Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is this the best tweet yet? (I'm sorry I wasn't listening)

I have been more Achiever-focused than usual in the past 24 hours:
Last night Burkhalter posted the official Facebook Event along with the updated 10th Annual Page on  This morning I made sure to call the official hotel for the Fest to book my reservation under the discounted rate. (Something I highly recommend to everybody that knows they are going - the hotel block always sells out)  And then this afternoon I noticed @lebowskifest started following me Twitter.

It's official fellow Achievers.  The "LeBlogski" link was removed from  The Founding Dudes had given me fair warning.  All I had asked was for a simple shout out when they finally did scatter the ashes.  The result is easily the best tweet I've seen in my Feed since signing up on Twitter in late September 2010.  If I could, I'd have Sam Elliot him-Stranger-self say, "Much obliged" to Will & Scott...

Well, I guess we can close the file on that one.

This was my final post on LeBlogski:
I've got to uh-- tender my resignation or whatever (February 19, 2011)
Co-Star in the Beaver Picture
Like a toe (with nailpoish!), LEBLOGSKI is getting cut off.
When asked about the idea of shutting it down, I told the Founding Dudes that its absence will most likely go universally unnoticed.  LF's social media integration (Facebook / Twitter) is strong enough to get it into the next round robin (#amiwrong).  It is a much smoother way for them to connect with Achievers.  But just in case people see this, thank you very much for reading.  There have been a couple instances when people have mentioned to me at a Lebowski Fest that they've read it, which is always surprising and flattering.

Favorite posts from my tenure as the Lebowski Fest Blogger:

For those looking to feed their Lebowski fix by way of a blog, I can't recommend strongly enough.  In addition to the podcast maintained by Fest-regular Chalupa, the blog on the podcast's website is consistently updated with Achiever-minded stories grabbed from the fringes of the Internet.

Thank you to Will & Scott (the Founding Dudes) for allowing me the privilege of sharing my like love of Lebowski on their website, and in turn with all of you.  This news won't stop me from writing about Lebowski Fests in the future (they just won't be here, but on my personal blog instead).  More importantly, I can't wait to catch ya later on down the trail at an upcoming Lebowski Fest.

Goodnight, sweet prince.[TQ]

Sunday, March 27, 2011

How sweet is it? (VEGASTORY 6 of 6)

Not even TI's sirens would distract me.
Technically, because my flight departed at 1:30 AM, Monday was my last day in Vegas.  But let me finish this multi-post story by chronicling Sunday.

In a scene polar opposite of the check-in mess, there was no line at checkout.  This is probably more due to the fact that this was the earliest check out of my Vegas career (8:00 AM), but I needed to secure a TV for the late afternoon Marquette game.

I set out to Treasure Island, one of my favorite Strip stops (and also the hotel I've stayed at the most).  I place a quick parlay bet on UNC moneyline + the over, which hit!  This was a sign of things to come for me at TI.

I played a little craps, I won a little money.
I played a little blackjack, I won a little money
Enough of a profit to kill time in a poker tournament - it's a great feeling when you can buy in to one of these small poker tournaments with money already won.  (After I got busted, the dealer told me I could buy back in - but after getting my flopped straight beat on the river by a full house - I chose to leave)

Then I  started feeling nervous and anxious for the Marquette game.
Heading back to the Roulette Wheel hoping to repeat history.

***And then the game began***

I befriended a couple UK fans in the Sports Book, which allowed me to run out for that Roulette Bet.  They also kept saving my seat when I had to go through my nervous paces during the game's timeouts.  During the game I noticed a fellow behind me wearing a Milwaukee Brewers cap - he was actually from nearby Park Ridge, Illinois!  There was nobody else in the sports book with Marquette gear for me to confide in or fist bump with... I was pretty much by myself at TI.

***And then MU beat Syracuse!***

Yes, I ran a victory lap around the TI Sports Book.
Yes, I bought beers for the two UK fellows I befriended.
Yes, I also bought a beer for the Park Ridge Brewer cap wearing dude.
Yes, I even bought a beer for the ladyfriend of said Brewer cap wearing gentleman who I didn't speak a single word to the entire night.
Did I mention I literally ran a lap of joy around the TI Sports Book?

Oh, I also had some money on Marquette, moneyline baby, at 5 point underdogs!

My phone had been off for much of the game.  Having already checked out of my hotel room, I was on battery conservation mode and didn't want to be distracted during the game (I usually love my #MUBB Twitter feed during games).  After I finally turn it on, my phone started blowing up with messages of congratulations on my favorite team reaching the Sweet Sixteen.  One of'em told me to head on over to O'Sheas.

I bust out out of TI with a grin a mile wide, to see a bunch of people watching the "Siren Show" outside on the Pirate Ship.  It was about 55 degrees at that moment in Vegas - and the Sirens were wearing jackets.  It didn't matter - they could have been twirling tassles for all I cared, nothing was going to make me happier than MU's win - and I had to get to O'Sheas!

So I won a lot of money at TI.  I did tell myself to stop gambling for the trip...  And I didn't want to repeat my post MU win blowup that led to a previous cash hemorrhage.  Buuuuut...

The actual iPhone Note I used to track my gambling
I won money playing poker in the most insane - distraction intensive scene - at O'Sheas.  I looked at my GAMING LOG (final tally attached, which I understand is one of the nerdiest things I've ever done) and saw I was so very close to a full thousand dollar profit!  Most expensive attempt at winning just $20 ever... Oh well...

We left O'Sheas to New York New York (to meet up with more people that were going to be on the same Chicago-bound plane.  The quick stop in their hotel room allowed me a much needed phone recharge).  Nothing really happened at NY/NY, with the exception that I almost threw a pizza like a discuss out of unneeded anger.  There's something about me during, and just after MU games: I have an overload of adrenalin that is beyond combustible.

