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Vegas halftime report

Here’s a quick halftime report of the Vegas trip, thanks to the wonder of in-room ethernet. We’re staying at the Bellagio, which is pretty damn awesome. (See also Ocean’s 11, the remake version with Clooney and Pitt, although we don’t have the ultra-suite shown in the film.) Our suite looks east aka toward the strip, and every time the fountains go off, we see them launch water in the air. Luckily, the room’s got the blackout drapes, and they’re even operated via remote control motors with buttons by the nightstand.

Things have been good and we’ve mostly ate too much and gambled only a touch. We have a car, so we went out to the Liberace museum, which was pretty interesting, especially the cars. Today we went to the Atomic Test museum, which is not a giant hole in the ground, but rather a big new museum a few miles off the strip, which houses a ton of memorabilia about the testing done out at NTS back in the day. Unfortunately, no photography at either, but I have a lot of other good snapshots to upload when I get back.

Food has included the Bouchon, Thomas Keller’s restaurant at the Venetian (pretty damn good, but I’m finding I don’t like French food as much as I probably should); the buffet at the new Wynn casino (pretty much the best you could imagine); the breakfast at Denny’s (I can’t really stomach it anymore); lunch at In-n-Out (one of the best burgers out there, but the fries aren’t a+ material, even if fresh); another lunch at Pink Taco (despite the name, one of my favorite Amerimexican places); a late-night dinner at the Bellagio cafe (excellent); and room service breakfast at the hotel (the best $17 breakfast burrito you can find).

And I finally rode the monorail! Somewhat useless, but very nice. Also drove south to a huge outlet mall in the middle of nowhere, and did a lot of other wandering. None of our other co-vacationers are here until tomorrow night, and then the fun begins. Me and Bill turn 35 on Friday, and there are no plans yet, but we’ll see what happens.

Everything is under construction here, BTW. Every crappy strip mall that sold phone cards and junk t-shirts is getting bulldozed for a new condo development. The look of Vegas will be very weird in a couple of years. For now, it’s all about the home-builder’s convention, and every masonry contractor in middle america is here with their wife and/or girlfriend for the weekend. Nifty.

Still jetlagged, so even though the watch says 11, the mind says 2 AM, and I must collapse.

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34

So I turned 34 recently. I didn’t write an official story about the whole trip, but it seems like every January when I go to Las Vegas, something weird gets thrown in the mix, and the trip mutates just a little bit from the original plan. There, of course, is no real plan to start with, just the idea that I’d bring a bunch of my friends to Las Vegas in January, hopefully armed with a bunch of year-end bonus money, and then act like an idiot in some new and exciting way. This usually goes wrong in that all of my friends are cheap fucking bastards who cannot comprehend going on a plane to a place where 1) drinks are usually free 2) the hottest women in the world degrade themselves in the sluttiest outfits possible and then walk around in public and 3) hotel rooms are always under $50, and if you know me, you know how I always get a big stiffie about hotel rooms. But no, that’s horrible, I can see why you’d want to sit in the -50 degree weather and not miss the latest episode of Joey or whatever.

I should mention that my friend Bill wimped out on us for the first time in like three or four years, and that kindof sucked, but he had like two other back-to-back vacations with just a few days between them. I guess Bill is mellowing with age a bit, and he’s stuck commuting between Seattle and Indiana, so maybe fitting his six foot eight frame into a plane seat designed for a midget for six hours is something he wants to minimize. At least he had the balls to come out several other times, unlike others.

Okay, so before I left, I bought a Tablet PC. Actually, I bought two. First, I bought the one I really wanted from HP, along with some memory and an extended warranty, through their online store. There was a snowball’s chance in hell I would get the unit before I left town, but I resigned to the fact that I’d probably just get it while I was gone and have a new toy to play with when I returned. I then checked the HP web site about four times a day and called them daily to try to get a tracking number or updated shipping info, or whatever other info I could score on my far too expensive new toy.

