Archive for April, 2010

The Vegas/Hot Dogs situation

April 27, 2010

Why, pray, is it so fucking difficult to get a halfway decent hot dog in this town?

Now, I’m not going to flex like Epicurius and claim that I’m the terminal of all knowledge when it comes to shoving shit into my face, but I’ve been here and there and put things into my mouth that ought not have been put there and like an underclass nerd who managed to score with the cheerleader, I hold those panties triumphantly up in the air while I bask on the accolades.

Or whatever.

What I’m getting at here is the state of the hot dog here in Vegas is abysmal. I’m not some dickbutt east-coasterner who professes that the frankfurter sandwich is the end-all-be-all of nishnosh but I do enjoy the things, as much as a fella can enjoy shoving six to twelve inches of beef tube past his lips and deep down into his throat.

But what the fuck, Vegas, is the deal with Chicago-style hot dogs? It seems that every time you turn around, you’re accosted by shops and stands and casino cafeteria that tout the fabled Chicago-style dog. What does Chicago-style even mean anyway? It’s been dead for five years but still managed to vote twice in the last election?

Fellow Vegas-hater Gewehrmonkey and myself happened into a Chicago Hot Dog eatery in Henderson and put the Chicago-style to task. The dogs were served up with this sort of electric green relish. To say that it was simply green, as a person would imagine regular pickle relish would be a misstatement. This relish, chutney, salsa, whatever you can call it is green like those nasty jell-o salads your grandmother would make for Easter. A sort of intense green that may as well be so out of gamut that you couldn’t print out a copy on your inkjet.

Along with the atomic radiation green relish, the dogs were served with slices of tomato, onions, a big dill pickle spear and these odd little slightly-spicy, way-too-sweet peppers.

This is overkill. Too much bullshit to shove on a hot dog. And at like seven bucks, it felt all the world a ripoff. The sausages didn’t really taste any different than the bulk foodservice dogs we’d use in restaurants which I’d worked, hell they weren’t any better than the ones Costco’s deli sells for a buck and a quarter.

The flavors are cloying. Weird jell-o salad tang vs dill pickle bitterness vs the peppers’ dull spiciness led to the sort of lackluster flavor complexity that you as a child would fabricate when grabbing ingredients at random from the fridge and attempting to make a kickass super radical to the maximum breakfast supreme surprise.

So, imagine my shock and surprise when moseying through Downtown in general and into The Fremont in particular when I’m met by a tiny casino cafe, one advertising actual, real hot dogs, not ones adorned with garlands of hibiscus flowers and draped with grape leaves and steamed in rosewater, but an actual, honest-to-god American motherfucking hot dog. With chili, cheese and onions. For four bucks.

Yes. Last time I had a foot of meat in the mouth, I was paid twenty bucks.

Maybe there’s hope for this miserable place after all? Maybe if they can finally not fuck up a hot dog, maybe there’s something else they won’t fuck up?

Baffling Vegas Bullshit

April 27, 2010

The Downtown casino – The California has a Hawaiian theme.

Whisky tango foxtrot, over.

I found it strange that people asked me if I worked there and if I could help them. It’s weird how I get that all the time when I’m say at Wal Mart or other retailers, but to get it on a casino when I’m walking around in a white and gray aloha shirt and black jeans was confounding…

Oh.

Not me, actual California employee.

Sam’s Town

April 27, 2010

I’m torn on Sam’s Town. I’ve early memories of trips into Darkest California, taking US50 on the long trip up the jagged cliffs between South Shore and Sac. On the trip, we’d stop at Sam’s Town in Placerville[1].

Maybe it was Placerville. People I know throw names of California towns at me as if I’d spent more than a combined thirty days in that awful, awful state. Honestly I couldn’t tell you a Stockton from a Brentwood from a Turlock if you put a revolver to my head and thrust a map into my lap.

Anyhow, the Sam’s Town I know – that I recall from the haze of two decades and a million miles – knew, was one of dollar hot dogs, a smoke-filled bar full of old men smelling of Old Spice, peanut shells on the floor crunching under your shoes and that sound most delightful to the ears if any child brought up in the Reagan Years: the electronic cacophony of FM synth.

Eight bit arcade games were the order of the day at the Sam’s Town of my memories. Namco, Konami and Data East were the names. Sam’s Town was a playground for the arcade-obsessed children and manchildren of the ’80s and my few trips there were memories as cherished as time spent with loves lost and family deceased.

