Monthly Archives: June 2012

Vegas Baby!!

There are a lot of misconceptions about Las Vegas….. Some of which are true!

I have an unexplainable love for Las Vegas.  Let me explain.  I just got back from my 5th trip there.  I was there for a week.  The cab driver on the way back to the airport said ‘whoa, a week is a long time to be in Vegas’.  Maybe if you don’t pace yourself.  I could stay for 2 or 3 weeks.  I love it.  When I say I’ve been there 5 times, it may or may not sound like a lot to you, but it wasn’t like I spread those visits out over my entire life.  They’ve all been in the last 5 years or so.  After I first went, I’ve used any excuse to go.  ‘Engagement Trip’, ‘Bachelor Party’, ‘Babymoon’.  I would consider the following reasonable excuses as well….. ‘March Madness’, ‘Any other type of general madness’, ‘extra vacation days’, ‘good report card’, ‘bad report card’, ‘boredom’, ‘intense desire for a prime rib dinner that costs less than $10’……. I could go on and on.  Perhaps I will……’tax refund’, ‘tax evasion’, ‘spending your kids education fund after they pissed you off’, ‘to watch in disgust as the Miami Heat win the NBA finals’…. these and many more are all acceptable answers.

I once considered becoming a blogger (which I’ve done and you’re witnessing it), but my first idea was to be a travel blogger who specialized in Las Vegas.  Yes, I was willing to go exclusive with my blogs, and focus on one topic ALL the time.  Then I thought if my blog was popular and awesome (don’t steal this idea btw, because as I’m rethinking it, I might still do it), that the city of Las Vegas would hire me as part of their travel and tourism team.  Not to create brochures and pamphlets either, but to convince individuals one by one to go there (which I already spend at least half my time doing).  If you know me at all, we’ve had this conversation before, and if you haven’t gone, I’ve made you curious.

Having just landed from there a couple of days ago, here are some scattered thoughts/ideas/anecdotes inspired by Las Vegas.  I’m gonna have to go point form with this…..  It’s that random!

– Food.  Whether you are on a budget or you have money to burn, there is something there for you.  Every celebrity chef, and his brother have restaurants in Vegas.  It’s probably the most concentrated area in the world for fine dining (I’m making this up, it totally might not be).  There is amazing food there every direction you turn.  Flavours from all over the world!!  If that doesn’t interest you, there really are Prime Rib Dinners for less than $10.  I actually cracked my tooth on one a couple of years ago (but that had nothing to do with the quality of the meal, I’m just sayin’).  Some of my culinary highlights include the smoked salmon Eggs Benedict at Mon Ami Gabi inside the Paris Hotel.  The waiter that had a guacamole cart at the Mexican place at the MGM Grand (name anyone?), brought it over and made guacamole in front of us while carrying on a conversation.  Also at Paris in an Italian restaurant a few years ago, the waiters would sing an opera song every 15 minutes or so, then go back to waiting tables (I don’t know if that place is still there).  Who could forget $4.99 Steak & Eggs at Ellis Island (don’t know if they still do that or not, but go for the big portions, and great hash browns).

– Booze.  First thing you need to know is that you can drink on the streets.  This is important, because if you’re casino hopping, you don’t have to set your unfinished drink down to leave the hotel.  You just bring it with you and drink on the sidewalk without the shame of a paper bag.  There are intense sized slushy drinks that in some cases need a rope so you can carry it around your neck.  This is incredibly unrefined, and can lead to bad behaviour, but you can’t expect a bunch of drunks to behave themselves.  That’s just silly.  I’m a beer guy, and if you are too, then you’ll appreciate $2 Coronas and Heinekens all day at the Fremont Hotel.  The Yard House in Town Square has over 200 beers on tap (try the Belgian sampler which was the final nail in the coffin for me last Thursday).  If you’re really a beer guy, and don’t give a shit about anything else, the Freakin’ Frog near UNLV is the spot.  You’re cabbin’ it if you’re on the strip, but the selection is worth it.

