Sunday, July 31, 2005

Weekend Ramblings

At this point in time, I need to swear off going back to Casino Niagara ever again. Twice I’ve ventured into the bowels of the Cheap Blackjack Corner, and twice, despite the best efforts of rotating dealers and idiots splitting kings against a face card, I have come out on top. It feels kind of good to look at the older members of your family and know that you’ll at least be addicted to either gambling or alcohol, and if you’re lucky enough, maybe both. I’m going to go with the gambling side as much as possible, that way, the worst I’m losing is maybe a thumb, as opposed to my liver.

How did I end up ahead again? Dill and I departed late Saturday morning for lovely Niagara Falls, Canada, stopping off at the MacKrell Estates on the way to visit with Andy and his dad, Doc MacKrell. I tried and tried to convince him to come, but since “Niagara” only sounds a little bit like “Omaha”, he wasn’t able to go.

(The real reason is that Andy somehow got schemed into working every weekend night shift of the entire summer at some pizza place. Due to the fact no one else would be, uh, “dedicated” enough to keep a job like that, he’s up to third in command and basically can’t call off at any time. This is why I don’t complain about PennDOT.)

So Dill and I got into the Falls around 4:30, and this time I’m smart enough to find free parking. We’re wandering about the casino, with Dill soaking it all in like Mack and I did back over Memorial Day weekend, and I begin to game plan. If I put in sixty American dollars, that’ll give me right around seventy Canadian, so that’s the initial plan. Dill gets forty Canadian and we find that the incredibly crowded Shady Corner of the Casino has a lot of seats, and we actually get in at the five dollar minimum bet table.

Five was actually a little low, so I ended up alternating between five and ten dollar bets. I couldn’t get ahead for the longest while, hanging around sixty dollars in chips, sometimes dropping lower, sometimes getting into the black a bit. Dill was doing pretty well after about an hour and a half, rebounding from a losing streak to break even. I’d used that same hot run and a couple solid double-downs to get myself up into the $110 range. I looked over at him.

“You wanna get out now?”

He shook his head, ever-confident.

“Nah, I’m going to win money to eat. I’m eating my winnings.”

Then the table went on a hot streak that ravaged everyone there.

Sure, it helped that the dealer was making twenty-one off of twos and sixes, but the idiots to my left hitting against bust cards and splitting face cards against a ten weren’t helping matters any. Hell, Dill double-downed with a hard thirteen, so it’s not like the Canadians were the only ones that were making errors. The cold streak crippled me, knocking me down into the range of twenty five dollars, then knocked Dill out completely.

But I put on my hard hat, grabbed my lunch bucket and went to work. Scrapping against the dealer, bitter couple next to me who kept touching their bet/cards and the small Asian lady in the corner who never talked but constantly slapped the table in disgust, I slowly – allow me to emphasize the slowly - got my stack back up to seventy. Pleased with my efforts and tired of the bad karma, we went to dinner.

After hitting up the ever-popular BK a block down the street from the casino in the middle of the crazy Falls area, we were back to work. (If you’ve never been to the Falls, first off, go, because they’re pretty freaking sweet to look at. Secondly, this one area that used to be a single street has now exploded across most of the town to contain every restaurant, movie screen thrill ride, haunted house and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not building you can possibly imagine. It’s insane.) Dill scrapped together another thirty Canadian dollars, and we returned to the table we started at, now a ten dollar table.

Well, in the matter of fifteen minutes or so, Dill was gone and I was up just a little bit. The table cleared out and it was me against Blair, a dealer who may or may not have been able to count. I scanned the Shady Corner and headed to the other side of it, settling in at the one unoccupied seat at a ten dollar minimum-bet table over there.

Best decision I made all night.

A fantastic table, with everyone cheering on one another and pounding for black jacks should the ace pop up. There was an Asian couple across from me of whom the female half of would yell “Monkey!” when the dealer was hitting on a low teen, as opposed to the usual “Bust”. It all flowed together perfectly, and we were all cleaning up. Sadly, they began switching dealers and I ended my evening, five hours at the table later, with double my money.

I doubt I’ll get back up there before I go back to school, although my Grandma apparently used the exact quote “pissed off at me” when told I went to gamble without taking her again. Maybe we’ll make it a family trip this time, and I can finally give back some to the place that has been oh-so-giving to me.


xXx: State of the Union came out Tuesday on DVD, and of course, I picked it up immediately. I’m not sure if anyone remembers when Sean, Chad, Pete and I went to see it before study days started, but it was actually a really good movie, considering it came as a sequel to the awful xXx and did dreadfully at the box office.

Well, Jeff didn’t believe me that it was any good. Honestly, it kind of hurts my opinion wasn’t taken seriously, but that’s what I get for recommending every movie I see lately. However, after the special Wilson Ranchero Screening Thursday night, he had this to say:

xXx: State of the Union ranks high on my action movie list, ranked only behind Sudden Death This movie has everything you would want in an action movie, 1. Action 2. Guns 3. Hott women. 4 Ice Freakin Cube...need i say more!?!?! This Movie Gets 4 freakin Stars...It was AWESOME!!! i got crow all over my face and its never tasted better!!!!!

