Monday, February 24, 2020

The Wild and the Furyous

Having left LA on the Friday after the Superbowl I wasn't expecting to be back in the US for at least a month. I managed 14 days!

I received a call from a client on Thursday evening asking me to get to LA for Monday morning - my initial reaction was to tell them to fuck off but my sensible side realised that they will probably take it badly so I said I'll see what the flights are like. Having looked at flight times and prices I can do better than Monday, I'll be there Friday. Well not LA but close enough - Vegas (flights between business hubs like LA or NY and London are very business traveller heavy so airlines know they can charge a premium if a traveller doesn't meet certain stay requirements (usually a Saturday night for instance) so flights on Monday and back the following Friday were more than double the cost of Friday to Friday). So I've got a last minute trip to Vegas out of nowhere. Which is nice.

Hotels on the Strip are ridiculously expensive given it's last minute and the fight that took place earlier in the week. I think there's also a boxing match as well but surely the true fight is the meeting of overgrown children slinging insults at each other as if they were in the school yard - or politicians as some might call them! (3 nights in Harrahs was coming in at over $1,000! but luckily I managed to book the Signature, which is my usual haunt, but through a travel site rather than directly).

Mrs AC already had plans or I would have invited her to join me so I'm told to be sensible - we all know that's not going to happen don't we though?

So after a last minute ironing and packing job on Friday morning I'm at the airport mid afternoon and tucking into lunch and a few drinks. More drinks on the plane over some work and I end up watching a movie before dozing for an hour or so before arriving just after 7pm. I get the second most unfriendly CBP officer I've ever encountered (the most unfriendly one a few years ago told me he could exert his authority by having me thrown out of the country because I'd put my briefcase in slightly the wrong place) who decides that I've used the incorrect terminology when entering the country and get held up for over 2 hours whilst I'm checked out and my travel records are scrutinised by someone who thinks everywhere abroad should be marked as "Here be Beasties" on his map of the world. So I'm in a great mood by the time I'm officially told to have a nice day and my alcohol level is dropping below the red line so I need to sort that out pretty soon. I'm a bit pissed off with the delay - some might say I'm getting wild.

As I'm in a cab to the Signature I turn my phone on and I've got a voicemail - it's (who I'd booked the hotel through as MGM were showing no availability) informing me that there definitely wouldn't be a problem with my booking. Oh fucking joy - when someone calls you out of the blue and tells you there won't be a negative it most definitely means that there will be one. I will deep fry my own balls if there's not a problem.

I've at least got some good news when I get to the Signature - I don't have to deep fry my balls. There's no record of my reservation and they have really limited availability - I'll need to wait a couple of hours to see if there are any no-shows before giving me a room. They will call me after midnight to let me know so having left my bags I'm in need of a drink. Probably more than one but I can't exactly go nuts given I may well be sleeping in the lobby tonight. I'm on the phone to to tell them I'm furyous and they tell me they will "definitely" look into it. Given their earlier use of the word I doubt I'll hear back any time shortly.

So off through to the MGM I headed, struggling to move against what seemed like about 8 bIllion people all standing around aimlessly. If someone had told me that everyone on the planet was simultaneously in my way that evening I would have believed them - so by the time I get to the poker room it's nearly 11 and I'm gasping for a beer. Having turbo necked 4 beers and played about 2 hands in an hour and a half (extremely card dead and couldn't fight against the 3 guys who were throwing chips around) I get a call from the front desk saying they've got me a room - but I need to come back to confirm it ASAP. Oh joy - at least I've got somewhere to sleep with a below average chance of getting arrested for vagrancy but I've got to force myself back through the MGM against the entire population. I grab another beer on my way back and it's nearly 2am when I finally get into my room. But once I'm all settled in I'm too wired to sleep yet so I head back over to the poker room to let off some steam.

Luckily the nutjobs who were throwing chips around earlier are still at the table and I rejoin just as the waitress is taking orders - things are definitely looking up now. Even more so as there are a few English guys at the table here for the boxing and they are determined to stack each other just to have bragging rights - which means a lot of preflop raising and they are playing any 2 cards. I managed a treble up when I flopped the nut flush and 2 of them went all in ahead of me - I don't think either of them were sober enough to realise I was still in the hand as the guy sitting on my right muttered a few expletives once I'd snap called his all in whilst he was still looking across the table at his friend!

