Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Negroni Variations for Negroni Week

My bars, the Lobby Bar at MGM Grand and Rouge Lounge are participating in Negroni Week (6.1.15-6.7.15). I'm excited about it. Here's what we're offering in addition to the tried-and-true, traditional bitter aperitif. 

Negroni Variations for Negroni Week:

  • Equal parts Rye, Campari, Sweet Vermouth

Cherry Negroni
  • Equal parts Gin, Campari, Luxardo Maraschino

Negroni Sbagliato
  • Equal parts Prosecco, Campari, Sweet Vermouth

  • 1 oz Gin, 1 oz Campari, a splash of soda 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Gazelles, Baby Steps...

I'm usually not into books like this. . . I still don't think I am, but I found this one at a book event I was volunteering at, and it happened to fall into my lap when I was thinking about debt and finances, so I decided to give it a whorl.

I don't really know who Dave Ramsey is. I won't Google him because I really don't want to read a dozen books about saving money. We all know how to save money. And I've already read about the envelope budget system, so I don't feel like I really have to study that. I don't think it's for me. Dave Ramsey is some kind of financial/debt guru. I've never been a huge fan of gurus. But I like some of his philosophies.

Jon Acuff is a Christian blogger. Had I known that before I read this book, I wouldn't have read it. But you know what? I liked this little book. It made me laugh... about debt. If you can make a reader laugh about crippling student loan debt, you're doing something right. It was a quick read that made finances and attacking debt almost fun. So, I'd recommend it.

While reading this, it reminded me of two other books:

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. This is a self-improvement book that I thought was lame while I was reading it but ended up thinking about for years. I still find myself going back to it in my mind when I'm faced with challenging situations. I especially like the Time Warp Game essay.

Life After God. I went through a Douglas Coupland phase a long time ago. I think about his books a lot still. I hadn't thought of this one in a while. Something about the language and style of Jon Acuff's ode to Dave Ramsey brought back the magic of Life After God. Douglas Coupland will always have a place in my heart because of this book. I think it's an unsung masterpiece.

Anyway, I'm thinking about debt again. I'm thinking about how I've lived as an artist and allowed women and wives and friends and bosses take advantage of my capricious approach to my own financial health. I'm thinking about how when I put student loan behind me I'll be less worried about the future. I'm thinking about how I've never worried about the future. I didn't think I'd make it to the future. I didn't think I'd have to worry about the things normal people worry about. I certainly didn't think I'd be reading a book about finance by a guy whose claim to fame is a blog called Stuff Christians Like.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Damned Tax Season

I usually don't think about taxes too much. I went years without filing. I just paid the bill when it came and had it done with. But now that I'm trying to keep track of every penny I spend, especially on drinking, I've been responsible and have gone to an accountant to sort my taxes out and get some advice for the next year. It turns out I owe a tiny bit of money. So what?

But then my Audi, Friedrich, broke down. The low-pressure fuel pump was making the car stall. The fuel line was damaged, too. The first week of April is probably the worst time for this to happen. I finally took it to the Vegas Audi Dealership, and they gave me a loaner. It's going to be an expensive fix, but I'm still crossing my fingers that everything will turn out fine.

It's been a stressful few weeks. Friedrich broke down at the worst intersection in America, Flamingo and Las Vegas Blvd., a block from where Tupac got shot. Stuck in the middle of the road for an eternity during rush hour until a tow truck came for me. I replaced the high-pressure fuel pump and filter, and the engine light went off, and everything seemed fine. A few days later, the engine light came on again and it started acting funky again.

With any luck, I'll be back in my ride in a week's time, and all will be well, and I'll be back on track financially.

They've got me in a 2015 A3, which is righteous, but I miss my own car.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I read a book called Proof: The Science of Booze. I happen to love science and drinks, so when I found out about it, I couldn't resist a trip to the library.

The book goes from yeast to fermentation, to distillation, to tasting and smelling, and ends with a hangover. Although, for some reason Adam Rogers refuses to use an article when writing "hangover," which made me wonder what the proper way of using that word really is.

It's a cleverly constructed project that somehow manages to spice up some pretty dry material with some pretty witty fun. It's like a conversation with your favorite nerd about everyone's favorite drug. Plus, there are Star Trek references.

Rogers travels the world with microbe hunters and yeast cultivators and booze hounds, which is one of my favorite things about the power of beverage: its ability to connect with people and places across time and space with the simplest of gestures. And I've said for some time that we are in the scientific era of beverage in which we'll eventually develop the ability to crack the magical codes of aging and the effects of every congener. So I loved this book.

The adventures of a scientific reporter are enviable, and I wish I knew Adam so that I could have a drink with him and nerd out about Single Malt Scotch and Romulan Ale.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Financial Wellness

I hate thinking about money. My way of money management has always been one of least resistance. Oh, there's some kind of savings plan through the company? Fine, take some of my paycheck. I can split up my direct deposit into a savings and checking account? Fine, take 40%. I'll spend the rest.

