Thursday, August 29, 2013

Incidents on Fremont Street

Everytime we come home from Las Vegas, I try to think of things and/or incidents that demonstrate why we think Las Vegas is the greatest place on earth. For example: the Las Vegas airport has a widely advertised liquor store. You can get the party started before you pick up your luggage. Ever wanted to flag down a taxi by waving a bottle of vodka? You can do that and then tip the driver with a shot.

But in the end, my thoughts always come back to the people-watching. You get to see the entire human social strata in Las Vegas. You see people dressed to the nines stepping out of limos bumping into others wearing tank tops and pulling a cooler on wheels filled with Natural Lite behind them.

Several times during our stay, we saw a man with well-groomed beard, smoking a long pipe sitting at various card tables. In fact he looked a lot like this guy except without the hat. Thereafter, I referred to him as “Captain.” And pipe smoke at a blackjack table is highly underrated.

Various characters continued to entrance us: one night we walked down to the newly remodeled Plaza, which was nicely done, but it's still the Plaza. We sat at the bar and played a little video poker while a group of guys in their early twenties gathered nearby. One of them stood behind us for a while yammering into his cell phone. I won't bore you with the entire conversation but it went a lot like this.   (No, I didn't kill or even injure him.) After he hung up, he came back to the bar to talk with his boys:

“My man's got a stack we got to burn over at Bellagio. Then we'll get the limo and hit Hustler. We got bottle service set up,” said the lead dork.

[My interpretation: his buddy had $100 in chips he wanted to lose at the Bellagio so he could look like a big shot. Then they had reservations at the Hustler Gentleman's Club. But I digress.]

“So can I come to Bellagio?” asked dork #2.

“Nah, you guys hang here.” [--insinuating his friends weren't cool enough to be seen with him at the Bellagio.] We'll meet you at Hustler. We'll be the ones in the limo. Did I mention we got bottle service? And a limo?”

Did I mention that this conversation took place at the Plaza? These guys are talking up a big, classy, expensive evening, but they're staying at the Plaza. Cabbies don't even like to take people to the Plaza because they know that they'll be too cheap to tip. (In the lead dork's defense, at least he was going to pretend like he was staying at the Bellagio.)

To top it all off, the lead dork's credit card got rejected for a $4 bar tab.

Confession: we actually stayed at the Plaza once, a long, long, time ago. Yeah, that was a cheap trip.

But time and again, it's the senior citizens who remind me why I love Las Vegas so much. One morning about 9:00, St. Pauli Girl went downstairs to get coffee. She passed by an older woman who had stopped a cocktail waitress and was whispering, “I know it's kind of early, but do you think I could get an amaretto sour?”

This next incident happened on a previous trip. I was sitting at a bar playing video poker (do you see a trend here?) while watching sports highlights on a big screen. Two little old ladies, one with a walker, shuffled up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder.

“Excuse me, young man,” said one lady. “Did you happen to see if the Boston Bruins won?”

“Actually, they lost 5 to 2,” I replied.

“G**d*** it!” the other lady said loudly. “F***ing idiots!”

That was my number one reason for loving Las Vegas until this next incident occurred on our most recent trip:

We were standing in the middle of Fremont Street one afternoon probably trying to figure out where to gamble, eat, or drink next. We happened to be standing across from the infamous Girls of Glitter Gulch strip club which normally has women like this standing outside trying to woo passersby inside. (Why is she carrying a pen like that? Does she really get a lot of autograph requests?) I've never actually seen anyone venture inside the strip club.

Just to my left, I saw a well-dressed couple in their early seventies. They stood staring at each other for a minute, not talking, then the man took his wife by the hand and they strode confidently into the strip club.

Recently I saw someone post on Twitter that an older couple still holding hands is the cutest thing.  I think an older couple holding hands and walking into a strip club is much cuter.  And that's why I love Las Vegas. 


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Boobs and Blackjack

We just got back from our almost-annual trip to Las Vegas, which is always an excellent source of blogging material.

Las Vegas is a pretty surreal experience; you can pretend you are in New York, Paris, Monte Carlo or even the Sahara, assuming the desert has a roller coaster as well. (Note, the Sahara closed down a few years ago.) However, we prefer to stay downtown because we like the cheaper gambling, plus it's much easier to find blackjack games with more liberal rules. Hence, downtown Vegas has been traditionally associated with old people who come for the cheap rooms and cheap gambling. Oh wait, that's us.

