Thunder Rolls - The 2010 Trip Report



Best laid plans. I’m going to come Garth Brooks honest clean here (blatant foreshadowing), I had every intention of live blogging and tweeting during my last Vegas trip, taking picture, creating video . . . heck, pencil sketching even came to mind.

But it’s Vegas, man.

Who has time to geek out and multi-task like that?

Best I could do was snap a few random pics with my 1995 phone, take one video, and write unintelligible notes between the hours of 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. in my room with the lights turned off (not because I like darkness, but because I couldn’t find the switch).

Don’t despair though. I luckily have a very solid memory and putting pen to paper won’t be much of a chore at all. Typing this all out allows me to re-live some of these moments over again.

Let me start off with some basic background information here for those of you that have yet to read a trip report of mine. Every year there is a group of guys (I like to call them the crew) I travel with to Vegas. The purpose? Simple answer – Vegas. Who are these dudes? I think I described some of them in previous reports, but it bears mentioning again at the beginning of this story.

Whale Jo: Known since sixth grade. Best man at his wedding. Won scratch off lottery ticket with him (six figures). We have GREAT gambling luck together.

Smooth Chaz: Known for at least 17 years. First adult visit to Vegas was with Smooth Chaz – we waxed poetic this trip about our first walk down the strip, visiting haunts like the Desert Inn, the Sands, and the Frontier. First boyz trip to Vegas was with Smooth Chaz – stayed at the Mirage. Old school Vegas soul.

Frankie Styles: Known for at least 8 years. First got to know him when he accompanied us on a Vegas trip in 2003 to Barbary Coast. Extremely intelligent, smart and witty gentleman. Very good with the observational humor and strippers.

Buzzy: Known him for at least 20 years . . . went to college and after-college schools with him. Think George from Seinfeld meets Larry David. Buzzy never disappoints for some good Vegas stories (as you’ll find if you make it through this trip report – he’s the instigator of what will forever be known as “The Scallop Incident” at Okada).

We also had a few guest appearances this year. Hee-haw, my brother in law, decided to fly down for just one night. “P” flew down for two nights – Whale Jo and I have known him since sixth grade and it was his 40th birthday. And a character I’ll call “Thailand” – that’s where he flew in from. He’s a dude Whale Jo and I have also known since the sixth grade.

For this trip Whale Jo and I had booked a Salon Suite with a connecting Tower Suite Room, comped for four nights. Dinners were at Botero, Okada, Hugo’s, and Wazzuzu. Lunches worth mentioned were at Country Club and in-room dining that we ordered for a cocktail party Whale Jo and I hosted for the boyz. Gaming adventures consisted of Wynn, Encore, El Cortez and Four Queens. Extraneous activities (those that I define as non-gaming) included: a field trip to Spearmint Rhino, the Garth Brooks concert (1/23 at 10:30 p.m.), haircut at the Wynn Salon, and a four-handed massage at the Encore Spa. Gaming activities included: blackjack, let it ride, roulette, pai gow tiles, dealer’s bluff, video poker, and various forms of slots ranging from $.01 to $20 machines.

So there you have it. If you do have any questions about anything contained in this trip report, please do not hesitate to e-mail me.

Chapter One – “Let the Games Begin” (1/24/10)

This was the first boyz trip that I would be flying solo. Normally we’re all packed into the first class cabin, enjoying free drinks and reveling in the anticipatory energy that a Vegas trip creates.

As I’m walking on the plane I notice the person in front of me being greeted cheerfully by the flight attendants. I hear one of them mention “good luck in the contest”. Turns out she was Ms. Something or other heading down to the Ms. USA (or Ms. America) contest. Would she be in the seat next to me?

No, I got Carl the wholesale car buyer, complete with nervous twitch that must have developed during many a years of raising and lowering his hand at car auctions.

So, instead of engaging in high limit battles of mano y mano blackjack with Whale Jo, I’d have to be content entertaining myself.

Unfortunately, that entertainment came at a price. Fear.

The minute the big steel bird left the ground we hit some pretty nasty bumps. Instead of just laughing off the jolting and jumping, I instead freaked myself out by believing that we were going to crash.

Obviously that didn’t happen. But I did start drafting up an e-mail to send out in the case the plane did go down. Now that I look back on that e-mail – I don’t quite see the panic that I swear I thought I had felt. In any event, here’s what I wrote (I did not edit this – it’s cut and pasted as is):

On plane. Massive turbulence and drank b Mary in 30 sec on number 2 and listening to wind in willows . Somehow a story concerned with matters of talking animals is oddly comforting. #1 bm is now having a nice calming effectAnd WTF?!?!?Seat belt sign goes off just as I'm typing .I wish to weepI'll do so quietlyStill have one hour to goUh ohHere comes the shaking againI must say that the light playing off the person across the aisle's drink is strangely comfortingNow calmMy seaate just got up to go peeBut had to wait while flight lady cleaned up from my bumpy visitOooopsBps back plus a seemingly sideways yaw. I don't like yaw. I just cancelled my dinner.So that's my report from 35 k feetWell not quite now that it feels like weve hit some heavy shitAll I can wish for at this particular time is to be on firm groundOk my lumbering fingers are tired - must take a breakOf course as I go to put this down, we start really getting beat to shitFunny that the seatbelt sign is still offAhhhhhhhhh sweet smoothness4:05 signing off for now420 listening to Japanese language tape on iPod422 now staring at woman in front of my seat - looks like woman from weeds - but then she stands up and her back end is a bit askew size wizened30 min or so to goSun is outSmooth as glassJust learned the Japanese wir for you -WTF - it's four syllables.Just changed to the wonderf story of Henry sugara must Vegas readRoald dahlHe teaches himself to see the other side of cardsThough I don't think I'll get to that part of the storyShould be heading down soonJust got a Millie lightI think I'm buzzededOut
Indeed, the plane landed just fine. I was in row 2, so running off the plane was no problem. I immediately got on the horn to Whale Jo. He would be at the airport in five minutes with a limo.

I glided down to Level 0 and waited for the limo to arrive. Much to my surprise, Whale Jo pulled up in the Wynn’s Rolls Royce Phantom. God I love that car. We exchanged a few high fives, a couple shipits, and jumped back in the ride. I couldn’t believe I had finally made it to Vegas.

The ride back to Encore was pleasant enough. I have no idea which way our driver went. All I really remember is him gunning the Rolls at one point trying to run over a cab. “I hate cabs,” he muttered. I seriously think if the cab hadn’t moved out of the way that we would have hit it. Maybe that explains what the notches on the driver’s seatbelt meant.

Arrival at the Encore Tower Suites was a serene moment. The gentle nuanced smell that wafted from the open doors told me I was back “home”. I quickly checked in and we hustled up to the rooms. For this trip we had our hosts book us a Salon Suite with a connecting Tower Suite room. I have a video of the place, but need to figure out how to condense it so it fits on the blog. For now you’ll have to make do with my description of the place.

I first went through the doors of the Tower Suite room, put my bags down and slowly opened up the connecting door. Nice and heavy, it glided open as if by magic.

I staggered back, a giant “Shipit” yell caught in my throat.

The main area of the Salon Suite was HUGE.

I mean, forget for a moment the 65” flatscreen, the massage room, the wet bar, the dining area, the sitting area, the 500 lbs. art book . . . the sheer size of the space was enormous. I felt oddly compelled to do only one thing.

I started doing a full on sprint around the room, screaming like a stuck pig.

I shut that activity down fairly quickly, as there was no way I wanted to start out the trip with a pulled hammy. It was time to do some gaming.

Our room was on the 52nd (42nd floor in the real world – Steve doesn’t have floors numbered 40 – 49 in his world) so the ride down the elevator was just lengthy enough for Whale Jo and I to plan our initial attack.

First stop – Wizard of Oz. I wanted to cane the monkeys – cane them HARD.

The machines were located in the same general area that I remembered from the April 2009 trip. Some woman was grinding away at $.10 a spin, so no way for Whale Jo and I to play the games together. I briefly thought about sneaking around the side of the machine and ducking down so that I could then pop up between her legs and yell “Boo!”, but before I could put that thought into action she left.

Shipit time.

It felt sooooo good sliding a hundo (hundred dollar bill) into the big metallic shiny happy machine. I caressed my game appropriately and began to play. Wouldn’t you know it – both of our machines were singing. A magic Glinda bonus here, flying monkey bonus there. After only about ½ hour we were up a total of $600 - $300 each. Not a bad start at all.

As an aside, I should mention that as part of the copious amount of planning for this trip, Whale Jo and I had decided to really concentrate our gaming on pooled play. What’s that mean? Basically how it sounds – we were going to pool our money together. Whenever we played a slot machine, we’d either put the equal amount into the same machine or the equal amount in to different machines. If we won, we split the winnings. Losing we obviously absorbed equally as well. On table games it was going to work somewhat similarly. The only exception was blackjack. When we played blackjack we’d just play one hand instead of two.

So now we are officially up in Vegas. It was time to press our luck and find out if this was going to be a good night or if the WOZ machines were just employed sausage teasers on the Wynn payroll.

As we got up from the WOZ machines and looked over at the pit, and empty table turned its lonely eyes to us. Let it Ride. Why not?

We decided for this game to play two hands, so we both bought in for five hundo and started by playing single greens on the Let it Ride bets and $50 on the three card bonus hand (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, go do some research on the game and come back.). Whale Jo and I also added a little wrinkle to the betting. We could up the bets on the Let it Ride portion to $50 a spot and up the three card bonus to $75, but we could only do this twice. However, if we hit during a “bump up” we retained the right to do it again.

For the first few hands, we did quite nicely, getting a pair here, a flush there. Then, BOOM, the first real hit of the trip thundered down from the gambling gods.


With a spastic little shimmy, Whale Jo showed me his hand.

All the same suit. Flush!

I looked closer.

Consecutive cards. Straight!

The connection was made.

Straight Flush.


$50 bet.


Yessssssssssss. Now we were getting somewhere.

We were paid in two bumblebees. I sunk one of them deep into my pocket so as to suffocate it. No way I was letting that little bee out of my pocket to play. Whale Jo did the same.

We continued playing for about another ½ hour. As we were getting ready to leave, I peeled back my hand.

Three of the same number . . . 30-1.

$50 out.

That equals another nice little payday!!!!!

Shipit. The run was on.

We decided with this level of success that all signs pointed to running directly to the high limit black jack tables. I had dreams of a chocolate chip filling my head.

Alas, the high limit room was not quite as kind as the lowly little Let it Ride table had been. We got up, then down, then up, then down . . . we finally walked after giving just a smidge of the profit back. We were still playing with house money. It was a perfect time to hit the first dinner of the trip – Botero.

