Took a quick ‘vacation’ to Hemet over the weekend; here were some of the highlights:
Successfully retrieved my Walkman from yesteryear. While the player itself was in good shape (after installing a set of batteries from this century), the same could not be said for the headphones. After spending over a decade in the bottom of a drawer, the foam on the earpieces had disintegrated to two small piles of black dust.
Made the short trek over to Palm Springs with my parents on Saturday afternoon to help celebrate a very good friend of the family’s 60th birthday party.The party took place at a bowling alley and it was great watching the 50 and 60 year olds act like 5 and 6 year olds – seriously, though, everyone had a great time (I think the pizza, cake and party favors may have had something to do with it).
My mother had picked out a HPNOTIQ gift set (includes two iced-out grills) for us to bring to the party as a gift for the birthday boy.“Travis, how do you pronounce this?I keep wanting to say Hip-no-teek.”
Tried to go out for dinner that night when we got back to Hemet.Unfortunately, it seems a lot of the restaurants in this budding metropolis were closed...at …on Saturday night.
Saw a stack of the ‘Mobile Home Times’ while in town and I’m still kicking myself for not picking up a copy.
When I make a quick pasta lunch, I cook up some packaged linguine, open a jar of sauce, combine the two and call it a meal.My mom, on the other hand, whipped up an Italian lunch for my dad and me on Sunday that consisted of the following:Bruschetta, fresh pasta, tomato sauce made from scratch, and homemade meatballs.Buon gusto!Having meals like that is almost enough to make me want to live at home…almost.
A lot of people ask me how I spend my free time now that I’m not putting in a full 40 hours at work every week.Well today, for example, I spent a good chunk of my day solving car problems.
I got into my car this morning, planning stop in at work for a couple hours to tie up the last of the loose ends, turned the key and was greeted with…nothing.Not even the standard click-click-click of an ailing battery and the dashboard lights emitted only the slightest sign of life.In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I had been warned that the battery was on its way out a few months ago when the car was in for service.However, being of the mentality that I had to squeeze every last drop of electricity out of its cells, I opted to postpone the battery’s replacement.
Unfortunately, I had not been expecting a catastrophic failure and was prepared to swap the battery when the car began to require verbal coaxing and encouragement to start.Faced with the situation at hand, I did not have that luxury and instead decided to give the AAA a call, get a jump and head over to Napa to buy a new battery.Amazingly, I had a service truck at my door within 15 minutes (kudos to AAA) and the guy confirmed that the battery was, in fact, dead.“Damn boy, you really got everything you could out of this one!”I beamed with pride, knowing that my battery had lived a long and fulfilling life.
Before jumping the car, the tow-truck driver offered to sell and install a battery for me on the spot.Said it was $100 and they only carried the best quality replacements.Examining the situation (instant gratification and no work on my part but potentially sketchy battery versus spending an hour going to Napa, swapping a battery and saving a few bucks) I opted to go with the latter choice, figuring I had the extra time and given my current income scenario, saving a few bucks couldn’t hurt.
We got the car started, so I threw some tools in the trunk and I drove straight to Napa.Went inside and waited about 15 minutes before getting to the counter.Offered up my make, model and year and after deciding between the ‘I’m going to sell my car tomorrow and it just has to start until then’ battery and the ‘I actually need my car to run’ battery, was told a suitable replacement would be pulled from the back for me in a matter of minutes.At the time, I noticed I was only saving myself about $15 by going through this rigmarole.
As promised, the counter guy delivered the battery to me and I headed out to the parking lot to install it in the car.Got the dead battery out without a hassle and slipped the new one in.Installed the accompanying bracket and was ready to install the cables when I noticed that the posts on the battery were in a completely different orientation than the original unit.Naturally, one of the cables would not reach its respective post.
Annoyed, I removed all of the cables that did fit, uninstalled the bracket and pulled the new battery from the car.With both batteries in tow, I returned to the parts counter (after another 15 minute wait, of course, which gave me plenty of time to reconsider what saving $15 really meant to me).The guy who’d helped me previously was now at lunch, so I got hooked up with another worker.Luck was on my side, however, as the second guy was much more in tune with what was going on.As soon as he saw the battery, he mentioned that, “this here’s a 25 series, just like I run in my car; I don’t know what the hell Bill was trying to do selling you that other battery; musta just wanted to go to lunch real bad.”And with that, he walked over to one of the batteries on a shelf in the middle of the store and brought it back over to the counter.“This one will do you just fine.”‘This one’ turned out to be $15 cheaper, had an additional 15 month warranty and had a higher amperage rating.Thanks, Bill, way to go, hooking me up with that other battery.