But it was a fun table and I managed to unwind with more than a few beers and the party is still going strong at 6am although I'm now ready for some sleep - it's 2pm back home and I've had an hour's sleep in the last 32 hours! As I'm racking up to leave one of my table mates asks if I wanted a ticket to the fight - 1 of their party had not travelled so they had a spare ticket. Now I'm not really much of a boxing fan and I've never been to a live fight but I was going to find somewhere to watch it as it's a world title fight involving a Brit. Given they only wanted face value of $250 for it and it would have cost me over $100 to watch it in a bar I accepted their offer and we exchanged numbers so I could meet them tomorrow. Fuck - it's not tomorrow is it as it's now Saturday morning!

So after the drunken stumble back to the Signature I pass out at half 6 - I've really got to stop doing this as I'm far too old, at what age does this become unacceptable behaviour? Actually I don't need an answer to that as in my head I'm remaining forever young!

I think I had a dodgy beer as when I surfaced just after midday I was far from feeling 100% so I just take an hour or so to sober up and stop feeling sorry for myself. The day is still young and I've really got to eat something substantial. I'm not sure moving too far is a great idea so I just head over to TAP for a massive burger and a hair of the dog in the form of a couple of beers. I'm feeling slightly more human like by 4pm when my new friends join me and we have a few beers before heading over to the arena about 6pm, stopping off at what seemed like every bar along the way. It's good to see Vegas is still looking to gouge every visitor as I muttered a few expletives at a program seller when he told me it was $100!

We had a couple of beers and watched some of the undercard before the main event - I'm surprised Wilder lasted more than a couple of rounds. If you imagine a drunk girl walking through the casino in 4 inch heels at 5am you'll get the idea of how wobbly he looked! I've since read he claims it was because his walk on costume was too heavy - yes it was definitely that and not being repeatedly clobbered round the head by a massive boxer.

If I thought the crowds were bad the previous evening then the scenes after the fight were worse - I wanted to turn left and head back to the Signature but my new friends were eager to win back some of the cash they'd lost to me in our previous session together. So not wanting to be a party pooper we trudged slowly back through the MGM - I'm a quick walker and can usually do the walk from the Signature to the poker room in about 10 minutes but it must have taken us at least 25 just to walk from the arena to the poker room. Luckily there's beer to enjoy along the way and it's about midnight before we are all sat at a table together. The poker session is a bit of a blur but again a fun and alcohol fuelled time was had. I'm obviously getting a touch more sensible in my old age going by the fact I was in bed by 5am.

I was pretty sensible on Sunday and had some work to do before heading over to LA on an early flight on Monday morning - will be here all week before heading home on Friday. I still haven't made my mind up about taking more work on from the LA client - I'm not sure my liver is looking for a positive answer on that front.

But my next trip is already planned - I've got to pet sit for my mother whilst she's abroad visiting family so as soon as I'm back home I'm heading up to Scotland for a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Superb Owl in Las Vegas

I love owls - they are superb. And when I talked Mrs AC into watching the superb owl in Las Vegas I was as excited as an ADHD kid who had forgotten to take his Ritalin. Not only did I have a long weekend of drinking to look forward to, the mighty 49ers (spoiler - it didn't go well!) had made the big game and I was seeing Mrs AC for the first time in 2 weeks since I'd left NY before the MLK holiday weekend.

