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Monday, September 30, 2013

Chato Matisse


I received a donation request from and friend for Strut Your Mutt.

Without hesitation, I donated $25. The problem came when I noticed $25 charged three times on my bank account. Obviously, this was a mistake and needed to be corrected. I mean, I don't mind donating $75, but I was kind of wanting that $50 for other stuff.

I called bestfriends.org, the parent organization of Strut Your Mutt, to discuss my situation.

"I have a problem. I donated $25, but my bank statement has it charged three times. I don't mind the idea of donating $75, but I was actually counting on that $50."

I provided my name and credit card number. I later received a call but with no positive news.

"We can't find your donation anywhere. Are you sure you donated to bestfriends.org?" I was asked by a very sweet lady.

"Yes. I made a donation last week for $25, and my bank statement shows it was charged three times," I explained.

The very nice lady couldn't find my information, but she assured me that they'd look into the charges.

Sure enough, the next day I received a call from another lady at bestfriends.org. She asked if I indeed submitted a donation to Strut Your Mutt,"Are you sure you made a donation to Strut Your Mutt?"

"Yes and it was for $25. I don't mind donating $75, but I budget so much to make only $25 for right now."

"Did you use some other name to make your donation?" she asked.

"Hold on. I have the email here somewhere confirming my donation. Oh yes... Oh... Chato Matisse, my dog. I make a donation on behalf of my dog."

"How do you spell that?"

"C-H-A-T-O. Matisse, like the painter." (Thinking back, this really sounded gay--not that there is anything wrong with that.)

"Oh yes. I see him here."

"Well, I was being cute and all with the name and donation."

"Well, we now know being cute got you in trouble," she quipped.

You can read other blog entries about Chato HERE, HERE, HEREHERE, and HERE.



Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Can I speak to your MOD."


My wife and I bought a new clothes washer, the Samsung 4.5 cu. ft. King-Size Capacity High-Efficiency AquaJet VRT.

Let me backup and give some back-story.

A few years ago, my friend was trying to get rid of his washer and dryer. He was having trouble selling his appliances. Being the good friend, I offered to buy them from him for 200 dollars. He took the offer.

We really didn't need a new washer and drying. Granted, ours was old and running a littler slower than less efficient. The washer and dryer he sold to me were more efficient and they were Maytag.

The problem was this particular washer model was known to stop a few times during washes. Either my wife or I would have to remember to push the power button every time we didn't here the washer working. After years of doing this, I was determined to get us a new washer.

With the help of my father-in-law, who contributed 500 bucks to the purchase, I got my wife a new washer.

There are two Lowe's within three miles from our house. My son and I decided to go to the Lowe's in Round Rock; the other location is in North Austin. We purchased our new washer and scheduled the delivery.

In the delivery notes, I requested that we'd be notified 30 minutes in advanced in order to make sure someone gets home to receive the washer.

The day of the deliver, however, I received a call seven minutes before. I frantically called my wife and told her to get home to meet the delivery guys. Four minutes later, the delivery guys called back to ask if she was on her way, because they had a busy schedule. Needlesstosay, I was pissed.

I waited for my wife to call me and confirm that the delivery had been made. She did. Then I called Lowe's to file my complaint.

"Thank you for calling Lowe's. How can I direct your call?" asked the operator.

"Can I please speak to your MOD, your manager on duty," I sternly requested.

"Yes, sir," replied the operator as she quickly directed my call.

"Hello, this is Cindy. How can I help you?" asked a very polite girl.

"I want to file a complaint."

"Okay."

"I bought a washer from you guys and requested that we'd be called 30 minutes before delivery. Yesterday, you guys called to confirm and I again asked for a 30 minute heads-up in order to make sure someone would be at the house."

"Okay."

"Well, I received a call from the delivery guy giving me seven minutes warning. Then he called again a few minutes later to see if I was able to reach my wife."

"Oh."

"Now, I shop at Lowe's for all my home stuff, and I never have problems. This is something that makes me very upset and wanted to file my complaint."

"I am sorry about this, sir. Please give me your name and number, so I can pass it to our warehouse manager."

I did give my information and reminded her that I am a loyal Lowe's customer, but this event caused me to file a complaint.