Flash forward nearly a quarter century and again I find myself staring at a familiar Old West-y typeface glowing it’s intense red neon glow against a familiar field of white. Sam’s Town, golden place of my memories, Arcadia Of My Youth, we are reunited.

I navigate into the parking structure and as I approach the elevators, I’m met by, nay challenged by a particular sign, a warning plaque that bears wording every bit as grim as those warning open mine shafts and imminent crocodile attacks: no firearms allowed.

Hey, fuck you, Sam’s Town.

Ha ha. The library and courthouse say the same thing. Difference is, those are Government buildings and carrying there will end you up in prison whereas all private property here in Nevada can do is ask you politely to leave. Fuck off, Sam's Town.

See, I’ve been asked why I, out of all the places in the country, nay the world I could have chosen to relocate, why I picked Las Vegas. And it basically boils down to this:

1: the climate is great. Having lived in Reno/Tahoe my whole life, If I never see another flake of snow as long as I live, it’ll be too soon, and
2: Las Vegas is the craziest, most batshit bonkers place in the Union, full of some of the lamest, most hilarious people of whom to make fun. Vegas basically is a Saturday in The Haight every night. Full of the most interesting, entertaining people to watch make complete jibbering assholes of themselves and
3: I get to carry my firearm.

There are three objects which are never, ever out of reach, my cell phone, my flashlight and my pistol. Whether it’s a J-frame in a pocket holster or a Glock autopistol in a nice leather inside-the-waistband holster, a pistol is never out of reach. And I’m not the only one, practically everyone I know, from a sweet-natured grandmother in her sixties to a hot-headed filipina hustler all carry. It makes us feel safer, knowing that our lives and the lives of our loved ones are in our hands and not someone else’s.

Man how did that get there? Der waffen ist verboten!

Like all martial disciplines, carrying a firearm is no different than studying ju jitsu or learning boxing. You don’t do it to get in trouble, but to learn to avoid trouble, to spot the places where trouble congregates and deftly avoid it. None of us, nobody to whom ascribes to any martial discipline are particularly looking for a fight, but damned if they’ll go into one underprepared if one comes looking for them.

‘sides there’s all that “inherent rights” shit that those who wish to control us wish to strip from our very bones like a school of hungry Amazonian piranha. So fuck the bullshit, up the irons, I carry expressly because you, and fucksticks like the shitcocks that run Sam’s Town don’t want me to.

Entering Sam’s Town, I immediately was overtaken by that sense of foreboding dread, that feeling of nostalgia ruined. The Sam’s Town I remember was a fun place, a delightful throwback to Old West Victoriana, with gilt print wallpaper and rough hewn woodwork and bars with peanut shells on the floor. The Sam’s Town I remember was a tacky tourist trap dive that didn’t seem so cunningly, cynically engineered by a group of market testers and focus groups to meet the requirements of a client looking to build a theme park rendition of what people think the Old West was like, it just was.

This Sam’s Town, the one on Boulder Highway and Tropicana is exactly that. So cold and calculated to resemble people’s half-memories of what they thought Victorian Times were like here in the Old West, which Honestly I find amusing in itself since the architecture design here is more reminiscent of Post-1906 San Francisco than 1880s Nevada – which according to the signage around the property is what they were going for, rooms are named Tonopah, Goldfield, Mesquite, Carson and Virginia City.

Enclosed facade surrounding the animatronics park. All these windows are facade only, there's nothing behind them - a complete photographic metaphor for this entire city.

The casino floor wraps around an enclosed park, skylights overhead let through the dazzling yellow light from the beating desert sun but keep out the soft breeze and occasional gentle desert rain. The park is one depicting transplanted florae and animatronic faunae that (aside from the one lone Bighorn) do not reside anywhere near this casino property. Supposedly every hour there’s a show, but I ain’t gonna stick around in this rutty joint long enough to catch it. Having been involved with lame casino animatronic shows, I can tell that it pretty much involves follow spots moving around, shining gobos through fog machines while the robot bald eagle gives a speech about the majesty of the wide open terrain of the Wild West, completely unaware of the irony of its situation, being completely enclosed within an empty facade.

View down on the park from inside the glass elevator.

Facade. Now I’ve used that word before to disdainfully describe my feelings toward the empty, soulless casinos here in Vegas, and if that word can be used to aptly describe anything, it describes this park around which Sam’s Town wraps.