It was odd, looking into Botero from the outside, the place looked completely empty and dead. But once we walked in, it was clear that the restaurant was packed and full of good energy. I think my confusion came from looking at the outside seating – the weather last Wednesday (1/20) was atrocious.

Luckily there were a few two spots left open, so there was no problem getting seated right away – which was good – I was starving.

Having already looked at the menu online, I was pre-locked in to what I was going to order. Steak Tartare and a petite filet. Raw meat followed by lightly cooked meat. A meal a real tiger could love. Oh, and I wanted the onion rings. Whale Jo decided to add to that an order of some sort of crab appetizer, a side of mushrooms and a NY steak. Top it off with a bottle of Malbec and the ordering portion of the evening was done within five minutes.

The wine came fairly quickly and after doing a quick man toast to Vegas (that’s where you clink your glasses hard enough to almost break and to let everyone else around you know that your dinner isn’t straight out of Brokeback Mountain), the appetizers found themselves front and center on our table.

I posted a picture of the tartare appetizer on the blog – go check it out. Not a high quality pic, but it’ll give you a good idea of how the plate is laid out.

God I love steak tartare. There’s just something primal in me that really enjoys chewing on cold dead flesh . . . (lightly seasoned of course). Also, back in another time, I was a waiter and had the pleasure of making tartare tableside. I absolutely hated being a waiter – I couldn’t do anything right. Even opening wine – it seemed that for months I would use the line with my tables, “It’s my first night here, I’m not comfortable opening your wine, would you please do it for me?” I always loved people’s reactions to that. But making the steak tartare tableside – that was the one portion of my job I loved and why I didn’t quit after the first day.

So the dish arrives and it takes great restraint for me not to plant my face directly into the chopped raw steak and just molar it into submission. Instead, I enjoy looking at it for a few seconds, then I take one of the toast points and make an angry stab at the tiny little quail egg resting atop the meat.

As I am doing so, I wonder what kind of conversation those two had on their way out of the kitchen . . .

Egg: Hey.

Steak: Hey.

Egg: Where you from?

Steak: A cow. You?

Egg: Quail.

Before I can get any further with that dialogue in my head, the toast point with dripping egg and raw beef hits my mouth.


Everything from the taste, to the texture, to the pleasure was just so wrong, but in a good way. The smooth custardniness of the egg, combined with the cold bits of kobe beef brought me to a place I love to go. You know how runners talk about the “runner’s high” – well this tartare, my friends, gave me an eater’s high. What an epicuriously delightful state of mind . . . if not a little frightening. When the tartare was gone, I had a brief thought of cutting my pinkie off so that I’d have a little raw meat left to dab up some of the egg yolk that still gelatinously oozed around the fringes of the plate.

In addition to the tartare, we also had some sort of crab appetizer. Unfortunately, due to my love affair with the raw steak, this crab was sort of overlooked by me. I do remember that whatever it was, it tasted outstanding.

Next up were the main courses and sides. Filet for me, NY for Whale Jo. Both with the chimi-something or other rub. Debating whether to go to SW or Craftsteak or some other steak place not called “Prime” – book your seat at Botero folks. Second (tied with Country Club) best steak I’ve ever had in Vegas. It is so shipitliciously sinfully good that I wish I had ordered two just so I could carry the extra one around to rub for good luck. Perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked. The sides were an A+ as well. I wish the onion rings had been a little smaller – but only so that I could have stuffed them all in my mouth at once. As it is, I gave it a good go. The mushrooms I didn’t have – but that’s only because I couldn’t stop hitting on my steak.

In the end, it was funny, despite how delicious everything was and how perfectly sized the portions seemed, both of us ended up with a lot left on the plate. So, we had the waiter box it up. After charging the meal to Mr. Wynn, we decided to get back to the gaming. We figured that we’d pressed our luck enough at Encore, so it was time to visit Wynn.

In hindsight, perhaps it would have been better to stay at Encore . . . I mean, why leave a fishing hole when the fish are biting, right?

Instead of falling into more good luck, we were attacked by the bad luck gaming sharks right off the bat at Wynn. The first game we tried, $5 VP, sucked money out faster than a hooker with a hoover transplanted in her throat. So we moved over to the old trusty Jackpot Party machines. Nothing. One party, pooper picked right off the bat. Ouch. The profit was dwindling.

As we were heading to the pit, we decided to give a $5 WOF machine a try. After a couple spins, a sweet reward was had.

The first hand pay of the trip. Ahhhhh. Lady Luck was back. Turns out she had been on a bathroom break.

We took our reloaded house money and went over to try this new game called Dealer’s Bluff. If you are thinking about playing this game – don’t – it is terrible. They might as well call it “Bend Over and Let Us Rip You a New Hole” . . . . the only somewhat entertaining part of playing this game was watching Whale Jo try and take back chips after he lost. This brought a little bit of heat from the pit boss, so we moved games. Back to Let it Ride. This game brought us a little more firepower . . . just enough to make it worth it to give the high limit black jack at Wynn a try.

I had to make a run to the little boy’s room, so I handed one of my bumble bees to Whale Jo and told him to make some money. I figured with $2k, he’d be able to do a little something. Well, in the six minutes it took me to go and come back, he’d managed to almost completely wipe the $2k out and had put more cash in the game. Quite a bit of cash. He kept having some good runs, but then would try and maximize profit and get slapped down.

When the stack got down to $300, it was time for me to give it a go.

Much to my surprise, we finally hit a magic shoe. I couldn’t lose. I don’t remember specific hands, how much I was betting, nothing. All I remember is that when I started I had three black chips and when the run ended, I had $6k sitting in front of me. After tallying it all up, both of us were back ahead for the trip.

Looking at my watch, it was getting close to 2 a.m. I had to get up early for a haircut (note to self, get hair cut at home before the trip). I really didn’t want to boot in the hairdresser’s sink, so I called it a night. Whale Jo, despite yearning to hit the town, also retired. There were still three more nights to go after all.


Chapter Two – “The Boyz Are Back in Town” (1/21/10)

So I get to the room to get some much needed sleep and realize I need to get up quite early for a haircut I had booked a while back. I order a wakeup call and as my head falls to the pillow . . .

Cut to: Me waking up from some nightmare where I live in a watery world but can’t swim . . . and am H2O intolerant.

Wow, that was some quick sleep. I look at the clock, 7:15 a.m. The cut’s booked for 9 a.m., so looks like I won’t need that wake up call after all – there’s no going back to beddie-bye at this point. I’m in VEGAS.

After shaving, showering and downing a Powerade from the mini-bar, I head out into the world. My fuzzy memory replays some of the events from the night before. I smile . . . I’ve managed to survive the first night.

One small detail I forgot in drafting the report from the first night concerns the reactions by Whale Jo during the run where I turned $300 into $6k. At first we both had the normal excited reactions people have when winning money. Yelling, “Hooray!” or “Shipit!” or even “Brubaker!”. But as I continued to win, Whale Jo got increasingly excited. Why not? It actually kept me loose and definitely entertained the dealers and pit bosses around us (it being a Wednesday night, many many empty tables). It wasn’t too long before the words coming out of Whale Jo’s mouth made no sense. I’d get a 21 and yell “Shipit!” and Whale Jo would follow up with some medieval werewolf howl and a cackle. I’d split and get paid on both hands . . . Whale Jo would scream “Monkey” so loud that one would think an actual monkey would have been loose. I believe a few “Yabbadabbados” may have been sprinkled within the symphony of yells. No doubt about it though, by the end of the run he just plain wasn’t making any sense . . . I’m surprised we didn’t get back doored by security.

Anyway, back to the present day, I pop a couple hundos in various machines as I saunter over to the Wynn Salon. Hmmm. Nothing hits. Must be too early to travel down the rabbit hole. Machines are sleeping. I don’t sweat it too much. I can make back those hundos after the cut.

I had a little trouble finding the Spa/Salon. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I knew where I was supposed to go to get to the Spa/Salon, I just had a little bit of a mental squeeze play that almost kept me from getting to where I wanted to go. Prior to departing my room, I had pinpointed my destination on the property map and I even found a sign pointing to where the Salon was supposed to be . . . but when I arrive where X was supposed to mark the spot, I instead find a sign outside the door proclaiming “Pool is Closed”. For numerous reasons, this confuses me. The way the sign is placed makes it look like, unless you have proper authorization, there is no stepping through the threshold. So, instead of opening the door and finding out if my irrational logic was correct, I choose to walk around like a retread, I suppose hoping that someone will come along and either remove the sign or go through the doors. Neither happens. My next move is to try and talk to this security guard I spy. However as I get close to him, some other patrons start chatting him up. Not wanting to be polite and interrupt, I casually saunter by. But then I realize I don’t have anywhere to go. This further confuses me. I head towards the tables and then pretend I lost something and look back the way I had come. A dialogue starts in my head between the part of my brain that is putting this stupid charade on and the part of my brain that would like to have a haircut. However, this throws me off as I should only have one voice talking in my head. I return to the security guard, seeing that he is no longer occupied. But as I get close he disappears down a hallway. WTF? I head back towards the “Pool is Closed” sign, genuinely hoping it reads differently. Nope. So I walk over to the Buffet, which is right across from the sign and the closed doors, with hopes of talking to a hostess about this increasingly troubling predicament. But nobody is at the front greeting desk. I head back to where the security guard went, praying that he’ll materialize. Nope. So I go back to the sign. It’s the same. Buffet. Nobody there. Security hallway. Empty. I repeat this little triangular dance a couple times and finally just stop. Seriously? What is it about this stupid “Pool is Closed” sign that has me unable to make any sort of decisive move? Just as I’m about to call it quits, a different security guard appears. I run him down. “Sir, could you please tell me where the Spa and Salon is?” The guard cocks one eyebrow and points to the door ten feet away. “Through that door.” Does he not see the “Pool is Closed” sign. “But the sign says the pool is closed,” I mumble. He walks over to the door, opens it up and points to the elevator inside. “Just go up, not down.”

Jesus. What a start.

I make my way to the Salon desk. The Wynn Spa and Salon area is very nice – having never been in a resort Spa, I have (well until my trip to the Encore Spa the next day) nothing to compare it to. Seems relaxing. Seems like there’s a lot more women than men. Especially waiting for a haircut. There are no men. Only women. And giant bubble hair drier thingies. Pleasant music and nice smells waft in and out of nostrils and ear holes.