Our call ended, and that was that.

A few days later, as my family and I were driving to Lowe's in Round Rock, where I purchased the washer, I realized that I had called the North Austin location.

Hee hee.


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Vegas Trip Part 2 - "Never Leave Your Wingman"

Continued.

"Alright...we're going to be each other's wingmen, okay," my friend told me as we walked through the casino to join our friends for our first night in Vegas. In previous years, the first nights are usually the nights where we really party and spend lots of money. Sometimes these are nights we want to forget the next day.

We were all dressed in our Vegas clubwear -- jeans or dark slacks, long-sleeve shirt, dark loafers, and the optional dark blazer.

We looked like the cast of Entourage, as we crossed Las Vegas Boulevard to join the rest of the guys at Stack, an upscale restaurant in the Mirage.

I'm known to be conservative stingy with my money. I decided to go with the chicken that cost about $30 rather than opt for the steak that was double or triple that price. I did order a $20 pineapple mojito with my meal, which I thought I was really living it up. The guys then ordered appetizers. I calculated an extra $10 for my share of the appetizers and tip.

Our friend, who was coordinating the bachelor party, then suggested that we just pitch in $100 each, since the restaurant wouldn't split checks. I though, "Shit, I should have ordered the rib eye."

Later that evening, we gathered around 1 Oak Nightclub, where the nightclub host walked us to our reserved table. We all had pitched in about $300 each for a table and drink service at the club. We even had our own personal bouncer.

Our table had two bottles of Grey Goose, a bottle of Crown Royal, a Patron tequila bottle, orange juice, Red Bull, Sprite, Coke, cranberry juice, and water. As one would expect, and since a few of our friends are single, girls came by our table for a free drink. These girls were vultures who called their friends to benefit from the free drinks. We had to call on our personal bouncer to kick them out.

Since we had the table for four hours, we did get to meet many new people--girls and guys. Many wanted to party with us. Other bachelor and bachelorette parties wanted to join our group.

From our table, we even got to see Skylar Grey perform a medley of her hits; however, as I reached over for my second shot of tequila, all I could hear in my head was LMFAO's Shots.

A few of us acted a bit silly--I was one of them as I found myself dancing at the edge of the upper dance floor overlooking our private table. Thank god no one got a picture of that. 

Soon many guys started leaving early, and only a handful of us were left. I looked around for my "wingman," but he was no where in sight. I figured perhaps he went to the restroom. Maybe he decided to dance.

At around god knows when, I was the only one at our table with three girls from Wisconsin, whom we all made friends with. Liquored up, I looked around for my wingman. He was no where in sight. We all decided that the night was over for us and walked out the club.

I said goodbye to our new friends and made my way back to the hotel.

What I am forgetting to tell is that after countless vodka drinks and tequila shots I was inebriated. My voyage back to the hotel got very spotty.

I remember exiting the club and walking past the Mirage lobby. I don't know how I crossed Las Vegas Boulevard, but I do remember seeing some of the guys at the blackjack table at Harrah's. I walked up to them, but didn't stay too long because I noticed the room spinning.

I walked into my room to see my "wingman" sound asleep in his bed.

You can imagine what came next. Let's just say, I suffered a major hangover the next day.











Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Our American Spirit



If you are my age, chances are you remember where you were when you first heard about the first twin tower. I was in my bedroom at my parents house in McAllen watching Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America. You can read my previous posts HERE and HERE.

Our lives changed dramatically after September 11th. We lost trust in each other. This distrust not only included Middle-Eastern people but Hispanics too. Racial profiling became the norm, and some would argue it was for good reason.

One thing that wasn't lost was our American spirit. Collectively, we continued life and kept going. Evil will never prevail.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Survival Guide for Visiting Sin City


A group of us guys have a traditional annual trip to Vegas. We've been doing it for the past eight years.

With a little more money in my pocket, I'm planning to have a fun time, this year.

Nothing too crazy. Nothing like Hangover. Just four hands full of guys going to Vegas for a bachelor party. Yeah, we totally won't get in trouble.

A few years ago, I put together a survival guide for men visiting Las Vegas. You can find the original post HERE. Like many other things written, I thought perhaps I should update the information.

