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Vegas Baby

Las Vegas has a couple of nicknames which come to mind: Lost Wages and Sin City.  I refer to it as Shit Hole.  Anyway, since it is part of my work territory and I don’t go there very often, I just suck it up, stay in a non-casino property and lay low.

If you are a person born there or call the place home forgive me. This is not personal against you or its citizens. The people that live and work there are pretty nice. It is the venomous visitors…the nomads of naughtiness who bring the plague. The city marketing folks give blessings to get shit faced, screw around, and generally misbehave…remember “What happens in Vegas…Stays in Vegas.” Its like you are on vacation from your manners. Right. B.S.

I am sure when Benjamin-don’t call me Bugsy-Siegel envisioned the place, it was going to be great.  When The Rat Pack was alive they swung and crooned in 110 degree heat and the place was beyond cool. However, the Vegas of today is just nasty. The place is full of forced flashiness, forced falseness, and sadly forced fun.

Its only redeeming value is the plethora of Elvis impersonators…I just love those guys and they come in so many sizes, shapes and ages. The phenomenon is truly amazing. :)

What seems like millions of constantly flashing digital billboards litter the trash strewn streets. They tempt you with everything from Pot Doctors, sex shops, lots of magicians with bright white teeth to Jesus Saves.  Cars/trucks inch through tremendous thoroughfares going nowhere. Really, driving or just being in Las Vegas is a huge drag.

It is loud. From every corner, building, room, hall, elevator, etc., music is blaring.  The Hofbrauhaus Las Vegas, which shared the parking lot with the Hyatt Place (where I stay), had Jimmy Buffett’sChanges in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes screaming from the porch…I just don’t get the connection. Guess a rousing polka wouldn’t draw in the hangover wannabes.

Cars honking, drivers cursing, tires screeching, music blasting from cars, drunks on the street yelling…you get the picture/headache. Along with the sounds from the airport and Nellis Air Force Base there is no escaping the din of this dirty town.

Along with the complete hassle of being there, it is really-no nearly-impossible to get in and out.

Not to fear, I have found a secret. Fly in and out in the very early morning. I don’t mean 9AM…that is too late.  With the hangover reputation…not a lot of people are ready to be at a SWA gate for a 7:25AM departure.  However, I was and so were about forty other brave souls just trying to get out-of-town. Sweet, nearly empty plane!

On this dark morning there was a buzz in C Terminal-Gate 21. An infamous celebrity was flying SWA to Sacramento. I will not reveal his name. He is an accused abuser of women and drugs. He once bit part of an ear off an opponent in a sporting (not very sporting I should say!) event.

Oh well, this is getting long…anyway, there was no celebrity gushing like you normally see on TV.  No paparazzi. Just some fellow travelers who recognized him and slowed their pace long enough to catch a glimpse…like you do when you pass a car wreck on the side of the road.

He had a handler.  Now that guy looked like he could take you down. The famous one was small and frail in his stretchy Wrangler-old-man jeans and white tennis shoes. He seemed as faded as his face tattoo.

A woman approached and asked for a photo and was rebuffed by the handler. The famous one didn’t even look up from his reading. Then a young dad brought his young son ( 7 or 8) over with cute mo-hawked styled hair. Famous one nodded to handler, smiled and leaned in for a quick snap and then back to his magazine.  Really, I get it: famous one was a legendary boxer. However with what is known of his criminal background, who would want a kid near him? Yeah, yeah get off your soap box.  I know about his boxing foundation. OK!

Then some old couple just walked up and the old coot sat down next to him for a photo op without saying a word, just leaned in. It was like famous one was a plastic Ronald McDonald on a bench.  Before the handler could shoo them off…the wife secured the photo and the ancient pair shuffled off. I got nothin’ for this guy…but that was beyond rude!

Our plane was at the gate and was empty. The handler kept going up and asking if they could board. Guess famous one was bored. Anyway, the gate folks put him off until we all boarded…although he must have been Business Class since they let him on first.  I did not see the Blue (in need of assistance) boarding sleeve.

Now, I have seen celebrities and other famous people on planes before. Some I can name…but you wouldn’t know them (Eartha Kitt and Cliff Robertson-see I told you so) and some I know their faces, but have no idea why.  They always sit mid-cabin in a window seat and usually behind a book or magazine.

Not this guy, although he was somewhat aloof in the terminal, he sat in the first row on the aisle and made eye contact with each of us passing looking for another coveted aisle seat for ourselves.

He didn’t make a move until we landed. Although I (Big 60 in just a few days) was five rows back and handled a bag…I still passed him in the jet way…just as he coughed and didn’t cover his mouth. YIKES! First thing I did when I got home: scheduled my flu shot!

There is really no moral to this story. Just what happened to me today and that is what this blog is about.

I feel sorry for those that are so up there and then drop so low.  Maybe it is good to be happy with the middle and just go with that. We may not soar in the stratosphere but, it’s better than a lot of folks have it.

Terminal Terminal

No matter how abundant and great the art is about, there are a lot of varied and fun installations, the airport is a tiresome place.

