Channeling My Mother

When I was younger, and up until this very day, my mother has made sure that our home is the absolute beacon of what season it is outside.  Having recently come back from a trip up north, it was no shock that the house was lightly festooned with autumn and Halloween trinkets.  Since my sister and I were kids and, once again up to this very day, it all culminates, each season and each Holiday to the extravaganza that is Christmas.  Frankly my parents house looks like Santa Clause, all the elf’s, and however many reindeer it is, all EXPLODED in one massive MERRY FRIGGEN CHRISTMAS jihad…or what I prefer to call Yolanda’s House Of Chintz. 


Most of you have been there, and I wish I had pictures to show those of you who haven’t, but there is literally so much stuff in the house that one year, my Cousin Tim picked up one item and turned to my mother and said “Excuse me, Miss?  How much is this?”  Only a store should have so much Happy Holidays. 


But it’s all hinged on exactly what’s going on outside; flowers blooming, birds and bees humming?  flower plates, pastel decorations and an Easter egg bunny train that lights up.  warm summer nights, school out and time to celebrate the birth of our nation?  everything BUT red, white and blue bunting under the windows.  And so it goes, season to season, celebration to celebration, holiday to holiday…though I have to say, we’re not Irish, so I never understood the St. Patrick’s Day decor.  Though if she decorated for our Italian lineage, there’d be a never ending parade of saints and feasts through our house….which probably isn’t all that different than now…but I digress.


I live in Houston.  A perfectly lovely, very modern, tear it down if it’s older than 10 years, two-season city.  I love Houston, but the other day I was bemoaning the fact that it is impossible to tell one season from the other.  Winter is all of 4 weeks long, spring, summer and football season are all the same- really friggen humid, but warm, and I haven’t found a single tree that loses it’s leaves in this city…not even a bush!


I was sitting at home, looking around and I was feeling really down.  I couldn’t figure out why.  Then it came to me…I couldn’t tell what season it was!  Our plants are still blooming in our yard, and the house is utterly devoid of any decoration.  I was pretty upset looking at my home and not seeing a single piece of worthless junk to cheer me up and remind me “Hey! It’s A SEASON!”


Julius tried his best to quell my sadness.  He brought home an autumn bouquet of flowers.  I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t love to get flowers, so I was happy, it was a burst of orange and red in our otherwise bland house.  But the flowers died.  I hung on to them too long, and the vase turned green.  So now they’re gone.  There’s a dozen apples on our counter, but they’re not for decoration, so that doesn’t count.  I was down again.  So I went to Home Goods, because I needed a pound cake pan…yes you heard me. 


I found the one thing I went to the store for right away, I knew they had it.  But then I found myself in the seasonal section.  It was vibrant with bold autumn colors and warm “hearthy” scents.  Ugh, I was home sick in the WORST way.  I started to pick up some items.  A simple wreath, some pumpkin candles, a black cat with a pumpkin candle holder, a sparkly scarecrow, more candles, a bunch of Halloween towels, some cheap decoration that was way overpriced.  Finally I had a come back to reality moment.  I slowly…VERY SLOWLY, began putting each item back, realizing I didn’t have the desire to spend the money on these items, at least not today. 


I was sad again.  I texted my sister, letting her know my predicament.  I got in line with my lone pound cake pan.  I pay, the lady behind the counter can see I’m not very happy, but I lie to her and tell her I’m fine.  My phone vibrates.  It’s a text photo from my sister.  It’s a scarecrow and a carved pumpkin.  It’s not the real thing, but it cheers me up. 


The sun hits my eyes as I come outside, it’s beautiful and then it hits me.  We always make fun of my mother for all of the seasonal items she showers the house with, every year, every season, it never fails.  But why?  Here I am, 1,800 miles away and all I want is a little Yolanda


People Come Here On Vacation? (part three)

A week prior to our trip, Julius was cutting and dying our friends hair, a cute couple.  They’re both teachers, he’s a mathematician…this is where the secret of Roulette comes in.