The last thing I did in Vegas was something I've wanted to do for a very long time.  At post 1:00 AM in Las Vegas, on a Sunday Night / Monday Morning, nobody is in McCarren Airport.  The terminal was as empty as one I've ever seen in my life.  But the moving sidewalks were still operational... and moving.  Oh yeah, it was time to get my Feist on:

A perfect end to a perfect trip.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

You know it's a virgin drink, right? (VEGASTORY 5 of 6)

An expensive non cocktail
My Saturday in Las Vegas was, one could say, a "Market Correction."

Stories of failed poker tournaments are vastly uninteresting and difficult to follow even when you know all the players and terms used.  I bought in for the $60  Harrah's tournament at 10 am about forty minutes before it started.  That time was meant for me to grow $140 to $200 in craps to fund the tournament.  Instead I ended up walking out of Harrah's short $200.  The next tournament I wanted to play was the 3 pm at Caesar's and had zero intention of gambling at all before that.  Which I was amazingly able to do.  I think I might've hit a wall on Friday night; I was also rather hurting from the celebration post Xavier win.

Caesars, similar to Wynn, was running a poker tournament series that canceled most of their usual daily tournaments - but kept the buy-ins somewhat reasonable.  They had correctly geared it towards the basketball fan population calling it, "Hoops & Hold'em."  I chose the series' event: Saturday's 4:00 PM $130 double stack with 20 minute "turbo" levels.  The time before it was killed by watching Richmond and Wisconsin make it to the Sweet 16.  Watching the end of games in the Caesars Sports Book is always a spectacle.

I haven't had much success in tournaments at Caesars, but have always had a great time because of the cast of characters that show up to play:
  • A headphoned man who had seen my late night IP poker celebration/meltdown the night before
  • An attractive nurse from North Carolina, but moved to Vegas a few months ago with her professional poker playing boyfriend.
  • A quietly charming fellow born in Florida, lived in Austin, and now from San Francisco who was second strongest conversationalist behind your truly
  • A man from Sweden that was wearing a Sturgis Motorcycle Rally T-Shirt
That T-Shirt: It was not a shirt from the Rally, just an Urban Outfitters type of tight graphic tee referencing the annual event in Montana.  I'm the farthest thing from a motorcycle enthusiast, but I know that Sturgis is a big deal.  Someone else at our table was from Montana, and he made a mention of it to the Swede in the Shirt.  Now I understand the Swede was not communicating to us in his first language, but he had no idea of any large bike rally.  He was wearing the shirt because it "looked cool" to the anger of the man from Montana.  I tried to cut him some slack, mentioning that I like a few bands from Sweden.  He wanted to know which ones - so I told him Peter Bjorn and John along with Miike Snow.  I didn't expect him to have heard of Miike Snow, but how can you not know of PB&J?  The man was an impostor.

Peter Bjorn and John - Young Folks by Pedro Rossi

Meanwhile, Mr. Charming wondered aloud what music was playing in the headphones at the end of the table.  This is when I went into one of my most repeated jokes: "Probably Yanni."  That line almost always gets a shock chuckle, even if they don't want to laugh.  And sticking to the playbook I followed it up with the, "It makes sense, very calming music to settle your heart rate during cards... Personally, I prefer John Tesh."

And that's when Mr. Charming made the mistake of asking a follow up question because he's too young to really know who John Tesh is...  Let me tell you all, sports fans, that I have an incredible amount of knowledge on John Tesh built only for conversations such as these.  I don't own any of his music, but do appreciate at least one of his songs (The NBA on NBC theme song).

By this time the entire table had correctly assumed I was insane, going off on a monologue that lasted two hands about the career path of John Tesh.  It's taken me over 5 years to decide what kind of image I wanted to reflect at a poker table.  I used to wear headphones, sunglasses, act like I know what I'm doing...  Now I want people to think I'm just a crazy guy there to have fun, which is why I quickly ordered a Strawberry Julius.

I knew it was an option, but I asked the server anyways.
TQ: Last time I was here, there was an incredibly girly drink that had strawberries and whip cream and the whole she'bang?
Server: A Strawberry Julius?  You know it's a virgin drink, right?
TQ: Of course I know it is!
Server: Do you want extra whip cream?
TQ: Please yes.
Server (now walking away): Oh, and a cherry to top too?

I was short stacked when I made this order, and jokingly refused to play a hand to make sure I was still at the table by the time the drink arrived.  When the drink arrived I made my moves, and won the next 5 pots I entered (including two all-ins) that grew me to above the chip average... Sadly,  I made one mistake, which is all it takes in these things - and busted out on that sixth hand I played post Julius.

Express at Caesars Forum Shops
Not mentioned in the post, until now, is that the day started with a few sports bets placed in the IP Sports Book, of which none won.  Therefore, for those keeping score (and I was) every gamble I attempted on Saturday ended up being a losing one.  However, I was still up for the trip.  Being the responsible gambler that I am, I was done gambling for the day.  In a favorite Vegas Story of my past, this "quitting gambling" led to an infamous trip to Express.  Thankfully, I had other plans in mind, but wanted to take a picture of the storefront for instant FB publishing to the delight of a few of my friends.

The night ended with Mexican food with some friends who had spent the day in Old Vegas (a.k.a. Downtown / Freemont Street) before that gang set out to find a Beer Pong game.  I'm not a fan of Beer Pong (a.k.a. Dirty Balls in Beer), but was okay to drink from the sidelines and talk to more strangers - or so I thought...  The Beer Pong Enthusiasts set their pitchers down in the battledome that is the back of O'Shea's Casino.  I became quickly disinterested in that scene and set out to see two casinos that have been completed since my last time in Vegas: The Cosmopolitan & Aria.