With that transaction squared away, I took the new battery back out to the car and put it into place.I started to install the bracket to hold the battery down and just as I’m threading one of the nuts into place, it slips out of my hand and falls into the depths of the engine compartment below.I listened as it plinked and plunked off multiple engine components but, of course, I never heard that final thud confirming its contact with the pavement and I couldn’t for the life of me see its final resting place.This meant it was time for trip number three to the service counter to purchase a replacement nut so my battery wouldn’t be flying around while driving.Ten minutes and twenty cents later, I was back on the road.
The next problem reared its ugly head when I tried to turn on the radio and was greeted with ‘Code?’The loss of power when the battery had been disconnected tripped the anti-theft system within the radio; the anti-theft system for which I did not have the code in question.With the dealership just down the street, I thought I’d try to see if they could retrieve the code for me.Good thing I didn’t have somewhere important to be.
I took the car’s registration to the parts counter with me to verify my ownership and spoke to one of the guys working there.He offered up two possible solutions to my problem; I could A) pull the radio and get the serial number off the back and call that into Acura, or B) pay the service guys $80 to do it for me.I opted to solve the problem on my own and was forced to drive around for the remainder of the day in silence.Let me tell you, there’s nothing worse than having to be alone with your thoughts while driving.
Little disturbances such as this explain why I have not renewed my passport, purchased my plane tickets to Europe or readied my place for renting.
10:30 PM – The club has officially been open for 30 minutes and they’ve let 5-10 people in from the line I’m standing in.However, to my left is the line, or should I say, express lane for everyone who falls into the following categories: VIP, guests with table service, hotel guests, people on the guest list and groups of girls not containing any male counterparts.About 300 people who meet one of the above criteria have walked past me by now.Over the next 2 hours, I make a lot of progress, but it is only because the people ahead of me have become sick of waiting and jump out of line.I am determined to see this thing through and meet up with my friends inside - the friends who walked by around the 11:45 mark, that is, because they were smart enough to buy VIP passes earlier in the day.A certain camaraderie begins to form between myself and a couple of the guys standing behind me over the ridiculousness of the situation.We’ve watched close to a thousand people pass by into the club and with another 500 or so in line behind us, I make the comment that they, “must be giving away free diamond rings and blowjobs inside.”
12:30 AM – After hearing one of the guys working the line say that we probably wouldn’t get in for another hour to hour and a half (if at all), I decide that it’s going to take a little extra effort to get inside.I dig into my wallet and assemble what I hope will be enough money to pass as a golden ticket.I spend the next 15 minutes trying to locate and get the attention of the all-powerful line manager.I also happen to notice the cost of cover to get into the club and it’s somewhere around the most absurd amount of money you could fathom paying to get into a dance club…doubled.Reason must have jumped out of line with everyone else that had already left because after all I’d been through, it didn’t occur to me that this was completely preposterous; rather, it was just another hurdle that I would have to jump through in this quest for fun.
12:40 AM – Finally make contact with ‘Mike’ who takes a second to hear me plead my case and simultaneously slip him some “encouragement.”He wants to make sure that it’s just me who he’s letting in (for fear, I’m sure, that we’d tip the male to female ratio within the club past its current 4:1 industry standard).I confirm that I’m alone and suddenly the presence of the velvet rope barrier, which I had become quite accustomed to over the last two hours, is lifted from my thighs.
12:45 AM – At last I’m inside the door.All that stands between my friends and me is the patdown/metal detector area, a short elevator ride down to the club and going through a 2nd line to pay cover.I breeze through the security portion of the tour (left my piece at home) and join about 20 other people in the elevator.We start to descend into the club and suddenly the elevator drops about a foot and stops.“That can’t be good,” murmured the host/elevator operator.Sure enough, the doors of the elevator refuse to part and no amount of pleading or button pushing changes their mind.A long minute passes as everyone in the elevator realizes that we really are stuck and this isn’t just a temporary hiccup.With all those bodies in such a tight space, the air begins to get thick and stale rather quickly.Since I was the last one into the car, I’m standing just inside the door and to the immediate right of the host.I can tell that he’s really starting to freak out as the sweat begins to collect on his forehead and he tries every means possible of contacting someone on the outside to aid us in our predicament.