– Comps.  Do yourself a favour and sign up for a loyalty program or 5 the minute you get to Vegas.  Every time you play cards or a slot machine or any other game, give them the card and let them track that shit.  If you sit at a table long enough, someone will bring you a free drink, but that’s negligible since you’re pouring your life savings into their pockets at a much faster rate than if you paid for your own booze, but……when you’ve gone there a few times like I have, they start contacting you, and offering free hotel stays.  As you become a Vegas addict, this comes in handy.  Now let me be clear……. I didn’t do this, so I’ve never been comped anything, but the story I’m about to tell you is true.  I won’t mention any names to protect the innocent, and so you won’t try to start hanging out with her for free hookups!!  My buddy’s girlfriend is a savvy Vegas veteran of the getting comped scene.  She’s forgotten more about getting comps than I will ever know.  The two of them arrived last Wednesday, and my wife and I met them at the Cosmopolitan after they arrived there from the airport (which was in a limo that the hotel sent btw).  We sat in the VIP check in room where they gave us Mimosas and apologized profusely about the wait (which really wasn’t that long, but it gave me a glimpse of how customer service could be if everyone thought you were rich).  Then they gave her $500 of comped chips to gamble with (which on her first spin at roulette became $950) and $500 food credit at the hotel which we turned into a fabulous couple of meals at the hotel restaurants.  This however, pales in comparison to the massive suite that they stayed in, with a corner balcony that over looked the strip, and particularly the Bellagio water fountains (not to mention the pissy little ‘off the strip’ hotel that I was staying in).  How did this happen???  She signed up for a card, and used it every time she went to Vegas.  The comps start out small, but this was her 11th trip there.  She had to gamble some to get it, but she’s no high roller.  Just a smart enough person (unlike myself) who takes advantage of a good loyalty program.  Remember, an empty hotel room doesn’t generate revenue for a hotel.  Comping the chips only costs them if the customer uses them to win money (which is usually not the case), and whatever the food and service cost is for $500 worth of food is nothing compared to what they’ll probably make off you if you go there with your friends regularly.  Look into it.  It’s awesome!

I haven’t even mentioned the bars, nightclubs, the women in their slutty outfits (even the ones who shouldn’t be wearing what they’re wearing for whatever reason….. I admire your courage), my beloved UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (who I’ve worked into back to back blogs), the Las Vegas 51s (AAA minor league affiliate of my beloved Toronto Blue Jays), the 24 hour buffet pass, the 24 hour bus, Red Rock, the energy sucking but loveable tackiness of Fremont Street, Microbreweries (did I mention being a beer guy?), wedding chapels, shopping (both outlet and boutique), concerts, Cirque du Soleil shows, magicians, comedians, hotel swimming pools, places to do stuff from golf to firing machine guns…….. man I wanna go back.

Pay me Las Vegas!!!



Your Favourite Basketball Player is Who???

Lebron??  Kobe??  Jordan??  Bird??  Magic??  All good choices I suppose.

I have this thing about me which people don’t seem to understand.  I like to think it’s a sharp combination of originality and loyalty.  You might prefer to think a lack of insight mixed with stubbornness.  My favourite basketball player of all time is Stacey Augmon.  Who???

My love affair with basketball started in the 80s when it was rarely on TV where I lived.  At that time most casual observers were either Celtics fans or Lakers fans.  If your favourite player wasn’t Larry Bird or Magic Johnson, then you were more than just a casual fan.  I liked Danny Ainge.  Mainly because he used to play baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays, and I was far more into baseball at the time.

By the time the 90s rolled around, things had changed.  Michael Jordan had become the most exciting athlete in professional sports.  Somehow the NBA had now become huge!  Was it Jordan?  Nike?  David Stern?  Cable TV?  I don’t know, but even though I lived in a city/country that didn’t yet have an NBA franchise (and some would argue that we still don’t…… zing…. friggin Raptors….. get it together!!!), I was all into basketball when I was in high school.  To give partial credit to the above factors, and add in fashion trends inspired by Hip Hop, in 1990 NCAA basketball reached a new level of popularity in Toronto.  This is even more interesting because we had no regional loyalties due to being in Canada, so we were able to pick any team to follow that we liked.  My father who used to travel for business from time to time had previously purchased me a UNLV t-shirt when he had been in Vegas.  I did a little background to see if it made sense to get on board with this team.  I mean I needed to have an NCAA basketball hat, and everybody had already jumped on the Duke, Georgetown, Syracuse and Michigan bandwagons.  I needed something a bit different, but a bit the same, and that seemed like a good formula.  After researching college ball a bit, I learned that UNLV was a pretty good team already, and had a new Junior College transfer named Larry Johnson (GRANDMAAAAAA!!!!!!) who was supposed to put them over the top and make them awesome in the coming year.  That’s it!!!  This is my team!!  I bought a red UNLV hat from Champs Sports, and I was off to school to represent!  Now I have to find out something about these players.  One of their games finally came on TV.  I would check out LJ and their top returning player Stacey Augmon.  I didn’t want to get caught not knowing my shit in case some locker room debates heated up.

