Bronx, NY – I’m back from my one-week vacation and ready to report on the west coast swing that started in Northern California and ended in the Nevada Desert. This little jaunt had a lot of starts and stops. I’ll do my best to encapsulate the events as best I can. Let’s get to it.
I Could Use a Napa. My wife and I flew into San Francisco and, fearing running into Victor Conte, immediately jumped in a car and headed up to wine country. Keith Hernandez would have approved. If pitch-perfect weather, great food, and wine aplenty sound good to you, then Napa might be your kinda place. We visited several vineyards, but the best one had to be Goosecross Cellars, where a nice woman named Kim poured glass after glass of wine and demanded that we try a bacon chocolate bar. Who was I to say no? We ended up leaving with a bottle of vino, three bacon bars (one of which will go to JG Clancy), and a pretty good buzz. One final note about Napa: If you’re a young, unattached male and don’t mind drinking the grape, there are packs of women up there on all-girl weekend getaways vineyard hopping and generally looking for fun. Nuff said.
The Shamrock Shake. After Napa we headed down to spend time with friends in Los Angeles. Early St. Patrick’s Day morning I happened to be awake for what was later called a 4.4 earthquake. When it happened I thought that is was nothing more than a drunk raccoon falling out of tree and landing on the roof of our friend’s house. My friend David quickly texted me: “Top o’ the mornin’, Los Angeles! A 4.4 Shamrock Shake to be exact.” The funny thing is everyone else in the house were neither shaken nor stirred. Later that evening I had the pleasure of finally meeting my MTM colleague West Coast Craig at a divey little joint in Los Feliz. Not to get all Sammy Maudlin here, but WCC is good people. The kinda guy if he asked you to kill the Queen of England in the middle of an Angels game, you’d probably do it. Anyway, we knocked back a few while knocking our boss in NY. Good times. The next day I met up with my aforementioned pal, David. With no Dodgers baseball to be had and no racing at Santa Anita, we found ourselves grasping for something to do. Dave finally suggested heading down to Los Alamitos Racetrack for some simulcast horse racing, or what Short Matt later termed, “the biggest white trash thing you can possibly do.” Trust me, it was worth it. You think there are characters at the track when there’s actual racing? Try simulcasting. We spent the afternoon betting on total nags, smoking stale cigars, and listening to a seasoned female cashier insult the numbskulls betting at her window. Dave hit for $180 on our last race. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it couldn’t. The next day we were headed into the belly of the beast.
Slots, Sluts, and Madmen. When I told my friend Nick of our vacation itinerary–Napa, LA, Vegas–he likened it to the descent into Dante’s Inferno. It turned out to be a fairly accurate description. Vegas was… well… Vegas. Money was lost. Free drinks were had. More money was lost. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. At one point I thought my wife was morphing into Julie Hagerty’s character from Albert Brooks’ Lost in America.
When this leg of the trip was planned I also failed to realize that our Vegas stint would coincide with the beginning of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. The place was filthy with frat boys and alum from every college in the tourney. You didn’t have to watch the games. You could tell that Dayton had beat Ohio State by the euphoric Flyers fans and the sadsack Buckeyes supporters. I once again stayed in the lovable fleabag of the Strip, the Flamingo, which was fleabaggier than ever. This place either needs a costly facelift or a humane demolition.
The final night was, typically, the most horrific. My two major meals for the day were a greasy slice of sausage pizza at lunch and a single chili dog for dinner. Caesar’s was wall-to-wall trust fund douches and their uber-slutty girlfriends. I played at one table where the pit boss was unabashedly fawning all over some Argentinian woman who (not coincidentally) proceeded to win hand after hand. Me and the guy sitting next to me were looking at each other like “Is this guy serious? There’s no way we’re gonna win at this table.” When some 20-something kid who never worked a day in his life sat down next to me, plunked five one hundred dollar bills on the table, and announced that he didn’t want to be bothered with $5 chips, I knew it was time to go.
Back at El Flamingo, I found myself bar-side at 2 am playing video poker and knocking back watered-down cocktails. A woman who may or may not have been a prostitute sat down next to me and, upon finding I was from New York, proceeded to want to talk about Annie Hall, of all things. It was like she was working out of some 1970s call-girl playbook. Wherever this was going it wasn’t anywhere good. I cashed out and headed back up to our room. But before I reached my door I had to hurdle a middle-aged woman in a dress who was sprawled out on the floor outside a room sloppily shoving a Johnny Rockets hamburger in her maw. I tried to help her get in her room but there’s a pretty good chance that she was on the wrong floor, if not the wrong hotel. When I got in my room I called the front desk and mentioned this woman’s plight to security personnel who politely told me that they had wayyy bigger problems to deal with.
I was inclined to believe them and called it a night. Daylight could not come fast enough. Right before we bade Sin City farewell, I stopped by the sports book and put a token bet on the Mets to win more than 74 games this year. It seemed the perfect coda.
In all, it was a good trip. A little bit of everything. And I got a week off from writing. Now it’s back to cold weather, MTM, and reality.
Tomorrow, the reality of another Meet The Matts Radio segment and Short Matt whining about not enough comments.