“Don’t worry, man, they’ll get us out of here,” I try to reassure him.He continues to send frantic text messages and radio cries for help.While not in the same mindset, I none-the-less followed suit, Stuck in elevator I texted to my friends inside, since they were expecting me at any moment.
I’ve been stuck in one other elevator in my life and was able to get out by prying the doors open and crawling out.I offered up this possible solution and have another guy help me try to part the doors.Unfortunately, because we are packed so tightly into the elevator our ability to get good leverage is too limited and we can not overcome the very strong doors; heroes we are not, tonight.
1:00 AM – The elevator suddenly lurches and starts moving again, albeit very slowly.Eventually, it comes to rest back where our journey started and the moment the doors open, its contents immediately spill out into the lobby of the club.Refusing to get back in the elevator, the host leads us down a staircase into the bowels of the club.At this time, there is enough commotion and disorder that I’m able to slip onto the tail end of a group with table service and bypass the line for cover.Or so I thought.As we’re starting to walk into the club, another host comes over and wants to confirm the name on the reservation.As she’s doing so, she asks us all to step off to the side.This has the unfortunate side effect of breaking up the group into factions that are too small for me to blend in with.
1:10 AM – The chance of getting into the club without having to sell a kidney begins to look quite bleak and I go in search of a bathtub of ice to wake up in.Find it in the normal cover line.Approaching the register, I decide that my ears must have preemptively lost their hearing for the night, because it sounds like the woman accepting entry fees is asking me for $200.“Excuse me?” I ask, incredulously.
“The price of admission has been increased to $200.” She doesn’t even bat an eyelash.
That is enough to slap me back to reality.There is no way I am paying $200 to get into a nightclub.Still trying to process the last 30 seconds of insanity, I stumble out of line and, thoroughly defeated, head back towards the entrance.On my way, I see the host who kicked us out of the VIP line and try to appeal to her sense of compassion by explaining my situation and that the price has increased significantly in the three and a half hours since I originally stepped into line.Amazingly, she hears my cry for help and walks with me back to the register.“You can let this guy in for [original, absurd cover price].”
1:15 AM – Find my friends and regale them with my version of the evening.They graciously buy me a drink as a small token of sympathy.
1:30 AM – From out of nowhere, one of the random guys that I was standing in line with earlier in the evening comes over and gives me a shot of Patron.“Glad to see you made it inside, man.Here, you deserve this.”Begin to wonder if everyone who’s witnessed my trials and tribulations for the evening thinks I’m some sort of head case and buying me drinks is an exercise in social goodwill.
2:00 AM – A couple of the girls in the group I’m with have worked their way in with another party that has table service for the night.Join up with the expanded group and am immediately offered another free drink.Sit down and relax for a bit.
3:00 AM – Everyone’s getting tired and ready to call it a night.Decide to split a cab with my friends and head back up the strip.As expected, the cab line looks to be about a 20 minute wait.Fortunately, the young lady behind us keeps things interesting by leaving an impressively colorful trail of vomit from the start of the line to the end, as her sister reprimands her throughout the entire ordeal.
3:15 AM – Part ways with everyone and choose to head over to Caesar’s to do some gambling.
3:30 AM – Arrive at the poker room in Caesar’s and sit down on a low limit table.Start chatting to the Asian man to my left who introduces himself as ‘Kenny from Hong Kong’.He also informs me that this is his first time playing poker and everything he knows about the game he’s learned from ESPN.Sweeter words have never been spoken at a poker table.Truth be told, while his play is quite erratic and hard to read, Kenny is actually a really nice guy and fun to play with.Everyone is having a good time and pretty soon I have the entire table calling him ‘ESPN’.