Of course, I got fucked. They kept back-ordering the computer, and the day before I was due to go to Vegas, they updated my order to an estimated ship date of the end of February or something. I called HP, told them to lick my balls, and give me my damn money back. One small issue was that I already got a 512 Meg memory expansion in the mail, and they also charged my credit card for that extended warranty. I still haven’t seen the refund on the warranty, even though I’ve called them like 19 times and told them to just take the cock out of their mouth and press the three buttons on their terminal that will debit the $200-some bucks back on my card, but that never seems to work. Oh, by the way, fuck HP. Don’t buy a computer from them.

I went to CompUSA and immediately bought a Toshiba Portege (there are gay accent marks on them, but I’m not going to go all stupid and try to find out how to put them on there) and it ended up being cheaper and with more stuff. It’s a convertible laptop, meaning the top screen swivels and then closes on top of the keyboard, so it looks like a writing tablet or one of those weird computers that UPS dudes have, except bigger and not brown. The 12″ screen (1400×1050 native) has a writing digitizer built in, which is basically one of those Wacom tablets but see-through, embedded in the screen. So you can write and draw and use the special pen like a mouse. It’s very nifty.

I am still getting used to the whole idea of a Tablet PC, but it’s a cool concept. I can sit on the couch with the wireless connection and a good battery and browse the web or take notes or look shit up on IMDB or whatever else. It’s excellent for sitting in bed. The writing uses a very good handwriting recognition thing for input into any program, or you can use programs like OneNote to sketch away any old crap in the ink format, which is nice for brainstorming or sketches or whatever. I have some other specialized programs that I downloaded, like a version of the New York Times crossword puzzle that you can fill in with the pen. It’s very cool. I also got an external DVD player and CD burner, which is a bit more awkward than having a built-in, but then the whole computer only weighs like 4 pounds.

I don’t really feel like mentioning a whole blow-by-blow of the trip, because it’s not like we did tons of action-packed stuff every day. It started as me and Lon (a friend I met from Bill on previous trips) and then the next day, Jaime (a friend of Lon’s) met up with us. For the weekend, an old female friend of Lon and Jaime’s came out for the weekend. This was a bit odd for me in that I’m not super-duper best buddies with any of these people. I mean, I don’t dislike any of them, but I’ve known Bill for like 15 years or something. I was in his wedding (okay, I got his wedding crashed by the cops for being a drunken idiot, drinking tap beer out of giant iced tea pitchers, and running around building like a crazed Viking on a pillaging conquest, inviting everyone who even walked by to come in with me and get fucked up) and he got me a job in Seattle and everything. I’ve spent very limited time with Lon and even less with Jaime, so I vaguely feared that at some point, there would be some kind of long, uncomfortable silence that passes without event when you’re around people you’ve known for decades, but hangs in the air like a soggy discount beer fart when you’ve only known someone through a dozen emails and a trip or two.

When I got to Vegas and met up with Lon, we got to the cab stand and found a beautiful seventy-degree Las Vegas around us. SEVENTY. It was about -9 when I left New York. Aside from deploying to Vietnam from Alaska or something, you don’t get much more change in climate. Our cab driver was a retired rancher who knew tons of stuff about horses and guns and cowboys and everything else that makes you want to talk to Las Vegas cab drivers constantly and maybe covertly videotape it for some kind of TV show or book project. And when we got to the Tropicana (we originally had the Boardwalk all settled in, but at the last second Lon saw some kind of deal and jumped on it), we had the best set of rooms in the tower at the front of the hotel. The last two times I stayed there, they gave me shitty rooms in the towers on the back stretch, about a twenty mile walk from the strip, with a scenic view of the trash compacting facilities. This time, our windows looked out onto the strip, we didn’t have mirrors on the ceiling, blood stains on the carpet, or vibrating beds, but we did score our own fridges and a room safe that didn’t involve stuffing a dollar of quarters in a slot before you locked it.