Eventually my “stylist” comes to get me. A nice, affable, Danish man. He asks me when I last had my haircut. I say, “I don’t remember.” I’m not sure why. Sure, I do remember getting it cut a few months back, but just don’t remember the exact date and time. Then he asks if I put something in my hair. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. But instead of telling him this, I merely pantomime, or rather, attempt to pantomime what the product looks like. This is met with a sigh. He motions me to get up to follow him to the shampoo area. I do, but not before putting down my cup of coffee on his “area”. This movement is met with steely death rays from his eyeballs. Guess I should have asked. It’s just a cup of coffee though. What else was I supposed to do with it? I wonder what his look would have been had I put a Danish down. Cue cymbals. I’m here all night. Don’t forget to tip your waitstaff!

Thankfully the rest of the time goes with out any other incidents. Actually, we ended up having some great conversations about life changing events, Las Vegas real estate, and British comedy. And the chop chop I received? Not too bad. Would I go back there again? No. Would I recommend it to someone who wants to pay for a trim in Vegas? Yes.

Finally having my one set in stone obligation out of the way, I made haste back to Encore to meet up with Whale Jo for some late morning gaming. Smooth Chaz, Frankie Styles, and Buzzy were due to arrive at Encore around 2 p.m. The plan was to get some time in at the tables, meet the boyz as they came in, then head to the Suite for some cocktails and noshes.

I called up to the room. Whale Jo was up – he thought maybe it’d be a good idea to get room service breakfast. I agreed. I needed a little pre-gaming fuel. I rushed up to the room and we put in an order. I had eggs benedict, some sort of smoothie, coffee, and beignets with chocolate dipping sauce. The food came very quickly. Fricking awesome. Now I was in a good frame of mind to make some positive gaming advances.

When we hit the floor, we try running four Wheel of Fortune machines at once. One hundo in each. No big hits right off and soon some of the machines ran empty. No worries, just stick some more hundos in! Eventually though, all tanks ran dry. I’m not sure what we flushed on this event, but it was not a good start.

No worries, there was always the Wizard of Oz machine. I could always count on some sort of profit from this game.

Not today. More hundos continued to disappear.

Maybe Let it Ride would be the flush stopper.


Nor was Roulette. We both hit numbers on the first couple of spins, even got up $700. But that was all soon scooped off the board.

Back to Wizard of Oz . . . more hundos. I was started to feel a little panicked.

About the only good thing that happened in the morning was a nice encounter I had with a cocktail waitress at the WOZ machine. It felt sort of like I was piloting a plummeting aircraft and, when I had my little interaction with her, my aircraft suddenly regained the power of flight and I was soaring back to the clouds. What happened was this -- she brought over my first Bud Light of the day and when she handed it to me, she sort of drew it back, feinted if you will. Of course, at this point, I was pretty cracked out from playing and losing that I just thought my vision was impaired. I reached for the beer again, she pulled it away. I reached, she pulled away. Reach. Empty hand. I finally realized what was going on and looked up at her meekly. Her smile melted away the anxiety I was having from losing. Unfortunately, as soon as she walked away, my airship lost the wind in its wing, and the spiraling descent continued.

There was only one way to stop the inevitable, clichéd, conclusion. Whale Jo and I needed a gigantor parachute . . . i.e. high limit black jack. Either we’d get our money scooped or we’d find some magic. No choice at this point really.

Right off the bat, it was clear that the table was indeed magic.

Black dirty voodoo magic.

First buy-in was for $1k each. Scoop. The chips were gone. The boyz called after that first flush to let us know that they were en route to Encore.

Shite. How about another $600 each? The clock was ticking. I got another call from Smooth Chaz, just curious what we were doing. I couldn’t piece together the words. I just watched in horror as the dealer continued to condemn Whale Jo’s chips to death row.

But, just as soon as I hung up, Whale Jo managed to string together a series of bets that suddenly had $6k sitting in front of him. “Call it – we’re out of here”. Whale Jo colored up and we ran away from the tables. Ahhhh. Ammo back in pocket. The boyz were arriving. The reset button had just been pressed. It was time to take a break from the gaming and do some entertaining.

Whale Jo and I sped through the main lobby and out the front doors. We stood off to the side and watched for a black sedan to pull up. Sure enough, only after about a minute, the boyz’ car arrived. The “Holy Shite, I can’t believe I’m in Vegas” look on their collective faces was priceless. After they spotted us and we exchanged welcome to Vegas pleasantries, it was time to head back up to the Suite and order some food.

Wynncore actually has a nice, albeit small, selection of different types of noshes. We opted for some orders of chicken fingers, chips and dip, cold seafood tower, pork buns, and a few other things. Also ordered some beer and bubbly. A perfect Vegas afternoon late lunch. As soon as we ordered all this, I bumped back our Okada reservation from 7:30 to 8:30 . . . I certainly did not want to risk hitting Okada on anything but an empty stomach.

The boyz arrived at the Suite, the food came, we ate, laughed, drank, and laughed some more. I’m sure everyone thinks they have funny friends – but really – these dudes are hilarious. Nothing better than knocking back some brewskies on a cold January day . . . IN VEGAS.

After polishing off most of the food and the booze, it was time to hit the floor. I so much wanted to believe that the fellas had flown in with an ample supply of luck.

Unfortunately, the losing continued. We tried pooling a hundo each into a WOF machine. I think we would have had more fun lighting our shoes on fire and running through the lobby, betting $100 on who could get out of the casino without getting pummeled by security.

It’s funny, as I look back over notes from that afternoon, the only legible entry I can read is “Hard to write losing”. Indeed. Also hard to keep such memories alive in the neuro-databank. Maybe it’ll come to me when I’m writing another day . . . maybe not.

Jumping ahead, really the next thing I remember is heading up to the room to do a quick wardrobe change for dinner at Okada. Despite the bad luck streak, my spirits were high knowing that some incredible sushi was about to be consumed.

We had a nice table for five right in the front center of the restaurant. I will say that service was very slow when we first arrived. It probably took at least ten or fifteen minutes before any of us had a cocktail in our hand. But once our waiter turned his attention to us, the food and booze flowed. Whale Jo took care of ordering appetizers and the grilled food, I took care of putting in a massive sushi order.

First out of the gate were two plates of coconut shrimp. It was much like seeing an old friend after a long period of being apart. Only difference being that in real life you either shake hands, hug, or maybe kiss this friend. In the food world you stick the friend in your mouth and perform a little third degree mastication. With such a good friend as these coconut shrimp, I even threw in a little tongue. Yum.

From the robata grill came skewers of chicken, asparagus, hunks of pork, and scallops. All perfectly cooked and delicately seasoned. I only had a nibble of a few of these because I was becoming concerned about the size of the sushi order I had put in. In the back of my mind, I was finding there was a disconnect between what I think I ordered and what I actually ordered. I literally think I had suffered an sudden bout of numerological dyslexia. But before I could unravel this issue, the table was thrown into an event that forever shall be known as “The Scallop Incident”.

No, we didn’t get a plate of bad seafood and, no, nobody at the table flopped on the floor and pretended to be a scallop.

Instead, we got a sudden proclamation from Buzzy that “these aren’t real scallops, these are made out of white fish.”


Buzzy emphatically exclaimed that it was his solemn belief that Okada was substituting firm fleshed white fish and passing it off as scallops.

“Look at the vein”

I had no idea what he was talking about. I had gone to school with Buzzy – and if memory serves me correctly, he didn’t take no marine biology classes.

Whale Jo scoffed at the notion and bet Buzzy $100 that he was wrong. The rest of the table chastised him. But, if you knew Buzzy, you’d know that any argument we were to throw forth would be met with stone-walled hostility. There’s no changing his mind on this.

As we were in the middle of this heated debate the waiter passed by to check on our table. He overheard our discussion and politely remarked, “Those are scallops.”

Oh no. He should have just walked away.

No sooner were those words out of his mouth when Buzzy shot straight out of his chair, thrust his hand towards the waiter and announced, “I’ll bet you $100 too!”.

The waiter, though surprised, dutifully shook Buzzy’s hand and said, “I’ll be right back.”

Buzzy sat back, arms crossed, and smugly retorted, “No way he can prove they’re scallops.”

In about a minute the waiter returned. He brought with him a dish with raw scallops in it. “Sir, this is what we use back in the kitchen, and they most assuredly are scallops”.

“Yes, I know those are scallops. But that doesn’t prove that these are scallops. These are whitefish.” Buzzy jabbed his finger at the skewer.

“No, they are scallops.”

“No, they are whitefish.”

And with that, there was no question that a standoff had been reached. Unless we could actually have the scallops that had been served to us tested in some accredited scallops verification facility, there was no convincing Buzzy he was wrong.

Sigh. Good ole Buzzy.

When the waiter left, this got the table to talking about some of the other “Incidents” involving Vegas and Buzzy.

The infamous “Luxor Poker Room Incident” . . . Buzzy demands that security get him the video tapes of his poker game because the people he was playing against kept getting better hands than his.

The “Barbary Coast Incident” . . . related to the above. On the first day in Vegas, Buzzy gets back from playing poker at Luxor at 7 a.m. and we don’t see him for the next two days as he stays in bed the whole time.

The “MGM Incident” . . . Buzzy demands that his room get comped after he alleges that the casino purposefully took too long in bringing him a cup of coffee while he played blackjack. His claim? Had they come sooner with the drink he would not have lost as much money. Funny result? It works.

The “Craftsteak Incident” . . . Upon being disappointed with the quality of his steak, Buzzy lectures the waiter for ½ hour on the proper way to cook a steak and demands that the waiter go back and educate the chefs.

This year he actually did have an “Incident” that was pretty serious and justified his demands of being comped. When he checked into his room at Encore he found poo on the toilet. Not “in”, but “on”. As in, someone finger painted with doo doo on the outside of the bowl. Is there anyone out there that’s going to say that’s OK? I wouldn’t expect that sort of find even at Imperial Palace. After reporting this to Encore management, it sounds as if there was no immediate action taken. That is, if I remember correctly, it took quite a while for housekeeping to remove the brown paint. What did the hotel do for Buzzy? He got one night comped. Buzzy believes he should have had the whole trip paid for – but at least he received some sort of fair restitution.

So back to Okada. Despite the Scallop Incident, the waiter remained quite friendly to our table. It wasn’t but a minute or two after clearing off the appetizers that the mountains of sushi arrived. As I had feared, my ordering had been way off. There was enough raw fish on the table to make a penguin smile. Oh well, we’d do our best.

I made it through about six pieces. All perfectly cut, at the perfect temperature, and the perfect texture. I looked around at the boyz. Most of them had reached their limit too. But looking down at the table it looked as if nobody had taken one piece. Thankfully, Buzzy came to the rescue. I think he single handedly finished off 30 pieces. Maybe he’s part penguin . . .

