by Dan, Matt and Stinky

Photo graciously provided by Carol and Michael, Jeff, Scott and Jerry

PART 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 face.

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 on me.

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 meal.

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 with sugary

Nobody loves 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

Scott contemplates his ice cream while Bob takes a sideways glance at Matt's wife.

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.

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

A new friend proves the Buddies aren't just for the elite, or sober.

"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 violated.


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

Dan takes the Fitzgerald stage, but does not earn union wage.

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?"

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 back downtown.

On to Part 4

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