Category: Travel (page 1 of 21)
I was caught in a slot machine massacre, taking the life out of my bank account. On the last night of our week-long Vegas adventure, I tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate my losses with one last flurry of spending. As we were leaving town on Valentine’s Day, I couldn’t help but think about the Mob Museum and the bullet-riddled brick wall that was reassembled to memorialize this famous Chicago shootout. I consequently pulled some information from Wikipedia hoping to learn mire a out this event exactly 91 years later. “The Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre was the 1929 Valentine’s Day murder of seven members and associates of Chicago’s North Side Gang. The men were gathered at a Lincoln Park garage on the morning of Valentine’s Day. They were lined up against a wall and shot by four unknown assailants who were dressed like police officers. The incident resulted from the struggle to control organized crime in the city during Prohibition between the Irish North Siders, headed by George “Bugs” Moran, and their Italian South Side rivals led by Al Capone. The perpetrators have never been conclusively identified, but former members of the Egan’s Rats gang working for Capone are suspected of a significant role, as are members of the Chicago Police Department who allegedly wanted revenge for the killing of a police officer’s son.”
The garage at 2122 North Clark Street, now the parking lot of a nursing home, was the site of the 10:30 a.m. shooting. Seven men were murdered by four unidentified killers. “Two of the shooters were dressed as uniformed policemen, while the others wore suits, ties, overcoats, and hats. Witnesses saw the fake police leading the other men at gunpoint out of the garage after the shooting. The victims included five members of George “Bugs” Moran’s North Side Gang. Al Capone was widely assumed to have been responsible for ordering the Massacre.”
“Capone’s lookouts likely mistook one of Moran’s men for Moran himself, probably Albert Weinshank, who was the same height and build. The physical similarity between the two men was enhanced by their dress that morning; both happened to be wearing the same color overcoats and hats. Two of the killers reportedly opened fire with Thompson sub-machine guns, one with a 20-round box magazine and the other a 50-round drum.” Later in the year, these guns and other related items were found in a St. Joseph, Michigan bungalow, although the case has really never been totally solved.
-Brothers Peter and Frank Gusenberg, front-line enforcers for the Moran organizations
-Albert Kachellek (alias “James Clark”), Moran’s second in command
-Adam Heyer, the bookkeeper and business manager of the Moran gang
-Reinhardt Schwimmer, an optician who had abandoned his practice to gamble on horse racing and associate with the gang
-Albert Weinshank, who managed several cleaning and dyeing operations for Moran; his resemblance to Moran is allegedly what set the massacre in motion before Moran arrived, including the clothes that he was wearing.
-John May, an occasional car mechanic for the Moran gang
A heart-felt message,
From Al Capone.
Meet by Lincoln Park,
And don’t come alone.
Bring your whole gang,
Those stealing from me.
Around 10:30 a.m.,
If you’re free?
There’s a garage,
On nearby Clark Street.
If you stop by,
I’ll serve a sweet treat.
Seven showed up,
And died that day.
As guns blazed,
Revenge to pay.
As fate would have it,
“Bugs” was late.
His date with death,
Would have to wait.
A Moran double,
The mistaken aim.
Their hats and coats,
Were both the same.
It was a killing,
Though many theories,
A brick wall,
Is all that endures.
Copyright 2020 johnstonwrites.com
I remain intrigued with this mob mystery and will continue my retirement hobby of visiting related educational sites around the country, including recent visits to Frank Nitti’s Vault below Harry Caray’s in Chicago (See Post #1067), John Dillinger’s capture in downtown Tucson at the Hotel Congress (See Post #845), and the John Gotti Spark’s Steakhouse slaughter in New York City. The common theme is always a nearby Italian restaurant.
I continue to monitor travel expenditures, knowing that $1000/day continues to be our exorbitant standard. (See Post #320). This is on top of day-to-day living expenses that do not vary much when you’re not at home, with the exception of food. Regardless, of where you are, you still have to eat, and it’s usually more costly on the road. In our case, the $1000/day rule includes transportation (airfare, rental cars, Uber, and gas), lodging, parking, gifts, dog sitting, souvenirs, food/beverage, gifts, side excursions, entertainment admissions, and tips. Our eight-day Las Vegas adventure was no exception, although we got away without airfare (miles), hotels (points), dog sitting (daughter), and parking (public transportation). We even took some of our own wine. At $650 per day including gambling losses, this trip was a relative bargain. However, if we had paid full-price for all these basic elements of travel, it would have added up to $350 daily, or right at that grand-a-day expectation.