So, without further adieu, here is:

LAS VEGAS SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR MEN 2013

1. Make sure you have at least $800 for your trip--if you plan to gamble, you should reserve an extra $200 to $400. Depending on where you depart, low cost air flights will probably run between $300 and $500. (Frequent flyer miles may be great use for Vegas trips.)  A decent hotel along the Strip and Fremont Street will cost between $100 and $150 a night. Hotels off the Strip will be significantly cheaper. Cab rides and other fares will run about $20 to $30 per trip--don't forget tipping money. The $9.99 filet mignon or the all-you-can-eat-buffets are most common off the Strip. Expect to pay $50 to $100 a day on food and drinks. If you plan to experience the Vegas nightlife, set aside an extra $100 a night.

Below are some simple solutions to help offset the cost for your Vegas trip:

2. Plan at least three months in advance. A Vegas trip takes planning, and the longer you give yourself the better experience you'll have. Visit the various travel websites to help plan your trip such as: Vegas.com, Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, Kayak.com, or Southwest.com. Use these sites as sources for comparison. Often, it may be slightly cheaper to make reservations at the airline's website or the individual hotel's website.

3. How long should I stay? For me, three days in Vegas is enough. Any more is just too long. I'd recommend flying into Vegas either on Monday or Tuesday, and fly out Wednesday or Thursday. You might also find better deals during the week. If you are planning to experience the nightlife, you might want to consider working in a Friday or Saturday on your trip schedule.

4. Where to stay? It all depends on how much you are willing to pay for a room and what you want to do in Vegas. Before making reservations at a hotel, take into consideration that you'll only use the room to sleep and shower. The majority of the time you'll be in the casino or visiting the various attractions. Staying along the Las Vegas Strip will run about $100 to $150 a night, at a decent hotel; although staying at a much older hotel or off-the-Strip may save you a few bucks.

The benefit of staying along the Strip is that all the attractions are within walking distance. Plus, the nightclubs and first class restaurants are found along the Strip. However, everything along the Strip can be a bit pricy. For example, expect to pay $25 for a meal at the hotel. You'll probably spend as much for a buffet as well.

The hotels along Fremont Street are slightly cheaper. A hotel room can be found for less than $100 a night. Meals are much cheaper too. You'll probably find casino tables with a minimum bet of $3 compared to the $5 minimum bet tables along the Strip; of course, minimum bets do increase after noon. However, if you stay along Fremont Street, expect a $20 cab ride to the Strip.

5. Find a group of guys to invite. Here is a simple solution on how you can save money and have a great experience in Vegas. Find a few close friends to go to Vegas. From personal experience, a group of 4 to 6 works best. Any more may be too chaotic. With a group of friends, you will be able to split room costs, cab fares, and even meals. Going out in a group can make things fun. Of course, you'll probably have some wanting to gamble on the tables while others may want to play the slots or watch a game at the Sports Book, but at least you are within a few 100 yards from each other.

Unless you think you can take on the task, select one of your friends to be the trip planner. The planner is responsible for finding the flight to Vegas, reserving the hotel rooms, and making sure everyone is on the plane the day of departure.

6. Don't expect to win. If you are only wanting to go to Vegas to make some money on gambling, then maybe you shouldn't go. The chances of coming back with money is extremely slim. In other words, expect to lose. If you do come back with some extra cash, then good for you.

Accept that there are a few of us who are lucky in nature. My dad and wife are perfect examples. They sit on a slot machine, play a few dollars and win. Whereas, I sit and play a slot machine, a game of mere chance, and lose a couple of $20s.

If you do want to take a chance on slots, then I'd recommend playing the quarter machines. You'll have the option of selecting playing 25, 50, 75, $1, or $1.25. The more you bet, the better the payout. Once you hit a big payout, cash out and move onto a new machine. The best time to play slots is late at night. The best slots are those at or near the corners--they are played the most.

The tables may provide a better payout than the slot machines. Similar to slot machines and the roulette wheel, tables are based on chance; however, there is a bit of skill involved. If you do plan to take a chance on the tables and if you are a beginner, like me, then try Blackjack. It is probably one of the simplest game to learn. But don't expect to win. Play the tables for the fun and not for the profit.

