gambling

Best Buffett in Vegas

Just hopped down to Vegas for the weekend to catch a Jimmy Buffett show.

Not sure I’ll do a concert review this year. I’ve only seen two shows , and they’re both bands I’ve seen and written about before.

But we traveled to see both bands, so I guess I can write about the travels and the concert together.

I saw Mumford & Sons in South Carolina in March. Did I forget to write about that? Hmm…

South Carolina was very Caroliney. Lots of barbecue places, although most were mediocre until we found an excellent one in Columbia. Also, Columbia is the home of the University of South Carolina. Home of the Cocks. I guaran-fucking-tee I’ve written about my love of the Cocks before.

Wait a second. That came out wrong.

And the concert was awesome. I think I’ve written about Mumford at least twice before. They are spectacular in concert. In fact, I’m seeing them again in a couple months. This time nearer to my home.

But enough about Mumford and the Carolinas. Let’s talk about Jimmy Buffett in Vegas.

Phil Collins was also in Vegas that night. We thought about trying to fit them both in, but their concerts started within a half-hour of each other. Really, Aging White Dudes? Are you not aware that some of your fans might want to double dip?

Oh well, I can’t tell you anything about Phil Collins. But boy, if you’ve ever wondered if there are any places that might make Buffett fans more Buffett, well, I found it for you.

Parrotheads Descend Upon Sin City.

I’ve been to Jimmy Buffett concerts before. I’ve been to Vegas before. Both are experiences in their own regard. So when I saw that Jimmy would be playing in Vegas, well, I just had to go.

Evidently I wasn’t the only one.

Holy shit!

You wouldn’t think a single fan base could make a dent on the Vegas ambiance. Vegas has a few hundred thousand visitors on a normal weekend, right? Some people are there to see Reba or the Jonas Brothers or Barry Manilow or, occasionally, Phil Collins. Heck, I’m guessing the mummified corpse of Frank Sinatra is performing somewhere. Not to mention the sporting events, be they NBA All-Star Games or Ritualistic Ear-Biting.

In addition there are, allegedly, other recreational activities that might draw people to the middle of a fucking desert.

Normally, any one set of those travelers don’t make much of an impact. The Air Supply fans and the Drake fans each orbit around amongst each other without affecting the overall gravitational pull that is Vegas. I bet when Tupac got shot, he was right next to some drunk frat dude with an ironic trucker hat.

So I didn’t expect to see the neon footprint of Parrotheads wherever I went. In fact, it was so far out of my mind, that when there were four people dressed like pirates when we took the monorail (MONORAIL!) to the Flamingo area for brunch, I didn’t even think they might be there for the concert that was still nine hours away. I just thought, “Huh. Pirates.” It’s Vegas. What’re you gonna do?

But as we took the skybridge from the Monorail (MONORAIL!) station into the Flamingo, we saw a giant banner for a “Son of a Son of a Pool Party,” to be held from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm.

Now, you might think this is just a great cross-promotion. Get all the people that are heading your way for the concert later tonight to show up early, spend some extra money. And, yeah, to a certain extent, that’s what was going on.

Except not entirely. Because the concert was at the MGM Grand, not the Flamingo. Granted, I’m never really sure which casinos are currently affiliated with which other casinos. But when I was in the Flamingo, I could use my Caesar’s loyalty card. Then again, when we told the aggressive timeshare salesguy that we were staying at Hilton, he said, “That’s our competitor. How about I give you a deal to stay here next time?” This despite the fact that it’s always been known as the Flamingo Hilton and there was still a sign at the Uber drop-off that referenced “Flamingo by Hilton.”

Regardless of if it’s a Hilton or a Caesar’s, I don’t think either of those are affiliated with MGM Grand. So while this was an attempt to get the Parrotheads out early to spend some extra cash, it was not an attempt by the property where the concert was actually happening. It’s counter-promotion, like the Puppy Bowl at halftime of the Super Bowl. Except instead of half-time, it’s beforehand. And instead of cute puppies, it’s drunks who should have stopped wearing swimwear like that about thirty years ago. Present company included.

I never found out which pool had a Phil Collins pre-party. It might be tough with all of the bald heads.

Then again, the Flamingo does have the Vegas Margaritaville restaurant. So the symbiosis did make a certain amount of sense. In fact, it’s a bit of brilliance. There’s a reason Jimmy Buffett is one of the most valuable musicians despite never having a number one hit. He knows that his fans are in town, he knows they like to drink, and he knows they tend to run older and higher on the socio-economic scale than the average fan base. And they can’t all fit inside the Margaritaville restaurant. So how about a pool party?

Oh yeah, he also opened a weed dispensary in town with the same name as his band, the Coral Reefers. Its grand opening was the weekend of the concert. Not bad for a dumb redneck from Alabama who just sings stupid party songs.

But the Parrotheads weren’t just at the pool party. We went across the street to Bobby Flay’s restaurant, Mesa, and wouldn’t you know it, Parrotheads everywhere. We went to see Potted Potter, a show at Bally’s, at 2:00 in the afternoon, and there were Hawaiian shirts everywhere. And hey, dude in front of me? Do you mind taking off your foam shark hat so that I can see the Ron Weasley wig?

To be fair, there might’ve been a lot of Phil Collins fans traipsing around the Strip as well. But they’re not as easy to spot.

I actually felt under-dressed. Or maybe I was overdressed, seeing as I had socks. But my major faux-pas was my lack of a Hawaiian.