I think you could sum up the trip by saying we ate, we drank, we went to comedy clubs, and Lon tried on 863 pairs of shoes. I got all of my hair cut off for about three times what I usually pay, but the stylist was pretty cool and told me a lot of crazy stories about people that got kicked out of casinos and ran to the beauty salon to get a haircut and disguise their shit. We went to the Apple store to harass the help, and ran into this Mac evangelist with one eye. I almost understand one mouse button, but the one eye thing sort of freaked me out, especially as he’s rambling on about how the new iPod is so damn great and the glass eye is wandering over to the left or whatever.

Jaime got a rental car from Hertz because his company has some kind of gold card where he can always get one for like $30 a day or something, no matter what. While Lon and Jaime went to the airport to get the car and then find a liquor store, I sat around and watched the highly viral “I love the 90s” TV show on VH1. Okay, normally I would make fun of this shit to no end, and I will – I mean, these people are doing a tribute to the long-lost years of like 20 minutes ago. But they’re really funny, and it’s weird how much of the stuff I remember, and scary how much I forgot. I mean, the early 90s I remember some things, but I didn’t have a TV in college and I didn’t tune in to 90210 or Melrose or whatever. And as far as the late 90s, that’s the stuff that depresses me. Because I remember very vividly years like 1996 and 1997 like they were yesterday, because in my mind, THEY WERE YESTERDAY. It was only a little bit ago that I was in Seattle and dating that-Seattle-chick and driving around that Ford Escort from Evergreen Ford and everything else. And looking back, that was a nice, comfortable, post-college, corporate, I-almost-had-my-shit-together era. And in some ways, I really miss it. And to think that it’s such ancient history that a TV show is being made about it as if it was the 14th century or something is really creepy. But I watched all of them, for hours, like I was watching a video of a BASE jumper slamming his nuts into a wall, over and over and over.

I gambled a dollar while waiting for a show, and ended up winning five dollars. So by percentages, I ruled. Otherwise, I didn’t feel like gambling. I did drink a fair amount, although Lon ended up buying Jack Daniels and some kind of fruity raspberry Bacardi, which are two things I can’t really stomach. I didn’t entirely lose my shit at any point like I did in 2003, although I got close a few times. At one point, I was so pissed off at everyone that I got up out of the restaurant, went to an ATM, took out $500, and vowed to drink all of it and then go on a complete fucking rampage, but by the time I got back to the table, our food had arrived, and I forgot all about it.

The only other thing of humor was that Lon and Jaime got talked into going to a timeshare presentation when we were shopping at the Venetian. I mean, they got a ton of coupons and swag and crap and everyone was really nice to them when they had to sit through the three-hour, high-pressure sales thing, but I thought it was sort of amateur-league. I mean, I ignore people like that as if they didn’t even exist. I’ve got the Greenpeace idiots and the children’s fund people and the moonies and the Scientologists and the copy shops with their color printing price fliers, and I can pass through them like a gallon of orange juice goes through an empty stomach. So I got a chuckle when they actually stopped to listen to them.

Anyway, four days of wonderful weather and good food and no fucking ingrates laying on their car horn like it was directly hooked up to their prostate, and not a single person telling me how Bush’s inaugaration had to do with Hitler or something, and then I return to spend two hours stuck on the runway, an hour waiting on my bags, and an hour and a half in subzero weather waiting for a god damned cab home with no gloves or hat. By the time I got home to my shithole apartment, I almost felt grateful, except for the part about having to be at work in like seven hours.

So that’s that. How are you?

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In Vegas

I’m in a web cafe on the Las Vegas Boulevard, in a crowded strip mall just south of the Harley cafe. It’s not really a cafe, though: it’s really three computers in a giant gift shop containing Las Vegas shot glasses, ashtrays, t-shirts that disintegrate in two washings, and pretty much everything else that could have the words Las Vegas printed on it and could be made in China by slave labor for under ten cents. It’s also a Budget rental car desk and sells tours of the Grand Canyon. They are mostly empty except for the occasional wanderer, and the overhead speakers are droning some local 80s station, which is marginally OK but mostly sucks. I turn 33 tomorrow, and I’ve got a suite at the Stardust that’s roughly twice as big as my apartment and much better furnished. I have a thousand dollars in twenties in my pocket. I’m depressed.

