24 May 2007

Long days, longer nights, and magical drinks

So it has come to be that I am in the wonderful state of Nevada with my squadron and air wing doing our part to fully integrate ourselves into a successful team that nearly every carrier air wing becomes. Flying hard against nimble little F-5E's or F-16N's. Dropping live ordnance in near real world conditions against real targets. Practicing pumping electrons into the air to screw over the bad guys abilities. Dropping in SEAL teams to practice rescue of down aviators, then slipping back in to pick them up before the bad guys know what happened. What we are doing is very similar to the summer training camp of pro-football (or American football for my readers who live overseas). Everyone is pretty good at their part of the play book. Now it is time to bring together the offensive tackles, running backs, wide receivers, and quarterbacks and operate as a team. The only downside with what we are doing right now is the aircrew are flying hard and at least to a few of my people seem as though they are actively trying to break the jets. So after the last flight secures for the night it is work hard to get the downing discrepancies up again and get the jet ready for the next day. I am part of that team, working hard at night to get my jet the might EA-6B ready to fly again. So every day I show up at 1630 (or 4:30pm for you military types), get the debrief from the day checkers about what is going on and then either start to work or launch the night strikes. Why night strikes? Cause we own the night!
Anyhow, 10-12 hours later we secure. Head back to our BEQ rooms for either a shower, food and sleep. At least that is what I had planned one night after we were lucky to get out early (like midnight early, instead of the usual 0330-0400) on night checks weekend which is a Thursday night.
One of the wonderful things about being in Nevada is how nearly every town has a casino. Well right in Navy town, Nevada there are a few casinos but the tables close early. If you want the all day and all night experience you either need to head to Sin City or head to Casino Town. Sin City is about 18hrs away from Navy Town, so that is out. Casino Town on the flip side is only about an hour and half away (or less depending on how fast you drive on US 50).
So this one Thursday, things wrap up pretty early and most of us are amazed about what is going on and as part of the talk on the way back to our rooms. Some one gets the bright idea that since pay day is that Saturday, we don't need to be back until Sunday night, and there are a couple of vans ready for use a road trip is called for. The minute I heard that I just rolled my eyes and told myself that it isn't worth the effort, let alone trying to keep a few of these guys wrangled together. So as we walk down the hall way in the BEQ the plan becomes firmer and firmer, I walk into my room and don't pay attention to the rest of the talk. Bad move on Southern's part. Why? Well the plan hung up on this one fact, who could duty drive back to Navy Town from Casino Town. The first name to pop into most of their heads all with in about 30 nanoseconds of each other was Southern's. Meanwhile I am changing and getting ready for a hot shower and bed, when a knock at the door beckons. Who is that my mind wonders? None other then the ring leader of the Bachelor Pad. The Bachelor Pad is the name we have assigned a huge house in a nice neighborhood back home where the a number of guys are all splitting rent and crashing at. I have been invited over a couple of times and the most that I can say is this, the fridge is stock full of either Bud light or Coors and the only food to be found is Top Raman. Other then that, it is our version of Animal House.
"What do you want?" I asked in a semi-annoyed tone
"Will you drive us over the hill?"
"How many...No forget it. I am going to try and get some sleep early on tonight."
"Oh come on, we are only going to be there for a few hours, just long enough to get our gambling on and our drink on."
"Southern, come on most of us have pre-flighted already and none of us can agree on who should drive and we will behave ourselves. You won't have to baby-sit."
I should of shut the door, but my devil got the better of me. So I agreed but only after I had a chance to get a quick shower. Which worked out since most of this crew were doing the same thing.
About 30minutes later I am sitting out in the lounge waiting for the crew, when they all come up. I am tossed the keys and we pile outside into a mini-van.
The only rule that I stipulated was that when 3/4's of us were ready to bounce, we were going. If you don't make it to the van on time, well it looks like you are walking back. Agreed on by all parties.
Negotiate the gate obstacles and we are out in the desert listening to some one's Ipod and cruising down the road. Through Navy Town to US 50 and to the west we go. It amazed how once we got up on highway 50 most of the people past out or kept to themselves as they tried to pick out various objects to look at. The only thing that caused a serious topic of discussion was when we past the Ranch just outside Casino Town. Some of the guys wanted to stop in and say hi to the girls there.. I put a quick stop to that one, we already had a plan and I didn't feel like deviating from it. Besides I told most of them, if they were really into it if they started to win big at the tables plenty of girls would hang on to them and they might be able to get it on for free.
