Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Three- Day Weekend Wrap

1) I spent the first half of the weekend at Andy MacKrell’s estate, and if his family should ever go on vacation, I’m moving in and beginning to train as a boxer. It’s not like I want to be a boxer or are anywhere near the required physical level to be one, but his house is the perfect Rocky-type set-up. Long private drive for running, swimming pool for laps and an expansive weight room (described by Andy as “my dad’s mid-life crisis”) would lead me to at least be busy with my time.

On Saturday, we ventured up to Niagara with our sights set on winning thousands upon thousands of dollars gambling and getting complimentary rooms. The trip up involved a slight detour – we tried to avoid a traffic jam on I-90 and ended up thirty miles out of the way and at the Welch’s juice plant – but we did get to have our first experience with On*Star, which was amazingly exciting. We eventually stumbled into Canada after missing a few exits around Buffalo, then went to what we thought was Casino Niagara.

It was not, it was actually Casino Fallsview, the newer of the two Niagara casinos. We got our ID’s scanned and walked into the first true casino experience of our life. It was fantastic, and we decided to first walk around and settle in before we were stupid and bet too much because of our excitement. It was very intimidating, and our mood clung to a fine line between ecstasy and white-knuckle fear. Our goal was to find a cheap blackjack table, but the lowest minimum we could find was 15-dollar bets, meaning we’d have enough for about four hands. We eventually found a five and ten dollar table, but they were both full, and after waiting a bit, we decided to get something to eat.

Andy played the slots on the way out, needing to gamble at something, and won a dollar, bragging to me for the next hour about how much money he had won opposed to me (And yes, at this time, I hadn’t attempted to win any yet, but he didn’t particularly care). We wandered around outside, checking out the Falls while we made some phone calls, then found out there was a free shuttle to the other casino, the real Casino Niagara. After double-checking the Fallsview blackjack tables – and Andy losing five dollars in 90 seconds at the slots - we took the shuttle, and went to the seedier, nuttier and cheaper part of the Falls, where we’d originally intended to be.

We grabbed dinner at Burger King, then went into Casino Niagara, intent on finding a five-dollar blackjack table. We eventually did, but again, there was only one five-dollar and one ten-dollar in the entire casino. With forty Canadian dollars in my pocket, I waited patiently between the two for the first spot to open up, while Andy bounded off to the slots, the money burning a hole in his pocket. He came back ten minutes later while I still waited, gleefully showing off the ten dollars he’d won, then heading back.

As soon as he left, a spot opened up at the ten-dollar table. I didn’t particularly want to play ten-dollar bets, as I only had enough for four hands, but I was desperate for some action and needed to play. I sat down and got dealt my first hand, coolly eyeing our dealer, Cindy, a small Asian woman.

I preceded to lose my first three hands, ringing up three consecutives “13’s”, which are a terror in blackjack unless the dealer has a bust-card. Meanwhile, the seat beside me opened up and a guy immediately bet a hundred dollars. He won, then bet that same hundred and won again. I realized this was going to be a short night of gambling unless I was hitting up the ATM, but I rallied back and won a couple hands to stay alive. I dropped back down to ten as Andy excitedly came back, patting me on the back and encouraging.

Another rally, and I was actually up money. Then the evil pit boss switched out Cindy for Wes, whom, as far as I know, was a gay mute. Wes was cold-blooded, dealing himself consecutive blackjacks and sending everyone at the table into a spiral. Andy eventually got a seat three spots to my right, and together, along with the black gentlemen from the end of the table, the two buddies sitting on either side of me and the sleazy guy at the other end of the table next to Andy. Wes destroyed us for a short span, but then they brought Cindy back, who was much more forgiving.

The guy to my left with the mustache ended up being my blackjack Yoda, explaining the art of the double-down and the concept of bust cards, and helping me out a ton. Andy was betrayed by the double-down, which he will now adamantly tell you never to do. In the right situation, it makes sense, and I knocked up my winnings late with one, but it’s a risky proposition, even if you haven’t seen Swingers. Andy was eventually eliminated from the table after an ill-fated double-down, so I understand his distress in the subject.

With the training of the Mustache beside me, I eventually went on a run. At one point he said about tripling your money and getting out, and when I looked and saw my 40 dollars had grown to 120, I was ready to leave. He offered me a solid alternative, saying I could put eighty into my pocket and just play with the other forty, knowing I was ahead for the night. I did just that, and eventually I moved my forty up to 85, and after cashing out another fifty, I squandered the remaining thirty-five on a couple of dumb bets, then bowed out.

At one point in time, after a miracle run of cards, the evil pit boss came over and asked to see Andy and I’s ID’s, because apparently her noticing we looked kind of young was a lot more effective than the scanners they had at the front. The table immediately began laughing at her, and as I handed her mine, I point out “You didn’t care how old I was when I was down to ten bucks.” She was not pleased, but let us continue playing.

The entire experience – I maybe played for an hour and a half – was simply draining. Andy would go nuts after I would hit a 13 up to an 18, and I would just turn around and moan him at him “Shut up, please, just shut up” in an attempt to avoid any jinx on myself. I did, and as we cashed out and headed back to America, we were already discussing the lessons we had learned and how we would utilize them on the return trip.

