Monday, October 26, 2009

The Vegas Post 03: And They're Getting Custody Of The Ankles

My wife and I left the Luxor around five-thirty and walked to Treasure Island, stopping by nearly every establishment in-between, then crossed the street to the Venetian and strolled around there for awhile. Then we walked the whole way back.

That's the short version. Here's the long version:

L and I are happy and proud parents; our kids are smart, engaged, and just generally fun people to be around, and we love them. However, let me give you the flip side. After five years, we are deeply tired. So now, after this span, for the first time, here we were: together with each other and nobody else.

This meant that, much like Waffles or Donald Rumsfeld, we actually did not need any kind of plan as we headed out. We could just let the night rise to meet us! We could just go find our adventure!

And we had a good time, as I'll elucidate in the coming paragraphs. But here's the thing. The strip is really really really really really really long. Walking from one place to another can seem like walking from the Mall of America to another Mall of America right next to it.

Anyway, drunk on freedom (and free drinks), we walked for a long time along the west side of the Strip and saw the sights there were to see. On foot, one can truly take in Vegas, and I'll tell you this: There's a lot of it. Overall, it strikes me as one enormous bar that is hosted inside of a giant mall, connected by circuses, and visited primarily by clowns in shorts (I was wearing shorts). Here's my impression of each of the spots we stopped, from South to North.

Luxor: This is the place where I stayed, and from whence we started. Carrot Top works here, or at least this is where he is kept freeze-dried between performances. This is also the only building on the strip off of which it is impossible to jump. The poker room is small but friendly.

Excalibur: This place is shaped like a castle. The poker room is in the middle of the casino, and it is full of rocks, and also one guy who I think was a mannequin of Tom Petty. I think Louie Anderson is here, but in writing this sentence I've already thought about Louie Anderson more than I care to.

New York, New York: This place is 100% exactly like New York City, but without that smell. It had a different smell, which was whatever chemical is used to tamp down the smoke fumes coming from the casino. We didn't spend much time inside the place itself, but I did manage to get invited to 7,845 comedy shows in about twenty minutes, so I definitely got that Times Square flavor. This is also the first of the resorts that I have dubbed "Oh My God Are We Still Walking Past This Place?" The poker room exists, according to Wikipedia, but beyond that I can't say.

Monte Carlo. This is the one that has slot machines in it.

Enormous Hole: The enormous hole is the upcoming site of the City Center and The Cosmopolitan, and it was a particularly fun spot for me, because it is the only Vegas location where somebody actually specifically assured me that they would not mug me. They promised and everything. Let me explain.

Next to the hole, the walkway narrows down considerably, and the bottleneck sort of slows everybody down. This naturally, is where the card-slappers flap their floozies, by which I mean, a bunch of guys hang out near the bottle neck, spread out for the first 100 yards or so, each holding a stack of business-card-sized pieces of glossy paper. The stack is approximately as thick as a copy of Dianetics, by L. Ron Hubbard, and the ladies on the cards are as naked as L. Ron Hubbard was the day he was spawned by Xenu, right down to the lacy garters. On the card is a phone number, which you can call to have genital warts delivered right to your room (marketing aside, the warts will not stay in Vegas, unless your genitals do, and this is not recommended.). Service with a dead-eyed smile!

These righteous swains hold the uppermost card in one hand and SLAP it against the rest of the stack to get your attention, then hold it out.

SLAP SLAP SLAP extend hand.

SLAP SLAP SLAP extend hand.

SLAP SLAP SLAP extend hand.

Being Midwesterners, we usually decline this sort of thing like this:

"Uh, thanks but no thanks, no hookers for us this day, kind fellow."

But we'd just walked past New York, New York, which is in all ways like New York City, and thus had learned the art of just breezing past this enterprising and capitalistic card-slappery.

But one enterprising young chappie, perhaps bored with the repetitive and impersonal nature of his job, broke from his script and called out to me.