See, you’d think that all these windows would be the hotel rooms, looking out onto the lame little park below from behind an approximation of the San Francisco-style attached townhouse high rise apartment motif the place is going for, but they aren’t. This entire property is ringed by an empty facade, a fraudulent depiction of success and wealth and business. To think that this tiny casino off on the edge of Las Vegas would be one to house a thousand room hotel is preposterous. It’s as if the owners and operators of this casino knew that they’re smallest of the small fry and they needed to build themselves a big presence to flex their muscles to the rube tourists who blind booked a room on Travelocity and ended up stuck at Sam’s Town. “At least we’re not in a lame small hotel.” They’d lie to themselves.

Sam’s Town is emblemic of why I find this city so distasteful. Style over substance, flash over bang, sizzle over steak. It’s the dead empty eyes of a heroin addicted stripper begging for you to pay attention to her and throw a twenty her way while she debases herself for a pittance of a handout.

There’s no class, no elegance, no refinement or grace, it’s just a shitty dive in a shitty part of a shitty city. Fuck Sam’s Town. The arcade here is a piece of shit too. How come every one of these casinos has the same six games and no Neo Geo MVS to be seen anywhere?

[1] recollection fuzzy, made more so with Dewar’s and menthol cigarette smoke.

And the Jobhunt goes on

April 24, 2010

It’s ridiculously difficult to find a job in this city.

Seriously, as an outsider, as a guy who doesn’t have cushy union contacts or a dad that works for the Department of Transportation or whatever, I find that it’s next to impossible to find a job. Hell I’ve had about two dozen interviews in the last month and exactly zero callbacks. I can’t even get a fucking job at Jack in the Box, that’s how amazingly asinine this town is when it comes to tryin’ to find a job.

Even though I’m desperate and hemorrhaging cash at a rate previously unseen by a non-member of the ’80s glam rock supergroup Motley Crue, I’m still trying to stay optimistic and upbeat on the search for employ.

Which basically puts me a step above last week, where I was willing to walk into an establishment, commit homicide then inform the hiring manager that a position just opened on up.

But I digress.

Below is a letter I sent in response to a Craigslist post. Golly do I ever hope I get this dang job, it would be so super-sweet.

Hi, I saw your post on the Craigslist ( http://lasvegas.craigslist.org/csr/1701951532.html ) and gave it a good thorough ponder and have decided to contact you with my intention on securing the job.

About me:
I’m a hard-drinking, hard-fighting, hard-swearing unemployed and bitter young writer with a cold, calculating cynicism in his heart reserved typically for fellas at three times his age, I’m looking for a band of lovable little ragamuffin moppets to make me realize that I’m not a cold, unfeeling, angry-at-the-word hardass and really under this cooly-calculating skin of stone beats the loving and sweet heart of a delicate artist and gentleman, just waiting to beat as freely as Biz Markie in a no-holds-barred freestyle street-beat competition. And it’s these kids, these kids who are yearning to be reached as much as I who are the ones who can chisel through the psychological armor I’ve erected and get at my soft, cuddly, throbbing and kind of a little moist side.

As your live-in nanny (I prefer the term Xybutler Omega Class Triple-Ought Series X), I will indoctrinate your children in the finer arts and disciplines required of a Modern American, such as Classic Literature, Geography, Art Appreciation, Grammar, Diction as well as to strip, clean and maintain an M16 rifle and – most importantly – qualify “Expert.” If these children, these lovable little scamps that you call your own cannot qualify as an Expert Marksman, then I feel that I would have failed my task and then will proceed to engage in an act of ritual suicide so as to appease the wrath of not only my ancestors, but yours as well for dishonoring their memory.

This is my solemn vow.

You can reach me any time at:
my dang phone number
or by email at:
my dang email address

I look forward to becoming a new and beloved entry to your family.

I hope it goes well. I’d sure love to teach some kids up about Mark Twain and terminal performance of the M855 out of a 20″ 1:9 A4. Things all growin’ healthy American kids ought know.

Deez (do)Nutz in yo’ mouf!

April 21, 2010

Dee’s Donuts.

That’s right, deez nutz. Let’s get the laffs out of the way first thing here, because this little place is fuckin’ phenomenal.

