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For first time readers...my journey begins here: THE VERY FIRST BLOG POST (CC1)

Meaning of life

"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." ~ Pablo Picasso

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Book 5

California Here We Come!

We jumped into that car early morning and hit the road with extreme excitement. I had made a log of where we would be and what times we’d be in certain cities, so we could plan meal stops. It was soon evident that the log was useless when we realized the speedometer wasn’t working. Do you think that would stop us? Just a minor detail, after all, the engine was still running!

We were making good time. No problems until somewhere in Nebraska we came upon a storm of bugs. I’ve never seen such a wave of flying insects. I can only liken it to a blinding snow storm. They were everywhere. It was time to see how well those new wiper blades worked as the windshield became covered by the rain of bugs.

Craig pumped the windshield fluid and it flowed perfectly onto the glass. Then the wipers began. I remember, as they started, feeling so proud we fixed the pump and replaced the old wiper blades with new ones. As the wipers passed before me, swatting off the mass of bugs… once, twice, three times, SHAA-WING! Off flew the entire head of the passenger blade, leaving only the wiper arm. I began to laugh out loud until I realized the wiper arm was etching a permanent half circle deep into the glass as it screeched across it. What do we do? What do we do?

As the insect cloud subsided, I rolled down the window crawled half way out, as Craig continued to drive at some unknown speed. As the wipers banged back and forth, one screeching loudly, I grabbed the headless monster by the neck and bent it towards the front of the car, leaving it pointing towards the heavens. Getting back into my seat as quickly as possible, I rolled up my window. The wiper arm was still moving in rhythm with the one “complete” driver’s side wiper, only it was waving to all the other cars as we drove on. I have no idea why we just didn’t pull over. I guess it was the “Dukes of Hazard” coming out in us.

We were in Wyoming, around 3 AM and almost out of gas. Thank God the gas gauge worked! After getting some information from the truckers on the CB, we found we had only one option for gas. We exited the highway and traveled about three miles to the closest gas station only to find it was closed. The plan was to drive non stop, but plans change when you run out of fuel. We slept in the parking lot that night.

Morning came, 6 AM and Craig had filled up the car and bought some breakfast for the road. We were back on the road. We drove until it was time for lunch. We would soon be in Salt Lake City. As we exited the highway in search of Wendy’s Hamburgers, we came to a light. While in the left hand turn lane, the car filled with thick, lung choking, gray smoke. FIRE! FIRE! Get out of the car, it’s on fire! Smoke billowed out of the open windows. The car didn’t have air conditioning. We only had a vent fan and open windows to keep us cool. It looks like the piece of shit car has officially died! We are stranded!

Craig popped open the hood. We both expected flames to dance out of the engine compartment. But no, the engine was still purring perfectly, no smoke, no flames, not even spark knock! As smoke continued to waft out of the interior of the shit box, I looked at Craig and said, “What the hell is causing the smoke?”

The smoke cleared quickly, the hood now closed, engine still purring, we got back into the car and pulled into Wendy’s parking lot as if nothing happened. The car had a burnt smell to it, electrical. Then we figured it out…the vent fan was no longer working. It seized up and burnt itself out. We’ve had it running ever since we departed Michigan. That sure was a lot of smoke for such a small fan!

As we ate lunch it dawned on me that we were going to cross the Salt Flats (aka The Great Salt Lake Desert) at high noon. No air conditioning, no fan (RIP) and 112 degrees in the shade! SHIT! I had thought of this way before we turned the key to start this voyage. That’s why I planned everything out so carefully. At 60 mph (the speed limit was 55 at the time) I planned to cross the desert at midnight, but having no speedometer and napping for gas changed those plans a bit. Oh well what can we do? Let’s stop and take a dip in the little lake they have here to cool off!

We stopped to see “The Great Salt Lake.” The lake is said to contain over 4 billion tons of salt and contains 2 percent more sodium than the average ocean. This was something I wanted to see. A nice refreshing plunge into the cool water, sounded great on such a sweltering day.

When we arrived it wasn’t what I had expected. I guess I spent too many summer vacations on Fort Lauderdale’s beach as a child. It wasn’t a resort beach at all. There were Brine flies congregated by the millions lining the outer edge of the lake, hovering low. It had a stench like rotten eggs. The lake was shallow. I didn’t walk out far enough to even go past my knees. That was enough. This was unlike any beach I had ever seen. I had no interest to ever return.

We loaded up the car with soft drinks and headed for an oasis far beyond the desert. Next stop, Reno! Floor shows, gambling, and a hotel with a real bed! The Sands Hotel was on our radar. After we checked in, we asked what the best show was to see in town. Hands down we were told, “Don Arden’s, Hello Hollywood Hello!” This was going to be our first titty review! Topless shows were a real novelty at the time and we were too young to even be in the casino, but we had our ID’s! Titsville here we come!