"Hey man, you have plans tonight?"

I didn't break stride.

"I'll hook you up man, come over here."

"No thanks."

And then he said it.

"I won't mug you, man."

Now . . . I didn't suspect that this guy was going to mug me. Until he insisted he wouldn't.

So naturally, I went with him. Long story short, I woke up the next morning in a bathtub full of ice with my kidneys harvested*. "Hey honey," I said. "We should collect these and then try to hand them to the time-share people who accost us." She didn't answer.

*Or not.

Bellagio: What a dump. On the other hand, the poker room looked spacious and inviting.

Caesar's Palace: The thrilla, the foot killa, the rilla dilla. Ceasar's was easily my favorite spot up to this point in our walk, just because everything was so unapologetically huge. Come to think of it, if Vegas wants to change it's marketing tag line, "Unapologetically Huge" would do the trick. Other suggestions?

"All Our Statues Have Boobs."

"Just Carry Your Drink Out Into the Street. It's OK."

"Taxis Are A Really Good Value"

The Mirage:
I really have nothing to report about the Mirage. It was a casino. Seemed nice enough. I think at this point I was casino-saturated.

Treasure Island: We stopped here for a rest and a drink. The casino bar at T.I. doesn't water their drinks down. At least that one guy doesn't. Get that one guy if you are at the T.I. casino bar. No not him. The other one.

The Venetian: This place is definitely in an opulence-off with Bellagio and Caesars. We finally stopped for supper over martinis by the canals, which were in an open courtyard, by which I mean indoors, but the ceiling was painted to look like the sky at dusk. It was beautiful and disorienting in that your peripheral vision kept insisting that you were seeing sky, but when you looked up, you could immediately see the artifice.

Anyway, in the "courtyard" an opera troupe was performing, and though I'm hardly an opera buff, I think I recognized it as Pagaliacci. In any event, there was a clown who was dressed the same way as the clown in the opera from A Night At The Opera, and Wikipedia tells me that that opera was Pagaliacci. So go with me on that.

We sipped martinis and ate delicious Italian-style 4-cheese pizza. We'd probably walked seven thousand miles. My feet, protected by black rubber sandals, felt such a thick, rich hatred for me, you could have spread it on toast. And then, of course, we walked the whole way back, stopping by the Bellagio fountains for a rest and a couple (admittedly impressive) displays of water-spray syncronicity.

The Casino Royale:
This is the one we didn't go in, which begs the question, "Does what doesn't happen in Vegas not stay in Vegas? Which would mean, it would leave Vegas? That's hurting my limited brain.

Anyway, I now have seen the Vegas Strip and have some context for what everybody's talking about on their web log when they mention this place or that. It's an amazing place, and I feel that my words were not up to the challenge of describing the sheer maniac energy and intensity of the place. (In truth, I don't think I half tried. I got daunted. That's right, I admit my daunt.) It is a people-watching Nirvana. It's a street that is infected with some kind of shiny virus. It's energizing and enervating all at once. It is a whole lot of money taken for a makeover and gussied up to look like a whole lot of money, but wearing a vinyl dress.

Also, my feet and my legs are suing my body for divorce.

Next: Worst structure ever, and poker at Mandalay.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Is Kids In The Hall Day

"He is telling me that if we visit him only seven more times, he will show us his tin soldiers collection!"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Vegas Post 02: That Exact Color

I lost thirty bucks my first session of $1/$2. There wasn't much else to say, really, so let me go on in detail for the next ten paragraphs. In two hours I saw one playable hand (it was the JackAce), and I raised it up from the cutoff, forgetting what I had already noticed about this table; namely:

1) Most players were limping every hand with any two cards.

2) Having limped, most players would call any additional raise up to about 8 or 10 times the big blind. I believe this was considered "limping with benefits" at the Luxor, though on the North Strip it was called "the gangsta strut." I'm making all of this up. Where was I?

