I only rarely go to McDonaldʼs; maybe three or four times a year. So I was surprised and delighted to find itʼs McRib season!
The McRib is the finest fast food sandwich there is. Better than a double Fisch Mac. Better than Starbuckʼs Thanksgiving panini. Yes, better than Chick-fil-a.
Itʼs never McRib season in Las Vegas, so for the seven years I lived there, I had to make my own — Driving three hours across the Mojave Desert to the nearest McDonaldʼs that had them, in Barstow, California. I never did find out why the McDonaldʼs franchises in Vegas donʼt carry McRibs.
Here, in Houston, McRib does exist, so I grabbed a loaf of that sweet, smokey, salty, crunchy, sesame seeded goodness.
Pro tip: Serve the sandwich on top of a pile of fries so that the sauce drips onto the fries, and you donʼt waste any of it on the plate.
Annunciation is old-school, in both style, architecture, and message. While I did the special kind of musty funk that fills old American Catholic churches, Iʼve never been able to get used to using a Communion rail. Perhaps I have weak knees. Or I donʼt like people looking at my butt.
Still, if youʼre looking for a just-barely-this-side-of-Vatican-Ⅱ experience, this could be the place for you.
I never thought I would miss the smell of creosote, but I will. When the rain falls on tumbleweeds, it makes a weird wet dog smell. The outflow boundary from the thunderstorm carries the smell far and wide, and is a much more reliable indicator of rain coming than radar is.
Protip: If you're ever in a slot canyon or a dry gulch, and suddenly you smell a wet dog, run. I've lost count of the number of stories I've seen in the newspapers this year about hikers and homeless people killed in flash floods. Dozens, at least. Always under blue, unsuspecting skies. The news helicopters sometimes follow a flash flood coming off one of the mountains as it weaves through the gullies and washes. Once, KTNV showed a car speeding down the road trying to outrun the water. It didn't.
Todayʼs coffee is Goose Bumps from Vesta Coffee in Las Vegas.
The coffee is pretty good, considering it comes from a city that prides itself on being artificial, superficial, and doing things “good enough.” Itʼs very smooth, which might be attributed to the relentlessly mineralized water that Vegas siphons from Lake Mead, before returning it to the lake after being processed by four million kidneys. The stated notes are “chocolate, graham cracker, sweet.” I certainly get the chocolate, and a bit of the sweet. But Iʼm not sensitive enough to detect graham or any other type of cracker in my coffee. Still, this desert coffee isnʼt a dessert coffee. Itʼs a nice weekend morning coffee, or a good reward in the afternoon after accomplishing some minor, yet dreaded, task. Iʼd buy it again because I like my coffee the way I like my women: wholesome and surprisingly good.
I got a new Atari cart today. Itʼs Poker Plus, the Sears version of Atariʼs Casino.
This is the text label version, which is what I prefer because that means its an older version, and what I would have had in my home, if my family had this cart in 1978. But we didnʼt.
The version of this game with the Sears picture label is more unusual, but not quite what one might call “rare.” Just seldom seen for sale.
Itʼs a very minor topic of discussion in the realm of Atari nerds that Sears spent a lot of time and money making its own artwork for the Atari games it licensed. There are plenty of debates over which is better. I donʼt have a preference. But I do note that the Sears imagery is often racier than the Atari version.
Here are the Atari and Sears picture labels of the same Casino/Poker Plus game.
The Atari one is fine, featuring a slim young woman in a strappy white evening frock engaged in severely constrained enthusiasm. The Sears one features a Vegas showgirl wearing low-rise panties, a feathered headdress, and nothing else. Sheʼs covering her breasts with her slender arms, but not out of shame, based on her smile.
As a resident of Las Vegas, I am uniquely positioned to decide which label is more accurate. And I can tell you that the Sears version is more correct.
Not because there are lots of gregarious topless showgirls roaming the casinos of Sin City. There arenʼt. Except for street buskers, the showgirls are all gone. Itʼs Miss Atari who is wrong. The notion of Vegas casinos being populated by well-dressed, glamorous, interesting people died in the late 1980ʼs. If she was done up in crop-top football jersey with a tattooed beer belly hanging over pajama bottoms and Crocs, toting a three-foot-long empty plastic beverage container and a grudge against Southwest Airlines, then she would fit right in.
But graceful white evening dress and statement jewelry? This isnʼt Monaco.
As I write this, I can hear the announcers at the baseball stadium a block away announcing the starting lineup. Itʼs the Las Vegas Aviators against the Sacramento River Cats. I hope thatʼs a fish, since generally speaking, cats and rivers get along like hydrogen bombs and Pacific atolls.