In our upcoming trip to Arizona, I’ve already “paid” for Spring Training tickets/parking, airfare (Alaska points), and 3-nights hotel (Marriott Bonvoy points). Our friends have a car and we’ll stay at their house in Tucson the remaining 4-nights. We’ll still have to pay about $500 a week for pet sitting, but somehow we’ll find a way to get to the $7000, 7-day level through exorbitant dining and shopping, It always seems to work-out to $1,000 a day. Same thing for our split-trips to Dallas (boys only) and Savannah/Hilton Head (girls only). It will easily be $500/day for each of us. Then it will be the two of us together for San Francisco in April and Bali in May, in each case utilizing Marriott Vacation Club timeshares that are “pre-paid” through mortgage and maintenance fees. This is a whole separate part of the travel budget that figures out to be about $540 weekly, whether we are staying at a Marriott property or not. As you can see, traveling is our biggest expense in retirement. But, it’s worth it.
Traveling together to Las Vegas was our Valentine’s gift to each other this year. Here’s a poem to summarize our fabulous week:
My Vegas Valentine
I left “The Strip,”
Without a buck.
After a week of,
No gambling luck.
We saw the Canyon,
Walked a glass plank.
After I.U. hopes,
Came back to life.
We celebrated love,
As husband and wife.
A return to the Chapel,
At the Bellagio,
Before we enjoyed,
Joel’s rolls and,
Joe’s Stone Crabs.
Two dining highlights,
But hefty tabs.
A rose from Hugo’s,
Mobsters and Neon,
Made for sore feet.
Edge a first.
Two cases from Guy,
To quench your thirst.
Sushi in Paris,
Trevi in Rome,
Palaces and Castles,
It’s “no place like home.”
In dry, dusty land.
Since vows were said.
“So Happy Together,”
To share a love bed.
Our stay at Westgate,
Did not endear!
A Grand Chateau awaits,
For our twentieth year.
Copyright 2020 johnstonwrites.com
An indoor rainstorm, a walk-through chandelier, cube-shaped TV’s, the Bellagio East Chapel where we got married, Pete Rose in a casino signing autographs, sushi rolls in Paris, playing 10 hands of poker at the same time, and a 76-year old man still belting out the hits were just a few of the Vegas highlights that I had yet to write about. It Valentine’s Eve, sometimes referred to as “Galentine’s Day,” when single women celebrate the occasion. For my wife and I, it’s a date with Barry Manilow, soon to turn 77 years young. His home stage is the Westgate Resort and Casino where we’re staying, so how could we miss the opportunity to see him. We tried to see 93-year old Tony Bennett, another Vegas legend, in a Portland concert last year but he cancelled. These are guys that make me feel young, even though they are doing a lot more at this stage of life than I am.
I saw the Neville Brothers here in Vegas a few decades back and Barry Manilow 25 years ago, both as part of conventions in the television industry. The Who and their song “Who are You” launched the CBS-TV hit, CSI – Crime Scene investigation Las Vegas, at the Bellagio in 2000. They performed a private concert and stayed for a reception. The cast of Mamma Mia were musical guests a couple of years later. This was the extent of my exposure to Vegas convention music, once I moved to an NBC affiliate who held their annual meetings in New York City. Tonight will be the first time that I’ve actually paid to see a concert here in Las Vegas.
The New York City affairs were primarily dinners and meetings, not the glitz of Las Vegas. I did, however, continue to benefit from free tickets for concerts and sporting events as part of entertaining clients through the years. We always had a suite and/or great seats for virtually anything that came to town. This dates back to even the radio business where free tickets were always available and spoiled me for life. Here I am in retirement with less income and no ticket connections. Sadly, I have to pay for my seats now, starting with Barry Manilow!