We made our way to the Ziegfeld Theater, located in the MGM Hotel, which claimed to have the world’s largest showroom stage. The stage was 180 feet deep and 242 feet wide, an acre in size. There were 133 singers and dancers that would grace the stage before us. This was going to be one helluva show! I really wanted a good seat.

After getting tickets, we hit the casino to wait for the show. We were fish out of water for sure. What do we do now? I guess we should gamble. That’s what they do here, right? We came upon a woman who was sitting at a dollar slot machine. She had six large buckets all filled with silver dollars. Back then there were no such thing as tokens, you used REAL coins! I was amazed, she just kept winning!

We watched her pull that handle and listened to the bells ring. This was so exciting to me. My first time in a casino and this woman had overflowing buckets of coins surrounding her. I had to ask how much she had won. She was kind, but busy winning and gave a quick answer, “About 600 bucks.” She saw the expression on my face and followed up with, “It’s not always like this. This is just a good day.”

I explained this was our first time in a casino and that we were here to see the show. She told us to tip the maitre d’ to get a better seat and also mentioned that she was a dealer here at the MGM. She offered to teach us to play Black Jack and to come find her after the show. Her shift started at Midnight and if there was nobody at her table gambling she was allowed to teach beginners! I’m all in for sure! Oh, wrong game. She then gave us each a handful of silver dollars and said, “Here, go try your luck.” I think she wanted to get rid of us since we were just hanging around.

We played with the silver dollars she gave us until security came to ask for our ID’s. I guess this is the true test. I think Craig shit a brick and to be honest I had enough to build a small home. We remained calm and handed security our home grown ID’s. We were told to wait right where we were. He left, but returned quickly, returned our ID’s and said, “Sorry for any inconvenience. Enjoy your evening.” I have to admit, that was probably the best five dollars I’ve ever spent. (for the fake ID)

We left our bricks on the casino floor and headed for the showroom. That was just too close for me! We were near the front of the line as the doors opened. I used to carry a money clip and bills were organized from largest to smallest. I had several one hundred dollar bills to make traveling easier. The maitre d’ asked, “How many?” I pulled out my money clip with a one hundred dollar bill showing and said, “Two please, and can we get something down front.” He snapped, “Absolutely!” He turned his back to us and marched us right to the center edge of the stage with his opened hand behind his back, fingers twitching.

Craig whispered, “Tip him.” Ah, that’s why his hand was opened like that! I get it! I pulled out a ten dollar bill and placed it in his hand. He stuffed it into his pocket without ever looking at it. We had others seated at our table. There was an old man, had to be in his sixties, sandwiched cozily between his two daughters. Hum, maybe not daughters, they were too young, maybe early twenties. Actually, they didn’t look like him at all. One was a beautiful Asian girl and the other blond and built! I was too naive to understand the reality of the situation at the time, but I will say he saw more than one show that night and the second was a bit more expensive!

The orchestra began to play. Then curtains opened and I was just overwhelmed. Act 1 - Scene 1 – “Flying Down To Reno.” Holy Shit! There was an airplane on the stage! An airplane!!! Next, gorgeous girls in feathered headdresses, a Fred Astaire tribute, a Grand Staircase of more beautiful bevies, never ending action! Soon, “The Great Earthquake of 1906” with more girls, more dancing, more singing, more feathers, more jeweled G-strings, more boobies! Then a three story waterfall appeared on stage. I have no idea where all the water came from, but there must have been one helluva mess in the basement!

I can’t explain where two hours had gone, but the show was more than I could ever imagine. The costumes, the talent, the props, the money it must have taken to produce this show, unfathomable! Did I mention the boobies??? The show ended with the entire company on “The Great Midway Walk” singing and dancing to, “It’s Not Goodbye, It’s Just Hello Hollywood Hello.” AMAZING! BRAVO, DON ARDEN! This has been the highlight of the entire trip. It just couldn't get any better, could it?

After the show we went back to the casino for our Black Jack lesson. As we were educated on counting to 21, we couldn’t stop talking about the show. Our new dealer friend asked if we remembered to tip. I said, “Sure did. It got us right down front!” She said, “That must have been a big tip you boys gave him.”

“Not really, just 10 dollars,” I told her. “You don’t get down front for 10 bucks boys,” she quipped. It was then that I realized, the maitre d’ must have noticed the hundred dollar bill on the outside in my money clip and thought that’s what I was giving him. Oops!

I’m not sure how long we were schooled on the finer points of “21” but it was getting late and we still had a lot of miles to log before we reached San Jose. So, back to the Sands to “drift” off to sleep in preparation for the next leg of our journey.


Anonymous said...

Great story! The $100 tip was hilarious. Forgive me, but I hope I get to try that one time.
I hope you feel better. Thanks for taking the time and effort to write for you minions! Keep it up.

-one of your many fans (and I'm not talking about burnt out kind)

Dr. Swill said...


I felt bad enough when that happened.(not really) What made it worse was what happened in Vegas<<< guess you'll just have to stay tuned.

Thank you for your support!

Peace B

Words To Live By:

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service to others." -Mahatma Gandhi