Monday, November 30, 2009

Cigar Aficionado's Big Smoke 2009: A pickpocket story

CA Big Smoke Weekend

A recap of the weekend just ended, the 2009 Cigar Aficionado Big Smoke event in Las Vegas. Overall, the trip is a wonderful time for cigar enthusiasts. There is not a greater “fun” city in the world, and Vegas is the perfect location to host this group.

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Begin arrivals by all in our party beginning around 1pm. The pre-arranged meeting point is the Casa Fuente Cigar Humidor in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Pearce and Scooter (a chick) arrive first. I am a 4:40 flight time. Here's a small shot out the window of the Grand Canyon.I wish I knew why this picture was to the left. I can't fix it.

Upon arrival at the airport, I grab my bags, jump in a cab, and head to Harrah’s, where I will be staying for the trip. I walk up, no line, and am greeted by “Veronica.” I hand over my ID and credit card, we make some small talk, and exchange pleasantries. Until…Veronica states that there is a problem with my reservation, and that I’m staying at the Imperial Palace. (A property owned by Harrah’s, just next door, but it’s a dump. I don’t want to be there, and it’s the wrong direction from The Venetian, where the cigar events are held.) Veronica is just downright rude. She could not be bothered, handed me $50 voucher for my trouble, and sent me away. I was furious, but trying to not start off the trip on the wrong foot. I complied, figuring I’d get the time to write a scathing email after the trip was complete. Off to Casa Fuente. I arrived to find Pearce and Scooter having drinks, and seated at the bar. Frustrated, I was glad finally begin my weekend. I entered the humidor, and purchased an Arturo Fuente Anejo “shark,” simply a wonderful cigar and size that will knock your socks off. The three of us spent the next hour or two catching up, waiting for Ray to arrive.

When Ray arrived we had a few more drinks, another cigar, and then headed of to locate dinner. We came upon a fine, fine, restaurant. The world renowned “Palm” Restaurant. In we went. Let me just say two words…”loud noises.” We were not well behaved. Before the end of dinner, Pearce had a face full of key lime pie, and someone, I won’t say who, had yelled “who doesn’t like fucking pie???”

After dinner we went back to Casa Fuente, to await Dave's arrival.

But he did not show. 9:30. 10:00. 10:30. We started to worry, so I called him. I could tell he was upset, but he said he’d see us in a few minutes. When Dave arrived to the bar, dragging his luggage, I knew we had a problem. “What happened, Dave?” Dave reached into his back pocket, and stuck his hand right through. Anything in that pocket, including a wallet, was no longer there. Turns out, Dave had been the victim of a pickpocket at the airport. The guy, an Asian, had cut Dave’s pants, and knocked him down an escalator into a crowd of people. Dave quickly realized what occurred. He chased the guy, tackled him, and broke his nose. But a do-good er passerby Canadian (always meddling, those damned Canadians) pulled Dave off, and in the scuffle hit Dave. Dave hit him back, putting him in the hospital. Asian guy and wallet got away.

To ensure that Dave enjoyed the night, we drank a large number of Caparinha's and smoked many $30 cigars. Mission accomplished. Bed time.

Friday November 13, 2009

Awoke with a slight hangover, I'll keep this day short. I called the group to see if anyone was awake. They all were. For hours. Dave had already returned to the police station to look at mug shots and fill out paperwork. Met the Canadian do-good er who he'd sent to the hospital.

For breakfast we walked about 3 miles, just behind the state of Montana, to a shit hole casino called Ellis Island, for a very mediocre breakfast. Don't ask why. Just know that I hate everyone that was involved in the decision. Cigar #1 of the day, Rocky Patel Vintage 1990. We walked back to the strip, and went into Caesars Forum Shops, to the Casa Fuente bar again. (11a.m.)

For 8 hours. $600 bar tab, and $350 cigar tab. That is all. Except that Mark Chioda, aka Mr. Handsome, former model, all around wonderful guy and crimefighter, arrives. It's on now, bitches.

We had dinner reservations at The Range Steakhouse in Harrah's. Basically no wine involved, because there were 6 inebriated people, and the dinner was $600 with tip. And a little disappointing, except for the potatoes and such. The Au gratin, the steak fries, the mac and cheese. Heavenly. I think Jana, who has starved herself of carbs for months, had an in-pants experience, if you know what I mean. And she got the giggles. Bad. At this. "Can someone pass me the empty Au Gratin Dish? I'm going to fuck it when we're done with it. " Back to Casa Fuente, now fueled by carbs, Janna (aka Scooter) decided to HO it up a bit. She was all over some guy. Not sure what she did with the dude, but he was staying at the Rio.

Late night, 12-1am, I stumbled back to the Imperial Palace for some Blackjack and Craps. Amazingly, I was not that drunk, and felt ready for the Saturday seminars and events.

Saturday, November 14th, 2009: Big smoke day

Group meets at the food court in the Venetian at 8:15, prior to our 9a.m. seminar start time. I've got a bottle of Baileys for the coffee. I ask Janna if she banged the dude, and she's non-committal. OK, move along. I wasn't that interested. I'd say she didn't.

The seminars were amazing, and for anyone who loves cigars, they are a must attend event at least once in your life.