I packed a Hawaiian, of course. I think of you show up to a Jimmy Buffett show without a Hawaiian shirt, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in Parrotjail.

And heck, half my wardrobe is Hawaiian. The Tommy Bahama outlet store is my own personal, inexpensive Disneyland.

But my Hawaiian (with parrots, natch) was still back in the hotel room. Because the concert was still over nine hours away. And I was going to be eating and drinking in between now and then.

These people… were they going to stay out all day? Were they going to start drinking heavily and still make the concert at 8:00? This is Vegas, can I bet the over/under on how many of them aren’t going to make it to the show? Also, any chance I can figure out what seat the dude with the balloon-flamingo hat and the “pet” foam shark on the pipe cleaner-esque “leash” has? Because I’ve kinda got nosebleed seats and would like to know where there’s likely to be an empty seat tonight.

Did I mention it’s easy to spot the Parrotheads?

But here’s another cool thing about Jimmy Buffett. This wasn’t the last I saw of the pirates from the monorail (MONORAIL! ) or flamingo-balloon-hat lady or Pet Shark Dude. They showed up at the show. Just maybe not in person.

If you’ve never seen a Jimmy Buffett show before, he usually plays in front of a giant HD screen that shows pictures and videos that go with whatever song he’s singing. Lots of tropical beaches, bucolic mountain vistas, and fun-in-the-sunners. “License to Chill” featured a video selfie of Jimmy Buffett kayaking. “He Went to Paris” had shots of the Eiffel Tower.

“It’s Five o’ Clock Somewhere” started with a clock with a whole bunch of fives. Then it showed some boat drinks. Then a pool. The pool totally looked familiar… Holy crap! I know that pirate!

What followed was three minutes of footage from the pool party that day. The pool party at a competitor’s hotel. How cool is that? All you have to do is spend money for his concert and at the pool party put on by his restaurant, and maybe his pot dispensary, and you can see yourself up on stage at a Jimmy Buffett concert. Shit, to do that at a Bruce Springsteen concert, you have to be Courtney Cox.

One more kinda cool thing. There was no opening band. Tickets said 8:00 and by 8:17, Jimmy was out on stage. He’s gotta be considerate of all of the old fogeys he made drink for ten straight hours.

He played for two hours, with only a 6-minute break to go grab a drink or a what have you.

I know the break was about six minutes because he played a video to keep us entertained. The video featured a ukulele player playing “Bohemian Rhapsody,” complete with lyrics so that we could all sing along. And sing along we did. You haven’t heard horror tinged with comedy tinged with “aww, that was sweet” until you’ve heard 20,000 people try to time “Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. (Let him go!) Bismillah! No, we will not let you go.”

Why did Jimmy have this random video of a random ukulele player playing a Queen song? Because the guy had opened for him in Dublin. How cool is that? Buffett liked the guy and liked the performance, so he gave him free exposure to this crowd. And sure, that’s often the point of an opening band, but who the hell pays attention to the opening band? That’s just background music for getting frisked by security, right? And those assholes usually end up playing way too long. Some even get surly that we aren’t there to see them and are only paying marginal attention to get a clue as to how much longer their asses are going to be wasting our earspace.

But this guy, Jake Shimabukuro, is playing right in the middle of the show, when we’re all in our seats. And he’s only playing one song, so we don’t get tired of him. And it’s a song we all know and can sing along to. And even better, he didn’t even have to show up! That’s the fucking trifecta of expanding an audience right there.

If only I could get Jimmy Buffett to promote my blog.

Mid-Eighties Circus. 

We usually stay at the south end of the Strip, but this time we were on the north end. So I was able to check out the Sahara, which has been refurbished since the corpse of Frank Sinatra played there. And Circus Circus, which most assuredly has not.

I’ve been coming to Vegas since the early eighties, when my age was still in single-digits. And we always stopped or stayed at Circus Circus. Back then, my mom could give me $10 in quarters and I’d go full Latchkey for HOURS on the upper floor. Carnival games, arcade, circus acts. What’s not to love? I remember feeling sorry for my poor mom, who had to be downstairs in the boring casino, missing all the fun up there.

Back then, Circus Circus was actually a destination, a worthy anchor of the northern end of the Strip. There were maybe only ten casinos, most of which had been there long enough to have streets named after them. Circus Circus didn’t have its own street, but it was an anchor, nonetheless.

Boy, its hallowed days are gone.

Unfortunately, this affects their business model, as well. Because there wasn’t shit going on on the Saturday morning we went there.

Those who have followed my travels before know we sometimes bring our daughter’s stuffed animal on our trips, so they can “take pictures” and “report back to her.” Except on this short weekend away, where we went straight from work to the airport, oops!, we left Giraffey at home. No problem, we figure, we’re staying by Circus Circus. Let’s go get her a new friend.

Except the upstairs wasn’t open until 10:00 AM.

WHAT? Sure, maybe the circus acts aren’t going to run 24 hours, but the carnival games? And I know they need employees to run those games. But at least the video arcade should be open, right?

Wait, they don’t do video arcades anymore? Is Pac-Man no longer chic? Boy, where have I been? Downstairs in the boring casino, I guess.

Speaking of the casino, we figured maybe we could just gamble for a little bit until the upstairs opens. I just needed to get a rewards card and… never mind. The reward card center doesn’t open until 10:00 AM, either.

