Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Some Items I Love About Vegas

1) Shooting machine guns is no problem (for a fee)

2) Drivers.

I love cab drivers no matter where I am, but in Vegas, those dudes have seen everything and will talk about anything.

We had a great conversation with a cabbie who explained how, after what sounded like he'd married a string of elderly women for their money, was now retiring from a life of being a kept man and becoming a plain-old gigolo. Retired is a strong word. His last wife had died of natural causes, which led me to believe she had at least twenty five years on him.

But he was pretty pumped about this new chapter in his life. In fact, he showed us the books he was reading on becoming a gigolo.

Also chatted with a driver who was amazed by the nuclear test sites near Vegas, and theorized it was that which made people who lived there too long begin to transform into "the people from 'The Hills Have Eyes'". Apparently a lifetime of cigarette smoke, drinking, desert sun and recycled air is no problem, though.

We also chatted on the fact that Vegas doesn't recycle, which, we agreed was insane. It was decided he should seek seed money and start a tire and paper recycling plant a few miles outside the city (to keep the fumes from getting the tourists).

3) Moms next to hookers.

Visitors to Vegas don't just put up with stuff they'd never have in their own backyard, they embrace the malarkey. You really can't get anywhere too far on the famed "Strip" without someone trying to get you to call a "lady of the night" by handing you a glossy card with a picture of what is surely not the actual hooker who will show up at your room (another bit of unsolicited information the drivers wanted to make sure I had in my pocket).

Its just interesting to me to see all these people who look exactly like my parent's friends having a club soda and sitting at the slots, I guess just tuning out what has to be a thriving industry in Nevada.

Most of me suspects that, when you get down to it, like most other things people pretend to be outraged by, Las Vegas is testament to the fact that the vast majority just doesn't really care all that much about what we label societal ills when they crop up in our backyard. But, you know, put them in the glitter ball that is Vegas, give some free drinks at the slots, and it's all good.

4) Celebrities you totally forgot about (some of whom are dead) have a lucrative career going on

When was the last time you thought about Bette Midler? I'll tell you: that episode of Seinfeld more than ten years ago. But in Vegas, Midler has a stunningly successful show at Caesar's Palace. So does Cher. Barry Manilow is rocking the Hilton, I believe.

Yeah, there's all the Cirque du Soleil shows, etc... but Wayne Brady has a show, and all kinds of other comedians, singers, etc... And there's even some celebrities who are there in spirit via long-running drag shows with the stars impersonating all sorts of celebrities.

And even being dead is no barrier. The mostly-dead Beatles have a successful show of people singing karaoke of their stuff, and the Rat Pack is refused the right to rest in peace as impersonator after impersonator puts on hammy versions of Dino, Frank, Sammy, etc... And certainly there's no shortage of Elvii, and I actually bore witness to a street performer getting into his Michael Jackson getup in the bathroom at a Cali-Mex place. And, heck, I passed a Liberace museum on my way to shoot guns.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Back from Vegas

Well, goodness. That was certainly Vegas-sy, was it not?

Had an absolutely great time with 20 dudes from Austin, Seattle and Vancouver. The rules of Vegas are clear, and in the advertising: what happens in Vegas, etc... And so while we can discuss the trip in broad strokes...

Arrived Thursday night, ate quickly, and then I met Jerry Springer.

That's right. Jerry Springer.

We stayed at Planet Hollywood on the strip, down near Paris and the Bellagio. The "America's Got Talent" TV program tapes there (I think), but while its not currently taping, I guess they hired several of the acts from the show who perform as a live stage show-thing with Jerry Springer as MC.

Anyhow, I'd been at the hotel all of an hour and was having a cocktail with the assembled crew near the Sportsbook, and Springer wandered in (an enormous cigar in his mouth) to check some scores. He was only modestly mobbed, and I asked politely to meet him (he seem amused that I'd called him "Mr. Springer"). Hopefully Matt will e-mail me the picture this week. Anyway, the man was extremely gracious, and I've been a fan since college. No, I don't watch every day, but I watch from time to time when I'm home on a weekday.

(Anytime you want to know what I think America is really like, I ask you to consider how many guests Springer has had on his show over its 2 decades of existence. Also, the existence and popularity of Las Vegas now that its ditched its "It's Family Fun!" angle of the 1990's.)