A big league baseball team, the Oakland Aʼs, was here all week inspecting the stadium and the city and the showgirls. Since Las Vegas stole Oaklandʼs football team, it seems natural to try to steal its baseball team, as well. The move would happen before Las Vegas could built a real stadium, so until one can be erected, the Aʼs would play… wait for it… a block away from me. What could possibly go wrong?
The atmosphere is having a nice little hissy fit in Las Vegas right now. A touch of rain about an hour ago, and now a windstorm. More interestingly, we had some thunder. We hardly ever get thunder here, because with the effort involved in getting over the mountains, thereʼs usually not enough energy for lightning. Itʼs the same story in Seattle.
People talk about all the rain in Seattle, but itʼs almost always a very calm, gentle rain. What the Navajos call “female rain.” I donʼt know what the Quileute in La Push, Washington call it. But when we visited, Darcie took a smooth rock home from the beach, and didnʼt find out later that youʼre not supposed to do that. We ended up having all kinds of bad luck right after that. Go figure.
Thereʼs a Door Dash guy trying to deliver something soggy and greasy to my neighbor, and the wind just made off with his big red bag. Run, Dasher, run!
A friend of mine is mad at me because I wouldn't go have dinner with him when he was in town last week. Too bad, the COVID positivity rate in Vegas is through the roof. Iʼm not going to just hang out in a casino like nothing is wrong.
His entire family had it and recovered, so he thinks it's OK to take everyone to Vegas for his daughter's birthday. In his mind, if he's safe, that's all that matters.
Never mind the maids, bartenders, airline staff, janitors, and everyone else that has to risk their lives so he can have a good time. He should know better, because he's a scientist. Then again, as I've learned getting older, being smart at one thing doesn't make you smart at everything.
I know a doctor in Chicago who thinks drinking his own pee will help him live forever. I know a TV anchor in Phoenix who doesn't believe in dinosaurs. Not as a religious thing. They just don't fit into the way her brain works. My old neighbor is an international airline pilot, and doesn't believe COVID is real.
I guess everyone is crazy in their own way. I wonder what my major malfunction is.
There were clouds in the sky this morning, so we had a nice sunrise. Iʼd forgotten that this area can have some pretty nice sunrises, but you need clouds to make them happen.
We even got what I call a "double sunrise" — the sun coming up turns the clouds over Arizona all pinky-orange, and when it starts to crest the eastern mountains, it lights up the clouds over California, too, so thereʼs a nice sunrise no matter in what direction you look.
On clear mornings, we get what I call a "false sunrise," which is when the sunʼs rays bounce off the bronze glass of the casino towers and make it look like the sun is rising in the west.
Most people here never see the sunrise, or the sunset. The houses have few windows, and people generally keep their shades drawn at all times. They might as well live in a steel shipping container.
Darcie and I enjoy the sun and the sky and let in all the light we can. Or at least all the light the windows will allow. They have several layers of coatings on them to keep the heat out, and it kills most of the color, too. This morningʼs sunrise was blood red in plain air from the balcony, orange from the dining room windows, and just a bland yellow from the library.
When I was starting on my career path in my 20ʼs, I made sure I went into a field that would keep me from spending all day locked in an office like my parents were. I guess I screwed that one up.
I predict that when we donʼt have to wear masks anymore, women will go nuts wearing bold lipstick colors just because they can. Equip your wife appropriately before the rush starts.
We got a notice from the health department that someone in the apartment complex has COVID, but it canʼt tell us who. The next day there was an article in the newspaper that a bunch of the players for the local NHL team have it, too. Some of the players live in this apartment complex because weʼre next door to the practice arena. Which was shut down because of the ʼrona on the same day as the newspaper article.
It doesnʼt take a rocket surgeon to add 1 and 1 and get eleven.
According to todayʼs paper, you can now crush a car, operate heavy machinery, shoot a machine gun, detonate explosives, drive a monster truck, launch flaming arrows, blast flame-throwers, and drink yourself into a stupor all in one place. Because doing all those separately was too much work.
Oh, and thereʼs a brothel on the other side of the ridge.
I can only assume this started with someone from Texas saying, “Yʼknow, thereʼs just too many rules around here.”
Las Vegas is a different place since things have opened up a bit. Because the hotel rates have dropped so much, itʼs brought in the worst people. This is something that Darcie has known from day one, but itʼs only hitting the front pages of the local newspapers now.
Rooms that used to be $675 a night are now $100 or less. Itʼs gotten so bad that the head of Wynn Resorts went public saying that her regular customers are afraid to come to Las Vegas now. She says that some who have come to town have been afraid to leave their rooms, and wonʼt ever return.
