Marieta and Nolan visit a favorite restaurant in South Florida — “Michelle Bernstein’s,” located in Palm Beach.
V: SINGER ISLAND — IN SEARCH OF BLACK TAIL
With Orlando mercifully in the rear-view mirror, it’s a two-hour drive south to West Palm Beach. The game plan is to relax on the sandy beaches of the coast for a few days and then begin a two-week work assignment, when the WSOP Circuit starts in mid-February.
During my previous visits to the West Palm Beach area, we always stayed on Singer Island, which is an exclusive coastal causeway of ritzy hotels and condos located just north of the city. It’s basically a giant retirement home for people with money. The sad fact is, however — every time I’ve gone onto Singer Island since, there are at least a half a dozen construction cranes destroying what was once an uncrowded pristine beach, turning into another Miami. Now, it’s pretty much wall to wall whitewashed high rises stacked along the ocean side, which makes me sad.
Unfortunately, the hotel prices have gotten so fucking ridiculous on Singer island that I can’t afford to stay there anymore. In the past, it’s always been around$150 a night, for a four-star hotel on the beach. Now, double that as the rack rate. And that’s the rate for a room facing the street on the second floor over the loading dock. It gets worse. Now, these fucking hotels charge you EXTRA for — an ocean view, a pool view, parking, and a refrigerator. Shameless thieves double the prices on the rooms and then try to double whack you with the extras.
During my preparations, I obsessed over a dozen websites looking for good hotel deals, to no avail. My previous favorite was the Hilton Singer Island, which I always thought was a good deal and location during my four previous stays there. This time, they wanted $279 a night plus tax, plus the extras. I figured five nights meant about $1,500, which is way over budget. So, I basically said SCREW THEM, and decided that Marieta and I would instead stay on Juno Beach, which is about four miles due north.
In short, Juno Island is NOW what Singer Island was ten years ago. Which means the greedy bloodsucking developers are eventually going to skull fuck it to death over the next decade until they milk every dollar out of the sand. Then, they’ll move on up to Jupiter, and so forth and so on. That’s how the game works. They call that “progress.”
This photo was taken in December 1989, just after the Romanian Revolution. I’m standing In front of Casa Republicii (House of the Republic) in Central Bucharest a short time after the fall of Nicolae Ceasescu. Casa Republicii, then under construction, was to be the new government center for the Romanian Communist Party. Ceausescu oversaw its construction personally, which essentially bankrupted the nation. It still stands as the world’s largest office building. But he never saw it completed. He was shot by a firing squad on Christmas Day in 1989.
Note to Readers: Thanks for coming and visiting my site. This week, I’m playing in several poker events here in Las Vegas (BARGE 2012). Accordingly, I’ll be posting an unpublished series of trip reports from earlier this year. Next week, I’ll begin a new series on the events that led up to the 1989 Romanian Revolution and the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. This will be the first time I have shared my experiences of living in Romania during this period. I’ll also be posting many photographs, which have not been seen publicly. Over the next month, look for commentary on politics, religion, and just about any topic this happens to pop into my twisted mind that day.
I. ORLANDO, FLORIDA
I am not making this up.
Each and every time I must endure a trip to Florida, I’m reminded of the musings of writer Dave Barry.
Barry is (in)famous for his witty non-stop Florida-bashing. Since Barry actually resides in South Florida, he gets away with offending just about everyone in the Sunshine State. For two decades, Barry was a writer for The Miami Herald, penning a masterful column that was eventually nationally syndicated. Barry’s writings were routinely infused with humor at the expense of all the gator-skinned sun-baked Floridians — which he characterizes as doddering elderly, angry Cuban exiles, and crazed dope dealers all entwined in chaotic bliss. Okay, so actually that’s *my* characterization — not his.
I suspect that Barry got away with much of what he wrote largely because he’s one of “them.” It’s sort of like a family, or a fraternity, or a minority group. You can’t criticize and be funny at anyone’s expense without actually being a member of the crazy family.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Today’s settlement agreement between PokerStars and the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ), which includes an announcement that PokerStars will acquire the entirety of Full Tilt Poker’s global assets, is an encouraging development for all poker players, and particularly positive news for those owed monies via their immobilized account deposits.
In fact, today’s news is the first break in the black cloud that has hung over the poker industry for 15 months. Given PokerStars’ longstanding reputation for integrity and the commendable manner in which they handled their own player-deposit crisis during 2011, all poker players should be grateful to the ownership and management team of this company for assuming a leadership role in what have been troubled times for the poker industry.
