As you folks already know, I started Saturday off by throwing up and not in the best "Vegas" mood. There was a time in my life where I would do anything to plan a trip to Sin City but I'm getting to a point in my life where the shine of that glittery town is truly fading (to me). I love the Bellagio (mostly just the brunch, poker room and fountains) but beyond that it's a little too much bullshit surface for me.
(old pic but works here)
I have had so many fond memories there but also some truly dark nights of the soul. I once played poker for a living (not well but it paid the bills)and Las Vegas is where I melted down, quit the game as my profession and sheepishly asked my father to wire me a plane ticket home. Chip (my Dad) being one of the greatest and most altruistic men in history, obliged and even had a job waiting for me when I got home. This was roughly 6 years ago and that job was at Axcelis Technologies. I was a real asshole when I started that job, brazen and lazy (horrible combination, like being stupid AND arrogant. They just don't mix). At this job I learned the value of hard work, being humble and rolling with the punches. At first I really didn't get along with my boss but after time he taught me some truly important lessons. He showed me that you may be better than your current station in life but you should never act as such, work hard and go after those things you think you deserve. Carl, I want to thank you for that and you told me to have a drink on you during this trip and I quipped "Technically you've paid for all my drinks the past 6 years by signing my paycheck."
For now, back to Vegas. Saturday was rough starting but Ben and myself hit the strip to find some food and we landed on "Pin Up Pizza" a small pizza spot in the Planet Hollywood hotel and casino that offers comically large slices of pizza for an inflated price.
(stock pin up pizza pic)
After we fueled up with pizza we decided to put some desert on top. Ben had been raving about the desert selection at "Sprinkles" and I trusted him. We navigated our way through the impossible amount of dirty tourists, cloying street performers and potentially homeless people (but also potentially not, sadly some people pose as such to make money and it makes me angry). We eventually made it to "The Linq" not sure if I'm spelling it right but it was a nice change of pace from the strip. It was set up like a swanky Los Angeles outdoor mall, sans Vegas riffraff and charlatans. We both indulged in delectable Sprinkles deserts, I got an ice cream sandwich made with two salted oatmeal cookies and strawberry ice cream in the middle. After we stuffed our face with sugar we looked at some flamingos (don't ask) then made our way to play some cards at the Wynn. Benny and I were sat at the same table and had a pretty great time. Ben made some really strong folds, I ran horrible and lost a couple hundred but got the best massage of my life and made a memory or two, more than worth it.
After poker we all decided to go to the Hofbrauhuas House (authentic german cuisine and beer) near the Hard Rock Casino. This place was great; myself, Ben, Kyle, Jen and Adam all attended and had a blast. They had a band, a beer chugging contest (none of our party participated, I had to drive and Ben didn't give a hoot).
I was a dope and never got a new picture with my brother and his future wife, so here is a stock pic from one year ago.
Translation: "Thirst is worse than homesickness" fitting right?
We had some great food and Ben wasn't going to let me leave without the traditional spanking. What the fuck does that mean Matt? You're burying the lead. Sorry folks. Apparently when one orders a shot, the shot girl who provides said shot also administers a spanking with a wooden paddle. Ben negotiated to do the shot himself and let me get the spanking (good deal if you ask me). The mistress (possibly just waitress) held up her end and attempted to damage my powerful bottom to no avail. Nice try lady, maybe these other softies would flinch but not this hero.
After our authentic german beer hall experience we went our separate ways. I said good bye (more like see you later) to Kyle, Jen and Adam then Ben and I headed back to the Luxor in the Wolf. I was beat and ready for bed But Smithy (Ben) wanted to battle at the poker tables some more. I was sound asleep and around 4am Ben returned to the room a few hundred dollars richer, well done my brother!
The next morning we rallied quickly and got out of the room. We packed the Wolf then fueled up with some smoothies and crepes (both were delightful and overpriced as all fuck). Before we left I secured a place to stay for the next week. Ben's tonight (Sunday) and an AirBnB for the 5 days after while I apartment hunt. Smithington was feeling saucy and decided to buy us both matching Luxor casino crew neck sweatshirts (If I'm being honest, they are dope and we're twins now, thanks Ben). We packed into the Wolf and kept heading west. This was the last leg of my road trip and was ecstatic to have one of my best friends on earth as my copilot. After piles of traffic, overpriced gas and having to pee for hours we made it to beautiful Santa Monica California.