So on Tuesday (I did something that I've never done before: I'd got it into my head that my flight was on Wednesday and I'd even put Wednesday into my flight spreadsheet, luckily the app sends reminders about my flights so I had a surprise on Monday afternoon when a pop up told me to check in for Tuesday's flight - a good job too as there is no BA flight on Wednesdays) I took the afternoon flight from London to Vegas and did my usual trick of going nuts with the booze as soon as I hit the airport - I'd actually not had a drink since the night of the NFL championship games, plus I'd not been able to partake of any of BA's finest champagne since I'd already had a glass in the lounge on my first trip back to New York after new year. As I'd ballsed up my drinking challenge on that Sunday night and had no reason to keep going I had a couple of drinks in the lounge plus another one on boarding the plane. As soon as drinks were served in the air I had another glass of their champagne, plus at least 3 more whilst I did some work. More wine was drunk over dinner before having a decision to make - do I stay awake for the flight then get an early night when landing or do I have a nap now then get up to some fun once I get to Vegas? I obviously chose the latter, so having had about 4 hours sleep on the flight I'm as fresh as a daisy when I get to Vegas and am checked in, showered and changed just after 8pm. I've got exactly 48 hours before Mrs AC arrives from NY so I'm going to use that time wisely. By wisely I obviously mean stupidly though - poker and beer are high on my agenda.

So off through the MGM to the poker room I went, hoping for a repeat of my session there back before Thanksgiving To say the game was dire was an understatement! It's too early in the week for the weekend crazies to be in town yet but at least the waitress service was good and I managed to hit double figures before calling it a day about 2.30am with an extra $24 in my pocket. I keep hearing about Coronavirus in the news but I'm not sure if Corona is the cause of, or cure to, this problem so it's almost guaranteed that I'm either immune due to my intake or will most surely become another statistic. Given that I'm not writing this via a medium from beyond the grave I'm pretty sure I'm immune.  

Due to my flight date screw up I still needed to do some work so spent all of Wednesday working and I'd tentatively made plans with Flynn & Ollie to meet for a beer or a poker session. But mid morning I received a call from my client in LA asking if I could get to their offices on the Thursday. Oh joy - what is it about employers actually wanting me to do some work rather than enjoy myself? Just what I'd wanted so I ended up booking a 6.10am flight over to LA which put paid to any ideas of poker or drinking so my session the previous night turned out to be the only time on this trip that I got to play - what do they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? Sorry F&O - I'm sure our paths will cross at some stage. 

I've been awake at 4am in Vegas before but that is usually in some sort of drunken stupor at the poker table or leaving a club - awake and stone cold sober getting ready to head to the airport is a first for me but I'm in a cab to the airport before 5 and surprisingly the place is empty. That's because anyone with a modicum of common sense is still asleep or having fun from the night before rather than heading off somewhere - but at least I get a longer than usual TSA groping as the agent is just happy to have someone to delay. A boring flight to LA followed then I'm at my client's office by 8am and a day spent drinking coffee ensued.

Once I'd finished with my client on Thursday afternoon I headed back to LAX to await Mrs AC's arrival (AA don't fly directly from JFK to LAS at the moment so her flight was via LA) and I had a few drinks in the lounge before she arrived before we took the same flight from LAX to LAS. That's after she'd walked straight past me at LAX anyway - I hadn't told her that I'd meet her, just in case my plans changed, and she told me she thought that I looked like a weirdo trying to hit on girls at the airport as she had her "New York ignore everyone, thousand yard stare" on whilst changing planes. I admonished her for implying I'm trying to hit on girls at the airport but I had to concede her point that I probably look like a weirdo. We made my original seat mate's day when Mrs AC gave up her seat in the pointy end and slummed it to sit next to me in the cramped seats - I can't promise I'd have done the same!

When we got back to the Signature and sorted ourselves out we headed out to pick up some weekend supplies from Walgreens and just caught up over a few drinks and a late dinner in the MGM for the rest of the evening before heading off about midnight - we'd both been up since before 4am once the east coast time difference is factored in.

We didn't really surface until late morning on Friday so after lunch at the restaurant outside Paris (bizarrely missing F&O by an hour or so as I found out later through Twitter) we just did some touristy things along the strip for most of the afternoon. Being from NY, Mrs AC is a fast walker and I'm usually the same but it was quite nice being the ones who got in other people's way for a change as we slowly walked up towards the Wynn and back down the western side of the Strip. Mrs AC said she'd booked us dinner at Fleming's in Town Square (which I'd never been to or heard of) so after changing we headed down there about 6pm for drinks at some fancy bar which I can't remember the name of then a lovely steak and a decent bottle of wine. We headed back to the MGM after dinner and Mrs AC said she fancied a few more drinks so we bar hopped our way through the MGM before crashing out around 2am.