4:30 AM – ‘ESPN’’s friend decides that he wants to play at a slightly higher limit table and encourages ‘ESPN’ to do the same.They say to ‘always follow the money,’ so I immediately go over to the woman running the poker room and ask her to get me on the same table as those guys.Within five minutes, a seat opens up and I prepare to move over to the other table.As I rack up, I look up and notice Cameron Diaz playing poker at an adjacent table.
4:35 AM – Within the first 45 minutes, I’ve nearly tripled my buy-in; I again go in search of the head of the poker room to tip her for helping me get on the same table as the easy money.Continue to play poker for the next three and a half hours until everyone else on the table has busted out with the exception of ‘ESPN’, another guy who actually knew how to play and me.With so few players, we all agree that it’s not worth it to continue playing and the game breaks.
8:00 AM – Leaving the poker room, I stop the manager and ask if he could take care of my breakfast for me (“shouldn’t leave without getting something for free,” afterall).He fills out a comp card for me and I’m all set.
8:15 AM – Have breakfast in one of the nearby cafés, courtesy of the casino.
9:30 AM – Stop by Goli’s room to deliver an inadvertently rude wake-up call, pick up my bag and head off to the airport.
9:45 AM – Find a nice guy from Colorado who is willing to split a cab to the airport. We entertain each other with tales of the weekend. The driver contributes his stories from the weekend, as well, including a couple shootings, hit and runs, and the prostitute who tried to jump out of his moving cab. I guess it wasn't all that safe to be walking the strip last night.
10:00 AM – Get to airport, through security and arrive at the gate.Notice that earlier flight for San Diego is now boarding.Walk over to desk to enquire about empty seats on earlier flight.Get lucky and walk on board.
11:45 AM – Touch down in San Diego.Get home and proceed to sleep for the next 22 hours.
All-in-all, the trip was a lot of fun and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.Things I would do differently next time:Never go during the NBA All-Star Weekend, only bring a toothbrush, and make arrangements in advance for any clubs I plan to attend.
With a couple of friends there for the long weekend, I had planned on driving out to Vegas on Friday with the intention of staying through the weekend.My willingness to go hinged on being able to use a free room that I had at the Hard Rock.I’d started the booking process weeks in advance, leaving messages on multiple people’s voicemails at the hotel, but no one seemed able to call me back; I guess they don’t care as much when the room’s on them.I kept monitoring the rooms online and saw that they were still available for booking.I finally decided that if they still had rooms free on Friday morning, I would drive out and just book the room when I got to town.
As I was packing up my things and getting ready to head out the door, I got a phone call from an unrecognized number with a 702 area code.I picked up and on the other end was Kyle from the Hard Rock with some bad news - seems that with the NBA All-Star game in town, they didn’t have any free rooms that they could put me up in for the weekend.At that point, I decided that I’d probably be skipping the trip this time around; that is, unless I just did a 24 hr run to Vegas.
I postponed committing to anything until I’d had a good night’s sleep and to see how I was feeling come Saturday morning.Around noon, I’d reached a decision, here’s how it went down:
12:00 PM – Green-light decision to go to Vegas and start looking up tickets.Throw toothbrush, clean shirt and iPod into a bag.Buy tickets for 2:30 flight out and 11:30 flight back and immediate check-in for both flights online.
12:30 PM – Leave for the airport.Park the car at a $10/day lot (knowing full well that I’ll be in and out in 24 hrs) and shuttle over to the airport.
1:15 PM – Grab a quick bite to eat in the airport and then head over to the gate to wait for my flight.Manage to get into line for the wrong set of gates (Southwest Vegas flights now fly out of a different area of the airport).
2:00 PM – Go through the correct security checkpoint and get settled in at the gate.Wonder why people in the “A” group insist on lining up an hour before the flight is scheduled to board.Do these people have a favorite seat on the plane that they absolutely have to sit in?
2:20 PM – Move over to the “B” group staging area and get in line.A young woman gets in line behind me and, after finishing her very public cell phone conversation, starts talking to me.She introduces herself as “Ashley” and let’s me know that she’s a professional dancer heading out to Vegas for a big weekend in the clubs (she expecting to make $2-3000 over the course of the weekend).We chat for another ten minutes or so before boarding the plane.I get on board and try to find a window seat on the left side of the plane so I can see the city as we come into range (I love replicating that feeling of cresting the hill on I-15 right as all of Vegas comes into view).Fortunately, the plane was not very full and I am able to get a seat to myself and have the middle seat vacant for the flight.As much as I would have liked to continue my educational conversation with Ashley, I was happy to have some quiet time to prepare myself for the weekend.
