Saturday, December 31, 2016

So Long, 2016, You Really Sucked

The title of this post is a reference that only one person who reads my blog will get, my pal (since college) Norm.  Back in the '80's (I think), the two of us would regularly attend the performances of an improv group known as "Instaplay."  The creative team behind this group went on to fame and fortune.  Bill Steinkellner and Cheri Eichen became producers on Cheers and later created a sitcom for Bob Newhart.  But before that, every Saturday night they did a show in Hollywood with a few other talented people and improvised an entire play for a small but loyal audience. 

Norm and I were regular attendees.  They would take suggestions for a title from the audience, have the audience vote for their favorite, and then improvise a play based on the title.  The plays were always funny and frequently they were downright awesome.

One time, a day or two before New Year's Eve, someone shouted out his suggestion:  "So long, 19xx, you really sucked."  The "xx" is because I can't remember the year, but I assume some year early 80's.  The audience had a huge reaction to that title, and Bill (the director of the play) said, "If that doesn't win, the person who suggested it might just kill himself—the final blow of the year."  Not to worry, it won in a landslide.  I don't recall anything from that particular play, but obviously the title stuck with me all these years.

That's what everyone is saying about 2016.  It sucked,  It has been such a bad year, everyone can't wait for it to be over.  This is generally meant in the "meta" sense, that it has been a bad year for the world and the country. 

Well, I'm going to leave the world and the country out of this.  No politics here, although for a lot of people, world events, particularly the US presidential election has had a strong influence on how they view the year (good or bad). 

The other thing that has created this meme is all the celebrity deaths this year.  It has seemed like a terrible year for deaths of well known people, people who have been a part of our lives for many years.  It was capped off by the tragic deaths, within a day of each other, of mother/daughter, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.

All those famous people who we have loved for years passing is indeed sad, horrific, even.  But I do wonder if 2016 was really worse than any other year?  When we think of deaths beyond this year, we don’t usually identify them with a year.  Are we just forgetting some other year—or indeed every year—with a lot of big celebrity deaths?  Perhaps someone has or will review recent years and compare them, deathwise.  Or is that too ghoulish to even consider doing?

It's just that as we get older, more and more people who were important to us (both family/friend wise and famous people wise) die.  It's the nature of life.  When you're 8 years old, and your parents are commenting and even grieving over some movie star they grew up watching, it probably doesn't make much of an impact on you.  But now, as an adult, someone you've enjoyed for 20-30 years passing, it really hits home (and maybe gets you to reflect on your own mortality—now that is really scary!)

All of this is an introduction to my own personal reflections on 2016.  What kind of year was it for me, personally? Ignoring all those meta considerations, I mean.

Obviously not good. 

This was the year I really started souring on Las Vegas, my favorite city in the whole world for most of my adult life.  You all know it started with the change to paid parking.  That was bad in and of itself.  But it just reminded me of how much Vegas has changed since I first fell in love with it.  I've reflected on this on a number of posts, here, for example. 

This bad taste in my mouth led me to decide to visit Vegas less often.

Then came another hit that I haven't really spoken about here.  Soon after my last visit to Vegas in June/July, I heard that MGM properties (the people who brought paid parking to the Strip), without any announcement/warning whatsoever, had suddenly made all the poker comps for all their players in their rooms disappear if they were over a year old.  I cannot properly reveal all the angst that news brought me. 

I'm happy to report that subsequently, most of the comps that I personally lost have been restored. I can't reveal what it took to get that accomplished, tho. If you have lost any significant amount of comps from an MGM owned poker room, my advice would be to speak to no one but the poker room manager him or herself about trying to get them restored (and if they do, you will only have one year from the date of restoration to use them).

That began the second half of the year, followed by the first of two surgeries for me.  The first was elective.  I finally decided to have the cataract in my left eye removed.  That eye has been my worst eye since birth.  But lately, I had become pretty much blind in that eye.  Due to a specific condition I had, my ophthalmologist said there was only a 50/50 chance the procedure would improve the vision in that eye significantly.  I decided to roll the dice since the eye was pretty much useless.

That procedure was scheduled a week before Labor Day weekend (not my choice, but it was the best available).  That meant my traditional Labor Day weekend Vegas trip was out.  I'm happy to report the procedure was a success and my doc was actually surprised by how much my vision improved.  It is not quite as good as my right eye but I now have pretty good distance vision without glasses (tho it can still be improved with glasses).  Reading is a different story (cuz I'm old). 