Quick reviews of the two:
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas: A high concept club that happens to be an extremely expensive casino.  Beautiful on the eyes, both in clientele and architecture - but not an option at all for thousandairs such as myself to gamble.  True, I was done gambling - but I was hoping to get into a blackjack table just for a chance to change out with a $1 chip souvenir.

Aria at CityCenter: Very impressive non-claustrophobic layout that I sincerely hope will be a future option for me to stay at in the future (if the price is not too much of a stretch).  The Poker Room looked beautiful - playing in a tournament there will be on my list of priorities for my next visit.  The gambling there was expensive, but not too crazy.  After all, it was a Saturday Night on the Strip - $25 minimum bet blackjack is to be expected.  The only drawback is that it takes a crazy long time to walk to it's front door.  They need to get some moving sidewalks like The Venetian and Caesars.

And that's really all I did on Saturday.  Yeah, rather lame when looking back on it.  I kept my eye on the prize - I was there to watch basketball, and the following day would bring a great gift: Marquette vs. Syracuse!  I needed to rest up, recharge, and pack up for my last day in Vegas.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Did I wear the shorts? (VEGASTORY 4 of 6)

Over 8 years between Roulette spins
Leading up to my Vegas trip I knew the most important day for me would be Friday: Marquette game day.

Every Sports Book I saw the previous day on the Strip was packed, which made a friend's suggestion to take a cab over to The Palms a worthwhile concept.  I made securing a good watching spot my first and only priority for Friday.

When it was first suggested to me that I wear my baby blue Marquette uniform shorts to the Sports Book, I laughed.  Then, as Marquette started wearing the baby blues in the Big East Tournament I started to consider it as a viable option.  Last Friday, I wore the shorts (topped with a 1977 National Champions T-Shirt & my MU visor).
Mozart - Carmina Burana by angel000596
The best thing about the Palms Sports Book, besides it's low early attendance which found me one of the first 5 people there at 8:30 AM, was it's nearby food court.  It sounds stupid to nearly everybody else, but I get a special craving every Lent for the McDonald's Fillet O'Fish.  I'm not saying it's my most favorite fast food item, but if I was ever to enter a competitive eating contest - I think my best shot at winning would be in the Fillet O'Fish Category.  The Palms' McDonald's, located mere steps from the Sports Book, started serving up FO'Fs at 10 AM!  I instantly bought 3 at its earliest availability.  (I also had another one a few hours later before MU's tipoff)

Throughout the early games I was growing visibly nervous for the upcoming game versus Xavier.  People were asking me about MU's chances (wanting information to help them place a bet), and with every opportunity I steered people away from Marquette.  One questioned if I was working a reverse psychology angle. but I honestly didn't want people coming up to me asking why Marquette lost them money after a loss.  On the super secret level, I wanted people betting on Xavier for the line to get pushed more in their favor.  However, by the time the game tipped off, the line moved from Marquette +2 to a PICK! (Vegas thought each team had an equal chance of winning, and too many people were betting MU to give them any points)

Like I said, the NCAA Marquette game was my #1 priority.  I didn't play any blackjack at Palms.  I didn't even look at what the minimum bets were for their Craps tables...  But... I did do something I hadn't done in Vegas since 2002: Roulette.

I was just too jittery sitting in that Sports Book and I had to go stretch my legs and walk a little.  My seat was secured for my return, so there was no fear of losing it...  And I decided to get $100 worth of Roulette chips and start placing chips on Marquette Jersey numbers.  The idea was to walk away if one of the numbers hit.  On the second spin the little white ball settled in slot 1, which is the jersey number for Marquette's starting shooting guard.  This made me incredibly happy, and made me think it could be a great omen.  I cashed out and returned to the Sports book with a $60 profit.

I'm pretty insane during Marquette Basketball games.  To call me passionate would be too nice.  And for sure I probably made enemies during that game.  People probably wanted Marquette to lose based solely on my antics...  However, there was one other guy in the Sports Book wearing Marquette gear - and at every time out I made it a superstition to run over to him for a quick fist bump of solidarity and support.  I was happy, but still nervous, when Marquette pushed out to an 11 point halftime lead.  The worst was feared when Xavier cut it to 8 and had the ball, but that was the closest they ever came and when I heard the final buzzer it was total joy.
Victory Tweet
I sent out a quick text to another I knew was in Vegas: Where's the victory party at?

At this point I should probably mention that the Palms had a $1 Miller Lite special.  Many people were buying me these.  I was buying many of these for others.

That's one of the reasons why I took a cab to the Rio from Palms.  It was easily the shortest cab ride I've ever taken, but I wasn't messing around.  I had money on Marquette's victory, and was up for the trip as a whole - an expense such as a quick cab was well worth it.  I probably didn't get the whole value out of that Seafood Buffet dinner either - but it was a fun meal with fun people.  Thankfully the team they rooted for also won earlier in the night, so my victory celebrations were met with good cheer.

The rest of the night was kind of a blur.  I got back to IP late that night and wanted to play hold'em, but there was a wait.  One of the "Dealertainers" at IP (a man impersonating Garth Brooks to be exact) dealt me the hottest blackjack cards you can ever believe.  I bought $200 in chips and walked away with $500!

I went up to my hotel room and considered calling it a night...  Instead I changed out of my baby blue shorts in favor of jeans and went down to try to get into the poker game again...  Some may blame my over excited, over served, state for why I lost $200 in less than an hour of hold'em - but I know it was because I changed out of those shorts.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Where we goin' U!? (VEGASTORY 3 of 6)

The time is 7 PM.  The day is March 17, which is St. Patrick's Day.  The location is Las Vegas.

Leopold is a 25 year old man of slightly below average height but of average weight.  He is wearing a black Celtic FC jacket along with a Chicago Cubs cap (except for where it is usually a blue cap with a red "C" it is a Kelly Green hat with a white "C").  He is also wearing sunglasses, inside.