2:40 PM – Plane takes off and the large group behind me is loud but not too rowdy.If you’ve ever been on a flight out to Vegas, you know this is par for the course, just as the flight back is always a quiet and solemn affair.As soon as drink service is available, however, they start putting away as many beers and vodka tonics as they can during the short flight.
3:30 PM – We’re beginning the final descent into Vegas and one of the guys behind and to the right of me starts singing along loudly with whatever was playing on his iPod (no, he couldn’t follow directions and yes, he was a part of the same group containing the girl directly behind me who answered her cell phone mid-flight).After about five minutes of this guy serenading an unsuspecting audience, a voice about 6 rows up belonging to none other than my new friend, Ashley, starts telling him to “learn to control his *&$%# and to shut the *@$^% up because he is annoying all the other passengers on the plane.”No longer singing, Mr. FAA-Rules-Don’t-Apply-To-Me starts to get confrontational with this dissatisfied audience member and the remainder of the flight was set to the tune of colorful insults being spewed back and forth across the cabin of the plane.Unlike most people on board, I actually found it quite entertaining.
4:00 PM – I’ve touched down in Vegas and rather than wait in the 2 hour cab line, I use a tip that another Vegas cabbie bestowed upon me and wait all of 10 minutes before being taxied out of the airport.Dodge another bullet when the cabbie asks me, “streets or freeway” – always pick “streets,” as “freeway” is a trap that will cost you about $5-10 more.Goli is one of the people who is supposed to be in town over the weekend and I’ve planned on meeting up with her (she was also gracious enough to allow me to throw my bag in her room) and her friends.When we’d talked earlier in the week, she had told me that she was staying at the Flamingo Hilton, so that’s where I have the driver drop me off.Now inside the lobby, I call Goli to see if they’ve gotten in yet and, if so, what room they are in.Once on the phone, I learn that A) they are still about an hour out, and B) I am at the wrong Hilton.
4:45 PM – I have to get from one Hilton property to another.While standing in the lobby, I notice that there is a stop for the new monorail in the hotel.Figuring this is as good an opportunity as any to check it out and kill some time, I head off to the monorail station entrance.I buy a $5 one-way ticket and head over to the platform.As everyone knows, no one actually rides the monorail, so I stand alone waiting for the train to arrive.Same story when I board an empty car and begin the journey over to the Las Vegas Hilton.
5:15 PM – Arrive at the Hilton and decide to kill some time gambling.Play about an hour’s worth of poker until the annoying people on my immediate right become too much for me to bear, so I rack up and cash out.As I leave the poker room, I notice that Goli is calling to let me know that they are in town and at the hotel.During our conversation, I mention that I’ve been doing a bit of gambling while waiting for them to show up.She asks me how this is possible, given that the hotel they are staying in does not have a casino in it.“Huh?” is all I can muster.
“We are staying at the Hilton Vacation Resort, there’s no casino in the hotel,” she responds.
“Alright, I’ll be there in a minute.”
6:30 PM – Ask nearest hotel personnel where the Hilton Vacation Resort is and he tells me that it’s on the property, right next to the building that I’m currently standing in; finally, a shred of good news.I walk out of the casino, cross a parking lot and miraculously find the Hilton Vacation Resort.Once in the lobby, I call Goli to get the room number – 12617 – and let her know that I’m on my way up.
7:00 PM – Get up to the 12th floor of the hotel and notice that all of the room numbers are only four digits.Bewildered, I get back into the elevator and head down to the lobby to find out what’s going on.Approach the front desk and explain my predicament.Am informed that the only Hilton Vacation Resort property with 5 digit rooms is the new HVR located on the strip.Get directions to said hotel.
7:15 PM – Start trek to fourth and hopefully final Hilton property in Vegas.Realize that woman at the front desk assumed I was driving to my destination (fortunately I pack light).