So much for being the city that doesn’t sleep. At least one end of the Strip not only sleeps, but sleeps in as well.

I just threw five bucks in a machine while Wife visited the bathroom. Without the benefit of Big Brother tracking me.

When she returned, I had it back up to five bucks. So yay! I broke even. Although if I had been using a rewards card, I would’ve made a point or two. Whatever, I just pushed the button to collect my winnings.

Then something crazy happened. Instead of the familiar dinging sound I’ve come to expect when the ticket prints, there was a strange whirring. Then something shot out the bottom of the slot machine.

Holy Shit! Those are quarters! Coming OUT of a slot machine. It really IS 1986 in here!

When I realized what was happening, the things went through my mind in rapid succession:

1. What the hell is happening? Where is my fucking ticket? Is this thing possessed? It’s, like, spewing out its innards!

2. OMG! Those are quarters. How fucking cool is that? It’s so retro. Like I’m a fresh- faced 21 year old again (at least according to my i.d. at the time). Tonight were going to party like it’s 1999, baby!

3. What the fuck am I supposed to do with 20 quarters? How fucking annoying is that? I hate coins. If I have a dollar bill, it’s worth a dollar to me. If I have 99 cents, I might as well have nothing. In my world, ten dollars in coins is worth less than a single dollar bill. Because the coins in my pocket at the end of the day just go on the nightstand to die. Or they stay in my pockets where the laundry fairy takes them as compensation for cleaning the sacrificial dirty pants I left in her hamper-shaped altar. Back in the old days, when my i.d. said I was 21, I used to hold onto coins until I came to Nevada, but now slots don’t take coins anymore, so the one value coins had is now gone. Wait a second. If these slots pay out quarters, maybe they’ll… Nope. No coin slots. They take in paper money and pay out coins. Even when you win, you lose.

So I grabbed one of those buckets next to the machine. Remember those? Not that I needed it for a whopping twenty coins, but dammit, they done pissed me off with their coin bullshit. They’ll be lucky if they get this bucket back without my DNA in it.

Don’t get me wrong. The idea behind the retro slot machine is a good one. Think of all the all of the old video game consoles on the market these days. But a ticket-or-coin option would’ve been appreciated. Or maybe at least a warning sign.

Unfortunately it still wasn’t 10:00, so after cashing (coining) in my winnings, we headed for the Monorail (MONORAIL!). Still had to get a new stuffed animal. So we high-tailed it to Margaritaville to buy a couple of plush parrots. I’m sure Jimmy Buffett appreciates our business.

Daughter ended up naming the parrots Jimmy and Buffett. She then took them to show-and-tell at school. CPS, I await your call.

People. A couple shorties to finish off. Two people who stuck out. Maybe not for the best of reasons. Unless you are entertained by idiots, in which case, they stood out for the BEST reasons!

First was the guy sitting next to me at Mesa. He had clearly watched a fair amount of Food Network in whatever podunk area of the country he came from. And being at Bobby Flay’s restaurant gave him carte blanche, or rather creme freche, to make random requests out of his ass.

His wife ordered some pink concoction. Maybe it was a Cosmo, but it looked foofier. He tried it to see if he liked it before ordering a drink of his own. Of course, the server had to stand there for the experiment. Diner decided it was a bit too sweet and wondered if there was something a little less sugary.

Boy, that’s a tough one. Are there any drinks less sweet than a Cosmo? Can’t think of a single one. Sorry. We all know that cosmos are the driest drinks around, right? Certainly not Martinis or Old Fashoneds. A straight shot of scotch whiskey might as well be a swizzle stick when compared to the stifling bitterness of the Cosmopolitan. The mummified corpse of Dean Martin drank cosmos all the time.

He then asked if they could take a drink like that and add some bitters. I wanted to jump out of my seat to assist the server’s explanation that bitters aren’t actually bitter. But whatever. Dude probably heard it on a Bobby Flay show once, so who are we to question his culinary knowledge.

I didn’t pay attention long enough to hear what he ordered. The next time he caught my attention was when his burger was delivered. Tight before he asked if they had any “straight mayonnaise.”

Straight mayonnaise? I didn’t even know condiments had sexual proclivities. Sure, mayonnaise might look like semen, but I’m sure these Vegas condiments are only creaming meat, as God intended, and not some other condiment. Then again, I don’t partake in mayonnaise much, so maybe I’m just out of the loop on the Mayonnaise Agenda. Or is it a War on Mayo-mas?

But what do you expect from someone who orders mayonnaise? No mayo deserves to be anywhere near a well-cooked burger, regardless of whose bread it likes to butter.

It turns out, of course, that this guy wanted regular, unadulterated mayonnaise. None of that garlic aioli crap. Unflavored. If he’s going to dip or smother his food in sweet lard, he wants the pure stuff. Black tar heroin.

I only hope he didn’t want the mayo for those fries on his plate. If I end up yacking in my Irish Coffee, I’m adding it to his tab.

But no, the server explains, they don’t have straight mayonnaise. The closest they have is a subtle aioli.

Food connoisseur passed, disappointed.

Umm… not to side with Patron Guy in this endeavor, but if you have garlic aioli, how do you not have mayonnaise? What’s the base of the aioli? I hope Bobby Flay isn’t shipping his dips in from far away.

Go ahead, Server, double-check on that mayonnaise. It might be listed as creme fraiche.

