Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My New Year’s Eve Traditions

I’ve probably written posts before of what I do on New Year’s Eve, but I know you'd like to be reminded. Right?

Things have changed since about 2000, when I stopped joining my wife and in-laws at their annual Sushi Hell on the eve.

I blame all my back and hip troubles that I’m now experiencing, on the sushi rolling.

Be that as it may … who’s complaining, right? What's past is past.
Throughout the years, I always have taken a shower just before midnight, so I can enter the New Year as clean as I left it. I always brush my teeth, I always change my towels, I always change my toothbrush, and I always remake the bed with clean sheets.
I always shave, and I always have a fresh haircut. I fill the car’s gas tank, and I pay any outstanding bills. I try to eat some “good luck” kuro mame (Japanese sweet black beans) and noodles.
I used to stay up until midnight, but these days, I tend to fall asleep earlier. It’s easier to do that now because the sounds of fireworks and screaming aerials have diminished drastically since the new permit system has been integrated into our lives.
Not since Hawaii ushered in Y2K has there been a cacophony as loud and spectacular as that one. Standing on a high roof, I witness it and thought I was in a war zone. Honolulu looked like it was on fire.
Now, the only thing that’s burning on New Year’s Eve is my indigestion from consuming too much good food at dinner.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Upstairs in The D

During the past couple of years since The D took over the Fitzgerald in downtown Las Vegas, it's been transformed into a much classier place. In some ways, I think it outclasses The Golden Nugget, long considered to be the jewel of The Fremont Experiences.

They even have flat-screen television sets for your entertainment at the elevators to the guest floors.

On their second floor, in addition to The D Grill and Andiamo's Italian Steakhouse, they've transformed the upstairs casino area into a Vintage Vegas Slots attraction. Now ... "vintage" in this case means slot machines that accept coins. Remember those? We're actually talking not that many years ago. Guess "vintage" is relative, huh?

Most of the slots in the area are coin slots.

I sat down at the dollar poker machine. Didn't have any dollar tokens, so I fed a $20 bill into the machine.

I didn't get a chance to get paid in dollar tokens because the damned machine took all of my money. So I couldn't take a picture of actual coins to show you.

Oh well, I wasn't going to take out any more money here.

I had better luck downstairs with the now-usual currency-ticket payment machines.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Fonky Denny's

Remember a couple of months ago when I ran a picture of a fonky (one step beyond "funky") Wendy's that I saw in Fremont, CA? Well, I think I found her boyfriend, a fonky Denny's in Las Vegas.

This Denny's is attached to the Neonopolis center just north of The Fremont Experience. The restaurant façade is an add-on to the actual restaurant, which occupies the left side of the entrance. I forget what used to be there.

So that's that, that's about the size of it. Weird, not very complementary to the building's design ... but then, what's weird in Las Vegas isn't really weird in Las Vegas, only when we juxtapose it into pictures we have in our minds of more conventional tourist places.

Nah ... it's fonky, even in Las Vegas.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bad Work! Bad Work!

Cleaning out my files so I can enter the New Year as unencumbered and unbogged down as I possibly can, I found four more pictures that illustrate the disgusted complaint, "I gave you just ONE job to do and look what you did!"

No real commentary is required, just a look and a "shake my head" sense of humor. Enjoy!


Friday, December 27, 2013

Kiss the Blarney Stone!

You can kiss the Blarney Stone without having to travel all the way to Blarney, Ireland, to pucker your lips and mingle your mouth germs with the gazillions that have been deposited by tourists from all over the world.

Embedded in the wall of Blarney Castle, the bluestone, as you know, is called Cloch na Blarnan, and giving it a smooch will give you the gift of gab.

But you can partake of the tradition at The D, formerly known as Fitzgerald's at The Fremont Experience in downtown Las Vegas. The D's stone actually came from the castle and is on display at the casino's second-level Vintage Vegas section.

I'd never have found it if I didn't decide to have dinner at Andiamo's on The D's second level.

Did I kiss it? Nope. I don't share my mouth germs with anyone but special people.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Phone Pix 15: Let Christmas Linger

I always think it's a shame that we spend so much time celebrating Christmas before it actually arrives, then just wipe it out of our lives on the day after.