I spent all weekend with Bill and Lon and Jaime, and just ate a taco dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe with Lon, the last to depart except for me. Then I took the long walk back to the strip to get on this place and delete 188 messages of spam and two legitimate messages from my friend Dani. I have to leave on Wednesday at seven in the morning. But tomorrow afternoon, I will jump out of an airplane at 15,000 feet. I try to do the most dangerous things on my birthday, so both dates will match on the tombstone. This seemed to work well for Shakespeare, because we’re still reading his stuff.

We did a bunch of cool stuff this weekend and I ate a bunch of good food and we saw some really incredible comedians. But sometimes when I’m out here, all I can think of is what I’ll do when I get back. And that’s what’s bothering me right now. These big milestone dates really make me wonder when I’ll get my shit straight, or what I should really be aiming for.

Ah crap, this is all pretty whiny stuff. I should pack it up and get out of here before they play some bad Madonna song that gets stuck in my head all night. I have a long walk ahead of me, and my iPod is in the hotel room. I see a cab ride in my future…

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back from Vegas

I’m back. I had a pretty good trip to Vegas, and the photos and a quick bulleted list are here. [Now dead, sorry] It was cool to see my sister and brother-in-law, and it’s always fun to go to Vegas with people who haven’t been there before; it makes everything seem new to me. Probably the highlight of the trip was seeing Blue Man Group again, this time in the 5th row of the center section. The lowlight was getting delayed on my way out because of the California fires. And also the last day was depressing, being by myself and being almost out of cash as I walked around without much to do. The weather was beautiful the whole time I was there, but I didn’t feel like doing much other than going to the movies and going to Denny’s. But now that I’m home, I wish I was back there again.

I’m still sick – it never really went away, and just got worse in different ways. I stayed home today and slept all day, which seemed to help a bit. Now I hope that two more days of extreme sleep and much more juice will make it clear up. I have a lot of stuff around the house to get done, and I am editing the glossary on paper, which makes for a good in-bed project.

I didn’t do anything special for Halloween. I was going to watch Psycho, and I started watching Motel Hell, but I don’t have the attention span tonight to stick with a whole movie. Instead, I flipped channels and ended up on a Friday the 13th sequel, the one in Manhattan (8? 9?). It was funny only in that it belongs to that sub-genre of cinema best described as “I hate NY.” There were all of these films in the late 70s/early 80s that formed my early impressions of the big apple, the kinds of things like showed the city as a total disaster, with people getting killed on subways, and every other building on fire. Now that I live in the post-Giuliani version of the city, it’s very amusing to watch these films. It’s almost like watching campy 60s movies about the futuristing 1995, with floating cities and rocket jet-packs and stainless steel robots. I need to hunt down a copy of Escape from New York and see if it measures up.

Not much else is up. CSI is on now, so I’m getting pulled in…

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Too cold to think

It is too cold to think. To get to work today, I wore two pairs of pants, an army jacket, a leather jacket, a hat, a hood, and a pair of gloves. I was still so cold I couldn’t breathe. My apartment has been in spats of hot and cold; the heater runs but sometimes bangs like Godzilla is in the basement and trying to escape via the radiator, and that worries me that the whole thing will stop working and my landlord will be in Italy for months. If so, I will light the place on fire. Also, the wind blows so hard, it blows right through the windows, no matter how much foam tape and bunched up blankets I cram into the crevices. I am slightly sick, but not a lot – maybe some kind of infection in my throat, a lump that I can’t swallow. It is getting slowly better, so hopefully more juice and water will lodge things free.

