Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mr. and Mrs. lightning Go To ‘Vegas (part three) By Mrs. lightning


I never suspected when I asked lightning to let me tell about our vacation, that it would take three installments.  But I know that when a post gets too long, people stop reading.  So in an effort to bore keep you entertained, I thought it best to divide it up.  I should probably have made this a four-part tale, but I have to give lightning a chance to write again. So here is part three, the final chapter.
Monday proved to be rather uneventful, and thus totally pleasant.  I went to the pool in the morning.  Harrah’s has a great lounging pool.  The water is only about 10” deep, and they have lounge chairs place in it.  It was easy to stay cool and get some sun all at the same time.

After the pool, lightning and I went to Ellis Island for lunch. It was pretty good. But lightning seemed to think we were in a hurry to get to my spa appointment. So after eating quickly, and telling the waiter we were in a hurry and needed the check, we got to my appointment about 10 minutes earlier than the 10 minutes early they had told me to check in. I happily went next door to a fabric store for those ten minutes. While I got my mani/pedi, lightning went back to gamble for a couple of hours.


What with laying out, going to the spa, and gambling, we were both pretty exhausted, so a nap was called for.  After a little snooze, we went to dinner at P.F. Chang’s, where we got the dinner for two.  Excellent, of course.  Then we strolled the strip, stopping to take in the Bellagio fountains and the numerous street performers, including a guy dressed up like…wait for it…a penis. I’m not sure what it says about me that it took me a while to recognize what it was.  Of course, like all those other “character” costumes, it was made out of fake fur.  Maybe that’s what threw me off.  Fortunately, the young mother with a 4 or 5 year old was urging her son to get moving, so he swerved off his trajectory toward the penis to get a hug. I can only imagine the conversation that would have ensued if that had happened!



After a couple of hours of walking around, shopping, stopping to play some slots, people watching, etc., we returned to the hotel: me to get my HGTV fix, catch up on work email, and to read; lightning to go back to out to play poker.
Tuesday-our last day.  We slept in (not hard for lightning since he didn’t get back until about 5 am!), then I went to the pool.  Lightning went to play poker, and I was to text him when I was ready to go eat lunch.  While at the pool, my left eye started hurting unbearably.  Both eyes had been red for a couple of days, which I attributed to hotel air.  But this was pain.  Not wanting to disrupt lightning’s poker, I texted him that I was going to Walgreen’s to get some ointment and would be in touch.  So I walked to the Walgreen’s just north of Harrah’s at the Venetian.  I explained to the pharmacist that I thought I had a corneal abrasion (please read that again, it DOES NOT say corn meal, as several of my FB friends misread). She told me that I’d have to see a doctor.  Just my luck, there was a health clinic right in the Walgreen’s.  Also my luck, it was 1:05 and the doctor had just left for a one hour lunch.  Fortunately, she came back early and took a look.  She couldn’t see anything, but said I needed to go to urgent care. So I texted lightning that I was going to walk there.  He asked if I wanted him to get me, but being the poor, kind-hearted, long-suffering soul that I am I told him that it was pointless to ruin both our afternoons, and I’d text him when I was finished.

Distances are quite deceiving in Las Vegas.  It turns out that the urgent care facility was almost 1 ½ miles away.  By the time I got there, walking in 101 degrees, with a very painful eye, having had nothing to eat all day, and developing a headache to boot, I was pretty disconsolate.  Add in a rather unfriendly staffer at the clinic, and it didn’t take much to have me sitting in the waiting room in tears.  After a wait while they checked to make sure my insurance was good (I had forgotten my card back in Illinois, so called home to have my kids text me a photo of it so I’d have the info!), I was finally called back.  The doctor immediately putting numbing drops in my eye, then a dye.  Blessed relief!  The doctor said I did indeed have “a small scratch” and proceeded to prescribe two kinds of drops—an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory.  During the process, she managed to say about two or three more times that it was “a small scratch”.  She said this in such as way as to imply that I shouldn’t really be in pain. Back in the waiting room I texted lightning to come get me as I was not feeling so great by that point.  While I waited I excitedly realized that I had change in my purse and there was a vending machine in the waiting room.  So I indulged in an ice cream sandwich while I waited.

