almost the same color and almost the same shape, so there was lots of backtracking involved.

But I'm glad it's over. I'm enjoying a palpable sense of relief and accomplishment right now, and I'm halfway tempted to light a victory cigar and go get a couple of lappies. I'll probably just load the dishwasher instead. And I'll probably wait a week or two before I get started on the next one.

Anyhow--this was the main reason I've been AWOL from the blog the past few days. I was either working at the casino or working at the dining room table on this little project--I didn't play any poker. As busy as I was with the puzzle, my real job has kept me busy, too. I only worked 28 hours last week, (which is probably still some kind of record), but I made a small fortune while I was there. I certainly can't complain. All I can do is daydream about how easy my life would be if I were ever to work a full 40 hours every week.

I hope it stays that busy this week, but so far, I'm off to a weak start--I got the call last night that the last game broke early, so I had the night off. That happened once last week, too, but I certainly made up for it over the weekend. I'd like that to be the case again this week.

I don't have anything else to report--I was supposed to go to the Henderson Writers Group last night, but I completely forgot about it. I remember looking up at the clock, seeing that it was 9:00 pm and suddenly realized that I'd missed the meeting. Oh well--I wasn't reading anything anyways. Maybe next time.

As far as today goes, I'm gonna relax, bask in my sense of accomplishment, do some reading, run a couple of errands, and wait for the UPS man to bring the latest box of goodies to my door. After that, I'll take a nap.



I'm not missing in action. I'm just busy. I've got 28 pieces of this damn puzzle left to put in, but they just don't want to cooperate. I stopped at 34 last night, worked on it for another hour this morning and just got six pieces to fit in the right places.

But I'm close.

I'll finish at some point today and post a picture.