It is, for me, dreary. I dread driving toward it. My car jockeys off the I5 and onto the exit and I creep along into the parking garage.  I wind up the ramp and cruse through the lanes looking for a yawning opening that will accommodate my Ford Escape.  I park a lot at the airport, so my first action upon turning off the key is to make a note of my lane number.

My tired black Atlantic roller bag drags behind me as un-anxious as I am to enter Terminal B.  But, we trudge along the cement deck, through the automatic glass doors that part as we approach.

The swath of industrial beige/brown carpet leads to the tram.  We, my fellow passengers, and I herd into the tiny tinny car and again doors automatically work.  Just as the faceless announcer warns…the train jolts to a start and we all sway and catch a poll or window sill to remain upright.

I stare at the tarmac over people’s shoulders. Never making eye contact.

Doors part allowing us to exit and we march into a roped off queue. I scramble to free my driver’s license from my wallet and marry it to my boarding pass. I align them correctly so the TSA agent will have an easier time reading them.  Again, I stare slightly to the right or left past faces awaiting my turn in line to prove who I am.

I wrestle off my jacket, slip off my shoes and hoist my belongings onto the automated belt that will x-ray my life. The bottom of my bare feet are cold against the slick tile floor.  My shoulders feel the breeze of the human x-ray as it swirls around me.

Shoes and jacket back in place and travel essentials accounted for…I see the upside down tree with light bulb leaves hovering over the departure gate sign. OK.

One and one-half hours to get to my gate and the mixed smells of roasted meats, burritos, pizza, coffee, donuts and perfume mixed together attack my nose.  I pay for a bottle of cold water and head toward my gate with my book.

The restroom is on the left.  My trusty valise and I struggle to get through the metal door and into the slim stall so I can pee.

All types of beauty products  being applied at the mirror accompany the women peering and primping in to the wall long mirror over the sinks. I wash my hands in tepid water and the sweet flowery soap smell is nasty.  A wave in front of a blinking red sensor spits out six inches of rough brown paper towel.

I snuggle into a genuine Naugahyde chair, park my bag and open my water and my latest only-have-time-to-read-at-the-airport novel trying not to hear anyone speaking around me.

No plane attached to the expanded walkway yet, so I listen for the roar of the jet engine that will soon arrive to take me away from home again.

He Controls The Power

He cradles it tight, but not too tight in his semi-open palm. The stiff seven and a half inch rod is floating just slightly above his thighs at his crotch.

This member controls his every thought and feeling. Gently, he caresses the top.  His fingertips tenderly stroke the surface looking for the sweet spot of gratification – any pressure can stop or start the intense bliss exploding in his brain.

It is the source of all his power.  He has complete control over his own being and supremacy over his wife’s desires.

With a mere touch, he elicits joy-pain-sorrow-ecstasy. One move brings either searing rapture or interminable boredom.

This elongated miracle is best brought to life with two hands, however one will do with a pinch.

Although it is there – exposed for all to see, he is more than reluctant to let anyone handle it. Only with the threat of force, will he relinquish it to a woman let alone another man to fondle.

However, when he is faced with the utmost of confusion, he finds letting someone else with deft fingers rip it from his grasp. This too is a good thing.

The plastic black strangely curvaceously  shaped Surewest television remote control with way too many buttons is Lonnie’s favorite plaything.  The only exception the garage full of woodworking tools.  But, if you compare hours of intense use…the remote wins out every time.

“I control the power.” he says in his commanding no-shit voice.  It is simply in his DNA.  He truly believes that a woman, child or other man in our living room incapable of making the correct choice of TV/Cable viewing.

My favorite buttons on the forbidden remote are the Mute and Off.  His are all.

We (mostly he) made a pact when he first retired. It was not to turn on the TV during the daytime.  Mostly because I have a home office and just couldn’t work with the mindless din in the background.  But, he also wanted to make sure he accomplished “stuff” during the day instead of wasting it in front of the boob tube.  There is one exception to the rule…he watches the closing stock market report  usually while having his lunch. Depending on the day’s events of ups and downs and bulls or bears, he is either smiling or frowning for a while after it is over.  That and the San Francisco Giants and/or 49’ers provide plenty of dramatic action here in this house.

He has an innate ability to know when you are approaching the remote or attempting to extract it from his grasp.  Even when he is asleep, the remote poised and pointed, cannot be taken without an abrupt awaking and admonishment. “Hey…I was watching that!” he bellows as his clench closes in.  It is un-graspable. An alive death grip.

He is the only guy I know that can watch a day long marathon of How Its Made (ok, I know the pact…but when it is raining outside-he can’t garden!) and still keep interested.

He admonishes Daisy the delightful purring kitten to the floor when the remote is in play.

When I was fussing once about the one-sided remote rule, a friend suggested we get another.

“Are you CRAZY?” was all Lonnie had to offer in that conversation.

Case closed. Power on. Channels surfed. HDTV secure. Life is good!

Toby Dickson

Toby Dickson

Toby Dickson

After living divorced and dogless (even catless-UGHHH that was hard!) for a couple of years in an apartment in Burlingame, I finally moved into our home with Lonnie in Roseville on July 31.

