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Posted by on Jan 26, 2018 in Blog, Essays, Personal | 0 comments

My Accidental Moment of Happiness



Much of my life has been dedicated to selfish pursuits.

Gambling.  Making money.  Pursuing opportunity.  Drinking fine wine.  Enjoying leisure.

I don’t like to admit this, but it’s true.

Age and wisdom aren’t necessarily linked.  There are no guarantees that as one gets further from the beginning and closer to the end some great enlightenment awaits us with open arms.  But I do believe compassion is an evolutionary by-product of getting older.

I was lucky to marry someone better than myself 26 years ago.  She made me do things I initially didn’t want to do and didn’t like to do.  Over time, I came to not only appreciate these forced distractions.  I began to value them as an absolute necessity.

Charity isn’t something I’ve written much about.  I don’t believe giving of either one’s time or money should be publicized by those who do good deeds.  Calling attention to oneself for volunteering or making a donation strikes me as a tainted benevolence.  Yes, it’s a good thing.  But the motives are suspect.  I realize not everyone will agree with me and that spotlighting acts of kindness can promote even more giving.  I totally get that.

With that disclaimer, I’ll share two deeds with you now — one big and one small.

The bigger act of charity was entirely Marieta’s idea.  It was an accident, really.  I can’t elaborate too much on the particulars because there are some risks.  If too many details were divulged on social media, I could kill the golden goose of charity.  So, I will be intentionally vague for reasons hopefully understood.

Last week, Marieta and I delivered our 150th shipment of produce (fruits and vegetables) to those less fortunate here in Las Vegas.  Sometime in 2012, Marieta established a connection with a supplier who was about to throw out boxes filled with “old” food — like carrots, corn, potatoes, celery, etc. — which were about to expire.  By law, they had to trash the stuff before its expiration dates.  Rather than toss away perfectly healthy food, Marieta went out of her way to establish a network of contacts which got the fruits and vegetables to a countless number of needy families, including a local shelter.  About once a week, we deliver 6-10 boxes to various people who do good work for hungry people.  Sometimes, the people come to our house and pick the boxes up after Marieta has gathered them.  This isn’t a sacrifice for me.  Marieta does all the work.

Before anyone accuses me of false modesty, let me make it clear my generosity has its limitations.  A few years ago, I wrote about my dear friends Linda Johnson and Jan Fisher and the sacrifices they make during the holidays.  Every Christmas morning, going back many consecutive years, Linda and Jan drive downtown and set up a table where they give away boxes of clothing to homeless people.  They arrive at 6 am.  This past Christmas, it was 34 degrees outside at that hour.  My reaction is — I love Linda  and Jan and love what they do.  But I’d rather be at home in a warm bed.  Call me a dog.

I tell this story about giving away the boxes of food because it happened entirely by accident.  We didn’t wake up one day and decide to start helping people.  It kinda’ just happened.

Here’s a picture of the back of the car I took some time ago which shows the typical “shipment.”



The smaller act of charity was also an accident.  Here’s what happened.

I woke up yesterday morning and was greeted by one of those annoying pop ups on Facebook which asked me if I wanted to set up something called a “birthday fundraiser.”

I almost deleted this on the spot but then got to thinking.  Birthdays don’t thrill me (not with #56 approaching).  I don’t send birthday greetings to anyone.  It’s just another day to me.  I don’t care.

However, every February 6th — I receive hundreds of birthday wishes, all by friends and family and associates who mean well.  I do appreciate these kind thoughts.  I really do.  I just don’t fancy the ritual and routine of it all.  If I could delete this invasion of privacy, I probably would.

So, I decided to use the Facebook prompt and set up a “fundraiser.”  I presumed that in lieu of the usual birthday balloons which kinda’ scream — “hey, look at me!” — instead all that attention would go to the charity I picked.

I’m a cynic.  I’ve bashed countless “charities.”  I am suspicious by nature.  But another accident happened to me about 15 years ago while I was working a major poker event in Tunica, near Memphis.  I got to visit the local St. Jude Children’s Hospital.  That was a life changing experience that brings a tear to my eye as I write this sentence constructed upon that faint memory of a cold January 2001 day.  I learned that everything at St. Jude is free.  The children are given every available treatment.  The families are even housed free of charge.  Meals are provided.  This was the charity founded by the great entertainer Danny Thomas, now chaired by his daughter, Marlo Thomas (best known as “That Girl!”).  I don’t believe in god.  I don’t believe in saints.  But I believe St. Jude does god-like miracles for people who could sure use a miracle.