Oh yes! I raised under those circumstances detailed above. Thus, my $12 raise made us five handed to the flop. Now, I forgot the first rule of JackAce, which is to shove with JackAce. I also forgot the second rule of JackAce, which is that JackAce plays best against aces with better kickers and pairs. Since there were no raisers, I could be reasonably sure that I was against only worse hands.

In other words? I was doomed.

The flop came QcTc3c, giving my Ace clubs a worthy flush draw. The big blind led out about $25, and it folded around to me. I made the call. Turn was a 9d, putting up another flush draw but leaving me open ended to boot, to boot. He checked and I checked. The river was a blank. He checked and I bet to steal, and he called and showed me the straight. JackAce can't beat KJ offuit, son. He'd been afraid of the flush and let out a sigh of relief. "You know, I'm actually lucky; I have a buttoned, collared shirt that exact color blue," I told the dealer. "Looks just like the ones all the dealers are wearing. I almost packed it. I could be wearing it now."

"But on the other hand, you might have picked up some of my tips by mistake," he said. "All profit."

Smart-ass. I left him buried in the desert.*

I ground my way up from there a bit (winning most of my chips on a re-raise with Kings that actually garnered a fold from the initial raiser) but never made a full recovery. It was time to go wake up L so we could walk the Strip as planned.

* No, I didn't.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Vegas Post 01: Hammer Time

Yeah so, I spent around 5,760 minutes out in Vegas this month. This is how it happened:

We dropped the kids off with a wonderful aunt and uncle and took the early morning flight in. I saw Hoover Dam from the plane, and it sure was a lot of concrete. Yep. Lots of concrete. Whoo baby. We didn't go out to Hoover Dam during our vacation. That would be a foolish thing to do in my estimation.

Hey, here's another foolish thing to do: Pay to take a shuttle from the airport to the Toyota Sienna (otherwise known as the Luxor), which you can actually, you know, see. I was tired. And also, I expected the shuttle to be free and failed to get out of the "take the shuttle" mode when I found out the sad truth. One must always change gears, and I didn't.

Upon entering the obsidian pyramid, we got shanghaied right away in the lobby by people who were far too excited about us and just thought everything was great. I thought they were from a cult but it turned out to be something far more sinister: time-share salesmen. They wanted to take us to an offsite location to rob us of our precious bodily fluids, and in return they would give us . . . half off tickets to Donny and Marie! Being Midwesterners, we politely declined, but by day three, we had discovered the wonders of the well-timed throat-punch.

Here's something I noticed about Vegas casinos: Slot machines. Quick quiz for those of you who have never been to Las Vegas, Nevada. What percentage of the casino would you guess is given over to slot machines (as opposed to table games, roulette, poker, etc.)?

To get the answer, highlight the space after the word "Answer", below.

Answer: One hundred billion percent.

You guessed lower, didn't you? You were wrong! I enjoyed going into the high stakes slots areas and wondering who was losing 100 grand tonight. The Luxor is an enormous hollow pyramid, with the rooms clinging to the inside like inverted barnacles, and as we walked to our rooms, I noticed the low balconies. Not dangerously, low, but if you were so inclined, you could quickly add another body to the Bodies exhibit. Later, after I had discovered high-stakes slots, I came to question the wisdom of those low balconies. After an hour of running cold with ten betting lines a pull at $100 each, a fellow could really start to crave an twelve-story fall for a nightcap. But I digress.

We walked around the casino and then strolled over to the Excalibur, as hungry as Canadians. Sadly, it was eleven thirty AM and everything was closed, showing a thorough disrespect for our hunger. We finally sat down in Dick's (The Shame 'O The Strip) and got burgers. And insults! And paper hats that said "Trailer Trash Hooker." We were officially mega-tourists.