The weather has been cool here in Las Vegas, but at least there’s been no rain and plenty of sunshine. The “things I’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have time for” tour of the city continues. I’ve traditionally spent 3 or 4 days here but never a full week. It’s allowed time for the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Cirque, Sky Walk, Mob Museum, Brilliant, Neon Boneyard, Sports Book, Titanic Artifacts, and the Fremont Street Experience. I’ve also lost a lot more more playing slot machines, and spent huge dollars on fine dining. Today is our last full day to experience The Strip and add to the list of tireless “free” entertainment that we’ve enjoyed like the Bellagio fountain, Mirage volcano, Hershey samples, glitzy signs, street shows, and people watching. We also never get tired of walking through the massive themed hotels and noisy casinos.
My wife and I both preferred Beatles Love over Michael Jackson’s ONE and “O,” comparing the three main Cirque du Soleil performances we’ve seen through the years. Zumanity and KA’ are not of interest to either of us. My wife is disappointed that the Broadway performances are no longer an entertainment option for some reason. We’ve seen Mamma Mia and Avenue Q here in the past for example. We’re also surprised that Disney doesn’t have a presence, as Vegas has become more family-friendly in recent years. The crowds seem to be down a bit this week, partly due to the Coronavirus that has halted travel from China. Valentine’s weekend should be busy, as we make our timely exit back to Portland.
We’ve had six fabulous nights of Valentine dinners, including Bouchon, Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier, Trevi, Hugo’s Cellar, Joe’s Stone Crab, and tonight at Edge Steakhouse. Plus, lunches at Wolfgang Puck, Sky View overlooking the Grand Canyon, Bonanno’s Pizza, and a liquid snack in Eataly. It’s a good thing we’ve burned off lots of calories walking around, although the moving sidewalks and monorail have saved lots of steps. This afternoon I think we’ll go to Paris and the Eiffel Tower, following yesterday’s preview of our upcoming Egypt trip at the Luxor. We’ve already covered the MGM “yellow brick road,” New York – New York, Mandalay Bay, the Venetian canals, Treasure Island, castles, palaces, and all points in-between. Before we leave, I would like to go back to Circus-Circus as a reminder of my first visits to Las Vegas, on a much smaller budget. The Westward Ho next door where we actually stayed was torn down 14 years ago. Forty years ago I remember the free high-flying circus acts in the Circus-Circus Big-Top, long before there ever was Cirque-Cirque-and more Cirque.
We spent a lot of time on our feet yesterday. I, of course, started with a 3.1 mile run, as I do everyday. We then sat through a useless timeshare presentation and toured a couple of condos here at the Westgate Resort and Casino as part of the Interval International exchange program. In the future, we’ll either stay at the Bellagio, where we got married, or the Marriott Grand Chateau, as part of our Vacation Club. They both have far superior accommodations and better locations, but fulfilled our obligation to our friendly, personal concierge, Guy. We did get another case of water and a $100 credit voucher for wasting our time with him and his pushy bosses. I vow to never get trapped in another presentation, regardless of the circumstances.
We spent the afternoon and evening in Downtown Las Vegas. Our first stop was the Mob Museum that provided an interesting history of the city and the development of the casinos. It was then a short walk to the Neon Boneyard where all the old, rusty signs are on display. Many of them have been restored and some still work. The largest of those still working is the Hard Rock guitar that can be seen from the street. There was also artist Tim Burton’s fascinating exhibit Lost Vegas that includes several neon and character designs. In addition, we bought tickets for Brilliant, where the old signs are brought back to life through music and video projection. It was like a trip down memory lane from 50 years ago when I first visited the city.
The Fremont Street Experience was our next stop, as our feet began to ache. I’ve averaged about 24,000 steps a day since arriving 5 days ago (thanks in part to Advil), despite sitting (or more like stiffening-up) in the car for at least 7 hours on our round-trip to the Grand Canyon. We’ve covered all the sights that you rarely have time to do in typical 3-day stay. We’ve also managed to stay busy even though we were somewhat dreading a full week here. Instead, we’ve had time for the pool, pricey dining every night, Michael Jackson’s ONE at Mandalay Bay, the Bellagio Fountains & Wedding Chapel, unproductive gambling, the monorail, Westgate Sports Book, sleeping-in late (at least my wife), and lots of walking. Last night’s dinner was at Hugo’s Cellar directly below the Four Queens. It was a step-back-in-time with the continuing tradition of a rose for every lady. I was last there about 30 years ago. Prior to dinner, we watched the overhead video show and zip-liners. I also played video poker and hit “Four Queens” in the Four Queens casino. It was a small concession for previous and eventual losses.
