Monday, January 1, 2018

Royal Flusher - Literary Jeanius

"Jimmy Poon," I said to my pal Jimmy Poon the other day, "I have a brilliant idea."

"Is it another winning gambling system that can't mathematically succeed?" replied Jimmy Poon.

"Nope, although that's a reasonable guess. No, I am going to become a novelist!"

"Novelist... heee heeeee," replied Jimmy Poon, with an elfin laugh, his little shoulders shaking up and down.

"Not only that, Jimmy Poon, I am going to write not just one novel, but a whole series of them. I even have the cover of my first novel ready to go. Let me explain it all to you."

And so, I explained my idea. People have said (or written) to me before 'hey, you should write a book' and I always think that it sounds like a nice idea but realistically what could I possibly write a book about?

As I sat absent-mindedly shuffling a deck of Caesars Palace playing cards, I pondered how to go at it. I could invent a really unique character, like maybe a private investigator or something, who got into all kinds of investigations, with danger and other characters.

And then I had the a-ha moment. Even bigger than the a-ha moment I'd had when I saw the boy dog dancing with the girl dog. I'd plan out a whole series of books - one based on each of the 52 playing cards in a standard deck!

"Flusher, you super-genius, you've done it again!" I exclaimed.

Secret Vegas Lights

Guest Post by Joan of Aces
Sunday morning in Vegas interrupted my dreams with an even better reality. Few things spring me out of bed with more anticipation and joy than football Sunday in Vegas. I walked along the Bellagio Fountain Lake and strolled south along the strip before heading to the Cosmopolitan.

Ice skating rink at Park near NYNY.

Santa's Tuff Shed. Also, at the Park.

The Cosmo covered every option for happy football viewing. Watch every game on huge screens with a bunch of excited fans in their teams’ jersey, with a fantastic bar right in the middle? Check. Stretch out on some comfy furniture with a TV dedicated to your game, with the hustle of the strip out the window right behind it? Check. Blackjack and other table games near the sportsbook, with their own TVs? You know it.

I put a $20 and my Cosmo Identity card into bartop VP machine at the Chandelier One bar, and ordered a hot tea with lemon, honey and Maker’s Mark. I had $10 of free play coming, after my last lunatic (for me) monster VP session at Cosmo in October. Cosmo is practically Bellagio South, they are so close together. I sipped and chatted with other fans of football and fun bars first thing Sunday morning. Divine.

The bartender, Jarid, had to disappear into the great Cosmo abyss above to procure a spot of tea to put the goodies in. I played and chatted with Jordin, getting a few good hands and keeping the bankroll, err, rollin’. J’mon, who wears the name Donte on his official Identity (ha! See what I did there?) nametag, chatted with me about his girlfriend problems. I shared my sage and sound advice, because if there’s one thing I know about, it’s…ok, it’s anything but girlfriends. I love these guys like long lost little brothers. I know, I know. We say that about all the bartenders. But these guys are hilarious, and sweet. When they see their middle-aged white boss lady, walking briskly through the casino floor, they call out: “Karen! Can I go home early?” and “Karen! Tupac or Biggie?” She ignores them, utterly. I’m telling ya. If you’re not a diehard day drinker, you are missing out.

One drawback of Chandelier, really the only drawback in the whole wide Cosmos, is that it’s hard to see the football games from their lovely bar. Usually, that’s yet another fabulous thing about Chandelier. The patrons and bartenders kinda have to interact with each other. While I don’t really participate, this makes my lurking on the edges of humanity even more interesting. This isn’t the D, people. No vivid TVs, no flare bartenders, no head-pounding, ear-exsanguination music. It’s just you and you and you and me, sipping something delicious, caressed by music that sucks you into your cozy, comfy, arty seat while you marinated in a wondrous scent that reminds you of all your favorite places in one.

At halftime, I finally did managed to do something I’ve always wanted to do in Vegas. After over a hundred trips to this fine city, that’s saying something. This free event requires advance reservations of about a month. I set an alarm on my phone to extract me from the bliss and joy that is the Cosmo, and at halftime, I went to the Louis Vuitton store at Crystals. (Note: not the Louis Vuitton store at the Wynn, Palazzo, Bellagio, Forum Shops, or Ellis Island. Heh. Just kidding about the Wynn). I saw many young, slim people in fashionable black attire wearing tiny earpieces, intensely gazing at their iPhonies, as though they contained the nuclear codes, or the secret to right swipes on Tinder. (That’s the good swipe. Right?)

