Sunday, October 19, 2014

Las Vegas from a Local's Perspective: Guest Post by Alysia Chang

Terribly honored to be offered a chance to guest blog. Thanks Lightning!  I live in Vegas and I don't write a blog about it.  People have asked me about it and I've somehow avoided telling them the truth and shattering their image of Sin City.  I love Vegas for reasons that go beyond the naked women, debauchery and gambling.  I know, I know.  It's almost as if Vegas has this mystique that its tourist board has promoted over the years and if I actually tell them about the adorable little indie theater that shows first run Bollywood movies and the cheap taco places on the west side, I'm somehow undermining this carefully crafted fa├žade of giant vodka spiked Icee drinks in mini plastic Eiffel Tower containers and all you can eat buffets. 
I think I avoided blogging about Vegas because well, I don't want to share the city that I have grown to adore.  Thank goodness Lightning doesn't have a bunch of followers or else this place would be overrun by folks wanting to enjoy the ballet, hike through the Valley of Fire and look at all the art around the city as well as being intrigued by the architecture and history.  Let's not even talk about Vegas being right next to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. 
Ooops.  Too late.  Okay so the cat is out of the bag.  The secret is being a Vegas local or at least taking advantage of your friends who are locals.  This is by no means a full list but it's MY list. 
*    You will need a locals I.D. for this but it's sooooooo worth it.  We're talking FREE shows.  Up to like six tickets.  No, you cannot get into Celine or any of the Cirque Du Soleil shows but the level of sheer talent in Vegas is set very high so that even the crappy shows are still good.  You may have to pony up the two drink minimum but you were going to blow that money on the Big 6 wheel anyway.
*  Locals get a couple of bucks off but it's really a cool place to visit.  Right now they have BUTTERFLIES in an enclosed habitat.  You should totally bring that nephew of yours that's freaked out by butterflies and take some great video to show at his wedding down the line.  The Nevada National History Museum is located on site as well.  And they have activities for little kids like painting flower pots and cracking geodes.  Love this place!
* The Blood Mary to end all Bloody Marys is at Porchlight Grille on WEST Desert Inn Road.  It is a SICK mofo of a monstrosity. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  And he sucks down a 25 oz. Ketel One Bloody Mary that has a LOBSTER TAIL, TRI TIP STEAK, SHRIMP, a Slim Jim, a bunch of veggies, cheese stuffed pepperoni and BACON.  

* The Regal 18 at Village Square shows foreign films.  If you need to get your Bollywood dancing shoes on, this is the place.  There is an awesome Thai restaurant (Archi's), a Japanese/Hawaiian sushi joint (808 Tapas) and a very unusual (but delish) burger place (Bachi's Burgers) that serves up some killer pork belly sandwiches.  And a Jollibee which is that bad ass Fillipino fried chicken franchise that is (IMHO) cheaper and as good as anything you'll get on the Strip.  I mean for what the Brooklyn Bowl at the Linq charges, you can totally feed your family and neighbors.

* I may be running long here but I still think the locals deal on the monorail which goes from the SLS to MGM Grand along the Strip for a buck is one of the best deals.  Non-locals pay $5 each way.  You don't mess with parking, you can get completely sh*tfaced and they're air-conditioned and run 20 hours a day.  Plus, you get to meet some interesting folks along the way.  Millie and Walter from Omaha who haven't been to Vegas in 15 years.  The hot chicks going to Hakkasan.  And all those German families (the Germans seem to really dig the monorail).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Really -- no sets?

I played a marathon poker session last Saturday at the nearest poker room -- the Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria, IL. I have played there enough to recognize some of the locals, but I generally keep to myself when there unless meeting up with Cokeboy99.

I was lured to the casino that day due to a slot promotion that I received (11x points from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.). Knowing that there are a couple of Willie Wonka slots there, how could I refuse? Plus, my wife had two things going on that day and wouldn't be around, thus giving me even more reason to go.

Fellow blogger Pete P. Peters loves to post pictures of his casino ventures, usually including the shot of his filet and/or cabernet from the fine steakhouse at whichever casino he is visiting. Well, I generally do not eat dinner when I play poker in East Peoria. I load up on a meal before I play, then don't eat until I am ready to head home. But, in the Triple P tradition, I hereby post pictures of my exquisite meal before driving to East Peoria:

Perhaps I should have just eaten some of the curry chicken I got my daughter at the local Chinese restaurant?

The poker that night was, to say the least, brutal. I caught some cards at the beginning (which included seeing the dreaded pocket kings and queens get pwned on the flop) and was able to chip up on a table that had players with weaknesses just ready to be exploited. Then ... nothing. I was card dead for hours. My cards were so bad that I couldn't even limp into any pots if I had the chance. Those chances became even more rare as a reg who I had usually seen play pretty tight went on tilt and started raising every pot. I estimate that I saw him rebuy to the tune of about $1,500 over a relatively short period of time. A couple of times he lost his rebuy within a few hands. Pretty sad. Sadder still, I was unable to take advantage of the situation. Fold. Fold. Fold. Yuck.