One oddity of Vegas (or maybe not so odd) was how quickly we all decided 4:00 or 4:30 AM seemed like a reasonable bedtime, and so we were all crawling out of bed at 12:00 or so Pacific time for breakfast.

Friday we headed to "The Gun Store". I have conflicted views on how our 2nd Amendment has been interpreted, but by golly, I was fully in support of SOMEBODY having the right to rent me time with a machinegun by Friday evening.

Shoemaker got a slightly more... bad-ass package, but The League went vintage and got the WWII package, where we got to fire an MP40 SMG, a 1911 Pistol .45, and a Thompson SMG. It was all very Sgt. Rock. And I shot the holy hell out of some paper targets (we're all ace shots at 20 feet, it seems).

I also learned I have no idea how to hold a pistol correctly.

Attempted to play a game called Pai Gow, which was a variation on Poker, and immediately blew through what I'd set aside for the tables in about 25 minutes. I am not ready for much more than nickel video poker, and we've confirmed I'm barely okay at that.

I was disappointed at how expensive I found the food, and never really wound up having a kick-ass meal, but given what I was paying for stuff I wasn't blown away by, I wasn't looking for much better than how we did.

The best part, of course, was an opportunity to hang out with local friends in an environment outside of our day-to-day, catch-up with old, very good friends from out of town, and meet some new guys you can get along with pretty darn well.

Things I could do without:

Being sold on the very hotel I am in, the entire time I am there. You already have my money, casino.

The Strip is very much appealing to the E!/ Us Weekly lifestyle in a way I imagine many would find off-putting. They may not care, but it seems like there's very little between that avenue and hotels which are clearly passing their prime. I just was a little tired of the LA-Couture thing by end of last night. Everyone's a rock star in Vegas. I get it.

Anyway, no plans for pics. I didn't take any, and its probably bad form to publicly post pics from Vegas should any show up in my e-mail.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

KareBear Returns to Africa

So tomorrow my Ma returns to Kenya. She went last spring as part of a group from her church that visits semi-annually to fit locals with glasses. Not a bad gig, and as I understand it, its a pretty chummy set up. The locals get to have a good laugh at the expense of confused Americans and the Americans get to meet people in a context that's not part of the hospitality industry in a completely different part of the world.

Plus, Giraffes.

The missionaries do get a "free" day, and it sounds like KareBear will be heading to the farm from "Out of Africa", the real life home of Karen von Blixen-Finecke (aka: Isak Dinesen). Apparently the place is now a park.

No, I've only seen the movie and never read the book.

Mostly, however, its eye-glasses time.

Anyway, we wish KareBear safe travels and look forward to hearing her stories over Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vegas Hiatus

Some people have weird jobs

On Thursday I wing off for sunny Las Vegas, Nevada with several dudes from the greater Austin area. We plan to meet up with dudes from the Pacific Northwest. Some of you may know The My and Manzo.

I do not return until Sunday, so you're going to have to bear with a bit of radio silence from LoM for a few days while we bury a few bodies in the desert.

I am not really sure what to expect, to the point where I'm not even sure what I'm supposed to pack. Honestly, part of me knows that if I need a tie to go anywhere, its somewhere I can't afford enough to be there in the first place.

Pretty much what happens the minute you step foot off the plane in Vegas.

And, yeah, its sort of canned and cliche to head to Vegas with your male buddies as you try to deny that you're all entering "that point" in your life, but, what the hell... If I didn't go, I'd regret it forever.

I've been to Vegas enough times to know that while movies like "The Hangover" are cute, my experience has been far from "anything can happen", but much more of a "wow, it sure cost a lot for anything to happen and somehow the most fun was that Star Trek exhibit thing". Also to know that mega-conventions are fun on Day 1, and each day afterward is progressively more depressing.

May the spirit of Goulet guide me in Vegas, as he does every day

Also, on my first trip out, Columbine happened. On the next trip, I was there on 9/11/2001. So, you know, not all great memories.

If anyone is going to be in the area, Leaguers, let me know. I'd love to see you and have a soda with you at Circus Circus.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Meth & Comics, Admiral in Africa, Desertification of Austin

Superman would punch you in the face for that

It appears that some losers in Denver were using a collectible comic business as a front for trafficking drugs and laundering the dough. I don't know. It's all shady, and the fact that these guys were most likely using comics about costumed do-gooders to do bad is upsetting, but not quite as upsetting as the rest of what they were up to.

Here's a blog post from the Denver paper.

