Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Hey there - I'm back in Vegas!

Got all my stuff from New Orleans. The trip was good, good to get some visiting time wit muh dad... It was also the longest freakin' road trip EVER.

Got here, and somehow lost my cell phone. My land line wasn't hooked up then, and I had no internet... I was so disconnected from the world. It sucked. Also, my cell phone had all my phone numbers in it. So I lost everybody's number. Please send me your phone number, so I can put it in my new phone (as soon as it arrives).

My cell number will remain the same. Email me, and I'll give you my new number.

Well, I'm not going to write a lot tonight; it's been a long night, and I'm still unpacking stuff.

Talk to you all soon!


Friday, October 14, 2005

Hey there, everybody!

Life is continuing to go well. I'm going next week to get my stuff from New Orleans and bring it here to Vegas. My dad is using his truck and trailer for the haul. I can't say quite how grateful I am to him.

In fact, it's been amazing - this whole time, everybody gave everything they could. Way above and beyong just helping a little. It's extraordinary.

I just read Robert Jordan's new WoT book "Knife of Dreams." Although I have no idea what the "Knife of Dreams" the title references is, it's still undoubtedly his best book in a decade. He finally let the people at Tor edit it, and it's plain to see. More happens in the first 200 pages than in the previous five books combined. It's wonderful - the type of writing that makes me want to buy a copy for every person who enjoys that "Harry Potter" bullshit. Yes, I have read them. Yes, I still think they suck ass. They are not the worst-written thing I have ever read, but they're in the top (bottom) five.

Anyway, back to Robert Jordan... During the first few books of the WoT series, I was convinced he was as good as Tolkien, and better than all the others in fantasy, including George R. R. Martin, and Steven Brust, and Neil Gaiman, and David Gemmel. Then the books bogged down into a worthless mess of nothing happening despite thousands of pages of writing. The only reason I even read this book was because I wanted to see if I could tell a difference when he let it get a full editing cycle instead of a few weeks, like the last ones.

It's not perfect. There's still a wee bit too much spanking going on, and people being bitchy to each other. But we're finally seeing female characters being strong, instead of just glaring at each other (and men) hard enough to knock down stone/tear down walls/frighten Santa Claus. We're finally seeing male characters being strong, not just having expressions hard as stone/granite/steel/rock/teflon-coated aluminum.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you haven't read the last few books in the series. Let me give you a quick synopsis in case you want to skip them:

Blah, blah, blah...

Okay, so now you know - read books one through six, and the last page of book nine, skip book ten, and pick up book eleven. That should save you about 3,000 pages of reading.

And if you read just those, you'll be convinced (as I once was) that Jordan is indeed, the best fantasy author since Tolkien. His plots are so incredibly involved, and detailed... I love Joss Whedon for his characters, but the plots are usually kinda lame. If you could get Jordan to write plots for Whedon, or Whedon to flesh out characters for Jordan... It'd be the best writing ever.

Oh, and if you haven't done it yet - GO SEE "SERENITY"!!!!!

If you don't believe me, ask anybody who's seen it. Or go online - 9 out of 10 reviews rave about how great it is. But it's flopping hard-core, and this week is probably your last chance to see it on the big screen, and if it doesn't do decently this week, it puts the final nail in the coffin of them continuing the story in sequels.

I've long since gotten over Anna as a romantic partner. But as time goes by, I'm missing her friendship more and more, not less and less. You know, there's tons of advice for getting over relationships (all of which seems to be complete bullshit). But none about losing friends.

Oh well. I tried way too many times as it is. It's so easy to tell other people "He/she's not going to change! Quit hoping for what you know isn't going to happen!" It's a lot harder to do in your own life, though.

