Friday Fluff: Gettin’ Lucky

I feel like it’s cheating a bit to return from a week of no posting with nothing but fluff, but I’m still coming down from vacation mode, so fluff is what you shall get.

And this week’s fluff will, naturally, be Vegas-themed.

So. As Penn Jillette is fond of saying, Vegas is “a town built on bad math.” That’s probably why I like it so much; it feels like home. But I realized something the other day: it’s also a town built on natural egoism and magical thinking. Bad math only gets you halfway there. For an entire city — one with more hotel rooms on a 3-and-a-half-mile stretch of road than there are in any other city in the world — to thrive the way it does on the backs of gambling tourists, you need a combination of bad math and each individual’s deep-down belief that no matter what the odds are, s/he will be the special one who hits the jackpot. Which kinda reminds me of something else, come to think of it. Hmm.

I, of course, fancy myself above all this. I play slot machines for 5 minutes at a time, when I’m on my way to do other stuff, and I play pretty damn conservatively. I plan on losing everything I put into the slots, which is usually not much, and I don’t even know how to play any other casino games. Before we left, people kept asking why we like Vegas so much if we’re not big gamblers, and the best answer I could come up with was, “It’s really shiny.” I like neon lights and bright colors and enormous chandeliers and reflective marble and redonkulous swimming pools and indoor waterfalls and the world’s largest LED display and all the Christmas decorations of downtown Chicago, times 100. And on top of that, I like terrible classic rock and the bleep-bloop-ka-ching noises of casinos and the din of a million different conversations going on at once. Somehow, while a simple trip to Ikea is an ADD nightmare for me, Vegas delights me by overloading every damn one of my senses completely. I can stand still in one spot and find a couple dozen different things available to see, hear, smell, taste*, and touch. (And drink.) All that — plus amazing shows** and good food and no pressure whatsoever to be having a homey family Christmas — is plenty to keep me going back.

And yet, I’ve got a gambling story. On Christmas day, I was fucking on fire at the slots. I’d sit down just long enough to have a smoke, put $5 in with the full expectation of losing it, and walk away with $30. Or $40 or $60. All day, I kept winning far more than I lost, and by the end of the day, I was up $120 — my ticket to Spamalot and a pre-show martini were paid for! Merry Christmas!

Can you see what’s coming here? Naturally, I got cocky. About my ability to play the slots. You know, those machines that require zero skill whatsoever and are designed expressly to take your money? Yeah. I started thinking I was really good at them. I obviously had some natural, quasi-psychic talent for picking ones that would pay out, on top of the good sense to bet very little and cash out every time I won back more than I’d put in. I had a system.

The next day, Al woke up with a horrid man cold and told me to go have fun without him. (I must say, he did sound and look absolutely awful — still does, actually — and since it happened halfway through our vacation, the boy earned at least one heartfelt “Poor little bunny.”) Since we were staying downtown, I had two options. 1) Spend a bundle on a cab to the Strip, where I would then spend another bundle on lunch (everything on the Strip, including sandwiches, is a gazillion times more expensive than downtown, hence our decision to stay downtown), probably go shopping and spend another bundle on clothes I don’t need, maybe ride the roller coaster at New York New York, which would doubtless be another bundle, and then get a cab back. Or 2) stay downtown — which has absolutely nothing but casino hotels, cheap food and drink, and tacky souvenir shops — and put a lot more money than usual into the slots.

Since I’d won so much the day before and probably would have spent just about that much hanging out on the Strip, I decided to go with option 2. At first, I was only going to put in $20 and see what happened. What happened was, I lost $20. So then I said all right, I’ve got a day to kill, and I’m still up $100, so fuck it. I will keep playing with that $100, and quit when I’ve either lost it all or –MUCH more likely, natch! — doubled it.

Go ahead and guess what happened.

That “system” I had for being “good” at slots? Was strictly a 24-hour fluke. The following day, I had no luck whatsoever, and I lost that $120 with sickening speed, without even a new top or a roller coaster ride or a full belly to show for it. And of course, the more I lost, the more desperate I was to keep putting money into the damn machines, because my luck had to change some time, right? I couldn’t lose all day, right? Yeah. I was a total Vegas cliche — except perhaps for the part where I actually did stop after losing the $120 I’d set as my limit.

But you know, as brutal as it was to watch all that money go down the drain (in nickels and quarters, no less) it was a really good lesson for me. Not about gambling — intellectually, I know damn well the casinos couldn’t afford all the shiny lights and redonkulous swimming pools if most people didn’t lose their shirts — but about my own continued vulnerability to magical thinking. If I’d stopped playing after the Christmas day winning streak, I seriously would have gone home believing I have some sort of mystical slot luck that normal people don’t have. SLOT LUCK, y’all. Not poker or blackjack skill, slot luck. Because, you know, I am just that goddamned special.

And it certainly bears repeating: that was very much how I felt a year out from my first major diet, when I was still maintaining a 65-lb. weight loss. Sure, I knew the statistics said that 5 years was the magic number, but that only meant I had to do what I’d already done 4 more times! And since I’d already kept it off for a year, I’d clearly made that all-important lifestyle change that would lead to permanent thinness! I would be in the 5% who kept it off forever! Because I was just that goddamned special.