That’s why I picked St. Jude.  [Note:  Contrary to its name and the late Danny Thomas’ strong Catholic faith, St. Jude is not affiliated with any religious organization.]

So, I hit the “approve” button and expected the post to appear on February 6th.

Well, of course it hit the page instantly.

Annoyed by this, I tried to go back and delete it.  How ridiculous this all seemed.  Me posting a request for money nearly two weeks before my birthday.  I was mad, actually.

Then, before I could delete the page, I noticed someone had already hit the link and sent in $20.  John W. L. Berry might not know it, but his quick reflexes was another “accident” of good fortune.  Oh well, cat’s out of the bag.  They are already donating.  What have I done?


I set the fundraising bar modestly low.  Not wanting to making some major campaign out of this, I figured a couple of hundred dollars would be a nice nest egg of a donation — each and every penny going straight to St. Jude.  Well, it’s been 24 hours now, and so far 14 nice people have made a donation.  Here’s the very thoughtful people who sent a donation in to St. Jude:

Earl Burton, Ken Kubey, Marissa Chien, Larry Greenfield, Tom Booker, Michael Hunter, Matthew Moring, John W.L. Berry, John Butremovic, Bruce Frank, Dave Tuley, Jennifer Winter, Brad Willis, and Ross Poppel

Thank you.

The $200 fundraising goal was obliterated within the first hour.  Now, another 11 days remain to raise a few extra dollars.  Every little bit counts.  See the link to the “accidental” Facebook page below.

This all got me to thinking about what the sum of $200 raised means to just one family at St. Jude.  It likely means housing and feeding them for a day, with a little left over to spare.  Just a day.  It’s small.  But’s it big.

Sure, we need more big acts of charity.  But we also need small acts of charity, which are easier and can be done with little or no sacrifice.  A parting thought — if there are enough small acts, it can even become a big act.

Here’s a link to the the accidental Facebook page I created should you wish to give a small donation to this wonderful charity that helps so many children and their families.  CLICK HERE


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Posted by on Dec 13, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Personal | 3 comments

All Minds Are Not Created Equal



“Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” 

— Pablo Picasso


I visited my local library yesterday.

Libraries aren’t as popular as they used to be.  That’s because the Internet has domineered the ways we get information.  Smartphones provide instant access to more knowledge than any collection of books.  Now, some people are saying there’s no need for libraries anymore.

I disagree.

Libraries are so much more than just a place to read.  This past week, my local library, the West Sahara branch in Las Vegas, offered classes for guitar instruction, yoga, meditation, language lessons, dance, acting, writing, moviemaking, winter gardening, and even how to buy your first house.  That’s just for starters.  My local library also hosted multiple music recitals, emotional support groups, travel narratives, book and movie discussion clubs, exercise for seniors, and several other interesting activities that enrich people’s lives.  The possibilities of discovery remain endless.  If something’s not on your interest list, anyone in the community is welcome to come in and start their club or host an event.

I’m a big believer in libraries.  They’re a lifeline.  They reflect the best of us.  They educate us.  They inspire us.  In a smothering checkerboard of banks, fast-food joints, and shopping malls, which is pretty much what all cities have become, libraries remain an oasis where curiosities can be explored.  I think we need more safe places where people can meet and talk and learn and get to know each other.  We need more bonds between us and fewer isolation chambers.

That’s what libraries are for.  That’s what libraries do.  Libraries bring people together.



Something I saw yesterday reinforced this strong belief in libraries.  It gave me pause to recognize the vital role libraries play in the lives of so many people.  I’d like to share this story with you.

Inside most branch libraries here in Las Vegas are small art galleries.  They’re nothing fancy.  The displays change about once a month.  In the past, I’ve seen galleries with paintings, sculptures, photography, and other works of art.  Most of the displays were created by local artists.  Just about all of them are amateurs.

I nearly passed the display by without even noticing it.  But something caught my attention and enticed my curiosity to step inside and explore.  Paintings were displayed upon the walls.  There were close to 100 paintings in all.  No one was there.  The room was empty, except for the paintings, and me.