In the past five or six years, downtown has made a serious effort to attract a younger crowd and families that would normally stay on the strip. The Golden Nugget opened up an awesome new pool (as well as a new tower) and not much later the Plaza underwent renovations, which included Oscar Goodman's (ex-mayor) new restaurant called “Oscar's Beef, Booze and Broads.” Supposedly, it's a classy old-time steakhouse with the added bonus of “broads,” women who will sit at your table and have conversations with you about sports, Vegas, politics and/or wine. I suppose this gives patrons the excitement of "escorts" without the legal hassles or sex.

This year, to up the ante even higher, we discovered two casinos (Golden Gate and The Las Vegas Club) that offer live go-go dancing between the tables. Even more amazing, the scantily-clad young go-go dancers are also the dealers!  (seriously) Yes, you have to deal twenty minutes of blackjack then get on the table and shake it! Coyote Ugly may have hot female bartenders who dance on the bar at intervals, but they won't pay you 3 to 2 odds on blackjack. The whole dealer-dancer experience sure makes busting more fun.

I've never been to blackjack dealer school, but I suspect that the curriculum has changed, at least for the women. I'm guessing morning classes consist of basic dealing while the afternoon classes are held in small cages on a stage at the Classy Foxes Go-Go Club. I've also been trying to imagine the hiring interview for recent female graduates of blackjack dealer school:

How many hands can you deal in a fifteen-minute block of time? And can you try on this outfit? I need to see if you can make the fringe swing back and forth effectively enough to distract players. And just so you know, the tips aren't as good as strippers make, but you get to keep your clothes on. And it's more money than Hooters waitresses make and you don't smell like a grease fryer at the end of the night. Although you might smell like a cigarette butt. Do you smoke?”


Great, you'll love it here! Now get on that platform and shake those moneymakers while I deal the cards, and you stop me when I bust or if I should double down.”

St. Pauli Girl and I played at the Golden Gate one night, not for the girls but because they had a six-deck, hand-shuffled shoe. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.) We had a good time playing, and St. Pauli Girl and I enjoyed people-watching while making side bets on the cup size of our next dealer. There was a dealer a few tables down sporting the librarian look. Well, that's assuming your local librarian wears long leather boots, fishnet stockings, hip-hugger shorts, and a fringed bikini top that's two sizes too small. Okay, so she was more like a stripper with glasses than a dancing-and-dealing librarian.

After a while, St. Pauli Girl decided to call it a night but I wanted to play a little longer since I was on a roll. Players came and went. One guy sat next to me and started playing two hands at a time. At one point, the dealer didn't see him wave his hands to stand on his deal, and she asked for clarification. In a thick, deep New Jersey accent, he said, “Hey, I waved my hand! Are you f---'in blind?”

Well, I didn't see it, and I have to make sure they see it upstairs.”

Grow up, honey. The game moves fast. This is an adult's game. If you can't keep up, maybe you need to get out.”

Her eyes narrowed and shot daggers at him and she very adeptly and very quickly dealt the next hand. To add insult to injury, the guy didn't know what he was doing. He stood on 15 against a dealer 10 and didn't take advantage of any double down opportunities when he should have. He finally left in a huff after five or six more hands. After he departed, I said to the dealer, “I would like to apologize on behalf of all of humanity for jerks like that.”

She smiled and we had a good laugh about it.

You know, this may be hard to believe,” I said, glancing around the casino then pointing at the empty chair,but I think that jackass was the biggest boob in here.”

Ha! I kill me!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Carbonated Beverage Shortcuts

In first or second grade in Tennessee, I had a phonics lesson where we were given a picture with blanks underneath for how many letters were in the word and we had to fill in the letters. One picture showed a classic Coke bottle with three blanks underneath it. Another kid originally from North Dakota and myself (a recent transplant from Ohio) got the correct answer: “pop. We earned the only two 100's for that lesson. Or so we thought.

A riot ensued as the rest of the class and even the teacher complained that the lesson was incorrect, that the publisher really meant to put four blanks under the picture. The teacher threw out that question and adjusted all the grades. I learned two things that day: 1) life is not fair and 2) I was smarter than everyone.

As the years went by, I grew accustomed to the fact that southerners refer to all carbonated drinks as Cokes. Although I personally refused to succumb to that illogical application of language, I did finally remove the word “pop” from my daily speech because I was always having to explain to my fellow Tennesseeans what I was talking about. Instead, I settled on the more universally acknowledged “soda.”

It absolutely drove me crazy when people would ask if you would like a coke, then hand you a root beer. Or conversely when visting a friend:

Would you like something to drink?” the friend would ask.

I would like a Coke,” I might say.

Sure, what kind? We have Sprite and Dr. Pepper.”

No, I want a Coke.”

Right. Sprite or Dr. Pepper?”