Saturday was spent much like Friday - really nothing blog worthy so I won't waste your time!! But if you ever get the chance head to the skybar at the Waldorf Astoria - expensive cocktails but the view over the strip is very good. We had a very good evening at the Mayfair Supper Club inside the Bellagio - it reminded me of the fancy restaurant that Henry takes Karen to in Goodfellas although when I told Mrs AC that she was as old as that film it made her feel old and me feel even worse! So we plied each other with booze which cheered us both up.

So now it's Sunday - superb owl Sunday and I can't wait to see the owl. But where? Mrs AC is on the hook for this weekend in lieu of us going to the game so she's organised everything except the hotel and she hadn't told me where we'd be watching the game. When we'd last looked at locations together the only places we could find were Caesars' sports book which was charging a ridiculous amount just to sit and watch the game, or strip joints which seemed to be advertising like hell on google. Now Mrs AC is no prude and knows what guys get up to in Vegas (I've told her all about my misadventures with her boss when he took me out last time I was in town but even I didn't particularly fancy watching the game in a strip club.  

So over breakfast she asks me where Silverado Ranch road is. No idea sweetheart - I know the Strip and maybe 4 roads off it. Turns out it's fucking miles away - a good 20 minutes in a cab, which at Vegas prices is probably going to need some sort of government bailout to cover. It's (only!) a $45 cab ride before we arrive at Slater's 50/50 - a beer and burger bar. A very good beer and burger bar as it turns out.

It's ticket only so we've already been guaranteed a seat plus it's effectively an open bar - although I've already been warned that this does not mean I have to get as drunk as a poet on payday. I may have had my fingers crossed when I told her I wouldn't get too drunk!

We shared a table with another couple plus a group of 4 - the latter were 49ers fans as well so they were very pleased when I said who we were supporting as neither of us were in team colours. I can't bring myself to wear sports attire if not actually going to a game - it's just not "English". Actually it is very English - but the people who wear their soccer shirt in everyday life usually look like it's the finest item of clothing they possess and that they'd give themselves a coronary kicking the ball back to the actual players if it ever came their way. The other couple were neutrals but said they'd cheer the 49ers on given that the rest of the table were all fans.

The beer flowed, we made some new friends and we enjoyed the food and atmosphere whilst watching the game. One grievance I do have with American sports is just the amount of dicking about they can do - there's a big debate around the use of video replays in soccer at the moment as it seems to be killing the game, with fans essentially not celebrating a goal until replays have been studied in minute detail for any possible infringement. But American sports do this in spades, meaning a game can take longer than the known age of the universe to complete. But nothing comes close to the level of dicking about at the superbowl - cutting to commercials every 2 minutes and spending 5 minutes to determine the exact blade of grass to spot the ball. But the elongated game just gave me an excuse to drink more beer and by the time the game had finished I think we got good value from our tickets - I later found out these were only $125 or so each which was great value given the quality of food plus the decent drinks selection. If this had been on the Strip it would have cost 3 or more times as much so Mrs AC did a very good job indeed.

After the game we said goodbye to our table mates and headed back over to the strip in a cab - we had a couple of commiseratory drinks along the way through the MGM and crashed out just before midnight.

We didn't get up to much on Monday - we checked out before heading out to lunch and just killed time before heading to the airport at 4pm for the short hop to LA. We had dinner and a couple of drinks in the airport before Mrs AC caught the overnight flight back to NY and I headed off to my hotel, where I'll be for the rest of the week before heading home on Friday.

After this week I've got 3 weeks in the U.K. which is the longest I'll have spent there for about 6 months. Mrs AC is coming for a long weekend at the end of February and then I'll be back in the US at the start of March - but where will depend on whether I've made my mind up about working more for the LA based client. I don't really like being over in the west coast compared to NY (PITA to get home over a weekend, Mrs AC being NY based and my liver can only handle so much abuse) but one client wants me to do a more permanent role, which might be hard to turn down.