Akhob, James Turrell’s art exhibit, is tucked away in the Louis Vuitton store of Crystals. Photos aren’t allowed, but here’s one compliments of Louis Vuitton:

Akhob by James Turrell. (Photo courtesy of Louis Vuitton stores)
First, my party of one was shown a few art pieces, including a magic dice exhibit in the main lobby just off the strip sidewalk. Colorful acrylic boxes hung suspended from the high ceiling. By looking up at them at a certain angle, individual lights behind them shone through them, looking like dots on a die.

Then I took an elevator four stories up to the Akhob (ancient Egyptian for “pure water”, but you probably knew that already) installation. Kenedi, my art associate guide, had me remove my shoes and put on slippers. We walked up a set of black stairs into two cavernous, white plaster chambers. (Shoes damage the plaster.) Kenedi, in her sleek, tailored business suit, and me in my oversized, bright red Chiefs jersey, stood in the chambers and soaked in the light. At first, the whole art tour felt ridiculously precious, even for Vegas. Being immersed in the colored light, though, brought a deep sense of calm and groundedness, so starkly in contrast with the frenetic, kinetic energy that makes a mind buzz in every direction at once. I felt at peace. Obviously, most of us do not go to Vegas seeking a Zen-like state through a meditative color-trance. The contrast, though, the moment of stepping outside the fun and zany stimulation, was transformative. I left feeling like I’d spent a couple hours at a spa. (A real spa, one of the fancy ones, not a Happy Feet spa-hostel.) If you want to see this installation, call (702) 730-3150 to make a reservation several weeks in advance.

Feeling relaxed, I went back to Cosmo sportsbook to watch the Chiefs pound down the Raiders. A few high fives with new friends later, I checked my William Hill sports bet to find my bet had paid off and was right there, in my account, ready to reload for the next games. Awesome.

Next up, I meandered down to Cromwell and their undiscovered wonder of a sportsbook. New this Sunday was a little placard between the big, leather chairs that asked “hungry?” Yes. Yes I am hungry.

I texted the number, and like magic, a hot Cuban panini showed up at my chair. It cost $14 total with tip, and worth every delicious cent. After the games, I walked back to the Bellagio.

Filming the fountains, double-fisted.

The bollards are up.
Inside the Bellagio, I wandered through the conservatory on my way to my room. I've read that Vegas tourism numbers are down, but you wouldn't know it at the Bellagio conservatory.

Polar bear high five.
I'd played a little VP at Cosmo, lost a little, then lost a hundy way too fast at the famed JoB 9/6 quarter machines near the entrance to Cromwell. I was a tad for the trip, when I stopped and put my last Benjamin in the spin poker DDB machine that had been so good to me yesterday. She showed me the pointies, with a kicker:

Full of Cuban and a restored bankroll once again, I stretched out in my ginormous bed. Sweet dreams, Las Vegas.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Have a Pointy New Year!

Pillow Talk in Vegas

Guest Post by Joan of Aces
Cromwell, Vegas, Las Vegas, Strip
Pillow Talk at the Cromwell
December. The word comes from the Ancient Greek for “seek warmth, watch football.” Striving to honor our great ancestors,I headed to Vegas. Tis the season, for sharing, caring, and family, but also pointies galore, royals, and meaningful football played in a foot of snow on a vivid, floor-to-ceiling screen. Besides, the cowboys were in town. (Not those Cowboys, not yet.) It’s Rodeo Time. Really, though. NFL, NFR, NFE (No F-ing Event), whatever. Let’s gooooo.

This trip turned out to answer a question I hear people ask all the time: I have a cold. Should I still go to Vegas? I’ve planned for ages. I have the time off work, the flight, the hotel. It’s finally go time, and boom--throat tickle, cough, runny nose, and congestion settle in. know, I know. The answer is stay home, rest, Vegas will be there for another time. I get it.

But. It’s Vegas. Come. ON.

I didn’t decide to go until the last minute. The steroids had kicked in nicely. I was no longer in the contagious stage. My ten-year-old expressed her support on our sidewalk:

So, I went.

Beaver Creek, Frontier, Colorado, flight
Beaver Creek, Colorado from the air
(It really is called Beaver Creek, you sickos.)

I love to fly. In spite of the hassles, flying is magic. And flying to Vegas is the best magic of all.
In late November, Hotwire offered a crazy good deal. $50 for a 5 star hotel, including weekends. Oh, yes please. In case you’re a Hotwire newbie, you agree to pay a discounted rate for a unnamed hotel. The approximate location, hotel class, guest ratings and amenities are provided, but not the name of the hotel. The hotel's name is revealed when you pay the nonrefundable rate. Using or, a person can get a good idea of what hotel it will probably be.