Well, on that note, I think I'm going to go to bed. In the last five weeks, I've

1) Evacuated (telling Amy Trail "I don't think it's going to be that bad" - don't depend on my forecasting!)
2) Lost everything
3) Tried out for American Idol, didn't make it. My only regret is that I know Anna is obsessed with that show, and I would have loved for her to see me on it. But damn, after seeing the audition process, I think that show is worthless!
4) Came to Las Vegas. Started working. Amazed by the musicians here.
5) Got a car, an apartment, and my life going again
6) Found out my stuff is fine, and my dad is willing to help me get it all here.
7) Went through the AI audition process again, but this time just to support a friend. Thought it sucked just as much as before.

It's been hectic. And I'm tired now.

Talk to you all later,

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Now, it is no big secret to most of you that I'm not a big fan of marriage. Almost every marriage I see is a total farce, at best a toss-up as to whether it's a tragedy or a comedy. I can count the number of happy, stable marriages that I know of on one hand, and still have a finger or two left over.

If you really want to know the depth of my disdain for the institution in all its forms, email me, and I'll give you the full rant. I'm trying to keep this somewhat concise, though, since it's a preamble to what I actually want to blog about today.

I have played countless weddings ("uncounted" mainly 'cause I never counted them). I've seen every variation under the sun. They all had their mixture of awkwardness, happiness, sadness, more awkwardness, tension, joy, anticipation, boredom, more awkwardness, and the thrill of it finally being done... Like a hurdle that the guys just want to get over. A rite of passage that's necessary, but unwanted for the guys, and doesn't live up to expectations for the girls. I'm about as big a fan of weddings as I am marriages. Blech!!!

Except... What we all want is what I call "the Movie Wedding" - where every action is sincere and emotional. Where every ritual is profound and meaningful. Where the love and exuberance and romance never lets up for a second. And that it's the beginning to a romance that never fades.

I went to my cousin Ben's wedding last week. It was going to notable to me for three reasons:

1) It was my first wedding EVER where I didn't play the piano
2) Ben and I (and my 18-year-old cousin Ruth Ann) were the last hold-outs of our generation... Of my 14 siblings and cousins, everybody else had been married... Sometimes twice. Sometimes more than that. He and I were the last bachelors.
3) My cousin Ben and my brother David are the best men (by almost any standard - best looking, smartest, most respectful, funniest, etc... It's annoying at times) of our generation, and I was curious to see who he was going to marry. My brother David married the only perfect woman for him (his is one of the aforementioned happy and stable marriages I know of).

Well, I flew in early to meet Lorna, Ben's intended. First impression; incredible beauty. Great sense of humor. Seems like a great person.

Then the next day, they were telling a story about her and Ben riding horses, and Ben's suddenly took off galloping over a hill where she couldn't see him. At the time, she didn't know he was an excellent horseman. And she told me that she could just knew he was going to get thrown, and maybe paralyzed a la Superman... And she said she could see how the wedding and marriage was going to be with him as a quadraplegic... And the two of them started joking about going down the aisle with him blowing on a straw to make the chair go... On the one hand, the jokes were a little on the tacky and offensive side (not that that ever bothered me, particularly; I find everything in life funny). On the other hand, it was one of the sweetest things I'd ever heard. There was no doubt in either of their minds that they would be married, no matter what the circumstances, no matter the difficulties. Of all the things they were talking about, and worrying about, and planning, the marriage was never going to be in doubt.

Ah, but then there was the bachelor party.

Most bachelor parties are hedonistic affairs, with as much alcohol and sexual content as possible... Strippers are considered necessary, hookers are often involved. Illegal drugs are not uncommon, neither is incredibly stupid behaviour on everybody's part. After all, it's his "last night of freedom," right? My thought on that is that if you view that lifestyle as freedom, you're not ready to get married. I'm not condemning anybody's lifestyle; I know that most people would find mine offensive. But if that's what you want, then you don't really want marriage.

Well, here come's Ben's Bachelor party... We got toy guns (arc-soft pistols; think realistic looking BB guns that shoot plastic pellets), rented "Way of the Gun" and alternated between watching the movie and shooting the crap out of each other. Fun, fun, fun, and not something that his wife would cringe to know about.