And the worst part of that was, unlike my slot streak, I didn’t think good luck was the driving force of my “success.” I thought it was effort, skill, sacrifice. I thought it was hard work and determination. I thought I had taken control of my body and would never let myself get fat again, like those chumps who eventually gained it all back. I thought it was all up to me, and I had a system.

Yeah. And I totally have a natural gift for playing the slots, too.

Aaaaanyway. Back to the fluffiness. Shapelings, I want to hear your stories about luck, good or bad. Have you ever won something big? Lost something? Stumbled onto a terrific opportunity? Stumbled out of one? If luck was involved one way or another, tell us all about it.

As for me, I did have one tremendous stroke of luck in Vegas: I did not get Al’s cold, and so far (knock wood) don’t see any suggestion that I will get it. Thank the fates, and the makers of Airborne, for that. It’s a Christmas miracle.

* I actually ate, for the sole purpose of blogging about it, a deep-fried Twinkie. Do you see what I do for you guys? It was, shockingly, not as gross as it could have been — because they batter the whole thing, so the outside was just like a funnel cake. And I enjoy the funnel cakes. But the Twinkie part? Was pretty fucking nasty. Also, they put so much powdered sugar on top, I was seriously coated in it, head to toe, by the time I gave up on the thing halfway through. (Which might have had something to do with standing in the street, eating it with my hands, drunk off my ass. Though it seems to me that’s the only acceptable way to eat a deep-fried Twinkie.) Neither Al nor I had a camera with us at that point, which is a shame, because that might have been the greatest Stereotypical Fat Girl moment of my entire life: standing on Fremont Street, stuffing a deep-fried Twinkie in my face, with a light dusting of powdered sugar all over my body. I don’t think I will ever top that.

** Cirque du Soleil’s KA — which I ended up seeing with one of my high school BFFs, who lives in Vegas, because Poor Little Bunny was down for the count at that point — was fucking MINDBLOWING. Not only worth every penny, but worth at least twice as much as we paid for it. And that’s the kind of thing that makes Vegas awesome even if you’re not a gambler. As aforementioned HSBFF — who lived in Manhattan for a decade — said, you can go to Broadway and fight the crowds in Times Square and see an impressive production in a very nice theatre, or you can go to Vegas and see a fucking SHOW. If any Shapelings are headed out that way, I highly recommend KA (though I will warn you there’s a female character in a fat suit who’s portrayed as being clumsier than the others, which naturally annoyed the shit out of me, but the rest was so friggin’ good, even I was willing to overlook that).

65 thoughts on “Friday Fluff: Gettin’ Lucky

  1. Glad you enjoyed Vegas and hope Al’s on the mend.

    My friends and I actually made deep-fried twinkies at home once; one of the guys had a brand-new Fry Daddy and we were thinking of ridiculous things to do with it. We used an unsweetened tempura batter for the outside and the end product was surprisingly less disgusting than a “raw” twinkie, although nobody wanted more than one slice (I think we went through 2 twinkies for a crowd of 8 or 9 people).

  2. Heh. To the best of my recollection, i have never won any sort of contest involving luck. Not a scratch-off lottery card, not a radio contest, not a “pull the name/number out of a hat”… nothing. Whether the prize was money or assorted giftage, i have not ever won a single luck-based contest.

    However, i have had checks show up at my door with my name on them – class action lawsuits that my name was added to (for valid reason, but without my knowledge), insurance refunds from computer glitches, that sort of thing.

    I just wait, have faith in the cosmos and somehow things work out.

  3. Once when I was little my dad let me do a scratch-off ticket, and I won $50. I think he gave me half to buy something at the toy store. I purchased Candyland.

    In 2005 the bf and I stayed at the Monte Carlo right before Christmas and had the greatest time. We didn’t even see any shows, and it was still fabulous. We loved the free drinks, and I loved walking around looking at everything, but he didn’t even feel leaving the hotel was necessary. Everything there is spectacular. We didn’t play anything but the slots, and were just really playing for fun until we found a slot machine that we did start winning on. We absolutely adored it. At one point one of our tickets was around $172 because our luck was so fabulous. We didn’t lose much before we quit. One of the best things about that Cleopatra slot, though, was the noise it made when you were winning. It was such a good feeling that I recorded it on my cell phone. We had a LOT of fun while it lasted, and I think that’s the key in Vegas. When we go back to Vegas, we will definitely play those slot machines again just for the good memories.

  4. I have also had good luck with the slots in Vegas, based mainly on my cashing out as soon as I was up a bit.

    I have a tendency to find cash when I need it. It has happened three times, once when I was walking home from middle school because my dad forgot to pick me up and I was REALLY thirsty, I found $5 on the ground.

    Another time in high school we were on the way to the airport from Disneyland and were out of money (because Disneyland turns you upside down and shakes you before they let you leave) and I found a $20 bill on the floor of our shuttle van. We were the only customers in the van at the time so it had to have been from a previous customer who was probably long gone. Hello $20!

    The last time was when I was unemployed and totes broke I borrowed a book from my mom that had belonged to my late grandfather (The Autobiography of Henry VIII) and found 2 twenties inside, which I promptly spent on booze, because when you’re 22 and unemployed and broke, that seemed like the best choice.