Lightning finally arrived.  It took a while as he was playing poker at the Mirage  He had to wait for a chance to exit,  walk back to our room at Harrah’s to get the car keys, get the car, then find the urgent care.  Once he got me, we decided to go get some lunch and then try to get the prescriptions filled.  On the way to lunch we had to pull over because I thought I was going to be sick.  False alarm.  On to Del Taco for tacos for lightning and a burger for me.  Back in the car, I warned lightning that I was going to be sick.  We were in multi lanes of traffic, with no shoulder and no businesses.  What’s a girl to do if she doesn’t want to puke in the rental car?  She grabs her readily available cup of water she just finished drinking and uses it.  Let’s just leave it at that.
Back at the room I convinced lightning that I would be fine for the Cirque du Soleil show that night if I just took a nap.  So while he went to get my prescriptions, I got a 20 minute nap, and then showered.  By the time lightning returned, I was feeling almost my old self. lightning quickly showered and we were off to the show.  We saw Mystere, one of several Cirque shows.  We both concluded that it was good, but certainly not worth the ticket price.



After the show we walked around a bit, and then got some dinner.  Finally we went back to the room, where I began to pack in preparation for the next morning, while lightning took off to find another Walgreen’s to get the prescription that the first one couldn’t fill earlier.  After bringing it back to the room and checking on me, he went to get in one last night of gambling.  I finished packing so that it would all be done and I could get an hour or so at the pool in the morning without having to worry about getting ready to go.  The entire time I was muttering about how pissed I was that the last day had turned out this way and that I was turning into my mother.  My mother, bless her, never comes to visit us without a trip to the emergency room.  My mood was definitely not great for someone on vacation!

I don’t remember what time lightning stumbled in—4:00 or 5:00 am I think.  About 8 or so his phone alerted him to a text.  Our flight was delayed 3 hours.  That meant we wouldn’t be getting in and starting our 2+ hour drive home from Midway Airport until late.  Check out time was at 11:00, so we’d be sitting around the airport for about 6 or 7 hours.  Oh joy.
           
At this point, lightning realized that neither of us had anything we needed to be back for.  So I headed to the pool while he headed to check out staying an extra night.  After confirming with the hotel, the airline, and the car rental agency, lighting texted me to take my time...we weren’t leaving until the next day.  Yippee!  The best part was that it was our anniversary, which we would have spent in the airport and in the air. Now we could relax.
I spent the rest of the day sunning and shopping, while lightning played poker.  That evening we decided to hit up California Pizza Kitchen for dinner.  Then we grabbed a great dessert at Carnegie Deli, walked around a bit more, catching the tail-end of the fire show at the Mirage, and finally back to the room to share our dessert.  It was a totally relaxing day after the fiasco of the day before.




Thursday morning while lightning showered and packed, I went on one last shopping excursion to buy a pair of sandals I’d had my eye on since we arrived on Sunday.  Then off to the airport for an uneventful flight back to Illinois.  We made great time out of the airport, and stopped at Portillo’s for supper.  Then we finally headed on the road to home.  As on the way to Kingman, lightning had great ideas for how I could keep him awake on the drive.  I of course suggested that maybe next time he make it back a little earlier from his poker playing and actually get some sleep.



There you have it: the exciting tale of two middle-aged, middle class, central Illinois folks and their vacation.  Despite a flood and an eye emergency, it was a wonderful, relaxing week.  I got to shop and sun, lightning got to play poker, we got to visit with friends and family, and we both got to enjoy each other’s company. It was everything a vacation should be.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Brief Poker Interlude During Mrs. lightning's Trip Report Posts

After having my blog for so many years, I was surprised to suddenly see that family members wanting to write guest posts. My youngest daughter recently wrote a post about our trip to Anime Midwest, and now my wife (inspired by Rob?) is completing an epic three-part vacation report. There was a dearth of gambling on my most recent trip to Las Vegas, but I did get in a few sessions of poker.

Were they memorable? Only two were.

I played a couple of sessions at Harrah's, one at Mirage, and a few more at Bally's.