One by one, I gazed at the artworks.  Some made more of an impression than others.  But all were interesting and worth thinking about for at least a few moments.  Each painting represented someone’s time and effort.  Each painting also revealed something within the artist’s emotions that was important enough it needed to be shared.  Artists must not only feel what they create.  They must create what they feel.

After looking at a dozen or so paintings, something struck me.  I hadn’t given much thought to the artists nor read about them in the small placards affixed to each painting because they were all local people.  They weren’t famous.  But then and there I learned they shared something more in common than just being residents of Las Vegas and being amateur artists.

Here’s where you get to take a short test.  Let’s see if you can figure out what exactly each of these artists and artworks has in common.  I’ve posted five images (one at the top of this article, and four more below).  Take a guess and see if you recognize common bond of these talented artists who created these pictures:






I doubt many of you will get the correct answer.  So, let me fill you in:

Each of these paintings was created by someone with a mental disability and/or a learning disorder.

Now, please go back and look at them again.

For those burdened with mental challenges, daily activities must be difficult, if not impossible.  I can’t even imagine.  Yet, while some disabilities are plainly obvious, when given an opportunity to express oneself artistically, I doubt anyone can tell any difference between someone who’s “normal” versus artists who are intellectually challenged.  We all have emotions.  We all have feelings.  We all have needs to share.  Fortunately, there’s a place where these small gifts can be seen and enjoyed.

Each of the paintings on display at my local library was created by someone with a special need.  Many were painted by teens, some even by children.  Looking at them, we are reminded art has no minimums nor maximums, no boundaries, and no limitations — other than what the mind can conceive.

I’m lucky to have had this accidental experience.  Thanks to a local library, I was able to let my curiosity lead me to a new discovery.

We need libraries.  We need art.  We need each other.



To learn more about what’s happening at local Las Vegas libraries, please visit:  LVCCLD

To learn more about the wonderful work done by Opportunity Village and the many volunteers, please visit:  OPPORTUNITY VILLAGE


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Posted by on Dec 11, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Personal | 0 comments

My Christmas Card Ten Commandments



‘Tis the Season to be Folly:  Christmas Cards for Grinches


Earlier this week, we received our first Christmas card of the holiday season.

We get lots of cards every year because we’re lucky to know so many friends and insurance agents.  Nothing tingles me with Christmas cheer more than opening a card heralding “Peace on Earth” while soliciting an appointment to update my life insurance policy.

On the bright side, in another card that arrived this week — I got a 20-percent off coupon to change the oil on the Volvo, which was supposed to be done 8,000 miles ago.

Since this is the season for giving, allow me to me strike a preemptive bell and express my most sincere gratitude to all who will send a Christmas card this year, or as the politically correct would say — a “Holiday Card.”


It might surprise many to know that I celebrate the Christmas season with joy.  Mid-December means the playoffs are about to begin.  I love opening up presents, everything except for the stale cheeseball from the Omaha Steaks catalog someone in my family sends every year that hits the trash can the instant I open the box.  Gee, I sure wish Aunt Rosemary would send that fucking cheeseball just one week earlier.  That way I could re-gift it to someone I can’t stand.

See, I do understand the true meaning of Christmas.

What follows is my “Ten Commandments” for those who partake in the annual tradition of sending me a Christmas card.  Following these rules will greatly enhance my enjoyment of the holiday season.  So, please read, take notes, and follow carefully:

[1]  Mail your Christmas cards ON TIME — Try and get your cards to me by mid-December, if possible.  If it’s not in my mailbox by around December 15th, chances are the card will end up buried in a pile of unopened junk mail, lost in a blizzard of overdue notices from bill collectors threatening legal action.  I want to enjoy your card (especially if there’s a gift).  So, snap into shape and get it to me on time!

[2]  Flag your Christmas card if it contains CASH — If you’ve placed currency inside, please write a huge dollar sign ($) on the outside of the envelope so I can flag it, open it up, and use the money immediately.  Note that these coveted cards receive a top priority.  So, if you really want to make a positive impression and show your love, cash in strongly encouraged.  I also accept checks.

[3]  Send me a gift certificate I CAN USE — If you buy me a gift certificate, make damn certain it’s for somewhere I shop.  Bookstores are good.  Liquor stores are even better.  A debit Visa card with a generous credit line works best.  I also accept department store gift certificates (anything Macy’s-grade, or above).  But remember — nothing says “Happy Holidays” with more sincerity and more love than cash.