    P.S. speaking of magical thinking *cough*airborne*cough

  5. I’m glad you had a great time Kate, even if you are out some money.

    I went to Vegas on business a few years ago and absolutely hated it. If I had time, I would have take off to the mountains I could see from my hotel room, but alas, it was mostly business with little leisure time.

    I’ve never won the jackpot or anything, but things generally work out for me. I had to endure several years of very unsatisfying jobs but I eventually landed my semi-dream job in a field that is very competitive (newspapers). And I seem to have won the husband lottery.

    The hubby and I were watching the Little People show and they traveled to Paducah, Ky. where the locals feed them deep-fried oreos (in addition to fried chicken and a whole roasted hog). No kidding. And my Kentucky born and bred husband wonders why my official address is still in Ohio.

  6. Oh and having fun in Vegas but not being a gambler? SO EASY.

    Last time I went was the middle of summer and I refused to leave the beautiful air conditioning at Caesar’s during the day, I spent maybe $40 gambling in three days and still managed to keep myself entertained.

  7. P.S. speaking of magical thinking *cough*airborne*cough

    Heh. Fair enough, though it’s a pretty small investment in extra confidence that I WILL NOT GET THIS GODDAMNED COLD, which I think is half the battle. In reality, I probably should have thanked the fates, Airborne, and most of all, OCD-style hand-washing up there.

  8. At the end of 1993 I was traveling in Europe with my best friend, who had just spent a semester studying in Hamburg. We had planned this great Christmas/New Year’s extravaganza starting in Hamburg and then on to Krakow and then to Prague and finally to Vienna. It was all going swimmingly until New Year’s Eve, when I lost my passport at Prague’s main train station. As you can imagine, the U.S. Embassy is not open–even for pathetic college students–around the New Year’s holiday.

    Naturally, traveling to Vienna from Prague is impossible without a passport, and so we had to find new, much cheaper accommodations in the middle of freakin’ nowhere because we couldn’t afford more nights in the downtown hotel where we had been staying. The embassy would not be open for four days, and we spent much of that time trying to get refunds on train tickets, getting the right kinds of photos for the replacement passport, figuring out how to pay for a new goddamn passport, and so forth. To say that it was not the glittering New Year’s Viennese Eve we’d been planning on would be some kind of understatement.

    But we managed to enjoy ourselves anyway, drinking champagne with drunken Czechs on Wenceslas Square and eventually finding our way back to the far-flung hotel. When the embassy did finally open, I got a new passport just in time to catch our train back to Hamburg. On our way out of the train station, Dan caught sight of a 100-Deutsch-mark bill (about $75 then) that someone had lost. There was no one else around, and we thought briefly about turning it in, but the temptation was too great.

    We called it the Prague dividend, and we went out and had dinner at the nicest restaurant we could find for $75.

  9. Oh, I love Vegas too, even though I was raised Quaker and we just never gambled (or played cards, or drank, or danced… way old-fashioned). Anyway – where else in the world can you see penguins and flamingos and tigers and lions and pirate shows and light displays for FREE? When we would go, we’d spend maybe $20 on slots over the whole weekend, maybe go to one show (Blue Man Group was fabulous too!), but the rest of the time was just soaking up all the free sights and sounds that Vegas has to offer!

    Now, I don’t have very good luck for winning things. I put a nickel in the nickel slots and won $25, but I was there with my sister and a friend who were losing, so they just dug into my nickels until they were all gone. It got us $2 margaritas and wasted an hour of time, so it was all good.

    I do tend to have pretty good karma, though. The best instance was right after I met my husband. We had gone on 1 date, and he told me he was interviewing at a company that was directly next door to where I worked (in Los Angeles – what are the odds on that?). He got the job, which put him on the road he wanted to be, we got closer, I moved in with him… and the rest is history. :)

  10. I have an informal list of the top ten (sometimes more or less) foods I’d like to try before I die. Topping the list were deep fried Twinkies – no, I didn’t want to make a steady diet of them, I’d just heard so much about them that I wanted to try for myself. When I finally got one last summer at the state fair (because state fairs are all about the junk food!), I have to admit that I was underwhelmed – it reminded me vaguely of a Krispy Kreme donut, but that was all.

    But in the interests of thorough research, we also had to try the deep fried Oreos (too much batter, frying loses the essential “Oreoness”), deep fried Snickers (yuck yuck yuck), and deep fried Pepsi, which is really just funnel cake made with Pepsi in the batter and is among the worst things I’ve ever eaten. Ever.

    I love Vegas and hate gambling. Gambling bores me to tears. But Vegas is a GREAT food town – so many fantastic restaurants from low to high end but only so many meals in a day! I like the shows and I like the lights and I like the cheeziness of it all. Glad you had a good time!

    Luck? I haven’t got any. The closest thing to a lucky story I have is that I found the best job I ever had through a woman I met at a party that I almost didn’t go to – but was that luck, or was it just my habit at the time of telling everyone I met that I was looking for a new job?

  11. In American Gods, Neil Gaiman theorizes that people actually don’t gamble to win money, they gamble to lose. A sort of modern day atheist substitute for ritual sacrifice, like a dead bull burned on the altar of consumerism.

