Thursday, June 23, 2005

Retrospectives - Pre-Nevada Part II

Second part in a series...

October, 1988

As I mentioned earlier, I struck a deal with the Managers from Hell which kept me in the company, and that deal was to attend an Intergraph User's Group (IGUG) that was taking place in Las Vegas in October, 1988. I attended with another co-worker and friend, Allan and the reservations were made the previous July at the Riviera, the site of the conference as well as our rooms.

We left from Boston and I was excited, because Vegas was one of my 'must-see' cities. On the way to McCarran, a medical emergency occurred on the way. Allan turned to me and said "Good, we'll get to Vegas faster".

Las Vegas wasn't the same place it is today. The Strip was just a regular two-lane street. After I moved here, there were numerous pedestrian deaths, so they began to widen the Strip. The first of the 'modern' megaresorts, the Excalibur wouldn't open until the following spring. Caesar's Palace, the venerable signature property on the Strip was there of course, but there was no Mirage, TI, Mandalay Bay or any of the others. What was there was the Sands (gone), Desert Inn, (gone), Oasis, (gone) and the Stardust (still there) and there was of course, Glitter Gulch but no Fremont Experience. If you want a sense what it was like back then, go watch an episode of the 70s crime show Vegas$ starring Robert Urich as Dan Tanna.

We arrived at the Riviera, where our reservations which were made in July, but to our surprise, we were bumped from the hotel, because the tower that they had planned on being open was not ready and so we were given 'comparable' rooms at the nearby El Rancho (El Roacho - now gone), and we were comped for a show at the hotel whose name I don't recall.

Allan was taking a course at the time and was carrying a load of textbooks which weighed a ton, and I found it hilarious that he actually thought he'd do some studying in Vegas.

When we went to the El Rancho, we were led down a very long path to our rooms 'way, way' in the abck of the hotel. I remember the room smelled like shit. That was probably the most endearing quality of our 'comparable' room. I'd hate to see what the room would look like coated with luminol. I wasn't happy but Allan was fit to be tied. I proposed that we simply play all night, which we did, but eventually I'd have to sleep there.

The next day, while I went to the convention, Allan went on the hunt for a better room. He found a much better one at the Center Strip Travelodge, across the street from what was not (and will be) the Mirage. I liked the room enough and the price was right that I would stay there again on my next trip.

Vegas was never kind to computer people. COMDEX was just about the biggest convention in town back then, drawing about 200,000 conventioners to the city. But it is first and foremost, a gambling town, and geeks were never considered gamblers. As a general rule, they are not, but nonetheless, they spend money on hotels, food and tours, and they do generate a few million in revenue. If every one of those out of towners spends $100 a day there, that's $20M right there.

The last time COMDEX was here was I believe in 2003, and its attendance is down to about 50,000, so it has been cancelled for now, or maybe be resurrected as an every other year event.

During breaks in the conference, I went out to the floor to gamble. Back then, a played a few slots, no video poker (yet), blackjack and craps. I usually did well at craps. Allan's game was Texas Hold-'em in the poker room.

Perhaps because I would put my books down on the floor when I approached a table, i found the dealers at the Riv to be particularly rude. Also, the hotel's main color was red, a color I detest as a decorating color. To this day, I continue to boycott the Riv.

We went out for one of those typically Vegas 'surf and turf' late night deals for $5.99 consisting of a steak and a 'lobster' tail. Being from Boston, I think I know a 'lobster' tail when I see one, but out here a 'lobster' tail is an Austalian lobster tail, which is about the size of an overgrown crayfish. So here's a tip: Nevadans know beef, so stick with the steak. I think Allan got sick on his, but I didn't, or I would definitely remember that.

I don't remember if I won or lost that week (won probably) because i definitely enjoyed myself. Allan didn't do so well, and he wanted to go back early. I think we were oriignally scheduled to return on Friday after the convention but we had convinced management to let us come back on Saturday (I'm sure at our own expense) so we could enjoy ourselves. Allan wanted to leave early, but I convinced him that that would be a bad idea. I think Allan recovered from his losses the next day, and I can't remember him doing ANY studying.

Allan was one of my very few friends to come visit me after I moved here, in April, 1992, when I was still living in my first (and last) apartment. I don't know how he did on that trip, (I think he made money) but I definitely did - I hit on a 14 and 15 spot Keno ticket for about $720 and I hit a Royal (I think that was my first fully loaded) at the Mirage for over $1400.

So waht did I learn at the IGUG? Mostly how to be a better craps player and I learned I definitely wanted to return to Las Vegas.

The show we went to and were comped for was good, and I enjoyed that


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