Harrah's moment: Playing against two players who seemed to be quite poor, I raised with A-Q spades. One of the poor players, who had a stack about equal to mine (~$150), pushed all in. The other player, with a stack ~$90, went all-in. I had no confidence that either had me beat, based on the play of the previous hour or so. I called. I was up against 10-10 (original all in) and A-J (shorty). Jack on the flop ... Meh.

Mirage: I was tempted to get in one of the remaining spots for the Mirage 11:00 a.m. tournament, but I had plans to get lunch with my wife after she finished sunbathing. I got seated at a new $1/2 table. I was never up or down more than about $50. The table started out as nitty as they come, then got a little better as some younger players entered. The play was okay, but the vibe was not nearly as friendly at my favorite place, Bally's, or Harrah's, which seems to be a pretty friendly place. My session ended when I had to pick up my wife from an Urgent Care center, which I am sure will be featured in part three of her trip report.

Bally's: I had a few sessions where I lost part of a buy-in. My play was okay, and I unfortunately missed on some huge draws. I was amazed at how great starting hands or connecting on the flop eluded me. Then ... things changed ...


I had one of those sessions that I seemed to have on a regular basis in the past. I caught some cards and had some other players call off their chips with draws or lesser hands. Suddenly poker at Bally's was what I remembered: bliss!

And then came the payback.

I went to Bally's to play a daytime session and was happy to see blogger balt999 (Ron) dealing. Now , Ron is a great guy -- superb poker dealer, accomplished tournament player, and just a really nice person. However, I seem to crash and burn when Ron is around. Do I play differently? I don't know -- maybe.

I was busted twice when Ron was dealing. The first time, I totally missed a straight possibility, and of course, one player at the table had the exact stealth hand to take my chips. On Ron's next down, I ran pocket Jacks into a set of 8's. Now I know that these hands were totally on me, but when Gianna deals, I do well (see photo above). Just having fun with you, Ron!

The slots at the Caesars properties seemed to be uber-tight this trip. Willy Wonka was not my friend. I played very  little sweet sweet video poker, and I came out on the negative side at the poker table.

So ... this was not a successful trip for poker and gambling in general. However, it was a very nice vacation with my wife, possibly opening the door to her accompanying me in future summer trips to Las Vegas.

You win some, you lose some: that is usually what Las Vegas is about. I can't wait for my next trip!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Mr. and Mrs. lightning Go To ‘Vegas (part two) By Mrs. lightning

When I left off yesterday, we had just gotten the good news that our flooded basement would indeed get cleaned, and we were able to leave for Kingman, AZ in a positive frame of mind.

The whole point of the trip was to attend the retirement party of lightning’s brother, Tom, who has been sheriff of Mohave County, AZ for almost 20 years.  His wife, Jo, had asked the siblings and their families to attend as a surprise.  Lightning and I were the only ones who could make it.  And I have to confess, I wasn’t too keen.  As I stated yesterday, I’m not a fan of ‘Vegas.  And I’m not a fan of huge parties where I don’t know anyone and have to make small talk.  But I knew it was important to lightning, so I agreed, albeit somewhat reluctantly.
 
Cardboard figure of the sheriff
 
After a scenic drive, during which lightning had several suggestions for how I could keep him awake, we arrived at our hotel, compliments of the aforementioned Jo. We readied ourselves for the party and got directions to the Elk’s Club.  When we arrived, we were hurried into a hallway off the main room to wait for the opening ceremonies.  What we didn’t realize was that everyone was getting food and drink and mingling before that happened.  While we waited in the hall.  For about 90 minutes. Jo came to give us something to drink.  Our nephew Mike came over several times to apologize for the wait.  Friends of the family came to see if we wanted food and brought it to us., only to have someone say things were about to start.  So they took the food to the head table where we would be sitting.  Then it didn’t start.  So they brought the food back, just as we were being introduced and had to go out.  We did eventually get our food.  We surprised Tom.  And because of all the videos, presentations, etc., we didn’t even have to mingle!  Just an aside here—when you make a video montage for someone, whatever the reason, I am here to tell you that 29 minutes is about 19 minutes too long.  Just sayin’.  Anyway, we ended up having a very enjoyable evening and looked forward to breakfast the next day with family.