I don't expect drug dealers to be classy folks, but what is it with meth? Everyone involved with meth always looks like 20 miles of bad road and they do such weird stuff.

Leaguers, Superman would not approve.

The thing is, these guys could have legally been trafficking in iffy merchandise with the whole vintage comics business and done just fine. The fuzz seized hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of comics in this deal. Why not just take advantage of the nerds on eBay and live the good life with the comic business you've got?

Now all these great comics are off the market and entered as evidence. And that's just wrong...

The Admiral in Africa

Got my first e-mail from The Old Man, as he globe trots once again. He's apparently shaking down folks in Nigeria this week.

Sounds like he's got plenty of folks around him that know how to use a gun, which is kind of kooky. Mostly he's freaked out by the lack of discipline when it comes to traffic, which sounds exactly like him.

The Admiral in African urban sprawl doesn't equate in my head, but I guess he's doing okay.

Monsoon Season?

It's hot in Austin this summer, and has been since June 1. We've had record breaking temperatures both in how high the mercury is rising and the sheer duration of the period of 100+ days.

I had beers last week with some folks I don't know, but they work in environmentally friendly landscaping. They mentioned that Austin is being re-zoned as being more "deserty", and one of these folks wasn't a transplant but a lifelong Austinite. She's seeing the changes, too.

Anyway, two days in a row isn't a pattern, exactly. But the past two days, in the hour before sunset, we've had rain. In Arizona (which I think we can all agree is a hot desert) in late summer, they have something called Monsoon season. Right around sunset, rain would blow in from the east. I guess it was some mix of wet air from that gulf east of the Baja Peninsula and the hot, still air that had been hanging around all day.

Again, its just been two days of similar weather, but its starting to freak me out a little...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Small Post Tuesday

An Important Excursion, Part 2

Jamie took most of the pictures, so if you want to see the trip in some quick snapshots, here's the link to Jamie's write-up.

Poe Comic Out

I neglected to mention it, but the Poe comic, written by Austin's own J. Barton Mitchell was released last week. JackBart (that's what we J. Barton here at The League) has told me repeatedly that "the first issue is a little slow". So, while I didn't find it to be so, the author did.

If only someone could have fixed that! But WHO?

I kid of course. I think it's a "slow boil" sort of thing, so do with that what you will.

Anyhow, go to your local comic retailer (when in Austin, try Austin Books) and ask for it by name! Poe! (It's about Edgar Allen Poe, not pop rock sensation, "Poe". Just FYI.)

Here's a preview at CBR.

JackBart if off to San Diego to do signings at the Boom! Studio booth, where he has promised to get me a signed copy of Irredeemable from Mr. Waid. Which would be nifty.

Dune Report

I'm actually reading Dune and enjoying it. So I'm off to go read more of it. That and comics.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The League Returns From An Important Excursion (Part 1)


I think Jamie is planning to do a post summing up the trip to The Bay Area/ aka: San Francisco/ Berkeley/ Oakland. I can say that we had a phenomenal time with Doug and Kristen, saw some sights, ate some foods, and generally packed a lot of good times into a very few days.

Jamie is the princess of Berkeley

Ten highlights:

1) Samurai exhibit at Asian culture museum near San Francisco City Hall.
2) Hanging off a trolley and enjoying industrial-age mass transit
3) A too-brief trip to Oakland's farmer's market
4) Finally seeing the 'tween movie sensation "Twilight", with Rifftrax and lots of wine
5) Thai food and "Krazy Thai Koffee" (the secret ingredient is love. And vodka.)
6) Comic Relief in Berkeley
7) King Tut exhibit
8) Mr. Mopps toystore
9) Taking the 1.75 hours you have to kill and getting to meet comic scribe Geoff Johns, one of my three or four favorite comic writers (I have no ranking systems) at Isotope comics
10) Reasonable temperatures

Leaguers may know that when we have an opportunity, The League likes to see comic shops in other towns. Sure, we'll always return to Austin Books, but its also a lot of fun to see what other shops are up to. Berkeley's Comic Relief is known a bit outside of the Bay Area, and Isotope has a great reputation out there in the world.

And, apparently, its a reputation richly reserved. Isotope may not have the square footage of Austin Books, but its a beautiful shop, and the staff was certainly in top form for the Geoff Johns visit. Owner James Sime is a bit of a comic celebrity, a rarity for a retailer, but he's managed a column/ blog or two in his time and made a name with customer service and high profile signings. Isotope has also received a lot of credit for its welcoming interior, which features some dangerously comfortable furniture.