Today, it’s the Titanic artifact exhibit at the Luxor in the afternoon and Joe’s Stone Crab at Caesar’s Palace for dinner. Our last night will include Edge Steakhouse and the Barry Manilow’s concert, both here at the Westgate. I can tell our time here is growing short because my medication and underwear are running low. We’ll undoubtedly be back again next year at a different location for a shorter stay to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. “Viva Las Vegas!”
It reminded me of my working days, setting an alarm for an early morning run and catching an Uber. We then met a shuttle guide at the Wynn for the one-day Grand Canyon tour. It was my wife’s first trip to the rim, a bucket-list adventure for her. On the other hand, I’ve been to the Grand Canyon on two other occasions, including a stop at the Hoover Dam. Both of those excursions were at least 25 years ago, before they built the massive bridge in honor of Mike O’Callighan and Pat Tillman. It’s now a “dam good” observation point and a nice break on the long drive from Las Vegas. We also passed through a corner of The Joshua Tree National Park and stopped at a gift shop in Dolan Springs before arriving at the West End viewpoints.
My legs were shaking as I stepped-on the glass-bottomed Sky Walk, overlooking the snake-like Colorado River. The older I get – the more afraid of heights I seem to become! I felt a bit light-headed as the photographer documented our walk around the semi-circle. He tried to get me to relax but you could clearly see the fear in my eyes during the “fun” poses that he suggested, to sell us some souvenir pictures. The Sky Walk was commissioned and still owned by the Hualapai Indian tribe. “The People of the Tall Pines,“ as it translates make, their money through tourism not gambling, although my sky walk steps seemed every bit a gamble.
I’ve somehow gotten through the NYC observation decks, Space Needle, Sears Tower, helicopter & hot air balloon rides, para-sailing, and even zip-lining. However, there was something particularly unsettling about walking on glass over a seemingly bottomless pit. I paid $27 to torture myself and another $16 for the photo reminder. I suppose I could have chickened out, but I’m obviously a glutton for punishment. I marveled at how men at one time would dangle from cables to collect guano droppings. Holy sh*t, Batman!
I was more than ready to make the dusty drive back to Vegas after 3 hours of trying to stay as far away as possible from the rocky cliffs, walking a wide path despite my wife’s enthusiasm. I tried my best to enjoy one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, but would have preferred to keep my eyes shut or better yet stayed on the bus. Next, she’ll have me reluctantly back on a helicopter or hot air balloon to fulfill some of her other bucket listings. The Sky Bridge was definitely not one of mine.
All was right (or at least Knight) in the world for about 20 minutes yesterday. I was sitting in the Las Vegas Westgate Sports Book sipping on a complimentary vodka and tonic because I was playing video poker and I.U. basketball was on one of the big screens. Even though the Hoosiers lost control of the game after a 12-0 Boilermaker run, I knew something special was about to happen. A friend and former I.U. basketball player, had just posted a picture of himself and Coach Bobby Knight in one of the hospitality rooms inside Cook Hall in Bloomington, Indiana. The legendary General was about to step on the court for the first time in two decades, hopefully cementing a future relationship with the school after all those years of bad blood. It was a tearful moment for me even though Knight had become the public a-hole that we all knew he could be as a coach. He looks fragile after all those years with the mannerisms that my dad displayed in his eighties. He was shaky and unsteady but still had fire in his eyes. I was glad he was back, and I think so was he!