[4]  Religious cards ARE permissible — I promise to display your godly card prominently above my fireplace, provided your tithing of spirit is accompanied by an offering.  Read your scripture.  ‘Tis better to give than to receive.  Please give.  Generously.  Jesus will reward you.

[5]  ELVES are creepy — Anything with an elf on it gets trashed, that is — after I pilfer the inside of the envelope for money, first.  I don’t do elves or munchkins or other cutesy freaky bullshit like that.  Elves have no business on my mantel next to the Baby Jesus or Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer cards.  That’s sacrilegious.

[6]  Be SURE to include your return address — That way, if I’m really impressed with your offering, I can rush out to a Dollar Store and quickly buy you something that looks like a lot of forethought went into the purchase.  But don’t expect me to mail it from the Post Office.  I don’t like to stand in long lines.  I’ll hold your gift until the next time I see you in Las Vegas.  That’s okay, right?  On second thought, skip your return address.  That gives me a convenient excuse.

[7]  Foreigners hold a SPECIAL place in my heart — If you’re from a foreign country, I really appreciate your Christmas card, which probably cost another 35-cents to mail across the ocean.  Wow, what a sacrifice.  However, please note that there’s some reciprocal chance the card I sent you crisscrossed in the mail and accidentally got “lost.”  Getting jacked for extra postage is one thing.  But I’m sure as shit on snow not standing in a long line at the Post Office to mail a letter to Romania.  Remember, you’re in my thoughts.  That’s what really counts.

[8]  I don’t want to read your LIFE STORY — Some of you will send me one of those nice notes, a snoozefest recap of what you’ve been doing over the past year.  How nice.  But stick to the highlights, okay?  I can’t wade the second paragraph without balling my eyes out when I read your dog died last March.  Spare me, please.  If you climbed Mount Everest, walked on the Moon, won an Oscar, or hit the Powerball Jackpot — pray do tell me about it.  This is especially true if you’re a distant relative, in which case I really have been really meaning to call you all these decades years.  If you’re suddenly rich, nevermind the holiday season — I really would like to talk to you as soon as possible.  In fact, it’s urgent.

[9]  Make sure I can READ your handwriting — Don’t bother writing anything personal other than signing your name.  That’s because most of the time I can’t read your handwriting anyways.  As far as I’m concerned, the hacks who write the nice sayings printed inside Hallmark Cards are the professionals.  So, leave it up to them.  I’m sure the contract temp with no health benefits shackled to the drudgery of working inside a cubicle in a suburban Kansas City industrial park knows precisely what’s on your mind when he creates that catchy epistle about “world peace.”  Call me a cynic, but I can’t even get peace in my own family.

[10]  If you receive a card from me, expect it will arrive well AFTER Christmas Day — I’m a very thoughtful person.  I figure that if I send out my cards out in time, they will be forgotten amidst all the other cards you receive.  I want to truly stand out.  I want to make an impression. So, mine will arrive late, as a surprise.  Like an encore at a show.  Besides, all the boxes of Christmas cards are 50 percent off after December 25th.

Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Power to the People, Give Peace and Chance, and Happy New Year!



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Posted by on Nov 13, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Personal, Sports Betting | 5 comments

My Dinner with Fabio Coppola (Restaurant Review: Roma Deli)



Roma Deli has been a centerpiece for traditional Italian food for as long as I’ve lived in Las Vegas.

Roma has also weathered some significant changes during this past year.  It was recently purchased by new ownership.  When a restaurant is doing just fine, as was the case before with Roma, making changes is not necessarily a good thing.  An “Under New Management”  sign is often a red flag that something’s wrong, or things are about to go downhill soon.  Sadly, when most decent restaurants are sold off as prey, new owners step-in and reduce quality in order to cut costs.  Then, they wonder why they’re empty a few months later.

I’d visited Roma perhaps 60-70 times over the past decade (ten years multiplied by an average of one visit about every two months = 60).  Every previous meal either met or exceeded my expectations.  Four dozen visits — not once did I ever leave disappointed.  Sure, the old-world decor, with tile floors and rickety chairs, was spartan.  The inside looked more like a local market than a full-fledged restaurant.  But service was always reliable and the food consistently delivered on quality, taste, value, and authenticity.

Why mess with success?  The reset button wasn’t necessary.

