Wednesday, August 28, 2013

No. 281 – Jingo

Performer: Santana
Songwriter: Babatunde Olatunji
Original Release: Santana
Year: 1969
Definitive Version: None.

Shortly after I started at my current job, I was given an assignment: Cover the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2007 for the magazine. The editor typically sent the associate editor but didn’t trust the current one and wanted to use me instead.

The assignment would consist of meeting with executives at various companies that we would cover over the next year and hearing about the new stuff they had. If I could set up an interview with a top executive, the editor said, that would be a feather in my cap. I started running the phones, and before long I lined up a one-on-one with the CEO of Philips North America.

I also had to set up my entire trip to Las Vegas. I knew I could spend only so much, so I went with Southwest Airlines for the flight and the Imperial Palace for the place to stay. I sold the IP on the fact that it was next to the Venetian, where a lot of events would be held, but let’s face it: I wanted to stay on the Strip.

I wanted Laurie to come, too. She could, as long as we paid for her, which to me went without saying. CES would start on a Monday, so Laurie and I left the previous Friday, so we’d have a couple days to spend on our own in Vegas. She never had really been, and I hadn’t been back since 2003. I couldn’t wait.

Our flight Friday night was out of Midway after work. The magazine also paid for transportation for me, so because I was leaving straight from work, I had a car service come and get me. It was just a Chrysler 300, but it was still cool, particularly because I had to call one of my authors and talk him through the revision process on his story. I felt like a big businessman, on the phone, talking shop, while having someone else fight the drizzly rain and traffic on the Tri-State as I headed out to my business flight.

The flight was fine until we descended into Vegas when we began bouncing. Laurie as joking about it, but I was scared to death, and she apologized when she realized how scared I really was.

It was late when we finally checked in at the IP, but I had my Vegas adrenaline flowing. I wanted to see if I could find an Austin Powers slot machine. The IP didn’t have one, so we hiked across the street to the Mirage, where Scott and I had found one years before. No luck this time, but it did have Risque Business.

For those who don’t know, Risque Business is a slot machine with a strip club theme—male and female dancers. The idea is to get three ATMs to get to the bonus game. Once there, you choose a dancer who does his/her thing as tippers fling dollars on the stage. If you pick the right tippers, the dancer keeps going. Scott and I played years before, and I got to the dancer’s top before losing out.

This slot was a quarter machine, and I popped in $20, playing the max number of lines. Laurie watched, not fully comprehending the idea of the game and whether I was winning or losing. (I was losing.)

I was down to my last spin and hit three ATMs. Sweet. I picked the brawny lumberjack … no, I picked the pussycat babe. More important, I picked good tippers. The pussycat babe dropped her cufflinks, then her coat, then one glove, then another, then her top and then … her bottom. YES! I went all the way.

I should preface this by saying you don’t actually see anything, which seems a bit odd. You’re in a casino, where no one under the age of 18 is allowed. This is family entertainment? Show the dancers naked! It was kind of a gyp.

No matter, I still had one more bonus dance where I pick a single tipper. There was this one character that I picked a lot and he seemed to be working for me, so I gave him the solo dance. Finally, the bonus game was over, and the credit counter began to spin.

I had a pretty good idea of how much I won. Laurie didn’t. I cashed out, and I showed the credit slip to Laurie: It was for $195—the most I ever won in a single game at Vegas. That’ll pay for our Bellagio buffet dinner tomorrow night. She couldn’t believe it. Welcome to Vegas.

We had a great time pre-show. In January, if you can believe it, it gets cold enough that the pools are closed. Laurie was expecting to get in some pooling, and I suppose I was, too, so we were fairly disappointed. So we did the usual Vegas things. We went to the Flaming-o for the breakfast buffet and did the aforementioned Bellagio buffet, which has my single favorite food: the Chilean sea bass, which is sweet, flaky and tender. I must have had about eight pieces.

Paul and Jin showed up on Sunday. (Paul wanted to attend CES.) They stayed at Excalibur, so we met up at Nine Fine Irishmen in New York New York for some fish and chips and Guinness per Paul’s request. I had a bit of CES work to do earlier in the evening, but the big event—press conference day—was the next day.

Press conference day is just what it sounds like: Every big company has an hour-long confab, always beginning with LG at 8 a.m., where they roll out new products and try to wow everyone. There was just one problem: Everyone in the press knew that the Wow factor was happening later that week in California. Apple, which doesn’t attend CES, was going to announce its new supersecret product. The hot money was on a cellphone.

Being a newbie, it took me a while to figure out what the veterans knew well: Rudeness is encouraged at CES press conference day. By that I mean no one stays to the end of each press conference. If you do, you end up at the back of the huge line to the next press conference and possibly have to stand the entire time. By Samsung’s confab at 2, I had it down pretty well.

The final press conference, as it is every year, is Sony at the Convention Center, at 4:15. It was my first experience with the tram from the Venetian and also the Convention Center itself, which is massive. Based on my schedule for the next day, I knew I was in for it.

I got back to the IP at about 6, and my timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Close to the elevators that led up to the room Laurie and I shared was the Mai Tai bar. The day before, Laurie and I met Don, the take-no-spit, seen-it-all-twice bartender who made mai tai’s with much extra love. The bar had a happy hour, where you got a 2-for-1 on drinks, but you had to have the two drinks at once.

As I came walking through the IP with my suit on and carrying my briefcase, I saw Laurie coming out of the mai tai bar holding two drinks—undoubtedly to put in the supertall Paris sipper that she had acquired the day before. Recognizing a perfect opportunity wihen I had it, I just walked right up and took one of the drinks out of her hands. “Thanks. How did you know this was just what I wanted?” Laurie laughed in surprise.

(To be continued)

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