Eventually I ended up in Texas with the (usually) awesome St. Pauli Girl who, like most Texans, follows this same misguided practice, much to the delight of the Coca-Cola corporation. Her grocery list would include “Cokes,” or she might ask me if we needed more Cokes even though we only drink generic diet drinks, usually diet root beer. One time I answered, “Yes, we need Cokes. We do not have any Cokes.” She dutifully brought home two new cartons of diet sodas (not Cokes) only to find an unopened case of sodas sitting in the pantry.

I thought you said we were out of Cokes?” she asked.

We are. We only have diet root beer and diet Dr. Pepper.”

She smacked me with an empty carton of diet root beer.

Now, I write “sodas” on the grocery list to alleviate this constant misunderstanding. But she has taken up the practice of crossing through "sodas" and writing "sodahs," pronouncing it in an obnoxious fake Boston accent, inferring that I am a damn yankee and lucky to have ever set foot in the great Republic of Texas without getting shot. So I decided to go back to my roots, and I now refer to all carbonated beverages by the true, original term: pop.

This morning I told her we were out of pop. She has already started mispronouncing it "pipe" (which in Texan sounds just like the rest of the country's "pop"). I can't wait to see what she brings home from the grocery store . . . Although, I hope she doesn't hit me with it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Dine And Dash Without the Dash

Today we have another episode of “Great Moments in Hospitality.” It turns out there is such a thing as a free lunch . . . and dinner. The following is a true story told to me by an acquaintance; only the names have been changed to protect the innocent:

Bartender Arch was working a slow afternoon shift alone in the bar at a large hotel convention center when suddenly, without advance warning, one of the conference rooms burst open, spilling fifty to sixty thirsty, hungry women into the bar. Lucky Arch: the adjoining dining room didn't open for another hour. And these women were thirsty and hungry.

Arch did the best he could taking care of the demanding women, singlehandedly taking lunch orders and mixing drinks, serving the food and then mixing more drinks, and ringing up tickets. But after a long, grueling hour and a half he thought he had everyone satisfied. There had not yet been any complaints.

As the room emptied out except for a few tables, Arch began clearing plates. As he pulled the dirty plates from a table where three well-dressed women sat, in his best Fridays/Applebees/Chili's waiter spiel, he said, “So can I interest you in some key lime pie, turtle cheesecake, or maybe just some coffee?”

Um, we're still waiting for our lunch,” one lady said haughtily.

Arch looked down at the dirty plates in his hands that he had just removed from her table.

Yeah, and we've been waiting forty-five minutes,” snarled another.

Dumbfounded, Arch didn't know what to do. He looked around at the now deserted dining room for clues. The bar area had been completely clean before the avalanche had descended on him; he was positive no one had sat at a dirty table. He took the pile of empty, dirty plates back to the kitchen and talked to the manager. They were both positive the ladies had been served their lunch, and indeed, a quick search produced a used, time-stamped ticket for that table showing as much.

What should we do?” asked Arch. "They clearly already ate their lunch."

Fire up the grill,” said the manager with a shrug.

Ten minutes later, Arch brought another round of entrees to the table and apologized for the long wait. The "starving" ladies each took a tiny nibble of food, pushed pack their chairs, and asked for to-go boxes.

Since their food sort of, took so long to get to the table, the manager comped their meal. Make that meals, with an S. And they left no tip. Why should they, for such rotten service?

This is like breaking into a grocery store, stealing a hundred pounds of beef, then walking past the night guard and asking him to validate your parking stub. And then pointing to the beef and saying, “Oh and could you supersize this?”

What's really amazing is that this was an entire team of women pulling it off. It's one thing for a lone sociopath to attempt such blatant theft with a straight face, but how do you get three people to do it? I would argue that it takes a lot of training to accomplish such a feat.

And I suppose you have to work your way up to that level of expertise and daring. I imagine Level I begins with a first-timer being required to go into a convenience store, carry a magazine to the checkout counter, then grab a pack of cigarettes and stuff it in her purse while the clerk is busy ringing it up. Then the clerk says, “Oh wait, that's five dollars for the cigarettes.”

What cigarettes?” the thief-in-training replies.

The ones you put in your purse.”

I ain't got no cigarettes.” Then she has to calmly light a cigarette in front of the clerk and walk out with a straight face.

From there, she can work her way up to Level II: stealing gas; preparing a meal at a grocery store salad bar and consuming it while standing at the salad bar; pouring drinks from a bar while the attendant isn't looking and then denying it. After those, perhaps she's finally ready for Level III: The Full-Service Restaurant Double Whammy Power Punch Team.

I'm not sure I have ever heard or will ever hear a more brazen story. However, the same convention is booked for the same hotel next year. We can only hope that the Level III team can top themselves. You go, girls!