The identity of Roma’s new ownership wasn’t exactly a mystery.  In fact, I know the three primary investors quite well.  Fabio Coppola, Max Pescatori, and Todd Brunson (all well-known Las Vegas poker pros) combined their bankrolls and purchased a controlling interest in the flagship store located a few blocks east of the Jones-Spring Mountain intersection, on the edge of what’s known loosely as Chinatown.  There’s another Roma Deli, at Sahara and Durango which remains under old management (Note:  It’s also very good).

I have an equal dose affection and respect for Coppola, Pescatori, and Brunson.  But running a successful restaurant isn’t like pulling off a $10,000 bluff at the poker table.  It requires a completely different skill set so rarefied that about 85 percent of all new restaurants close within three years.  To be frank, I wasn’t sure what to expect the next time I visited “Roma Deli 2.0.”

Intentionally, I skipped numerous invitations to dine at Roma Deli over the past six months, offered by more than a dozen friends and associates.  I preferred to re-acquaint myself with this old culinary friend at the right time, with the proper host.  Fabio Coppola’s dinner invitation to join him on a Friday night became the perfect storm of excitement and expectation.



If you want to really know someone, take them out to dinner.

Better yet, have them take you to dinner.  It’s cheaper.  Especially when your gracious host is the owner of the place.

The first major difference I noticed about Roma Deli from previous visits was the decor had been vastly updated.  A wooden floor had replaced the dingy old tile.  Tabletops were now glass.  The garden room had expanded, and for the first time, outdoor seating was available.  Buzzing refrigerators along the walls had been replaced by half booths and tasteful Italian-themed artwork.  RTV playing non-stop on televisions blasting Italian programming that only the staff watched was tuned to ESPN.  The new Roma looked much classier and cozier.  Roma also expanded from serving only wine and beer to a full-service bar.

Fabio reserved the best table in the house for us, located next to a well-illuminated deli counter steps away from a busy kitchen.  Dinner began with a hearty Barbaresco wine, from Italy.  Always one to display some fanfare, Fabio insisted the wine be decanted first, so as to breath and release the full bouquet of flavors.

My disdain for Italian reds is widely known.  Even Fabio knew this, as a regular reader.  But a proper dinner guest always shackles his personal biases and respects the host and his wishes.  When in Roma, err make that “when in Roma” deference to authority is the norm.  Well, what a marvelous discovery the Barbaresco turned out to be (particularly after about 30 minutes decanted).

Over the course of three hours of conversation, I learned the following things about my host, Fabio:

(1)  Fabio was born in Rimini on Italy’s east coast.  But he has three Italian hometowns — Rimini, Rome, and Naples.  He lived in all three cities as a child before immigrating to the United States.

(2)  Fabio has never considered himself a full-time poker pro with lofty aspirations of fame and fortune.  Rather, he’s used poker to earn extra money and meet lots of interesting people.  Some of those people, including Max and Todd, became business associates.

(3)  Fabio conveyed that voted for Donald Trump, but also expressed objections to many of his actions and policies.  Oddly enough, this past year Fabio’s first choice for president was Bernie Sanders.  Reflecting a paternalistic view of politics which is quite common among native-born Italians (based on my experiences), Fabio declared, “What America really needs right now is a grandfather everyone can look up to….someone to take care of a large family with a lot of internal arguments and conflict.  That’s the way I see it.”

(4)  Sometime soon, Fabio expects to open up a chain of Italian coffee shops around Las Vegas, serving genuine pastries and lunch fare.  He’s already picked out a few locations.

(5)  One of the most interesting topics of our detailed discussion was a debate about having children.  Most manly conversations don’t include this topic (I don’t recall ever discussing this subject before).  However, given that I’m now age 55 and Fabio is 42, he was innately curious to know from someone older and who’s been married many years about having children.  He wanted to know if I/we had regrets about deciding not to do this.  I shared my perspectives with him (which will remain private for now).  He noted that when he asked people the same question about having kids — when they were able to speak honestly — the majority stated they would have chosen instead NOT to have children.  This was perhaps the most interesting topic of the night, aside from the wine and dinner.

Update:  Oh one more thing, I almost forgot!  Fabio is a distant relative of famed movie director Francis Ford Coppola, who shares the same last name.