Dude number two came running up to our Uber driver as we were heading to the airport Sunday morning. Where, he wanted to know, might he watch an NFL game.

Uber Driver feigned ignorance. “No hablo ingles.” Pretty convincing, too, as Wife and I were worried we might have trouble communicating with him. Not that you need to communicate with your Uber driver. That’s what Google Maps is for. But still, sometimes it’s more convenient to explain where we’re going.

Turns out he knew enough English to say and hear what he needed to say and hear. And I’m pretty sure he could understand “TV” and “Futbol.” Even if he pointed to where one could watch soccer, he’d be doing Dude a solid.

But that’s not his fucking job. He doesn’t need to tell Dude where to watch an NFL game on a Sunday morning in Las Vegas. Even if the answer is “Literally Anywhere.”

Seriously Dude, you see that high-rise buildings? Or that one? Right, the ones with the neon.  They’re called “Casinos.” And in these “Casinos” are things called “Sports Books.” The “Sports Books” take “Bets” on “Games” and then have giant “TV’s” where you can “Watch.” So if you’re looking for a particular game, pick a direction, any direction, and go into a high rise, any high rise. Then look for the wall with twenty giant screens on it.

They have NFL Sunday Ticket, too, so you can even watch obscure teams like… what’s that? You want to watch the Raiders? You mean the team that’s going to be the Las Vegas Raiders next year?

Yeah, I’m guessing you could watch them on local TV.

Maybe even at Circus Circus.

Going to the Reno of Love

I went to Reno a few weeks ago. Nothing much to note. Reno is pretty much always Reno. It ain’t like a box a chocolates. You always know precisely what you’re gonna get.

Although I did find out that you shouldn’t attend a minor league baseball stadium on the final weekend of the season unless you want them to be out of everything. I understand not having all the beers in stock. Don’t want to have half a keg that has to last through to next April. But the mini helmets for the ice cream? Come on, those will be perfectly fine next year.

But I’m not here to talk about minor league baseball or the cockamamie drink-ticket policy that the casinos are starting to implement. Really? You’re going to charge me for a Grey Goose? That’s probably a blog post for another time.

No, for some reason, this trip to Reno reminded me of another trip to Reno many years ago. Before I blogged. Scary to think that time ever happened. I think we used pagers and wore Day-glo parachute pants. And maybe the Challenger ran into the World Trade Center. I’m not sure. The older I get, everything more than a week old just fuses all together into one large morass that is “Youth.”

Although this story involves having a regular bartender, so it was probably after the age of twelve. Let’s hope.

My regular bartender, you see, served happy hour at a bar that had NTN/Buzztime trivia. For those of us who preferred to exercise some brain cells while killing the others. I spent many an afternoon there grading papers, because when a student writes a term paper comparing the military draft to the NFL draft, his teacher just might need a cold one.

The bartender had been in an on-again, off-again relationship with a guy. The relationship tended to be “off” at the times she was pregnant with his child and then “on” when whoever he was banging in his off-time got pregnant. Quality relationship, I assure you.

One time whilst not pregnant, she realized he was a flight risk lifelong catch, and decided that if she liked it, she ought to put a ring on it. Like, right quick! Because no better person to enter into a legally-binding life-partnership with than someone who might or might not be around next week.

She asked some of us regulars what we were doing that Sunday because, if we wanted, we could come to their wedding in Reno. It turns out I wasn’t doing anything. Heck, my bartender wasn’t going to be working, so there was little chance of scoring free drinks in town. Is there anywhere else I might find some free drinks? Reno, you say? Well, that sounds like some synergy right there!

As I said, this was a long time ago, when Nevada casinos offered free drinks. These days, they require $100 worth of bets and a Maruader’s-Map-style oath solemnly swearing that there is more money where that came from as long as they continue to ply me with alcohol. And that I won’t lose that money in any of their competitors’ establishments. And, naturally, that I am up to no good.

When Sunday rolled around, we loaded up in a couple of cars and caravaned to the most romantic place on Earth. Sorry, I meant the most romantic spot in Nevada. Make that northwestern Nevada. Not counting the Tahoe vicinity. Or maybe Burning Man. Or, I don’t know, the Mustang Ranch?

You know what? I’ll just say it. Reno’s a shithole. And thank God for that, because if it were a place people might want to go, I wouldn’t be able to find $5 tables anymore.

We stopped off at Boomtown, the first casino you come to along I-80.

Boomtown’s super classy. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s similar to Primm along I-15, being the stateline between California and Nevada, ie the first place you can gamble en route to your gambling destination. Except that, whereas Primm has three or four casinos, Boomtown only has one. Primm also has roller coasters. And the Bonnie and Clyde death car. And shows. Boomtown has none of those.

Now that I think about it, Boomrown’s nothing like Primm. Primm is still about an hour away from Vegas, so maybe you need to take a leak or you’re not going to make it to The Strip in enough time to bet on the Super Bowl coin flip. But Boomtown’s only about five miles from Reno. There’s no viable reason to stop there on the way into Reno. There’s reason to stop there on the way out, because you can pay Nevada prices for gas instead of California prices for your drive back. But on the way there, it only serves people with poor planning abilities or no impulse control. Kinda like a couple deciding on a whim that they should get married this weekend.

I don’t remember why we stopped. Gas? Smokes? Regardless, they got in a fight about something. Not sure what. Gas? Smokes? Anyway, we all decided to hit the buffet here on the way back to commemorate the occasion, and it was onward to the drive-thru chapel.