Back to the room. Cris Angel was on our room key. He's so jammin'. He was holding his arms out, partly up, like a tentative apprentice Christ figure, and was peeking at us in a coy sort of way through his girl-bangs. It totally Mindfreaked me. "Somewhere nearby," I thought, "And I don't know where . . . is Carrot Top." For the first time, I wished I'd brought a gun. If you doubt that nightmares occassionaly escape and walk the waking world, I sumit to you my Exhibit A. Carrot Top. The tatooed mascara I think is what terrifies me. That, and the hair. And the steroids. But the mascara is just the crazy cherry on top of the insane sundae. I wonder if he got the same guy who did Cris Angel.

L was tired ("L" is my wife, whose name begins with "L", as far as you know. "L" also moonlights as the 12th letter in the alphabet.) and craving a nap, and there was a poker room right downstairs. The perfect storm. I walked downstairs and bought in. The dealer had a thick Slavic accent and pet eyebrows that crawled around his forehead like feral stoats. I received my very first hand ever of live Vegas poker.

It was the seven of hearts and the two of spades.

I am a blogger indeed.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Set The Controls For The Center Of The Dumb

Cross-posted on FilmChaw

I've seen it now. Extended clips from the upcoming terrible movie, 2012, which is about the end of the world and will make 13 billion dollars. I'm sad to report that John Cusack, who is often awesome, has lent his likeness to this obvious steamer of a movie. I refuse to believe it's him. I'm assuming it is a CGI construct made of leftover Cusack parts, and that's why he looks like he's sort of melted a little. Let's just call him Q-Sack, OK?

Here's the clip:

So, here is the ground is sinking very fast into . . . I don't know, nothing? Something? It's sinking. And it's sinking exactly as fast as a limo can drive. Because they are in a limo. Outrunning the earth collapsing. Which is chasing them. Don't blame me, I didn't do this to you. It's all in the clip there. Then a building collapses in front of them. So they drive the limo through the building. The Q-Sack has rented an airplane, which is still being held for him even though its the end of the world, because let's not pursue that line of reasoning please, and luckily his ex-wife's husband (who will for sure die a Heroic Death® so that Q-Sack can be Reunited With His Family®) knows how to fly. Sort of. He's a flight student.

They fly away from the collapsing earth just as Call-ee-for-nee-ah collapses into the ocean. And there they are, in a little two-prop, flying over the new ocean, which extends for . . . I don't know. Forever?

They breath a sigh of relief. (Phew! We're alive for the next however long this thing can go on however much gas it has!) Your brain eats a sad pie made of pixels and illogic and dies, huddled in the corner like a poisoned labradoodle. You can't expect less, because this is from the "filmmakers" that brought you that turd biscuit "Godzilla" and tried to convince you that an iMac could quickly and easily install a computer virus into an alien spaceship. So now we get to figure out how Q-Sack and family actually survive this planetary cataclysm.

And yes, it's a planetary event. Because in the trailer? The monk who is ringing the gong gets eaten by the Mountain of CGI Water. That would be the Himalayas, which is only the highest point of elevation on earth. If THAT is underwater, then . . . um . . . physics. So really, unless you are capable of flight to another inhabitable planet in that two-prop, who are you fooling, Q-Sack? Who? Who?

This is it, Pollock. It's done it. It's broken through. It's what all the other spectacle movies have been moving toward. It's the apotheosis of The Big Dumb.

It's "Explosion! The Movie", from the makers of "Fart! The Movie" and "Skinny Man Pretends to Be Fat Old Woman! The Movie" and "Punchline You Recognize From Another Movie! The Movie" and "Die Hard on a Die Hard."

Honestly, I don't mind big flashy entertainment, but just try. TRY. Try to make sense, just a little, Hollywood. Just because you can write a movie on an Etch-a-Sketch doesn't mean that you should.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

We Are Teh Internets

I think that, in 20 million years, when the aliens land, this is all they will need to fully understand our culture.

And now right into a Vegas recap.