    That doesn’t keep me from playing the lottery. Yes it’s basically a voluntary tax on those who are bad at math. But if nothing else, I’ll call it a donation to the school systems. Yeah, that’s it. That’s the reason I hover over my computer at 11pm twice a week to check the draw against the ticket I stashed inside a statue of Ganesh. For the schools :-)

  12. SLOT LUCK, y’all.

    Ohhhh, how this made me laugh. I am a nasty, nasty, nasty semi-compulsive gambler when I’m in Vegas and it was not unusual for me to hemorrhage $200 a day on slots. But on my last trip, I discovered the joys of Rapid Roulette and video poker. I still vomited money, but in a slower fashion so I felt better about it. I love Vegas because of the shiny, the over-the-top nature of it, the 24/7 of it, and being able to smoke indoors. I’ve been getting offers in the mail as of late for cheap rooms and whatnot and it kills me I can’t take advantage at the present since I’m spending two weeks overseas at the end of February. KILLS. /Vegas waxing

    Anyway. Luck. It’s not my friend, really. I’ve never been one of those people with a horseshoe wedged up my ass, sadly. Very occasionally (like every 10 years), I’ll stumble upon a $20 on the street. Most recent bad luck: meeting a guy who, on paper, is what I would classify as the perfect guy for me personality-wise, attitude-wise, taste-wise, we’re talking just…made of awesome. Of course he’s got a girlfriend. OF COURSE.

  13. Poor Al. I think I’d rather have a yeast infection than fly with a cold. I mean, the pain, ow ow ow ow ow. So glad you didn’t get it. Colds are weird things. Sometimes your immune system, when confronted with a particular virus, will go, “Ahh, fuck that noise, you already had that one,” and let it go by. But I do believe in vitamin C and hand sanitizers, too, superstition or no.

    But I do Vegas pretty much like you do, KH. I pretty much expect to take $20 and set fire to it at the cheap slots, and that’s more or less what happens. I would hope I’d be one of those people who could walk away after a jackpot, but since I never got one, I couldn’t tell you for sure.

    And I’m thinking if I do get married again…Elvis wedding, for sure. With pink Cadillac.

  14. Um . . . the best luck I had was when I won the “Bad First Sentence” (mini Bulwer-Lytton competition) that Ace (the publisher) had a few years ago . . . I can’t remember my sentence, but I got a box full of about 20 books as my prize. I only already owned one of them. :)

    Considering that about ten people entered, I guess it wasn’t really good luck, just really high odds.

    Never been to Vegas. Wouldn’t mind seeing shows, but gambling I don’t find interesting. If I do end up getting married there, I totally want an Elvis impersonator. Who wouldn’t?

  15. Before I moved to Holland, I lived in Vegas for 4 years. One year in, my best friend from high school came out to visit. *WARNING… PERHAPS STUPID BUT FUN ILLEGAL ACTIVITY MENTIONED NEXT* Well she had some vicodin. We went to the casinos, took a vicodin each, of course, and drank beers. It’s like being drunk times 10. Or maybe times 1000. Anyway, made our way over to Paris casino and I sat down at a nickel slot. Put in a maximum bet 15 cents. Pulled the arm. Bupkiss. Put in another 15 cents and WOOOOO WOOOO WOOOO goes the machine with lights flashing. I look on the screen and read, barely, that I won 15,000 nickels. I’m like almost falling out of my seat and completely unable to do any math. I thought it was like 10 dollars. After a brief spell, a cashier-type wanders over and has a look on her face like “this-never-happens-on-those-crappy-slots” and tells me she has to get a manager. So they come back and whip out 7 hundreds and a fifty. I put 650 bucks away. Gave the loser sitting next to me a “lucky” nickel still in my pocket. And went to go find my friend who had been sitting oblivious and slack jawed in an adjacent slot area. I folded up a hundred dollar bill, held it in my palm all mafia style, gave her a big shit eatin’ grin, and handshaked it over. Best Vegas Night Ever.

  16. I won the baby lottery on my very first IVF, which was also the only infertility treatment I’ve ever received. Now, I’m hoping that my luck will hold and nothing will happen for the next three months.

  17. Holy crap, Debbie B.! That’s awesome.

    My mom went to Vegas once in her life and won $800 on a slot machine. (I believe it was a dollar slot, though.) She immediately went and bought a gold bracelet with it, so she wouldn’t be tempted to put it back into the machines. That’s one way to do it, I guess. (And I think — hope — I still have that bracelet somewhere.)

  18. Thanks, Zombie Z. :) I didn’t think I was going to go on so long about dieting — or even my slot story. As always, I thought I was going to write a quickie — Hey, I was in Vegas; tell me your stories about luck! — but then went on for 85 pages b/c that’s what I do.

  19. Oooh I know what you mean. Vegas is fun because it’s shiny and flashy and it’s what you get when you take everything that makes America what it is, and remove the puritan values. Sometimes I think that without the fundies the whole country would be like Vegas, and that would probably be too much.

