3 - Vital Organs and Ice Cream
Dear reader, this whole time, I have held my tongue from complaining.
It does no good to tell you that on Friday night, I lugged an
accordion in a case made primarily of melting duct tape through
the twisted dungeon of San Francisco's airport to the farthest,
most inaccessible gate in the entire complex. It behooves me
not to tell how I schlepped it into and out of the overhead compartment,
to the rental car place, and finally to the room. And last year,
I never complained about how Matt woke me up that Saturday morning
with a piledriver to my noggin. No, complaining does no good.
But revenge does.
All night, I tossed and turned, I could not sleep a wink knowing
that at any moment I might doze off only to be wakened by a particularly
crabby, particularly tall man attacking me in the most brutal
Macho-Man-Savage style. I never realized that I could not only
close, but lock, the door that adjoined the suite I slept in
and the suite in which he slept. Any rest I might have had was
kept from me in this terror.
Dan gives his
friends the "Rude Awakening."
When I finally arose, knowing that my chances at sleep were
over, I decided to even the score. I went to the door that led
from my suite to his and found it closed and locked. He had robbed
me of a night's sleep and left me no recourse but to rouse him
in a most hideous manner. From my side of the balcony, it was
child's play climbing onto his. I found that door also locked
from the inside--locked to physical entry, but NOT to sonic entry!
Thus launched I into the most heart-shattering, ear-shattering
rendition of "Theme from Latvia" which I could muster.
Oompa! Oompa! Went my big Wurlitzer squeezebox. Toodlee! Toodlee!
Went the reeds as I pumped hard enough to blow a gasket. And
sure enough, a groggy Matt soon opened his door and looked at
me as though I were a man who had just woken him from deep slumber
with an unpleasant sound.
It is a testament to the Gold Spike that Dan's vile organ
humping did not wake the entire floor of suites. But it certainly
woke the occupants of mine, and it horrified me to open the curtains
and find my nemesis naked but for the accordion.
As soon as my eyes adjusted to the blazing sunlight, I opened
the door and dashed onto the balcony, fully intending to put
the big hurt on Dan. As I approached with my fists raised, Dan
held out the accordion.
"Do what you will to me, but leave the accordion out
of this," he pleaded.
"With pleasure," I snarled, "take it off."
And Dan proceeded to climb out of the Wurlitzer's straps. This
is when I remembered he was wearing only his birthday suit and
shielded my eyes. "Put it back on! Put it back on!"
I hollered, angry that not only had I been rudely awoken, but
he had now won the battle... with his weiner.
We had a large group for brunch at the Main Street Station.
I like the word brunch, because it is a cheesy contraction of
breakfast and lunch, but it has gained the meaning of a classy
meal. I guess it's because only really rich gluttons have the
energy, hunger and time to linger over one meal that spans the
entire morning. Anyway, Michael and Carol, Bob, newcomer Scott,
and the usual suspects all sat together to break bread and Dan's
Maybe it was only me who wanted to break Dan's face. He still
had Jerry wrapped tightly around his little finger and there
was no room for me to work my magic. Without a half-gallon of
rum and sweet mai-tai mix swishing about in my head like it was
the night before, I wasn't feeling as charitable as I had in
the Spike diner. I couldn't deny that I wanted Jerry's soul and
I wanted it badly. As I watched Jerry and Dan talk, my jealousy
rose in my belly like the partially digested remains of last
night's hot dog had in my throat.
I still didn't know what Dan was planning for Jerry, but he
was treating the kid like such a prince that it had to be something
ugly and monumental. I freely admit I was jealous, partly because
I thought I had a lock on ugly and monumental. Besides, whenever
Dan wasn't pumping the rookie full of goodwill, Stinky was treating
him like his personal ATM machine and making frequent withdrawals.
Our friend John, a resident of Las Vegas, met us at the Main
Street Station. John is the kind of guy always itching to be
in the middle of a mess of trouble, and usually it's a mess he
creates. I called John earlier that morning for the same reason
I call anyone who claims my friendship: I wanted something. John,
ever the gracious fellow, agreed to my request to help find dry
ice, bulk ice cream novelties and to supply an ice chest for
the afternoon's Ice Cream Social.