I'm great at spending money. I don't buy many things. I don't care about big TV's or new couches. I prefer the lending library to the personal one. I prefer the radio to the record collection. My zen-like approach to the corporeal comes from crossing continents and oceans, shuffling off worldly possessions like a molting crow. Vinyl and paper are just too heavy to lug around the world. Since I don't want much, I basically buy whatever I do want and if there's something left over in the end, great. If not, who cares? I'll make more money.

Student loans have essentially destroyed my credit. I never paid attention to my credit score, so I never did anything to combat the effect of my federal student loans. I went to buy a car a few weeks ago and learned my score for the first time in my life. Low. I still got the car I wanted, but only because I'm making pretty OK money these days.

My structural engineer is a financial genius. He chastised me for not being smarter about my money.

I've decided to take a more active role in my financial future. I downloaded a budgeting app, took the personal budget online course on MGM's M-Life Insider Education site, and I've been talking with experts.

Here are a few things I've learned about myself:
  1. I spend more on alcohol and bars than any human ever should.
  2. I spend less on clothing than anybody would ever guess.
  3. If I spend only $200/month on alcohol and bars, I could pay off my student loans in just three years(!)
  4. Investing in my 401(k) makes me feel a lot better about getting old.
  5. With apps now, financial stuff can actually be fun.
I'm starting to look at this like a game. I always looked at it like a chore. If I'm clever, I might have a crazy credit score, own a cool condo, and have all my federal debt paid off soon. I never thought any of that possible.

I'm using Mint. Maybe you'd like it ↯
I like this article about how attracted people are to financial stability ↯
I'm looking forward to digging into this blog ↯

Saturday, February 21, 2015

I Found 52 Bottles of Belle Epoque

My boss gave me our dead stock list and said, "see what you can do with this, bud." It was divided into liquor/beer/etc., and I went straight for wine. One of my favorite bottles of Champagne jumped out at me: Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque. And you know what? 2004! 2004 was the first year they started painting the bottles since 1902!!!

I couldn't believe it. I wanted to just open a bottle and drink it. If this were my spot, I'd take one home and drink it alone and take pictures. I still got to taste it, and holy crap. It's 2015 now. So, it's about 10.5 years old, I'd say. That's about the perfect amount of age on a bottle of Champagne, and I have to say, this juice has done well. I mean, this is kept in MGM Grand's cooler, which is perfectly maintained.

Toasty almondy, appley gold, and just a touch of lees to make you know it's been done the old-fashioned way. This is an elegant lady the rougher beasts of this breathing world won't appreciate, but if you've got any finesse, any passing grace, you'll notice the subtle curves in her bubbly mouth. And the outside of the bottle is nice, too. It's hand-painted, designed by a famous Japanese artist, and inspired by Art Nouveau, which is one of my personal favorites when it comes to architecture and design.

Essentially, I found a treasure. I put it in the Mansion bar at MGM Grand a few days ago, and we've sold a couple bottles. I priced it at a seriously low cost because I was really excited about sharing it: $283. That's a steal... like, really.

Anyway, it's my dream that someone will come into the Mansion bar, find it through the high-roller casino, and ask for this very special bottle. Keep the bottle, take it home with you and put it on a shelf. It's special.

Check this out ↯

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ellis Island

Ellis Island is a brewery in Vegas, but who cares? They're not winning any awards any time soon; so what? They're selling their brews for $2.00, and some guy who sounds exactly like R. Kelly is on stage singing Karaoke.

A couple guys sit with me at the bar. They're in Vegas from Colorado to tell resorts if lightning would ever strike the hotel ten times all at once. "No. Well, maybe in ten thousand years. Mostly we tell them what'll happen when the biggest flood Vegas has ever seen comes around." They tell me which properties are safest when Noah's deluge comes round, but the conversation starts and ends with talk of zombie apocalypse. "But we're nice guys; we're not all doom and gloom."

One of the guys sings. it's almost closing time. The lady who sang Amy Winehouse perfectly when I first arrived can hardly stand on stage now. R. Kelly can't read the words on the teleprompter. Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.

It's a great crowd. People carry crooners through the choruses, the Karaoke jockey cranks the back up vocals during the verses. There's no shame to be spotted. A group of black ladies gets up and tries to sing Pussy Cat Dolls.

Last call lumbers in like a Lazarus Bukowski because I thought this place was 24. Most of us shuffle out and find our way to the buffet, which is about to open. I make a quick lap of the casino instead and take in the decor and study their brewery through the glass for a few minutes. I've got to keep moving.

I've had a great time, but I'm in no mood to loiter in the light. There's entropy in the air, and I'm starting to think there's an apocalypse afoot. But isn't there always?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Dino's Lounge

Some people think my life is fancy. It is pretty glamorous. But I also love 24-hour dive bars if they have character. I don't like going to some random shit hole, mind you, but if there's a place boasting character and history, I'm probably totally into it. Dino's is one of those places.