Except it wasn’t a drive-thru. That’s the fancy Vegas shit. These Reno rat-bastards made us get out of the car to negotiate the ceremony details! They haggled over prices and pictures and, I don’t know, whether the deluxe marriage package comes with large fries or if they have to be ordered separately. I didn’t inquire about the primae noctis add-on.

Although to be fair, I don’t know all of the privies of the negotiation because I was stuck outside watching the five kids they share via various previous relationships and what George Washington referred to as “foreign entanglements.”

Also, I might’ve been a bit twitchy, because I have a general rule about being outside in Reno. And the general rule is: under no circumstances should one ever be outside in Reno.

If you’ve never been to Reno, I’ll paint you a picture. Pull up a mental picture of Las Vegas. Now take away all the fountains and Sphinxes. And rides and shows. And attractive people. And any building built after 1980. You can keep the weather, though. Oh, and maybe ass a little dilapidated infrastructure and a few homeless people passed out on the sidewalk. Now you’ve got Reno.

Oh wait, did I say the weather is the same as Vegas? I only meant in the summer. The winter weather is way worse in Reno.

But that’s all on the outside. Inside, they have these wonderful, climate-controlled resorts with neon and free alcohol.  There’s a reason three of the Reno casinos decided their best bet was to combine into one three-block long structure so that people can move from one to the other without breathing legitimate air.

But whatever, Bartender, for you I’ll travel all the way to my Mecca, able to see the Great Mosque, my religious fervor gambling addiction quivering in my bones. Ignore the Silver Legacy! I’m here to celebrate a friend’s most blessed day, a day she’s been looking forward to since at least last Thursday. So I’ll suck it up and get ready to throw some rice or confetti or… wait, was somebody supposed to bring the rice?

Although it doesn’t matter, because here come Bride and Groom and, oh no, they don’t look too terribly happy. Did someone forget the Smokes? Gas?

“I fucking told you,” Bride was saying.

Groom was mumbling something or other.

“They won’t marry us unless we get a marriage license.”

Wait, what? This is Nevada, home of the quickie wedding. Don’t they issue the marriage certificate AT the wedding facility? All you should have to do is prove your identity as an adult and sign on the dotted…

Wait, what’s that? Groom didn’t bring his ID? Was that his super secret way of avoiding this date with destiny? If I “accidentally”  leave my driver’s license at home, I’ll escape scot free! 

Except Bride said she told him this would happen. Clearly she knew he didn’t bring proper identification to his own wedding. I would be intrigued if I could get over my sweating scrotum and quivering gambling glands.

Awe, what the hell. Inquiring minds want to know.

Turns out Groom didn’t have his driver’s license with him because he was no longer in possession of said license. It’s a temporary thing. He’s supposed to get it back soon.

Why was Groom temporarily identification-less? Had he perhaps left it at a bar the night before? Maybe it went through the laundry in his gym shorts. Or the cops took it away. Do cops take your ID away? I always assumed that, if the courts suspend your license, you still get the card back. In case you need to get married in Reno or something.

No, it turns out Groom had recently been involved in a car crash. And, as a dutiful driver, he got out of the car and exchanged information with the other driver.

By literally giving his driver’s license to the dude.

I’m going to let that one sink in for a bit. I think I went into a daze when I heard it.

Look, I know I have a tendency to get a little bit snooty in my middle-class upbringing. I understand that other people’s experiences and worldviews can’t always match my own and maybe some people are raised to think that “giving the other driver your information” means something different than I think it does.

Then again, I’ve been in a fair number of accidents in my life, and was capable of jotting down the other driver’s license number and insurance info perfectly fine, even in the times before cell phones could immediately take pictures of that information. And never once have I offered to give away my primary form of identification. Nor have I asked for said in return. Nor has anyone I’ve ever gotten into an accident with offered their identification nor requested possession of my identification, except for the temporary purpose of copying down the information.

Taking the other person’s identification is indicative of human trafficking, not a minor rear-ender.

Who the hell gets in an accident and immediately says, “Hey, here’s my driver’s license. You can send it back to me whenever you’re ready. Want me to buy you a stamp?”

Well, maybe a guy who is trying to avoid hitchin’ his old lady that weekend.

Now you might think that, a time when one of the two signatories to a legal contract isn’t able to prove their identity isn’t the best time to plan a last minute trip to said document signing, but whatever. Who can argue with True Love?

Regardless, I guess this trip to Reno is wasted. Whatever shall we do? And I’m only asking because the glistening dome of the Silver Legacy is just a few blocks away and it may or may not be speaking through my subconscious, begging me to come visit. She’s letting me know in no uncertain terms that she knows I’m in her neighborhood and that I better not be thinking about turning tail and skipping town before giving her a little laugh and a tickle. I’m just sayin’, y’all, ain’t no scorned lover like a scorned lover with more money than the Pope and more secret recording devices than… the Pope. The Silver Legacy knows what I’m doing all day, every day, and most of the time, she approves. But some of the time…

Do we have to caravan back together if they didn’t even tie the knot? I know they were talking about a celebratory buffet at Boomtown, but that’s only if there’s something to celebrate, right? Do we still need to go to the buffet at Boomtown if we’re just calling it lunch?