    We are very small-time gamblers. On a weekend trip, we might spend 2-3 hours playing craps. I think slots are boring, and I’ve never had any luck at all playing blackjack, but once you figure out how to play craps, it’s a lot of fun, and you can usually lose very slowly (but not always). Whenever it’s your turn to throw the dice, the magical thinking instantly pops up. “If only I hold the dice like so. Yay, a seven! So, if only I hold the dice the exact same way again… boo, a three.” And so on. And if you lose a couple of consecutive points, it’s pretty hard not to think of yourself as lacking skill at the game, even though that’s ridiculous.

    KA is next on our list. We saw Zumanity 2 years ago, and O last summer, and they are both fantastic. We’ve paid far more to see Cirque shows in Vegas than we’ve lost on gambling, but it’s worth it.

  20. I’ve never been to Vegas! I totally want to go, though, ’cause it sounds kind of like a spectacle. But I haven’t found the right traveling companion/s yet. I feel like it would be fun with a group of chicks, but I think my current friends are a little too square. I need someone just a little wilder than I am, but not too much.

    As for luck, man. Most of the time I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. The boy I was latently crushing on for a couple years had the good sense to break up with his girlfriend and then pursue me and is now my kickass boyfriend, I managed to only apply for one job, my dream job, and get it, and every time I have financial troubles, something manages to happen to bail me out. Once my best friend took up a collection of our friends, and handed me $500. Life is very good.

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  22. The only kind of luck I’ve ever had was bad luck. I mean, seriously ridiculously bad luck. I could go on, but it would sound like I’m having a pity-party.

    My husband, on the other hand, is one of those lucky shits that gets it everywhere, just in small doses. Like going to Best Buy to get something for $20 and finding $80 on the ground right next to where he parked the car. (Obviously, this was before we moved Across The Pond.) Little stuff like that, but it happens to him all the time.

  23. Vegas is fun because it’s shiny and flashy and it’s what you get when you take everything that makes America what it is, and remove the puritan values.

    Hee! Yep, in a nutshell.

    And you know, one of the other things I realized is that when I go anywhere else, up to and including Indianapolis, I start fantasizing about what it would be like to live there. Not Vegas, though. 4 days there is absolutely perfect — I have a blast, and then I’m completely ready to go home. I would probably be a whole lot less dazzled and more disgusted by the overwhelming Americanness of it all if all of America were really like that.

    Oh, and Apsalar, O is next on our list. (Though I’d see KA again for Al’s sake, if we can’t get tickets to that.) We saw Zumanity last year, and I didn’t dig it nearly as much. I mean, it was Cirque du Soleil, so there was awesomeness, but it just didn’t blow my mind like KA did. I also had issues with the way the fat women were used in that show, though at least they were actual fat women with actual talents, and they seem quite stoked about their role. (I’ve also heard other fat activists say they interpreted it the same way the sisters themselves do, but I still felt they were being used in an unsettlingly clownish capacity.)

  24. I keep trying to convince my girlfriends to rock a Vegas trip with me and split a hot tub suite at the Luxor….but apparently there’s something a little less than eco-conscious about Vegas that turns off my oh-so-green sisters, carbon offsets or no.

    Anyway, my lucky story has to do with this one time I met my sister in St. Louis (hehehe) for a weekend getaway. I was taking Greyhound (’cause that’s how I roll), and of course there was some accident on the highway that set us back a couple hours. This being pre-cell phone for both of us, we had no way of getting in touch to make a back up plan. So, when I get to the bus station, I start wandering around frantically trying to find my sister. I have customer service page her a couple times, and nothing. Finally, I get this idea that I’ll call my mom to see if maybe my sister left a message with her or something.

    I head over to the payphones and dial up my mom, who says she hasn’t heard from her. I do the whole trying-not-to-panic sighing thing, and turn to lean on the frame of the payphone and think of something brilliant. And there, staring back at me from the bank of payphones across the hall, is my sister, on calling our dad.

    Is it luck, or is it shared genes that made us respond to a crisis the same damn way? Who can tell?

  25. apparently there’s something a little less than eco-conscious about Vegas that turns off my oh-so-green sisters, carbon offsets or no.

    Yeah, you kinda have to willfully ignore that part to enjoy it. :)

  26. I’ve never really done big megabucks luck. Most timely stroke of luck I can recall was the biggest lottery win I ever had, which was £60 (about $120 right now, but this was back in ’99). It just happened to be on the day hubby and I were legally tying the knot. Very long story, but basically for family and legal reasons we had the ceremonial/spiritual bits – both of them (yup, complicated) – much later. The legal bit was short and sweet, but that small windfall gave us juuust enough to take our witnesses out to lunch afterwards, which wasn’t bad considering we were more than usually broke at the time.

    But really, Kate, I’m going OMG! Deep fried _Twinkies_?! As a couple of Brits we make a habit of doing the (unfried) Twinkie-eating thing just once, each time we’re in the US, because as my husband points out, those things are so awful they’re _good_. (The ultimate conclusion must be that someone, somewhere, has deep-fried Zingers. There’s no law to say it can’t happen, surely.)

    Veering off-topic along those lines, my brother-in-law was telling us over Christmas dinner how, on his visit to my sister-in-law in Scotland, he discovered there was such a thing as deep-fried Christmas cake. Yup, iced fruitcake, fried in batter. He didn’t try it, but he has tried the infamous deep-fried Mars bars, and was not impressed. I’ve only been as far as the deep-fried haggis. Which was wonderful, eaten as it must be, out of a newspaper, sitting up in bed at 2am, drunk, with a posse of girl actor pals at the Edinburgh Fringe. But that’s another extremely long story.

