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    Monday, September 26, 2022

    You're a Good Dog

    I've been dreading writing this post, but I can't put it off forever. For the first time in almost 40 years, we have no dogs in the house.

    But all our dogs that stood in for this blog's fictionalized feature canine, Chippy (who was a Dane-hua-hua) deserve to be celebrated and remembered, and that includes my sweet Roxy.

    Roxy aka Chippy 3.0

    You have to go back a bit, to Duke, who was a sleek, black, short-haired Dane/Lab cross. He was a heller, and a wonderful dog, with the most beautiful golden eyes.

    When Duke was 4 or 5, we got Blaze, a Border Collie / Lab cross, to keep him company. Blaze was just a puppy and they became fast friends.

    And, for a time, we also had Lucky, a beautiful shepherd cross in her senior days. We nursed her through her retirement and her life came to a gentle end after a couple of years.

    Duke, Lucky and Blaze awaiting treats.

    We sure had our hands full with three dogs in the house, but they got along well enough that they could all eat together, lined up side by side. They never snarled over food once we had them trained in.

    Unfortunately, Duke got short-changed in life. He had not one but two ACL tears with ensuing surgery, and then cancer in (we think) his stomach lining. He only enjoyed 10 years of life and when he was gone, poor Blaze was inconsolable.

    She lay in a spot under a coffee table, hidden away, for a full year, only coming out for meals and walks.

    Independently, Mrs. Flusher and I had both seen Roxy's photo on the local Humane Society page. We both took note of her, and I mentioned the dog and we were surprised that we'd both been taken by the gorgeous mutt in the photo.


    So, just as we'd gotten Duke a dog, we got Blaze one too - Roxy.

    Blaze soon came out of her depression and they were fine companions, as much as Roxy would put up with.

    Roxy and Blaze

    Now, Roxy had attitude. You've never seen such an assertive and dominant female as Roxy. She fought for her place right until the end, always trying to be first out the door, always wanting to be in charge. Always a handful, that girl, and we kept up the assertion of our own places as pack leaders right up to the end.

    Roxy was probably half shepherd, quarter Great Dane, and quarter lab, and she was easily the smartest, and fittest dog we have ever owned. And she was beautiful. She had gorgeous golden brindle tones in her dark fur, and she was perfectly proportioned.

    She was also furry. Really furry. It turns out we'd adopted the breed that sheds more than any other and for the next decade and more it was fur, fur, fur everywhere. (I'm certain we'll never be free of it.)

    Readers of the blog might recall when Blaze died, and how much that hurt. I'd always wanted to have a dog from puppy right up until death, and Blaze was that dog. I felt some satisfaction knowing that I'd done my best for her right through her entire life, but that didn't come close to making up for the loss of such a sweet friend.

    But this is about Roxy! Did I say she was smart?

    Roxy loved to chase the light from a laser pointer. She'd run up and down the hall, try to bite it on the walls and floors, bark madly when that maddening dot went up across the ceiling.

    And then Roxy stopped chasing so much and looking back at me. Looking at the wall, looking at me.

    Roxy figured out where the laser dot was coming from - my hand. And she started watching my hand to know where the magical light was going to appear.

    We have always made it a rule not to feed dogs any human food. Do this and they will never bother you when eating, and never get into things you might leave around.

    I once went out and left some rib bones on a plate within easy reach. They were untouched when we returned hours later.

    And Roxy also knew she wasn't allowed in the galley kitchen. She'd lie outside in the hallway and watch. When a paw slipped over the line (she was constantly testing) I'd say, "Tippytoes...." and she'd pull it back away from no-dogs land.

    The thing she was usually waiting for was ice - her favorite treat.

    At some point or another, all our dogs had been offered ice and they never had any interest - until Roxy. She learned that she could chew on those cubes and break them up, and then munch them down.

    Any time I went to the fridge and dispensed some ice into my glass, she'd show up, and sit outside the kitchen and watch, and demand ice of her own.

    Roxy ate multiple ice cubes after every meal, and various times during the day. She couldn't get enough of them!

    And, here's a point of interest - her teeth never, ever developed the horrible crud and tartar that all older dogs seem to develop. Even at 14, her teeth were clean, healthy, and white, and I put it down to the ice flushing away all the bits of food and cookie.

    Another thing about Roxy - she loved to talk. She'd sort of howl at us when she wanted something or when excited, not a full howl, sort of a low row-rowr-rowr sound. You'd swear she was trying to talk.