After the glow of halftime wore out, the team failed to respond despite the hype, a week-off to prepare, and a must-win situation. Even Knight’s presence couldn’t fix the Hoosiers. They are in a bad place, in the middle of a schedule drought that mimics the scoreless streaks they display on the floor. Just three weeks ago they were a “lock” for a bid to the NCAA Tournament, even after a home court collapse against Maryland. Today, it’s time to face the reality of another NIT. Archie can’t beat Purdue, so when they meet again in Lafayette, the outcome will probably be even more embarrassing in his fifth attempt to succeed. Even with a poor season, a single Purdue victory can at least save a job.
There are eight games left this season before the BIG tournament that I.U. has never won. The Hoosiers have dropped to the near the basement of the conference, tied with Michigan at 5-7. Michigan has at least won recently. Only Nebraska and Northwestern have no post-season chances, and I.U. doesn’t get to play either one. They do have one more shot at the Wolverines but that’s in Ann Arbor. Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Penn State come to town. I.U. will be lucky to win two of those games and could easily lose all four. In addition, they travel to Minnesota and Illinois. They’ve already lost four straight – how long will this losing streak persist? I’m worried! Penn State, Iowa, Purdue, and Michigan have all started timely winning streaks. Nebraska has lost 8 straight and Northwestern 6, but once again we don’t play either of them, and it took overtime to beat Nebraska at home.
Bob Knight led the Assembly Hall crowd with a chant of “Defense.” We gave up 74 points against Purdue, 68 versus Ohio State, 64 to Penn State, and 77 to Maryland in this four-game slump. That’s certainly not Bob Knight defense! I hope I’m wrong and that Archie gets the win in Lafayette and the NCAA seed to get two of the monkeys off his back. Otherwise, he’ll soon be packing, although I still believe that’s a unnecessary setback that the program simply can’t endure. Let’s start with Iowa and at least get to 20 victories this year. Indiana…I’m all for you – thanks for patching the wounds from 20 years ago, and welcoming Coach Knight back to Assembly Hall.
I can barely type on the keyboard after my daily run, with my body filled with adrenaline. My hands shake more than normal before my heart rate begins to settle. The first paragraph every morning requires numerous corrections as I try to turn thoughts into words. It’s probably the best I feel all day as well as my most productive hours. The same was true when I was working. Normally, however, I was in a room where I didn’t have to worry about being disruptive. Today, I’m in a hotel room, as will be the case over the next week here in Las Vegas, and my wife is still trying to sleep. Apparently, there were some noisy neighbors that I was able to somehow sleep-through. Sometimes there are advantages to loss of hearing, but my wife isn’t buying that rationalization. “Get a hearing aid,” continues to be her not so subtle mantra. What?
It used to be “get your hearing checked,” but obviously I’ve proven that it’s more than just ear wax. I actually did get it checked a few years ago as the complaints started, and although they found some issues, it was considered to be normal age related hearing loss. Rock concerts! I don’t think I’ll have that concern at the upcoming Barry Manilow concert, as if I really want to hear “Copacabana.” Perhaps it’s gotten worse, but I don’t want to hear what’s going on next door in a hotel room or our apartment building. We have a small child upstairs that sounds like a herd of elephants as she runs with unbounded energy. I think I’ll wait until we move away from downtown Portland before I invest in new ears.
I do use closed captioning when I watch television, claiming that I can’t often understand the character accents, particularly British productions. I’m usually at the keyboard anyway, not totally focused on the plot. I end up re-viewing a program several times before I get the full gist of it. I wish I had the CC option at the movie theater, but there I’m forced to pay close attention. I think I just need to pay fuller attention to my wife rather than try to listen while monitoring game scores on my phone. What? In retirement, nothing urgent comes through my phone anymore, so she should get my total concentration. It might help me get away with a few more years without amplification. Quite simply, if I give her my undivided attention, I shouldn’t need a hearing aid -yet!
I’ve been in Vegas at the Westgate Resort and Casino for over 12 hours and haven’t lost a dime. In fact, I’m ahead, even though a bar fountain Diet Pepsi just cost me $8. My wife is still asleep, so I can continue these written ramblings about my retirement life. I’ve used the last two posts to expound on bladder problems and butt-crack to give you an idea of how educational and enlightening my thoughts can sometimes be. Currently, I’m sitting on my butt in a dark hotel room at the computer keyboard, trying not to disturb her. I did, however, get a three-mile run in already and checked-out the Sports Book. The Hoosiers play the Boilermakers in about two hours on the big screen, with the rumored possibility of Bobby Knight in attendance. It will be a good indication of how my luck stands.