So here, thanks to my trusty cell phone camera, is one more little collection of Christmas pictures to enjoy before we turn out attention to New Year 2014:

Sister Karen's Christmas Tree Souvenir Ornament, Dec. 21, 2013

A Pair of Fluffy Snowmen at Long's Drugs in Manoa, Aug. 8, 2013

Three Santas at Long's Drugs in Manoa, Aug. 8, 2013

Two Stuffed Christmas Penguins at Long's Drugs in Manoa, Aug. 8, 2013

A Singing Snowman and Kid at Sister Karen's House, Dec. 21, 2013

My Dinner Plate, Annual Hawaii Clan Gathering, Dec. 21, 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Phone Pix 14: A Hospital Merry Christmas

A few weeks ago (Dec. 2, 2013), I had to take the wife to Kuakini Medical Center for a check-up MRI, and had about an hour to kill. Instead of sitting in that frigid waiting room and reading year-old magazines, I did what I usually do on these occasions. I took a walk.

Actually, I went to the hospital cafeteria for a hunk of pastry and a cuppa coffee to wash down my meds. And along the way, I bumped into a bunch of Christmas décor in the medical center's lobby, cafeteria and gift shop.

On this Christmas Day, I thought I'd share some of the pictures I took.

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Phone Pix 13: Travel Christmas Trees

There are Christmas trees at home, and Christmas trees in town. But sometimes, there's nothing like a Christmas tree thousands of miles away that one sees during one's travels.

Trees such as these:

Fremont Hotel & Casino Lobby, Las Vegas, Dec. 10, 2013
Honolulu International Airport, Dec. 10, 2013
Plaza Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Dec. 10, 2013

The Fremont Experience, Downtown Las Vegas, Dec. 12, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Phone Pix 12: Christmas on the Shelves

It starts earlier and earlier every year, the appearance of Christmas items on store shelves. I don't think it's such a bad thing. The longer the Christmas season, the more time we have to reflect on the true meaning of the season.

So roll out the ivy, put those snowmen and nutcrackers on the shelves, break out the tinsels and garlands and decorations, gimme more, gimme more, gimme more!

Long's Drugs Manoa, Aug. 8, 2013
Long's Drugs Manoa, Aug. 8, 2013
Costco, Nov. 19, 2013
Costco, Nov. 19, 2013
Costco, Nov. 19, 2013
Costco, Nov. 19, 2013
Costco, Nov. 19, 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Quite a Pliable Performer

It's fun to walk around The Fremont Experience at night, especially during the Christmas season. There are hordes of people from all over the world, and the conversations that go on are so interesting, even if I don't know what they're saying.

I mean, that's because of the variety of languages. I heard (and could identify) Spanish, French, German, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and of course English (American, British, Australian, and Hawaiian pidgin).

I saw SpongeBob SquarePants, Hello Kitty, Wonder Woman, KISS, Big Bird, and some other characters I couldn't identify (I'm "up-to-date TV character" deficient, you see).

There are kiosks selling anything you can imagine, caricaturists, spray-paint artists, and street performers. Plus there's loud music, scantily clad women who apparently don't catch chest colds, and, unfortunately, homeless people wanting a handout.

The one performer who caught my eye was a guy who was the most pliable person I've seen in a long time. He bent himself into all kinds of shapes and positions, balancing on one foot, on one hand, and on his head. All the while, the rest of his body was doing incredible things.

I was so impressed that when he closed his act by stuffing himself into a small box, I walked up to him and dropped $10 into his tip box. Man, was he happy. But then, so was I.

I felt good; I made someone happy this Christmas, someone I'd never met before in my life.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Let's Hear It for The ... Laxative Bowl (?)

Today, on the first day of post-season bowl games, my University of Southern California Trojans face off with the Fresno State Bulldogs in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl. At first I was puzzled at the name. Then I remembered when it was simply the Las Vegas Bowl. The bowl has been played since 1992.

USC (9-4), ranked #25 in the BCS poll, is favored by 5.5 to 6 points over #20 Fresno State (11-1). However, the Trojans are playing for their third coach this season.

Coach Lane Kiffin was fired mid-season, interim coach Ed Orgeron resigned after the regular season when he wasn't picked as Kiffin's successor, and new interim coach Clay Helton (offensive coordinator) is trying to get the team motivated for the bowl game.