We had tried to get in to see items from King Tut's tomb (but not the sarcophagus itself), around 12:30, but tickets were sold out until 5:30. We bought tickets, toured some terrific galleries at the De Young museum, and while eating hotdogs in the park, pondered our next move.

I had known Geoff Johns was at Isotope, but did not wish to, Sinestro-like, impose my will upon everyone else, and so didn't push on the subject, but we DID have a few hours in there, so...

We arrived just ahead of time, and I lurked a bit, eventually winding up in line with some really nice folks, just 8th in a line that went to the door. The guy in front of me had library-bound his entire Flash run (I had heard of this practice, but never seen it), and the as most folks in line were NOT from out of town, had brought significant items to have signed.

Johns took as much time with each fanboy as they wanted and was happy to chat.

Leaguers, I wish it were not the case, but when faced with Johns, I totally froze. It's not that surprising. I did the same when I met Tina Weymouth and Captain America at Universal Studios, Florida. Johns was gracious and was willing to talk less about Blackest Night and more about Legion and Superman, but I blanked in asking about Adventure Comics and a thousand other things I would have happily asked him about had I not totally clammed up. I did get out a question or two about the upcoming "Secret Origin" series.

I had mentioned, while in line, that I was from Austin. While Johns was signing my purchases, James suddenly presented me with a copy of the Blackest Night #1 variant cover edition for Johns to sign. For free.

That, non-comic nerds, is about the awesomest fanboy moment you're likely to have, short of Green Lantern himself showing up and recruiting you for the Corps.

I did plug Austin Books to Johns, and implored him to come to Austin. I know we'd treat the guy right. And I didn't throw up, which is something entirely likely to happen when I get that excited.

Anyway, thanks to Jamie and Doug for schlepping all the way across the city with me to Isotope. Thanks to Kristen for picking us up. And thanks to Isotope, James and Johns for adding a classic fanboy moment to what was already an outstanding trip.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

See you on Sunday night (maybe)

Time for The League to kick back, relax and maybe have a few cocktails.

We're headed out.

You guys take care.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Back from New York

Things I learned:

1) In New York, every two blocks, you are in a new town. We stayed in Great Neck, but worked in Manhasset, two miles away. This is all left over from the great days when, I guess, these were smaller towns run by people in tri-corner hats. But its weird to someone who grew up in the wild, wild west where we call areas of that size "a neighborhood". But people are dead serious about those being whole different towns.

2) Morgan Spurlock, or a guy who looks just like him, is taller than you'd expect. I think he was on the plane with me from New York to Austin.

3) Break it down with your team regarding polite amounts to spend vis-a-vis the costs of items on the menu when the client is paying. Nothing so sinking as seeing someone ordered the @#$% lobster.

4) I am too old and tired to go into the city to rock out with the rest of the team. But not old enough to care if they get lost/ arrested/ whatever... when they go off to the big city.

5) The reason the older airlines are failing is because JetBlue provides better service to the plebes like myself who fly coach, as they have nothing but coach seating. They've given everyone more legroom (noticeably more than American, I'd say), and don't spend their time reminding all of us in coach that we are not Platinum, Elite, or whatever else special group. They don't charge for the first bag. Or a drink. Or a bag of (good) chips. AND, there are little TV's in seatbacks with satellite TV. Which leads me to -

6) You can watch Animal Planet with the sound off and still get the basic idea. Also, baby walruses are very cute.

7) There is nothing better for airplane zoning out than This American Life on your iPod.

8) There is no such thing as a New York accent that is too over the top. I need to return to New York on a regular basis so that when I think characters on shows taking place in New York are acting a little wacky... it is as real as the big-haired Texas lady with the ridiculous drawl.

9) Nothing is more awesome than a 20-something hustler cab driver trying to make it in a tough, tough town. He was wearing a suit. To drive a beat-to-hell cab. We all LOVED that guy. And, you know what, he's going to make it. But I am not joining his pyramid scheme operation as the Texas branch.

10) I learned how to use my phone as an alarm clock for the first time. My hotel had this iPod Charger/ clock radio thing that seemed just too complicated for my blood.

11) Sometimes you get off the plane, and Kevin Bankston is just hanging out in the airport waiting for his ladyfriend.