One of my casual acquaintances tittered and giggled on his facebook page about the kitschy little doughnut shop down the street from his practice called Dee’s Donuts. Hey yeah guffaw hyuk hyuk. I admit, I giggled too and emplored the address so I too could click a photo for this lame blog and we could all chuckle at the cutely ironic name. After all, up the street is a mail and copy shop called Goin’ Postal, so I figured cute little tongue-in-cheek punny names was de rigeur for this block.

I trundle into Dee’s at around nine in the morning. Their “open” sign wasn’t even lit, which made me wonder if I’d gotten there too early. But seriously, doughnut shops are open and doing business an hour before chickens wake up, so there’s no way they weren’t open. When I push through the front door, ringing the cowbell tied to the pushbar, I’m immediately met with a familiar yet at the same time completely alien lilting, singsong chatter coming from the middle-aged couple running the store – they were speaking Japanese.

Holy shit goddamn! You simply have to be kidding me here! A Japanese doughnut shop up in a boring, extremely wealthy (whitey whitefish) North Las Vegas suburb. Consider me thoroughly tickled.

I ordered their two doughnuts and coffee special for 2.50$. I scored one lemon-filled and one with a delicate, pale pink frosting. The coffee was kona, a blend that was the hottest shit there was back before Starbucks showed up and changed the zeitgeist caffe to be one not of complex, diverse flavors, but to that if monolithic, flavorless, corporate blandness. What I’m getting at here is that this coffee is like being punched in the nose by flavor. Wow. Years of Starbucks had numbed my buds to the point where I’d forgotten that coffee was supposed to taste like coffee, and not bitter, crusty old wool socks.

Whereas the coffee is a swung fist to the nose, the doughnuts are sex with a woman you love. Sweet and soft. Glistening with icing that gently sticks to your fingers but doesn’t come off in big, gloppy clumps of oversweet gunk. The cake bits are warm and cuddly like a goodnight embrace and the lemony filling was tart like a morning kiss.

And then there was the pink one. Its icing actually had little flecks of real strawberry therein. I’d never before had pink icing that tasted anything other than like that bland “pink-flavored” syrup. The icing was thinly pale translucent, not the heavy, brittle, flavorless, opaque magenta crust to which I’m used.

Everything about this experience is everything I feel I’d been denied in my life. Dee’s Donuts truly is one of my favorite experiences here in this godawful city.

Even better than making out with a stranger.

Dee’s can be found at basically the northernmost extreme of the city, where the Deucer meets Durango.

I say “gomen nasai” and she says “ah sankayoo!” And life is awesome.

KLAV

April 21, 2010

I’ve been asked to find something about this distasteful city that I really, sincerely like. Well, okay this is a bit of a stretch but here goes:

1230AM (KLAV) between 2100 and 2300hrs every day plays reruns of The Twilight Zone and When Radio Was.

1230’s programming tends toward the boorish, smugly-superior neoliberal talk radio tripe that thinks it’s so much damn smarter than the nationally-syndicated conservative talk radio hosts they hate by launching impotent little ad hominem attacks at them mostly by way of making ridiculous puns based on their names (Fill O’Lie-ly[1], Hush Bimbo[2] and Spawn Blandity [3] et al). Not that I like the conservative talk radio hosts all that much, Hannity in particular makes me homicidal, but Frankensian name-calling and finger-wagging does not valid criticism make, in fact it makes you come off like a petulant child and not an important media personality to be taken seriously [4]

– But –

In these delightful two hours, KLAV’s retro radio broadcasts find me and fill me with a feeling of delightful nostalgia and ease. I grew up[5] the same way as my grandparents’ generation did, listening to the radio. Old episodes of Zone and The Shadow, a local AM station used to rebroadcast them on sunday mornings, and honestly, when all you have are two VHF TV stations, both of which would broadcast church programs all damn day, and honestly to which would you rather sit through?

These old radio programs always held my attention more than TV did, as with radio, your imagination fills in the pieces that your eyes are missing. You’re not distracted by bad camera work or editing, not annoyed by shoddy prop design or visual effects. No, your imagination fills in these gaps, making the visual part as perfect as you can imagine rather than being behelden to the cut-rate talents of television producers on a shoestring budget.

Also, my first girlfriend in college gave me a box set of Old Time Radio CDs. Even though the memories of her have faded into the distance of a decade past, those CDs have been played and replayed and ripped and burned and copied and media-shifted so many times that all I can think of when I try to remember her voice is Orson Welles describing a horrific slithering mass pouring from a crater in a Grover’s Mill pasture.