Ulysses is an 32 year old man of slightly above average height and slightly above average weight.  He is wearing a Kelly Green Republic of Ireland soccer jersey that has his name on the back along with the number 17.

Ulyssees has just given $100 to a Bally's Poker Room chip runner, but has not yet taken his seat to play in a $1 - $2 No Limit Texas Hold'em Cash Game.  As soon as he sits down he hears the opening words from Kanye West's "Can't Tell Me Nothing."  The words are shouted in a cadence dissimilar to the recording, but the voice is instantly recognizable as Leopold's

Kanye West - Can't Tell Me Nothing by Independent™
Ulysses instanly shoots up off his chair, but is unable to get his arms up in time to hug-hello Leopold.  His arms become pinned in the hug.

Ulysses: Man, I just literally sat down -  I haven't gotten my chips yet

The Bally's chip runner places a stack of twenty $5 chips in front of Ulysses' seat.

U: I'm sorry, but I have to go now, I'm sorry

L: (said between punches to Ulysses' right shoulder) What's (punch) up (punch) U! (punch)
Ulysses is attempting to scoop up all the newly placed chips off the poker table's felt, but the force from a shoulder punch causes some to jump out of his hands and onto the floor.  Ulysses quickly picks up any dropped chips and steps towards the Poker Room's cashier.  When Ulysses arrives at the cashier he looks over his shoulder to see Leopold still looking around Ulysses' vacated seat for more chips.  Ulysses & Leopold leave the Bally's Poker Room, and begin walking through the field of Bally slot machines.

L: VEGAS! (the punching continues) Man, do you believe we're all in Vegas? (Ulysses beings to walk quicker) Hey-hey-hey (Ulysses slows down and turns around to face Leopold) C'mon now (Leopold stretches arms wide.  Ulysses and Leopold hug it out on the floor of Ballys) YEAH VEGAS LAAA-LAAAA-LA-LA-WAIT-TIL-I-GET-MY-MO-NEY-RIGHT! Where we goin' U!?

U: To get something to eat, I'm starving.

L: Yeah, me too.
Ulysses is walking quickly, although without any direction, down various paths which lead to casino dead ends.  Leopold struggles to keep pace.  The walk's pace is more of motivation to stay outside of Leopold's punch-reach than a desire for sustenance.
L: Where we goin' U!?

U: I've got an idea. (Ulysses leads Leopold to a counter style take out food stop named Nash located just beyond the slot machines inside the casino at Bally's) How'bout here?

L: Nah, what am I supposed to eat at the same place I'm staying like a scumbag?  I ain't eating here - hey, let's go to Freemont!
U: I don't want to go downtown, I want to eat now.
L: Let's just go out on the Strip and find something else.
U: Okay.

Ulysses leads Leopold out of the first exit he finds, which is an exit to the cab line, not to Las Vegas Boulevard.  It takes an awkward zig zag path across cab traffic to finally get to the Strip.  Ulysses decides to walk South.

Along The Strip, people are handing out trading cards that feature nude models along with a phone number for "private hotel parties."  Leopold, at every opportunity, takes a card when handed to him.  In alternating fashion he instantly throws it straight up in the air like a graduation cap at commencement or down like a basketball being dunked through a hoop.

L: (punching Ulysses again, this time in his left kidney) Vegas!  (punch) Vegas! (punch) Ve-
U: (screamed at the top of his lungs): Stop hitting me!
A group of young girls walking ahead of Leopold & Ulysses turn around to witness the domestic abuse.

L: Where we goin' U!?
Leopold continues to take prostitute cards, but now has begun to hold the taken cards around his groin to allow himself to "hump" the cards instantly upon receipt.

U: We're crossing here
Leopold discards the humped cards this time by throwing them into the face of the man handing them out.

After crossing the Strip, Leopold and Ulysses head into The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.  A nightclub scene of loud club music and scantily clad women.

L: Let's try one of these bars - whatcha drinkin' I'm buyin'

A bartender at the first bar Ulysses& Leopold enter at The Cosmopolitan tells them any bar that has smoking doesn't serve food.  The bartender at the second bar tell the two that the kitchen closed at an hour ago.  Leopold orders a beer and Ulysses orders a mixed drink.  Meanwhile, while Ulysses lusts at a now moot menu a young man in his early twenties wedges his way in between the two at the bar.  Ulysses gives the interloper an odd look.

Stranger: Oh, sorry - don't mind me.
The Stranger doesn't order a drink, only stands there momentarily before backing away
Stranger: Sorry, we're cool right?
U: whatever, fine.
L: (yelling) what's going on here?
U: (calmly) nothing.
Stranger: This guy (points to Ulysses) is being a prick!
L: (at Stranger) Fuck off.
U: (slightly less calm) It's fine, it's fine.
Stranger: (to Ulysses) Oh, you're fine now?
U: (to Stranger) Yes!  (in a high voice squeal) Everything is fine.
L: Oh, so we're okay?
U: Yeah, don't worry about it.
L: Hey, it's Vegas, right? (offers his hand high for a High 5 - The stranger and him connect palms)
S: Yeah, Vegas!  (to Leopold) You're cool. I guess (nods to Ulysses) is cool too - he just started off all standoffish and shit.
L: Hey, (to Stranger) fuck you!  You wanna go?
U: (to Leopold) Stop it, this is nothing... We gotta get out of here now.
L: Yeah, okay (Ulysees and Leopold walk out of the bar) Fuck this place!  Who do you guys (talking in the general direction of the bartenders) think you are! (then to Ulysses) Wait, did I already give them a credit card? (Leopold checks his wallet)
U: No, our drinks never came.
L: God, this place sucks - let's get out of here.
Ulysses & Leopold walk out of the bar, through the casino, and out the door to another valet/cab exit - with the strip nowhere in sight
L: Did you like how I had your back, U!?  God, where the hell are we?
The scene looks like an underground lair for limos.  A mutual friend of the two, Aaron, calls Ulysses.  The phone conversation is quick - the only information relayed is that the two have yet to eat.  After more zig zagingly fast but directionless walking Ulysses and Leopold escape from the The Cosmopolitan's property to walk into the CityCenter mall.
U: Maybe there's a food court in here? Let's see.

