Friday, August 29, 2014

Glenpyramid Glen Vitamin

On our last night in Las Vegas, I sat at the bar getting in one last session of video poker. A young gentleman in his twenties with a beard and half black hair and half blue hair sat down at the end of the bar and ordered a beer. The bartender set down the beer, and they started chatting like they knew each other.

Blue: Just got back from dinner on top of the Stratosphere.

Bartender: Yeah? How was it?

Blue: Alright. I didn't know fancy dinners took so long. We were there 4 and a half hours! I wasn't paying so I figured I'd stay til the end.

Bartender: Took my girlfriend there once. Was good but probably not worth the price.

Blue: Yeah, I had the sirloin. Better than Golden Corral but you know, a sirloin is a sirloin. You can get them anywhere. Anyway, I'm expecting some friends, can I start a tab?

(A few minutes later, a guy in his mid fifties showed up and sat next to Blue.)

Blue: English Dan! How the hell are you? (They shake hands) How was your flight?

Dan: A flight's a flight.

Blue: Tell me about it. I'm wiped. Just got back from dinner on top of Stratosphere. Didn't want to go but Dad woke me from my nap and insisted.

(Me thinking: He's there with his dad. Interesting.)

Dan: Stratosphere? What you doing up there?

Blue: Oh man, I'm sorry. Geno called this afternoon. Said he wanted to meet the whole team but his only free night this week was tonight. So he took us up there. Man, I told him you couldn't make it but he said that's his only night and he'd make it up to you.

Dan: Yeah? How so?

Blue: He'll probably buy you lunch or a drink sometime.

Dan: Yeah? On top of the f*%$ing Stratosphere?

Blue: Geno's good for it. I saw the bill. Over two grand. And Geno's a good tipper.

(Me thinking: Okay, so these guys work for Geno in some capacity along with Blue's dad. And I can tell by looking at English Dan, he's been around the block a few times. He's not bought into this company and wonders if he's going to get paid while Blue is the young idealist thinking he's going to score big.)

Blue: The food wasn't very good anyway. You didn't miss anything.

Dan: Where's everyone else?

Blue: I think they're still at the Stratosphere. Geno took everyone up top to ride the rides. He paid for everything. (pause) Don't worry, Geno's gonna make it up to you.

Dan: How? Take me on a f*&%ing rollercoaster ride?

(another guy, Ray, in his twenties with short brown hair sat down with them)

Ray: English Dan! Good to see you!

Dan: Yeah, you go to the Strat too?

Ray: Just got off the rollercoaster. Geno woofed his dinner on it! Chunks of tenderloin flying out his mouth at 75 miles per hour and falling 150 stories!

Blue: Yeah, they still there?

Ray: The man can't be stopped. Went to the bar, had a shot, then did the sky jump. Unbelievable. Man, this is a long walk from the Stratosphere. How'd we end up staying here? (Main Street Station)

Blue: Because last year we were at California Club. Dad got drunk and trashed the room. We got banned for life so Mom booked us here.

(Me thinking: Getting weirder. He's here with mom and dad and apparently they like to party pretty hard.)

Dan: So how was your dinner Ray? Blue said not so hot.

Ray: Fantastic! Best salad I ever had. Dressing was amazing like a cool ranch blue cheese thing. And it just got better after that.

Dan: F*&% you.

Blue: Come on Ray. Wasn't English Dan's fault he missed the dinner. I was just telling him Geno promised to make it up to him.

Ray: He's right English Dan. I sat next to Geno and Geno said, "who's not here?" And I said English Dan. And he's asking me how he can make it up to you. And I said it's gotta be something good like a big ol Po'boy or something.

Dan: F*&% you.

Ray: Aw, English Dan, I'm just bustin' your balls. Geno's good for it. I don't know what he's gonna do but he's gonna make it up to you.

(Me thinking: Why do they keep calling him English Dan? Can't he just go by Dan? And why don't I have a tape recorder. From now on, I need to bring a tape recorder to Vegas.)

Ray: So where's mom and dad?

