Friday, July 28, 2006

Finding my Center in Vegas

Have you ever had those moments in your life when some random thing or some random someone reminds you of where you came from, and you're forced to contemplate for a minute or two just how far you’ve come from that place? Well that happened to me tonight here in Las Vegas. I hopped in a cab after a fantastic 4-star dinner at Michael Mina at The Bellagio and started a convo with the cab driver. I immediately noticed his southern accent and inquired about his hometown. Of all the places in this world he could have mentioned, he tells me that he is from Clio, South Carolina. Clio is a pea sized, shrinking town about 20 miles from where I grew up. In fact, I used to work on a farm in Clio in the summers during High School. I know the place extremely well. Our brief conversation focused less on the “who do ya know” game, and more on the “im really glad I had that small town upbringing” discussion. For one quick second, In the middle of the craziness and fabulosity of Las Vegas, 20 years of life experiences were stripped away and I was a small town NC boy again. And it felt good.

I think sometimes it takes small reminders like that to put us in our place. It was especially relevant now, for me, here in Vegas. This city is so over-the-top and far from realistic, that brief reminder of home provided just the right balance to keep me centered in the moment.

As we pulled up to my hotel I thought about asking him to do another loop down the strip so we could continue our conversation. but it didn’t happen. The juxtaposition of the insane Vegas environment and our conversation was just too appealing to end so quickly.

As I stepped out, the driver refused to let me pay him and said “good luck”. I replied with the same and he drove back into the neon jungle with memories of home fresh in his mind.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Porn Stars, Midgets and a Million Dollars

Vegas is out of control. Of course I already knew that, but my involvement with this town has always been limited to some sort of work event. Last night, however, was noteworthy. It started with Dinner hosted by my favorite media vixen, Miss Ashe. She invited me and any my select posse to The Venetian for incredible Italian, drinks and a whopping dose of her personality. Miss Ashe shows up with Ex Porn/Playboy Bunny Jill Ann Spaulding and her smack-your-momma-pretty assistant. Jill Ann has recently morphed herself into a professional pokerplayer and a successfull publishing entrepreneur. She has started a new poker enthusiasts magazine ( After her scandalous book about what goes on inside the Playboy Mansion made thousands throw up in their mouths, shes pretty much now been frozen out of the adult empire. I heard the whole story, and it is as interesting as it sounds. Kinda like a car crash, you really wanna look but dont want anyone to see you doing it.

Miss Ashe loves to name drop, so we heard about her partying with Snoop Dog, her naked rendezvous with Pam Anderson at Cannes, and Carmen Electra's outrageous behaviors, and all that kind of jazz. Jamie is the most gregarious person I've ever met. She's 34, single, lives in LA, parties like a rock star and doesn't drink, smoke, do drugs or anything else most in that lifestyle do. She has a penchant for plastic surgery and extremely small skirts. Her boobs are her not-so-secret weapon and she's not afraid to use them to her advantage. She's one of those people who can control a room in a matter of 3 minutes and it's often literally by the balls. She also has a PHD in some unpronounceable science and owns one of the most successful entertainment media companies in Hollywood. So im officially impressed.

After delicious dinner (Wood fired Jumbo Sea Scallops and exotic mushrooms) we head over to a private party at TAO hosted by self-created online gambling celebrity Calvin Ayre of After Jill Ann worked the red carpet photo ops for all they were worth (which wasnt much), and we enter the party. Words really can't describe the over-the-top, outrageousness we found inside. Naked girls body painting each other, girls playing with themselves in bathtubs, geisha, asian hookers, anything you can imagine. After 3 Grey-Goose on the rocks I thought I was seeing things when a troupe of midget ninjas (Im NOT kidding) circled the bar and started throwing out bottles of Cristal champagne, some of which crashed to the floor and broke. There were hooka rooms, bathrooms with self frosting glass, dance floors; it was garish, over the top and wonderful all rolled into one.

Of course you'd expect as many adjectives as possible for a million dollars. That was the parties price tag.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Discrimination, Jungle Style

I very barely squeezed out of a work trip to Bogota Colombia this week. I was not at all interested in going there, much less into the jungle to supervise a television commercial shoot with a crazy English director who has little to no regard for the real dangers the Colombian jungle houses. I think it will take someone getting swallowed whole by an anaconda for him to realize that. Not to mention the kidnapping problem they have there. I’ve met many people from Colombia (including my landlords) who were kidnapped and held for ransom when they were kids. It’s literally a cottage industry there. People actually stand outside the grocery stores and kidnap kids and hold them ransom for groceries. They especially target Americans because they think were all monied. It is strongly recommended that Americans not visit Colombia unless they know exactly what they are getting into.