A singing tribute 

Grandkids get in on the act
 
Sunday morning we all met at Golden Corral: lightning and I, Tom and Jo, Mike and his wife, daughter, and wife’s parents, our niece, Cyndi, her two kids, her boyfriend and his three girls and his mom.  We had a private room so we could hang out for as long as we wished, which we happily did.  We don’t see these family members much (maybe 8 or 10 times in 25 years), so it was great to sit and shoot the breeze and catch up on everyone’s life. Tom and Jo are planning to move to the Scottsdale/Phoenix area soon to be closer to Mike and Cyndi and their families.  They are of course, trying to encourage lightning and me to move out there if we ever get to retire.  This was a bonus for me as my best friend and her family are moving out there next week.  The lure of family may just be enough to get lightning at least thinking that way….  And if not move there, at least not complain about visiting!

After saying our goodbyes, we headed back to ‘Vegas.  True to his word, lightning was making sure that the trip was not just about gambling.  So on the way back we stopped to take in the Hoover Dam.  A tip if you go visit:  do not lean against the metal guard rails when it is 113 degrees out.  It really kinda smarts.  We didn’t take the tour, but we looked around, then stopped at the scenic lookout over Lake Mead. Then back in the car to a little casino lightning had wanted to try in the past.  No poker room, but they did have a Willy Wonka slot machine—our favorite.  Sadly, it didn’t like us back.

Hoover Dam

Lake Mead
 
We finally got back to ‘Vegas and headed for In & Out Burger for a Double Double Animal Style.  I had never been to In & Out and lightning really likes it, so it was a win for us both.  We drove around and checked out where the day spa was located that I would be going to the next day, then headed for Harrah’s to check in.  By this time, we were pooped and ready for a nap. (Hey! Vacations are about resting and relaxing!)
 
Not bad for a generic Harrah's room that was mostly comped
 
After a nap, it was time to start the “tour”.  Remember, I hadn’t been to ‘Vegas in about 13 years, so things had changed significantly.  So we headed south down the strip to see a new casino or two and for lightning to check out his favorite poker rooms.  We ran across another Wonka machine and had no more luck with it than the previous one.  After a couple of hours, we decided it was time to eat.  We wound up at The Cheesecake Factory.  Both our meals were great.  Then we got a piece of cheesecake to take back to the room.  It was after midnight when we returned. After sharing that little bite of heaven (the cheesecake, not  lightning!), I got ready for some serious sagas—Candy Crush and Bubble Witch, along with uninterrupted HGTV viewing while lightning headed off to the poker rooms.  I finally fell asleep until lightning got back about 4 am or so.  I’m sure he’ll be posting about his luck (all bad it seemed). 
 
 
So we had a day filled with family, good food, interesting sights, and a little bit of gambling.  I was impressed at lightning’s restraint.  But would it hold?  Stay tuned for part three (the final post) to find out.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mr. and Mrs. lightning Go To ‘Vegas (part one) By Mrs. lightning

lighting and I just returned from a lovely, relaxing trip to ‘Vegas, despite floods back home, a trip to Urgent Care, and delayed flights. Sometimes the good just outweighs the bad.

I have not been to ‘Vegas in about 13 years.  Back in the late ‘80s I spent my first year teaching in Bullhead City, AZ, right across the river from Laughlin, Nevada.  Back then, there were only about 6 or 8 casinos and one apartment complex in Laughlin.  Bullhead had one stoplight.  Let’s just say that I got to see the less pleasant side of casinos and their effect on families.  Add in being extremely financially strapped fresh out of college, and you can begin to understand my disinterest in gambling.  So, while lighting makes several trips a year to Sin City, it’s not my ideal vacation destination.  However, a family event in Kingman, AZ (more on that later) led me to reluctantly agree to accompany him.

Our flight to ‘Vegas on Friday, July 11th was, thankfully, uneventful. We even arrived a little early.  After landing we went to pick up our rental car - a process lighting had told me would take 20-30 minutes.  We were delighted when it took only about five.  So far things were going our way.


