Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Reno Day 4: Trapped in a mini-van careening down a mountain.

Today we decided to go see Carson City and Virginia City. So after getting up and hitting the feed-bag we piled into the minivan and Elisa drove us into a snowstorm. Elisa gets sick in cars but the focus of driving can hold off the nausea for quite a while. So we let her drive. Did I mention we were driving into a snow storm.

Well, it really wasn’t that bad and by the time we got to Carson City it was more of a rainy drizzle. We went through the Nevada historical museum and the Carson City Mint (now a museum). These were pretty cheesy but we picked up a few good trinkets for the folks back home; including a commemorative coin minted on the actual coin press used at the mint during the 1800s. After the museums Tamara and I looked in a coin store where we got Duncan an 1892 silver dollar and a set of coins from 1939.

Before we left town we played a little in the Nugget casino. It’s supposed to be one of the oldest in the state but they didn’t mention that it’s also one of the cheesiest (that’s right – the theme for Carson City was cheese; actually Velveeta). We played some three dollar blackjack for a while (and I was up by a bit). Then someone had the bright idea to try Craps. Which, when I play it, should be called, “Hook a vacuum up to my wallet and suck it dry.” I had very little money left by the time we went back to blackjack and the dealer had rotated. This new dealer cleaned us out. Later I found out that we mainly lost money because a new guy joined the table at the end and he kept going double down on a pair of sixes. I didn’t think anything of it at the time but someone later explained that if he wants to win but screw the rest of the table, then this was a good way to do it. It was kind of interesting because I hadn’t thought about players messing with each other before. I just thought we were playing against the house.

When we were all broke (actually we all just lost $20 each) we got back in the minivan and went to see historic Virginia City (y’know the one from Bonanza). Well if Bonanza’s town was a seedy little tourist trap, they didn’t show it in the TV series. Most of the stores were closed and the Red Light Museum was a real waste of time. We did go to a neat Rock Shop and got Duncan some silicon and coral. Then we left and went back to Reno.

I didn’t realize it at the time but Elisa was getting a little sick and wanted the trip to be over. I just thought she liked to drive fast down twisty mountain roads and scare the shit out of everyone else in the van.

We had some pretty good local pizza and then did more gambling. Of course this was the night they decided to get Tamara drunk so we bought some Vodka for them and some Scotch for me. We practiced our blackjack on the bed using piles of pennies (it was a two-penny table). Elisa, Deb and I played and Sam was our dealer. Tamara played the part of the cocktail waitress. It went pretty well and Sam made about 20 cents in tips.

Being all liquored up we thought it was time to hit the real tables. We checked out Harrah’s and found all of their tables too expensive. We ended up at the Cal-Neva casino with some pretty good dealers. Tamara and Elisa left early (Tamara can take only so much tobacco smoke and Elisa wanted to talk more than play Blackjack). So it was just Deb, Sam and me at the table. I can barely remember how I did, much less either of them. I was up 16 and a half dollars at the end of the evening. It was fun, I got free drinks and I didn’t lose money; that’s what I call a good night at a casino.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Reno Day 3: Trapped in a punk tattoo world.

This was the day we had set aside to get the girls some skin art. We first ate a huge breakfast at the Venetian buffet. Tamara liked this buffet better because they had more fresh fruit. After brunch we drove around Reno looking for the parts of town that have nothing to do with the gambling industry. We drove by the University of Nevada Reno and several strips malls. When we passed Bizarre Guitar I turned around to look at it. They had tons of guitars but the only things that tempted me were the custom flying v ukulele and the “Emily Strange” Epiphone SG. I didn’t buy anything and it was time to drive on down to Pirate Tattoo.

We got there a little before noon. I thought the appointment was for noon (when they were supposed to open) but Joe the tattoo guy wrote it up for 12:30. So when he got there at 12:10 barely shuffling around the shop he pointed out how he wrote it up and they gals vowed to never let me live it down. He started off the day blasting Flogging Molly and moved on to various punk, psychobilly and Enchanted Metal bands throughout the day.