Tempers calmed we came over the last hill crest and saw the big lights of Casino Town. Lights announcing that the Nugget has a players program and one could get a free lobster dinner if you joined, Harrahs had a new Keno room, so on and so forth. I quickly asked which casino was the choice and most everyone agreed to Harrahs. Simply because a couple of the guys belonged to the one from back home and we could get a discounted late night meal. So off of 50 and into down town Casino. Up a couple of streets and into the parking lot of the Harrahs. As the doors opened up, I held everyone up and asked for an agreed upon muster time. After yet another discussion/argument the group think came up with noon. I rolled my eyes and agreed to that one.
Walking into the casino, the first thing that I went to look for was the buffet room and see if I could grab a bite to eat. I was lucky in that I got in there just as they closed the doors to the last customers. So I was able to pay ten dollars for the left overs, some over done prime rib (which was still good) some decent steam veggies and a soda.
After enjoying a warm meal, I walked out and decided to try my hand at some gambling.
Now, I have been to casinos before and have found that I enjoy playing the table games such as black jack, poker, baccarat, and every so often craps more then I do the slots. So there it was that I walked up to a black jack table and cashed in a hundred dollars.
One of my tricks to not get caught up in gambling fever is to take out how much I am willing to risk and then put my ATM card in either my room or the car. That way if I need cash I have to walk out and calm down on the way to restock my funds.
So there I was sitting down with a hundred dollars worth of chips in front of me and started to play. It was about that time the magical drinks started. I had a waitress come by and ask me what I wanted. I told her that I was the D.D. and only wanted a soda. A couple of plays later, I am up by about 75 dollars and a small glass appears in front of me with a soda in it. I drink that down while in the process of losing 45 dollars. I polish off my drink and get up to plus hundred dollars. It was then that some how my drink changed from just soda to a liquor and soda. I remember just ordering soda. That is when my night started to go down hill. I don't remember after the first few whether my drink ever emptied. It seemed as though the glass was always topped off. I also don't remember paying for any of it. The only thing I do remember is realizing that I had a buzz on and it was something close to 0600. I remember sitting down at 0200 at the table and just having a soda. The only good thing was that I was up by 425 dollars when I walked away. Basically I had in my pocket 525 dollars scattered between bills and fifty cent pieces in my pocket.
Bathroom time and then my stomach told me that it was also food time. I walk out the casino and down the street. Find an all night diner, so I turned walked in. Sat down and then seem to fit the bill all the way around for me. Because they sold newspapers behind the counter and had a wonderful western omelette special for something like six dollars. While I am sitting there reading the paper and waiting on my meal, my mind all of a sudden comes free of the booze haze. It tells me that I am an old dog and can't hang like I use to with the young pups. Because it is also craving a warm, soft, bed to lay down in; along with the food that is supposed to be coming up. Scarf down the omelette and hash browns with a large glass of OJ. Decided that my best course of action is to hang out in the van and crash there. Walk back to the parking lot, get in lock the doors and turn my cellphone to vibrate and loud next to my neck.
Some how I am not disturbed for the next eight hours, because it wasn't noon rather about 1300 (or 1pm for you military types) that I get a phone call asking me where I am.
"In the van waiting."
"Right we are on the way."
Everyone piles in and most of them look just as bad as I do, except they are drunk and haven't slept a wink. The drive back was peaceful because the minute we hit the highway everyone passed out. I rocked out to the oldies station the whole way back and crossed the gate by 3pm and was crawling back into my bed when the romantic interest called my room, she was asking how the day went. "Uhhhh!" is all I was up to saying. What we talked about is for another story for another time dear readers.

I just relearned a lesson that I already knew, but forgot. What was that?
Trying to hang with the pro-am drinkers isn't good for me
Long work weeks means longer weekends to recover
Don't drink the casino drinks because they never seem to empty out.
Stick with water or soda at the table, helps you think clearly
Finally just say no to road trips with the know party animals.

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