The next morning (the day of the wedding), he took us to the St. Louis City Museum. What an incredible place - like a playground for adults. If you've never been there, I can't describe it - just GO! Anyway, we played "Sardines" for a few hours, then went to the "ball-pit" which is like a giant version of those McDonalds play-pens with the balls in the bottom, except this one had volleyballs, and was about 20 ft. square... Apparently, much of the courtship of Ben and Lorna took place at this museum.

Then he took us to a Castle-like tower at the edge of the place, and described flying into town without telling her, and how she met him there (at the tower), and as she was walking up the steps, he'd laid a rose on each step, and when she got to the top, he'd asked her to marry him.

Talk about smooth.

So, the groomsmen and groom were by this point dirty, sweaty, unshaven, smelly, and tired. So we went back, took showers, napped, and left for the big event.

Lorna was beyond radiant. She was the most excited and exuberant bride I've ever seen. She was so happy that she literally couldn't stand still. Ben was at the pinnacle of suave and romantic, at times murmuring into her ear, always touching her to just remain close... I have never seen a couple more in love, and I don't mean infatuation, I mean LOVE. The kind where they will be giggling and flirting with each other when they're 90.

I should mention that Ben is one of the most devout Christians I know. He is the poster child for what churches want men to be... Yet somehow, while living a completely clean and chaste life, he manages to be a lot of fun to be around, and not just for short periods of time. He never judges you for living differently than him, never comes across as preachy or superior; he just does it because he believes that's what God wants of him. He doesn't spend much time telling you what God wants of you; that's between you and God.

So it was quite appropriate that the ceremony had a great deal of religious content. It wasn't out of place or awkward, like it usually is. In fact, it would have felt incomplete without it. It was beautiful watching them take communion together, and praying together. It was so sincere...

The Big Wedding. I doubt I'll ever see one like that again. No awkward moments. No looking out of place. No doubts. No insincerity. Just love, and more love, and more love.

I will never get married, unless it can be like that.

Which shouldn't be too hard, since I don't expect that I'll ever get married!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Well, it’s been awhile since I posted, and so I’m going to have to do this in chunks, I think...

Before I say anything else, GO WATCH “SERENITY” IN THE MOVIE THEATERS!!! It opened weakly, and if it doesn’t do well, there may not be a sequel to it. AND I NEED MORE! Anyway, more on that later. Here's the low-down on my recent life.


I got to Las Vegas, without a clue what it would be like, or what the market was, or how the piano entertainers were.

Total And Complete Culture Shock!

The Architecture: Every casino is like a self-contained city. The bottom levels have the places to gamble, of course, but also streets, and shops, and theatres, and entertainment like you couldn’t believe. The Venetian has canals with gondolas that you can ride. Paris has a scale model of the Eiffel Tower. And so on. They’re not by any means true recreations of the original (I doubt a real New York street scene is anything like the New York, New York Casino lobby), but they are fascinating, nonetheless. I found myself in awe of each one I’ve been to see. And before you think I’m exaggerating about the “self-contained city” claim, consider this: the “Wynn” casino and hotel has 15,000 employees. That’s twice the size of my hometown. And of course, in addition to the lobbies, there are also the fountains of the Bellagio, the mall in front of Caesar’s Palace, the jungle of Mandalay Bay, and so on...

The Market: They need everything, and lots of it. Entertainment capital of the WORLD, baby! I can’t imagine that the rest of the US combined spends more on entertainment than Las Vegas. If I make it here, I’ll be making more than I ever could have in New Orleans (which was way more than I ever could have in Texas, so...).

The Piano Entertainers: Damn good. I mean, REALLY, REALLY GOOD. Everything that I prided myself on doing well, everybody here does better. Everything that I was worried might not be good enough for Vegas, isn’t. I’m bottom of the barrel here, just hoping I can improve fast enough to stay in the barrel.