One of the many delights of my dining experience was meeting Leo, now the head chef at Roma.  Leo came out of the kitchen and spent considerable time with us.  I learned that Leo had previously been the chef at the famed “1212” restaurant in Santa Monica (Los Angeles).  Fabio and the Roma Deli ownership team coaxed him into moving to Las Vegas and trying a new culinary venture.

Smart move.

The staple of all Italian cooking is the house sauce.  It’s the foundation.  Without a good sauce, everything else crumbles.  If the house tomato sauce misses, nothing else can make up for the disappointment.  Every Italian restaurant (and chef’s) sauce is different.  In a sense, a sauce is like wine.  No two are the same.

I’m outraged by how bad (and mostly bland) most house sauces are at many Italian restaurants, not just in Las Vegas but all over the country.  It’s like these fake Italian places open up a giant can of Hunt’s Tomato Sauce and presto!  That’s it.  I can’t fathom how some Italian restaurants take any pride in what they’re doing.  This is an abominable culinary crisis and gives Italian cooking a bad name.  By the way, don’t even get me started on how many lousy overrated Italian restaurants serving bland sauce exist in the phony meccas of Italian cooking like New York and Philadelphia.  I won’t go there.  A different topic and rant for another day.

Roma gets it right.  It serves a house sauce that’s almost blood orange in color, with the perfect consistency and taste.  Not too acidy (the sure sign of a cheap sauce) but rather filled with a progression of savory tastes depending on the pairing.

In the past, I’ve tried about two-thirds of Roma’s menu choices, which are quite extensive.  On this night, I enjoyed two appetizers (antipasti plate — with sauteed red peppers, fresh eggplant, black olives, sliced prosciutto, and an assortment of cheeses) and some delicious arancini (best described as stuffed rice balls with ground beef).

Determined to continue my flirtation with trying to go vegetarian (I eat meat only a few times a week — trying slowly to phase out animal products from my diet), I ordered a specialty primavera item that was custom made just for me.  I’d had this garlic/broccoli/olive oil/capellini dish made al dente by the cook many times previously, and Leo was happy to tackle the latest challenge of pleasing Las Vegas’ most demanding amateur reviewer.

My custom dish was outstanding.  Roma is willing to make any dish upon request.  Try that next time you dine at Olive Garden.  Carnevino sure won’t do that.  This is why I love places like Roma.

My “going vegetarian” aspirations were sabotaged when Fabio totally surprised me with our main course, which I learned was to be shared.  A heaping stack of fresh lamb chops, perfectly seasoned and scrumptious, were put on display in the center of our table.  I temporarily ditched the vegan experiment and morphed into a caveman beast, clutching the rib of a dead animal in my right hand as I licked juicy meat like a starving wolf in the wild.

The lamb chops were accompanied by a platter of sliced whole potatoes, perfectly sauteed in butter.  Snappy carrots braised in olive oil topped with a dash of parsley minimally redeemed my good standing as a pseudo-vegetarian.  Question:  If I eat double the carrots, is all forgiven about me devouring the lamb?

Speaking of butter, this is another of my odd proclivities.  Any (northern) Italian restaurant that doesn’t serve real butter with bread should be shut down and burned to the ground.  I’m all for the faux-olive oil and vinegar thing you now see so frequently.  But any real Italian place serving primarily American clientele must make butter an easy option.  Real butter.  Not shit margarine.  And not olive oil pouring college students with accents from Indiana.

Without asking, Roma served up piping hot bread, topped with a dusting of flour, like it had come out of the oven five minutes earlier.  Bread was served in a basket wrapped in a white tablecloth.  And the butter.  La vita e bella.  Life is beautiful.

Dinner was topped off with a slice of fresh homemade ricotta cheesecake, accompanied by shots of double expresso.  Boring predictable cheesecake is a plentiful dime a dozen in this town, but fresh ricotta is much a rarer find.  Consistent with an extensive in-house bakery that displays an assortment of pastries, cakes, and cookies (the house specialty), Roma nailed the dessert to perfection.



Fabio told me one of the things he respects most about my writings is the brutal honesty I usually deliver.

He’s about to get more of that now.

If there’s one serious concern I have with Roma, it’s the pricing which is slightly higher than most off-the-Strip Italian-themed restaurants.  Yes, I know better-quality ingredients and talented kitchen staff costs money.  The prices must be higher.  But I worry this could inhibit growing a successful business in a fickle city that’s highly-competitive when it comes to restaurants, especially with so many ex-pat Italians and their resident descendants.