    So, anytime she wanted ice, she'd sit in front of me and start up with the rowr-rowr. Roxy was personally responsible for me getting up off the couch 187,301 extra times over the 13 years we were together.

    Some years ago, Blaze left us, and it was incredibly hard for me. But Roxy was resilient. She bounced right back. She had a strong sense of herself and an independent streak that stayed with her.

    Roxy and I bonded even more closely with Blaze gone. She slept next to my bed for over a decade. And every night, whether she was on my bed or in her own bed when I turned in, I'd whisper in her ear, even when it meant getting down on my hands and knees on the floor.

    "Good night, Roxy. You're a good dog. You're a goooood dog."

    I had this idea that in case something happened to me in the night, at least that would be the last words she'd hear from me.

    The last couple of years of Roxy's life, she started to show symptoms of a degenerative disease that was affecting her rear legs.

    We bought the manufactured dwelling and last winter was our first winter away. Roxy was getting pretty old, but we hoped she would be able to come with us and she did. In fact, she loved the traveling. Long days in the car didn't faze her at all, and she had a lovely winter in the warm temperatures, skipping the cold, dark, ice and snow, with all kinds of new things to look at, and new scents to enjoy, as dogs do. Dog's do? Don't worry, I picked up after her every time.

    Roxy's health had gone downhill quite a bit over the winter and she needed quite a bit more help with the stairs once we returned to Flusherville. Overall she seemed happy to be home though, and we hoped she would have a good summer.

    There's no point in going into detail about the end - she was old, 14, she'd had a good life, a wonderful life in fact, and her disease finally got the better of her. Roxy, the one with the spirit, toughness, and attitude, the resilient one - she finally let us know that it was time, when one day, she fell and wouldn't get up again. And she'd stopped eating, always a warning that a dog's end may be near.

    I can't express how much we miss that dog. How much we miss having any dog. We are retired now, and the plan is to have a few dogless years so we can enjoy more flexibility in our lives for a while. But the emptiness in the house is unrelenting.

    Every night before sleep, I still tell Roxy goodnight, talk to her a bit, tell her I miss her. I can't bring myself to stop, and I think I will keep doing it until the day I forget. And then I might do it some more.

    "You're a good dog, Roxy," I whisper into the darkness that seems to stretch on forever. "You're a good dog."

    I hope she can hear me somehow, somewhere, and I hope she knows how much she was loved.

    Sleep well, my girl.

    Friday, May 13, 2022

    You Only Dine at YOLO Once

    Day 12 part two and some things are coming clear to me about modern Vegas, and myself.

    Bellagio still has an air of class and sophistication about it. I like that. Loud, raucous, high energy places have always exhausted me, and I've always seeked out quieter environments with good music to listen to.

    Bellagio Petrossian Bar

    Back in the 90s, we made eight or ten trips to Luxor, but found ourself playing a bank of Bonus Poker machines next to a two story waterfall, which was kind of underneath the escalators to the second level. Believe it or not, Luxor had class then, and we cherished what we called 'the quiet area'. It was an oasis where we could really relax, enjoy playing, and have fun.

    The modern 12 story high 2,000 dB penny slots are creating a cacophony in most casinos that I find rattling. Mix all those different machine sounds together and you have a noise not unlike the grommet factory at Royal Canadian Veeblefetzer, where I nursed size 7 grommets out of their robot mother's wombs at the pace of 18,000 per hour.

    You've seen them a million times, now make it a million and one times.

    At Bellagio, I found some areas in the casino where I could poke away at video keno at a quarter a throw, relax, and enjoy the music they were playing, which was varied, and interesting.

    And I found myself continuing with what would be the most enjoyable day of the entire trip. I'd ticked the boxes for the most part, kept up with the blog, and I finally felt myself relaxing.

    Keeping the stakes down helped with this no doubt. The first $20 of video keno yielded nothing much, but took 20 minutes. So did the second. And the third. But I kept to my plan of keeping the bets down, going for a straight 5 out of 5 keno win. With one quarter bet, I could win $200. That would make a difference in my total losses for the trip, which stood at $1,610.

    Another $20 went by and another and I started to wonder how long I could put up with this level of serenity. I mean, yeah, I hate the in-your-face bombastic blast of Fremont Street, but I'm not completely dead yet!

    The video poker paytables at quarters are crap at Bellagio, just like most strip places, but I thought one little twenty wouldn't hurt too much. Besides, I was really enjoying my day. I felt a complete turnaround from the defeats of the day before.

