Friday, March 27, 2009

burbank > las vegas

By Pauly
Las Vegas

I changed my flight at the last minute. I was scheduled to fly out of Long Beach around noonish, which would have got me into Las Vegas in time to watch the March Madness Sweet 16 games. I arranged that flight before Phish announced their summer tour. They scheduled Red Rocks tickets to go onsale to the public at the same time. Red Rocks was going to be one of the hardest tickets to get... as bad if not worse than the Hampton shows due to the intimate setting of the natural amphitheater in Colorado. If Nicky drove me to Long Beach airport, that significantly reduced our chances at getting lucky. I switched flights and had to change airports. Nicky preferred the change since Burbank was much closer to where we lived than Long Beach.

Of course, we both whiffed on the Red Rocks tickets. We knew our chances were slim to none, and none smacked us in the face. Slightly rejected, I knew that my fate would be determined by the college basketball games. I broke my self-imposed betting restrictions in order to win enough money for three different things including paying for summer Phish tour (something that I had always done in the past) and winning enough money to subsidize Project Z. I turned down a significant amount of freelance work over the last two months and expect to turn down more work in the upcoming months. I still have bills to pay and hopefully March Madness can help supplement my decreased income.

My futures success depends on my ability to firmly believe in me, my artistic abilities, and my decisions.

We take so many leaps of faith in life with regard to relationships, religions, career, and politics... that we often fail to take the most import leap of faith with ourselves. We're at such an important crossroads right now. People are scared and confused and they tend to rely upon others to give them comfort and security. For some reason, I'm having a suspicious feeling about giving into those thoughts. I want to remain self-reliant and independent of the system. That means that the only one I can count on is... myself.

I flew out to Vegas with a tinge of anxiety. I had not bet that much on a game in a while. The gravity of the consequences sat heavy on my shoulders as Nicky dropped me off at the airport.

I always check-in using a kiosk at the JetBlue desk. I double-checked my seat assignment. My flight was almost half full. I found an entire empty row and switched my seat. I'm used to flying on fully booked flights. It was weird to see so few people at the gate, where they don't have too many seats in the waiting area.

We boarded five minutes early and within ten minutes, everyone was seated. That's what happened when you did not have a full flight. A group of three very drunk Asian girls stumbled onto the plane at the last minute. They had been drinking because one of them must have muttered it out loud no less than fourteen times. They were headed to Vegas for a bachelorette party.

"So who's getting married?" asked a very flaming male flight attendant.

"The one with the rock!" shouted the drunk girl as the soon-to-be bride shot her hand up in the air so the flight attendant could inspect her ring.

During taxi and takeoff, the girls discussed whether or not her fiance should have spent more money on her engagement ring. I tuned them out and focused on the basketball game. One of the benefits of JetBlue were the TVs. The flight was around 35 minutes total. As soon as you reached cruising altitude, it was time to start the descent.

The hardest part about watching the game? It was on a plane and I like to pace frantically back and forth when I watch the games at home. You can't really do that on a plane, especially on such a short flight. Besides, these days, if you frantically walk up and down the aisles with a bewildered look on your face, chances are an overzealous passenger freaks out and tells the captain that you're a terrorist so when the plane finally lands, I'm warmly greeted by the federales and tossed into Gitmo... just because I was sweating the UCONN/Purdue game.

I watched the first half before we landed. When I exited the plane, I had never seen McCarran airport that empty at 5pm on a Thursday. I rushed outside and met Friedman who happily agreed to pick me up. He immediately commented on the vibe of Las Vegas during the current Great Depression.

"Vegas turned into a Thursday through Sunday kind of town," he said. "It's dead in the beginning of the week but starts to pick up now."

Friedman drove me to a sports book so I could put down more money on Memphis. I caught the score of the UCONN game at Red Rock casino before we drove to the supermarket. Friedman suggested a BBQ. Sounded like a good idea and we headed back to his house to watch the rest of the games. Memphis was down early ad that queasy feeling festered in my stomach, sort of that feeling you get moments before you throw up. Imagine that feeling for almost two hours.

I won my first bet and lost my second bet. I almost broke even for the day, but it was a devastating loss. Friedman drove me back to the Strip and I checked into my hotel. The girl at the front desk offered me a room on the 13th floor. She sort of asked for my permission before she assigned me the room. I told her that I didn't have Triskaidekaphobia... or a fear of the number 13. She smiled and handed me a wad of coupons. I got two free drinks and a number of other crappy promotions. I kept the drink tickets and threw out the rest.

I went up to my room and sat on the edge of the bed. I took a deep breath and said, "I can't believe I just lost (insert number here)."

Over the last six months, I took a massive hit in the stock market in the six figure range. I easily lost more money in different trading sessions in the last 180 days. However, I did not control my fate in those instances. The blood was on the hands of my broker(s) and financial advisers. On Thursday, I regained control of my money and put it into play in another form of gambling... March Madness. I started the day up a hefty amount and lost the entire day's winnings on one game. It hurt like a muthafucker. Like someone scooped out my testicles.

I had a short period of self-loathing before it was time to stop fretting about the past and focus on the future. I studied the Friday games and matchup for Saturday. I still had a game plan and I couldn't allow a minor setback knock me off course.

I woke up early on Friday and went for a walk. The first thing I saw? A pregnant woman smoking a cigarette while she sat at the 'Rich Little Piggies' slot machines. I missed the absurdity of Las Vegas.

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