I have to pretend to not be addicted to gambling for a little bit so my parents don’t get worried, but after the coast is clear, MacKrell and I will be making a second journey to the Falls if anyone would care to join.

2) I didn’t see the new Longest Yard with Adam Sandler, but after we rented the original Friday night, I can’t imagine him being anything more than Burt Reynold’s waterboy in the role. Reynolds was perfect for the role, just cool enough and with the natural athleticism to make the game scenes look real. I’m not exactly sure why they remade it, but in no way can it be as good as the original, which I highly recommend for an evening’s entertainment.

3) Went down to the not-anywhere-near-sold-out Pirate game Memorial Day afternoon, and I’m pretty sure Bucco skipper Lloyd McClendon is retarded. Michael Restovich flat-out sucks (he’s been on nearly every major league team, and I’m not really exaggerating that much), and McClendon decides to bat him behind the most consistent bat on the Pirates squad, reigning Rookie of the Year Jason Bay. After the first inning, when Restovich ended up a two-on, one-out situation with a crappy double-player ball, Captain Jack McKeon walked Bay the next three times his pitchers saw him.

The second most consistent bat on the team, Rob Mackowiak, was sitting on the bench to start the game. Makes a lot of sense, since he’s leading the majors in hitting during the month of May, and when Lloyd finally put him in, he threw him out in center field, apparently in an attempt to make Rob look bad. Sadly for McClendon, he didn’t, making a fantastic catch in the top of the 10th to save the Pirates, despite going 0 for 2 from the plate.

The main problem with the Buccos is the lack of consistency in their line-up, as you’ll never see the same alignment two days in a row. Lloyd had freaking Ty Wigginton playing first over the weekend, apparently for no reason other than he wanted to see how it looked in the scorebook. Freddy Sanchez, a majors rookie who ended up with the game-winning hit after starting the game 0 for 5 and dropping his average 19 points during the course of the afternoon, was batting lead off, again, for no real reason.

After attending three Pirate games this year and watching/listening to a lot more, this is the best line-up they can throw out on any given day:

1. RF Matt Lawton (Because Matt cannot field)
2. SS Jack Wilson (because while Jack’s average lingers around .200, I trust him more than a lot of other guys)
3. 2B Jose Castillo (One of the best hitters on the team, buried in the bottom half of the order)
4. CF Jason Bay (Best player on the team, not a true centerfielder, but he’ll manage)
5. LF Rob Mackowiak (An everyday player, despite what Bob Pompeani says)
6. Daryl Ward (Terrible against lefties, but Ty Wigginton would not be playing for my Pirate team – could switch places with Jose when righties pitch)
7. Freddy Sanchez (Unproven)
8. Humberto Cota/David Ross (Cota is leading catchers in slugging percentage and Ross isn’t half- bad. The eight spot could be worse.)
9. Pitcher, with Bobby Hill and Tike Redman the first pinch-hitters.

Granted, on matters of the Pirates, I’ll normally defer to Dill, but his mind is pretty well cluttered with his love of Freddy and lack of appreciation for Rob, so I’m taking this into my own hands.

4) If anyone can suggest some quality TV series to get involved with over the summer, please let me know. No new OC’s, Arresteds, Amazing Races or Desperates are killing me, so I need something to keep me busy. Also, if anyone has any good book recommendations, fire away.

5) Joe Johnson makes a world of difference for the Suns because of a lot of reasons. First, he eliminates the need to play Lenardo Barbosa, who is terrible. Secondly, he lets Steve Nash spend his defensive time guarding Bruce Bowen as opposed to Tony Parker, who Nash simply cannot stop. Thirdly, he can run the pick and roll with Stoudemire almost as well as Nash, meaning it’s a little harder to trap someone who is taller and has the option to pass the ball to the reigning MVP. The Suns just have to take this thing one game at a time, as they landed a pretty solid blow on the San Antonio chin last night.

6) Speaking of the NBA, clear your schedules for June 28th, which I believe is the night of the NBA Draft and live BlogJournal. If you want to be able to hear arguments like “If you had Shaq, Yao and Eric Piatkowski, you wouldn’t need the two other players to win a championship” firsthand, join us on what will surely be a lovely summer Tuesday.

7) I can’t believe this conversation didn’t happen:

Moby: Boy Gwen, I bet you ten thousand bucks you can’t have a hit song based on Fiddler on the Roof.

Gwen Stefani: You’re on.

A few months later.

Moby: You had Eve, that’s hardly fair. Double or nothing: Bet you can’t spell ‘bananas’ in a song, have no one think twice about it, and then become the most played song in radio history.

Gwen: Money in the bank, baby, money in the bank.

8) I'm not a big fan of how MTV is dividing up The Inferno. Every episode, somebody needs eliminated, none of this dragging it out over two weeks crap. Every half hour should have a challenge, a fight and an elimination. Every four episodes, work in a scene of Tonya being a slut at some night club. Don't mess with that formula.

9) Speaking of MTV, the new Real World: Austin promos are more creepy than sexy. Trust me on that.

10) I’m dedicating the entire next post to work, because it deserves that kind of time. Then one on Dwyane Wade, then a final ode to my favorites in Orange County. I’ve still got to get to the year-end wrap, it’s just very intimidating to me. Happy Tuesday night, and remember, 7-3 is a thousand times better than 8-4, and probably a million times better than 9-5.


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