    Unfortunately, I didn't have a twenty handy. I had a hundy handy. Named Randy. A handy Randy hundy.

    But I was in total Bellagio control, right? I'd be able to cash out at $80 if I was losing. Sure I would.

    The machine I picked seemed happy, with lots of small wins. I went up for a while instead of straight down, as is typical. Imagine my shock when I landed a straight flush! From three!

    I played on, keeping an eye on the meter, vowing not to blow it by angrily playing through Randy.

    I held a couple of threes and punched the button and my eyes kind of couldn't make sense of what I'd hit. Somehow I thought it was a full house, but the credits were rolling up.

    Finally, I'd gotten a decent hit on Double Double Bonus - 3s with kicker for $200. Oh yes!

    And just like that, I'd won $200.

    Including the keno ticket hit from the morning, I was up $138 on the day. Could I keep it rolling?!

    It was just such a nice time, strolling through the casino, looking at different games, taking my time. I played some Quick Hit slot that took forever to eat a twenty, and then it never did. I cashed out with five bucks after half an hour of pounding away at the minimum bet of 30 cents a spin.

    I did a bunch more video keno, but could never get it to hit that five out of five. I guess the supreme luck I have had on it on prior trip was just that - luck.

    An old school BUFFFALLLLO!! machine gave me some good bonuses and I cashed out ahead on it at the end.

    I suppose someone, somewhere has tried to get a drunken tattoo that says "INSERT THIS SIDE UP".

    On my way out of the casino, I spied with my degenerate eye, something that was nickel 10-play video poker. I had to give it a go, right?

    Sadly, my luck discontinue, and I did play the one quad I got into the ground, all except for 25 cents.

    And in a wonderful act of serendipity, I plugged that last quarter of a buck into a nearby slot machine.

    One spin. And I hit for 40 quarters. I smiled. I cashed out the ten bucks, and went on my way back to Planet Hollywood.

    The trip was basically done, and I was finishing on a high note, something I would demolish with my stupid, stupid, choice for my last meal in Vegas.

    Back to the room, where I had plenty of time to pack up, relax, take a nap, and look out the window.

    I had to have the rental car back for 9:00 pm so I had to leave about 8:30 pm so I had to eat at about 7:45 pm or 8:00 pm.

    I considered two or three places, all with lineups, and with the time crunch, ended up at Yolo's. What a fucking horrid experience. All the TVs in the place were blaring with a sports channel showing 90% ads. Nobody there eating was watching, or cared.

    All four patrons ignoring the TV with rapt attention.

    I'll try to keep this short. I complained and the manager did turn it down. I could take out my earplugs. 

    Some ne'er do well uncaring dufus tossed my meal onto the table without a word. The waitress never checked on me because, probably, she knew it was horrible food.

    Chicken enchilada with prepackaged rice and baby shit beans.

    Nothing was remotely hot, there was barely any sauce on the enchiladas, and the refried beans looked like they'd been run through a Mexican toddler a couple of times.

    I ate the obviously microwaved enchiladas because I had to - no time to go anywhere else, and I needed a meal pre-flight.

    The waitress denied all culpability by giggling unconfrontationally at everything I threw at her while I paid the bill.

    "That was horrendous, you didn't ask, but you probably know, right?"

    Giggle giggle.

    "Nothing was hot, there wasn't enough sauce - you probably get complaints all the time, am I right?"

    Giggley giggle.

    "Look over there at the refried beans, they look like baby shit. You know, phbbblllblblblblblblblbllb???"

    Giggle giggle giggle.

    "I want you to know, I'm on the red eye out of here tonight, and I want you to pray, pray for my soul, because if the plane crashes, that will have been my last meal on this planet."

    Giggle giggle giggly giggle.

    "Look, I'm serious, if I break up into flaming pieces tonight like the Beatles, I'm blaming it all on YOLO. Oh no!!!"


    Finally, she said something. "You want manager?"

    "No, I just want you to pray that someday I get to eat something better."

    No wonder the place is called YOLO - you only live once, and life is too short to eat there.

    And please don't comment and tweet about alllll the other great places I could have gone. It was just one of those badly planned things, and I should have known better. At least my sacrifice will warn others of the YOLO perils, which is what you get 12 hours later after eating here.

    Carrying two and a half pounds of cold, shredded, chicken in my gut, a heavy heart, and all my belongings, I began the schlep through the Miracle Mile shops to the parking - and I somehow, got lost. I think I went down a wing, and then came back, and then instead of continuing around the loop, I retraced my steps and went around the long way. I rolled the pedometer on my watch over 99,999 steps, that's all I know.