7. Take a bottle of liquor (optional). Although the casinos will bring you complementary drinks to their playing guests, it may be a good idea to pack a bottle--drinks purchased in Vegas hotels, clubs, and bars can cost between $6.50 to $20. Some stores sell liquor that come in plastic bottles. This is quite convenient since glass can break if packed in luggage. If you do decide to pack liquor, consider placing the bottle in a gallon storage lock bag and between clothes. However, if you feel uncomfortable doing this, then you can always purchase a bottle at the hotel gift shop--although, the cost may be twice as much.

8. Pack your best clubwear. Dress to impress.Vegas is full of beautiful people. Guys are well chiseled and dressed in expensive wear; and the girls are fit and gorgeously posh. These nocturnal beauties can be found at the various nightclubs along the Strip dancing until daybreak. So, pack your best clothes and prepare to let loose. If you don't have any clubwear, don't worry. There are over a thousand stores in Vegas that will help you dress for the night.

Visit Pure at Caesars Palace or Tao at the Venetian. Rain Nightclub at the Palms Resort and Hotel. Vegas if full of nightclubs. The best thing to do is ask the bellman for suggestions.

9. Don't over pack. Take luggage no larger than 24" x 16" x 10". If it's small enough, you might be able to carry-on your bag. If you do carry-on, follow the TSA guidelines listed HERE. And if you do plan to carry-on, then perhaps you shouldn't take a bottle of liquor as I listed in No. 7 above.

10. Make sure to tip. If you tip generously, you'll get special treatment. Trust me.
If taking a taxi from the airport, the standard is $1 per luggage. The same goes for the bellman who helps you carry your luggage to and from the guest room.

If you take a taxi any place, round to the highest 5. For example, if the cab ride costs $16.25, then tip the guy $3.75. Basically, hand him a $20 bill and tell him to keep the change.

If you are served complementary drinks while you play, always tip the waitress well. The more you tip, the faster she'll return with another drink. Two dollars is a good start per drink.

11. Get VIP guest cards to a nightclub. It wouldn't be a bad idea to get VIP passes to a club before arriving to Las Vegas. There is a cost, but it does beat standing in line. If you want even faster access, then try tipping the bouncer. If you want first class service, consider purchasing a table at the club. Tables come with an alcohol decanter and mixers; however, prices for tables may reach over a $1000.

12. Watch your wallet. The last thing you want is your wallet stolen in Vegas. There are plenty of pickpockets ready to strike. The best solution is to carry your wallet in your front pockets and carry the cash you need. Avoid carrying too many credit cards in your wallet. All you really need is one. If you do notice a suspicious individual, turn and look straight at him.

When going to a club, don't bother taking your wallet. Take the cash you need, your ID, and a credit card for emergencies. Leave your wallet in the room--some places provide a lock safe in the guest rooms. Dance clubs can be extremely crowded with people, and a perfect opportunity for thieves.

13. Take caution of call girls. First of all, I've never purchased service from a call girl in the many years I've visited Vegas; however, I thought I should include it as a survival tip.

There are plenty of call girls in Vegas, and if you're looking for them, you'll notice them wandering the casino bars or playing slot machines. Some can be found dancing in the night clubs hunting for a client. The novice prostitutes look as if they just bought their clothes from RAVE or Charlotte Russe. The more mature and experienced ladies can be found at high-end bars.

One important thing to point out is that prostitution is illegal in Vegas, so take caution if you are planning to purchase service. Also, consider that the call girls know this profession is illegal. They will only flirt with guys with an alcoholic drink--undercover cops don't drink on the job. Prostitutes will wander off if you ask too many questions.

If you do choose to seek service from a call girl, please use protection.

14. Strip joints are pricey. Vegas has strip joints galore. If you are looking for the best strip joints, ask the bellman or the taxi driver; however, some taxis have agreements with certain gentlemen's clubs--they get a cut out of your admission fee.

If you do plan to visit a gentlemen's club, prepare to pay at least a $20 entrance fee. Some of the better strip joints charge more. Lap dances are about $20s. If you want something more, the dancers will provide you a fee structure. For example, at one strip club, for $400 you can get a private guest room for an hour.

