And you were there, and you were there, and you and you and you!

by Kenneth G. Cavness

Cut to: Monday morning.

I've got a new bed that I've slept in for a day. I've got a new computer that I have received at 9:30 in the morning, and I have a bus (we'll get to that in a moment) that I have to take at 2:15 in the morning in order to get to Las Vegas by check-in time on Wednesday.

In about 5 minutes, I manage to think I've screwed up my new computer so bad that I decide to reinstall Windows98, only to determine afterwards that Micron had left in a SoundBlaster 16 emulater I didn't need. So, pretty much, a day wasted, but not before I lost _real_ bad at a game of online hearts that convinced me I shouldn't do much gambling in Las Vegas (we'll get to that in a moment too).

So, around 1:30, I get into a cab and get to the bus station, where I waited until 3:30 to actually get into the second bus they had because the first one was full. After trying to smoke a cigarette while fending off some old man trying to sell a "gold necklace" ( "it's real man, I swear!") and letting another guy use my lighter to light up his roach, I get on the bus. Luckily, the second bus drove pretty much non-stop to Des Moines, and then Omaha. For those of you that don't know, Iowa is actually quite a nice state, if you like the whole pastoral thing. Rolling hills, corn fields as far as the eye can see... I swear, if Iowa were to be carpet bombed, 9/10ths of the world's supply of Kero would be destroyed. Nebraska, however, is a barren, beige wasteland, and Omaha is at ground zero.

It makes Toledo look positively lively.

So the whole reason I'm taking a bus is because I want to see the mountains in Colorado. We arrive in Denver around 8:00pm, just in time to see the sun set. I see some vague grey masses beyond the city that might be mountains, but could also be just big dust clouds, and we set off for Grand Junction Colorado, which is the second city I see in the light. Grand Junction is _beyond_ the mountains. The next time I see mountains other than off in the far distance is in southern Utah, and at that point I'm seriously wondering why the hell I decided to take a bus in the first place.

ObFunnyTrivia: In Kearney, NB you can buy your cemetary plot, tombstone, get your hair cut, and get a bus ticket all in the same trailer. Oh, and get really cheap Gatorade.

So finally, I arrive in Las Vegas to find, wonder of wonders, that the Greyhound bus terminal is literally a block from the Golden Nugget. So, I get in, check in with no problems whatsoever other than having no idea how to spell CD's last name, and go up to my room. I'm by no means a neat person, but I don't want to make a bad impression on CD, so I neatly unpack my belongings and store them. At this point, my ideas for how to start out are pretty much exhausted.

I didn't really know who'd be in, but I figured that Drew, since he'd organized the damn thing, would be there first, so I call the operator and find out he's apparently either from California, or doesn't exist.

I call Bill and Hawk next, and they have indeed checked in, so I ring them up and ... have to leave a message. So I try for John and Annette Dilick and ... they haven't checked in. So I try for Kate Nepveu and ... she hasn't checked in. So I decide at this point to turn on the TV and wait for a call from someone, anyone, who can rescue me from the very nice but rather bland hotel room I'm in.

About 30 minutes later, I get a knock on my door, and Bill 'n' Hawk are standing there. Hawk announces me as her bitch immediately, and we head down to their room, where people are beginning to congregate. Bill has already at this point started to regale me with talk of Blackjack, so I can see where the majority of the weekend is going to be spent by him already. Hawk introduces me to Puppy, and mentions in desultory terms how Bill has profaned His Body over the years.

For some reason, at this point my memory blurs. I do remember being told about the Cheap-Ass games, and I remember going to the nice buffet at the Golden Nugget, and I remember enjoying these things, but exactly what happens is pretty much overshadowed by Thursday through Sunday. This was really a time for us to enjoy ourselves before the real festivities started, anyway. I also remember leaving Bill and Novak behind so Bill could lose money and Novak could smirk about it. Noell and Eric had brought wine coolers and beer, and me being the queer and all, I selected a wine cooler. The Dilicks and all of us went to the Strip afterwards (one of two times I went there) and RACED through MGM Grand, New York New York, Excalibur, and a couple other casinos. We were carded at a bar (all except for Novak and I), presumably for being human. Oddly enough, nobody cards you when you order cocktails at the blackjack tables. Jim Hill was pretty damn fun to be around, though I apparently missed the rolling hilarity that he showed throughout the vacation; I kept hearing about it, but he never deigned to give it to me. Probably because I just didn't give him enough straight lines. What can I say: I just wasn't bred for it, and I have no amputations.

I got in around midnight-30 or so, and settled down for a bit to wait for CD Skodmumblemumble to arrive. About one or so, he stumbled in on about 3 hours of sleep, smiled blearily down at me (he'd be doing a lot of smiling down at people over the weekend. The man's about thirty feet tall), said "I'm going down to sleep", and I headed off to Hawk's room, I believe to have the whole lightning Strip experience.

Much fun was made of the Fremont Street "Experience", for good reason: it's cheesy as hell. How this differs from the rest of Las Vegas, which is not exactly known as a city with monuments to good taste and subdued living, is a bit beyond me, but oh well. It was nice to have the canopy that the "Experience" is displayed on during the day, though; it prevented the sun from striking those of us accountant wannabees directly, and prevented Brian Ritchie's head from being fried right off, as he has little protection.