  27. I’ve never been to Vegas either, but would like to because one: as m.leblanc so aptly put it, it sounds like a spectacle, and two: it would be a great starting point to go to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Of course, going to the North Rim is only possible in the summer time and DH does not do well in heat. But it’s a dry heat, right?

    I’m generally not lucky. But Atlantic City is an easy day trip and on nice days when we want to take a drive, we’ll often take a little cash and head down, lose the $, have lunch and walk around the marina. Last time we went gambling, though, it was to slot machines at an old horse racing track in Pennsylvania on a whim late one Sunday afternoon. The place was kind of icky … but I won $900, which made up for most of the ickiness!

  28. I also loooooved KA. the only thing in Vegas I truly enjoyed for itself, and not it’s irony factor.( Except maybe the tigers, who are still awesome animals no matter how cheezy their souroundings get. ) I went in thinking that I would forever be embarrassed to admit I paid money to see Cirque and came out a convert.

  29. “….the greatest Stereotypical Fat Girl moment of my entire life: standing on Fremont Street, stuffing a deep-fried Twinkie in my face, with a light dusting of powdered sugar all over my body. I don’t think I will ever top that.”

    OMG I can’t stop laughing. That’s so beautiful.

    I don’t gamble at all, not even slot machines or lottery tickets. I have trouble even purchasing raffle tickets for my friends’ kids’ school fundraisers. I took too many statistics classes, I think.

  30. I have my lucky moments every so often. I once won a painting in a raffle that I really, really wanted. It was the only reason I bought a ticket and, because the tickets were quite expensive and I was really down on my uppers at the time, I bought only the one. I believe a two or three hundred tickets were sold in all so the chances of me winning anything at all weren’t especially high. I left before the raffle was drawn and it wasn’t till my boss rang me up a week-and-a-half later and asked me when I was going to pick the picture up I discovered I’d won it.

    I have lousy luck when gambling but my grandmother, rest her soul, was amazing; she once won a couple of grand at bingo.

  31. the subject of Luck: when I was a small child there was a gas leak in my house while we were unattended after school one afternoon. My siblings passed out on beds and sofas. I passed out on the floor, into a freak pocket of clean air, and therefore awoke and was clear headed enough to get help. If I had been on a sofa too we all would have died.

  32. I’m glad to hear you had a good time. I’m going to vegas in less than 2 weeks with 2 of my friends. It’s the first trip to Vegas and the first “Girls adventure” for all of us. We’re trying to do it on the cheap, so only one production show for us. I’ll see if I can talk the girls into KA, based on your recommendation.

  33. I’ll see if I can talk the girls into KA, based on your recommendation.

    From what I hear (and have seen), pretty much any Cirque show will be worth it — though as I said above, I liked KA a lot more than Zumanity. (We only ended up at Zumanity last year because we didn’t book shows in advance, and it was the only CdS that wasn’t sold out, if that tells you anything. Also, the gimmick of that one is that it’s an “adult” cabaret — lots of boobies — which may or may not appeal.)

    I also loveloveLOVE Penn & Teller, whom we saw last year and nearly shelled out to see again. Not quite as much of a spectacle as Cirque or a play, but so freakin’ amazing, if you’re into magic and large, foul-mouthed men, which I am.

  34. I am the worst slots player on the planet. I usually sit down with between $20 and $30, and that’ll last about 10 minutes on a quarter machine just playing one quarter at a time. I’ve probably played at least a dozen times, but the most I’ve ever won on one pull is about $4.

  35. Oh, and if you ever get a chance to stay at Mandalay Bay during the warmer months, do it. During the winter, feh, who cares…but for summer, they have the most glorious fake beach-pool in the back, with a wave pool and real sand and everything. It’s one of my eternal regrets that when I stayed there once on business I had a wicked case of food poisoning the whole time (probably got it at a business lunch held elsewhere) and a 104-degree temperature and thus never got to check out the pool. Waah.

  36. Re: dumb luck. I don’t have it very often, but I met my husband during a free trial at Match.com. He was the first guy I talked to.

  37. I lovelovelove Penn and Teller too, and consider them probably the only reason to go to Vegas, though maybe not quite compelling enough that I’ll ever go there for real. (In Penn’s cleaner-shaven incarnations he looks unmistakably like my boyfriend, so that’s part of it. Unrelatedly but interestingly, my dad also looks so much like pre-tanorexia Ralph Lauren that people who’ve met them both have confused them. Hey, we should do a Friday Fluff on celebrity resemblances.)

    Luck, huh? Right now I can only think of runs of really bad luck I’ve had… my good luck tends to be the ongoing variety, like having a good job and a great boyfriend and being part of this blog. I was with a friend when he both lost his virginity and found a hundred-dollar bill on the same day, which was kind of epic.