But wait, Bride has a plan. Of course she has a plan, because she was just telling Groom that she told him this would happen. So she’s prepared. Not prepared enough to, like, pick a different date for the wedding. Or a new fiance. But she’s prepared.

Groom brought other forms of identification. Nothing official, mind you. Not a social security card. Not a military i.d. Groom’s never been in the military, so that would be tough. But I’m guessing he’s been arrested before. Would a mug shot would count as an official government document?

He brought mail from home. Um, okay. I know it’s often used as proof of residency, but that’s not really what they’re going for here. They don’t need to prove that Joe Schmoe lives at 123 Main Street, but rather, WHO IS Joe Schmoe.

He also brought his work i.d. Good news is it has picture of him. Bad news is it’s not terribly official. I mean, the liquor store that you’re rent-a-copping at might be comforted by the fact that ABC Security is capable of color printing a badge, but if you give me a five-minute crash course in Photoshop and point me toward a Kinko’s, I could get a homeless guy standing in for Groom in this ceremony.

So this is why Weddings n’ Chips isn’t willing to marry these two. They have to prove that the state of Nevada will issue them a marriage license. They can go to the Superior Court and see if someone more official than an Elvis impersonator will sign off on the Crayola stick figure that their 4-year old wrote “Daddy” under.

Just kidding. There are no Elvis impersonators in Reno. Way too upbeat. If Reno had any impersonators, it’d probably be Phil Collins. Or Falco.

“I don’t know how the hell we’re supposed to find City Hall,” Bride says.

At this point, one of the guys I drove up with, one of the other lushes who not only has a regular, daytime bartender, but who has a regular, daytime bartender who saw fit to invite him to her drive-thru Falco wedding, looks into the Reno skyline and says, “Um, maybe it’s that square building with the American flag that says ‘RENO’ across the top?”

Well spotted, Dude. So much for lushes not having great observational skills. I might’ve noticed that giant building if it hadn’t been in the vicinity of casinos. His vice is not currently in sight, so maybe it’s easier to focus on minor details like thirty-story square buildings with flags on top. My vice is beckoning me, telling me to ignore those other buildings. Those other buildings are skanks who don’t understand what I really need.

So Bride and Groom are heading to the government building on a Sunday to see if they’ll accept Groom’s t-shirt tag as formal identification. Who knows how long that’s going to take? Whatever shall the rest of us do whilst waiting for a rush judgment from the government?

“Saaaaaaay,” I posit. “Would you mind if we maybe… I don’t know… found some air conditioning and maybe a…”

I can’t finish on account of the shakes and the salivations, but my message is clear enough by the single tear forming in the corner of my eye.

“Yeah, that’s fine,” says Bride, whose focused elsewhere right now. “I’ll text you when we find out and, if we can get married, you can meet us-,”

I didn’t hear the rest of what she said, as I was suddenly moving at the speed of light toward yon distant Heaven. The other lushes came with me. It’s vice o’clock!

I dropped the lushes off at the casino bar, despite the fact that it went against every fiber of my being. Don’t they know they can just walk an extra five feet and camp out at a slot machine and then wait fifteen minutes or so for the septuagenarian cocktail waitress to maneuver her walker over in their direction? And then they can get a well drink! Sure, they might’ve lost $50 by the time she gets back with that free drink, but then they can say they didn’t lose $50, they just purchased a $50 watered-down Jack & Coke.

So I sat down at the slot machine and had just ordered my “free” drink when my phone buzzes. It’s my bartender telling us that they made it to the “justice of the peace” and were granted a “marriage license” and were heading back to the “chapel.” She’ll meet us back there.

Well, shit.

I tell my friends to drink up. Those bastards were already been on their second drink. Not that we’d been there for long, but let’s be honest, we all met in a bar and have a regular bartender who invited us to her wedding, so we can down the drinks pretty quick.

I return to my slot machine to wait for my drink. Time slows as I wait for my cocktail. Or “Cock Drink,” as one of my favorite casino servers of all time once referred to them. I think she was about two hours off the boat from Russia. They don’t hire these women for their conversational abilities. They hire them for their ability to bend time like the Matrix and keep our sorry asses glued to our seats donating more capital into the gaping maws of their reverse-ATMs for as long as possible. They are hired to ensure that people continue flocking to the middle of an unlivable desert to visit wonderful nirvanas of neon.

“Chug, chug, chug!” my friends chanted as we headed back to the car. Not that I needed to chug. It was a long way up to the car on level “Luck You Can Find a Spot at All on a Sunday” of the parking structure. Plus, this is Nevada. We can have booze outdoors. Probably in the back seat of a car. Hell, probably while driving, although please don’t take those last two suppositions as legal advice.

Nonetheless, I chugged all the same and we made it to the car and we drove back to the wedding spot and what did we see when we got there?

Our bartender walking out the front door. With her new Husband. Family members cheering on the steps. Throwing hands in the air with illusionary rice.

That’s right. We missed the wedding. The very reason we had gotten up early and driven to this Hellblight place.

Now, I might’ve exaggerated for storytelling purposes about how long it took me to get my drink. I really don’t think we were in the casino for more than about ten minutes before we got the text. And we busted our ass to the car and were outbound within five minutes of that. And we told her we were on our way.

But here we were, having completely missed the 60-second wedding we were here to watch.