Then again, Roma is not going for the crowd that thinks Olive Garden is real Italian food.  At Roma, most pasta dishes are priced close to $20.  The higher-end steaks and cuts range from $30-40.  Formal dining joints with white tablecloths can get away with charging high prices.  But Roma remains a neighborhood deli, and despite all the upgrades and best intentions remains a deli, and so one minor criticism some could have upon a quick inspection of the menu are the prices.  A decent meal here for two, when done right, will run about $100.  To be fair, Roma also offers lunch specials which are much cheaper and still just as good.

Judging by the crowds I witnessed, Roma is doing just fine though — and for the time being perhaps my concerns with the pricing are in the minority  I’m thrilled to be wrong about this.  Fabio stated he’s trying to expand his night business and might soon introduce a late-night happy hour (reverse happy hour) with specials after a certain hour.  This is all in the works.  Las Vegas could certainly use a great late-night restaurant that isn’t Chinese or a coffee shop.

Roma appears to be trying to compete with Nora’s which is nearby and probably the best-known upscale Italian restaurant on the west side.  Nora’s offers a much fancier atmosphere.  But the service is far better at Roma.  Based on my visits to both, Roma’s food is better, also.

When making comparisons, Roma is far superior in value than any of the outrageously expensive and overrated so-called “Italian restaurants” tempting tourists on The Strip, most notably the abomination known as Carnevino anchored at the Venetian.  Why anyone would subject themselves to snooty servers, bastardized Italian fare, crowds of conventioneers, and double the rip-off prices is totally beyond me.  Some advice:  Skip the likes of Carnevino, and try out a real authentic family-owned business run by hands-on people who care about their food — and that’s Roma Deli.

My conclusion:  Roma Deli is one of the very few Italian restaurants I’ve visited which successfully bridges both northern and traditional southern fare, blended into the farm-to-table techniques of Tuscany, combined with the culinary sophistication of Rome.  Add a market with ample desserts, meats, and cheeses, with a full bar, and that makes for the perfect refuge.

Thanks, Fabio.  The food was surpassed only by the host and company.

A final word:  At dinner, we both did many movie impersonations.  This is me doing my best/worst Anthony Hopkins playing Hannibal Lecter from “Silence of the Lambs.”

“Ah, Clarice….a census taker once tried to test me.  I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.  Sssss….ssssss…..sssssss.”





Writer’s Note:  During this visit, I did not take notes.  Fabio was not expecting me to write a restaurant review.  I think most of the details here are correct and will update any errors pointed out to me.

Correction:  An earlier version of this article used the word “vegan.”  This has been corrected to “vegetarian.”

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Posted by on Oct 24, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Personal, Politics | 4 comments

When Terms of Endearment Get Politically Incorrect



A recent Facebook discussion sparked curiosity and heightened my awareness about the ways we commonly address each other in public.

My discovery came as a surprise.  The lesson I learned was this:  I’m guilty of making spurious assumptions about what’s acceptable in the ways I address other people.

This self-reflection began yesterday when Terrell Johnson, a Facebook friend, posted the following message:



I thought about this post for a while.  I admit being guilty of the act described by Mr. Johnson as “dumb weird.”  Yes, I’ve called Black males “brother” plenty of times, even when I didn’t know them and I wasn’t entitled to that instant salutation of familiarity.  Of course, I didn’t mean anything harmful by it.  But, the salutation remains indomitably tinged with presumptions based on race.

“Hey, brother — how’s it going?”

Sounds innocent, enough.  But I’d probably never say it to a White guy.  Only a Black man.  That makes it racial — and inappropriate.

“Man” is another common term that’s been around for decades.  “Man” has been spoken across racial lines for as long as I’ve been alive.  Before 1960’s counterculture co-opted “man” as common slang between rockers and hippies, the term was deeply rooted in Black male self-empowerment.  It was even a quiet means of protest.  Indeed, “man” was the typical greeting Black jazz musicians often used to address each other during the Klan-clawed 1920’s when most of America was undergoing an ugly resurgence of bigotry and mass discrimination.  In many places, Black men, including old Black men who deserved respect were instead still called “boy” — often straight to their faces.  Millions of Black men were forced to stand there and swallow the degradation because to do otherwise would have been life-threatening.  And so, “man” became a small yet significant means of defiance against this cultural belittlement.