Blue: Mom's in bed already. Tired after all the traveling. Last I saw Dad was at Stratosphere. He got pretty lit up then walked down the stairs from the top of the Stratosphere. Can you believe it? What's that, like 300 stories? Anyway, hostess sees him come out of the stairwell, and he's drenched in sweat. She's like, "what happened to you?" And he says, "I was looking for the restroom." She points across the lobby and he says, "Oh don't worry, I found one on the 50th floor."

Ray: Oh man, I love Dad.

(Me thinking: Okay, so mom and dad must not really be their parents because they're definitely not brothers. Some sort of code name.)

Blue: Anyway, we meet Mom and Dad at 9:00 for breakfast. Then we set up shop at 2:00. Geno's gonna be in and around. He's got meetings all week.

(Me thinking: I started to get the picture. Geno is the head of a pyramid scheme. Mom and Dad are the local bosses of the team while Blue, Ray and English Dan are at the bottom of the pyramid. Blue and Ray are the suckers while English Dan knows it's going nowhere. I just can't figure out what they're selling. But the whole conversation reminded me of the film "Glengarry Glen Ross" except without the suits and without the real estate and less profanity. My best guess was that they're selling vitamin supplements. But I also realized I had now spent an extra $20 on the video poker that I wasn't planning on spending just to keep listening to them. But it was worth it.)

Ray: What do you say we hit that Fremont Street experience. Supposed to be pretty cool.

Dan: I'm going to bed.

Blue: Lighten up English Dan. I told you Geno's gonna make it up to you. Hey Ray, did I tell you I saw the check at the Stratosphere? Over 3 grand!

Ray: Yeah and I bet Geno left a big tip too. English Dan, when Geno buys you a beer, hold out for something better than a Miller Lite. Like a Guinness or Stella Artois or something.

Dan: (flips off Ray)

Ray: (to bartender) Hey, can I get a cup of coffee?

Me: (I hit the cash out button on the machine and stand up.) Coffee? Coffee is for closers!

Friday, August 22, 2014

More Notes From Las Vegas

We recently returned from Las Vegas (again). Here's a few notable stories:

For some reason, I had a difficult time adjusting to the time difference on this trip. This led me to going downstairs to get coffee every morning at 7:00 a.m. One morning, I rode the elevator down to the lobby; as the door opened, a man and his wife came barging in, pushing me to the back of the elevator.

"Oh sorry," I didn't think anyone else would be up this early," he said.

I managed to circle my way around them and stumbled off the elevator without saying what I really wanted to say, "No, jerkwad, civilized people wait for the doors to fully open, verify no one is in the elevator or let them get out before entering the elevator themselves. Or in a moment of forgetfulness, when they bump into someone getting off the elevator, they apologize then get out of the way rather than barreling ahead pushing the person back onto the elevator."

I don't know, maybe they just thought I was joyriding the elevator.

One morning I happened to walk past a slot machine tournament. I stopped for a minute to take in the action. If you haven't seen one, well, it's exactly what you'd expect. Thirty or forty mostly older people sitting at slot machines constantly slamming their hands on the "max credits" button. And on top of that, no one seemed to be having fun. It seemed to be the equivalent of working in some foreign sweatshop factory stamping U.S. corporate logos on some cheap product. Except at the end, a winner would be declared.

Anyway, I don't understand why they just don't put bricks on the "max credits" button and people can bet on which machine will reign supreme. Seems it would be easier and more fun.

One early evening, I found an empty seat at the bar and started playing some video poker while minding my own business. The gentleman next to me started sighing loudly and mumbling, "wow, just wow."

I refused to take the bait but then he finally turned to me and said, "Did you hear the news about Robin Williams?"

"Yes," I said without looking up. "That's awful."

Then he shoved his cell phone showing an article reporting the death into my face. I wasn't sure what to do, did he not hear me the first time or was he trying to demonstrate that you can look at newspapers on cell phones?

"Yeah, that's terrible," I said and went back to playing my game.