  38. My husband has had lots of good luck in his life. He lucked out in the genetics department: super healthy, family history of long life, very handsome, and genius intelligence.
    He’s always winning stuff at raffles etc. He usually wins at games, most recently poker (although that requires lots of skill too).
    He is a major procrastinator, so even in the last month of college he hadn’t started looking for a job. But he happened to mention to a professor that he needed one, the professor gave his name to someone she knew at a great company, my husband had one PHONE interview, and got the job, which he loves. It also pays lots of money.

    My husband never had a girlfriend (or first kiss, or…you know, anything) until he met me, at age 21. He started a club at college with the hope of finding a girlfriend. He lucked out with his first shot. I guess I can’t complain.

    I’ve had some good luck in seriously bad accidents. I won’t go into details. But they weren’t the sort of things that a person survives by being in good health. I could have very easily died.

  39. When I was five, I won a $100 gift certificate to Toys R Us. I stretched it out over six or seven visits, got my first Barbie (my parents were feminist hippies) and got something for my baby brother every time as well. Hee.

  40. God, Vegas sounds so fun. I’m not a gambler, either. I get bored with slots real quick but I’m really good at drinking, smoking and staring at shiny things so I do hope to find myself in Vegas someday soon. This Christmas really sucked so maybe next year!

    My gays looooove the slots so we went up to Ho Chunk a few months ago. I was up like $250 on this one slot machine and didn’t quit while I was ahead! I knew I’d lose the money I brought so I wasn’t too sad.

  41. My family went to Vegas last year for Christmas. It totally rocked. I had a great time, though I don’t gamble. it’s not morality; i just have terrible luck at gaming. My younger sister, though, won something like $200 at craps. She’s so cute that she got “help” from the croupiers – what numbers to roll, when to stop, when to keep rolling. I just sat there like the prim library lady, full of envy and wagging my finger. I even took her money away and stashed it in my purse for “safe keeping.” She would have forgotten about it too had the croupier not reminded her where her money had gone.

    All this talk of Vegas and free-wheelin’ makes me want to put in a plug for New Orleans. It’s got Harrah’s casino, world class music and food, and an all-night freak show of carnality called Bourbon Street. If you’re looking for a decent vacation without the puritan guilt, in a city that’s got love for the big and beautiful man and woman, check out the N.O. The city totally needs your money and support.

  42. I think Gaiman probably had the right idea. I love to play Blackjack, but I get a special little thrill when I lose big at it. For that reason, and the uncontrollable urge to split tens, I don’t ever play with real money. I had the opportunity to go to a casino with my husband last year, but I passed it up because I was sure I’d end up bankrupting us at the Blackjack table. I’ll stick to the one on my phone.

  43. For the past two years in a row, I have won the raffle at the Special Olympics Halloween Dance, which means we now have TWO, count ‘em TWO black-and-orange-with-spider-webs-themed fleece blankets — the double-layer fringed kind with knots all around the perimeter?

    I am totally going the 7-tickets-for-$5 route again next year. My odds of winning are then approximately 7/8. I don’t care what the prize is, winning is FUN!

    And those blankets? May not be high-class, but they are the warmest ever. We fight over them.

    (I made one for Sister M for Xmas — in subdued tones of cream and tan — sublime!)

  44. I have incredible everything-working-out-at-the-last-minute luck.

    When I graduated from undergrad, I didn’t know what I wanted to do…I bummed around a little, and then decided to go to grad school, and I found a R.A. position that week, and moved to AR two weeks later to start. When I got my M.S., I didn’t want to start my PhD right away. I was working in a sandwich shop in Southern Illinois that wasn’t going to pay my bills, and I was starting to freak out. Then someone came in and told me about a job leading backpacking trips for youth at risk. I moved into my free cabin in the woods two weeks later. I hated my woman-hating boss there, so after a few courses, I quit. About a week later, I landed the PhD assistantship at Purdue and moved here, you guessed it, two weeks later.

    So planning ahead? I don’t really believe that it makes a difference. How’s that for magical thinking.

  45. I land on my feet. I always have. There seems to be something that always comes through at the last minute that keeps things from being a total disaster.

    Also, the Grand Canyon in summer- not as hot as you think. The rim is 7000 feet, and the highs are in the 90’s. Late July- September is the Monsoon, though, so it is no longer a dry heat. If you hike to the bottom- 1) it is a two day trip and you need reservations for the campground- do your research before you go :) 2) The botttom is significantly hotter than the rim and gets to Phoenix desert temps.
    Anything more, just asked. One of my many jobs in life was working for a Northern Arizona tour company for a year.
    Vegas is doable in Summer- there is lots of Air Conditioning. I have done Vegas with Kids and a tight budget. I want to do Vegas sans kids with a looser budget ;)
    Someday- just like someday I will get to travel the US.

  46. I’m another non-gambler who loves Vegas. My gambling budget is $5 per day on nickel slots. If I do win a payout, I always cash out immediately, so I always go home feeling like a winner. Unless I go the entire trip without a single payout, which has happened. But my losses are so tiny that I don’t feel bad.

    I think the Vegas that people live in is probably very different from the Vegas I see on vacation, so I wouldn’t speculate on what it’s like to live there even after a half-dozen visits. On previous trips we have rented a car and gone a few places away from the Strip and Fremont Street, which is nice if the sheer craziness starts to feel a bit much. I highly recommend Hash House a Go Go, but share an entree if you don’t have a fridge in your hotel room.