The good news was that Bride wasn’t pissed. Heck, this wedding was happening because Groom was a flight risk, and after coming perilously close to driving all the way to Reno to NOT get married, I’m guessing she wanted to get this shit done. Who knows, maybe the government clerk was about to have a change of heart and call Weddings R Us to tell them to rescind the document. When the armored guard bends down in “Groundhog Day,” you take that fucking money and you walk away. Ain’t no time for equivocation.

(That last analogy was going to be about a prisoner during the Storming of the Bastille, but I thought that might be a bit obtuse for a post with tags about Reno and Quickie Weddings.)

The bad news was that the wedding had happened. Meaning we had to celebrate. So it was back to Boomtown for their majestic $7.99 buffet.

At least Boomtown has a casino. Those hour-old mashed potatoes will hold in the chaffing dish a little bit longer. After the shit-show of this day, I’ve got a hankering to bet it all on double-zero.

Old Year’s Resolutions

This time of year, like many others, I like to take stock of my life and make some resolutions.

Except that I’ve always hated resolutions. My eighth grade teacher used to make us copy a quote each week, and sometimes she made us make up our own quotes, which we were too young to counter with “anything I say is a quote from me.” I remember the prompt the Monday after Winter Break: “This year I will _____________.” I filled in the blank with “make it to ninth grade.”

My teacher responded that that wasn’t really a resolution, as it was likely to happen anyway. Had I more self-confidence or experience in remonstrating, I might have asked why we should only resolving something that is not likely to happen.  Why did she want me to avoid accomplishing my Resolution? Why was she setting us up for disaster? Why did she want a bunch of thirteen year olds to start off a fresh new year by failing?

Because guess what? I ain’t gonna lose weight or learn a new musical instrument or write a novel or travel to outer space. Some of those might be doable, but January 1 has no bearing on if and when I decide to do them.  For instance, I started this blog in June and didn’t start posting weekly until September.  Had this been one of my New Year’s Resolutions, it would likely be deemed a failure, because we tend to determine their success or failure by the middle of January, not the end of the year.  So they’re really not New Year’s Resolutions, at all. They’re First Week of the New Year’s Resolutions.

You pick something you don’t like about yourself and say you’re going to change it because the calendar switched. But that thing you don’t like about yourself isn’t going to change because of something arbitrary. Willpower isn’t tied to a date on the calendar. Especially if you take something like losing weight, which is much easier to do in April or May, as the days get warmer and longer.

So I’ve decided to switch things up a bit, and instead of a New Year’s Resolution, I’m looking back and making some Old Year’s Resolutions. I am going to take a look back at the cool new things I’ve tried or accomplished over the past twelve months and make some belated resolutions. And, spoiler alert, I nailed every single one of them!

But, Wombat, isn’t that just a Year-in-Review? You may ask.

And my response is…

Shut up! My blog, my rules.

Resolution #1: I will have a wonderful baby girl.

Considering my wife was three months pregnant on January 1, this one might be close to my “make ninth grade” resolution. But a lot can go wrong in the second and third trimesters. Plus we did not know it was going to be a girl until ten days into the year, so had I tried to make this resolution at the proper time, I would have had a 50/50 chance of failing at the very beginning.

Of course, the more I think about it, I don’t have much to add to the whole “have a baby” thing. My part was finished in 2013, and if things go south, there isn’t much my resolve can do. My wife is doing the heavy lifting for the first six months of 2014.

So maybe I should change it to I will begin to raise a wonderful baby girl.

Yeah, I like that better. That’s something I can actually resolve to do.

Resolution #2: Take up curling.

In January, the Winter Olympics were still a month away.

Gosh, I wonder if they are going to be exciting! I’m sure the Russians will have beautiful Sochi in perfect condition for the wonderful athletes who have trained so hard to get there.

Hey, remember when I did that Learn-to-Curl back in 2013? That was fun. I wonder if I can find a place closer to home and recruit some friends to try it in February. If that’s successful, maybe a couple of us can join a league. And if we get paired with some veterans, maybe we can begin learning the ropes and go undefeated throughout the summer season.

Then maybe I can form my own team and skip during a bonspiel against really good curlers. Like maybe even a couple of those curlers that are going to spend February in those swanky Sochi hotels. Then maybe I could win a do-or-die, skip-vs-skip, closest-to-the-button tiebreaker at 2:00 AM for the right to advance in the loser’s bracket.

If all that happens, who knows, maybe I’ll end the year by asking for expensive curling shoes for Christmas and prepping my hand-picked team for an elongated Winter/Spring season in 2015, forcing my wife to coin the phrase “Curling Widow.” But the “Future Curling Star” onesie I would get for my daughter (see Resolution #1) for Christmas would be super cute.

But that’s crazy. I doubt all of that would happen in one year.

Resolution #3: Lose More Weight.

This is always the scary one, right? But let me tell you, it’s a lot less nerve-racking to make this resolution after the fact.

I lost a lot of weight in 2013. A pre-diabetes diagnosis and a new-fangled invention called the Fitbit put my ass (or, more accurately, my legs and mouth) in gear, and by early October, I was down close to forty pounds. Then Halloween hit, followed by Thanksgiving and Christmas. Combined with those shorter, colder days I mentioned earlier, and about ten of those forty pounds found their way back by the end of the year. But that meant I was still down thirty over the course of the year.