So, here I am, facing the edge of thirty and all of a sudden I’m twenty again, ten again, listening to these old radio dramas from the forties, fifties and sixties. Ray Bradbury space adventures and The Shadow adventures play alongside Sam Spade mysteries and Abbot and Costello comedies.

Certainly I could go through the effort of downloading the episodes of these old shows and listen to them at my leisure, but then I’d be robbed of the excitement and anxiety of not knowing which show is playing next and whose voice I’ll hear. Few things in my life are enjoyable as hearing Vincent Price’s amazing vocal presence lilt and creep it’s way through the humble Jeep Cherokee that is for the time being, my home, office and primary method of conveyance.

I’ve been asked to find something I like about this town, well here it is; I really, really like 1230AM these two hours every weeknight. To the point where I intentionally avoid the first hour of my old favored standby radio program – Coast to Coast AM.

Thank you, KLAV, for bringing me the one thing in this city that brings me true joy.

[1] has O’Reilly been relevant in the modern conservative discourse in the last five years? I ask this sincerely.

[2] Michael Savage’s lame little punny aside. Does he even have a show anymore?

[3] as much as I hate to agree with a boring neolib, Hannity can basically go fuck himself, he’s the reason I loathe conservatives as much if not more than liberals.

[4] ha ha, self-deprecating irony-as-comedy. Do you see what I did there?

[5] quit spreading that scurrilous lie. You never grew up.

The MGM Grand Fucking Deal.

April 20, 2010

For some reason I figured that it would be super fucking sweet to shoot the casino’s facade through trees. This is obviously because I have a congenital birth defect.

Being originally from the Reno area (Gardnerville and Dayton in particular, but I lived and worked in Neon Babylon for a spell), the Big House as it’s known today by casino workers, Grand Sierra Resort (or Grand Smokescreen Ripoff, whichever) was the biggest and most opulent club in the area. It was originally built as the MGM Grand in the late 70s and subsequently changed owners more times than some people change underwear (yeah I’m talkin’ about me here) and is now part-owned by a couple of hillbillies from Motley Crue (or at least was, until they realized that the property, much like a boat, was a big hole in the water into which you dump your money).

So being around a big giant resort casino that had fuckin’ lions inside wasn’t a big damn deal. We’d go in, have buffet, play laser tag and gawk at the lions. Big whoop right?

But to some people, well, to some people lions in a casino is a BIG HUGE COLLOSSAL FUCKING DEAL HOLY SHIT THERE ARE LIONS HERE !!!

OH EMM GEE THERE ARE LIONS HERE! SLEEPING AND STUFF ARE YOU SURE IT'S EVEN ALIVE ARE YOU LISTENING I CAN'T HEAR YOU OVER THE SOUND OF YOUR CAMERAPHONE CLICKING

Have you ever been to a zoo? Sure you have, everybody has. That’s like the sole reason to go to San Francisco. That and making out with hippy chicks in the rain when you say you have a bit of green on you and you’d be happy to engage in a bit of quid-pro-quo. Lions, especially semi-domesticated show lions are without a doubt the most boring critters on the face of the planet – and I spend most of my time around humans.

Do you own a cat? If no, do you have a family member who owns a cat? Sure you do, we’re all related to some crazy old lady that has more cats than you’ve ever owned cars and her house reeks of ammonia and skanky old canned tuna. Cats, in case you haven’t noticed, aren’t exactly the most energetic or entertaining of pets. Especially the bigger, older ones. Sure, kittens bounce around and chase sproingy around on strings (or in our case, lasers attached to the ends of firearms) but once they get older and bigger, they pretty much just lay around all the time.

One of the great philosophers of our times posited that “[cats] should be technically classified a liquid.” They just lay around in a pool on the ground or chair or windowsill. If they weren’t contained by a thin, impermeable skin, they’d just leak out all over the place and stain the carpet. Moreso, I mean.

So, flash forward to today and here we are back at the old MGM Grand’s older brother, the Vegas property and lo and behold, there’s the lion enclosure. And as expected with big old overfed domesticated kitties, what are they doing but…

Just fucking lying there in a puddle of fur and whiskers.