Problem ... running backs Silas Redd and Tre Madden are not expected to suit up because of lingering injuries.

Personally, I think the game is a toss-up. Still, one just never knows. Fight on!

* * * * *

Royal Purple is the name of the game's sponsor; it manufactures automotive lubricants., Lubricants? As in ... er, laxative? Nah, can't be, of course not. But think about it. Laxatives are lubricants.

I sure hope the Trojans play smoothly in the game with a lot of good movement and slide out with a win.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Las Vegas Non-Complaint

After all the complaining I've done the past few days about my recent trip to Las Vegas, it's only proper that I write a "non-complaint" blog entry. So, being the dutiful scribe that I am, here goes.

I hit another little jackpot on MegaBucks again. This makes three times in the past couple of years. The jackpots are getting smaller, but at least I'm able to walk away from Sin City either even or in the good. This time, my $720 jackpot brought me up even for the trip, paying for some Christmas presents and restoring my gaming fund, which had been slightly depleted.

The only thing about these small jackpots is it has to reduce the chances of my hitting the big one, which at the time I played had reached  $10.2 million.

Oh well, there's always next time, right?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Fremont Experience ... Aargh!

Thinking of staying in downtown Las Vegas? Take my advice: Make sure your room is high up there.

See, the higher you are, the more muted the sounds from the street are. You don't want to hear Queen singing "We Are the Champions" over and over again through 220 speakers with more than a half-million watts of amplification.
And it happens every hour on the hour, from 6 p.m. to midnight, night after night, after night, interfering with your sleep every night, especially the night before your early-morning bag pull and/or wake-up.
For the first time in many years, I stayed at the Fremont so I'd be close to all the downtown casinos. I'll never stay there again because I GOT NO SLEEP!
Awrightie then … for the record, here’s what my teeny room looked like, and my window view through the wooden louvers:

And that's about the size of it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ridiculously Unaffordable

Every time I pass a cigarette vending machine, I shake my head and wonder who can afford to smoke these days. I know, I know, you're tired of me saying this. It's not that I'm preaching against smoking; I just can't believe how expensive it's become.

Back in the day, when I was in college, a pack of Lucky Strikes cost me 20 cents if I bought them in a carton of 10, and 25 cents if I bought just one pack. A few years later, on the mainland, a pack of Pall Mall nonfilters cost me 30 cents a pack, or about $2.75 a carton.

Look at the picture above ... $8.00 to $9.00 a pack. At a pack a day, that works out to $2,900 to $3,200 a year. Okay, so one can buy the cigarettes for less at a store, say $5.00 a pack. That still works out to $1,800 a year.

Think of all the steaks you can buy for that amount of money (and they'll taste much better than cigarettes, that's for sure).

Of course, we all know why the prices are so high. It's because of cigarette taxes ... city, state and federal. I betcha 80% or more of the cost goes to the "sin taxes" the governments impose on us.

I'm sure glad I quit ... nearly 50 years ago.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Honey, I’m Home (Too Early)!

If you follow me on Facebook, you are familiar with my recent go-and-stop-and-go experience with Vacations Hawaii and Omni Airlines International. It was an adventure.