Could I repeat that in 2014? Probably not to the extreme I had the year before. After all, there was less to lose. And all those nasty indicators in my blood have returned back to normal levels. But still…

If I can go back to the Spring and Summer routines I kept in ’13, maybe I can take those ten added pounds back off by June. Then maybe I can take another ten to fifteen pounds off before Halloween kicks off Fat Quarter (which extends past the New Year to include Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day) again. That Fat Quarter will be even harder this year, because while I might be willing to go for a jog in the forty-degree dark when I get home from work, I’m not quite as willing to take the baby along.

But, hey,  if I can lose twenty-plus pounds by October, then I can still gain ten to fifteen back and still be weight-negative for the year.

Resolution #4: Win Camptathalon.

Every year amongst my friends, there exists a Men’s Camping Trip. Because when womenfolk come camping, we have to take more than five paces away from the fire before we drop trou and pee, and I’m sorry, but that just ain’t true campin’.

At said trip each year, there is something called the Camptathalon.

What is it? Only the most grueling competition of wit, acumen, and bravado known to mankind. Think Triathlon, but take out the wussified events like swimming and biking and running. And add things like Whose Horse Comes in Last at the Kentucky Derby. And the Butter Toss.

Oh, and the whole thing needs to be done as inebriated as possible.

Wait, did you say Butter Toss?

I did. And to find out more, you’ll just have to check back in April, when I devote an entire entry to the 2015 Camptathalon.

(That’s what the promotions biz peeps call a teaser.  “What common household object might kill you? Stay tuned until the end of this blog entry to find out.”)

But this year, I plan to win the competition. I came in dead last in 2013. I think I was second or third the year before. But this year, with the competition being held the same weekend as my wife’s baby shower, I feel it is my time to strike.

What would be even cooler is if it was tied at the end of regulation, forcing us to make up a sudden-death cribbage match to decide it all. And if I could be losing said sudden-death cribbage match going into the final turn before pulling out a 21-point hand and a 24-point hand back-to-back. Why, that would almost be as cool as winning a sudden death draw to the button at a curling bonspiel.

If I could also be the first ever Camptathalon champion to not yack his guts out the same weekend, that might be an added bonus. That’s a tradition that need not be continued. Unlike the Butter Toss, which is a tradition as true as the Tournament of Roses.

Butter Toss? Am I sure I’m hearing you right?

April, dude. April.

Resolution #5: Win in Reno

Every year, I make a few trips to Reno. This year, 2014, I’d like to win there.

To be clear, my definition of “win” does not mean to hit a jackpot or win a car or come home with a duffel bag full of cash. I don’t even define winning as being money-ahead at the end of the year. I know the math – giant resorts would not exist in the middle of the desert if customers won over the long run.

What I mean by “win” is I’d like to take one weekend trip wherein, after paying for gas, food, and my portion of the hotel, I’m still money ahead. Is the forty dollars I might win in October going to offset the two hundred I’m going to lose at March Madness? Of course not. But man, that forty dollars would feel awesome, like I’m a world killer! Something definitely worthy of being mentioned in a Year-In-Review,  Retroactive Old Year’s Resolution.

Here is how I would love for this particular resolution to play out. I’d like to win a little bit at everything I do. Put $20 in a slot machine, turn it into $60. Put $2 on a long-shot horse to show and have him eke out third place. Stick around a blackjack table long enough to get buzzed on the casino’s dime yet still walk away up $10. Actually feel like I know what I’m talking about when all of those sports results go final. That would be nice.

To keep with the curling and Camptathalon theme, I don’t know if any of those games I bet on can go to overtime, but maybe I could squeak out a photo finish on the ponies.

Resolution #6: Write.

I’d like to write more this year.

Maybe I can try NaNoWriMo again this year. Even if I only get 20,000 words into a novel, it would be an improvement over 38 of the last 39 years.

Maybe I could even take part in some flash fiction challenges. Writing an entire story from beginning to end might give me a sense of accomplishment. That way, I could also play around with different genres, different voices, different points of view. Who knows? Maybe after I’ve tried a few safe ones, like a standard scary story, I might even write a story from the point-of-view of a female drug addict.

Hey, remember that blog I used to have? I stopped writing anything on it in 2008. right around the time I joined Facebook, because why write a thousand words when I can write fifteen and get immediate gratifica-, er, feedback?

But seriously, in 2014, maybe I can start that up again. Then maybe after a few flash fictions there, I can start up a new one on wordpress instead. And get back to actual blogging in addition to flash fiction.

Maybe I could even make myself post a new entry every week. Sure, it’s arbitrary, but maybe there will be some weeks I don’t feel like writing, like maybe Christmas week, and then all of a sudden it’ll be Monday, and I’ll be like, “oh shit, I have to post a blog entry,” and then I’ll actually write instead of just putting it off. I mean, it could happen. And even if it only works for, like, the last fifteen weeks of the year, what would that be? Twenty thousand words? Thirty thousand? To add to the twenty thousand in the novel? Throw in some of the earlier flashes and I’d be over sixty thousand words written in a year.

Shit, that might almost feel like an accomplishment. ”Hey,” I’ll tell everyone, “I wrote what Ken Follett writes in his sleep!”

It also might be cool to learn how to hyperlink.

On to 2015.

Wow. If I could have made all of those resolutions in January, and followed through on all of them, what a cool year it would have become.

And if so, what would be in store for 2015? What plans should I make? Only one way to find out – wait until next December.

See you all in the New Year

By the way, it was a knife. A knife is a common household object that might kill you. Thanks for staying with us.