Despite having had my fill, I needed to order uni. I could hear it calling from the kitchen. How was the quality this time? All I can say is WOW. The waiter said it came from San Diego, but I think it came straight from some secret undersea stash only known to Aquaman. This wasn’t just sea urchin . . .this was sea SHIPIT urchin. As I type this and relive the memory, tears are streaming down my face. There ain’t no uni right now up in the waters near where I live . . . so the best I could hope for I suppose is going to the beach and finding a smooth stone and licking it. But that would be a lot like settling for beef jerkey when you craved a grade A piece of moo-flesh. Oh my uni . . . my lovely lovely uni.

And, after a quick nip of sake, the dinner was finished. Thank you Mr. Wynn.

Upon the completion of this incredible meal, I concluded that there was only one way the night could end . . . a huge run.

And boy.

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.

Was I wrong.

We found an open craps table at Wynn and laid down some coin. Everyone was rolling hot. Chips were filling up in everyone’s trays. Everyone except mine. It felt like I was winning, but every time I recounted, I had less chips. It wasn’t until after the rolling was done, and everyone was smiling over there wins that I realized what I had done.

Instead of betting smart and sticking with the safe bets. I had thrown my money at the prop bets. Unless someone had blatantly stolen my chips, that’s the only explanation. I guess I had fallen in love with the sound of my voice bellowing out “$5 MIDNIGHT”, “$25 MIDNIGHT” . . .

This put me in a sour mood.

So it was probably not a good idea to hit the high limit room with Whale Jo.


I stumbled out of there looking for redemption . . . but, as the siren call of the machines tried to draw me in, I finally made a good call. Elevator. Hallway. Door. Bed.


Tomorrow had to be better. Additional friends were coming in, we had some downtown activities at El Cortez and Hugo’s planned, a four handed massage was on the books . . .

As my eyes slammed shut, I had a feeling that, as fun as things had been, we were all about to enter the REAL meat of the trip.

Chapter Three – Friday – “Strange Dayz” (1/22/10)

Cough, cough, almost boot.

Ahhhh. Good morning Vegas. Good morning Encore.

Good morning bad ominous feeling hanging over my head.

It takes me a minute or two to shake whatever foreboding webbing had covered me during the night, but eventually I clear it off and am ready to start another Vegas day. Back a few years ago this would be the return home day . . . now I still had two more wakeups in front of me . . .still trying to figure out how that happened. Was there such a thing as too much Vegas?


I peek in to the Suite to see if Whale Jo is up . . . he’s not . . .must have been a late night I guess. I opt to head down to the casino floor to grab a muffin and coffee and attempt to start the day off on the right foot. There’s no line at that little café/lounge that sits between the regular check in area and the elevators so I have my morning fuel lickety split. I sit down and get ready to slowly enjoy this wondrous blueberry muffin and . . .

and . . .

The machines.

I can hear them calling.

I take three bites of the muffin and call it good. I took my black cup o’ joe with me.

It takes all I can do not to sprint. I’m afraid that if I break into a run that I won’t be able to stop and that, a la Harry Potter, I’ll be magically transported to a secret train station gate. Sure. I probably could stand to take a few classes at Hogwarts and hand out with tweener magicians. But right now I wanted to game. I wanted to will from the land of random luck a major hot streak. The time was now and I would not be denied.

As I got close to the machines, I felt a tractor beam lock onto my body. It was no use fighting, I had been chosen. The good ole Wizard of Oz machine wanted me. Happily I submitted. I feed the machine a hundo.


Did the machine just burp?

Another hundo.

It’s laughing?

What was in that muffin?

I give it one more try. Nothing. What made matters worse was watching someone sit down at the machine next to me and hit three Glinda bonus rounds within the span of five minutes. Grrrrr. Why does that happen. That gave me a mean case of Slot Envy. Grrrrr..

Why is that lady looking at me?

Oh, I guess I growled out loud. Ooops. Sorry ma’am.

I slither away. As I wind my way through various slot machines, I spy a game I have not played. Survivor Slots.

If you’ve seen the show on TV, you’ll recognize some of the characters that are used on the spinning video reels. Rupert, Rudy and some girl . . . Jenni? Julie? Jerri. That’s it. Jerri.

Here’s an objective summary of how the game works. You spin the reels. If you get at least three matching symbols in the first three reels, then you get bonus spins. All non-matching symbol spaces re-spin. If you get a match on those, the machine will spin again. And again. And again. Each res-pin has this sound attached to it that resembles a cross between a time machine and jet engine. And for each re-spin that noise gets louder and louder. So that if you get five or six spins in a row you really do expect the hand of some otherworldly god to reach and pull you into the machine. If you get a really big win, the machine lets off a massive alarm that will test the strength of your heart.

Oh, and the bonus round . . . .

If you get five bonus symbols it takes you to the Survivor Bonus Round. This consists of you first choosing one of four (maybe five) Survivor Logos. Depending on how you choose you’ll go to either the Stone, Copper, Silver, or Gold Level. Once there, you pick another symbol. Some of the symbols just have credits behind them, others have stuff like “3x, Choose Again” or even “Collect all Rewards” . . .

I cannot tell you why I immediately became addicted to this game. It seemed at first that there was a very sweet symbiotic relationship working between me and this machine. I actually hit some nice wins and at one point was even up about three hundo. But then, it happened.

The beautiful symbiosis I thought I had felt went bad.

Very bad.

This machine wasn’t interested in deriving a mutual benefit from our relationship. No sir. This machine was a Grade A parasite destined to suck whatever optimism I had left in my blood.

I could not stop playing. It felt like someone else was in control of my body. I felt really dirty. Really sad. But still couldn’t stop playing this game. I wanted the bonus round. I wanted a screen full of Rudy’s (which I eventually almost got, save two or so squares, the picture of that screen is over on the blog). I wanted more BIG WIN alarms. I wanted to hear that haunting theme music, just like in the show. If I could have figured out how to make that trademark sing song howl . . . I would have bellowed that sound in hopes that someone would save me from the grasp of this machine.

Luckily my phone buzzed and the spell was broken.

I seriously was put in a trance. No joke. I bet if I had stood under a black light that I would have discovered a strange rubric of symbols covering my body . . .

I still get chills thinking about the Survivor machine. Play at your own peril.

Thank goodness it was time to head over to the Spa for a four handed massage.

A couple things you should know about me . . . context if you will . . . concerning me and massages and spas.

(a) I’ve never had a professional massage.
(b) I’ve never stepped foot in a spa.
(c) I have issues with public nudity.
(d) I’m ticklish.

I think those four about cover why I had a slight bit of trepidation walking into the Spa.

I met up with Whale Jo down in the Encore lobby and we made our way up the elevators to the Spa check in counter. Walking into the Encore Spa calmed my nerves. There was soothing music playing and the décor was refined and obviously meant to invoke a feeling of a safe place.

We were meeting up with Smooth Chaz and Frankie Styles – turns out they had checked in well before hand and had been enjoying the various Spa amenities.

Whale Jo and I were led in to the men’s spa locker area.

“Um, now what?”

Whale Jo has been to a spa or two in his life and I figured he’d be able to guide me through the appropriate protocol.

“Get nude and put that robe on.”

I looked in my locker and there was, what looked to me, the tiniest women’s robe on earth.

“Just that?”

“Yep. I’ll see you in there.”

And with that, Whale Jo disappeared through the side door that led to where the massages take place.

I poked at the robe.

It didn’t bite my hand.

I took a deep breath.

Bam. Clothes off. Robe on.

Not as small as I had pictured it to be . . . and actually comfortable. Huh – not bad.

I slipped on some sandals and made my way to the massage area door.

What I entered into was nothing short of WOW.

A small “shipit” escaped from my mouth.

The tranquility of the massage waiting room was unreal. When I stepped through the door from the locker room it was as if I had entered another world. Comfortable lounge chairs were spread throughout the room. Soft, warm lighting made the room feel as if it were bathed in light from a setting golden sun. The music playing in this room was a bit different than what had been in the main spa area. Haunting . . . but in a good way. The otherworldliness I felt was pretty cool.

I could feel tension and awkwardness oozing out of my pores . . . in their place smooth and groove. This wasn’t gonna be all that bad!

Then the therapists starting coming out. One by one, a therapist would materialize and call out a name. “Mr. Chaz?”

I looked up. She was cute! Lucky Chaz.

I had the weird sensation of being transported back in time to some 18th century brothel . . . . I really had to remind myself that I was at the Encore.

“Mr. Jaco?”

I stood up, careful to make sure my robe did its job and covered the necessary southern exposure.

Since I was booked for a four handed massage, I expected to see two therapists, but only the one. She quickly explained that the other therapist would be meeting us in our room.

Then she took me through another door.

I am not sure if my memory is correct – all I can do now is repeat what my brain is suggesting happened. When walking out of the waiting room into what appears to be a passageway to different massage rooms, I literally felt as if I had passed through to the other side. Odd feeling. There was a whiteness about the space . .. white stones bordering some sort of serene pathway . . . bushes . . .pretty sure some kind of shrubbery adorned whatever it was I was walking on. Music . . . harp music I think.

We finally arrived at my “room” and were met by the other therapist. Wow, these were two small, petite women. They ushered me inside the massage room. The room itself was dimly lit, with a massage table draped in a flimsy white sheet in the center. Had I just fallen trick to some organ harvesters?

“Mr. Jaco, is there anything that you’d like to tell us about yourself before we begin?”

“Uh, first massage for me.”

Why did it sound like I was speaking baby-talk?

“Your first massage at Encore?”

“No ma’am. My first massage ever.”

Both therapists giggled.

I giggled.

Wait, I don’t giggle.

I smiled. That’s better.

“Wow. You are in for a surprise. Once you’ve had four hands, you’ll never do two.”

Did she really just say that?

“Do you have any particularly tight spots that you’d like us to concentrate?”

Oh, you have no idea.

“Um, not really. I’m good with all over. Whatever.”

We stood there for an awkward moment. What was I supposed to do next? Disrobe? Turn and cough?

I shuffled my feet in hopes that this would let them know I was at a loss on how to proceed.

“Mr. Jaco, we’re going to step outside and you can get out of your robe and get under the sheet on this table. We’ll knock before we come back in.”

“Just like a bed?”

They didn’t answer. I was alone. I noticed the music in the background . . . soothing New Age . . .

I quickly disrobed, got spooked when I noticed there was another naked man in the room looking at me, but quickly calmed down when I realized it was just a big mirror. I awkwardly pawed my way onto the massage table and got under the covers.

Now what?

Maybe the therapists were playing some sort of massage joke on me, but it sure seemed like they gave me 10 minutes to do what only took 1. I finally heard their knock on the door.

“May we come in”

“Mmmmm. mmmmmmm.”

My face was pressed down against the donut at the top of the massage table, so talking wasn’t easy – but they understood and entered.