    Good God, am I that old or was I under the influence of baby shit???

    I got the car dropped off. I made it to the terminal. I got my boarding pass. I even made it to the lounge in time for a drink.

    As usual, I had to try hitting something on Triple Double Bonus at the airport. Most of the machines had been removed at the one end of T3, but I found some at the other end.

    I played twenty bucks through and got nothing. And I played another twenty. This would be it for the trip, as I had to preserve my win on the day, if just for my own mental wellbeing.

    It got down to my Lazarus hand, my last spin of the trip.

    And I hit a quad.

    Gambling was over. The trip was done.

    But wait!!!!

    There's more! More keno action on my 620 game ticket!

    The red eye was as you'd expect. I managed some sleep and being in business class made it so much more civilized, kind of like being in the nicer part of the slave ship.

    We were even served breakfast.

    Required jiggly takeoff shot of the strip. So long, Vegas.

    The YOLO waitress must have prayed hard, because I didn't die with a belly full of microwaved enchiladas.

    Customs was a breeze in Toronto, and I found myself in Union Station with about two and a half hours to kill. I watched keno games, and wrote the previous blog post.

    Sixteen men have been caster-ated in the food court chairs, but the media won't talk about it.

    The rest is... the rest, and then I was home with the Quad Queen, and Chippy, who did a double take before lying down again.

    Divana took her roulette loss hard.

    "You'll make up the money to me, won't you Royal," she said when I gave her the news. Umm, no, no I won't. Sorry, Divana.

    What a great return trip to Vegas! It wasn't triumphant in the winnings sense, but so many things went right. I got a $1000 royal (and an $80 royal). I had huge, ridic live keno wins. I spent time with a bunch of great people, met some new ones, left cards for lots of others, and kept costs reasonable. Huge, huge shoutout to Funkhouser, who saved me hundreds with his generosity.

    Speaking of generosity, I got an absolute thrill with each and every coffee donation. Thank you for validating that my efforts here have value to you.

    I spent $75 on the airfare and train fare. Encore cost $400 and Mandalay Bay $350 (less free play and resort credit, total $75). Car was $300. Food and tips was maybe $200.

    The last day of gambling, I was up $70 on machine action, and up $40 on keno. I unfortunately did not get any more 5/5 hits.

    That puts the stats as follows.

    Last Day plus $110
    Trip minus $1500. 

    Vegas isn't quite the way it used to be pre-pandemic. The nickel and diming has escalated to loonie and toonie-ing. Machines seem tight. Downtown as I loved it is gone, it is now a victim of its own success as I, and like-minded people, start to think about moving out. Is Circa a good thing or is it pulling prices up across downtown?

    I don't know but I saw big, big changes in room and food costs downtown.

    One thing I dearly missed was long sessions of $5/$10 blackjack at downtown casinos, particularly the Cal and MSS. I never saw a limit under $15 at the Cal and it's just too high for this retiree. Many's the time I would spend 2-3 hours mostly flat betting, sometimes come out ahead, and if I could survive, get a meal comp out of it too.

    I've done this a bunch of times at T.I. on their $10 game as well. I didn't check the table minimum this time around.

    And I didn't throw the dice at all during the whole trip. What is Vegas without lowroller craps???

    Continuing with the strip, I've now resolved that Luxor isn't worth staying at because the casino is like gambling in the NYC Port Authority bus terminal.

    My once beloved Luxor retains almost nothing of what once made it special. The machines I played were dirty, there's no good VP, there are swaths of open, unused space. The high limit bar is closed (I didn't confirm). The music was loud, bombastic, pounding club/dance music, which isn't my taste. The chairs are old, worn out and uncomfortable, the restaurant selection is crappy. The Pyramid cafe closes at 2:00pm every day. I can't imagine what the 'plan' has been for this place, it's at sea with the stupid, thoughtless de-theming.

    I've heard it referred to as a dorm, and that seems to fit the bill. A place for people to sleep, maybe party at, and enjoy Vegas elsewhere.

    I'm going to aim to stay at places I really like, places I find a bit more refined and less hectic. Mandalay Bay would fit in there, as would Wynn/Encore, and Bellagio.

    One nice change, even though the red-eye was hard on me... this is the first Vegas trip in every that I didn't have to go back to work upon my return home. I feel incredibly lucky to have made it this far in life, given my propensity for stepping on hidden rakes in the leaves. 