I arrived with very limited monetary assets (what my family was giving me, basically), no transportation, no contacts, and virtually no possessions aside from a few changes of clothing.

Well, through the internet, I found a lady who was willing to take me into her home (talk about trust!), which is what I did for a few days. I then proceeded to go to every piano bar I could find, and talk to the players, who put me in touch with the booking agent (Steve Beyer, who seems to have complete and total control over the LV piano scene – damn, but I hope I don’t piss him off!). He auditioned me, and is giving me shifts, partly out of a desire to help a Hurricane Katrina victim, and partly to see if I can get up to the level of the other entertainers here. I started working that week.

3) THE ENTERTAINERS (that I’ve worked with so far):

The Twins: Kim and Tam Pinegar – gorgeous blondes that headline “Harrah’s” – go to the website, and their pic is what they show. It would be impossible to find two nicer, big-hearted girls. It’s also intimidating sharing a stage with them, when all the guys start yelling “bring back the twins” whenever you walk on stage!

Van Walraven: A master of this show. He worked for Pat O’Brien’s in the early 90s, so he had a soft spot to help me out – went out and bought a keyboard and let me borrow it to practice on! He has had his own dueling pianos club, and now works in Vegas with his wife (also a dueling pianist). Great piano skills, great repertoire, great singer, and a high energy crowd pleaser.

Scott Nicholson: A great pianist (probably better than I am), a great singer, and one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. I was laughing so hard it was hard to play.

Al Robinson: Imagine Joe Pesci as a dueling pianos entertainer... With a sarcastic bent, he berates the audience into loving him and giving him lots of money.

Joe Martell: a master of 80s music, with a tenor voice that lets him sing “Journey” songs in the original keys. If he wasn’t so nice, I’d hate him for that!

Bonnie Mizell: A gorgeous 26-year-old with a killer body, and a voice to match. Oh, and she got her Master’s degree in Piano Performance. And did I mention that her comedic timing is brilliant? Now if only she was an asian with a yearning for Jess and a huge sex drive, I'd be in love...

Mark Andert: The funniest guy I’ve EVER worked with; he has more one-liners and bits than you can imagine. When he’s onstage, it’s hard just to keep up. He has the audience captivated from the second he steps onto the stage until the moment he leaves.

Jeff Martin: Incredible repertoire, great jokes, but most of all, just a KILLER piano player. Originally a Jazzer (a real one, not a pretender like me), he shines when he cuts loose on the keys. I get nervous every time he throws me a solo, ‘cause my chops aren’t in the same ballpark as his. Hell, they’re not in the same league!

Have you noticed any reviews of crappy pianists here? Neither have I, ‘cause I haven’t worked with anybody who’s less than brilliant.


Well, I’m now in a place that has full internet access, which has allowed me to get back in touch with people, catch up with a lot of news and info, and generally be a happier man. I’ve played six shifts total (five in the last week), and made enough money to buy an old car (a 1994 Ford Explorer). That’s the transportation problem solved, which was a huge problem. I’ve got just enough left to buy a ticket to St. Louis on the 17th, where I’m going to meet up with my dad. I found out a couple of days ago that all my stuff is okay, including my car. So we’re going to drive from St. Louis to New Orleans, pack up, drive from New Orleans to Las Vegas, unload (into a mini-storage), and he’ll head back to St. Louis with my car, which he’s buying for my step-mom. Assuming I can get ahold of my Allstate agent, who hasn’t been returning my calls. I mean, what could she possibly be busy with?

I’m on the schedule for four shifts this week, and I’m hoping to keep busy. The more I play, the faster I’ll learn, methinks.

So, that’s enough typing for now. I plan to address some other stuff soon, like my cousin’s wedding (incredible) and the movie “Serenity” (go see it, damn it!).

Talk to you all soon,