7:45 PM – Arrive at correct hotel, tired, sweaty and thoroughly sick of walking.Get into the elevator and, once again, head up to the 12th floor.Upon disembarking from the elevator, notice that the room numbers are of the format: 112XX.Get back into the elevator questioning whether or not I’m ever supposed to make it up to the room.Head up to the 26th floor and halfway down the hallway, amazingly, I find the correct room.Am welcomed with an ice cold beverage and open arms and suddenly the night is starting to look up.Things continue to improve with a couple more drinks and dinner courtesy of my gracious hosts.
8:50 PM – Start to get antsy and realize that the girls are at least an hour from being ready to hit the town, so I set out on my own for the Wynn to play some cards and check out the line at Tryst (the club in the Wynn).Note the immense amount of traffic on the strip and decide that I’m better off walking than cabbing.This theory is further confirmed as I continue down the strip noting that the traffic has not moved in the slightest.
9:15 PM – Get to the Wynn and walk by the club to check the line status.Not a single person in line, so I decide to do a little gambling while waiting for everyone else to show up.Can’t seem to get on a table, so I decide to head back to the club and check out the situation there.
9:45 PM - Notice that a line has started to form, so I get into the queue (about 15 people from the front) and hope that everyone else will show up before they let me into the club when it opens at 10:00.Unfortunately, this proved to be very wishful thinking…
One of my big goals over the next 5 months is to pick up conversational Spanish.I took three years of high school Spanish and I’m sad to say, could not talk my way out of El Torrito.However, thinking that a little experience is better than no experience, I decided to stick with Spanish instead of trying to learn a completely new language.A while back, I picked up a ‘learn Spanish on tape’ program (one used by the Foreign Service Institute, no less – whatever that means) with the intent of improving my foreign relations.With the cassette’s demise in the early nineties, however, I haven’t used a portable cassette player in over a decade and the last such player I owned is probably buried away in a box alongside such archived classics as Poison, Pet Shop Boys and Foreigner somewhere at my parents’ place.Speaking of 80’s music, did UB40 ever write anything original?
Needing something to get me by before my next trip home, I stopped by Target to check out their selection of tape players.And by ‘selection’ I mean I had my choice between the $10 model and the $50 model.Not wanting to invest heavily in old technology, I picked up the lesser one with the assumption that it would only need to get me through a couple weeks.
This afternoon, I assembled my makeshift classroom, consisting of the tape player, fresh batteries, Tape 1A and a workbook.I popped the tape in and I was off to las razas.In no short amount of time, I was devouring the material, repeating quips and phrases and slowly calibrating my gringo tongue.Halfway through the first side of the tape, I could start to hear a slight squeal in the background of the audiophile-quality headphones that were included with the bargain bin tape player (there’s literally a label on the cord saying that it contains cancer-causing metals – nothing but the best!).No matter, I pressed on through rolling r’s and those always sneaky ñ’s, occasionally tapping and shaking the player in a [sometimes successful] effort to restore proper operation.While my pronunciation may not be the best, I could sense that Juan was starting to tire as the words he presented me with were becoming more and more drawn out.
“¿Como estás?”queried Juan.
“¿Como estás?”I dutifully repeated.
“¿Cooommooo essstááásss?” Juan drawled out.
“¿Como estás?” I repeated back to the tiring Juan.
Juan’s fatal and final words hung in my ear as the tape player expired in my hands, thus concluding my first Spanish lesson.
Given the circumstances, I guess I’m supposed to be sitting around the house in sweat pants, eating ice cream and watching Oprah.Unfortunately, I haven’t exactly been living the dream, yet.Instead, I managed to work about 7 hours over the weekend which, in turn, led to minor issue that cropped up on Monday morning where no one could save any files to the server, that caused me to have to put in some additional time to resolve that little faux pas.Add in today’s hour in the office and tomorrow’s meeting and I’ve pretty much covered my 10 hours for the week (I’m working 10hrs/week for February to help transition the department).
It hasn’t all been work and no play, however.I watched the Superbowl Big Game on Sunday, although the commercials left a little to be desired (where was the ad with the guy who was supposed to propose to his girlfriend?), started my training for the AIDS ride on Monday with a quick jaunt up the coast (the weather was perfect!), and got caught up on a lot of little things that I haven’t been able to get to lately.I also discovered that there are but two primary groups who are active during the day: seniors and stay-at-home moms, neither of which I can identify with, as of yet.