Many of you may be familiar with Memphis MOJO. We have had the pleasure of meeting with him several times in the past few years. We knew he was in ‘Vegas, playing in the WSOP Main Event, so we texted him first thing to see how he was doing.  He was still in, so we headed straight to Rio, hoping to catch him in action. Before we could get there, however, he let us know he had just busted out (477th) and was in line for his payout.  Undeterred, we headed over and caught him in line.  While he waited to complete the very slow process of getting his winnings, we headed over to watch some games.  There we ran into another former blogger friend of lightning’s, Lana (pvanharibo).  We talked to her for a few minutes, watched some tables, and then everyone was asked to leave while the players took a dinner break.  Sometime later MOJO finally completed his transactions, and we headed over to All American Burger for dinner.  After a good meal and pleasant conversation, MOJO expressed his fatigue and we decided it was a good idea to get checked into our hotel.  Normally lightning would have picked up the tab, or at least paid for ours.  In light of MOJO's recent third place finish in the WSOP Senior Event and that day’s winnings, lightning couldn’t refuse when MOJO offered to pay!


Off we went to our hotel, the 4 Queens, located in downtown ‘Vegas. 


Staying downtown was a first for us.  In fact, I hadn’t been in downtown ‘Vegas since the early ‘80s. (I really need to stop dating myself with all these references to multiple decades ago!), and never at night.  Let me say, there are some images forever seared into my brain that I would prefer to have never seen (some out-of-shape Cupids with pasties being right at the top), although I didn’t mind the obviously toned derrieres of the Kiss costumed guys we passed behind.  Twice.  After wandering around, marveling at the number of strange people to be seen, as well as the number of families with young children out so late and observing questionable entertainment, we stopped in at Denny’s for a late night snack before calling it a night.

Our original plan for Saturday was to sleep in before heading to Kingman, AZ for the family event that was the impetus for this trip to begin with.  The best laid plans….  lightning woke early and texted our youngest back home (see the guest blog on the Anime convention) to see how things were going.  She responded that everything was fine, but that it had been raining.  I will preface the rest of this part of the story by saying that anything that has ever gone wrong with any home we’ve lived in has involved water.  Usually lots of it.  Where it doesn’t belong.  lightning asked our daughter to check the basement, not really expecting anything since we’d recently found and addressed the last rain leak issue we’d had (FYI: an upside down toboggan works great as a window well cover, and gives a great orange glow to the basement as a bonus).  She texted back that there was about an inch of water.  Insert your choice of varied and colorful expletives here. lightning turned to me and asked if we should go home. I responded immediately, firmly, and negatively.  Instead, I immediately texted my BFF to get the name of our carpet guy, whom she had recommended and I couldn’t remember.  Not only got his name, but also heard that the town had been deluged and she and her husband were dealing with a rapidly filling sump pump unable to keep up with the rain.  I called our guy and left a voicemail, without much hope.  IF the town was getting dumped on, I figured he’d be swamped (insert laugh), and we’d be SOL.  While waiting for a return call, we turned to Facebook to see if other local friends were having issues.  Holy cow!  There had been over 5” of rain in less than two hours and people who had never had problems were suddenly dealing with sump pumps unable to keep up or stopping altogether, streets that were impassable, and potentially more rain in the forecast.  Oddly, this calmed us greatly as we realized that everyone was afflicted, and it wasn’t just our dumb luck this time.  To our relief, our carpet guy called back soon.  He’d been out of town and was just on his way back, unaware of the flooding at home.  He’d decided to listen to voicemails on the way home, and ours was the first.  He would head over to the house as soon as he got back to town.  Whew! Problem solved.  Finally off to Kingman, AZ for the real purpose of the trip.







Stay tuned for the rest of our adventures.
 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Buffet of Gaming Choices: Las Vegas, Local Casinos and Online – Past, Present and Future

Having just come back from several days in Las Vegas, I am still having a difficult time wiping the smile off my face.  However, there is just one tiny problem: Las Vegas is over 1,700 miles away. It’s not like it is easy to go there for many reasons, including time off from work and travel costs. Fortunately, I am able to take several trips a year out west, but those times are spread out throughout the year. What is player to do when the desire to gamble hits?