It’s the 21st anniversary of my love relationship in the city where we got married nearly 19 years ago. We celebrate the 8th of every month – this being the 252nd. Even though 10 has always been my lucky number, dating back to the playing days of Sherm Lollar, 8 could be even luckier. Our room number ends in an 8, but the digits add up to 10, as I continue to look for signs of good fortune. Even that $8 Diet Pepsi might have meaning, despite my favoritism to Diet Coke that they apparently don’t serve in this hotel. They did, however, give us plenty of great chocolate chip cookies and a case of free water thanks to our personal concierge, Guy. I gave him a $10 tip, sticking to the numbers, and agreed to have lunch with him in a few days. We’ll meet again at the Elvis statue in the lobby where he will certainly try to sell us on something. We already are timeshare owners, so they apparently want our feedback and willing to pay $100 in addition to the free lunch. This is why I can momentarily say that I’m ahead at this point in our week-long stay.
We used Alaska miles for the flights, paid only $300 total for the room, $18 for an Uber, and put-down a $25 refundable deposit to make sure we show up for lunch with Guy. He sent me a friendly text this morning offering to go to Wal-Mart for us if we needed anything. What a Guy! I also just made arrangements and paid the $350 remaining balance for our Grand Canyon tour on Monday. Fortunately, Guy won’t go with us, but I’m sure he would if we asked. All in all, I guess I’m really not winning after all, am I? There’s the cost of tickets for our show reservations that we pre-paid as well as admission tickets for the Titanic, Neon Graveyard, and Tim Burton exhibits. It’s starting to add up, and I’ve barely left the room. So much for a winning moment in Vegas!
It took as long to get from downtown to the airport as it did to fly to Vegas (1 hr. 45 minutes). With some overhead power issues, they shut down the MAX half-way there, loaded us on a shuttle bus to the Blue Gresham bound train, and finally transferred us back to the Red. With our start on the streetcar, it was a 5-step Tri-Met sampler, utilizing all their public transportation options. It took all this plus two elevators, an escalator, handicap ramps, rough sidewalk maneuvering and good old-fashioned muscle to ultimately get our luggage to an Alaska Airline baggage handler. At least, they gave us a break on the extra pounds we packed. Despite all this hassle, we still had time for a Pot Belly sandwich as we waited to board.
The trip had started so smoothly, catching the streetcar and Airport train without any waiting. We were comfortably seated for about ten minutes before they abruptly dumped us off at a busy stop just over the bridge. It was shoulder-to-shoulder from that point on as we were herded like cattle from bus and train-to-train. The big wide smile on my wife’s face began to fade with each detour. Fortunately, the plane took-off even a few minutes early. Our last trip to Vegas was badly delayed, so thoughts of “here we go again” weighed heavily before we got through security unscathed. We were finally on our way.
Travel hassles are all part of the adventure, especially in unhurried retirement. There’s been some doozies through the years, including missed flights or connections, unexpected airport stops, car rental mishaps, rough seas, illness, overnights in airports, lost baggage, miss-booked hotel rooms, bad weather, accidents, and arguments. Flexibility is the best precaution – a luxury we now have without work schedules. Also, our dog Tally is about the only responsibility we can’t always take with us. There’s little reason why we can’t stay a few extra days. It’s only money!
Actually, I still pout and moan if things don’t go as planned. There’s no patience in these old bones, although I am contemplating a meditation course that a friend teaches. Perhaps, I can adopt some of Buddha’s philosophies in the process? In our recent travels to Thailand, we joked about the constant presence of gold statues celebrating Buddha and his often exposed rear end – “Buddha Butt.” When I brought this up at the recent breakfast meeting, the guy next to me claimed to have invented that religion. “I’m a plumber,” he quipped. I hope my Buddhist friends can overlook these crass butt-crack jokes, and I can learn the patient, forgiving ways of Buddhism. Maybe it can even fix my bladder problems?