Hey there ‘Redheads… I’ve been sitting on this installment for about a week now and I think it’s ready to hatch. This chickadee has all manner of chirping for ye. We’re going to go in reverse order, freshest memories first, then I’ll try to recall the Vegas trip as best I can…and I’ll show you all on the Snoopy doll where Jay Hastings touched me.
I caught The Dark Knight in a tightly packed theater on Saturday night. I think it belongs up in the top five best comic book movies. The movie is dark…almost bleak. Heath Ledger’s Joker is brilliant as advertised. He wasn’t as silly as Nicholson’s take on the character. He is just certifiably insane. And I kind of liked that every word out of the Joker’s mouth isn’t a catch phrase. It gives him more depth. Also of note, despite the overall darkness of the film’s tone, a decent amount of the mayhem in the movie takes place in broad daylight. You don’t see that very often in movies like this…it’s normally either dark or torrentially raining. I was disappointed that I seemed to be the only shmuck in line for the flick that was wearing any Batman phenalia (as opposed to a pair…look it up). I expected to see a Justice League worth of dorks dressed up for it. Instead, I was the only superhero there…I was THAT GUY. Dorks have had quite a streak lately with all the super hero flicks this summer. I think that streak comes to a screeching halt with the new X-Files movie out next week. Just a hunch.
Moving back to last weekend, I went to the AFI theater for a pretty cool presentation called Muppet History 101. They showed a bunch of rare clips from Jim Henson’s early work with the muppets, like Rowlf on the Jimmy Dean Show, the Wilkin’s Coffee commercials, and muppet sketches from the first season of SNL. Jane Henson was there too. My inner eight year old had a blast. One of the clips they showed was a sketch from The Muppet Show that didn’t originally air in the US because of time constraints. If you don’t laugh at this, you have no soul. Just letting you know…
It was part of Muppets, Music, & Magic: Jim Henson’s Legacy which is going on at the AFI through August 24th. If you had a childhood, you should probably check it out.
And now, Vegas. On Friday night I packed my bags and met up with Jon and Amy Mumma, Jay Hastings, Sean Gabbert, and Justin Schlegel to pre-game for our 6am flight to Vegas the next morning. After dinner, we settled in at the Mumma’s to watch a movie that would set the tone for the entire trip. Casino? No. Ocean’s Eleven? Pshaw. Vegas Vacation? Three strikes, my friend. We watched a documentary. The inspirational story of Jesco White, The Dancing Outlaw. Here’s a small snippet of the wisdom we were basking in…
Basically, if the classic scene in Deliverance had tap dancing instead of banjo picking, you’d have the story of this back woods gene pool skimming. Do yourself a favor, put it in your Netflix queue, then when you get done watching it, we’ll all go ball vaultin’. After we got done with that AND the sequel, we realized that we would have to leave the house by a little after 3am to time everything out right. So, we went to bed…with visions of Asian handjobs dancing in a couple of our heads.
We made it to BWI without incident and boarded the plane for beautiful, luxurious Newark, New Jersey. Yeah, we had a connecting flight and Continental didn’t have the good taste to put their hub in a real city. I think we went through a toll booth while taxiing down the runway. It was a short flight from BWI to NJ, so the plane they put us on was essentially a toothpaste tube with wings. Tiny, cramped, and when you get off, you’re in New Jersey. We already felt like winners. We had a short layover at Tony Soprano International Airport, then we hopped on the flight to Sin City. We landed in Vegas at 10am. It was a balmy 105 degrees. But it’s a dry heat, right? I’ll never rationalize that again. Dry heat can suck it. The wind blew hot. If that was dry heat, then Hell must serve saltines. We had a couple hours before our rooms were ready, so we checked our bags and surveyed the blinking and beeping landscape of the MGM Grand where we were staying. There were six of us on the trip and we had two rooms booked. Mom and Dad (Amy and Jon) got one room and the rambunctious kids (me, Jay, Sean, and Justin) got the other. Two beds in our room. Care to do some math with homo-erotic overtones? Luckily, there was a body pillow on the bed that was used as a buffer zone. The primary reason for our trip was to check out UFC 86 which was happening that night…the other four days was just gravy…and in that heat, we made our own. Once we got showered up, we headed over to Mandalay Bay for the bloody festivities.