This Augmon kid was crazy!!! Left-handed, wiry, could jump out of the gym, had crafty moves, and highlight reel finishing around the basket.  Dick Vitale called him the best defensive player in the country!!  A country that included Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo playing on the same team……what college team….scratch that….. what NBA team do you remember having 2 defensive centers of that calibre playing at the same time???  Ridiculous!!!

The season moved on, and I was rocking my UNLV hat like everyday to school.  The team was amazing too.  They were quickly becoming the best team in the country, and I had bragging rights…..(You know I had this hat first, fool!!!!).  The better the team played, the more TV coverage they got.  I would tape those games on the VCR on Saturdays because I was cooking chicken at KFC at the mall wearing brown polyester bell bottom pants, and the most undesirable shirt in the history of textiles.  I’d get home and I’d watch 3 future NBA players (and another that could have were he not a 5’11 shooting guard) tearing up all these other college teams to the point where I got to know their scrubs really well too because the game was usually out of reach by the middle of the second half and coach Tarkanian (who chewed on a towel during the games) would empty the bench and give these other kids some quality minutes.  The best part was watching my new favourite basketball player (because let’s face it, the NBA had taken a back seat to this for a while) Stacey Augmon.  I don’t ever remember thinking he was the best player in the league or anything, but his odd  yet diverse skill set just made him so interesting to watch.

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels won the NCAA championship that year.  I celebrated with a few converted Rebels fans.  The entire starting 5 while eligible for the NBA draft (and 3 of them would have gone high) opted to stay in college for their senior year to defend their title (What???  You may never see that again.)  They proceeded to go undefeated during the regular season, but lost improbably to the same Duke team (not really the same….they now had Grant Hill) that they embarrassed in the finals the previous year.  To this day I still blame the officials for that game.  A darker side of me believes that there may have been some ‘Vegas Style’ foul play by some bookies, although I’d like to think not.  A pretty successful couple of years to say the least, and due to some NCAA violations that program has never come close to soaring to those heights in the 20 years since.  As an adult, Las Vegas is probably my favourite vacation destination for completely unrelated reasons.  I’ve been to the Thomas & Mack Center where the Rebels play.  It’s nice to see Stacey Augmon’s #32 up there in the rafters.  There’s a lot of pictures and memories from that team.

The following year Larry Johnson was the 1st over all pick in the NBA draft.  Augmon went 9th, and Greg Anthony (decent point guard, but probably a better TV analyst) went 12th.  I followed their entire careers in the NBA, but particularly Augmon’s.  He played 16 years in the NBA.  the first 5 as a really promising young shooting guard for the Atlanta Hawks.  I remember always wanting to watch Hawks games when they were on.  Even those Ahmad Rashad Saturday morning top 10 highlights of the week which Augmon was frequently on, but when he moved to the Pistons and later the Trailblazers, Hornets and Magic, he had settled in to an ‘off the bench-roleplayer-defensive specialist’ role.  At the end of the day, even though he was one of the most amazing players I had ever laid eyes on, he didn’t have a jump shot.  This was a problem because he played a position called ‘shooting guard’.  In the NBA, there’s an assumption that shooting guards can shoot.  It’s a fair assumption, but an inconvenient truth for Augmon.  He had just about everything a coach could want.  Great work ethic, athleticism, incredible defensive abilities, and he could even score in a very non-traditional way.  So he carved out a niche in the NBA, and was always able to have a job in the NBA until he was pushing 40 and lost his quickness.  16 years is a long time to play in the NBA, but for a guard with no jumper????  It’s an eternity!