He continued to sigh and played with his phone. Then he heard a group of people at the end of the bar talking about Robin Williams. He ran to the end of the bar and showed them the article on his phone. Meanwhile, I scanned the bar for another empty stool but no luck.

He came back and sat down next to me. "It's amazing, I was just watching some of his videos on youtube just last night," he said.

"Then it must be your fault," I wanted to say but did not.

After a few minutes of silence, he tried a new tactic. "Hey, did you hear about that baseball player that swung the bat and it broke in half and he didn't even hit the ball?"

"Must have been a powerful swing," I said without looking up.

I thought he had finally taken the hint as he went back to playing with his phone. But then he started playing some sort of loud concert video footage on his phone and put the phone on a little stand on the bar so I guess everyone could enjoy whatever it was along with him.

I finally took the hint and cashed out. As I got up, I said, "Dude you really need to find a friend."

Sunday, August 3, 2014

One Step From Immortal Glory

As I get older, I am constantly amazed at the ancient personal memories that get stuck in my head:

In the summer of my sixth year on earth, my t-ball team, the crickets, met the birds in the t-ball championship. In case you are not familiar, t-ball was the baseball starter league for 5 and 6 year-olds where players hit the ball from a stationary tee. Everyone got to play with about twelve kids in the outfield at a time. You might think this would be unfair and lead to low scoring games except for the fact that when the ball came to most of the kids in the outfield, they just threw their gloves in the air and started running. Sometime they even ran toward the ball.

We were probably the third or fourth best team in the league while the birds were the equivalent of the New York Yankees. They were undefeated and won their games by an average score of 33 - 5. Despite the odds against us, we played well and kept the game close. Early in the game, the ball came to me in shallow left field. As a runner ran toward third base, I picked up the ball ready to throw him out. Unfortunately, our third baseman who I shall call Brooks, stood with his back to me, and staring at I don't know what. He certainly wasn't staring at girls unless he was trying to figure out which ones had cooties.

"Brooks," I yelled as I wound up ready to throw. "Brooks! Over here! Come on!"

Maybe because of the loud screaming parents, he didn't hear me. The runner neared third base so I finally just threw the ball at Brooks hoping he would turn around. The ball bounced off the back of his head. I had to run and pick up the ball while the runner scored. Luckily, Brooks shook it off, and if we were lucky, the ball knocked some sense into him.

We finally took the lead but the birds got to bat last. We just needed three outs for immortal t-ball glory. The birds scored a few runs to pull within one, but there were two outs with runners on first and second. With a force out at any base, things looked good. The next batter hit the ball on the ground right to me. I scooped it up knowing we just needed the force out at third. I pulled my arm back ready to throw. Brooks stood on third base waiting to catch it.

I hesitated remembering what happened last time. But Brooks stood on the bag with his glove open ready for the throw. I quickly decided to do the sure thing; I took off running figuring I could beat the baserunner to third base. Brooks yelled at me to throw it, but even a ten meter throw from a 6 year old is no sure thing. I focused on the runner; I had a step on him. But he had an extra gear and managed to get in front of me.

He made it the base first while I came in hoping I could tag him if he stepped off the base. Instead, I tripped over the base and fell into foul territory. Luckily I held onto the ball. The umpire helped me up and I noticed the birds cap on his head. Even if I had tackled the baserunner and tagged him out fifty times, he probably still would have been called safe.

Our coaches told us to cheer up and focus. After all, we still only needed one more out with the bases loaded. But the next batter hit the ball over everyone's head as our outfielders threw their gloves in the air and ran away from the ball.

The birds won. I learned two valuable lessons that day:
1. If you want to make sure something gets done, do it yourself.
2. If you do something yourself and do not achieve the desired results, expect persons in authority (and teammates) to get mad at you.

I've been wondering why I keep thinking about that game lately. At first I thought I remembered that I had beaten the runner, and the umpire had made a bad call. All these years later, I felt the deep wound of injustice. But I guess that was selective memory trying to rewrite my history. Upon further review, I still remembered what really happened. So even after forty years, I still can't outrun my mistakes, much less the kid running to third base.