However, today’s announcement does nothing, nor should in any way, abdicate any of the principals associated with Full Tilt Poker for their irresponsible actions, criminal or not. Neither does the announcement serve in any way to remedy the gross negligence that led up to the crisis, nor amend the utter indifference of Full Tilt Poker and its principals to the suffering of innumerable poker players who endured severe financial and emotional hardships since the events of April 2011.
Full Tilt Poker’s actions during both the pre- and post-Black Friday period, represented an unprecedented level of irresponsibility and a grotesque violation of trust. The damage these industry outcasts have done to players, public confidence, and the game overall lingers and will not be forgotten nor forgiven until the principals have provided explanation, apology, and restitution.
Conversely, the actions of PokerStars during this crisis have continued to win favor from the poker community at large. I am optimistic that all poker players – residing both inside and outside the United States — who are deemed “victims” in the precise language contained in the official press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York on this date will be reimbursed IN FULL (emphasis mine). Moreover, the USDOJ should do everything in its considerable powers to ensure that all monies are returned as quickly as possible to all victims.
Las Vegas, Nevada
July 31, 2012
Writer’s Note: The opinions expressed here are my own and do not in any way reflect the position of any company, publication, website, or entity with which I have been associated.
Passing through a crowded casino this weekend, I couldn’t help but notice hundreds of people – primarily men – crowded around several television screens at one of the bars.
So, what were they watching? It’s not football season yet, and no one gives a shit about baseball, at least until the playoffs begin.
Answer — the 2012 Olympic Games.
More specifically, the men were watching women’s beach volleyball.
Right. You’re thinking exactly what I’m thinking. I’m sure most of those guys with their eyeballs glued to the television screens really gave a flying rat’s ass that the United States was playing Australia in a preliminary medal round. Hell, it wasn’t even the finals. But for many of those men, no doubt, the match concluded with one hell of a climax.
Beach volleyball? Don’t call this charade a sport. It’s the world’s largest masturbation festival — plain and simple. It’s a cum-dumpster parade. Women in panties prancing around in the sand. They might as well be having a pillow fight or wrestling in jello.
Confirming my suspicion that most of the viewers had no real rooting interest in the Olympic match other than the tits and ass tally, sometime later when I passed through the same area after dinner and this time men’s volleyball was being shown, virtually no one was watching. MENS VOLLEYBALL. Poof! Everyone was gone! I don’t know — perhaps someone yelled “fire” inside the casino and I missed it.
The bottom line is, most of these gold medal events aren’t really “sports” at all. They are excuses for getting as many athletes from as many nations as possible into a televised viewing frame so that as many products as possible can be plunged down our throats in the form of a non-stop parade of commercials. That’s it basically. The Olympics are nothing more a delivery device for rampant consumerism — be it cell phones, sports cars, or soft drinks. It’s the globe’s biggest assembly line for product placement — on every wall, on every uniform, on every sign, on every conceivable frame of real estate that might possibly be viewed by someone, somewhere.
Which brings me to what should be the Olympic Games’ most expensive product platform — the ASSES of the volleyball girls. Hell, that real estate is more prime than a penthouse on Central Park West.
If you could go back and live your life all over again, would you?
I suppose most of us would answer – it depends.
Let’s say you could turn back the clock and relive your life with the benefit of all the knowledge you now possess. Given the inherent wonders of knowing what the future would bring, most of us would agree to a replay. Let’s say you could go back to 1969 and bet on the New York Jets or take full advantage of MicroSoft’s 1986 IPO, you’d be very wealthy indeed.
Then there is the “Dead Zone” prospect of going back and purposefully changing the future. For instance, who among us would not feel compelled to try and alter the terrible course of events which occurred on September 11, 2001?
But what about going back in time and facing utter uncertainty? Would you choose to live your life over again and then be willing to accept the consequences if things were to turn out very differently?
PREFACE: This is a difficult blog to write.
Each and every week, I receive a text-message inviting me to play in a local poker tournament. The weekly tourney is $120 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. — hosted at the MGM Grand.
My distaste for the MGM Grand and everything associated with the monstrosity is widely-known and well-documented. It’s been the subject of columns in both newspapers — the Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Review-Journal. I won’t reopen those wounds and get into details now (see a future blog for that). I only say that I was fully prepared to move on emotionally and give this giant money-sucking leech another chance when I made my first entrance into the MGM Grand in four years.