I decided to take a break from poker after over six hours so that I could earn some bonus points playing some sweet, sweet video poker and some slots. Unfortunately, the video poker machines in East Peoria seem incredibly tight. Nothing. Nada. How does Pete Peters find dem good machines that give him quad Aces so frequently?

After an hour of donking some slots and after the promotion ended, I went back to the poker room, only to be two-outed on a big hand and suffer other poker indignities that I shudder to remember. In both sessions, which totaled 12 hours, I did not hit even one set. I felt pretty confident against the other players, but the cards certainly did not cooperate that night.

You know you are running bad when you depend on slot play to make up for poker losses. I hit up Wonka for one last time before leaving the boat and got a nice bonus, which at least cut my losses to a level where I didn't tweet that I wanted to kill everybody.

I grabbed a shitty Italian sub from the snack bar and began the lonely drive home, making it into my bed before the sun came up. Just another frigging day in Par-A-Dice.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

60's Pop Star Paul Revere Dead at 76

1960's pop music has lost another icon as the legendary Paul Revere of Paul Revere and the Raiders passed away at age 76 yesterday. Revere was his band's keyboard player.

Revere, originally from Idaho, began forming his band in 1958. Paul Revere and the Raiders landed a great television gig in the 1960's (Dick Clark's "Where the Action Is") and had a string of pop hits, including the iconic anti-drug anthem "Kicks" and later, the monster hit "Indian Reservation."

The Raiders were known for their Revolutionary War outfits and for being a popular  television band -- sort of like a real life version of The Monkees.

A little piece of music trivia for you: Paul Revere and the Raiders recorded a version of "Louie Louie" at about the same time as the popular version performed by The Kingsmen was recorded. Have any readers of this blog (except yours truly) ever heard the Raiders' version?

Rest in Peace.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

Retro Saturday

The other day a co-worker stopped me in the hall and said "Do you believe that 'retro' now means 1980's? Same thing with 'oldies'."

Well, in some ways the 1980's does seem like a long time ago. At the start of that decade I was finishing my bachelor's degree and by the end of the decade I was married, getting ready to finish my eighth year of professional work, and was unaware that within six months I would be moving to a new town for a new job. Kids? They were not even in the picture at that time.

The music of the 1980's was certainly different. In many ways, I thought that some of the real gems were great songs that came from groups formed outside the United States. Thus, on my version of Retro Saturday, I give you fantastic live versions of some 1980's classics. By the way, these were all recorded many years after the songs became international hits.

 Beds Are Burning

 Don't Dream It's Over

Take On Me

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Screwed by Dealers Three Times in One Night

Yesterday I made a short road trip to play some poker at the nearest room, the Par-A-Dice riverboat casino in East Peoria, IL. It was a very different trip.

Sadly, my friend Willy Wonka was not attentive to my needs. However, another favorite slot machine at the boat,, Cash Illusions, was.

There isn't anything quite as fun as donking a little cashola in slot machines for a little relaxation. And when you win ... so much better!

I was seated immediately upon entering the poker room. The game was progressing slowly as I received little in the way of cards. Then, however, things rapidly changed when one of the better local players sat down at the table. I knew him well enough to know that he tries to blow people off hand by betting really big after the flop or turn. I had pocket 5's and flopped a set on the turn. A set of 5's used to be called "Presto!" in the old poker blogger world, and I felt like shouting it out. The good thing was, I knew exactly how to play this guy. I showed weakness after the flop, and he jacked up his bet after the turn. There were straight possibilities out there, but I was betting that I was way ahead, so I shoved my whole stack. He tanked for a bit, than apparently decided that I was using his strategy. He called. I never found out what he had, but I took everything he had except for $7. He walked away from the table to take a loooong break. Yowsa!

Eventually several players started leaving, so I decided to take a break while comfortably ahead. I returned to the room a bit later and was seated at the same table. There were several new players and the action was loose and hard. I was hoping for some decent cards, but switched tables when they were not forthcoming. A while later, cokeboy99 came to the boat and was able to eventually get seated at my table. It sure was nice to have at least one compadre in the room.

As for the title of this post ... three different times by three different dealers, I was on the crappy end of their errors.

#1: Female dealer who also messed up a pot by not counting out chips from a player's all in somehow misdealed our hands. I looked down to see ... A-A. Wonderful.

#2: Male dealer who is apparently very new exposed the river card before the final player in a hand had a chance to call a bet. The card would have given me the nut flush and won me a nice pot. However, the river card was instead shuffled back into the deck, and the new river was not a Heart, meaning I had nothing. That hand really cost me. Grrrrr.