But as is not uncommon with this surgery, they had to wait three months to do a final step in a process, a laser treatment that was completed in the doc's office in early December.  That means I wasn't able to get my new glasses before coming to Vegas—they are waiting for me when I return home. Actually, the reason I didn't come a day earlier was I finally had the Optometrist appt for them the day before I got to Vegas. My old glasses are now just a monocle (ala Col. Klink) because they took the left lens out, it only blocked me from seeing anything.  So in Vegas, I am using a pair of "cheaters" (twenty buck reading glasses from Wal-Marts) and mostly carrying them around since they are not good for distance vision.  But I need them to read anything.  Can't wait to get my new glasses. 

Then, in late October, just two days before what was supposed to be my triumphant return to Vegas, I was told I had serious heart disease that had to be addressed right away.  You know the rest of that story.  No Vegas, just a triple bypass and 6-7 weeks of recovery.  In fact, the complete recovery will take at least six months if not longer. 

That put a serious dent in how I view 2016 as a whole, of course.  On the one hand, I'm grateful that the problem was caught in time, before it did more serious damage to my body.  Or gave me an actual heart attack.  Or, you know, killed me.

However, if it was all just the same, I sure would have preferred not to have gone through it, of course.  It was not a pleasant experience, obviously.  I received clearance to head for Vegas just a week before I arrived. I knew there was an excellent chance I wouldn't make it here before next year.  But I did.

So yeah, 2016 kind of sucked for me.

But make it to Vegas I did.  Thus far, this has been a pretty good trip.  Better than pretty good, in fact, despite the usual bad beats and such.  I gave Vegas a chance to disappoint me further, and so far….it has not.  That's good.

In sum, it hasn't been a great year for me, but it appears to be ending on a high note.  I guess you could say that being able to come to Vegas just 8 weeks after having my chest cut open is a pretty good high note.

I'm sure all of you had your ups and downs this year….hopefully the downs weren't as low as mine.  Just like any year, it's not all bad or all good.

No matter how you rate 2016 as a whole, I want to wish you all a Happy New Year.  May 2017 be a better year for all of us!


  1. Glad you are having a good trip Rob. Hey I just read about the MGM Visa which bumps you up to Pearl automatically which gets you free parking which might be an option for the parking fees. I have mostly given up on Vegas myself. Seems the gambling is the cheapest thing I do up there anymore. Everything is so expensive..$9 beers and $20 burgers just aren't my style. Plus I have 5 casinos within 20 minutes of my house now. Who needs it?
    Have a great 2017!

    1. Thanks and same to you. Yeah, if I guess the credit card is one way to go, I would prefer not to have to apply for another credit card, but it might be necessary.

      They are doing their best to price the average joe out of Vegas. It is insane.

  2. Happy New Year Rob!


  3. Happy New Year, Rob. Good health and prosperity in 2017.

    1. Thanks, and same to you Gary. I really enjoyed your new post and hope to comment on it soon. I mess your regular blogging.

  4. Hey Rob, great to hear you are finishing the year strong. I, on the other hand, am doing just the opposite and my goal now is to be ready for the WSOP.

    For the time being, I'll be living through your poker tales, so keep them coming.

    Happy holidays to you.


    1. Thanks, Dave. I was surprised to hear of your medical issues. I hope all goes well and look forward to your complete recovery. Would love to see you thriving at the WSOP this year, if not before. Get well, my friend!

  5. One thing that makes 2016 great was you and this blog survived from the surgery. Happy new year.

    1. Thanks very much sir, I appreciate that, and yes, I can look at the bright side and say I made it through a difficult year indeed.

  6. Happy New Year Rob! I too am glad to close the book on 2016 and move into 2017 with a clean slate. May this year be healthy and profitable for you, and full of interesting stores to report here.

    1. Thanks very much, David, and the same to you!

  7. Glad to hear you're doing as well as can be expected. I've always enjoyed your sense of humor and reading your posts and magazine articles.

    I always look forward to my trips to Vegas (starting in 1976) and agree with your assessment that the experience is slowly but surely being eroded by the gods of quarterly earnings.

    1. Thanks very much,Bargeguy, I appreciate the kind words.

      Yep....they are doing their best to change Vegas into just another place, instead of something really special.