Despite Jerry clinging to Dan like a lifesaver on the Titanic,
and my growing aggravation with the loss of this foot soldier,
we were able to enjoy the sumptuous buffet. That is, until John
made a scene. Somehow, he had misinterpreted my telling him I
would "pay" for his breakfast. What I had meant was
"I will not pay for your breakfast," but John misunderstood.
It didn't take more than a minute to disabuse him of his crazy
notion, but he wasn't particularly happy about the whole incident.
When I wouldn't pay for his breakfast, John refused to eat
in the buffet. Instead, he stood outside, occasionally looking
in through the window and making nasty faces at me. His bad vibes
caused me to not enjoy the fantastic spread of food as much I
normally would. My third serving of eggs benedict tasted bitter
from John's angry glare. The extra helping of bacon and vanilla
soft-serve were almost unpleasant to eat with his gaze weighing
After a while, I wondered if maybe I was wrong. Maybe I should
have explained that when I said I would pay, it meant I will
not pay. I decided to do the right thing and went out and invited
John in to join us. The look of joy on his face was almost worth
the $8 it cost for brunch, which I didn't pay. I explained to
our server that John would not be eating, just sitting with us.
In line, I concocted a plan to get Jerry to pay for my meal.
I sidled up to him and explained that the posted price was for
those who had a two-for-one coupon, and that he would actually
have to pay double the price. I stood behind him while he paid,
and motioned to the cashier that he would be paying for my meal,
as well. The plan went off without a hitch, until she tried to
give him two receipts, which would have been entirely too suspicious.
So I hip-checked him over the brass railing and grabbed the paper.
He got a pretty good lump on his head, but that served me well,
because he was too dazed to notice that I never paid for my own
After getting our fill of tasty Main Street grub, we broke
up into smaller groups to bide our time before the Ice Cream
Social. My brother Mike, the other Mike, Ghizal, Steve and I
walked to the Las Vegas Club to place some sports bets. Again,
my brother was witness to my lack of gambling smarts when I couldn't
for the life of me explain what the little numbers posted on
the board next to the hockey teams' names meant.
At the appointed hour, we wandered up to the second floor
of Fitzgerald's, just in time to see a security guard rousting
some nogoodniks from our appointed party spot. We all dug into
some frozen confections and set off to mingle. I finally met
the famed Phil Feldman, the kindly soul who posts to the Internet
the special hotel prices which appear in the Los Angeles Times.
I harangued him with questions about various prices, and to my
surprise, he really knew the rates by heart.
The Big Empire Buddies' appetite for all things free is legendary.
Who can forget last year when we had "Metal Shards Days"
and 46 Buddies consumed more than thirty pounds of industrial
shavings just because they were free? Not us, and certainly not
the emergency room doctors at the medical center. We knew we
had to procure massive amounts of quiescently frozen confections
for the Buddies. John shuttled Amy and me all over the Las Vegas
Valley in his dilapidated, hand-painted truck. First we went
into the "bad neighborhood" to buy 15 pounds of dry
ice. If you've never bought dry ice before, it costs about 70
cents a pound and is 109 degrees below zero. It also sticks to
your skin if you stand in a parking lot holding 15 pounds of
it for any amount of time. After prying it and some skin off
my arms, we packed the dry ice into a cooler and made our way
to Costco, the best place to buy huge boxes of drumsticks, ice
cream sandwiches, Bomb Pops, and Creamsicles. We purchased hundreds
of treats and packed them into the ice chest until it brimmed
a Popsicle like Matt
We hauled the chest up to Fitzgerald's balcony with only a
few minutes to spare before the Ice Cream Social and our rental
of the balcony were to officially begin. The Fitz's balcony is
on the second floor, just off the upstairs casino floor. It is
below the Fremont Street canopy and about twenty feet above the
Street. For our rental fee, the Fitz had put up two signboards.
One read "Big Empire Social" and the other read "Private
Party." As soon as we arrived the fun began. The guests
weren't there yet, but a bunch of strangers were on the balcony
drinking beer, reading books and staring out over the mess of
humanity below. As the rightful owner of the balcony for the
next two hours, I called security and a burly guard named Ed
came up and rousted the folks. I stood in a corner and pointed
out who could stay and who had to go. It was a better power-trip
than when I was an usher at my sister's wedding and barred my
parents. I may rent the balcony again just so I can eject innocent
people, or I'll at least hire Ed to roust people everywhere I
go. Next, we rearranged the "Private Party" sign to
read "Pirate Party" so that strangers wouldn't even
consider crashing, for fear we'd make them walk the plank! Arrr!