I was very very very very very very nervous at this point. What if they touched me and it tickled? Was it appropriate? Would they then continue to tickle me? Could anyone hear me in this place?

Then one of the therapists cupped her hand under my face with some sort of fragrant oil.

“Breath deeply three times Mr. Jaco. This will relax you.”

Am I being put down?

I decided to relax and go with it.

One deep breath.

Hey – this smells pretty good. Is that pine?

Another deep breath.

Ahhhh. This is relaxing.

Third deep breath.

I think I might pass out.

The therapists then pulled the sheet tight over me. Phew. Thought they might take it off.

Then I felt slight pressure on my back. Just a hand pressing down on my lower spine. Then another hand. Then another. Then one more. Four.


Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.

This was going to be fun.

However, before I could totally relax, the sheet was peeled off my top half . . .

OK. Big deal.

Then I heard the therapists getting lubed up. Big squirts of something, followed by rapid squishy hand movements.

Then they touched me.

Words cannot do justice to what these therapists did to me. It wasn’t sexual – believe me, if it was, I’d have no problem writing about it. No, this was spiritual. Extratranscedentaspiritual if there’s such a word. I swear they not only worked the knots out of my muscles, but they unhindered complicated puzzles that had been trapping my soul.

There were times where I literally wanted to weep – I was cocooned into a dream-like state where nothing in the world mattered. At times I swore I was high above the earth, on clouds, being rubbed out by angels.

Think of a place where you are the most comfortable. Times that by 1000. Then add on a time when you felt stress free. Times that by another 1000 and you might come close to feeling what I felt.

Did it tickle? At the beginning. But it didn’t matter. They worked through it.

In fact, there was only one small moment when the spell was broken and that’s when my stomach growled to alert anyone within a five block radius that the previous night’s dinner was done percolating.

I heard a giggle.

“It’s quiet in massage rooms”

Smooth soothing voice.

Then one of their stomachs growled.

Get out of here. That sounded like a scene out of Jurassic Park. One dinosaur calls, some other dino far away answers.



Pretty neat trick.

Back to the rubbing.

Oh – and the pulling . . . at one point they both had a hold of me and made me feel like I was being drawn and quartered. They had to have been pretty strong to do that.

Backside, front side, arms, legs, hands, fingers, feet, toes, head . . . . . every last ounce of tension I had was worked out.

And then it was over.

“Please get up slowly Mr. Jaco. We’ll leave the room and you can take your time getting your robe on. Just open the door when you are ready.”

After they exited, I looked at myself in the mirror. I smiled. They just made me 10 years younger.

I slipped my robe on and exited.

“How was it Mr. Jaco?”

I couldn’t resist, “Like being on clouds with angels. The most amazing experience ever. Thank you.”

I liked their reaction – smiles. Genuine smiles.

“We hope to see you again.”

“Shipit. You can take that to the bank.”

And with that, I was escorted back out the passage way to the massage waiting room.

I poured myself a cup of tropical cucumber flavored water and sat down on a lounge chair. What a fricking awesome time.

After a couple minutes, I made my way back to the spa facilities. I figured I might as well check out the equipment.

As I made my way back to the whirlpool, plunge pool area I saw Frankie Styles and Smooth Chaz hanging out. Both of them looked equally relaxed.

I did a cycle of the various spa treatments . . . waterfall shower, hot tub, plunge pool, sauna, steam room . . .and repeated.

I was on top of the world. I was cleansed.

Watch out Vegas. Jaco thinks he has his mojo back.

After a quick shower and shave, I got dressed and headed downstairs to meet up with the crew for lunch. We had decided on Country Club.

Arriving at Country Club, I still had that euphoric feeling of not having a care in the world. Judging from their faces, the rest of the boyz felt it too. We sat at a nice round table in the middle of the restaurant and spent that part of the afternoon sharing good drink, wonderful food, and some side-splitting conversations. Hearing some of Whale Jo’s tales from back in his younger days of traveling solo in Ireland were absolutely priceless. Crazy guy now, crazier guy then.

Lunch for me consisted of their Cobb Salad and some fries. Perfection on a plate. No saladcide being committed here. Just the right amount of ingredients, mixed gently with a perfect portion of dressing. Lickaliciously good. The fries? Undeniably the best in Vegas.

After polishing off the food, we all went outside and checked out the 18th green. The weather was starting to turn nice. But, even with the cloud breaks, we all felt it was probably too cold and the course too wet to really justify shelling out $500 for the greens fee (plus another $100 for tip). Nonetheless, standing outside with my good friends, having some laughs at the expense of some bad golfers, enjoying a good crisp beer, that is one of the better vivid memories I have stuck in my head from this trip.

And then it was time. Time to hit the floor and find out if the chillaxness from the massages would translate into good fortune.

First up. Pooled Wheel of Fortune. Didn’t work the previous night, but this felt different. And sure enough . . . BLAM . . . hand pay. Luckily Smooth Chaz’ Red Card was in the machine – he gets the taxes, we get the free cut. Can’t remember the exact amount, but I think it was $1,500.

Next up was another new slot machine – Time Machine. At Wynn these are banked with the WOZ machines . . . and I’m here to tell you these machines blow WOZ and all others away.

If you win, that is.

Buzzy and Frankie Styles decided to go on a man-walk through the Esplanade, so Whale Jo, Chaz and myself pooled money into a Star Trek Machine and two Time Machines.

I entered into some bonus round right off the bat – I think it was a trip to the past. Oh how I love time travel and the notion of time travel . . . and this little machine must have read that in me. The bonus round lasted, I kid you not, at least twenty minutes. At first it consisted of me picking left, center, or straight, down some ancient dinosaur path. I’d pick, and win, and then pick again. At some point during this process I met up with a very angry T-Rex. I was given the option of picking one of three symbols to try and find something to kill him with. I was successful the first time I met up with the angry lizard and thus kept going. Down the path I went again. Credits collecting. Met T-Rex again. Destroyed it, again. More paths. Dino eggs. More paths. And then at some point it all ended. I had lost my voice from screaming at the machine. I had pitted out. Wow. What a run.

Then, as soon as I was done, Chaz’ machine heated up. By this time, Whale Jo had flushed his hundo and had moved 25 ft. to the north of us to play black jack. I was screaming his way, “Whale Jo!!!!! It’s ANOTHER big one.” And indeed it was. Chaz nailed whatever bonus round it was he had hit for over a grand. SHIPIT. Nothing better than working a grand off of a penny machine. Profits! The afternoon post-massage was starting quite nicely.

We cashed out the tickets, pocketed the cash and then quickly ran up to our rooms to change. Time moves fast in Vegas. We were due to meet up with the boyz in the Tower Suites lobby to ride out to El Cortez and begin the downtown portion of the night.

In record time, I sloughed off my day clothes and moved into my evening attire. It seemed all of us simultaneously arrived in the lobby.

It was me, Whale Jo, Smooth Chaz, Frankie Styles, Buzzy, and three new additions. Hee-haw, P and Thailand. Those three were wide-eyed, having just arrived into happy town.

We step outside, I figure we’re either catching a cab or a big limo to El Cortez.

Instead, two Rolls Royce Phantoms pull up.

Hey-ELLLL yessss.

Four in each ride. Three seated comfortably in the back and one person riding shotgun.

Shotgun in a Rolls. In one of Stevie’s Rolls. Try it.

As we begin the journey to downtown, our driver casually mentions that in the many years he’s been driving for Mr. Wynn, he’s never dropped anyone off at the El Cortez. He checks with the car in front of us. Nope, that driver never had either. I’m not sure, but I thought I sensed a titch of fear in his voice.

As we get closer to downtown things look ugly. I’m not breaking any news here, but whatever road it is you take to get from the strip to downtown, it’s in horrible shape. Not just the road – but the building, the people, even the birds. Dirty.

We catch some very interesting looks as we get closer to the ElCo. One car rides along side of us for a while and the little white rapper wannabe in the front passenger seat looks sooooooo angry following us. Lighten up kid. Take off the XL Kings jersey and ditch the neon red backwards baseball cap . . . then shave that peach fuzz off your lip and go learn how to properly speak the English language. Poser.

Sorry for that digression.

We finally arrive at ElCo and the eight of us flow out of the cars. Not a lot of onlookers when we pulled in which I think is a very good thing. We stride into the casino and look for the first downtown action of the night.

We find an empty BJ table and those of us that want to play fill up the empty seats.

I complete my buy in, make sure Whale Jo and I are pooling it, and proceed to play.

Buzz Saw.

I think that is what here Chinese name meant in English.

My first buy in is destroyed within minutes.

No worries. I brought plenty of ammo. Another buy in. Whale Jo is out too. He buys back in.

Scoop Artist.

Cards down, chips scooped.

Ouch. Bad table.

Bad me for sitting there too long.

OK, so that was a painful start. I look over at Whale Jo. Same result.

Time to find a new game.

All of ten steps later, we take over one end of a craps table. Frankie Styles, Smooth Chaz, Whale Jo and myself buy in. The table is ominously quiet. The point already has been established. So I watch the shooter roll. He hits about three numbers and then the point. Hmmm. Not bad. I put my pass line bet down and a few prop bets (you think I’d learn). Shooter rolls a few numbers, hits the point. Well now. I make the same bets. Odds. Same result. I notice at this point that Whale Jo is throwing out some decent coin. Mostly green chips. On everything. And his stack is growing. The shooter rolls some more numbers. Hits the point. Hard 4. We all make money. Our end of the table is cheering – the other end is silent. That’s silly.

Whale Jo notices this too.

“I want everyone to high five for this shooter. Come on, high fives all the way around.”

And by god, the table does it. With smiles.

And the shooter rolls. Hits numbers. Hits prop bets. Hits the point.

Cue screaming. Cue praising the shooter’s name. Cue crazy dancing at our end of the table.

Cue very old man sneaking his way to a spot next to Whale Jo and buying in for $50. He knows what he’s doing though . . . just listen to him call out the bets . . . . “$3 Aces . . . $3 hoppin’ six . . . hard ways heavy on the ten . . .” Cooler? I don’t think so.

Shooter rolls. Sevens on the come out. More money. More cheers.

Old man smiles. Didn’t think you’d have this kind of fun tonight, eh old timer?

Shooter finally craps out. Standing ovation.

Old man’s turn to roll.

He passes to Whale Jo.

Shipit time.

Though not as long as the previous shooter, Whale Jo manages to hold onto the dice for at least ten minutes. His stack grown exponentially. Mine? Not so much. Gotta stop making prop bets.

My roll lasts about six minutes. Not earth shattering. But people still making money. Still cheering.

Smooth Chaz rolls for a good clip. Makes the old man some money on his prop bets.