I’ve always wanted to stay at the Bellagio. I’ve stayed at 26 properties in Vegas (many more than once. I'm looking at you, Hard Rock) including Encore, Caesars, and my most recent fav, the Cosmopolitan. Hotwire made my Bellagio dreams come true. At $50/night, on a Saturday (and Sunday) night during the National Finals Rodeo. The resort fee isn’t included, as you intrepid long-time Vegas-goers already guessed. Still.

Here’s the room:

Bellagio, Las Vegas, Vegas Strip, Vegas

Bellagio, Las Vegas, Vegas Strip, Vegas

The tub is calling me:

Bellagio, Las Vegas, Vegas Strip, Vegas
Hello Beautiful, indeed.
Not a fountain view, but definitely an excellent close second.

Pool view from the room

Bellagio, Las Vegas, Vegas Strip, Vegas
Pool view from the pool

The people-watching here proved to be way different than downtown. People had fancy clothes and foreign accents. Most of them wore a fairly serious countenance. Maybe they were joyful on the inside? I was. People-watching blossomed on a whole new level. Getting over a cold, with considerable less energy than my usual kinesthetic frenzy, slowed my roll in a way that made me marinate in Vegas in new ways.

I figured the minimums at the Bellagio would be too high for a low-roller like me. But I also figured I should give them some play since they gave me a great deal on an experience I’d wanted. I put a hundy in a triple-play machine just outside the bathroom near the buffet, and this happened:

Bellagio, Las Vegas, Vegas Strip, Vegas

Bellagio, Las Vegas, Vegas Strip, Vegas
Ming Voucher!
Yippee! An hour in Vegas, and I was up $600. I knew just where I’d be headed with that $600.

But first, I wandered over to Ellis Island to sample their batch of in-house, home-brew, heavy duty eggnog. Ellis Island has done some major upgrades, yet retained its low ceiling, dive bar mystique. Perhaps mystique is pushing it; it’s no Frankie’s Tiki Room, or anything. Frankie’s Tiki reeks of mystique. Ellis Island shrugs its shoulders and says, meh, yeah, maybe we got mystique. They do have a promo kiosk you can swipe your card and win all kinds of goodies: $5 off a BBQ plate, free square during football Sunday, free Uber ride from Ellis Island to the airport, HJ on your BD, and free parking. Ok. NO free HJ, ever. And parking is still free there, anyway. When people who drive (gads! Who are these sober people?) gripe about parking fees, I recommend Ellis Island parking if they’re staying on the east side of the central strip. I really think I could walk to Ellis Island faster than relocating my car at Planet Ho.

Just sayin’.

Ellis Island, Las Vegas, Vegas Strip, Vegas
Ellis Island Nog (and BYOC)
One last cool thing about Ellis Island: They have a William Hill Sports Betting app counter there. I had a coupon for a free $25 if I deposited $25. I downloaded the app, signed up at the kiosk with the help of EI Counter Dude, made a deposit, and boom. I was all set for Sunday football with $50 to bet, and only $25 of it was the Bellagio’s. (Mine, I mean, it was mine.) The betting app is a modern day marvel for those of us who dread losing stuff, ie, sports bet tickets, and dread making sports bets lest we wander far (or at all) from from that particular casino sports book, or get up early before the book reopens, or fly out before the sportsbook reopens, or myriad other hassles of redeeming your winning sports bet ticket. Solved. There are WIlliam Hill locations all over Las Vegas, where they will give you lovely green cash for the little numbers on your phone. No going back to the casino where you placed the bet required.

Next stop: gotta go see the boys at Main Street Station, at Boar’s Head bar. Jose and Robert provided the warm greetings and warmer drinks. Because of my cold, tea with honey, lemon and Maker’s Mark (or, ahem, Marker’s Make, depending on my level of, err, “congestion” that day.) I’d lost my first beautiful Bellagio Benjamin to an extended session at Ellis Island (bartop VP while watching the close Army/Navy game, but won some back at craps.) VP at Main Street took care of the rest.

Then this happened:

Vegas, Main Street Station, DTLV
Winner, winner at Boar's Head the guy next to me. He did a cash and dash, sprinting out the doors.

After a few hours of tea, Maker's, prednisone, and six 4-to-a-royals, I Uberftyed back to the Bellagio, and back to the bankroll I began with. I soaked in my ginormous tub, and stretched out like a starfish in the plush bed. Even though the TVs are newer and larger at the California, there was a certain tingle about that massive room overlooking their decadent pools below me. I was giddy to be able to step out of my room and run the strip in the morning, even though the breathing issues meant I had to, against my nature, forgo running. And sleep in. In that bed. Ahhhhhhh.

The next day, football Sunday, held untold joys both new and old. And more winnings at Bellagio’s multi-play spin poker. And two OT NFL football games.

Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story.