Be cautious of the various schemes dancers may pull. If you aren't interested in a dance, let them know. If they insist, excuse yourself and leave. They'll be gone by the time you return, and your reputation of being cheap will be shared with the other dancers.

If you are planning to have a drink, expect to pay $20. Water usually runs the same price. Tap water is never given.

15. Go to a Las Vegas show. Vegas is filled with lots of Vegas shows. Shows run about $100 a person. I'd suggest making reservations ahead of time in order to get good seats.

If you are in the mood for a show, Folies Bergere, The Rat Pack is Back, and a Cirque du Soleil show are some to consider.

16. Watch the Bellagio Dancing Fountains. Want to feel like Ocean's Eleven? Check out the dancing fountains outside the Bellagio. The sight is amazing.

If you are able to, make reservations at Mon Ami Gabi at the Paris Hotel, across the street from the Bellagio. Ask for a seat on the patio.

17. Shop the Caesars Palace Forum Shops. The high-end shopping mall is known for it's Romanesque architecture and sky painted ceilings. In 2012, the mall celebrated it's 20th birthday. If you're willing to spend money on an overpriced gelato, visit Della Spiga Cafe. And if you are looking for a place to enjoy a good cigar and mojito, Casa Fuente offers patio seating where you can people-watch.

18. Find the Buddha at the Miracle Mile Shops. I'm not superstitious, but the last few times I've rubbed this Buddha's belly, I've come out ahead--money-wise. The Miracle Mile Shops is located adjacent from the Planet Hollywood Hotel.

19. Use the monorail. If you prefer to walk the Strip and experience all the sights by foot, then great; however, there is a monorail that provides service between the hotels along the Strip and out to the new SLS Hotel.

For $28 you can purchase an unlimited three-day pass. This is actually a good price, only if you plan to use the monorail. Go HERE for more info.

20. Fly out late. Make sure you plan your departure time towards the evening that way you can enjoy the day shopping for souvenirs. Hotels usually offer their guests bell service where they will store and save your luggage. Remember to tip or your bags may be "accidentally" lost.

21. Have fun. Don't go to Vegas to strike gold. It'll probably not happen for you. Accept it. Go to Vegas, spend money, and ENJOY!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Why is it my son doesn't let me nap?


Ever since he was a toddler, my son (who is now nine years old) hates the idea of me napping.

Sneaking in a snooze, during the day, while he watches TV, is almost impossible. He'll either call my name, tickle my feet, or throw dirty socks at me.

"Daddy? DADDY!"

Ugh.

My dad loves to nap during the day. This allows him to stay up longer at night. I adopted that practice when I moved out of their home and started my life in Austin.

After work, I would go home and take a nap. After my nap, I would go out with friends and stay out until one or two in the morning.

My wife hates napping during the day too, and she will argue that it only make sleeping at night more difficult. Perhaps this is more genetically related.

Yet, I can't complain. My son is much better in letting me snooze than when he was younger. On a good day, I can sneak in about 45 minutes of napping.



Monday, September 2, 2013

ShaKitty ShaKitty


A few months ago, we adopted a young cat that happened to be hiding in our garage. For a while, I was referring her as our "temporary permanent cat," in hopes that her owner would call and claim her; however, that didn't happen.

After several months, she is now part of the family--me, my wife, my son, and our dog. Yes, our dog, Chato.

If you don't know Chato, please read HERE, HERE, and HERE, but basically, he is a dog I have had since I first moved to Austin, 14 plus years ago.

Chato was quite interested in the cat, and didn't know how to approach the new addition to the family.

The cat hated the dog and successfully scratched Chato's upper cheek. The scratch was so bad that it got infected.

Eventually, the two began to understand each other and have avoided confrontation. Both are usually around each other, but neither go as far as to accidentally brush each other.

Like many parents with several kids under one roof, it can be confusing when calling the attention to someone. This happens with pets too. Recently, my wife found humorous my reference to the cat as "ChaKitty." I was actually thinking Chato, but it came out "ChaKitty."

So, now, each time we call Kitty's name (which is actually Meredith), we say "ShaKitty ShaKitty," as if we were Wyclef Jean singing "Shakira Shakira."