Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More tales from Vegas

VegasI just finished another Vegas trip, I believe number 6 for me. This time, it was with Dr. Kickass and the Old Man, the first time the 3 of us were at the same place at the same time since 2005. Of course, first I had to get there, which unfortunately involved a stop in Buffalo.

I wasn’t thrilled to be going to Buffalo, since a) there was just a massive plane crash there, b) it’s out of the way, and b) it’s Buffalo. Also, it was around 50 degrees in Balto, 50 in Vegas, but an absolute horrific arctic blizzard in Buffalo the likes of which could only be described by Buffalo natives as “Thursday.” Both landing and taking off from there were pretty shaky, To make matters worse, a woman across the aisle and one row back from me kept saying things like “I’m assuming they aren’t using automatic pilot right now” and other things like that during the final approach, referencing the recent Continental crash. I shot her a glare of such contempt that she actually shut the fuck up, which I was pleased with. Really though - talking about a week-old crash that occurred at the very same airport - and during a blizzard no less? Hey man, It’s the 8th inning, and I notice that no batter has hit safely off you yet. I dare say sir, you haven’t allowed a single hit! Do you think you’ll be able to keep that up? Getting the next 5 outs may be hard. By the way, this was the kind of landing that actually elicited a round of applause from the cabin. Jinx lady, not surprisingly, repeatedly thanked Jesus. I suppose, in her mind, that this means Jesus thought last week’s Continental flight was filled with heretics and assholes.

Vegas itself, after leaving god-awful McCarron (which took out all of its smoking sections, for reasons known to nobody since they were all glassed off and couldn’t have interfered with non-smokers’ precious clean air) didn’t disappoint. I won 50 bucks off a Blackjack prop bet (get a pair, it pays 10-1!) right off the bat. Of course, I lost that 50 shortly thereafter, but that’s Vegas. We saw a show, hit a buffet, won a small sports bet that I wasn’t confident in (KU-Nebraska - I was confident the Hawks would win, but the spread was 12) and lost a larger sports bet (50 bucks on OU, thanks a lot, Blake Griffin. Getting a concussion from, ah, getting flicked in the ear? Pansy.) I played a Kenny Rogers slot machine that, when I cashed out, said “Looks like this one knows when to fold ‘em!” We also saw a fairly hilarious altercation between strip club promoters. First, the cliche strip club promoter approached us. He had greased back hair, a mustache, and his top four shirt buttons undone. Really, all he was missing was the gold medallion. “Hey guys, strip club?” Just after that, this indie-rock hipster-looking dude who was maybe 19 asked us the same. Apparently, he had infringed on the territory of the cliche guy, as he immediately started yelling at the indie rock guy. The cliche guy got on the phone with who I presume was the boss, then handed the phone to the indie rock guy. When we walked down that part of the strip later, cliche guy was still there, “Hey guys, strip club?” but indie rock guy was gone. I wish there had been a way to bet on that one.

This trip ended with a pretty solid finale. I was dressed in a decent shirt, Kickass in a suit. After dinner, I kicked off the festivities by buying one of those silly Vegas novelty drinks in a 2-foot cup that was shaped vaguely like a bong. Of course, I wasn’t going to mess around with daiquiri or whatever they usually serve in these things - I went with a huge gin and tonic. Kickass and I went from Harrah’s to Caesar’s to Planet Hollywood (the casino, not the theme restaurant), and along the way I leveled up from novelty gin and tonic to double bourbon to Sapphire rocks. It was that kind of night. Well, It was Saturday night on the Strip, so I guess it’s always that kind of night. At Planet Hollywood, we attempted to get into one of Vegas’s high end clubs Prive (one of the few in town to boast more than one syllable) because it had a shorter line then Pure and Jet did. However, after learning the cover was $30, and seeing some dude tip the door guy $120 just for the right to pay another 30, we bailed. It was time to gamble, which meant leaving Planet Hollywood and its quarter tables to hit up Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and Saloon up the street.