So why is Stacey Augmon my favourite basketball player of all time??  I don’t know…. who’s yours?  Kobe?  Lebron?  Does a player have to be an all-star to be my favourite?  Does he have to be the best for me to follow his career?  When he went from starter to bench player, should I have made the switch and got a new favourite?  I like him because he showed up to work every day.  I like him because he busted his ass and did the dirty work.  I like him because he wasn’t perfect, but he really had his great moments.  I like him because when the USA Olympic basketball team that he was on (last team to use college players before the dream team of 92) won the bronze medal, he was so distraught about not winning the gold, that he threw the medal off a bridge into a river (although I never would have done that, and I think he’s regretted it every moment since).  I like him because even though his game had a serious deficiency (no jump shot) he carved out a 16 year NBA career (and never played on a bad team).  I like him because when he got his minutes, he always brough energy and the team played well when he was on the floor.

Maybe I see a bit of myself in the Stacey Augmon tale.  We’ve all had our ups and downs.  Every day is not a victory parade.  I think I came into this world with a fair bit of talent as well.  I think in my life I’ve spent time as a ‘starter’ (in life)and as a ‘bench player’ (in life).  I like to think I have an odd yet diverse skill set that makes ME interesting to watch.

Or maybe it was just a random selection who did enough good but not enough bad to earn my loyalty.  Maybe it was my way of being an individual instead of some mope who just follows the masses and doesn’t think for himself.  At very least I do think that the Lebron James and Kobe Bryants of the world have enough people cheering for them.  There are far more Stacey Augmons (actually I don’t really believe that, there is only one), and they could use a cheering section.  Imagine what we could all accomplish if we had cheering sections even though at the end of the day we are just a bunch of Stacey Augmons.  That wouldn’t be so bad.

Making the world a better place…… random basketball favourite player selection at a time.

The Euro Cup Car Flag Fiasco

I’ve lived in or near Toronto in Canada for my entire life.  There are millions of things I love about my home-town.  There are millions of things I hate, most of which will probably be topics of future blogs.  If you haven’t been here, Toronto is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the entire world.  If you’re a fan of different types of cuisine for example, you love this.  If you dislike accents, then you probably hate this.

I’m kind of a live and let live, everybody’s equal, you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours, blah blah blah kind of guy.  So for me, cultural diversity is interesting and fun.  I’ve had a lot of jobs in the past where I dealt with the public either at a neutral site, or in their homes.  I’ve been all over the city, and I’ve talked to everyone!  I’m not saying I don’t have my favourites, but I think it’s cool that a lot of different kinds of people have made their homes here.  I also think it’s sort of amazing that people get along pretty well here.  Not that there aren’t problems, but I think on a relative scale it works pretty well.  Except for……..

During soccer tournaments.

It’s Euro Cup season people!!  Go get that flag that attaches to your car, because it’s time to drive around the neighborhood and honk our horns and celebrate after every game our team wins or ties.  This time it’s limited to Europeans, but in 2 years the whole world will get involved.  It’s pandemonium in certain neighborhoods here.  If the country your family comes from is involved, then you’re involved.  If the country your family comes from is not involved, then you’re picking another team possibly because you follow soccer, and your favourite player is from _______, or because there’s some cultural similarity like language (eg. Brazilians pretending to be Portuguese, and Portuguese pretending to be Brazilian when it’s convenient).  This is the time to be obnoxious.  Don’t celebrate in your living room.  Make sure people in the whole neighborhood who don’t give a shit about you or your team know that they played to a 1-1 draw.

Before I go any further, I need to explain that I’m really Canadian.  Not that anybody else isn’t, but all 4 of my grandparents were born here, which is really saying something for a country whose independence only dates back to 1867.  However, when European-Canadians ask me what my nationality is (and they all do), Canadian is never an acceptable answer.  They want to know where in the old world I am from.  So I tell them I’m Irish (which is the short answer).  Canadian, Irish, or any other strange concoction that I might be…… I just don’t like soccer.

I know it may seem as if I’m about to rant further about how annoyed I am by the behaviour of unruly soccer fans, but really I wanted to say this…… Canadians, and Torontonians in particular need to grow up, and be more tolerant of our neighbors who are fortunate enough to be associated with a country that actually has the first fucking clue about how to play soccer.  We get mad because we aren’t part of the celebration, but if Canada was in this tournament (or better still, if this was a hockey tournament), we’d all be going ape-shit.  So get off your high horse, and let these guys have their fun.  They’re excited!!  Rather than try to get angry about their excitement, go out and find your own excitement.  Or better still, pick a country to cheer for.  I sometimes cheer for Italy because my barber is Italian, and I don’t want him to be upset when he cuts my hair.  You don’t have to be from that country to cheer for them.  It’s soccer, not a war.  If everyone can be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, then I see no reason why we can’t pick a country to back for Euro Cup just to make it more interesting.