    I agree that Vegas is doable in the summer, but not as nice as during cooler seasons. We were there in July (for our wedding) and there were things we ended up not doing because we just couldn’t be outside for more than a few minutes at a time. Like for instance, taking wedding pictures. I regret missing out on the pictures, but when it’s 115 outside, what can you do? At that temp even a “dry heat” is still insanely hot.

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  48. I suck at slots When I put money into a machine i want something to come out, dammmit! A stick of gum, a tampon, anything!

    Fried twinkie? UGH. Now, I know how ya’ll feel about moralizing food but that is pure evil ass-nasty eating. You must have an iron stomach.

  49. Oh, I had such a ‘that’s me’ moment over the bit where you thought you’d found the magical formula to keep the weight off! I battled off 50 kilos, and didn’t know then what odds I was facing, but really truly did think I was never going back. I was sooo confident that I could keep up the mind-numblingly hard exercise routine and diet forever. Nope.

    I’m not a gambler at all, by the way. Vegas is my idea of hell. :) And, not being a gambler, if I’d known the odds I’d have stayed fat and happy in the first place and saved myself a lot of pain!

  50. I won tickets to a David Sanborn show once.

    Other than that, my luck sucks.

    Like when I was in HS and loaned my biggest rival an oboe reed because hers broke and she beat me (and got my state orchestra first chair seat) by one point.

    Like when I got into Harvard and Yale and Brown and the parental units said “If you get in, we’ll send you” so being a naive 15 year old, I didn’t apply to UC Berkeley or Michigan and plan to move in with family in either of those states so I could pay in state tuition and the acceptance letters said “Yes, please come!” (if I had known how big a deal that was for a FATGIRL, given the stats, I would have been even madder than I still am, now, I think) and my parents said “Sorry, we made some bad investments, so we’ll have to renege and by the way, we make too much money as a middle class family for you to get financial aid at those institutions and since they all let in smart people, they don’t give academic scholarships and since you suck at sports, you can’t get a sports scholarship either. Sorreeeee!”

    I’m not over it (especially since these days pedigree seems to count so much more than actual brains, if you look at our national leadership). Can you tell?

    Kate, did you go have Hung’s meal (the Top Chef winner) at Guy Savoy? It looked like the bomb-diggity meal on the show.

    Also sounds like it would have beaten the taste hell out of deep-fried Twinkie.

  51. *delurk*

    I really, really want to go to Vegas now. It sounds like so much fun. I’ve also heard that the buffets are to die for – is that true?

    As for luck, I think mine’s decent. I find money on the ground every so often and I have great luck with long-term basic things; I hit the husband jackpot, for instance, and my family is wonderful. I think the biggest thing I’ve ever won is a trip to Paris, in a writing contest. That was pretty awesome.

    My husband once won $1000 in an online casino – he likes the brick-and-mortar ones too, but we don’t live near any. He immediately cashed it out and bought us a huge television. :)

  52. I’ve also heard that the buffets are to die for – is that true?

    YMMV, but… not exactly. Or at least, it depends on the buffet. We went to the Bellagio buffet last year, and yes, it was amaaaazing, but it was also like $60 for breakfast. This year, we went to a couple of downtown buffets, including one (Golden Nugget) that’s supposed to be good, and it was a lot easier on the wallet, but categorically not to die for. If you want an incredible variety of food for not much money, then yeah, it’s an embarrassment of riches, but I’d rather have one thing done well than my choice of a hundred things that have been sitting under heat lamps. (If you’re a big dessert person, you might want to ignore my opinion, because desserts do tend to hold up better.)

  53. A few days before Christmas this year, I played roulette for the first time. I had taken 30 Euros (about $ 45) and had left my credit card and ATM card at home… :-) Throughout the evening I kept winning and losing about 10 Euro and in the end, I was down to my last 12 Euro and decided to stop then. My friend (who had a MAD winning streak that evening) had the idea to put a 2 Euro chip on number 2 and, since 2 is my lucky number, I decided to bet 2 Euro ($ 3) on that. Well, number 2 came and I won 70 Euro ($ 100)! I then decided to call it a night and left with a 50 Euro ($ 70) plus.

    I do have a fair amount of luck, but if I have learned that if I push too hard or get greedy the universe will kick my ass hard and see to it that I become humble again. :-)

  54. The one thing that I seem to have consistently good luck with is concerts…both winning tickets in radio contests and getting good seats on Ticketbastard. Hey, I’ll take it!

  55. oh man, same thing just happened to me. My mom took me and a few of our mutual friends to a spa day at a new and schmancy casino just up the road. I got a heavenly body wrap and facial and we sat in the whirlpool and drank daquiris. Trash fabulous. Then everyone else went home and my mom gave me 20 bucks and told me to play the slots. I was floaty and happy so I did. And I started winning. I could not lose for about 2 hours. I turned that $20 into $80 and then something happened and in about 20 minutes I lost it all. I totally thought I had some special slot intuition that was making me choose the winning machines, like a dowsing rod for gambling. Lesson learned. And yes, it was my mom’s $20 and she didn’t intend for me to give it back, but I feel like such an idiot for pissing it away that I have to pay her back now on principle.

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