Thursday Daytime: I spoke with CD at some length -- very nice guy, entertaining too. For those of you that are interested, he sleeps in a skimpy little pair of grey briefs. I really, really tried hard not to stare, and I think I did a good job. I was a good little fag. I'm beginning to understand the issues with gays in the military...

We watched the news for a bit, hearing about the day trader massacre, and commented nastily about Ericsson et al; CD had a book on Information Warfare and showed me the card that all visitors from other countries have to fill out attesting that they are not a nazi, drug dealer or taker, or affiliated with the Mafia.

Eventually we went on down to have breakfast at the Carson Street Cafe (which the whole group'd see a lot throughout the week). The Cafe itself is in the middle of the hotel, and not near any street. The management apparently deflected this bit of advertising mischief by plopping a sign from an intersection down beside the cafe that read "Carson St" and "1st St".

Never underestimate the power of marketing.

CD and I were eventually summoned down to Bill and Hawk's room again, where we did meet many and sundry people, and chatted and joked and laughed until it was time to go down to the reception. This was much like Sunday daytime, except with fewer people, and I truly enjoyed it.

I was a bit disappointed in Trent, by the way. I truly wanted to meet the guy, but he's a bit unassuming in person. MUCH less talkative than on the group, at least in a group of large people.

Then, the reception. There was much drinking, much yelling around, lots of people showed up, many people were ragged on, Barney was defiled for the first time, the wait staff largely were ignored in favor of general talkativeness, and we chatted some more. I was feeling a bit overwhelmed at this point (and this lasted until Sunday Morning, actually) by all the people. I just wanted to see everyone and talk to everyone and enjoy all the funny things that were going on. In a group that large, though, it's next to impossible.

I'm trying awfully hard here to give a detailed accounting, but hell, even *I* am getting bored with the travelogue. So I'll just give the highlights from here on out, according to me:

1. I kept putting off going to a male strip club, and I think I disappointed Hawk. Wasn't my intention, but I was actually feeling uncomfortable about it. Maybe next time, Mistress.

2. That Bill Garrett can toss 400 dollars away at a blackjack table and only be mildly annoyed is something that makes me go green with envy.

3. Leigh is the only person I know who has the ability to quiet down over 40 people by merely providing a story entertaining enough that everyone wants to listen in on it.

4. Deep down, Nathan Lundblad is a very modest person who I think we annoyed a bit with our lewd suggestions he strip down to what his mother and his God gave him and dance the dance of the dirty for all of us.

5. Drew seems to really, really enjoy being stressed, but really, really doesn't like migraines.

6. Jim Hill is one hell of a funny motherfucker.

7. Nobody, including those who wanted to see it, much liked Excalibur -- but we still managed to make the best of it.

8. The pool at the Golden Nugget is a great place to hang out.

9. Tshen is one hell of a cool motherfucker, for a married quasi- librarian from Billings, Montana. And he has a great name, too. Thor. Damn. Wish I had been named "Zeus" or something cool like that by _my_ parents...

10. Mark and Deb Loy have to _compete_ for coolness.

11. Maggie is one helluva good cross-stitcher, and she almost made me cry.

12. When financing other people's transportation to a social, be sure not to forget your own!

13. Don't cash in 5 dollar chips while Drew's looking on. The frantic hand-waving gestures he gave me were priceless. My god! I was gonna overspend! Glad he didn't see me with Bill and Hawk at

the Four Queens...

14. There is no number 14.

15. See #14.

16. It's very difficult to be a lurker and go to a social where just about everyone has known everyone else for years. I feel very sorry for Katy Westerman, the O'Connell's, and a couple others.

17. If you want to get buff, join the Marines.

18. Don't assume that all people with shaved heads are Brian Ritchie.

19. Don't split on a 20 in blackjack.

20. Stand near Dave Hemming when he's at a slot machine.

There's so, so much more. I really did enjoy meeting all of you, but I do have a few people I really, really enjoyed meeting for the first time: (in no particular order) Dave Hemming, Cassandra, Dennis Higbee, Brian Ritchie, Trent Goulding, Leigh, Eric Milota, Jim Hill, Thor, Rajesh (damn, man, throwing down $100 at a $2 blackjack table is _insane_), Trina, Lara, Pam, and Annette Dilick. (Just _joking_, Pam!) It was so nice to see Kate, Bill, Hawk, Chad, Novak, John Dilick, Mark and Deb Loy, Noell, Maggie, David, Steve Ginter, CD, Pam, and several others I'm sure I'm forgetting and will insult. For those of you I didn't mention, I wish we had had more time to chat. Hell, for that matter, I'd have loved to see more of Kate, Chad, Trent, and several others. But, splinter groups, they will happen, and I've seen Kate and Chad at other socials.

Pam, it was lovely seeing you again. Someday I hope you'll forgive me blanking out on meeting you the first time. *grin*

Lara, you were a gem. I really would have loved to have spent a little more time chatting with you.

I don't have many quotes that I remember, but:

Jim Hill: "That bitch wants me. Yeah, she could give me some _good_ lovin'. Her muzzle's out the window. That means she wants me bad."

Jim Hill: "Great Dane? Well, I wouldn't go _that_ far..."

Trina: "Go to bed? It's only midnight!"

Hawk: "The teddy bear was NOT defiled!"