So who am I cheering for???  I’m cheering for people who are beeping their horns in the streets to do so safely, and keep their eyes on the road.  I’m cheering for soccer fans that are talking smack with one another to not let it escalate into violence.  I’m cheering for Canada to win some of these qualifying matches so they can play in their first World Cup since 1986 in 2014, and then maybe….. just maybe….. I could go out and buy a flag to attach to my car window and beep my horn through residential neighborhoods.  I can only assume it’s an amazing feeling.  Other than that though….. I could really care less who wins the Euro Cup.


The popcorn kernel stuck in your teeth

I had to go to the dentist this morning, and before you read too far, this is not about popcorn kernels being stuck in my teeth only to be found and removed professionally.  It’s more a metaphor for minor annoyances that have been accumulating in my brain (plaguing my existence).  Probably not worth logging on to Facebook or Twitter to update my status (no, I don’t have those apps for my phone…… I don’t have any apps for my phone…… I keep thinking if I ignore technology long enough, it will go back to the way it was……. no??…… not happening??…….it’s just gonna get worse???…..damn..).  I was hoping if I had enough random thoughts, that the whole could be greater than the sum of its parts since I really didn’t think of a humdinger of a topic to stick with for the entire blog.

So I awoke this morning and decided it was time to reach back in the closet and pull out my funniest tee-shirt.  It’s a picture of a gingerbread man with a broken leg.  The caption says “Oh Snap!”  I giggled like a 12-year-old girl when I bought it.  The punchline is funny enough but you have to see the look of concern on his little face.  He knows there’s no surgery that’s bringing that leg back, but while enduring the most horrible physical pain he’s ever gone through, he has the levity to deliver a quality tee-shirt punchline.  How could my day be anything short of amazing now.  I did some background research for this paragraph (to make sure it wasn’t from a movie or something) and apparently the “Oh Snap” Gingerbread man makes an appearance on coffee mugs.  One of the sites I googled referred to this as ‘Cookie Humor’, a concept I was unaware of, but now find myself curious about.  Just off the top of my head, if I had to come up with ‘Cookie Humor’ tee-shirts I would start with a picture of Chewbacca with a bunch of brown spots all over him and call it ‘Chocolate Chip Wookies’.  (Shazzzammmmm….. I know I shouldn’t celebrate my jokes, but c’mon, that shit was gold)

Moving along to the rants…….

I hate it when the chick at the drive thru takes your order, and is waiting for you when you arrive at the window, and then acts annoyed that you don’t have your money ready yet.  “Bitch, I was driving!!”………

I got this one from a buddy.  Union Station in Toronto was flooded the other day due to heavy rains, and my friend saw a guy berating a transit employee because ‘This is Toronto, and it’s unacceptable!!’, as if the guy made it rain and is now really happy about standing knee-deep in it trying to clean up.  Lighten up jerk off!………

Body odor on the bus is my next thing.  I talk about this all the time.  I’m ok with the old man who pissed himself.  It smells, but he’s old, and sometimes when your old, you have to piss yourself, and it’s terrible, but I don’t judge.  I’m ok with the homeless people who smell.  I hate being around it, but I understand that when you’re homeless, B.O. is the least of your worries, so I tolerate it.  However, when I see a guy who I know has a job and a home, and he smells because he doesn’t shower often enough or wear deodorant, and I’m stuck with him on the bus???  It drives me nuts.  deodorant $5.  Axe Spray $5, FANCY Soap $5, Regular Soap way less, not ruining my friggin bus ride to work????  Priceless……….

Even though I’m so quick to complain about people, I don’t come from a family of malcontents, so when I hear my father make fun of someone I LOVE it because he’s such a nice guy, and it’s just not in his nature.  This is for all you golfers out there with more money than brains.  We love waiting behind you at the first tee watching you brag about all your golf equipment, decked out in the finest golf apparel, opening the new package of balls which promises more distance on your drives.  Then given a choice of 4 tees, you pick the championship tournament tees at the back to hit from because your such a hero, then we watch you duff your first shot a pissy 30 yards into the bushes.  Satisfying!  Get lessons dummy!