I’ve learned a lot about the state of affairs in many Central and South American countries since being in Costa Rica. You hear a lot of talk about Nicaragua (Costa Rica’s “Mexico”) There are thousands of Nicaraguans fleeing here to Costa Rica every year to escape unbearable living conditions. It really puts things into perspective when you realize that Nica’s (yes, it’s dangerously close) see Costa Rica’s average $300 a month wages as their pie in the sky. The Costa Ricans HATE Nicaraguans. They openly despise them in conversation, and on the street. The Nicaraguans are the underclass workers here. They clean houses, pick up the trash and work in your yard for pennies. Very similar to the jobs illegal Mexicans do in the United States. Similar to the US, there has been a governmental tolerance here for years because they realize these people provide services to the citizens that would go undone if they weren’t here. Also like illegal Mexicans in the US, the Nica’s tax the system. They get free healthcare and social security, even if they are not legal.

“Politically correct” Americans would NEVER appreciate the attitudes toward other races and cultures here in Costa Rica. The word for black people here is “nigger”, it’s used unabashedly and to their faces. Nica’s are literally spit on in the street, Columbians, Panamanians, and Mexicans are all also hated here. There is even a level of discrimination that happens to Americans here, I’ve witnessed it many times. There is open discrimination and hostility towards a lot of people here. Francisco, ( well adjusted, educated, Costa Rican BF), won’t let my maid (who’s Nica) touch his clothes even though they are very friendly with each other. He was raised to believe that ‘Nicas’ are dirty. She accidentally washed a shirt of his a few weeks back and he refuses to wear it now. That’s some conviction there, when a ‘Nica’ comes between a gay man and his clothes.

You have to take a step back and try not to apply “American Values” to the way of life in this part of the world. The Latin cultures especially are very proud by nature and that pride sometimes spills over into animosity towards one another. The Costa Ricans are not violent people, hell they don’t even have an Army here, but they do have very strong beliefs and some of them go counter to what Americans see as ‘human’. I will say this, if people in the US think they are “oppressed”, I’ve got a free room for ‘em here in Costa Rica. They’ll soon realize that they’ve got a pretty good deal going right where they are.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Picasa Perfection.

I've been playing around with Google's photo system (Picasa. )
Pretty cool, and it's free!

Cancun Beach Rocks

Franc filtered

Westward Sun, Cancun

Cancun Redux

I have learned a valuable lesson while being here in Cancun. It’s a lot like Vegas, good for about 3 days max. Especially in the summer. The humidity here must be 350%. I’ve never experienced such uncomfortable ness in my life. I flew Francisco out to spend a few days here with me and im really glad I did. You really don’t know how well you “click” with someone until you vacation with them. I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed kicking around with him when I wasn’t busy trying to find wireless on my work laptop or getting incessantly drunk with the A level execs of my company at the swim up bar in the middle of the afternoon. I’ve learned that marriages and even ones sexuality become “loose” terms when significant levels of alcohol are introduced to the equation. Enough said.

I just put franc on a plane back to Costa Rica and as sad as it may sound, I kinda miss him already. I loved experiencing his first trip out of Costa Rica through his eyes. Had I not been here, he would have gone home dressed in Senior Frogs T-shirt with inappropriate saying on the back toting souvenir plastic glasses the size of a small children. Ok, so our taste levels aren’t on par, but im not botherd by it. I think it’s cute that he gets suckered into every tourist trap accoutrement that gets thrown at him. He didn’t have experiences like Spring Break in Myrtle Beach, or trips through South of the Border along I95 to acclimate him to the ways of the trashy American tourist. So I give him a lot of slack. I did, however, draw the line on neon Cancun inscribed wife beaters and penis shaped glass “tobacco” pipes. No way.

Professionally, this trip was a wash. It’s purpose wasn’t business driven. My company takes this trip every year to thank everyone for a job well done. In the one 30 minute preso we had to sit through, I learned that we will hit over 2 Billion (pounds) in revenue this year and projected to almost double that over the next 2 years. So It doesn’t surprise me that they don’t mind springing for a chartered jet and 150 hotel rooms for a week in Mexico. We have a new CEO, and CFO effective October 1, we’ll see how things develop.

So after one more company dinner and subsequent open bar, it will be adios Cancun. You’ve been hot but not bothersome.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Redneck Riviera!

I've been working really hard over the last few weeks so Im looking forward to some much needed (company sponsored) R&R in Cancun. This time tomorrow Francisco and I will be sipping Pina's poolside with all the other low-season American cheap skates.

Im going to try to ignore the gaudiness that has overcome Cancun and focus on the beautiful beaches and nice weather.

We've rented a plane to take us all there. I just hope it doesn't look like this.

Estoy Emocionado Yall!