I rolled in there in a suit at 3;30 in the morning. It's across the street from a collection of seedy strip joints and sleazy motels that give the northern part of the Boulevard its reputation. Dino's parking lot is the kind of place where you shouldn't be surprised to find me dead one day.

Inside is everything you want out of a place claiming to be "THE LAST NEIGHBORHOOD BAR IN LAS VEGAS." From the spotty neon to the light-bulb-eyed taxidermy to the signs promising events, to the ceiling tiles painted by local artists, there's plenty for your eyes to drink. The only people in the bar were a couple who'd just moved here from Wyoming or something. They wanted to know how to get casino jobs. I told them to stay drug free.

The bartender told me his name was Ryder. I said bartender's choice, and he said Jame-o. This town's relationship with Jameson is zombie-like. I ended up doing some Jame-o shots with Ryder between Dry Manhattans. Turned out Ryder used to live with one of my cocktail servers. He's perfect at the job. He cares about his room and his customers and seems to know everyone in town. I don't know why he's on Grave, but I'm glad he is because at 5 AM, having a bartender like him is a good thing.

A lady comes in wearing a sexed up costume. She works at one of the sexy-waitress-PBR-slinging-rock-n-roll bars. She and Ryder declare their undying affection for one another.Everyone's happy to be alive in a world where the sun is a dying star. In a good bar, it's always 10 PM. At Dino's who gives a shit? It's dark and the world outside is a shambles.

Cops come in and ask for a guy. He's not in here; it's just Ryder and me who have dicks now. We all give each other looks because the cops being in the parking lot means we're staying for a couple more rounds. Ryder knows how to talk to them, and they're nice to him. They say there's a report of a girl getting dragged unwillingly into a car in the parking lot.The name they want came off a license plate check. The girls says she saw the car when she came in, but it's gone now.

I end up leaving at dawnish promising to return. I probably will soon. I like this place. This is my neighborhood.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Atomic Cocktails

I was really excited about this one. One of the bartenders at Herbs & Rye suggested it as an after-hours spot (they're open until 4), and I love Herbs & Rye, so why wouldn't I love this suggestion?

I went to their website and read about how they found an old safe and how they totally retrofitted everything and how people used to watch the atomic testing from the roof. I was amped.

I walked from the top of Fremont and when I got past El Cortez, there was a fleeting moment when I thought maybe I'm getting too old to just be walking into bad parts of town, and I chuckled to myself. This isn't really the bad part of town, but it is very close, and I've seen worse. It does get darker quickly once you get past the Container Park, though. If I were smaller or a woman, I wouldn't want to walk it.

Once in the door I took in the atmosphere, which is a retro, low-light, very Vegas feel... still in love. I recognize the very bartender who recommended me come here sitting at the far end. I recognize a tourist I'd met the night before. I say hi to both. I sit down. A guy with a beard asks me what I want. Then everything kind of started sucking. I got into conversations with a couple people at the bar about cars, and that was cool, and there was a lady bartender there who seemed to be on her shit, but this bearded guy was far too douchey for the vibe at Atomic Cocktails. Dude rubbed me the wrong way.

I'm not the biggest stickler, especially in Vegas, especially after midnight. But this was my day off, so it was probably only around 7 or 8, and this place came pretty highly recommended. So, to have a douchey bartender is just unacceptable and puts a damper on what was otherwise a good beverage adventure. Plus, his cocktails sucked. I can drink a shitty cocktail from a friendly bartender or a great one from a dick hole, but when you're a prick serving me crappy cocktails, I'd rather just go to a local beer bar and save my money.

I'll probably go back some day and try not to sit in this guy's section because I really liked the feel of the room, but not for a bit. My days off are too few to be sold garbage drinks by a guy whose beard is his most interesting attribute.

The tourist and I went to Le Thai and Downtown Cocktail Room.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Have You Seen Birdman?

Don't know who Roland Barthes is? Don't know what a Chekhov play is? Ever hear of a tracking shot? Can't recognize a Shakespeare quote when you hear it screamed in a New York street? Well, fuck you; that's what Birdman says.

Also, fuck you if you like super hero movies or anything close to the mindless joys of summer.

Despite all that, Birdman is a sweet movie about an aging man who still dreams big and wants the women he loves to be proud of him while he regrets his transgressions against them. The characters feel real with their flaws and motivations, acted wonderfully by a great supporting cast.

It's like an English department got together and wrote an exquisite corpse of a film that turned out beautiful but can't help but howl against the mainstream... needlessly.

I loved this movie and will watch it again. But I do think the film's rallying cry against the industry that created it, posing theater against movies and high-brow against low-brow is a little loud and almost drowns out the soul of this great piece which should be a classic and just might be.

If you don't know who Roland Barthes is, by the way, good for you. French philosophy is great and all, but what good is it for you? Never heard of a Chekhov? That's cool. He's just a Russian guy who wrote a bit. Shakespeare? Shmakespeare. What's the point of knowing anything about Shakespeare?

The fantastic illustration is by Ryan Gajda. Check him out.