CityCenter Mall
Immediately upon entering the mall both notice a large art instillation that consists of columns of ice floating on an infinity pool.  Ulysses attempts to reach to touch the ice, but realizes the ice is too far set in the infinity pool to reach.  Ulysses withdraws his arm and moves on into the mall.  Leopold, also failing at reaching the ice then takes a step into the infinity pool.  His entire right shoe becomes submerged in water and is able to withdraw it quickly without losing his balance.

L: Whoooah, the water doesn't look that deep!
U: What were you trying to do?
L: I wanted to walk on the edge - thought I could ride the wave
A large suited man, with a visible earpiece walks up to Ulysees and Leopold.  He is well over six feet tall - much taller than Ulysses with the build of a professional boxer.

Large Man (raises both if his hands above his  head, as he begins talking his two index fingers point at both Leopold and Ulysses): I need you two to turn around (now makes a small circle motion with both index fingers, which are now pointing to an area behind Ulysses & Leopold) and walk out right now.

U: (instantly, with both hands up as if he was in the middle of being robbed at a bank) ok (Ulysses pivots around his left foot, and passes Leopold on his way out the door.  Leopold is right behind him).
L: Man, my entire foot is SOAKED.
U: I'm just happy we didn't get thrown into casino jail.
L: Where we goin' U!?
U: I don't know, let's try Aria?

The walk to Aria is long, and the two discuss the condo market of Las Vegas, specifically the price of the for sale condos in CityCenter.  By the time the two reach the front of Aria, Aaron has sent Ulysses a text message offering up In-N-Out Burger as a food option.  Thankfully Ulysses and Leopold are at this time at the Cab Line in front of Aria.  They decide to not enter Aria, but get in a cab headed to In-N-Out Burger.

A large chested girl, who Ulysses hoped for his conscience was twenty-one, walks into In-N-Out and passes by Leopold.  She pauses near Leopold while staring at the menu board.
L: (while looking dead straight at the young girl's visible cleavage, standing less than four feet away) OH MY GOD! (The reaction by the girl: a smile)

Leopold and Ulysses eat their burgers outside on the picnic tables.  They both hear the large chested young girl and her friends tell a cab driver to take them to Rio.
L: Wanna go to Rio, U?
U: I have a better idea.

Ulysses leads Leopold on a quick 300 yard walk across a parking lot to Wild Wild West Gaming Hall.  The inside of the "local" casino is without any of the usual Casino distractions: The slots are quiet, the music is low to not present, and there is more smoke than than a Camel Joe fantasy.  The defining game of Wild West Gaming Hall is something Ulysses calls "Bumper Pool Craps" that features a craps table nearly half the size you will see in a larger casino.  The small size is to allow one person to work as both stickman and dealer.  The minimum bet is $3.

Ulysses & Leopold are the only players playing craps.  The only players at the specific table and the only players shooting dice in the entire Gaming Hall.  By the time the first seven is rolled both players are up - Leopold up more than Ulysses.  Leopold starts making field bets.  Leopold continues winning.


Leopold makes another point.


Later, after a few more points by Leopold, he finally craps out and Ulysses is up to throw the dice again.

L: I'm thinking about a field bet, U - you gonna roll a winner?
U: yeah, sure.
Ulysses rolls a hard 12.  Leopold's field bet pays double.
L: (directed at two spectators now watching, for Leopold is the loudest voice in the entire Gaming Hall) We got a heater boys, you wanna get in?
U: (in a soft, but oddly serious tone, to the couple spectators) You need to get in.  You need to get in now.
L: What about now U?  Field bet?
U: No.
A 5 is rolled by Ulysses, which would've lost a field bet if Leopold had placed one.
Ulysses continues to roll without any 7s.  More points are made.

About four or five rolls later, as Ulysses is about to shoot again, Leopold takes a large stack of red $5 chips and plops it on the Field.  The amount was never counted, but was well over $100.  Ulysses pauses - then shoots...  It's a 3, it's a winner.

The pit boss walks over to Leopold.
Pitt Boss: You know, when I win, I don't celebrate.
L: Well nobody likes you!
U: (Turns to the two players who took the advice and have been playing) Aren't you glad you started playing when we told you to?  (They both quickly nod in approval)

As more points were made Ulysses and Leopold eventually rolled 7s.  When given the opportunity to throw dice, the two newcomers instantly declined to allow Ulysses and Leopold to roll again.  And more points were made.

Ulysses after again seeing the spectators decline to shoot the dice in favor of Leopold and himself, glances down at an over $100 profit.  He notices nearly double that in front of Leopold.

U: (to Leopold) Hey, wanna get out of here?  Quit now?  When we're this ahead?
L: (pauses) Sure.  (longer pause) Let's bounce.

Ulysses and Leopold triumphantly strut back across the parking lot to In-N-Out.  Both consider going for round two of burgers but ultimately don't. Ulysses had been texting Aaron during the craps run, urging him to stop everything to join the two.  Instead Aaron informs Ulysses that he's on his way to In-N-Out himself for a burger.

Aaron shows pop out of the cab with his friend Demetri.  Both hear Leopold and Ulysses before they are seen.  Leopold and Ulysses have reclaimed their outside picnic table and have been loudly rehashing their Wild Wild West run.

Leopold meets Aaron in a similar "rabbit punching" fashion that he earlier greeted Ulysses.