I did it folks, 3,825 miles traveled (mostly alone) and I conquered this great nation of ours. I'm extremely proud of myself and grateful to everyone who helped me through it; Ben, Kyle, Jen, Keegan, Ethan, Shane, Jason, Mom and Dad (of course), Riquel, Adam, Autie Di, Uncle Don, Nana, Jamie (even though he got me sick) Brittany, Amanda, Tanya, Randie, Rosie, Rubin, Ethan and everyone who kept pushing me to make the leap.
How does one celebrate making it to the west coast almost all by himself, he gets an unbeatable burger and large beer at Big Dean's Ocean Front Cafe (my favorite place in Santa Monica).
I look fat in this picture and it's upsetting me.
Funny story; the day I made the tacit agreement with myself to move to California was at the end of one of the best days of my life. Ben and I drove down the PCH (pacific coast highway) on a beautiful afternoon listening to Beach Boys Pandora and making our way to Neptune's net. We got there, had a great lunch then took our drinks to go and crossed the street.They've filmed countless classic movies at Neptune's Net, including; the original "Fast and the Furious", "Iron Man 3" and fucking "POINT BREAK". Across the street from Neptune's Net was this great surf spot. From our point of view the soft white sea foam colliding with the dark blue sea made the waves seem slow and peaceful. The surfers knew the truth, taming the liquid beasts and making it look easy, like a conductor orchestrating a symphony. That moment I stared out into the endless ocean and decided this should be my new home.
Now let's back up a little, I've always had a love affair with California. Ever since I was 19 and made my first trip out here to visit Ethan while he was at Cal State Long Beach, I was smitten. One night all of us grabbed skateboards and hit the warm streets to cruise. They were all on longboards and I was the odd man out on a trick deck so I was far behind the pack. We sailed down a street, the group about 200 yards ahead of me but not out of reach. I basked in the moment as the warm air caressed my body, sliding above a sea of smooth asphalt, crouching down and running my hand over the cement as if it were and extension of myself and I knew I was home.
Many things kept me from moving here; relationships, school, family issues, and honestly just fear. I was never sure this was the right place for me until too many signs to ignore sent me on this trip. My last visit a year ago saw me and Ben sitting at Big Dean's and the sun was about to set. Ben looked at his watch and said if I hurry I can catch the sun setting. I sprinted down the Santa Monica pier and landed at the very end, leaning over the railing and watching the sunset. I grew up on a street called Sunset drive and one would think the concept and sight of one would be old news/boring, wrong. I loved every moment of it, including a man on acoustic guitar playing "somewhere over the rainbow" behind me. That very moment sealed it. Today when Ben and myself had a delicious burger and sizable beer in hand at Big Dean's Ocean Front Cafe, what song came across the radio? "Somewhere over the Rainbow" maybe it's a sign and maybe it's just a coincidence but in life it's said to look for the breadcrumbs, this was a large hunk of bread in my eyes. I think I'm home, my new home. It would just take me some time to make my way out here.
After Big Dean's Ben and I made our way to Bungalow to meet up with another great friend Brian Rubin who got us some amazing tequila and shared some old but hilarious memories. Today was incredible and I have high hopes for my new life out here on the west coast, now I just need to find a place to live. Thanks for reading folks, sorry if this was a long one but I made it!
Keep smiling (even after driving 3.825 miles and have no home)
In addition I'd like to dedicate this beer/burger to two men, Carl Stankewitz (Carl I know I butchered the spelling of your last name but in my defense you're saved in my phone as "Stankoboss" which is fun if you ask me. I'd also like to dedicate this beer/burger to a former coworker who was recently terminated, Hugh Mckenna. Carl was an amazing boss and Hugh was a fantastic coworker. When I heard word he was let go (sorry Hugh) I was actually really angry. Huge is Hard worker, smart, kind and always went the extra mile. Trust me, I suffer no fools and Hugh was (still is) an all around great man and his termination was a massive fuck up if you ask me. Hugh slipped me a $20 my last day of work and asked me to have a drink on him, well Hugh, this one is for you (and Carl). Thank you both for the faith and kindness. Hugh you'll find something better, I'm sure of it and Carl, thank you for everything. I'm aware this last paragraph was a little inside baseball for my old job but I assure these are two great men. Keep smiling guys (even when Axcelis beats ya down, hold strong).