We found open seats at a Let it Ride table, a stupid game that had been my biggest money maker thus far on this trip. I started with $73 in chips, and rocketed up to $170 in no time. I know the rule is double up and get out, so I put 150 aside and planned to foul off pitches with my remaining 20 for the sake of a couple more free drinks (back to good old bourbon and seven at this point - I don’t think you can order Sapphire rocks at the $5 tables at Bill’s). Then, shock of shocks at around 2 a.m. or so - the Old Man showed up at our table and ordered himself a White Russian. The Old Man had been largely AWOL from the tables all weekend, so I decided not to cash in quite yet. Plus, I had another drink to wait for, and the dealer changed from a gregarious dude from Manila to a stoic, fast moving chick. In the background, a man walking under a ladder tripped over a black cat and shattered the large mirror he was carrying. This was the perfect time to up my bet. Obviously, I started losing, and after losing like 10 hands in a row, I bumped my bet even more, along with betting 20 bucks a shot on the side bonus game. In no time, I was down to 10 bucks - 2 chips. Playing Let it Ride requires 3 chips, two of which you can remove during the course of the game. But with only two chips - game over.

At this point, I was absolutely plastered, and blaming my precipitous loss on the cocktail waitress for taking too long, the Old Man for showing up, the strip club guy, Kenny Rogers, the jinx lady, really everyone in the world but me. I wasn’t cashing in two chips. I threw them onto the come line of the nearest craps table. Seven. I win, everyone else playing loses. I take my twenty bucks, drunkenly rambling about Walter Payton, and planned to throw the 4 chips onto the Roulette table, at the corner of 31, 32, 34, and 35 - the 34 for Walter. Reaching for my chips, a quater fell out of my pocket. I bent down to pick it up, and in the time it takes to do that, it’s too late to bet on the current spin. 17 or something comes up. I put my chips down on the corner. 34. 9-1. I win $180! I’m back above my Let it Ride peak. I went to the bar and bought the Old Man a beer, cash my chips, and we’re out.


Monday, February 9, 2009

The Grammys - Live (on tape)!

I have no knowledge of current pop culture in America whatsoever, so I’m watching the Grammys and ripping off Bill Simmons and writing about it as I do so. Of course, I’m not completely nuts - I’m no idiot, as they say - so I’m doing it with the assistance of a DVR and cheap bourbon. On with the show, as they say...

Not surprising... I’ve either never heard of or never heard a song by several artists that are introduced in the opening, such as Carrie Underwood, Jonas Brothers, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Sugarland, and Kenny Chesney. Of course I’ve heard of, say Miley Cyrus or Jonas Brothers, but I haven’t had the thrill of actually, uh, listening to them. I have a feeling I’ll be skipping ahead when they are on stage.

U2 starts - and play a song I’ve never heard before in my life. Bad news for how out of touch I am if I don’t know U2’s new single. Oh no, Bono invited Whitney Houston on stage. She isn’t having another comeback is she? Bobby shoulda finished the job...

Boyz 2 Men were nominated? Them, Whitney, U2 so far... maybe I’m not so out of touch. Whitney looks coked up as hell, which was pretty fun. Acceptance speech - time to fast forward.

The Rock has a name now? What the fuck? Is he the host? Or are the Grammys still going no host like the last time I saw them? (In maybe 2003 when I had no cable.)

Now Timberlake. Man I used to hate that guy. I guess he won me over on SNL. No attention span though, I gotta akip ahead.

Yep, no host. These things need a host, they just make it go better. I don’t need some guy I’ve never heard of from some CBS show I’ve never seen introducing Coldplay, or anyone for that matter. Get Arsenio on the phone, he’s not doing anything, and he could host the hell out of an awards show.

Coldplay’s still on. We’ve only had 2 artists and 1 award, but already already a lot of God. I hope Obama doesn’t make it cool for liberals to go churchy.

Carrie Underwood is boring despite dressing slutty, but her blonde guitar player chick is really hot. She needs more camera time. Nice, she got it at the end.
Christ there’s a lot of different “lifetime achievement” awards given out.

Hey, Andy Williams is there! Is Branson closed?

Song of the year 40 minutes in? Sweet, show’s over. I know, I know, it’s the award for songwriters, blah blah.

“Please welcome a double nominee tonight - Kid Rock!” I went away for a couple years, I assumed when I got back he’d be gone. That fucker stole a line from Minor Threat in this song! Amen? God damn it. I’ve heard this awful “singing sweet home Alabama” song, marking at the first of the night that I’ve heard before, and I heard it in trashy Florida bars. No surprise I guess. More whiskey.

Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift performing together. I missed it, went for a smoke. Sure I coulda paused, but...

Yay, John Mayer lost something. That’s like watching the Broncos or Missouri lose - just fantastic.

Jason Mraz - I’ve still never actually heard a song of his. I presume I won’t like it. Some chick from CSI Miami too. CBS has the worst shows.

Ah, so this is the Jonas Brothers. What the fuck is Stevie Wonder hanging out with them for? Guys who have a successful band yet still can’t get laid have no business sharing a stage with Stevie. This is cruel, CBS. I want to fast forward these Jonas fags, but I want to watch Stevie. Virgins. Huh huh huh. These guys have tons of money. Couldn’t they at least get whores?

Craig Ferguson with the first funny joke of the night - 90 minutes in.

I kissed a girl. Didn’t we have a song called that like 3 years ago? Or maybe 13, I’m old. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’ve heard this song before too - probably in a titty bar. Boo, she didn’t even kiss a girl, and I watched the whole song - the first time I’ve done that all night.
Kanye’s rockin’ a mohawk-afro-mullet. It’s awesome, but really only Billy Dee Williams can pull that off.

I’ve never heard of Adele. You’d think that when going on the Grammys, she’d spend more then 11 bucks on a haircut. Wow, that was bitchy. Is watching the Grammys turning me gay?

Kenny Chesny - prepare to fast forward. I like country alright, but I still can’t get into the new stuff, and I have a hard time taking anybody that is under 60 that wears a cowboy hat seriously.

Record of the year - isn’t that the big award? For the artists? It’s early. Robert Plant and Allison Krause win. Real people that I know, I guess, though, of course, I’ve never heard the song.
Tribute to Dean Martin followed by Queen Lahtifa and then some pregnant chick that I presume is famous wearing a mesh shirt - this isn’t helping in the turning me gay department.

Paul McCartney coming up - I was about to skip it until I heard he’s gonna be joined by Dave Grohl. Dave is, obviously, a few notches above Ringo on the drums. Wait, that’s it? They hype McCartney and Grohl all night, and they just play one song - and a 2 minute song at that? They get half the stage time as the preggo chick in the mesh shirt? I hate the Grammys.

Jack Black in a goofy hat and some dude. Apparently he is a bass player named Charlie Haden, and he’s giving yet another lifetime achievment.

Oh no, Kid Rock vs John Mayer. Nothing good can happen... Fuck! God I hate John Mayer. At least he thanked Micheal McDonald. Every speech should thank Micheal McDonald. Keep it smooth... not shitty (Youtube Yacht Rock, it’s awesome)

More whiskey. This Adele and Sugar-whatever duet is really long, glad I spent it having another smoke.

Radiohead. Again, a song I don’t know. I’m that behind. I’m gonna watch this. Wow, at USC, even the marching band are meathead douchebags.

Sam Jackson is the first likable presenter. Couldn’t he have hosted? Or, again, Arsenio. Watch the tape of Arsenio hosting the 1990 MTV awards - you can’t go wrong with Arsenio hosting. In fact, I may have that tape, and I need something to do tomorrow...

Ah, some suit. FF. Then, Smokey Robinson. Wow, he was available? Yet another lifetime achievement award. Oh no, Jamie Foxx and his brother are going to do the Four Tops. This can’t be good. It’s not. Jamie Foxx manages to sound exactly like Jamie Foxx impersonating Jamie Foxx.

Neil Diamond! Yet, they have him do Sweet Caroline, like his worst song, especially given the Red Sox implications. Stupid Fever Pitch. Thanks again, Jimmy Fallon. If I ever have the opportunity to kill you, I will. I will stab you in the throat. Try not to laugh while I do it. In the mean time, Neil is kicking ass here. The man can put on a show.

Wait, now they’re doing the dead people thing, and they LEAD with Carlin? The fuck? The audience wasn’t prepared to clap yet. He should have been last. Any year one of the top 3 Americans ever dies, the Grammys should put him last in the montage of dead guys. The father of Christan rock also died this year too. I bet Carlin is kicking his ass in hell.
Lieutenant Dan/Dr. Kickass’s buddy comes out, repping yet another shitty CBS show.

Why is Lil Wayne singing with the guy from Office Space?