Up last is Frankie Styles. Regardless of how he rolls, it’s time to move on to dinner at Hugo’s.

Frankie does a fair job as well. All around great team effort. Old man turns to us and says, “Guys, that has to be the funnest craps table I’ve been on in 35 years. Thank you.”

Your welcome sir. Just glad to be here.

And with that (small profit for me, large for the rest of the crew), we head out from ElCo to Hugo’s.

We had picked Hugo’s upon the recommendation of one of our part time crew members – Double D.

All in all, a very pleasant old school atmosphere. Good service. Good wine. So so food. At this point in the night the energy level of the group was electric. One of the photos I saw taken of our table has Whale Jo shaking his man-boobs at the camera. Yikes. Not sure how I missed that. Glad I did. Looked like he was doing it right over the crab cakes.

Let’s see. Food-wise, we had some, as I mentioned, crab cakes, seafood platters, and perhaps something else for appetizers. Meh. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to write the Clark County Health Department about either. Next up were made to order salads. Nice touch. Good ingredients. Except the lettuce. Oooops. Lettuce forms the base of the basic table salad. Bad lettuce = bad salad. At least one of the little anchovies I had on the side meekly apologized.

For my entrée I had the Veal Marsala. I love cooking Veal Marsala and unfortunately have become proficient enough at it that if a restaurant can’t meet my B grade effort, it ain’t good enough. The Veal Marsala was a flat B. Nothing special. Meat just a titch overcooked.

Oh well. The ambiance and the company overcame the so-so food effort. There was talk of perhaps having a “Very Bad Things” themed party back at the Suite. Hmmm. When our waiter passed by I waved him over and whispered, “Hey, where can we find some talent in this town.”

He looked at me and made quote signs, “You mean ‘talent’ talent?”

I nodded.

He scratched his head.

“Hold on a sec. We got a guy in the back who can probably answer that better than I can.”

He was gone a few minutes, but when he returned he had with him what looked like a waiter pulled right out of the 1950s. Mr. Old School Vegas Waiter. They guy who knows everybody and can get you anything.

“You boys looking for talent?”

Oh man, I couldn’t wait to hear this guy’s answer. Awesome, straight from central casting voice.

“Bill’s Casino”

My jaw dropped. No.


“Bill’s, yah, lot’s of good looking young talent there.”

“Um, perhaps somewhere that has a little higher level of talent?”

I’d heard stories about Bill’s . . . . parking garage . . . . talent . . . use your imagination.

No thanks.

“Oh. Well then perhaps the Wynn.”

Gee, why didn’t I think of that (sarcasm dripping off words).

I can’t remember, but I think I slipped the guy some cash and said thanks. At least I hope I did. Even though his info wasn’t helpful, the experience was memorable.

I could feel my energy dragging, so I ordered an espresso, caned it, and was ready for some table action at the Four Queens.

Coming up out of the basement that Hugo’s resides in, I could hear Whale Jo already in full action. Turns out there’s a blackjack switch game right outside of the entrance/exit to Hugo’s. He was on it.

“Jaco, meet my wife!”

He made a kissy motion with his mouth towards the dealer. She nodded at him.

“I love her!”

I sidled up to the table and bought in. Let’s see, if I remember correctly, Whale Jo, Smooth Chaz, Frankie Styles, and myself were at the table. Along with some strange man from Canada.

“Hey Canada, let me ride $50 on your action”

Whale Jo threw out two green chips at Canada. There was some sort of bonus bet associated with this game and Whale Jo wanted in on Canada’s luck. They won.

It seemed as if everyone else was doing well. Whale Jo kept feeding Canada chips and kept winning those bets. But my stacks kept shrinking. Oh well, I was laughing a lot.

At some point during the height of a table-wide laughing spell, something happened that put the table – more specifically, Whale Jo – on super tilt. We were laughing at something the guy we called Canada had said . . . a guy we had been incessantly referring to as “Canada” . . . when the dealer, with her Hungarian accent asked, “Oh, are you from Canada.”

Seriously hon, we’d been doing this shtick for ½ hour. For whatever reason, this put Whale Jo over the edge. And you know how it works sometimes with group laughter – once someone starts going off the deep edge, the others can easily follow.

Whale Jo bellowed, tears coming out of his eyes.

“Are you from Canada?” He mimicked, gasping between laughs.

“ARE YOU FROM CANADA?” Uh oh. Code Red laugh attack.

He started pounding the table. Chips went flying.

“ARE YOU FROM CANADA?” Hysterical laughing. Someone might hurt themselves. I began to wonder if we were attracting any notice.

Then Whale Jo literally disappeared. One minute there pounding the table and laugh-crying. The next, empty space.

What the –

“Are you from Canada?”

Holy shipit. That came from underneath the table. I look over at Smooth Chaz and he’s busting up hard and pointing.


Whale Jo’s head pops out from under the table . . . he’s crawling on his hands and knees in and out between the players.


How security did not toss us out at that point is beyond me.

Thankfully we were able to quiet down

A few more hands were played. Including one that Whale Jo took a pic of and is up on the blog. Split Aces . . .double down on a nine.

Dealer did not bust.

Dealer one. Scooped all the bets.

And with that, it was time to depart the Four Queens.

Somehow it was just me, Smooth Chaz and Whale Jo. I don’t know what happened to the other boyz. Oh well. We’d go find our fun.

We wandered out onto Fremont . . . and headed, well, I’m not sure where. We passed by some bars and then actually stuck our head into one. Can’t remember what it was called. But it was dark, crowded, extra loud music . . . .

I muttered, “Might as well be at Spearmint Rhino if we’re gonna sit in here.”

Next thing I know, Whale Jo has hailed a cab and promised to pay for Smooth Chaz and I if we accompany him to the Rhino.

What was I gonna say at that point?

I mean, I’m not a strip club fan. Just never been my gig. Some like it, I don’t. But I figured it’d be an interesting experience and would give me something to write about.

As we are getting close to the Rhino, we end up sitting at some intersection where an old man in an Audi pulls up. Whale Jo looks over.

“I want his hat.”

He rolls down window.

“Sir, I’ll give you $50 for that hat.”

The man has a puzzled look on his face.

Whale Jo yells the offer louder.

The man smiles, shakes his head no.

“$60?” Whale Jo yells out.

The man says no.

Whale Jo really wants that hat.

As he begins to start making a plea, the old man holds up another hat.

And another.

And another.

He’s a hat salesman.

We find that excruciatingly funny.

The light turns green before Whale Jo can complete a transaction.

But then we hit an intersection and suddenly Whale Jo pops out of the cab. WTF?

One minute later he’s back in.

“Um. No sale.”

Whale Jo says he ran back to the old man’s car, the old man had a look of terror in his face and tried locking the doors. But Whale Jo got one open . . . now the dude was super freaked out. He would definitely not sell a hat to Whale Jo.


And then we pulled into the parking lot. Rhino. Jesus.

I get the wand as I’m going in . . . not metal on me tonight.

Whale Jo pays the entry fee for all of us and then we pass back through to the main room.

As wonderful and heavenly as my passages through the different doors at the spa had been . . . moving from the pay booth to the main area of the strip club was the exact opposite.

I seriously felt like I was in a scene from a vampire movie . . . from all corners of the room, scantily clad women rushed at us . . . I swear I saw red eyeballs. Before I could even get a word out, Whale Jo had somehow complete a transaction and all three of us were being led like cows to slaughter to some private dance area.

One minute I’m outside in the cool Vegas air . . .the next I’m stuck right in the center of a den of iniquity being led around by some gal who says she’s from Sweden but has a heavy Russian accent. And a fake rack.

We end up back in this area where the booths look straight out of a Denny’s restaurant. The only difference is that at Denny’s, you are typically seated with only your party. At Rhino you get to share the space.


Oh, excuse me sir, sorry to interrupt you with whatever you are doing with those two ladies, but could you skootch over an inch so I can fit in here. Please don’t touch me. Yah, you.


So all three of us sit down. The girls sit on top of us. And what rushes into my head?

The one on my neck I mean.

e.e. cummings

For whatever reason, the first couple stanzas of his poem “may I feel said he” run through my brain.

may i feel said he
(i’ll squeal said she
just once said he)
it’s fun said she

(may i touch said he
how much said she
a lot said he)
why not said she

Seriously? Poetry?

Of course my gal wasn’t interested in poetry. Oh no. She was much more interested in telling me about how she needed a green card, wanted to get married, and all the, er, “benefits” that come with marriage.

Sorry hon. That’s pretty weak.

I try and make actual conversation.

“Oh, that’s some soft skin. What kind of lotion do you use?”

“Oh baby, I just rub c _ m all over myself!”

I want a hazmat suit.

Then I guess my gal decides that I must really like the dirty talk because she suddenly delves into phrases that I’ve never heard of. I won’t repeat the definitions here, but if you haven’t heard of some of these, go onto urban dictionary and look them up. Actually, I’ll just give you one. “Angry Pirate”.

I tried to play along – but I couldn’t stop laughing. Nor could Whale Jo. Nor could Smooth Chaz. I could not take these girls seriously . . .just not my gig.

Time ran up thankfully and it was time to leave. Whale Jo paid up and moved out. But before either Smooth Chaz or myself could follow, the girls blocked us.

“How ‘bout a tip honey?”

“Didn’t you like it?”

“Um, it was, uh, nice. But I don’t have any cash.”

They start laying into us . . . but thankfully Whale Jo came back and told them to ef off and got us out of there.

As I made my way to the door, I couldn’t help but notice how aggressive the ladies were. Grabby grabby.

Exiting that place made me very happy. At least my shirt smelled somewhat nice.

I looked at my watch. It was time to retire. I had nothing left for Vegas this night.

CHAPTER FOUR – Saturday – “Don’t Call it a Comeback” (1/22/10)

7 a.m.

Blink, blink, blink.

Up again. What the heck is going on?

Oh my god, why does the voice in my head sound like its drunk?

Cashews in my bed.

Dangit . . . gotta cure that inner squirrel sometimes . . .

I shake my head a couple times hoping that jostling the brain around would restart my morning. Sort of like pumping and priming a chainsaw.

Only thing I accomplished was releasing a massive right sided headache.

Ow. Ow.

I head to the bathroom and turn the water on full cold and put a wash cloth under the stream. After sufficient application of cold liquidly goodness, I slap the washcloth over my right eye.

I look in the mirror.


Angry pirate.


Cue laughter.

But then I suddenly panic. I remember leaving the Rhino.

All those arms grabbing for me.


No way.

As I make my way to my clothes, I am convinced that my wallet had been pinched.

Sure enough. No wallet in my pants or blazer.

I look around for my fanny pack.

No. That’s an alternate universe. I don’t carry one in this world.