“It’s the law of averages, ya see?”  he says, drawing on a piece of paper.  I quickly remember the very experiment we did in school on this, probably ten years ago…wait…no, it’d be more than ten years…anyway, I digress.  The experiment, which I’m sure most of us did, involved spinning a coin and keeping tally of the amount of times that it landed on heads or tails.  The more often you spun the coin the flatter the scale becomes eventually becoming 50/50 or extremely close to it.  So no matter what, because there are only two options, one of the two options MUST come up 50% of the time….and don’t come after me telling me “well what if I stick something on one side” that’s cheating and the IRS is on their way to your house as we speak!

“But the wheel has more than two numbers.”  I clearly don’t know anything about gambling, since I do it so rarely.

“Yes, but there are only two colors on the wheel.”

“Oh, I see now.”

“Sometimes you’ll have a wheel with double zero and zero as green, but that only throws off the formula slightly.  So what you do is place a bet on red or black, not both, and if you win then you bank what you won and place the bet again on red or black.  If you lose,” he said this slowly, for emphasis, “double your previous bet.  This is where it gets difficult, cause your mind doesn’t want you to do this.  You keep doubling what you’ve bet, 2 to 4, 4 to 8, 8 to 16 and so on, until you win again.  This way you get all of your money back plus your original bet had you won.  It gets high real fast and don’t get greedy.  You can really make money on this.”

Flash forward to Paris, Las Vegas.  Jule and I are sitting at Rapid Roulette.  I’m cheap, I keep my starting bet to the minimum, $1.50.  Sure it’ll take me a lot longer to get up high, but it’ll also take me longer to lose anything, thus giving me extra room for doubling should I hit a losing streak.

We play for an hour, I’m up.  Julius is having a hard time getting over the cognitive dissonance occurring due to the requirement that he double his money….that’s basically not feeling right because you know you should do one thing but your mind doesn’t want you to- that’s a pretty lame explanation but I’m sure you get it.

I’m getting pissed, I’m almost outta my 20 bux.  Then I remember something my sister said to me on the phone;

“I have a feeling about the number 33.”

“That’s it?”

“Yeah, that’s it.”

I place my last five dollars on red 33 and turn to Julius as the wheel spins.

“Well this is pretty boring, how do people get addicted to this.  It’s like getting addicted to watching the dust bunnies form.”

“RED THIRTY-THREE!” Shouts the dealer.  Wait, what?  Red, what? I smack Julius on the arm.

“I WON!”

“You won?”

“I FRIGGEN WON ON MY LAST FIVE DOLLARS!”  I immediately cash out, grateful for the money. “Well I’m done.”

“You’re done?”  What is it with Julius just repeating back what I said in question form all the time?

“Well I’m not about to lose what I just got.  You keep goin, I’ll just sit here and drink.”

I get another beer, this time the cocktail waitress is one that looks about 12 months pregnant.  Something about a pregnant cocktail waitress just doesn’t seem right to me, but at least she’s more covered up than the rest of ’em.  I sit, and watch…boy is Roulette not a spectators sport. Bored, bored, bored.  At least the music’s good…I recognize the song, so I start singing along…I haven’t got anything better to do.

“So take a letter, Maria.  Address it to my wife, lala lala la la, gonna start a new life.  So take a letter Maria.”  Yes, ok, so I’m buzzed, sue me.

Julius is down, way down.

“What should I do?”

I snap to attention, I’m stupidly bouncing along to a song with yet another drink.

“What do you mean?”  I thought the formula was pretty straightforward.

“Well I’m down over 100, should I double?”

“Well what’s the formula?”

“To double when you’re down.”

“So whats the problem, hun?”  I laugh.

He’s uncomfortable so he starts betting low again, giving up any hope of recovering the money he’s just lost. Oh, well, it’s his money.  I distract myself with the music.

“And I said, hey, ey, ey, ey, hey, ey, ey.  I said hey!  What’s goin’ on!”  I wonder whatever happened to that band.  It’s been 3 hours, I’m bored, irate from being bored and feel like I’m wasting my time sitting in here.  Julius is down again, way down.

“What do I do?”

I’m not a fan of stupid questions, especially when someone has given you a formula that statistically works.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I’m way down.”

I roll my eyes.

“Julius!  The formula works!  JUST USE IT!”  Realizing I just became a raging bitch, I apologize, mention that I’m starving and we cash out and go for dinner.

We go back to the room and relax for a bit afterwords and turn on CNN.


“Oh for crying out loud, these sensationalistic jerks really should be shot.”  I say.