As the first of the guests arrived, Amy pulled me aside and
said, "Leave Jerry alone for a few hours and try to enjoy
yourself. Don't let your anger ruin this for everyone."
I knew she was right, but I snarled, "Suck it!"
because it's important for me not to confuse her and think I
actually acknowledge other people's opinions and suggestions.
I learned that at anger management. Or, more accurately, I learned
it while seething during the breaks at my anger management seminars.
Punctual as always, dozens of Big Empire Buddies trickled
in and before anyone could say "These Bomb Pops truly are
da Bomb!" we had a full-fledged polka party. Sure, we had
gathered for ice cream and socializing (maybe even a little romance),
but by the time the afternoon was over chaos had taken the reins.
A bride was pelted with Bomb Pops, and an accordion-led, sugar-fueled
conga line of Buddies paraded through the casino, commandeered
the main casino stage, and finally found its way onto Fremont.
The cheapskate ethos of the Big Empire was spread as successfully
as the Clap at a swingers' party.
When the teeming mass of Buddies arrived, we flung open the
ice chest and welcomed everyone with a special greeting that
our boss and Big Empire owner Mr. Shandis created just for the
occasion: Stinky read from the 3 x 5 card Randy had given him:
"The first treat is free, but they're a dollar apiece after
that." The Buddies, true to nature, dove in with gusto and
soon were stuffing their greasy ice cream holes. Blue, red and
green streams of melted Popsicle stained their lips, trickled
down their arms, and pooled on the floor. For the first fifteen
minutes there was very little socializing, just grunting, slurping
and jockeying for position at the ice chest.
A wedding party passed below us on Fremont Street. The bride
in her flowing white gown was pretty in two ways: pretty to look
at and pretty pissed at her new husband. The groom was a drunken
bastard in a rumpled beige tux, a beer in one hand and his bride's
paw in the other. He paid more attention to his other drunk friends
than to the newly-minted Mrs. Drunken Lout. The Buddies yelled
down to them, inviting them up for ice cream, but the groom declined.
He was in too big a hurry to get across the street to purchase
a wedding ring. As they wandered toward SuperPawn, we pelted
them with congratulatory Creamsicles.
Throughout the event, Dan supplied ambience, courtesy of his
accordion. He set up in the only corner of the balcony not soaked
in Popsicle juice. As he tore through the "Theme for Latvia"
and a tear-jerking rendition of the classic "Misty-Eyed
Lady" the ice cream was quickly forgotten and romance became
the order of the day.
Unfortunately, the ratio of men to women was about eight to
one. In a desperate and misguided attempt to lure some ladies
off the Street, a few Buddies made tawdry and lurid sexual
innuendoes using the largest ice creams they could find. The
desperate catcalls and whistles of amorous Buddies almost drowned
out Dan's raucous performance the way a cat in heat can drown
out an air raid siren. Although none of the girls on the street
accepted the sweet and obscene offers, it seemed like a lot of
them considered it for a moment, and that's more action than
the Buddies usually get.
his ice cream while Bob takes a sideways glance at Matt's wife.
Leave it to the Buddies to not let their spirits be quashed
by rejection. Instead they danced amongst themselves, shaking
the balcony to its foundation. An unwelcome striptease by Phil
atop one of the tables was cut short by a barrage of ice cream
sandwiches and one well-aimed Mr. O'Lucky keychain. Finally,
though, the Buddies crashed down from the sugar highs. The Social
closing time of four p.m. drew near.
The party spirit had not died, however, and Dan had caught
a second wind. Not knowing many songs, he repeated the
"Theme for Latvia." He then led us off the
balcony and through the casino. The withered souls at the slots
looked up in confusion as our procession of dancing, clapping
knuckleheads marched by. Some smiled, most felt their space was
A new friend
proves the Buddies aren't just for the elite, or sober.
Bob Black and I spent an inordinate amount of Social time
watching the yo-yo ball salesman on the street below. He had
not mastered his own product, and made playing with it look about
as much fun as picking absently at a blister on one's own heel.
The Feldman brothers and I headed to the Gold Spike to round
up any stray Buddies we could find. Neither of them had ever
visited the dingy confines of the Spike, and wondered how we
would know if people were there for the social or just for fun.