Sweat beads on my forehead.

I take a deep breath and try to remember exactly what I did prior to falling asleep.

No way I could have been picked.


I breath a huge sigh of relief. Duh. I put my wallet in the safe.

Now I remember. I was a wee bit worried that some of the boyz may have tried to bring talent back to the room last night and I wanted to make sure my valuables were locked up in case they did. Thankfully that did not happen.

I notice a snickers bar in the safe – oh yah – bought that several days ago in the airport.

Breakfast. Why not, right? It’s quick and will hold me until I get downstairs and find a nice place to have breakfast or even an early lunch.

As I ride the elevator down, I have thoughts of booking another massage. I imagine how relaxed I would end up feeling on my last full day in Vegas. Not only would it feel good, but it’d keep me off the casino floor. I had to face it – there was no finding lady luck this trip. It was probably best to stick to a few sports bets and do some sightseeing.

I’m starting to really buy into this plan when it happens.

I pass by a Wizard of Oz machine and have that “funny” feeling.

Maybe if I could catch a little lighting in a bottle . . . .start small . . . roll it into something bigger . .. what if . . . what if . . .

Ding. Hundo inserted. Jaco sitting down. Coffee in hand. Buttons being pressed.


No bonus round of any kind. No monkeys, no Glinda, not even that stupid 1,500 credits that is put up as an option. NOTHING.

It’s just a hundo.

Ding ding. Another hundo inserted.

Yikes. Nothing.

However, this time I cash out ½ way through.

I feel a tiny sense of accomplishment – maybe the gambling demons didn’t have as tight a grip on me as I thought. Maybe there was hope.

I wander around thinking again about booking a massage. Why not? I loved it so much the day before and ---

Survivor theme song.

I freeze. It’s like a tiger is stalking me.

I figure I have two choices here. Either run or face it head on.

Running entails waaaaaay too much energy, so I decide to tackle the tiger head on . . . who knows . . .maybe this tiger is friendly and won’t dis me. (not dis as in disrespect, but dis as in dismember and disembowel.).

I take a deep breath, plop into the seat in front of the machine, put in the $50 TITO and think good thoughts. Really really good thoughts.

Next thing I know an hour has passed by. I’ve lost the $50 and another bill or two. I catch a glimpse of myself in the machine’s shiny metal . . . good god man . . . .

My phone rings. It’s my host. I don’t answer. I should, but I don’t. A minute later I dial up my messages and listen . . . she just wants to know if I’m having fun, wants to see me to give me a hug, and reminds me to pick up my Garth Brooks tickets.

A hug.

I’m reminded of that kid’s book by Jez Alborough . . .HUG . . . with the little baby monkey? Just wants his Mommy . . .and a hug.


Wow. I’m actually misting up, in Vegas, at 9 a.m., playing a Survivor Slot Machine.

It doesn’t get any better than that.


Did someone say my name?

I turn around and it’s my host!

Oh jesus. It’s my host. And here I am, bleary eyed, grinding it out on a penny slot machine. Thanks for those comps hon!

I stand up, get a nice hug, and profusely thank my host for all she’s done.

How did she find me?

I guess they must have tracking devices in those Red Cards.

After she leaves, I am 100% certain that my luck is going to change.

It doesn’t. For another hour or so I continue to grind on the stupid machine. I even hit one of the best bonus rounds of all time on the machine . . . but in the end I have nothing.

The feeling I had at that moment was pretty low. It was like I had just hiked barefoot over a glass encrusted trail and at the end of that trail found out I would have to cross a river of lemon juice to return home.


I get a call from Whale Jo – he’s over at the Wynn casino. So I shuffle over there to meet up with him. As I pass through the casino I come across a few of the other boyz . . . Buzzy and Smooth Chaz grinding it out on Time Machine. I wish them luck and move on.

I finally meet up with Whale Jo and we decide to go pick up our Garth Brooks tickets.

However, once we get close to the pickup area we discover it’s just a zoo. No thanks. We’ll come back later.

At this point I’ve extinguished all energy from the Snickers Bar and have to find some food. I try the Pizza Place in the Wynn Esplanade, but the line is out the door. I go over to the sports book . . . don’t see anything I like. Finally I settle on hitting the little coffee shop that sits near the theaters. I order a tuna fish sammy and a banana. Normally I would NEVER order either of these items. But I feel like punishing myself. The tuna fish is extra dry and flavorless and the banana is bruised. I wash down each uninspiring bite with a swig of room temperature water. God this is awesome.

I stop eating when I start to gag and throw away the uneaten portion of my lunch. I take a deep breath, close my eyes and think happy thoughts.

I’m not going down without a fight.

No. I didn’t come to Vegas to lay up. I didn’t come to Vegas to have my last night of fun ruined because of some stupid machines. I certainly wasn’t going to sit around and mope about woulda, coulda, shoulda.

I find Whale Jo.

“Let’s do this.”

We go try some video poker. The good ole bank of $5 VP machines. They were always good for a laugh and some dough.

They were colder than a witch’s nippie doodle.

How about Wheel of Fortune? We try some $20 WOFs . . . $60 a spin. Nada.

$10 WOF. Blank.

Guess we might as well try some black jack.

Hey now!

We actually make a little coin. The first positive momentum of the day. So we carry the profits over to Let it Ride.

Whale Jo hits trips! I get a couple straights (on the three card bonus). The cards start falling the right way.

We walk away with some Barneys (purple chips) in our pockets. The feeling I had must be a lot like what a bear experiences after a long hibernation. It was good to be alive (and winning).

Our next play was on some penny slots. First I play a jackpot party game. I think at max credits I was only doing $3.50 or $4.50 a spin. And then I hit a PARTY. And I caned that party. I must have popped at least 15 – 20 balloons. Magic. More profit.

We play some fishing game right behind the Jackpot Party machine. We start hitting bonus rounds on that machine. More profit. More magic.

At some point Whale Jo’s host calls. He picked up his Garth tix for him. Very nice! So we go over to the host desk and pick them up. He tells me that he asked about my tickets, but was told they had already been picked up. Odd. I hadn’t picked them up and I know my host didn’t either. Whale Jo’s host says he’ll look into it and give us a call.

I’m feeling pretty lucky at this moment and wanted to continue to play.

But we run into Hee-Haw as he’s leaving for the airport. 24 hours in Vegas . . . he’d had enough. I pat him on the back and wish him well . . . all the while thinking about what should be played next.

“How about that game? $100k jackpot would be nice?” I look to see what Whale Jo is pointing at . . . normal ole reel slot machine. Why not.

“Hundo each?”

I nodded and pulled out a crisp bill and put it in. Before pressing the spin button on my machine, I watch Whale Jo give it a go.



Some symbol.

Machine freezes.

Huh? Oh . . . a handpay!

“Did you win?”

Whale Jo responds, “I think so. Maybe $1,100?”

He looks closer. Double look.




I look down at the machine.

Add another zero.


I look up at the paytables.

We had hit the mini-progressive!


The battle cry of Vegas unleashes itself with preternatural cathartic oomph.



“S-H-I-P-I-T . . . . “

I looked at Whale Jo. Unbelievable luck.

Seriously, you wouldn’t believe how lucky we’ve been when gambling together. As I mentioned in the beginning, we bought this scratch off ticket one time . . . boom . . .six figures.

And now this? After such a spell of bad luck. After getting special fitted with a casino enema suit and having it stuck on turbo douche the last few days, all was good and right and beautiful in the gambling universe.

We quickly tallied what the respective cuts would be and double checked our math. On top of what I had just made in the last hour, the bankroll was going to start looking a lot like its former self.

The hand pay jockeys came by and counted out the bills. Then Whale Jo shipped my portion of the jackpot. Ahh. There’s the money I lost on WOZ. There’s the Survivor money back.


Lovely winning streak.

Oh, and as we’re sitting there, Whale Jo’s host finds us and turns out he’d made a mistake about my Garth tix. He has them. I look at them and smile. But then I notice that they’ve put the wrong name on one of the tix. I point it out to the host.

“Don’t worry about it. They won’t hassle you, you are an invited casino guest.”


After that, I tried a couple little tiny tasters, but didn’t get anything rolling. So I stopped gaming. I wasn’t about to dump the jackpot money back into Steve Wynn’s pockets. The rest of the afternoon was fairly non-eventful (how could it be after hitting a little mini-progressive).

I made some sports bets (took Duke over Clemson) and just kind of reflected on all that had occurred. A lot of what ifs started playing through my head. What if we hadn’t hit that jackpot? What if I took all that money and put it on red? What if . . . . what if . . . what if . . . . I laugh as I realize that most of this town was built on “what if” bricks.

Eventually it was time to have some dinner. The original plan had been to go to American Fish down at Aria, but we scrapped that, instead opting to use Steve’s money to dine at Wazuzu. Whale Jo raved about the chicken wings. I was a little excited because when looking at the menu I noticed they had uni!

Winning + uni = good.

We sit down, I order a giant beer and peer over the other selections of sushi and decide that I’ll just eat some differing offerings of nigiri and sashimi. Oh, and some kimchi. Love kimchi. I knew who I was sitting next to at the Garth concert, so I was not too concerned about smelling like rank cabbage. Others took turns ordering other types of sushi, various appetizers, and a few main dishes.

Kind of hard to remember exactly what we had, but I think it was the following:

Kimchi: B. Not spicy enough. Had some good flavor and the cabbage was firm – but lacked the bite I was looking for.

Maguro Nigiri: A . I bet they use the same fish Okada uses. Wonderful deep red color and if the waiter had said they had a live fish in the back that they were slow peeling the flesh off of, I would have believed it. It was that fresh.

Sake (Salmon) Nigiri: A. Clean and crisp.

Sea Bass Sashimi: A. Perfect sized portion. Amazingly fresh. I spanked it and it blushed.

Uni: A+++++ I usually wait until the conclusion of a meal to imbibe in uni. However, I stepped outside the box and had two freakishly heavenly pieces right at the start. So glad I did. Nothing wrong starting out dinner in your happy place.

Chicken Wings: B+. Very good. But had one piece after finishing the sushi above, not the best combo. Made me think I was eating at a buffet.

Pork Buns: B+. Fluffy white goodness on the outside, meaty savory surprise on the inside.

Drunken Noodles: B+. Not a dish I would normally eat, but I couldn’t help but notice all the fresh chopped tiny jalapeno peppers hiding amongst the noodles. I like me a little heat. Good for pores. All around solid dish.

I know we had more, but Wazuzu had me at “sushi”. I’d still take the overall experience of Okada any day of the week, but for a little variety, I’d have no problem returning here.