After the morning seminars, there was a lunch hosted by the Fuente family. At the lunch they introduced a new documentary project they'd been involved with. Amazing artwork and photography from their factory. Very cool. The artwork that was not cool....Ray C. got up and took a photograph of his junk in the middle of lunch, and sent it to all 6 of us. I just threw up in my mouth. Again. Thinking about it. I had to change hotels (into Harrah's, finally) and drop off my cigars. Did that. Guess where we went? You got it. Casa Fuente, at Caesars Forum shops again. As we stood in Casa Fuente, I noticed Pete Johnson, the owner of Tatuaje Cigars (Spanish for Tattoo) standing around,by himself. I invited him over, and we really enjoyed meeting and speaking with Pete. Here's a picture of Ray and Dave with Pete.

Pete, we're pulling for you to meet Vivica A. Fox again, and just let us know when you are having the barbecue and party at your headquarters.

Everyone went back their separate ways to get gussied up. And back to the Venetian for our "Big Smoke Evening" where you meet all the manufacturers, go from booth to booth and get many cigars (Tickets to the event are like $250 bucks, so I won't call them free cigars) I brought a coke, there was a Jack Daniels booth, and we got a shitload of cigars.

Good times. The event was less crowded this year than last. Rocky Patel's line and booth was ridiculous. Always go the CAO booth first, they light a cigar for you to smoke while you are there, and if you do and bring it back to show them, they give you another. Great deal, great marketing scheme by them to have everyone in the event smoking their cigars. "Squirrel." If you've seen up, you'd sort of know what I'm talking about.

Everyone went back to their rooms to drop of the bag of 50 cigars we were carrying, muster point at the Casa Fuente!!! One or two beers, and a cigar. Off to Mandalay Bay "Foundation Room" for a private party. We took a limo, had a great trip over, arrived, only to find that Dave's friend had failed us. Not on the list for the party. I wasn't about to argue with a bouncer in line at a bar. There are at least 1000 bars in Vegas, and they deal a little game I like to call blackjack. The group was hungry, and I was gambling deficient. They ate, I gambled. To mixed results on all parts. But Mandalay was crowded, as that night had been the Manny Pacquiao Miguel Cotto fight. (Tons of Pacquiao fans.)So back in the Limo, to the Venetian. (Limos are a great way to move a group around Vegas, and cheaper than you might think.)

Everyone was shit faced and tired. Except myself and Mr. Handsome. So we gambled until about 4am at the Venetian, playing blackjack. Great Success!! Finally, John Pearce stumbled into us. He'd been drinking and playing video poker at the sports book all night, thought we'd gone to bed. He was wrong. He wanted to stay up all night, we just enjoyed the scenery and won money. Quote of the night: "please be working, please be working, please be working."

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Group woke up and met up at the Sports book at the Venetian again. I brought the Bailey's. This morning began at 9:30 with the Charlie Palmer breakfast. Some sort of schnitzel, which I'd never had. It was basically just a pounded flat cutlet, breaded. Pretty good. Egg and bloody mary, not so much. But the Baileys and Coffee was great. Then we moved to the Roll your own cigar seminar. I was a disaster, and usually I'm not bad. Here is picture of my ruination.

Then began the Cigar pairing with the Bourbon Tasting. Oh my. 5 premium bourbons. After this weekend, it's such debauchery. I couldn't stand it. Dave drank everyone's bourbon. I tasted all. I really liked the Evan Williams reserve. But on to important things. Football Sunday was in full effect. We basically ran over to the Pallazzo, to Emeril's Sports Stadium to watch the games. Except you couldn't find a table. So the group left, and went to the Rhumbar, a sister to Casa Fuente, this one at the Mirage. I left to go meet a few friends in Vegas (Mizelle and Kraft) at the Las Vegas Hilton. I took the monorail to the Hilton. It was a nice ride, nice views, and inexpensive. I would do this again for sure.

Mizelle and Kraft had been decimated in gambling, and I'd had a bad morning of 1pm games. So we needed to change things up a bit. This new arrangement brought us all good luck. We all won all of our bets, and drank, and made fun of people less fortunate and less healthy than all of us. With our financial come back, so did our sense of humor. I left the boys to go home and shower. I met the group at Casa Fuente, then we left for the restaurant. Here is a shot of the Volcano at the Mirage on my walk over to meet the group.

Mizelle and Kraft were meeting us all at "The Golden Steer," a famous Vegas landmark restaurant since the days of Sinatra and Martin. It's hard to find, and off the beaten path, but it does have that old Vegas feel to it. On my way, I bet the Patriots against the Colts, and the over. I had both bets essentially covered in the first half. It was a good night. Eventually the Colts came back and won, but who gives a shit? I covered both bets.

For the "Vegas Six" this was the end of the road. We said our goodbye's and they all went back to the hotel. Mizelle, Kraft and I went to the Palms. The good old Palms. We gambled, laughed, and went upstairs to the Playboy Club. It's a lot of fun, and we all won a few bucks playing blackjack up there. "Mmmmm, Damn!" It was a great ending to a great weekend.

Monday, November 16th, 2009

I got up. I ate McDonalds. I played blackjack. I won $300. Mizelle and Kraft picked me up. I went to the Airport and flew home.

All in all, a great trip. Especially considering the pickpocket incident that started it all off. Disaster averted. See you next year, Vegas.

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