Pre-boarding of my flight to Las Vegas started with 20 wheelchairs and accompanying family, say 25 more people. Then, those needing extra time, counted 28. Then those with small children. Zero. THEN, first class. That's 73. One-third the aircraft went in before me, who was holding a first-class ticket.
So I get into my seat, strap myself in, and pull the Las Vegas Bound inflight magazine out of the pocket in front of me. It was an old August-October issue, and although I was disgusted that such an old issue was given out in first class, I had a good laugh reading the preview story of the UH Rainbow Warrior football team's 2013 season. It was very optimistic, prompting a huge guffaw because they ended up 1-11. Their season died on the vine amid lots of thorns.
The flight attendant asked for our first class meal preference: steak or teriyaki chicken. I told her steak. And then, everything fell apart.
Here’s the timetable of what happened next (taken directly from my notes … why I started chronicling this, I have no idea, but I’m glad I did):
  • 3:05 pulled away from gate
  • 3:15 took off reef runway
  • 3:20 level off
  • 3:30 turned back because of "minor auto pilot malfunction, not emergency, routine return"
  • 3:45 back at gate
  • 3:50 two mechanics emerge out of trapdoor in the floor
  • 4:20 chat with seat neighbor, she never eats outside the casino she stays in, couldn't convince her
  • 4:50 head attendant announces that if problem not fixed and doors closed by 5:05, flight rescheduled due to FAA regulation requiring so many hours between flights so crew can get adequate rest (similar to my last HNL-LAS flight)
  • 5:05 nothing happening yet
  • 5:15 kicked off plane, walk baggage claim
  • 5:45 bag finally appears on baggage claim carousel
  • 5:50 waiting for wife, notice about 20 oldsters with bags waiting for bus, must be from neighbor islands
The Next Day (Again, my notes)
  • 8:20 a.m. Call Vacations Hawaii, told flight to Vegas is at 4:00 p.m.
  • 1:45 p.m. Arrive at HNL, long line, ag security scanner not working
  • 2:15 p.m. Finally get through check-in
  • 2:45 p.m. Finally get through long security line, no gold line
  • 2:55 p.m. FID says 4:00 p.m. flight rescheduled to 5:05 p.m. (incoming plane arriving 3:15 p.m.)
  • 4:34 p.m. Announcement, catering issues, big groan in the waiting room followed by lots of chatter
  • 4:37 p.m. Wheel chairs go in, big cheer in waiting room
  • 4:50 p.m. In seat with humongous leg room
  • 5:27 p.m. Wheels up, in the air, for a long time this time, I hope
  • 1:45 a.m. Wheels down, in Vegas
More wheelchairs than yesterday – 30 today, 20 yesterday, no wait, the 30 wheelchairs were for the incoming flight.

Omni first class meal: steak or teriyaki chicken again, not a good sign.
The first-class meal looked nice, but was not good, it needed a lot more salt than that little packet they provided. Steak well done, dry and hard, gravy not delicious, limp beans, carrots and sweet red peppers obviously thawed. Dry bun wrapped in cellophane, not fresh, somen (thin white Japanese noodles) with fish cake tempura tasted slightly past its prime. Only tasty item was the butterscotch brownie from "Love and Quiches" dessert.
Final Day (Return to Honolulu)
On bus to McCarran, the host announced the first two bags will be checked in for free (no deal for me, in first class, two bags free anyway). Normal is $25 for first two (?). Also, they will be mailing us a compensation coupon good for our next Vegas tour. A fellow passenger said it'll be $200. She was right, I got the compensation coupon the day after our return. Guess she's had experience with this sort of thing on Vacations Hawaii before.
I'd rather have had casino credit that I could have gambled with because I'm not sure I'll be using Vacations Hawaii ever again. We'll see.

Y … why “Y”? It’s the end of “story.”

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ow Christmas Tree

That’s not a mistake, that’s not a typo. As usual, our Christmas tree was one big “Owee.” This year, it was a bad scrape and a bunch of big blood blisters on my right hand, where the thumb meets the wrist. I got it carrying the tree into the house.

Every year, it’s something … which only goes to support the notion that I wish we didn’t buy and put up a fresh Christmas tree every year. I’d be perfectly satisfied with a lovely artificial tree.
But not the wife, oh no, not her.
She went out and bought one again, all by her lonesome, again. All I have to do, she said, was put it in the stand and carry it into the house. So after quite a bunch of grumble and curse, that’s what I did. And hurt myself again.
All she could say was “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” but with an invisible twinkle in her eye that she got me to participate in the tree tradition once again. She fumbled with the lights so I had to get it started for her. My eldest son, poor guy, got roped into helping.
Then, there’s the forced fun. Anytime you pass the tree, you have to add an ornament. So I go around the sofa and enter the kitchen from the other side. I wasn’t born yesterday, you know.
Our tree is a Nordmann Fir, 5-6 foot tall. It has dark shiny needles with silver undersides, and what the grower calls a “unique” white bark. The tree supposedly has superior needle retention and a long shelf life. But who the hell keeps their tree on a shelf?
I suppose it’s pretty. And I suppose getting roped into helping was a good thing.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Skipping a Beat

The pulse of Left Field Wander will be erratic for a week or so as I wander around downtown Las Vegas for a while. The blog will recommence when I return. In the meantime, take care of each other and don't forget to buckle up.