“Hey, man.”

I still use “man” quite frequently.  It’s just a common figure of speech for those who came of age during a certain era.  You might say it’s part of our linguistic DNA.  I see no reason to stop using “man,” because no one is offended and there are no racial connotations to its usage.

Meanwhile, younger people have created their own expressive lingo, using common salutations like “dude.”  Call it a “get off my lawn” seizure, but I don’t like this one bit.  Hey, man —  I’m not a “dude.”  No one calls me “dude.”  If I offended easily, I’d take issue if someone whom I did not know addressed me in that way, unless, of course, I was somehow cast in the movie remake of “The Big Lebowski.”  Then, calling me “dude” would be okay and besides I’d be collecting a fat paycheck for my willingness to lower myself to the depths of thinking of myself as a “dude.”

Whew.  I feel much better now.

Salutations between the sexes are equally as sensitive these days, and perhaps even more so given the alarming rise in reports of sexual harassment that have been in the news.  Most of these misunderstandings about everyday interaction can be solved by a healthy dose of common sense.  But I must also admit not knowing exactly where to draw some lines.

Though I was born and grew up mostly in the South, I’ve never fallen prone to its regional colloquialisms, particularly when it comes of informality.  For instance, “honey” is a term I’ve never used when addressing females.  I think it’s wrong, or perhaps it just doesn’t fit my manner of speaking.

Nonetheless, “honey” remains a very common expression in many areas of the country to this day.  It’s so common that most people probably don’t even consider it offensive.  Then again, I’ve never seen any actual studies on this — so, who knows?  Perhaps waitresses who get called “honey” all the time by their customers are quietly boiling deep down inside.  I don’t know.  Hence, it’s better not to use it at all is my policy.

About ten years ago, I started using “darling” a lot when addressing females — mostly when around co-workers, waitresses, and so forth.  Many people probably think of it as another way of saying “honey.”  I picked up this cutesy means of expression from the late writer Christopher Hitchens, who used it all the time and sounded downright suave and gentlemanly, which was quite endearing.  Then again, perhaps the English accent combined with his masterful use of prose that made “darling” acceptable within elite circles.  I’m not nearly so talented nor as lucky.  In my circles, “darling” probably raises some eyebrows.  And so, barring the occasional slip up from now on based purely on a bad habit, I won’t be using it any longer.

While I’m perfectly willing to alter (and even cease) my use of language based on changing times and cultural sensibilities, my best guess is that others will not be nearly so flexible.  Most people are deeply rooted in their ways of speaking and behaving and thinking.  They are utterly unaware, and if made aware by chance, they usually don’t care if others take offense to words and phrases they’ve considered “normal” all their lives.

Of course, playing the common sense card — we should probably be willing to forgive and dismiss the typical mutterings of the very aged, to which the rules of political correctness will never apply.  Old people who call someone “honey” might as well be speaking a different language from another time.  Occasionally, I still hear some old people refer to Blacks as “Negroes.”

C’est la vie.  I mean, what can you say?

I think the common bond on what’s truly offensive — be it everyday language or much worse, actions which lead to overt racism and/or sexual harassment — is very much rooted in the subservient role of the victim.  An older woman waiting tables who addresses me as “honey” is entitled to that latitude whereas I should not be able to get away with it.  After all, if I don’t like being called “honey,” I can get up and leave.  If she doesn’t like being called “honey,” well then, tough shit.  She pretty much has to suck it up and take it — because that’s her job.

By the way, it’s okay to call me “honey.”

When it comes to common expressions we use, what’s normal is no excuse.  Tradition is no justification.  At one time in America, the denigration of women and minorities was quite normal, acceptable and even encouraged within power circles.  It was a tradition.  Then, we gradually realized how hurtful the small things were and how those seemingly insignificant details buttressed a faux fever of racial, cultural, and gender superiority.  Changes in the way we address each other are gradual and slow, but they are certain, and that’s a good thing.

In short, just because you’ve been doing something the same way all your life, doesn’t make it right.  Just because it’s an old habit that’s comfortable to you, doesn’t make it right.  Just because you don’t think you’re not offending anybody, doesn’t make it right.

Times change.

We must also change with them.


Note:  Thanks to Terrell Johnson for sparking the idea for this column on Facebook.

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