And so, last Tuesday night — prompted by an invite from poker pro Karina Jett, the extraordinary hostess at the MGM Grand (probably the only wise executive decision they’ve ever made here was to hire Jett) — I decided to release those bitter bygones and set foot inside a casino that still owes me thousands of dollars.
At 6:30 pm, I pulled into the MGM Grand parking lot. Not much as changed in this regard since my last visit. One still must maneuver a giant maze of lanes and floors and then walk a mile to finally get to the building entrance. Indeed, it takes me perhaps five minutes inside what used to be the world’s largest hotel to instantly realize that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING has changed since I wrote the following review (which was posted at a gambling website back in 2002).
It should be noted that everything in the following review is a reflection of my experience there ten years ago. But, it’s just as relevant now based on Tuesday night’s visit. One update: The MGM Grand now has a poker room, which has moved again. For several years, it was located beneath a noisy nightclub. The poker room has since been moved off to the side, which I will add is nothing to brag about.
Moreover, all of the events relating to my fallout at the MGM Grand in 2005 occurred well after this review was written. So anyone who thinks I’m biased should be aware this review was originally written three years prior.
Here it goes.
Writer’s Note: The Flame Steakhouse closed its doors for the final time in 2014. The replacement restaurant at the El Cortez is not recommended.
Finding a delicious “trout almondine” is next to impossible outside of New Orleans.
Or — so I thought.
Then, I dined at The Flame Steakhouse which is the gourmet restaurant inside the time-warped El Cortez Casino in downtown Las Vegas. I ordered and then devoured a Creole delicacy that was every bit as tasty as the world-class fare served at Antione’s, Galatoire’s, or Arnaud’s in the famous French Quarter.
In a city that has become dominated by flash-in-the-pan “celebrity” chefs and ridiculously-overpriced Haute cuisine, it’s refreshing to a experience throwback to a time and place when all that really mattered was great tasting food served at a reasonable cost in a comfortable atmosphere with reliable service. Sadly, those fundamentals are lost in what has become a sea of snooty waiters and obscene South Strip prices, which so often meet their well deserved demise.
Perhaps that’s what makes The Flame Steakhouse so enduring and consistent. Very little changes. It’s good – all the time. And since that first visit many years ago, I’ve dined here perhaps 50 to 60 times – always leaving both satisfied and with the feeling I got a bargain.
This is an all out declaration of war.
If you’re one of the fucking idiots who consistently drives in the RIGHT-HAND LANE….if you are one of the obnoxious jackasses oblivious to those who casually stroll along on sidewalks making our daily walks and runs….if you selfishly barrel through busy intersections like the ass-joker that you are….I’m issuing you a full-fledged warning.
From this moment forward, I will no longer be responsible for my actions or what happens to your vehicle. Prepare to meet my middle finger. Prepare to hear the blasting of my horn. Prepare for my flashing headlights.
I am making it a mission to improve traffic flow. I’m making it a mission to save both time and energy. I’m making it a mission to reduce needless vehicle emissions. I hereby declare that the RIGHT-HAND LANE is only for entering/exiting the roadway and for making right turns. Nothing else.
And now let me explain why this is such an outrage.
I’ve taken up running the last several months. In virtually every city I’ve visited since I began my training program, I observed a consistent pattern of unmistakable rudeness. Often when running along a sidewalk, perhaps no more than a few feet from the right-hand traffic lane, these brain-dead jokers completely oblivious to common courtesy roar past me like out-of-control freight trains. These vehicles race by in a mindless stupor, blinded to any manifestation of humanity.
Just when I was convinced Las Vegas had pretty much become like everywhere else, I was reminded once again that this city is a very unique place.
Yesterday, I renewed my car registration. In Nevada, all vehicles must be smog checked once per year. This means, you drive your car to local station where they run a series of diagnostic tests. Sort of like Medicare, only it’s your car that gets a government-mandated check up, instead of you.
The cars are hooked up to a machine with a bunch of wires and switches and tested for emissions. What this really means is — the state and the auto merchants get to shake you down for $20 a pop, per car, each and every year.
On the west side of Las Vegas, I pulled into what’s called a “smog station.” Inside a small kiosk was a man who looked pretty much like you would imagine when I say the words “auto mechanic.”
“Need a smog check, today?” the man barked out as rolled down my window.
“Absolutely,” I replied.
As I passed my car keys over to the auto technician (that’s what they’re called now – “auto technicians”) I couldn’t help but notice a white sign plastered above the entrance.