Ah, now I finally get to hear this Plant/Krause song that’s sweeping these awards. Sounds like obvious Grammy bait so far. It’s okay. I’m not downloading it yet. Now a change. It goes old school, 60s garage riff going on.
And they win Album of the Year. No surprise. As for me, I only bought one album this year. It was the last Foo Fighters, in Singapore, the only time I saw a real record store in 2008.

Wow, the Grammys end on time. Only 3 and a half hours, and I got through it in under two. Well, not under two drinks, but that would be punishment.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Culture Shock

I should be topical and write about the Superbowl, especially since it was such an entertaining game. I don’t care about either team, and never found myself rooting for one side over the other, which is unusual. I enjoyed the game and I’m glad I watched it, but if these teams met in, say, week 11, I wouldn’t have watched it unless it had fantasy football implications.

I’ve been back in the States for a little while now, and have been real lazy regarding this blog, and most everything else for that matter. Zelda is a demanding mistress. I still hadn’t written my reverse culture-shock story, thus I will now segue into that.

I landed at SFO after a no-sleep 10 hour flight in row 55E. On a Singapore Air 777, that’s the single worst seat. Wiley picked me up, and we drove straight to CC’s parents’ house for lunch. No culture shock yet. CC’s house and SFO aren’t really “America,” at least in the Replay Lounge sense. Lunch with Wiley, CC, her friend, and her parents involved talking to well read people that travel.

Wiley and I took to the road, heading to Vegas after determining (rather, Wiley determining) that the weather in Reno was too formidable. I slept most of the way - no culture shock there. We stopped at a truck stop along the way, and I was dazzled by the selection of snack foods that I actually wished to purchase, I was amazed by the size of the coffee cups, and I instantly re-sparked my love affair with shitty truck stop coffee - Korea doesn’t do drip. I was a bit confused that my purchase total didn’t end in 0 - in Korea, and really in every Asian country, every price ends in 0 since tax is built into the price. $7.28 felt strange. I also had to remember to not take my change with 2 hands, because that’s what people do in Korea, and I figure it would make me look a bit crazy here. I bought a large can of Bud and Clamato, and opened it immediately, knowing that Wiley wouldn’t let me drink in his car. After one sip, Wiley said I should throw it away, since there was a cop gassing up at one of the pumps. Big culture shock. People can’t just drink on the street in this country.

Back in the car, sleep until the Nevada border. Vegas turned out to be the perfect place to go for a soft landing from Korea, Nobody would ever confuse Vegas and Seoul, but both have bright lights, bars that never close, and no open container laws or smoking bans. Elvis impersonators aside, Vegas was minimal culture shock. Vegas isn’t really ‘merica either.

The next day, we crossed the Hoover Dam and headed for Kingman, Arizona, thus really entering red state America. We had satellite radio, so we listened to lots of hard core right wing talk, including “The Gun Hour,” which is actually 3 hours long. We stopped at Arby’s in Kingman, because that’s where I always stop in Kingman, I requested a medium sized value meal, and was taken aback by the 32 ounce cup and tub of fries. In Korea, SuperSize Cokes are 21 oz. We also met a drifter that Wiley chatted with for a bit, but that’s more his story then mine.

Perhaps the strongest feel of reverse culture shock I had regarded dealing with peripheral people. For example, Wiley and I stopped at a grocery store in Arizona, and like all grocery stores the world over, the pisser was hidden. I thought to myself, “okay, how do I ask where the bathroom is? It’s 화장실이 어디에 있어요? (hwajangshil-ee oodey issoyo?) Alright, I should be ready to understand what the clerk says too. Oh, wait, this dude speaks English.” For the better part of the first week I was back, I had a similar train of thought every time I encountered a clerk, waitress, bartender, blackjack dealer, whoever, and I’m sure every such person I spoke to thought I was a bit off since it took me that extra few seconds to conduct a routine transaction. Talking to Wiley or CC felt normal, I was used to talking to western friends, as I’d done so every day I was in Korea. However, If I was out drinking at my local convenience store with a couple non-Korean buddies, I would of course naturally speak to them only in English, without hesitation. However, when I went inside to buy another beer, I’d have 10 seconds of conversing in Korean with the clerk.

I have more culture shock stuff to write, regarding cops and airplanes and other such things, but I’ll stop here for now, as I have no other way to wrap this up.