    In closing, it seems that the Triumphant Return to Vegas gives me a feeling of victory over the pandemic. There is life on the other side for us survivors.

    If you've enjoyed this trip report, if you've had a laugh, or a giggle, or will now simply be spared eating at YOLO, how about donating a coffee, or two, or ten? It'll bring the next trip report that much closer. Thank you.

    A reminder of the wise words of Royal Flusher, who once said, and often reminds you of having said, "Where there are credits, there are hope."

    Royal Flusher

    Thursday, May 12, 2022

    A Hard Night's Day

    Day 12 part one and this is it. The long, and winding day leading to the long red-eye night.

    Having a night off gambling actually did me good. It always takes a few hours to purge the feelings of losing (second worst day of the trip) and generate a new feeling of well being and wonderment that I'm actually in Vegas.

    I slept very well indeed, and managed to sleep in a bit even, knowing what was coming.

    But before I get into the day, a little bit more of yesterday. Dinner, to be exact.

    After working on the blog for a couple of hours, I grew hungry, and checked out Pin-up Pizza. $8.99 for the slice and I found it to be pretty darn good.

    The slices are huge, and the pies are not quite finished being cooked. They go into a very hot oven and come out as good as you could hope for in a re-heated slice. If you could get a completely fresh pie it would be amazing. (Maybe you can?)

    I snuck my sub-sected piece of circular carbo-cheese food cut along the radii into Earl of Sandwich's eating area and snarfed it down.

    And then bed, and now we are all caught up on how the devastation last full day in Vegas ended, and now back to the day.

    But before I do, I do want to point out that yesterday I cashed a keno ticket for $62.20. But I'm not counting it against my stake for two reasons. One, it would make my results worse. And two, I re-invested it.

    Yes, I bought a mega keno ticket with five numbers, for 620 games, at a dime a game. Five out of five gets me $100, and it'll take days for the games to play through, allowing me to officially continue gambling long past my return to Flusherville.

    Back to the morning of day 12, and I had $400 in cash left, and was determined to take some of it home, so I mentally pegged my stake at $300. But really, I wasn't prepared to lose even that much and... I had a plan.

    I would play 5 spot video keno at one quarter a throw and no more, and it would last a long time, I wouldn't lose much, and I would eventually hit 5 out of 5 for an 838 quarter payout. That's just shy of $210.

    And I would pursue this restrained feat of gambling savvy at Bellagio.

    I've always liked the place, but have never really spent much time there.

    Plus I needed breakfast and had MGM Reward dollars I could blow.

    I presumed there was a good, cheap place to eat there, and Twitterdom provided all kinds of suggestions for Bellagio-based inexpensive eateries. (I just realized that pro bloggers would at this point talk about such and such a place being to spendy and another place being not very spendy.)

    Bellagio nosh troughs that aren't to spendy according to Twitter:
    - Secret Pizza next door
    - Noodles, Sadelle's or Lago - except they aren't cheap
    - Snacks at the sportsbook
    - employee vending machines
    - Hatty Bs or Eggslut at the Cosmopolitan
    - Cosmo, Ballys, CVS, or anyplace else but Bellagio

    It really was a beautiful day, if a bit chilly. I quite enjoyed my stroll to Bellagio and stopped to take some unique photos of the scenery that have only been taken some 8.38M times before, the exact same pictures. No matter, I'd take more inside.

    There were so many people taking photos of the conservatory that basically hundreds of strangers were taking photos of each other, surrounded by the tops of beheaded plants.

    Presumably there are photos of me in someone's phone, taking photos of them with my phone.

    I'd stumbled to Sadelle's and decided to just eat there. Yeah, it was spendy, but MGM rewards points, and it was my last day in Vegas.

    I sat at the bar and ordered the Western omelette. I got the Vegas omelette, but it was good so I ate it anyway. I threw in a side of pork sausage.

    I may have over ordered but I was hungry - it was pushing 11:00.

    One nice thing happened - my keno numbers hit on the first game in the morning! I was already positive on the day by $38 profit!

    Sometimes things are not created equal, I was reminded.


    The meal was good and my points worked. I didn't have to show ID, which makes me wonder if someone finding a card could just use it to go to Sadelle's and order the Unfair Sausages.

    I liked the place. It has an air of a classy European cafe, full of pastel colors, and happy bustle, with views of the Conservatory, and the pool. Spendy or not, I liked it.

    And then... it was time to gamble.

    The next installment may be a while. I'm on 2 hours sleep and still 3 hours from home.

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