After Aaron and Demetri are done at In-N-Out the four of them share a cab back to the Strip.  Leopold requests that the cab driver change the radio to rap music.  Leopold requests that the cab driver turns up the volume.


St. Patrick's Day Block Party outside O'Sheas
It's gridlock traffic on The Strip as the cab inches along Las Vegas Boulevard.  Leopold, anxious to exit, rolls down the cab's window and sticks his head out.  He begins to shout at random walkers by.
L: BOILER UP! (said to someone wearing head-to-toe Michigan State gear)

Ulysses and Leopold exit the cab with Aaron and Demetri, but the two groups head in separate directions.  Ulysses and Leopold head towards the St. Patrick's Day block party outside O'Sheas Casino.

Leopold buys Ulysses a green beer.  The party features a performer named "DJ IRISH."  Many people are dancing - including Leopold, but not including Ulysses.  Leopold begins calling other people he knows in town, recruiting them to join the party.  Ulysses finished his beer and respectfully told Leopold of his departure.

L: Where you goin' U!?
U: I'm going to play cards at IP - if you want me you can find me there.

Less than an hour later Ulysses had won $100 playing poker and had texted Leopold announcing he was calling it a night.  The text is immediately returned with a phone call.

U: Leopold?
L: U! Towerz and I just got here, at IP, where are you?
U: I'm in my room, but I'm on my way back down - hold on.

Ulysses wanted to meet Towerz, a childhood friend of Leopold who's reputation had preceeded him.  Towers is a shade under 5'6" with enough hair product to fuel a junior high cheerleading squad.  He is wearing a black tank top exposing tattoos on both arms.  He has a large plastic novelty drinking vessel lanyard around his neck and propped up with both hands.  The drinking vessel is approximately 5 feet in height.

Standing next to Towers is Leopold, who now has a plastic guitar strapped around his body featuring a large straw extending up to his mouth.  The guitar is filled with margarita.

After a brief introduction the three decide to head back to The Strip.  As Leopold is about to exit the doors a young woman wearing red walks in-
L: (at woman in red) ROLL TIDE!
Woman in red: ROLL TIDE, YEAH!

Towerz and Leopold openly debate their next destination.  Less than 15 minutes into the walk Leopold announces an intention to get a cab to Stratosphere.  Upon hearing this, Ulysses instantly removes himself from the group - wishing them both the best of luck.

The time is 2:30 AM
According to follow up reports:
  • Leopold attempted to get a tattoo, but was rejected by the parlor for being too drunk
  • Towers ended up getting a black eye
  • Leopold was later seen in downtown Las Vegas using his margarita-guitar to air guitar along with a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band
  • Ulysses was awake at 8 am the following morning, as was Leopold.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What's not a Wynn, not even a Win, but a victory nonetheless? (VEGASTORY 2 of 6)

ZooZa Crackers Deli (Wynn Property)
When the alarm from my phone makes noise at 7:00 AM it never crosses my mind to snooze it or go back to the Penthouse Bed.  I'm not here to sleep, although I will admit a longer than usual shower was needed to help mend any fatigue that a sub-two-hour sleep didn't cure.  However, by the time I emerge from IP there is a definite pep in my step as I trek north on the strip to my destination: Wynn Property.

One of the benefits of solo walks in Vegas is that my gait is held hostage by no one.  I step quick and I step long.  Of course, the biggest drawback of walking alone in Vegas is the cartoonish "$$$" symbol prostitutes see above my head causing rampant, "Heeeey, where you goin'" calls...  But this is before 8:00 AM, the only hooks you'll see are expressed as half points on the wall of a Sports Book.

Iggy Pop - Lust for Life by Thobias

Wynn Las Vegas has been my favorite casino since I first stepped inside it months after its opening.  I think it has an awesome Poker Room, a chill Sports Book, and Zooza Crackers Deli.  The plan was to place my sports bets and watch the action from either inside the Sports Book or in the Poker Room before their daily noon poker tournament.  Baring that, I'll just settle for a Roast Beef Sandwich and bide my time elsewhere.  Absolutely none of that happened.

The line to place bets stretched clear out of the Sports Book and even past the deli counter (which borders the Sports Book).  Luckily someone called the guy standing ahead of me in line to inform him that there was zero line at the Encore Sports Book.  I didn't even know the Encore had a sports book!?  Hot Route!  I walk away from the line with the splinter group.  Turns out the Encore has a Sports Book Desk, where bets can be placed and cashed: no seats and no televisions... but also nobody else there.

a google doc screen capture saved on my phone
All normal daily tournaments were canceled in lieu of their "Wynn Poker Classic" which was taking place over on the main casino floor.  I had noticed a large section of the casino floor usually home to slot machines replaced with many poker tables behind a velvet rope border.  Of course I could have bought into one of those tournaments, but they were more expensive and weren't around close TVs playing NCAA action, as is the case in the Poker Room.  So even though my self made Daily Tournament Chart (picture included) had already failed me, I decided to trust it to guide me elsewhere.  I chose the 11:00 AM Mirage Tournament to be the first tournament to enter.

52 people entered the 11:00 AM Daily No Limit Texas Hold'em Poker Tournament on March 17.  It cost $60 to enter.  My fourth place finish won me $281.  Finally cashing in a poker tournament in Vegas made me happy.  All those parlays that Louisville screwed me on no longer mattered.  After I took my prize money, I was able to watch the end of Richmond's upset victory (my only successful sports bet of the day) from the fringes of the packed Sports Book at The Mirage.

I walked back to the Wynn to cash that Richmond [Money Line Bet!] ticket and turned around to head back to IP.  That was the last time I stepped foot on Wynn Property that trip... Although if it wasn't for a "meaningless" 3 by Wofford against BYU at the buzzer I would've been back to cash in my 4 team teaser parlay.