I got back on Tuesday from a pretty decent trip to Vegas. There were four of us: Bill, Lon, me, and Lon’s pal Cliff, who is a pilot for a regional airline. It was cool to talk to Cliff about planes and flying and the inside world of the aviation industry. I envy being able to fly a plane, but I don’t envy the fact that a third-year pilot makes about $20K a year. Anyway, we did a lot of cool stuff, so here’s a short list off the top of my head:

  • Went to Blue Man Group and sat in the front row (the poncho section.)
  • Ate at Emeril’s fish restaurant; had the 6-course tasting meal, which was all incredible.
  • Shot a Madsen M50 9mm automatic rifle with a silencer.
  • Rented a pimped out Caddy with leather everything, power everything, onstar, rear radar, an incredible stereo, ass-heating seats, and all the other goodies.
  • Bill found out that the Caddy has a 120 MPH cutout. It felt and sounded like we were going 60, though.
  • Ate at In-n-Out and Jack In The Box
  • Went to the Grand Canyon; threw a copy of Rumored to Exist into the canyon.
  • Went to the Hoover Dam, took the tour, found a tour guide who didn’t know what The A Team was. I made the wild sarcastic guess that she was born in 1986; she was actually born in 1984. I officially feel old.
  • Ate at Denny’s twice.
  • Went to 7-Eleven. Got a Slurpee. Did not fuck sluts. (Sorry, Ray.)
  • Went shopping at Caesar’s Forums. Bought a new pair of Vans shoes.
  • Went to Best Buy and bought a ton of new CDs and a new camcorder battery.
  • Won $40 on blackjack at Imperial Palace.
  • Went to the car museum at Imperial Palace.
  • Threw paper airplanes out of the hotel windows.
  • Got the Caddy airborne on a speedbump.
  • Went downtown and saw the Fremont Experience light show.
  • Went to the worst pawnshop ever downtown.
  • Talked to some strippers on Fremont Street.
  • Watched the movie Jackass on pay-per-view.
  • Watched the movie Undercover Brother on Bill’s laptop.
  • Ate a good breakfast at the Luxor.
  • Drank way too much at Smith and Wollensky.

That’s all I can think of. But we got a lot of stuff done from Thursday to Tuesday, and we didn’t do that much Vegas strip stuff. So I’m pretty happy with the results, except for the part about puking up a $160 dinner.

My camcorder was great on the trip, and now I have a firewire card for my PC. I installed all of the stuff on my Windows partition, and it works pretty good for editing video and pulling in stuff through the DV connection. I need to now pull in old stuff from Hi8 and make some real movies with it. I still have a lot to learn, but it’s not like I’m going anywhere this weekend.

OK, I need to do some more DV editing research. I’ll try to get back on schedule with regular updates, but my semi-hibernation isn’t helping things much.

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Hello from Las Vegas

Hello from Las Vegas. I’m typing from the Internet cafe where I usually log in, at this sort of Korean-oriented strip mall. My laptop has taken a dive, or at least the battery power has, and I cannot get a dial-up connection. But it’s good to be ssh’ed to the computer sitting in my living room in Queens; at least I know it is not without power or under three feet of water.

And no, I did not have heat when I left on Friday, but there was a repair truck outside, and I’m hoping that means it will be fixed by the time I am back tomorrow night.

Many good things sofar. I met Penn and Teller after their show; I saw a Jackson Pollock painting at the Guggenheim (and a bunch of Picasso, Monet, Reubens, and other crap, but the Pollock was the best.); I saw the 250+ car collection at the Imperial Palace, including a TON of cool and famous cars; I hit four aces on a video poker machine on like my third deal, which cashed 60-1 (I quit gambling after that, doesn’t get better than that.); I walked nine miles on Saturday; I saw an IMAX 3-D movie; I saw the movie Jackass twice. (It is the funniest thing I have ever seen.); I ate at In-n-Out and Dennys; I did about 200 other things I can’t think of. I’ll write a story over the weekend.

Bad things: I am sick, although it is almost gone. I am cutting it close on money. Laptop is dead. My feet are pretty torqued out. It is extremely depressing here when you are not busy with something. I wish I could write more about that, but my head would explode. Also, I am getting charged to use this piece of shit, and it’s a BEAUTIFUL day out. So I better split. I’ll be back late tomorrow…