Itʼs simply unprecedented for the head of a resort company to say anything bad about the industry, or its guests. But things are pretty bad out there now.
I went to the supermarket yesterday. I think itʼs the first time since April.
It looks like theyʼre skipping Halloween this year. There was just one small Halloween display. No aisle dedicated to candy and decorations and such. Pumpkins are only five bucks. I donʼt think Iʼve ever seen a pumpkin for under $15 here. Workers were putting together Thanksgiving and Christmas displays, but those, too, looked small. It seems like the supermarkets are mostly skipping all of the holidays this year.
Maybe because hardly anyone goes to the store anymore. It was almost vacant when I went there on Friday at 6pm. Still, even with no customers, there were still large gaps in the stock. The toilet paper aisle is about ⅓ full, which is an improvement. Still no cleaning supplies, though. Half the deli is empty. No salami or corned beef to be found anywhere, so I had to settle for pastrami. Pasta and soup sections were mostly empty. So were some other sections that I couldnʼt identify because they were not only devoid of product, the store didnʼt even bother to put up price tags.
Las Vegas locked down is a weird place. With no humans on The Strip, the city is being taken over by waterfowl.
Local media has been showing photos and video of geese and ducks all over the casinos. The theory is that they're attracted by the people-less fountains. Last week, I saw some video of a family of ducks that have made a home in one of the revolving doors of The Bellagio.
The good thing about the plague is that itʼs made things quiet again.
When I first moved to this block, almost all of the homes were military households; mostly Air Force and Nevada National Security Site people (mathematicians, nuclear physicists). Couples, no kids. It was always so silent around here, and I would sit on my bench on the front stoop and read my newspapers in peace.
Then last year all of the military households were relocated en masse. New people moved in. An architect family. A massage therapist family. A guy running some kind of fleaBay business out of his garage. A family from New York via Malawi, Frankfurt, and Copenhagen. Ordinary people and many many kids.
As recently as last weekend, the block was alive after 3pm and on weekends. The guy tinkering on his car. The knot of ladies and their fashion accessory dogs. The guy flying model airplanes and home-made drones at the end of the street. Mexican polka music wafting through the palm trees. And about 20 children running, jumping, throwing things, and playing at murdering one another. Noise. Noise Noise.
Now everyone is afraid to go outside. The block is silent. Once again, the block belongs to me, my newspapers, and my coffee.
One of the things I miss about not working in the office anymore is that I canʼt squeeze in a quick lunchtime mass anymore.
I sometimes used to go to the noon mass at Guardian Angel Cathedral, but it wasnʼt exactly a contemplative atmosphere. Standing room only, and half of it tourists. Thereʼs a special Catholic church just for the tourists, paid for by the casinos, but the tourists still end up at Guardian Angel. I guess being a cathedral, itʼs got more gravity.
I see stories in the media all the time saying that church is dying, but I canʼt help but think this is just a cliché, and not based on facts. Yes, churches in Chicago are closing all the time, but thatʼs because of bad decisions made by the archdiocese in the early 1900ʼs.
Because the various immigrant groups in Chicago couldnʼt get along, instead of having a church for each neighborhood, each neighborhood was given several churches — one for each ethnicity/nationality/community. So, Bridgeport, for example, had a bunch of Catholic churches: one for Germans, one for Poles, one for Lithuanians, one for Irish. But now that everyone gets along, all those churches arenʼt needed, so theyʼre constantly consolidating. The church I went to in Chicago (Assumption) was an Italian church, formed because Italians in that area of town werenʼt welcome at what is now Old Saint Patrickʼs Church.
Here in Las Vegas, and most of the southwest, there simply arenʼt enough Catholic churches for the number of people who want to use them. I go to Saint Elizabeth either for the 4pm Saturday, or the 6am on Sunday, and both times it is absolutely packed. This is a church with a capacity of at least 750, which to me seems pretty big. Iʼve heard from a person I know in Ohio who says itʼs the same situation there.
There are Roman Catholic congregations here that meet in the lyceum of the Lutheran high school down the street, for lack of space. We had a similar situation in Seattle, where the noon mass at the cathedral was so packed that there was another Catholic mass down the street at the Unitarian church.
I feel bad for the people who live in small towns around here. Amargosa Valley and Pioche are 250 miles apart, and have to share a priest, so they only get a single mass every other week. Other towns only get mass once a month. Because of this, we have special dispensation from the Archdiocese of San Francisco to watch mass on TV. The church I go to records a mass on Thursdays that is broadcast state-wide Sunday morning. Thereʼs no communion, naturally, but it still counts somehow.