By this time its just about 4:00 PM.  I was told by IP that I had to find out my new room between 1 - 4.  Not knowing any better, and not wanting to get charged a Penthouse rate, I called the front desk and was told my new [non Penthouse] room is ready.  The instant I see my "normal" IP room I instantly regret my decision and wish I could have held onto that Penthouse.  For me, a hotel room has to be somewhat attractive because I can't spend all my time on a casino floor.  I need a place to relax and recharge while taking gaming breaks.

Phone charging, I crash asleep for a much needed nap.  During my walk back to the room I had fielded a call from a friend who was off the Strip, but planning to return soon and wanted to meet up...  I had told him to call me when he was in the cab on his way...

At just before 6:00 PM when I wake up rather hungry.  I walk out of IP with no particular direction in mind when my phone rings...  It's him... I tell him I'll meet him in the Bally's Poker Room...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How do you get from a Frat House to a Penthouse? (VEGASTORY 1 of 6)

IP Penthouse Bar
Even though the flight was at 9:30 pm, I wasn't going to wait at home watching the clock tick.

Advance scouts had reported that TSA's staff cuts in half after 7 pm.  It was my intention to get through that section of the check in process by that time - and successfully got through without a wait and with my dignity/privacy in tact.

I sat at the gate by myself for a long time.  When I say by myself, I'm also referring to the empty counter and all gates in my periphery vision.  I was in a figurative desert waiting for transport to a literal one.  But none of this fazed me in the slightest - more time to read my book. (which book might you ask?  Click here to buy your own copy of Death By Strip Mall!)

As the gate started populating with more people, including my friend and two more childhood friends of his, the feeling was as electric as a song my MGMT.
MGMT - Electric Feel by rockndroid

Frat Flight 469 left on time.  It ran out of booze before it landed.  There were ten women, if that, on the plane dominated by logo wearing boys old enough to be men (of which I most certainly qualify).  Across the aisle one of'em had a propped up iPad with a headphone hub to allow all three to watch an in-flight movie of their choice.  It was an impossible angle for most to recognize the movie, but the style of video and title cards made it obvious to me.  They were watching Jackass 3.

By the time the plane landed, bags were reacquired, taxi line waited, and neck craning out of the packed taxi rode, we finally stepped into Imperial Palace (from now on only referred to as IP) at 1:00 AM.  You would've thought Lady Gaga tickets were about to go on sale judging by the line at the front desk.  It's been fifteen months since I last set foot on a Vegas Property: It didn't take long for me to realize I didn't have to spend the first hour back waiting in line.  My bags were almost thrown at the Bell Desk as I made my way to the IP Poker Room.

By 2:30 AM I was +$120 and decided to cash out while I had a profit from the poker game to check on the line at the front desk.  It was still long, but not as long... I'd say it was a line you'd expect to see for Johnny Mathis (not very long, but barely moving).  Wanting another "free" beer, I sit down at Blackjack with the only intention of playing until my drink arrives.  I won another $25 waiting for the beer.

I commit to the front desk line at 3 AM (which is 5 AM my time) and endure there for a solid hour as the gravely understaffed IP struggles.  My room has been taken.  Or my room isn't ready.  Regardless, I took this immediately as okay news - as the wait was such a bear I was considering taking by bags elsewhere - literally.
" we've upgraded you to a Penthouse at no extra charge, but when your room is ready tomorrow you will have to move."

Now that's more like it... I text the group that was also staying at IP if they got the same deal - they did not...  I instantly told them to stop up to see it, for it wasn't going to last long.  As I waited for my friends, I took pictures of every corner for a newly created Facebook album.  It featured a nice bar and a Jacuzzi that can only be respectfully described as "hooker-riffic" (chandelier, mirrors, a carpeted stairway up to it, and more mirrors).

Mirrors make you look more popular
If I was brutally honest, it wasn't all that great.  I don't even think the pictures make it look any better.  But when you compare it to what a "regular" IP room looks like I do wish I had it more than 3 hours.

It's not until after 5:00 AM did my friends leave and I was finally able to fall asleep.  My phone was set to wake me up at 7:00 AM.  No snooze bar was needed, or wanted...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Was Vegas a success?

Many people will be asking me "How was Vegas?" in the following days.  My responses will depend on how many syllables people are willing to hear:

   1) WON!

There will be an in depth breakdown of the longest stretch of time I've ever spent in my most favorite city in the world... for those of you that want to read it.  I just need to write it all down for my own personal memory first, run it by a few others for story clearance, than redact the bejesus out of it to protect the innocent.

More importantly, there is one marathon adventure story that I don't want anybody to read before I tell it to them.

Tonight, my first night back in reality, I had dinner with MySister.  She made a side comment about her enjoyment of a recent mixtape I made for her and wanting the playlist.  The mixtape was called, "My Super Sweet Sixteen Dance Party Mixtape."  Sweet 16, at the time of the mixtape's creation, was more of a reference to an MTV reality show that made me question the next generation.  However, it now has a much nicer allusion to Marquette advancing to the Sweet 16 portion of the Big Dance.  I listened to this mixtape on the flight back home.

Keep dancing everybody!  Keep dancing Marquette!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What's less than two days away?

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. (CityCenter)
I barely slept last night.
Tonight will be worse.
Tomorrow night will be impossible.
Wednesday night I'll be in Las Vegas.

So what do I do after I finally check in?  Should I just start walking on the Strip to whatever calls my name?  Perhaps down toward the new CityCenter project (the only properties on the Strip that have opened since my last visit?).  Should  I head the other way to my favorite Wynn, and get into a No Limit cash game right away?