On August 1, we had Casey.  He was named in honor of Casey Jones the infamous locomotive engineer of Illinois Central RR fame who died in 1900 while supposedly “bravely” trying to stop his passenger train and ran into a freight train. The truth is a bit less dramatic and he was going too fast for the curve…but who am I to judge…I wasn’t there.

Toby Dickson

Toby Dickson

I have a habit of naming my pets for railroad related items or themes.  Our cats are/were named Spike and Chessie (the mascot of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad) our other dog is Thomas…you guessed it for Thomas the Tank…you get the idea. So, with Lonnie’s occupation as a locomotive engineer and manager of engineers…I thought Casey Jones a perfect fit.

I told Lonnie I was going to get him…I don’t think he believed me until he drove in that night when a bright nine week old golden fluff ball greeted him a the door.  It was the first time I heard “baby talk” from him…it was so funny and cute.  Casey was a good dog and I loved him, he was my company when Lonnie was gone for so many days and nights and weeks on end for work. We walked, played at the dog park and were great buddies.  I took him on work trips too.  We went on day trips and once I took him for a week across Northern Nevada to look at railroad crossings in the most remote areas.   He kept Lonnie company too when I was on work trips and served as a great excuse to come home from work…”LeeAnn is traveling; got to feed the dog.”

Casey died a few months after his third birthday of lymphoma.  An unexpected development, one I was not ready to handle. He was not eating one week and dead the next. A friend asked me “When did you stop crying for Casey?”   “The day I brought Toby home.” I replied.

Toby was named for a dog the fictional detective Mr. Sherlock Holmes counted on as a trusted partner and fellow detective in the novel A Sign of Four.  Holmes is quoted as saying he would “rather have Toby’s help than that of the whole detective force in London”  I am a bit of a Holmes buff, so thought we would leave the railroad names alone for a while and try something new.

I rescued him from an old lady who’s recently deceased husband’s pension was supplemented by selling puppies. Asshole.  OK…just needed to say that.  Toby was the last one in the last litter.  She was glad to see my $500 and to see Toby’s tail out the door.  I was happy to hand over the cash and grab the robust little guy.  Casey, in his last days, had grown so dramatically weak and thin…I needed a fat puppy.

However, the chubby tummy didn’t last long.  The old bitch had fed him a bunch of cheap canned dog food before I got there.  He promptly deposited the still undigested contents on to the seat of the Duck.  OMG.

We stopped, mopped up and headed home. Although he just barfed…I could tell he was happy being released from that smelly garage, in the fresh air, and light of that canned crap.

Toby plopped into the house and was met by a couple of grumpy middle age cats. “Oh shit! Another dog!” I heard Spike say as he sashayed down the hall-tail up in the air. Oh well. Too bad. So sad! But I was ecstatic.

He was a great puppy when he wasn’t eating drip systems, digging out plants and generally causing havoc.  We walked, Dog Parked and generally hung out. Like Casey, he was an excellent partner, companion and travel partner.  He mellowed nicely with age and grew to be an great old man.  However, with his age came what has become normal maladies for Goldens. His hips and joints hurt and he developed a really big fatty tumor on his left shoulder.  Our vet told us if we had it removed…it would just grow back and it would cost thousands of dollars.  I told him “No one is getting fat sucked out except me!”

So we did as he advised gave him pain pills and lived with the growth. We nicknamed him Quasimodo and sometimes Lumpy Bump.  As his lumpy hump grew heavier and broadened, his pain worsened.  He would give you a good show at the door or for his dinner, but soon he could no longer just lay down…under the weight, he would collapse.

After just thirteen years Toby peacefully passed away in my lap on a Sunday morning.  My friend later told me that October 5th is the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi and the Canticle for the Animals. We didn’t know that and it makes me feel better.

The vet came to the house and she was so comforting to Lonnie, me and Toby. He greeted her with a smile and a wag then quickly hit the floor.  I snuggled up under his head (he was 110pounds of pure love and I couldn’t hold him all) and held his head. He must of known what was about to happen…he never moved again.

I spoke quietly to him, stroked his head, scratched his ears and told him everything was going to be OK and he would be out of pain in a few minutes. Lonnie and our dear friend Jeremy were witnesses. He peacefully slipped away and the stress and pain of his body relaxed.

I was OK for a while, then we just needed to get out of the house for a drive. I was good the next day…since I had to work to distract me. However, Tuesday while driving home alone from San Jose I heard a song for the first time. I was so sad and crying so hard, I thought I was going to have to pull over. The tune was Gene Cotton’s 1970’s Before My Heart Finds Out.

The lyrics are so close to how I felt last Sunday morning and keep feeling.

Leave me now… before my heart finds out
Well, before you walk out of my life
Would you be especially quiet?
And don’t you let my heart know that you’re leaving.

My brain knew and knows what was best for Toby, a quiet, peaceful and dignified death. My heart doesn’t want to know. Doesn’t want to know he is gone.

Rest in Peace my beautiful guy. I will see you over the Rainbow Bridge.