The fights were pretty intense. The non-televised undercard had the best action of the night, but the main event more than made up for the couple crappy bouts that preceded it. Forrest Griffin upset Rampage Jackson in a unanimous decision. The night would’ve been awesome if it weren’t for all the money we lost on the fights. Not so much lost as could’ve won. I put $50 down on a three fight parlay. I picked the main event upset, Joe Stevenson who also won, and a guy named Maximus that Jon and Justin told me couldn’t lose. If the whole thing came through, it would’ve paid $700…unfortunately, Maximus got his ass handed to him. We all had money on this chump in one way or another. We were hoping his gladitorial nickname meant we could give him the thumbs down and open a trap door into a spiked pit or something. Justin spent the rest of the trip wishing bad things on his family. Good times.
The fights were fun, but my main purpose in Vegas was poker. I was primed to play plenty. Also, my friend Caity was playing in the World Series of Poker Main Event that was going on at the Rio that week. So, I left the rest of the group behind and swung by to watch her play. There were 2000 people playing on the same day. I was one of the first couple of spectators to filter into the Rio poker room so I got to hear the “shuffle up and deal”, which is the poker equivalent of “play ball”. The sound in there was incredible…constant clacking of chips shuffling…it sounded like it was raining. I spotted a couple poker celebs like Phil Ivey and Annie Duke. While I was craning my neck around the room trying to spot Caity, I saw Forrest Griffin, who had a massive shiner on his right eye from the night before, sit down at a table to play. I made my way over to that table for a bit. Who sits down at his table a couple minutes later, but poker legend Johnny Chan. When they air the Main Event on ESPN, you might be able to see my torso on TV. I was standing right by their table while the cameras were rolling. As for Caity, she did well for herself on day one, knocking out poker pro, John “The Razor” Phan. She’ll definitely be on TV for that. Keep an eye peeled for her…
So, like I said, I was primed to play lots of poker…lots of shitty poker. Yeah, I talked a good game, but I just couldn’t get over the hump on this trip. I played in about 8 tournaments in 3 different casinos. Met some very cool people. And one douchebag. At Harrah’s there was this guy sitting to the right of the dealer. Earbuds in, sunglasses on, raising with shit and showing it. This asshat tried to tip the dealer…with tournament chips. Quick lesson, kids…tournament chips have no cash value. It became the rest of the table’s mission to get this guy gone. Anyway, I played badly and made it about 2 hours deep in every tournament I was in, then had to go all-in with a short stack and a marginal hand…Queen/Jack off-suit was usually my death hand. Luckily, my poker losses were offset by a pretty good run of luck at the blackjack tables. After it was all said and done, I broke even gambling and spent about $100 a day on food and cabs. I’ll take that in Vegas. Here are some other family photos…
Another recurring theme was the Indiana Jones-like quest for a massage parlor that offered *ahem* extra special service. Every cab ride included Justin hitting up the cabbie, who barely spoke English, for the best spot for a good crank yankin’…or ball vaultin’ (watch the movie). We did find out that there are spas in Vegas that offer such services for women too. My suggestion of a name for such a place? Bailey, Banks, & Diddle. Thanks, I’ll be here all week.
We also ate. Boy howdy did we eat. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a proper Vegas buffet…and once you have, you may not live much longer. Our last meal in Vegas was at the Bellagio buffet. I’m still full. Every kind of food you could imagine. Alaskan king crab legs, steamed mussels, Chilean sea bass, pizza, pasta, short ribs, skirt steak, creme brulee, the mind boggled at the choices. I’m falling back on pictures at this point because it’s almost two in the morning, but I’m soldiering on…for you.
During one of my many trips back through the buffet line, the rest of the group decided it was my birthday and when I got back to the table, the staff surprised me with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” while I tried my best to play along on short notice. It was touching, really.
Large hand or small cake? You be the judge.
A good time was had by all, but five days was about two days too long to be in Vegas. We all had to have mini-interventions for each other at some point during the trip. We were all one or two hours shy of full-blown gambling addictions by the time we left. We did not happen in Vegas. After all of that gambling, I was more than ready for a day of relative certainty.
I might’ve forgotten something, but that’s for another blog.
To be continued…