Elisa was up first with her Gumby tattoo. Joe, the ultra-cool, I live the hardcore life punk tattoo artist, didn’t like the design but he put it on her left shoulder anyway. And it looked pretty good. Then Joe took about an hour to have a break and set up for the next victim. This time it was Tamara getting an image of Flaming Carrot (who would have guessed that) on her right hip. Joe seemed skeptical at first but then he got into the shading on the flippers and the shirt and really did a good job on it. Then we had another hour for breaks and set up and it was Deb’s turn. She did an emblem like a yin-yang but divided into three connected teardrop shapes inside the circle. She then had each section filled with a color gradient; red, blue and yellow. This one went very fast but there was still the hour to take a break and set up before Sam’s tattoo. She had a ring of I-Ching symbols with a Lapis Lazuli symbol in the middle. It means something special to her and turned out really good looking. By the end of the day Joe had warmed up to us and we even had a stirring conversation about the time he threw meat and blood on vegetarian protesters outside of an Oklahoma McDonald’s.

We were all pretty hungry by this point and went back to the hotel complex and ate dinner at Brew Brothers. We all had beer, except Tamara. I had a New York steak. I probably wouldn’t have but Elisa was talking about how rarely she ate beef and I thought, "Hey, I haven’t had a honkin' piece of meat in a while." It was pretty good and the flavor matched the dark beer I was drinking.

With dinner over we were looking for cheaper Blackjack. We had our hearts set on the one dollar blackjack at Circus, Circus. When we got there and looked around they had only one table using a six deck shoe that was both full of players and had people watching, no doubt waiting for an opening on the table. Disappointed with the one dollar table we went to Fitzgerald’s across the street and found a three dollar table.

The good thing about Fitzgerald’s is that they have a card you can sign up for. And since we were in a different hotel they have us each five dollars as an incentive to sign up. We all expect tons of junk mail from this but we wanted the money. Since Tamara signed up too I had an extra ten dollars to play with at the Blackjack table. I did pretty well and broke even for the night and still 8 of the 10 free dollars I started out with. So technically I was up 8 dollars.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Reno Day 2: We find out that slots suck.

Tamara and I slept late and she didn’t want to eat breakfast, but I did. So I got a coffee and a Danish and we explored the mall that connects the El Dorado to the Silver Legacy and Circus, Circus. We found tons of slots, two buffets, a couple of coffee shops and a kids arcade at Circus, Circus. At the Silver Legacy they had a huge dome with a silver mine replica inside. They also had fake weather going across the dome and would periodically change it from night to day. They had total control over the mediated environment. And they had a good screen for laser light shows – the one I saw was more of a "coming attractions" show so it was pretty lame.

We went to the "Brew Brothers" café where I tried a couple of their micro brewed beers. We also had two huge hamburgers that neither of us finished. We saved them in case we were hungry later but ended up throwing them out when we discovered them the next day. After lunch we went out to the airport to meet Elisa and hook-up with Deb and Sam; who were also already in Reno. We were talking about renting a car for a day or two and after discussing this with Elisa we ended up renting a 2005 Chrysler Town and Country mini-van. We had a discount coupon so it really wasn’t that much.

After we got Elisa checked in to her room we all went downstairs to lose money at slots. We mainly tried the nickel and penny slots. Tamara lost her money quick. I started with five dollars and when I left the machine I had $6.85. At one point I was up by over $5 but the started getting the better of me. I took my ticket (because most of the cheap slots give you a ticket you take to a cashier) and went to another area with the group to play more slots. Luckily most of the slots are ticket-in/ticket-out so I was able to roll my money over to the slot machine – where I promptly lost it all.

We ate dinner at Circus, Circus's Americana Grill. This was kind of like a Denny’s with keno. I asked, "What’s Keno?" and Deb said, "It’s like reverse bingo." You pick your numbers and if you get a lot of matches on the round you win. This restaurant had a special brand where you pick three and if you hit you win $35 and a meal ticket worth $15. Deb and I played. She won and I lost. I really had no more desire to play Keno but I’ve heard the odds are pretty good. With dinner behind us we lost some more money on slots and decided to switch to Blackjack.