“I don’t get why they’re freaking out, it’s a category 2.  We’ve had category 4’s before and been ok.”

They’re predicting the storm is going to made landfall in less than 12 hours, we discuss how we think anyone who stays on Galveston Island is an idiot, especially since the Galveston and Houston governments arranged for evacuation help.  We don’t for an instance think that we won’t be home Sunday night, the news has a habit of becoming the news rather than reporting it.

We go out and explore a few more casinos, I frankly am bored by them all.  Each one has the same games, the same machines and frankly the same knocked off cheap looks of every other hotel.  There’s really nothing that either of us finds too fantastic about Vegas.  We go to bed, not realizing that Vegas is about to get 1000% worse by tomorrow morning.

Saturday morning we wake up to the news reporting absolute devastation in Houston, phone calls from friends asking if we’re ok, and that’s if they can get through.

“What the hell happened!”  I shout.

“Shit, I wonder if the airports are shut down.”

I open up my laptop, ready to pop online and check out what Continental has to say…this message pops up.

“Welcome To The Planet Hollywood WiFi System.  By Clicking OK You Agree To A $45.00 Charge To Your Room For The Use Of The Internet.  This Charge Will Renew Every 24 Hours.”

“ARE YOU FRIGGEN KIDDING ME!”  I scream at the computer.

“What?”  Julius asks, his eyes glued to the television.

“They want 45 bucks to use the internet….DAILY!”

“Welcome to Vegas, hun.”

“Yeah, welcome to Vegas, bend over and take it.”  I am pissed off to no end. “Can you call your brother and see what’s going on?”  I ask Jule, since his brother is a former Continental team member. I pull out my SmartPhone and start surfing online to see if I can get any information.  I see an email in my inbox.

“Your flight has been rescheduled for Thursday, thank you.”



“Continental rescheduled us for Thursday automatically.”

“Can you call and try to get it moved up?”

I call and get an automated message that says they won’t be taking my call, click.

“Oh my GOD! Continental, you are about to lose my business for good here!”

Julius is on the phone talking to his brother.  Seems like the storm was only a Category 2, but none of us paid attention to the fact that it was MASSIVE.  Power is out all over, both airports are shut down, our downtown suffered sever damage as well….our downtown happens to be where Continental operations is.  There are lines for gas, water and 10 hour traffic to Austin, the nearest city – our state capital.  10 hours for what is normally a 3 hours drive.  People are running out of gas on the highways, there’s no food available.  What the hell just happened?  We went from the 4th largest city in the nation to a 3rd world nation over night?

“Well, it’s better we’re here, there’s nothing to go home to yet.”

“We gotta find a hotel to stay in for nearly a week.  Maybe they’ll help us out because of the storm.”  I realize how ridiculous I sound just as I spit out the words.

“Well I can always ASK!”

People Come Here On Vacation? (part two)

I picked up the room service menu on the desk in our room, just to look at it, see what it had to offer.  I almost choked.  I’d never seen a ten-dollar glass of orange juice before.  I mean I’d heard all the jokes and anecdotes about room service, but never had I seen this.  Oh well it was funny.

“So what should we do?”  I ask my partner, as he’s dutifully unpacking.  I prefer to leave everything in my suitcase and pull it out as I need it…hell I prefer not to even fold what I’m taking since I know it’ll be wrinkled no matter what I do.

“I’d suggest hanging up your clothes.”

“Ugh, so much effort, it’s a waste of time.”

“Well, unless you want to pay ten dollars, I’d hang them up.”

“What?  Ten dollars?”  I’m confused, what does ten bucks have to do with my clothing.  Julius is pointing to something in the closet.  I go and take a look, my jaw nearly drops as I read this tag on the ironing board:

“For your convenience, please call housekeeping should you require and iron.

You will be charged $10.00 to your room to be paid upon checkout.”

“Are they for real?”  I can’t believe that, they want to charge me for the iron?!  What’s next, a charge to have a phone in the room?  A rental fee for the Gideon Bible next to the bed?  I mutter something about how not even in New York City would you be charged for a stinking iron, and hang up my clothes.

“Well let’s get out there, I wanna see Vegas!  C’mon.”

“Ok, ok.”

