Saturday, September 3, 2011

Life in Vegas Part 2. Breakdown, Miscommunication, Grinder Gear, New Friends and More.

I keep promising prompt updates, and I keep slacking. The truth is, this whole "move cross country" thing hasn't been as easy as a blog post could possibly sum up. But I'll get to all that.  Let's start where I left off with the last post.

I'm in Vegas. Now what?

I hit the city HARD the first week.  Josh had a week to kill until he had to jet off to the Beau Rivage to deal to all you fine people down there (Who I miss oh so much..) and during that week he took it upon himself to be my personal tour guide.  I swear he knows absolutely every single route in and out of the dark alleys of Vegas. It was rather impressive.

Oh sweet Beau Rivage.. I miss you.

Every day went something like this.. Get up at 9 am. Work all day. Get off. Go out. Lose critical brain cells.  I swear I was like a co-ed in a fraternity house, but with less shirtless college aged men and more alcohol.

When you google "Frat Party" this is one of the first images that come up. It has nothing to do with anything I did, but I find it oddly fascinating. I would party with these guys.

He told me, rather ominously, driving down the strip one night.. "You see all this? Let me know when you're over it."  I asked what he meant, and he said simply that EVERYONE loves to drive on the strip.  Until they despise it, and then they want to avoid it at all cost.

I can safely say I still adore every single glittery light, and don't mind the traffic one bit.  I want to see it all, touch it all and just breathe in the hot, tourist laden, desert air.  Of course, we're only three weeks into this, so maybe it will fade. Still, I am having a love affair with Las Vegas.

Only this relationship is sometimes abusive.

It's hard to be homesick when you're in sensory overload.  With Josh here too, it was like I had a piece of home near me all the time. While he isn't FROM Tunica, he definitely represents a familiarity and stability that makes me feel secure. Something that in my mind ties Tunica, Scott, my Mom and all of this together.

It didn't hurt that just a few days in, Jeff and Nikki Griffith of Bustout Poker Apparel fame flew out for the swanky launch party of their new clothing line Grinder Gear.  They too feel like a small piece of home, at least.. poker home, and seeing them was fantastic.  They had the most amazing suite at Mandalay Bay overlooking the best view of the strip in Vegas.  We had dinner at RM Seafood in pre-party celebration.  I got to check out the graphics for the new clothing line and they are HOT.

James Farra and Josh at RM Seafood.

Bustout will still exist in it's current incarnation, but this new brand will offer a universal significance that we can all relate to.  Their party was a veritable who's who in poker with media representatives, named pros like Vanessa Rousso, Alex Outhred and of course the unforgettable Bustout Crew. Anything Jeff and Nikki are part of I have the utmost faith in to be successful.. but this branding, I can honestly say I would support even if I didn't know the genius behind the product. It's that good. I got to see them two nights, once with Josh and once with Christina.

I will continue to provide details about the launch of Grinder Gear, as they come out.  A lot of the more exciting tidbits have required me swear to secrecy.  But trust me, you'll want to get in on the action.
The whole gorgeous lot of them.. The brains and beauty behind Bustout.

Jeff and Nikki couldn't stay long, and Josh's departure was looming quickly.  So I did what any reasonable girl would do when faced with a short time line.. I didn't sleep. Hardly at all. For days. We had dinner overlooking the strip at Sugar Factory, and talked while tourist photographed monuments that are quickly becoming burned in my brain.  We saw street performers as we crossed between casinos. We played 1 am tournaments and saw sharks at Golden Nugget.  There was the tacky beauty of the $70 million canopy of Freemont Street.  A night when Christina made friends with a lesbian couple while playing $2/$4 at the Nugget, and proceeded to Karaoke live at the poker table. The bartender I vaguely remember that Josh and I befriended at Bally's, as he made us cocktails.. and a Burger King run where I was too intoxicated to actually order. I sat in what I thought was a haze at the Pai Gow table in Bally's as Frank Mayo sauntered my way, and I was overjoyed to see someone I (love dearly) and recognize in a city where EVERYONE can be swallowed up whole. Josh and I ate amazing salads at California Pizza Kitchen, late night junk food at the Orleans and walked more than 25 miles.. or so the blisters on my heels said.

The gorgeous Frank Mayo, one of my last nights in Tunica. There are worse people to run into in Vegas at 3 am.

And then it hit me, like a ton of bricks.  I can't remember what casino we were standing in, when I looked at Josh and burst into tears and said "I need to go to bed. Now."  He claims I fell asleep just minutes later, mid-conversation, in the bed across from his in whatever-hotel-we-were-in.

I know he made sure I slept uninterrupted, for a long time. In a cold, dark room, with every hint of casino shut out. Perhaps too long, as I woke up late for work.  Excellent.  We're off to a great start, new city.

Relationships.. They take work.

Josh left a day later, while I was still mostly asleep, to head off for the Deep South. I made my way to Valet to realize I had to navigate myself home.. having not driven a bit my first week here. It was time to get honest with my new paramour, Vegas, and realized.. he was kicking my ass. 

A friend from home, Mitch Harris, suggested that all I needed was a "routine".  So I took the Jack Daniels IV out of my arm and made a point to start (slowly) unloading my vehicle (it still isn't done entirely).  To SLEEP. To venture out during daylight hours for more than just work. To eat food that comes from vendors that don't accept comps. To start making friends.