The El Dorado only has five dollar minimum tables. So Tamara was pretty aghast when I sat down with Elisa, Deb and Sam. I started out with twenty in chips (4 five dollar chips). I actually won enough to stay even for most of the time we played. It was much more fun and interactive and both the dealer and the other players were very helpful with our hands. Later I discovered that bad or selfish players can mess up a whole table so they had an interest in helping us play up to a certain (although still low) level. I lost my twenty the first night. I think we all did but I’m not sure. The only thing I remember for sure is that the cocktail waitresses come around much more often at the Blackjack tables. And while it’s not cheap entertainment I had so much more fun (and comp’ed drinks) at the Blackjack tables, I didn’t really ever want to play slots again during the trip.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

We’re in Reno Nevada (for a whole week)

If you look at Tamara’s Blog (on the menu to the left) You’ll get a much more in depth view of this, our first full day of the Reno, Nevada internet meetup vacation. But I’m gonna put my own spin on this baby anyway.

The trip actually started Friday night. After working all day we went to the airport and hopped a flight to Denver. At Denver we sat in the plane for nearly an hour as all baggage checked locally was scanned due to a TSA breach of security. We finally got to the hotel (The El Dorado Hotel and Casino in lovely Reno, NV) and in bed by midnight local time (2 am CDT). The highlight of the trip for me was discussing politics with a moderate Republican from the Reno area. I expose the flaw that will probably keep me out of politics when I say that I can’t remember his name. His views annoyed Tamara so much she grabbed my MP3 player and tried to drown us out with that.

The next morning we did what all people want to do on vacation. We slept until we couldn’t sleep any more. After the normal morning stuff we went down and had a honkin’ huge breakfast buffet. The buffet was big, but the honkin’ huge part was how much we ate. After breakfast we wandered around downtown Reno. We went to a gift shop, the post office, some casinos, saw the nice stuff they’ve done with the Truckee River that goes through the middle of town. Around 11:40 (PDT) we ended up at a 12-plex movie theater. Since we didn’t have to get anyone to watch the kids, we went to see “Shawn of the Dead.” It was a pretty funny, and kinda gory movie. After that we went back to the room for a bit before walking all the way down Virginia street to Pirate Tattoo. Some of the people meeting here want to commemorate the occasion with ink so we scoped it out for them. The second hike ended up being about 2.5 miles so we were pretty hungry when we got back. So it was back to the buffet. For dinner you had lots of choices on meats but very few choices on veggies (mainly salad). It was kind of interesting and sad to see so many people with plates brimming full with different kinds of meat and not a plant in sight. After dinner we’ve just been kicking back and doing things like updating our blogs and uploading photos to ofoto. Tomorrow is another day and hopefully we won’t find anything constructive to do with it.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Orionid Meteor Shower

I'm tired today but it's my own dang fault. Yesterday Duncan heard a Star Date on public radio talking about the Orionid meteor shower and how it would be peaking on Wednesday night after the moon set around midnight. Well, he got all excited and went to bed early so I could get him up at midnight and we could go and see it. I didn't go to sleep early and didn't get to bed until 2 am and had to get up about 6:30 to get ready for work. So I'm tired.

It's amazing how slow Duncan gets up most mornings but last night he popped right out of bed and got dressed without prodding. We piled into my little S-10 and went out the Northwest Expressway past Piedmont but not quite to Okarche. We turned off the road and then down a side road off that and got to a really dark area.

You could still see the glow of Oklahoma City in the distance to the SouthEast as we sat in the back of the truck wrapped in some green blankets. We sat and watched the sky and talked about stars and stuff. I saw a couple of good ones and a few faint trails. Duncan saw one really good one and a couple of faint trails. After about an hour of sitting out there we went home.

The Orionid meteor shower is what happens when the Earth passes through the debris field left by Halley's comet. Here's a good article on the Orionids.