No, Wynn will be my first target the following day.  Yeah, it's St. Patrick's Day, but more importantly it's the first day of the NCAAs.  (First day that counts, neglecting the first two days of First Round "action.")  What's the first bet? I'm leaning towards a Big East Parlay in the early games with West Virginia and Louisville...  Hell, let me throw in Pitt into that parlay mix because by the time that game is underway I'll be watching from inside the Wynn Poker Room.  I'm cashing in that noon tournament, damnit!

Then I'll remember that I actually know other souls also vacationing in Vegas while I am there, which is different from my past few trips.  Perhaps I'll cab it over to the Palms?  Perhaps I'll take a moment of St. Paddy's day mayhem at O'Sheas?  Maybe scout out the scene at Mandalay Bay - the early front runner to host Friday's action?

Oh God that Friday.... That's the day Marquette will play...  I can't believe I'll have to wait until the third set of games.  4:27 pm won't come soon enough.  The craps tables of Mandalay Bay will be a perfect distraction I presume.  It being Friday and all, that nearby McDonald's at Luxor better have enough Fillet O'Fishes on supply - I can't go a Friday in Lent without one... or four...

No matter what happens as far as my gaming fortune is concerned, Friday will be won or lost with my Marquette Basketball team.  Nearby friends will be Boilered Up, but I will be a ghost the rest of the evening if what I expect to happen does...

Saturday, if I haven't been yet, will be In-N-Out's time to shine.  With less NCAA games to watch on this day versus the previous two, there'll be a nice slowdown to get a 2 x 4 - give me extra spread...  And then who knows where my mind will wander me.  A Sit n'Go at The Mirage?  A cheapo tourney at Harrahs?  Blackjack at El Cortez?  The 7 pm tourney at Aria is a leading candidate - although I'll have to do at least one tournament at Caesars before I leave.

Could my last day bring the awesome gift of another Marquette game to watch?  Oh, the thought of it warms my spirit.  Before I leave I'll need to make a courtesy dice roll at TI too.

It's been over 15 months.  It's been too long.  Only need to wake up and go to work two more times.  Only got to get my head on my own pillow two more times.  If only my mind would close as easily as my eyelids...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How am I going to say 'Thank You'?

Some people have included a note with a donation.
More than thirty people have amazingly reached out in the month since I told everybody of my upcoming trip halfway across the world.  MySister & I are planning on some sort of a Thank You Postcard to quickly send out before our trip, with a follow up extended Thank You Letter including pictures and a story worth the incredible amount donated.  In the meantime I'm keeping all the little notes that some people have wrote. The stack of letters is a tangible reminder that this is happening.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Why are these guys dancing alone?

Last Friday, at the Girl Talk concert, the two friends I had gone to the show with retreated to a safer section of the Congress dance floor.  I remained - and I had loads of fun dancing my myself.  Kinda considering keeping up the momentum this Saturday at the Riv when Crystal Castles performs... Kinda looking to these two for inspiration...  Kinda know I have nowhere near this good of rhythm... (Note: these are both Crystal Castles songs)

Maybe I'll join up with these guys?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Do you have a favorite shirt?

I lack fashion.

This statement is both true in the literal "I don't have own many stylish clothes" as the figurative "I don't know what would define style."  If someone at work compliments a shirt of mine, there is a very large likelihood that it was a purchased by MySister (either as a gift or a commissioned buy with my money).  Even in the genre of T-Shirt And Jeans I think I come up a tad short since 95% of my t-shirts fall into three categories:
  1. References to The Big Lebowski 
  2. Bands most of my friends don't enjoy
  3. Marquette University
Regardless, I have a favorite shirt.  I wore it this past Friday and my friend happened to take a picture of me in it.  The shirt is held so highly in my esteem, I usually prefer these pictures because I find the shirt an important element.
...I went out and achieved anyway...
[POST SCRIPT: In case you didn't know, the blog on's days are numbered.   From now on, I'll be posting "Leblogski" type stuff here.  Hopefully my 7 readers won't get too upset.]

Saturday, March 5, 2011

How did you hear of Girl Talk?

In 2007 a coworker, who had a college age younger brother (in other words, limitless amounts of spare time and internet access), told me about Girl Talk.  That was the time of his breakout Night Ripper album from 2006.  The man behind Girl Talk has since released two more albums, most recently All Day this past November (as I previously wrote, on one of the better Mondays in recent history).

Last night I saw Girl Talk live for the first time.  The show was a sellout, as is his second show this evening, but I was delighted to see a lot of people mentioning on The Social Network that they were just discovering Girl Talk from the apparent flood of GT-related posting the night before (of which I am guilty of as well).  The spread of music recommendation through friends continues, which couldn't make me more happy.

As for the actual show, I always find chronicling such events challenging.  Unless there's some kind of humiliating story to occur separate from the show, I'm typically at a loss for words.  In relation, I don't tend to take many pictures as I tend to have tunnel focus keyed to enjoying the reasons I'm there.  I'm there to have fun.  However, I tried to take a few moments to take few pictures (included at the bottom of the post) and do want to share a few of my takeaway highlights:
Balloon Rescuer

  • Top highlight, in a runaway, was the unexpected sampling of one of my top 5 favorite songs of all time Peter Bjorn And John's "Young Folks"
  • Realized the kids around me weren't as into indie rock as I am judging to my reactions to samples such as Arcade Fire's "Wake Up" and Phoenix's "1901"
  • Knew the extended sample of John Lennon's "Imagine" was going to unite the crowd, but it still warmed my soul as if it was a surprise.
  • Shows in this genre are nonstop, lacking the typical pauses between songs in a rock concert - but I really loved the start of the "quazi-encore" was the opening part of 2008's Feed the Animals
There's another unique source of gratification for me whenever I'm able to erase a regret of my past, which was the case here.  No longer do I have to classify Girl Talk in that shrinking "I really wanted to go to the last concert, but wasn't able" category.