Wife Susan came tearing out of our computer room and announced that if I wanted to go to Las Vegas, she saw the perfect deal on Expedia.
She gave me the details—which sounded really great—but added we must do something soon because the deal will disappear quickly. The package included round-trip air fare, shuttle service to and from the airport and five days/four nights at a 5A hotel (Bellagio) on the Las Vegas strip.
The third week of July seemed to work for both of us, so she booked it after selecting two shows we would enjoy—Penn & Teller and Cirque du Soleil “LOVE” with The Beatles music.
We told some of our friends about the package and almost everyone said the airline we chose was the worst in the business for being on-time, but agreed it was a deal.
Our plane was scheduled to leave Houston Monday morning at 9:45 and at 9:45 it was speeding down the runway ready to become airborne. And instead of landing in Las Vegas at 10:50 PST as scheduled, our plane was on the ground at 10:30 a.m. So much for never being on time!!
When the “garsonne” brought the luggage up to our room on the 16th floor, he told Susan to press that button beside the bed and magically the drapes opened and we could see the famous Bellagio Water Show and the Paris Hotel’s Eiffel Tower right from our bed.
Our computer had printed out every hotel that had poker tournaments listed chronologically during our stay and I scanned all 11 pages and decided on the one I liked best at the Flamingo which was within walking distance. The entry fee was reasonable and the $20,000 in chips assured me of ample playing time.
I was fortunate to make the final table on our first day and ended up in a four-way tie for first place, which gave me enough entry fees for the rest of the trip.
We ate a leisurely dinner at Susan’s favorite restaurant Mon Ami Gabi across the strip at the Paris Hotel and were seated at the window where we could do what everybody does in Las Vegas–become a people-watcher.
The city has changed tremendously since our last visit 10 years ago. Instead of seeing mostly couples taking in the sights, we observed young and middle-aged women strutting down the strip flaunting their recent boob jobs or wearing something so sheer that one could chunk his imagination to the wayside.
Many of the young men wore muscle shirts that displayed more tattoos than skin. The Asians could be seen with a camera in one hand and a lighted cigarette in the other, plowing through the crowded strip like they were practicing to be a fullback.
And the days of the $4.95 all-you-can eat buffets have been replaced by buffets that cost ten-fold what they used to 10 years ago.
But Las Vegas is still a place everyone should go at least once in their lives. There are probably more taxis per capita than in New York City, but they don’t drive nearly as recklessly.
When we did gamble, Susan did fairly well with the poker machines, while I scored well playing poker and on the $5 craps table.
While waiting in the airport for our flight back to Houston, a man who introduced himself only as Keith told us that he was a baseball umpire in the Houston area, who specialized in high school, college and summer league games.
He said he just celebrated his 65th birthday. I asked him if he treated himself to a trip to Vegas and he shook his head and said he comes quite often.
He said he’s one of the die-hard Houston Astros fans and was there to watch Fresno, the Astros’ Triple AAA team, play a four-game series against Las Vegas.
“But the real birthday present I’m giving myself occurs in a couple of weeks when I go to Cooperstown (N.Y.) to watch Jeff Bagwell get inducted into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame,” he said proudly. “I really regretted missing Craig Biggio’s induction and swore I’d be there for Bagwell’s big day.”
Keith also mentioned that while he was in Upstate New York he would visit the historical Saratoga race track that was built right after the Civil War.
“I love horse racing and to travel an extra 100 miles to see where horse racing began is going to make my trip a very memorable one,” he said.
Keith boarded the plane before Susan and I did and we never saw him again.
Incidentally, the plane took off right on schedule and arrived at Bush Intercontinental Airport 30 minutes AHEAD of schedule.
That blew a big hole into the rumor that it’s the worst airline for punctuality!!!
KWICKIES… Jordan Spieth overcame a five-bogey front nine by finishing the last five holes on the back nine in five under par Sunday to become the youngest player in golf history to win the prestigious British Open last weekend. The 23-year-old Texan came from one shot behind the surging Matt Kucher and finished the final five holes with eagle, birdie, birdie, birdie, par to win by three strokes over the popular Kucher, who is 0- for-47 in major tourneys. Spieth and Jack Nicklaus are the only two in golf history to win three major tournaments before the age 24.
The major league debut of Astros’ third baseman Collin Moran was short-lived after getting hit in the face by his own foul ball and suffering a facial fracture and a concussion in only his second game with the big league team. Moran hit a triple and home run in his call-up from AAA Fresno Friday.
The Houston Texans officially began training camp today (Wed.) at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va with a goal to improve on the 9-7 record during Head Coach Bill O’Brien’s three years at the helm. However, the other three teams in the AFC South Divisions (Indianapolis, Tennessee and Jacksonville) have all made roster additions that should tighten the race to the playoffs tremendously this season. The Texans have won the division the last two years, but it’s a sure bet 9-7 won’t be good enough to win it this season.
The Dallas Cowboys began training camp without All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant, who was late because he was entertaining under-privileged children with a barbecue and play day in his hometown of Lufkin and probably will be fined for his unexcused absence. Another distraction involved star running back Ezekiel Elliott and his alleged involvement in a recent altercation at a Dallas nightclub. Earlier in the off-season cornerback Nolan Carroll was arrested on the suspicion of DWI and linebacker Damien Walker was arrested on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The Cowboys had better wade through all these distractions and be ready to tie or better last year’s 13-3 record and surprise everyone by winning a playoff game.
JUST BETWEEN US…It was difficult keeping up with the Houston Astros last week while in Las Vegas, mainly because casinos don’t sell newspapers and would rather have you downstairs on the casino floor than up in the room reading. And during most of the five days we were there, the TV was saturated by the O.J. Simpson fiasco. When we left Texas, the Astros had a 16-game lead in the AL West Division and when we returned their lead was 17 games. That’s amazing, considering their No. 1 starting pitcher(Dallas Keuchel) has been on the disabled list for more than a month and their second-best starter (Lance McCullers, Jr.) has been ineffective since the All-Star game. The Houston Astros keep on winning because they are knocking the cover off the baseball, with at least five regulars hitting over or around .300. Jose Altuve, the Astros two-time batting champion, is far ahead of anyone in the majors with a .358 average going into Monday’s game at Philadelphia. If they expect to trade for a starting pitcher before the non-waiver deadline ends Monday at midnight, Houston had better be ready to trade an impact player like Marwin Gonzalez, Nori Aoki, Alex Bregman, relievers Tony Sipp or Luke Gregerson or any combination of these plus a couple of prospects in the minors.

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