Hippos, being the most dangerous mammals on the planet and responsible for about as many human deaths as the malaria bug, are entertaining as hell at the zoo. They’re active during the day, they’re constantly moving around and doing shit. They waddle and wade, they open their huge mouths and bear their grisly, sharpened, man-spearing tusks. They wag their ears and then wave their tails around and spray piss on the gawkers. The hippo enclosure is a Gallagher show, just without all his pretension of being a heady, intellectualist comedian who just happens to bang on shit with a mallet. You will get wet.

Lions on the other hand just laze around. I could stay at home and watch a cat lie on the ground.

But yet here people come, from miles around to stand and stare and gape and gawk at the fucking lions. Pointshoot digital cameras and iPhones raised, the big cats live in a world where the only sound they hear is the electronic clicky-clack of cameraphones snapping a still.

“I just don’t see what the big deal is how could Siegfried and/or Roy been taken apart by one of those boring old things? Maybe it’s just because he’s a bit of a sissy and you know how those types are, right?”

Maybe I am jaded to the point where the King of the Jungle just doesn’t excite? No that cannot possibly be, I sat through The Ghost and the Darkness with a nonstop boner and not just because of Michael Douglas’ chiseled jawline. Lions are rad fucking animals – when left in their natural environment. When they’re placed in an enclosure and hand fed to the point where they just forget how to chase down and devour a gazelle (or slow-running beflipflopped biped) and allowed to sleep in to their heart’s content, well at that point there’s no magic. They may as well be the animatrons at the Rainforest Cafe for all the lively and lifelike they are.

But for urban dwellers for whom the furthest they’ve been away from a Starbucks is the center of the Oakland Bay Bridge, the lion enclosure is pure, raw, unadulterated jungle excitement. Pathetic. Disgusting.

These poor lions live in a world where a half inch of Lexan plastic separates them from the easiest meal they’ll ever catch. Maybe that’s why they sleep in, tortured by the fact that an entire paradise buffet exists outside this upended mason jar in which they live, but they’re unable to get to it, the grisly satisfaction of claws digging into personflesh lies tantalizingly, agonizingly out of reach.

Hey baby, what do you say I take you home and eat your pupusa?

April 17, 2010

Drippy with stringy cheese and full of flavor, these pupusas are a punch to the lips that leave a fella reeling and demanding more.

Now, in previous entries I’ve railed against my boring, WASPy kin by deriding their faux-worldliness and absolute lack of cultural awareness as they gravitate around that which they find comforting like scared little cavemen huddled around their campfire, shivering in abject horror at that which lurks outside of their established comfort zones.

I’m going to level with you here, gentle reader, I ain’t as worldly as my braggadocio proclaims. Adventurous and fearless in my epicurian pursuits, yes, but I’m only slightly more well-traveled than that one rug that just held the whole room together. Johnny Cash I ain’t (however I have been to Hawthorne).

I live vicariously through Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimern, anxious to follow in their footsteps and eat the absolute bonkers shit they get paid to shovel down. Alas, I lack their big greasy money and entertainment industry contacts, so I make do with what little I have and attempt to make that go as long and far as I can.

Which means I find myself rubbing elbows with the real people, poor, hard-working folk on down times and disastrous circumstances. These people need a hearty meal at a low price, one that sticks to the insides and warms the heart as much as it warms the stomach.

When I first arrived here in Sin City USA, I noticed one word continuing to crop up on backlit signage at low-rent strip malls in the back streets near the University campus: “pupuseria.”

Now, this is the first time I’d ever seen the term, I was fascinated. Quickly consulting the wikipedos, it was very-helpfully revealed that a pupuseria was a restaurant what serves pupusas. Thanks, wikipedia, I could have deduced that one on my own.

Some days later, while waiting for a date that never materialized, I decided to satiate my curiosity and find out fir myself what the damn big deal was about pupusas.

On that lazy Friday afternoon, I moseyed into Las Pupusas Restaurant at the corner of Eastern and Tropicana. Upon entering, I was greeted by a friendly Salvadoran woman who walked me through the ins and outs of today’s culinary expedition into the Darkest Unknown. She was my Sherpa and I was the goober-ass hillbilly tourist idiot.

Pupusas are a traditional Salvadoran dish that dates back to before there even was a Salvador. They are doughy lumps of masa dough stuffed with a meaty, cheesy filling that’s been mulched to a fine purée then grilled on the hot top.