We trundle down to the Casino in our hotel, it’s all very new and modern.  Brushed steel and wood with indirect lighting abound.  There’s pounding music, different colored lights, and a GIGANTIC poster of Justin Timberlake….a full on frontal angle is clearly NOT his best side.  We decide to wander into the mall instead of gamble, frankly because I’d rather shop than empty my wallet into some shiny, showy, glittery, money monster.  The shops are great, they even have one of my favorite stores, Siselly, which I’ve only ever seen in New York.  Now you’d think the fact that the mall is called the Miracle Mile would tip us off to the fact that, well, it’s a mile long, but no.  We walk and walk and walk, for what seems like forever.

We reach the halfway point in the mall, when suddenly the white, wood and glass affair of absolute modernity turns into Arabian-Freaking-Nights…I swear to you, we went from Las Vegas to an open air market in Islamabad in just half a mile.  Well, I thought, at least I won’t be harassed for being Arabic HERE…this time it’s the whitey’s chance to get persecuted!

Later we found out that this hotel used to be the Aladin…Wayne Newton’s old hotel.  It was weird walking in climate controlled comfort when visually we kept feeling like we were outside…and frankly I would have preferred some warmth, us dark skinned people are dark for a reason!  We decide to eat at an over-priced, Jimmy Buffet knock off called Cheeseburger Paradise….yeah, that pretty much sums that up.

As we continue our walk through the miricle mile, wondering when it will finally end…remember, neither of us put two and two together…when suddenly it began to thunder, and lightening.  The first thing in my head is “great, we’re in vegas for three hours and now there’s gonna be a torrential downpour”  quickly followed by “rain in the desert?  rain inside?”

We turn around to see a fountain “raining” down onto a roped off area in the mall.  Jule and I look at it, look at each other, look at it again, mutter the word “lame” and keep going.  I get a text message from a couple friends, asking where I am, telling me they’re evacuating to Austin, and others asking if we need a place to stay during the storm.  We both nearly forgot that Hurricane Ike was swallowing up the Gulf on its way to Houston.  I let everyone know that we’re out of town and we will be back Sunday night.  Everyone is blowing this storm WAY out of proportion, it’s a Category 2 and as usual the news is going all Chicken Little over it.  Oh well, no matter.

I may sound like I’m poo pooing all over Vegas, but really, we enjoyed the Miracle Mile and our hotel room was beautiful…but enough of that crap, time to gamble!  Our friend Tim let us in on a mathmatical formula that ensures a win while playing Roulette, we’re dying to try it.  It’s noon, and there are no open Roulette tables for us to play on, so we walk next door to Paris.

The weather is FANTASTIC.  Granted, yes, it’s like 400 degrees outside, but it’s not like Houston is.  When it’s 400 degrees in Houston you can literally feel the humidity suffocating you, here in Vegas it’s just the opposite, I love it….except when I realize that between the hours of noon and two it’s just hot, no matter how you break it down. We’re walking the block to Paris…which Jule keeps calling Paris Paris.

“So everyone says I gotta see the Belagio and it’s fountains.”  I have to speak up a bit, Sarah Brightman and Andre Bocelli are blaring across the street.

“It’s right there.”  Jule says pointing across the street.

I turn, excited to see what everyone says is THE thing I have to see in this city…..I’m greeted with a pretty building and basically an oversized water feature.

“That’s it?”

“Yup.”  We’ve stopped to look at the splashing water….I think about seeing the Grand Canyon flying in and how I have infinitely more interested in that.


“What?”  Jule implores.

“I guess I’m the only person in history to not be impressed by those fountains.”

“I’d say so.”  We continue on to Paris.  It’s beautiful and inside it’s another faux outdoor…what is it with this city and the faux outdoors?  We look around, walk the floor and finally we see it.  Speed Roulette.  Basically a bunch of computer stations around a Roulette table.  We sit down, throw down our money, almost sure we’ll never see any of it again.  Jule dumps in 100 dollars, I’m conservative at 20 bucks, and we’re off…no….WAIT!  It’s 1 pm….I need a drink damnit, I’m on VACATION!

I stop a short cocktail waitress that, to be perfectly frank, looks like she could snap at the waist.  She’s nice, brings us two beers…ok, I am READY.  Let’s have some fun!