I chuckled contentedly at their innocence and explained that
straight teeth and clean clothes would be a dead giveaway, especially
since Bob was already safely on the Fitz balcony.
We came back empty-handed, though, as nobody other than the
usual crowd could be found.
Back at the social, every time I saw Jerry approach the cooler,
I rushed over and try to charge him for ice cream. Matt foiled
my plan, though, saying something about how Jerry would need
a sugar rush in case he met a skanky ho. I glared at both of
them, and slumped down to listen to Dan serenade the crowd with
rendition after rendition of his Latvian Folk Song.
After the sugar rushes began to wear off, we followed Dan
downstairs, raising eyebrows as only a line of people being led
by an accordionist can.
Down the escalator we went and into the main casino, with
Dan pumping the accordion as though it were the chest of a heart
attack victim. In the main casino, among the blackjack
and craps tables, an empty stage greeted us. Our musician leapt
onto it and launched into "Misty-Eyed Lady's" companion
piece, the bluesy "Misty-Eyed Woman." A security guard
approached, looked on for a moment and then headed to the employee
break room. Dealers stopped and watched this musical whirlwind
that was forcing life into the staid casino. Each employee eyed
our group suspiciously, knowing what was happening was not kosher,
but none had the can-do spirit to actually put a stop to our
shenanigans. Instead, they looked at their co-workers with eyes
that said, "Isn't it your job to get unauthorized accordion
players off the stage?"
Dan takes the
Fitzgerald stage, but does not earn union wage.
Ten minutes later, disappointed that he could not get kicked
out of the casino, Dan packed away the accordion, waved goodbye
to his fans, new and old, and left the stage. The party was over,
the dry ice had sublimated and the remaining ice cream was melting.
It was time to move on.
The hot Las Vegas afternoon stretched before us like a dry
swimming pool undergoing restorations. I wanted to show Jerry
the Fabulous Strip-or as much of it as we could cram into a few
hours. With Phil, Ghizal, Jeff, Jerry, and I packed into our
white car, we headed for the Strip. We hit the newly renovated
Riviera and settled into a nice sport-watching day. Phil, Jerry,
and Jeff, wanting to see the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton,
decided to walk over as Ghizal wasn't budging from his game-watching
chair, and I was feeling too heated to want to do much of anything.
And so my afternoon slipped by into pinball machines placed near
the sports book for kids who can vicariously gamble on the outcomes
of little videographic moppets.
We had to be back for the evening festivities in plenty of
time, but our Trekkies were ages in returning. Six times, I parleyed
a dollar into two on the Derby machine-oddly, a favorite of mine-then
pumped the winnings into the South Park pinball machine, killing
Kenny upwards of a dozen times. Meanwhile, ounce after ounce
of drool fell from Ghizal's mouth onto the sticky carpet of the
Riv as a modest number of large-screen televisions beamed down
on him. At last Jeff, Jerry, and Phil found us. They were as
sweaty and "done-in" as eggplants that were just about
to be made into baba gonosh. And Phil had a dollop of something
that looked a lot like tahini on his lapel. Upon waking, though,
Ghizal was pissy.
"What took you guys so long?" he inquired aggressively.
"It was a long way away. By the time we got there, we
weren't even able to enjoy the experience."
"Well, no shit-it's Star Trek."
Grumbling ensued, but then vanished when we emerged into the
light outside the casino and saw THEM!
Jeff, Dan, Phil
and Ghizal ennjoy a few hard bodies before being escorted away
by Riviera security.
Women! Tight-assed, long-haired, trim-built females of the
species! Never mind that they were bronze and that their front
halves disappeared into the brick wall-these beings were sexy!
They didn't mind at all as Phil, Jeff, Ghizal and I felt their
smooth and polished cheeks, climbed up their big fine legs (shades
of R. Crumb here), and posed for several rolls of film alongside
their posteriors. Ghizal leaned against the bronze and with a
suavete that usually stays hidden from the daylight, reached
down to palm a single, bronze hemisphere. Snap! went the camera.
Jerry simply stood in front of the statue and waved. Click! went
the camera A small crowd gathered around as Phil sat on the ground,
stuck his hand in his pants and extended his tongue toward a
perfectly curved metal rump. Pop! went the camera! I clambered
up the statue and suspended myself, head down, feet up braced
between two "Crazy Girl" torsos. Nobody got a photo
of that, however. It was with light moods that we made our way
On to Part 4