Mangled words

Tonight I am meeting a couple of friends at the so-so Chinese restaurant next to my favorite dive karaoke bar, both of which I recently mentioned.  On what might seem like an unrelated note, I was just scanning the ever-lengthening list of categories on my blog.  I am obsessed with categorizing, but now and then, I think I might be overdoing it – especially when a category sits for a long time with only one post in it.  Sometimes I try to use those lonely categories as sparks to write other posts so there will be no singletons in the long run.  As my eye skimmed the list, it lingered for a moment on ‘Las Vegas,’ and I think it’s because I’m going to the karaoke bar tonight.  The thing is, I’ve never gone to a karaoke place in Las Vegas – so what is the connection?  Mangled words.

My favorite karaoke bar is called ‘Mel-O-Dee.’  Yep, I know.  Horrible, yet somehow completely appropriate for a dive karaoke bar in a strip mall.

My favorite place to gamble in Las Vegas is called ‘Slots-O-Fun.’  It, too, is a dive – just a dive casino instead of a karaoke bar, and to my opinion, it is also perfectly named.  It’s awesome because it’s cheaper than the casinos in the big hotels (I won a few hundred dollars on a quarter roulette table one night), yet it’s still on the strip – next to Circus Circus and across the street from the Riviera, which is a horrible hotel that used to be nice in the day, according to my grandparents, who never stayed anywhere else in their many trips to Vegas for an annual gun show.

Thinking about the mangled words that make up the names of these places, I am reminded of one other particularly horrible advertisement.  While I haven’t seen this ad in more than 17 years, every single mangled word still sticks in my brain.  It was painted by someone not very skilled at painting, on the brick wall of a building I used to have to walk past to get home every night after work, in a small college town in Ohio –   It was an ad for a pet store, and it read:

We got ’bout EVERYTHIN’
‘cept Cats ‘N Dogs!

I don’t remember if the name of the pet store was included in the semi-washed out wall painting, but I will never forget that horrid line because, unlike my acceptance of the mangled words for the aforementioned karaoke bar and casino, I just could not accept this ridiculous advertisement, yet I had to see it every single day.  I’m not sure I fully trust my memory on this, but I think the ad even had a picture of a dog’s head and a cat’s head – which I personally think is as stupid as stupid gets.

Interestingly enough, one of the friends that accompanies me to Mel-O-Dee happens to have been my next-door neighbor from that college town in Ohio over 17 years ago, and I know that she, too, remembers the ridiculous pet store ad, because she hated it as much as I did – maybe more.  In any case, I will ask her about the ad tonight to see if she remembers either the name of the store or the surrounding poorly painted images on the wall.  I will, of course, share anything interesting that I learn.

Las Vegas

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.  That’s the party line, but some of my random trips to Sin City were in my mind lately, so I thought I’d toss a few thoughts out here.  I’ve been to Vegas a number of times, for a number of different reasons.  Conferences, work assignments, pleasure trips with friends, and an odd semi-family reunion with my grandparents and mother.  Each experience was quite different.  Don’t worry, they’re all tame stories.

At a developers’ conference, I spent more time than I like to admit actually attending the conference sessions.  There are only two things I remember that weren’t work related.  One, I dragged an Indian co-worker to the Star Trek casino at the Las Vegas Hilton.  Sadly, the Star Trek experience is no longer, but I thought it was the best thing ever when I first visited.  Who can resist the slot machines activated by hand motions or the soothing blue and purple haze that defied the standard casino assault of horrific bright white lights everywhere?  My Indian friend indulged me, but being from India, Star Trek wasn’t to him what it was to me, having grown up with Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Two, I went on a helicopter ride with another co-worker at night where we cruised at such a slow speed I was convinced we’d simply drop out of the sky any moment.  I’m not a fan of flying in general, and the two times I have been in helicopters, I’d have tried to climb up to the ceiling if I weren’t buckled in, just to be a slight bit further from the point of impact if we crashed.

Many years ago, I went to Vegas because my grandparents and my mother and then step-dad were going to be there.  My grandpa used to go to Vegas every year for a sportsman’s show.  It was a business related trip, so they got to write off practically everything they did.  For years, my grandparents had a big glass vase on a shelf that was full of quarters.  Every quarter they got back in change from some random purchase went into the jar – it was their gambling money jar.  My grandparents are thrifty.  They never had much money to spare, but I think Las Vegas was my grandma’s favorite place to go.  I don’t know if she actually went anywhere else outside the immediate Midwest, now that I think about it.  She loved the slots.  She generally stuck to the penny and nickel slots, and she was disapproving as slot machines became more modernized and you could spin by simply pressing a button.  Pulling the handle was what it was all about, and she thought the buttons took the fun out of it.  More than once, she won enough at the slots to practically pay for their entire trip.

It was on this trip that I found what is still my favorite casino.  Slots-O-Fun.  The name alone gets it points in my book.  This place is a complete dive of a casino situated next to Circus Circus and across the street from The Riviera, which is where my grandparents always stayed, even as it declined and became a pretty crummy hotel.  I’m a fan of most things dive-y, except, of course, hotels.  Dive bars and dive diners rank high on my list, as does this dive casino.  Slots-O-Fun is particularly great on weeknights because it’s not so busy and all the table games are much cheaper than anywhere else on the strip.  Who can argue with quarter roulette?  I spent hours and hours at a roulette table with my mother one night, and walked away a few hundred dollars ahead.  Not bad for a quarter table.

A few years ago, I went with my partner to Las Vegas for a weekend, ahead of a work assignment I had for the following week.  It was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable weekends I’ve had, even surrounded by the steady bombardment of screeching slot machines.  We saw Love, the Cirque de Soleil show set to Beatles music, and it was amazing.  I highly recommend it to anyone who is even slightly a Beatles fan.  My uncle turned me into a die-hard when I was only a kid, so it was heaven to me.  We rode the roller coaster at New York, New York.  We went to the Fine Art Gallery at the Bellagio.  We stayed until closing at a Piano Bar where we had to pay $20 apiece just to get a seat.  I blew $20 more bribing the piano guy to sing Bon Jovi so I could scream it at the top of my drunken lungs.  I hadn’t been dating my partner for very long yet, and she had to head back home before I did.  She left me a note scribbled on tiny pieces of paper from the hotel’s notepad telling me how much fun she’d had – it was during that trip that we both stepped over the line from dating to being unable to bear time apart from each other.  I still carry that note in my computer bag.

Anyone else have some Vegas stories to share?