Speaking of relationships and work, I realize I haven't mentioned Christina very much.  I've battled with this all night.. how I was going to blog, and how honest I was going to be. It's been a big part of my writing agenda to be brutally honest in the things I convey, with particular emphasis on failures as much as my successes.

Sometimes.. it goes both ways.

Christina Sharkady and I had an extremely close long distance relationship prior to my relocation. But face to face time, we had precious little of.  Sure we'd be in the same town at the same time rather frequently, but we hadn't spent much time outside of poker in the same room together.  I don't know what either of us expected, but I know what we got.. hasn't been without a few hitches. We have so many similarities, and so many vast differences.. and it all came together and hit us in the face once we were confronted with being friends, roommates and coworkers literally overnight.

We've had a few knock down drag out moments.  We've both had to WORK at building our relationship and remembering what drew us together to being friends. We've had our patience tested, our emotions put through the ringers, we've laughed and plotted mutual homicide simultaneously. It's been a challenge.  One that either of us would have considered walking out on a hundred times over if we weren't both so invested in this.

There were some obvious miscommunication between us both about my job working for her.  I grossly over estimated the volume of the room, and she grossly under estimated my desire to deal rather than to floor/manage/supervise. Out of respect for both of us, I won't go into a lot of details.  There will be a day when we look back at this and laugh.. I have faith. Right now, we're not there yet. It's a work in progress.  I have a new found respect for her and her life, where she's come from and where she's going. And I hope she's learned a few things about me as well.  And not just all the manners in which she'd like to strangle me.

In this case, *I* am the device.

I care about Christina.  I care about her feelings, and portraying both her and the Riviera in the most positive light possible. So for that reason, I won't go into a lot of detail about the negative but instead, will shed some light on the positive.

I love dealing. I love being in the box, putting the cards out.. meeting the guests.  I'm not great at it, yet.  I'm not awful either. At the risk of sounding egotistical, everything in life has come so easy for me in terms of learning new skills, that this has been a challenge.  Technique and mechanics take time to develop, but I'm getting there. Years of poker experience otherwise have made me better than your typical break in dealer.. but my pitch needs work. A couple more weeks of pitching cards at my cat though and I should be on par with your typical circuit dealer. If I deal to you in the coming months, be kind! <3

I'm a sucker for sparkly stars...

The Riviera doesn't get enough credit.  I'll admit, I expected more than I arrived to.  I expected a room slower than Horseshoe. I didn't expect a funeral parlor.  A lot of nights, that what we have.  Deadspread, deadspread, deadspread, break, deadspread. There is no justifiable reason for it either. The room is cozy, the people who do show up are friendly and the staff is competent. (Except for that one dealer I don't love).  Christina's floor people are some of the nicest guys I've ever met. The promotions are great, the tournaments are fun... for whatever reason though, she's literally building a room from scratch.  So here is what I need from you all.  Come visit the Riv.  Play for a few hours, check it out, and spread the word. You WILL be well taken care of.  You will enjoy yourself. I wouldn't say this if I didn't mean it.  This is quite possibly the most underrated poker room in Vegas. So it would mean a lot if you all would come see us.  Thank you to those who already have.

As things are right now, there is not enough dealing work for me at the Riv exclusively.  I have lined up a few traveling gigs.. circuit stops of one nature or another, which I will go into more detail about in future blog posts.  I'm going to travel this fall with Josh on the stops that will take both of us.  I'm terribly excited and hope to work some of these events into my Ante Up Column.

I have the pleasure of living with a few notorious poker characters.. Kevin Ferguson, Rachel Gordon and Jason "Boz" Bouslaugh.  I've met a few interesting critters since being out here.. the bizarre Christian, the knowledgeable Collins and equally talented Tom, Karsten the part-time resident from Berlin.  The Harrah's crew.. Eric, Tom and Mika. I'm making new friends and doing things I wouldn't have thought possible even three months ago.  Christina told me tonight, despite my disheveled hair and tear streaked face (stress.. it'll kill ya), that I looked fantastic.

I don't know if I believe her, but I want to.  I want to think that all of this has been helping me grow in some capacity or another. 

Vegas Jen. Doin' it up at Carnival Court.

I work tomorrow, at the Riv. Sunday night we're throwing a swanky engagement party for Kevin and Rachel.. for which I've nominated myself to prepare all the food.  There may be a mass funeral approx. 3 days later if things go awry in the kitchen. Just sayin'.

Josh comes home Tuesday, and won't be jetting off anywhere too soon again (at least without me in tow!), and I'll be genuinely happy to see him. Driving in Vegas is NOT my speciality.

I had one of those lengthy, couple hour chats with Scott today.  I miss him. If you see him, remind him of my awesomeness.  Not like he could forget, but I'd like him to have it rubbed in his face as often as possible.  Thanks. Mom has discovered text messaging, so we're finally in this century and thanks to her new iPhone, able to communicate as needed.

I do believe we're damn near caught up.  Which means, as of the next post, I can get back to bitching about poker more and my girly home-sick-ness less.  I still want your recomendations on things to go see and do in Vegas, so keep 'em coming. 

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