There were three fillings on the menu, and I ordered one of each, as well as a delightful pineapple punch that had bits of apple floating about therein.

It’s telling when the beverage cost more than the entree, but this is tough grub for tough people – people who see fruity beverages as an extraneous expense, unneccessary for survival in the harsh reality of their lives. But I digress, this punch is the forshizzlest. It needs to be served with a bigger bore straw so a dude can suck up all the delightful rough-chopped apple bits.

The dish arrived, looking all the world like three big, floppy, cheesy pancakes. The cheese filling bled out the sides and created a delicious brown crust around the edges, exactly the sort of thing I loved in my grilled cheese as a youth, but that which would always be cut away before service. Sigh.

The meal as it was served. Three pupusas of varying flavors, a little bowl of delightful fermented cabbage, red chile tomato sauce and the pina/manzanita punch. Stellar.

The plate came with a side of lightly-fermented cabbage studded with chile, tomato and cilantro flavors. It was crisp like a properly-drained Southern coleslaw but tart and delicious like sauerkraut. I could eat just this coleslaw and be happy.

The pupusas themselves were a soft, pillowy, buttery, cheesy delight, swimming in herbiage that was not the typical Mexican flavors to which I’m accustomed, but at the same time, distinctively Latin. I someday wish to work in a kitchen like this to learn the subtle complexities of the seasonings. What I can say though is I’m in love.

I savored each of the three varieties on the menu: Revueltas (fried pork and refried beans), Loroco (melty, drippy, Quesillo cheese and their proprietary blend of 11 herbs and spices) and a Calabaza (squash and Quesillo). All were outstanding, but my favor fell on the Revueltas, being a dude that’s got a soft spot in his guts for anything that’s been trimmed off of a that most majestic and delicious of critters: the stately swine.

The total bill came to under ten bucks, four of which was my beverage. There was so much wonderful, filling food that I was unable to finish it all. I honestly cannot remember a time when ten bucks at a sit-down place left me satisfied. I need a nap.

I honestly do not know how I made it to almost thirty without having never experienced a pupusa. But now that I have, I fully expect this dish and these wonderful little pupuserias – blaring Cuban music from the PA and adorable children running but not screaming around the tables – to be a regular thing for myself, my friends, family and out of town guests.

Fan-fuckin’-tastic.

Maybe this town doesn’t suck so bad after all?

Havana Go Go fuck yourself.

April 17, 2010

Inside the Tropicana, one of the O.G. Strip casinos maintains what the wikipedia refers to as a “Miami/South Beach” motif.

Cool, whatever. It’s less cloying than most other motifs. Big bonus for the casino floor being home to a Cuban cafe, Havana Go Go.

Sweet. I love cafe cubano and the cubano sandwich is by far the purest expression of sandwichcraft as an art form and commune with the dark powers what dwell beneath.

I was stoked, ready to go in full-bore and get a cafe cubano until I noticed this small, unassuming sign.

That’s right: “we proudly brew Starbucks coffee.”

Fuck you, Tropicana. Full stop. Wayne Newton can eat my nuts for an open-ended extended engagement.

Shitting at the Sunset Station

April 14, 2010

Nobody likes pooping in public. Being a technohobo, I find it to be an uncomfortable necessity. Thankfully, Las Vegas is full to the brim with clean, bright, well-maintained mens rooms. Based on a thread on my facebook page, I’ve decided to make a mission out of my alimentary requisite and basically take a dump in every dump in the greater Las Vegas metroplex.

Shitters will be gauged on several arbitrary metrics. Most important being a place to set your smartphone and/or concealment piece while straining to evacuate.

Today: Sunset Station.
The Sunset is one of a dozen or so smallish “locals friendly” clubs that dot the landscape. Stations is/are apparently a holding company that operates and maintains many, if not all of the off-Strip, out-of-Downtown hotel/casino properties. They all share a common players club card and maintain a similar graphic design motif.

The mens rooms in the Station casinos are about the same across the board, save for the newer, more expensive, upscale Red Rock and M resorts on the furthest peripheries of town (I’ll discuss them at a later date), basic brown stalls, American Standard urinals and Bemis toilets.

The Sunset’s mens room stalls have a clever little shelf, upon which a fella can place objects he doesn’t want to have stolen by a pair of grabby paws reaching under the next stall. Such as his carry piece.

All in all, a fella could find a worse place to poo.