(And that was out of a potential five stars. I would give it three and a half. It wasn’t quite that good, though it was loads better than Sin City.)

So there you go. As far as action movies go, it’s second only to the film where they blow the roof off the Civic Arena and Jean Claude plays goalie for the Penguins during the Stanley Cup finals. Doesn’t get much better than that, folks.


Again, the inevitable college/pro football explosion is starting to move beyond the “simmer” stage. With Canton Calling next weekend, and my eventual return to school, there’s no way you won’t get inconclusive ramblings about everything from LSU’s quarterback situation to Kyle Boller. I can’t wait.


What scared you the most as a kid?

I just faced my fears, watching the two-parter of Batman: The Animated Series, Heart of Steel. Sure, you’re laughing, but think about a Puppetmasters/Invasion of the Body Snatchers like plot, only with robots instead of aliens, and then make yourself eight years old. In the first episode alone, they replace Commissioner Gordon – the statue of all that is good in Gotham – with a replicant, and he immediately knocks his daughter’s teddy bear on the floor. Alfred gets electrocuted by some fembot witch and the episode ends with the BatCave attacking Batman.

(What? Stop it. I was EIGHT. This was absolutely terrifying.)

Anyway, the second episode is still creepy, with the robot Mayor attempting to replace Bruce Wayne with a replicant, a metal Harvey Bulluck trying to throw Batman off the roof of the police headquarters and the eventual attack on HARDAC, the massive computer/assembly line responsible for all of the mayhem. Thirteen miles of biking were never so cathartic.


Wedding Crashers was number one at the box office this past weekend, taking the spot after it’s third weekend in release, something you almost never see in this era of “Smash and Grab, Opening Gross Is All That Matters” movie marketing. I’m not ashamed to admit I saw it a third time the very next night after I saw it the second time. Hell, I’d be willing to go again in the drop of a hat.

This may be the best movie of the summer, right up there with Batman Begins and with the fact I haven’t yet seen March of the Penguins or Hustle & Flow, with Broken Flowers yet to be released. Go see it. Now. See it twice. You wanna go with your buddies? It’s got enough laughs to keep you entertained. Want to take a lovely lady? It’s got enough chick flick elements for them to love it. Yes, it drags a little at the end, but the conclusion and eventual Rod Stewart song before the credits is worth it.


This probably only means something to myself, Dill and DK, but Peter Gammons, the Smartest Man in the World, got inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame today. was kind enough to post up his story following Game Six of the 1975 World Series, in which Carlton Fisk extended the series to a seventh game with a shot over the Monster in Fenway Park. It’s a beautifully written piece, and I love how he talks about extending summer and holding off autumn for but one more day. So fantastic.


Stumbled upon a list of the Top Ten Party Schools
, which in itself isn’t that good because everyone fancies themselves a party school and there’s a ton of debate (though props to Penn State for making it as number 10), but after scanning through the comments, I loved what the two WVU guys said. Sorta makes you think of the good ol’ ND:

” Texas? Florida schools? C'mon man! I'll go there if I want to go to hip-hop parties with a bunch of yuppies and gangstas... College is for run-down bars with no covers and 10c drafts. Like Mutts in Morgantown that serves nitrous at the bar or the Dungeon (name serves it) with 10c drafts and hotdogs. I'm not going to write a book here but during football season is a whole diffrent story, the furniture is burning all over the place! To truly understand you must experience things for yourself which really can't be done to the fullest extent unless you spend a good amount of time at the school. I graduated WVU back in '96 and since have been to a few Wisconsin games as well as a Michigan and Iowa game (living in Chicago) and honestly the best one was Wisconsin but it still seemed on a smaller scale...

• Have you ever heard of a little school called WVU. We don't even qualify to be on any lists of top party schools b/c back in 1989 Playboy came out with there list of top 10 party schools and said that WVU is no longer eligible to be on any list b/c they don't rank professionals. Anybody can party when it's sunny and 80 degrees. Come to a taligate in Nov. in Morgantown when it's 10 degrees and there is 50,000 people partying at 8 am on a Sat.

I think the Playboy comment about not ranking professionals was great, and I concur with their conclusion that of course it wouldn’t be hard to be a party school if it was warm all the time and there was a bevy of beautiful women in sun dresses and bikini tops milling about. Walk out to TC or wait for a cab when there’s a foot of snow on the ground and you know every attractive girl at the party is probably already involved with some guy working the popped collar. There’s no resolve involved there.

And back to the matter of WVU, congratulations for Peter Kaplon for starting his freshmen year of schooling there in a few weeks. And yeah, I’m going to take some of the credit that the two members of West Shamokin ’05 I was closest to – Pete and Joe – will be heading to Morgantown and Bloomington for their college careers. Just a tiny bit of it.


Coming Tomorrow: A moving tribute to Peter Winter, an original member of Flanagan’s Army who will be making the transfer to USC at the beginning of this coming fall semester. Get your best Jack Frost moments ready, as he will be properly toasted, despite his wussing out and going to the warm weather.


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