I passed the next couple of hours before the Garth concert by watching some college basketball in the sport book. Nothing too exciting. I put some action on Duke, Montana, Washington, Hawaii, and Arizona St. At one point I noticed Whale Jo off in the corner of the book. I walked over and asked what he was doing.

“Trotters. I have the 1,2 and 3 horse.”


I looked up at the screen. Chariot races. Why not.

As it got closer to 10:00 p.m. I noticed that there was an enormous line starting to form outside of the Encore Theater. When I met up with Whale Jo, Buzzy, and P, to go in the theater, the line had wrapped all the way back to the entrance of the Buffet. Much to my surprise, as long as the line was, it was the world’s fastest moving line. We could barely keep up with the people in front of us.

As I may have mentioned earlier, my host had mistakenly put the wrong name on one of my tickets. Fortunately, that wasn’t an issue. The only thing security wanted to see were orange wristbands and tickets.

The Encore Theater is a very intimate space. I think it seats only about 1,500 on two levels. You can go to the Wynn website and actually get pictures from different view points in the theater. Not a bad seat in the house. Our seats were in Row N in the center section of the theater, right on the aisle.

Prior to the show starting, the stage contains only a stool and a bottle of water. That’s it. All framed in blue lights. The simplicity of it was oddly soothing. Coupled with the palpable energy buzzing through the crowd, I was excited to see what this show would bring.

I am not a huge country fan – its just not a genre I’ve explored all that much. Nor am I a Garth Brooks fan. About the only song I think I knew prior to this show was “Thunder Rolls.” However, when I got the offer from Wynn for two free tickets to see this show, I just felt it was something I couldn’t pass up.

When Garth first stepped foot on stage, I knew then and there that I had made a GREAT decision. I found myself whooping and hollerin’ along with the rest of the crowd – the majority of whom were obvious country and Garth fans.


Not sure if Garth heard me or not, but it felt appropriate to scream at the top of my lungs.

Then he started playing.


The show is built around Garth telling a story of where his music comes from. From music his daddy listened to (Merle Haggard), to his momma (James Taylor), to his brothers (Bob Seger). Anytime Garth would talk about another artist, he would cut the chit chat and play his guitar.

Obviously, as the best selling artist of all time, he has some skills. His voice easily fills the theater and evoked a feeling of being wrapped in a silk cocoon. His guitar playing was very very good.

Some of the stories he told were absolutely heart-warming. One that stands out was his recollection of meeting James Taylor and James Taylor knowing the names of Garth’s daughters. Listening to Garth recall meeting James and recreating the moment when James reached down to greet the littlest of the Brooks girls made me tear up. Don’t know why, just did. Them tears kept flowing when he then did a cover of “Fire & Rain” . . . such a soulful song.

Garth, as a performer, knew exactly what he was doing with his audience. Most of the people sitting around me had come to hear him play his songs. So as the night wore on, he started sprinkling in his own work – each song drawing louder applause from the fans.

There were more than a few songs where Garth would suddenly stop playing and singing and hearing the crowd softly signing along was awesome. The collective voice of 1,500 strangers, banded together for only a moment, sweet whispering out refrains from Don McLean’s “American Pie” sent shivers up my spine – and the visible effect it had on Garth was pretty cool.

About ½ way through the show, Garth’s wife Trisha Yearwood joined him on stage. I was blown away at the heels she wore. They were so fricking big that it had the unfortunate effect of making her look like she was walking around with a rod up her you know what. But, thankfully she has a good enough voice that it overcame the distraction of me putting invisible odds on whether or not she’d face plant. This portion of the show was OK. My favorite part was hearing her describe what it’s like living with Garth and waking up in the morning.

“Oh, mornings are pretty typical. I go downstairs, turn on the fog machine, and then this big hole opens up in the kitchen floor and Garth raises up out of it with a big ole black hat and his fist raised up in the air.”

Another cool part of the concert was hearing Garth come clean about how he “air guitared” during his concert days. He told us this under the auspice of wanting to be completely honest. Kinda cool.

My absolute favorite part of the whole night was when he played the one song I knew – Thunder Rolls. He peeled off just a few notes of the song and the entire audience knew what was coming. This evoked the loudest “shipit” I’ve ever thrown from my vocal chords. What an incredibly moving song.

And what was really cool was that he stopped in the middle of the song and explained how the entire song came together and how the ending part came to be. Then of course he launched into the finale of the song, absolutely bringing down the house.

Towards the end of the evening, Garth had the house lights raised and took requests from the audience. I thought at one point that the patrons were going to literally jump out of their seats and rush the stage. It was interesting seeing Garth communicate one on one with his fans. His humbleness towards all the adoration seemed completely genuine.

One of the requests made was “Desperado” by the Eagles. He claimed to have never played the song before. If true, this cover truly showed how talented of an artist he is.

All the other requests were for songs off his albums – none which I really recognized, but thoroughly enjoyed.

And, then it was lights up. Shows over.

I sat there for a second in disbelief.

I couldn’t believe I wanted more!

Absolutely the best show I’ve seen.

Better than U2, Tom Petty, AhHa, Dave Mathews, Chris Isaac, John Cougar, and all the other concerts I’ve been to in my lifetime.

If you get the chance, go. I don’t care if you don’t like country. I don’t care if you don’t like Garth. I don’t care if you don’t like music and have a strong fear of guitars.

Book it. You’ll never see anything like this show in Vegas – or anywhere for that matter.

Step outside the box.

So, another night in Vegas, my last night, in the books.

As we left the Encore Theater, everyone went their separate ways. Whale Jo melted into the mass of casino patrons, off to do one last battle against the evil empire in an effort to reclaim the lost denizens of his chip world. In hindsight, I wish I had joined him on that quest – it sounds like he absolutely caned it. Not only slew the dragon, but carved it up turkey-style and served with a half pound of in your face mashed potatoes. But, at the time, I was feeling good from the Garth concert and really did not want to suffer any more losses.

I had had my fill of Vegas.

At least until Sunday morning. My flight didn’t leave until late in the afternoon . . . so the potential to do a little more damage existed . . . . this small burning ember of a thought lay smoldering in my brain as I drifted off to sleep . . . .

Chapter Five – Sunday – “Requiem For Vegas” (1/24/10)

It's my last day in Vegas. I fly out in seven hours.
I really can’t believe it’s over.
A blink of an eye. My time in Vegas that short.
One minute arriving in Vegas . . . the anticipation of the journey ahead igniting euphoric pulses of adrenaline through my blood . . .
Departure day. A curious mix of emotions . . . . sadness at leaving this town . . . redemptive relief at leaving this town . . .leaving this town.
Good thing though about leaving Vegas? . . . the next time I come back.
I take a contemplative walk through the suite one more time. Flashes of memories accompanying me with every step.
Packing takes no time. No rhyme or reason when packing for home . . . just stuff it all in and hope that I have room to shove some of the Encore toiletries and mini-bar items in my bag.
I get a call from Chaz and Buzzy. They are down at Café Society having a bite of breakfast. I decide to join them. But first I want to check out.
After dropping the bags off with the bell desk, I slip into the Casino Host area and sit down to make sure everything is taken care of. Sure enough, the host graciously zeros out my account – well, almost zeros it out – I end up paying for a movie and one drink at the Sports Bar. I don’t ask why those are left on – doesn’t matter.
Side Note – It’s worth double checking with the front desk even after settling up with a host. On my way out, I quickly stopped and asked the front desk gal to print out my room statement and I was surprised to see that, despite what the host had said, there were a lot of charges left on my account. I pointed this out politely to the gal and she fixed it. First class service and attitude all the way.
In any event, I joint the boyz, but am not very hungry. I take a couple bites of lukewarm flabby white toast and guzzle some coffee. Truth be told, I really wanted to hit the Survivor machine one last time. I figured I must have accrued enough FreeCredit to take a good run at (with?) my nemesis.
So, I left the boyz, sidled up to a Survivor game, plugged in my red card along with a $20, said a silent prayer to the gaming gods, and had one last run with the bulls.
Crazy enough – I made a little dough. No jackpots – but a couple hundred bucks. Good enough for me at this point. Hit a few bonus rounds and even got a screen full of Rudy’s . . . that set off the big win alarm and left me with a smile on my face.
Smooth Chaz joined me on the machines. He had a bit of credit as well and put $3 in and within the first couple of spins had hit the bonus round and he cashed out a couple hundo up as well.
That had to be it. Gaming was officially done. Time to re-enter the atmosphere.
Chaz and I decided to head off and do some souvenir shopping across the street. I had promised some people a few gifts from Vegas and didn’t want to wait until the airport. Also, word to the wise, crumpled up drink napkins from the airplane don't qualify as "gifts". No matter how hard you try and claim that the little dirty balled up paper is a new art form called "Vegas origami." Nuh-uh.
And, for the first time in five days, I ventured outside. Fresh air. The universe balanced.
Couldn’t imagine a better way to end the trip.
Fade to Black.

Miscellaneous Notes/Observations

There were a couple stories that I remembered after posting this TR. I’ll share a few:

The Skeever Dude

Whale Jo and I were busy trying to work some magic on a couple of Jackpot Block Party games and actually seemed to be doing quite OK. In the middle of a good run some sketchy skeever looking dude walks up and asks if we have a light. Before we can answer, he blurts out, “You guys here for some fun? Want some party favors?”

Then, like he was reciting a grocery list, he rattles off the various forms of entertainment he has at his disposal (i.e., drugs).

Cold calling drug sale at the Wynn? In the middle of the day? Duuuuuuuuude.

I shake my head no and he scurries off.

Or at least I thought he did.

We play on the machines for another ten minutes or so. When we get up to leave, I see this douchebag sitting at the bank right behind us . . .

Whale Jo and I debate calling security . . . but get distracted by a blackjack table.

Tell It Like It Is

When the boyz first arrived, we all sat down at a table at the Encore. At first things seemed to go well, but the table quickly turned. When both Whale Jo and I reached into our wallets to get some more cash, the pit boss came over to us and in a hushed voice said, “Fellas, you don’t want to do that. Go find another table. You aren’t going to win at this one.”

I thought that was real classy.

Of course we didn’t listen.

And he was right. We did not win.

So there you have it folks, the end of this trip report. Thanks for reading and if you have any questions about anything written in here, please don’t hesitate to ask.



BeeeJay said...

mad props on another awesome adventure by Jaco (YAK-O), Whale Jo and the crew. Only 3 days in, but you've saved me from the slow moving, honey-dipped clock of the dreaded last few days before a Vegas trip with this great tail you have spun...or is it tale? probably the former at the Rhino! Sorry to just miss you again Jaco. Looking forward to reading day 4 while waiting for flight takeoff tomorrow.

irisblue said...

thank you so much for writing this up. it's a loong time to my next trip