3#: Male dealer (probably the best or one of the best in the room) somehow misdeals. I look down to see ... A-A! Do you believe it! I know there could be an assumption that it the cards were dealt properly, I might not have gotten both A-A hands. However, I am not sure what caused the misdeals -- bad flips to the last couple of players? In any event, you should be able to understand why I felt frustrated last night.

Toward the end of the evening, a rather annoying player sat down and kept running his yap the rest of the evening. He was a lucksack supreme, and I only hope that I get to play with him again in the future when the poker gods might be a little more favorable to me.

All in all, despite some good play on my part, I took a slight loss on the evening. It was nice, however, so get away for part of the day since work has been taking its toll on me lately.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Repeat of a Story Etched in Time

My Greatest Catch - A Fishing/Life Story
My family was not exactly the type that would buy Field & Stream or Outdoor Life magazines. No family members except a brother-in-law had ever gone hunting. Fishing was something you did at the local pond with a bamboo pole, a bobber, and a worm. So when the opportunity came up to take a week-long fishing trip in Canada with my father-in-law and several of my wife's relatives, I was both excited and scared. Doing a week at Lake of the Woods in Nestors Falls, Ontario with a bunch of guys sounded like a great time. However, I knew I would be the worst fisherman out there, and would have to be taught a number of different strategies and techniques. The trip ended up being great, and the annual fishing trip was something I looked forward to.

A year after my father-in-law passed away, I went on the trip with my wife's cousin, Tim, and my wife's Uncle Don. Tim and Don were hard core fishermen, as evidenced by one trip where we spent over 70 hours on the water in one week. Tim and Don taught me about 50% of what I knew about fishing.

One afternoon, I got one hell of a yank on my line. The fish was obviously a monster, and smart too, as he tried to get away under the boat. Tim and Don later said that they couldn't believe that my fishing pole didn't break as it was bent in a U-shape when the fish ran under the boat. After much struggling and fighting, I landed the sucker. I was hoping that I had caught my first muskie, but instead it was a huge northern pike. Yes -- I was so damn proud of myself.

I couldn't wait to get back to shore. The plan was to bring in the boat and I would fix dinner while Tim and Don went to the tavern up the road to call home and check in with their wives. Of course, as I was cooking, there was a spring in my step. I kept thinking that life just didn't get much better than it was that day.

Tim and Don would usually be back right away, but this time it was taking them forever to return. It was dark outside and the dinner was beginning to get cold, so I began to think that I might need to go down to the tavern and see what was holding them up. Before I could get out the door, they came back in with grim looks on their faces.

I wish I could go into detail about the length and weight of my greatest catch, but the details were lost in the events of that day.

September 11, 2001.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Football (and More) Saturday

My friends Steve and Carol invited Mrs. lightning and me to go to the University of Illinois football game and pre and post game tailgates yesterday, so how could we refuse? Carol and I first started working together ... ummm ... 32 years ago when I started my first professional job. Old friends are good friends!

Since Steve is a frequent flier at a local butcher shop, he scored free pre-game tailgate passes to a large tent sponsored in part by the shop. Free tailgate that included free draft beer? Score!

The game itself was interesting. Of course, a school like Illinois that is from a major conference is expected to win against lesser conference schools. However, Illinois hasn't exactly been a football power for some time. Western Kentucky gave the Fighting Illini all that it could handle. The final score was 42-34 -- a narrow escape for the home town team. Former Oklahoma State quarterback Wes Lunt passed for 456 yards and three touchdowns for the Illini. The good news is that Illinois is ranked 8th in the country in passing yards -- 370.5 per game. The bad news is that they are 122nd in rushing yards -- 71 per game. Next week they play at Washington. Things might not be so cheery a week from now.

After the game, we set up our own tailgate. And just so that Pete P. Peters knows that all members of the lightning crowd are not total pikers ...

Yes -- those are filets that you see on the grill -- the same filets that helped score Steve the pre-game tailgate passes!

And no -- we did not bring any Stags' Leap or even Jordan cabernet with us. Instead ...

So, with a face that was burned a pretty shade of red and with a belly full of choice steak, bloody marys and Torpedos, I returned home from a fine afternoon.

But wait ... one thing was missing. Where was the poker and/or the button mashing? Before the evening was over, I decided to cash in my free play at the closest slot lounge. Of course, free gambling money is always great gambling money.

The last time I visited the lounge, the machines were all cold and I left rather quickly. This time, however, my favorite Lotus Flower machine had a little hot streak in it. For example:

I usually go to the lounge late in the evening since others have generally cleared out by that time. Hmmm ... a guy goes to mash buttons later at night and wants to be alone doing it. I might have heard of someone who does that before.

All in all, it was a great Saturday. Now it is Sunday, and time to go from one orange and blue team to another:

Go Bears -- and have a great football Sunday!