Local options for me are quite limited. My state has a finite number of licenses for casinos, and the few that we have were originally all riverboat casinos that were required to actually sail. There was an admission charge at first, believe it or not. Go on a Saturday night and you would expect to pay $20 just for the opportunity to gamble! Fortunately, that is no longer the case. But … to get to the closest casino, I have to go over 90 miles. The gambling selections at that casino are, unfortunately, quite limited. Some slot machines, a few craps pits, a little blackjack, Caribbean Poker, Let It Ride and a small poker room is about all it has to offer.

The convenient option, of course, is online gambling. Online gambling, and poker in particular, flourished during the big poker boom that began around 2003. New online rooms popped up seemingly week after week. I remember that at one time I had over 30 poker room icons on my computer. Life was good! Unfortunately, the U.S. government did not see it the same way. The passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 began to cut into online play, and that fateful day we call “Black Friday” in April 2011 halted online gaming for many people. For some time, options were on the decline. However, the times are thankfully changing. More U.S. sites are becoming legal, being led by forward thinking political leaders in New Jersey and Nevada. Lobbying efforts across the United States are going strong. A country that has prided itself on freedom needs to loosen the shackles placed upon online gambling.
I find it interesting that my gambling choices have changed over the years. I have always like dabbling in slots for fun and entertainment, and used to frequent the roulette tables and the craps pits. Once the poker boom of the mid-2000’s hit, though, I was hooked. Although I play mostly Hold ‘Em, I have a special affinity for Omaha and O-8.I still enjoy playing slots, and have developed a liking for video poker. Being able to “mash buttons” in video poker is just a special treat in itself. Online poker and other online options are great if you are like me and like to do your gaming from the convenience of your own home. A laptop computer on my bed is all I need to play poker against players from all over the world.

Where do I see gambling heading in the next ten years? Going on the assumption that the economy in the United States will continue to improve and seeing the direction that individual states are going regarding online poker and other forms of gambling, I believe that gambling options will flourish, both in brick and mortar venues and in online formats. More states, desperate to balance budgets, will see the financial opportunity that online gambling brings.
The future looks bright, which is quite a change from the dark days after Black Friday. Best o’ luck as you enjoy your gaming!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Back Home Again - Reality Sucks!

I got back from Las Vegas at about midnight last night. There is a good side to getting away from everyday life, but it is also nice to get back home.

Since my work weekend is now starting (ha!), I will get up some posts starting later today.

First up: my Fremont Experience, the flash flood, Arizona, and maybe even the return to Las Vegas and a little MOJO.

Did I just write that I got home in time for a long weekend? Yowsa!

Monday, July 07, 2014

Guest Post: Anime Midwest 2014



Hello readers! Today’s update isn’t from lightning36 - oh, no. This post is written by none other than his fantastic youngest daughter. I’ve been pestering him to let me write this one for about a month.
From July 4 to 6, my father and I went to what was surely the highlight of his year so far. We stayed at the Hilton Rosemont / Chicago O'Hare Hotel


(lovely place, by the way) for two nights, though that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Most of our time (or mine, at least) was spent at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, enjoying the panels, shopping, and having a fantastic time in general at Anime Midwest 2014.
Father's note: From the organization's website:
What is Anime Midwest? Our midwest anime convention is a three-day convention celebrating Japanese animation, video games, music, and more for fans in Chicago. Almost 10,000 anime fans will come to the Hyatt Regency O'Hare from July 4-6, 2014 to take part in cosplay, concerts, gaming tournaments, formal dances, and more. You can make new friends, meet voice actors, and have a lot of fun - while we support you with a ConSweet full of free soda and ramen.

This year’s experience was nothing short of mind-blowing. There was free food, plenty of friends (some old, some new,) and, of course, dozens upon dozens of pictures.

Me being lifted by a good friend


One of the many pictures taken at a Homestuck photoshoot

(Homestuck is the webcomic my daughter adores)

Unfortunately, one of the most important parts of the convention has not yet had pictures or videos posted online: a conga line of Homestuck fans that wrapped around the building (and I was near the front, too!)

Overall, I would definitely say this was a great experience, and I hope that I have many more convention experiences to come as well.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. If you could write something in the comment section along the lines of “lightning36 should let his daughter go to Kollision Con in January,”that would be great! ;)