Ringing in the New Year

They said it couldn’t be done. Fortunately, I’ve never been afraid to dream big. Nobody had ever devoted six months of their life to building a functioning replica of the Horseshoe Tavern in their basement. I was about to make history.

New Years Eve presented the perfect backdrop to unveil the Zillionaire’s Lounge. However, the bar would have to withstand the toughest test imaginable: Dozens of Zillionaires congregating on the heaviest drinking day of the year. There would be no margin for error. And unlike the NASA space program, we weren’t allowed to perform trial runs on the Zillionaire’s Lounge using primates or the homeless. (Believe me, we explored this…)

My wife needed some assurance that the Zillionaire’s Lounge wouldn’t fizzle on the launching pad. She pleaded with me to throw a preliminary party on Columbus Day or something… and invite a safer crowd that would have fewer expectations, like the Shriners. For peace of mind, as I am prone to do, I double-checked my math one final time before we went live. You see, there’s an entirely different set of building codes that must be adhered to when a structure is going to be used by Zillionaires. For starters, the bar needs to be able to support the weight of six or seven people dancing on it. Second, the flooring must have Brawny-level absorption capabilities. And finally, the facility must be equipped with the latest in high-tech geekery (more on this later…) With these criteria met; I unhooked the velvet ropes, and awaited the legions of Zillionaires making the pilgrimage to Spokane…

And so it began. Zillionaires from all over the country began pouring in on the 30th, many having braved extraordinary circumstances to help christen the Zillionaire’s Lounge. For instance, Cage spent December 30th in the hospital after rolling his truck. His nose was broken, his neck was lacerated, but his liver was intact. And thusly, there was no reason not to be in attendance at the Zillionaire’s Lounge on the 31st. Of course, the stitches in his mouth made drinking somewhat difficult, but we were prepared to give him a gin and tonic intravenously if he needed it.

Jonas provided another sterling example of Zillionaire Profiles in Courage. Stuck working at FedEx until 9:30 pm (in Seattle) on New Year’s Eve, Jonas didn’t let a little thing like testing packages for narcotics and explosives stop him from showing up in the wee hours at the Zillionaire’s Lounge. On his way out the door, he simply instructed the bomb-sniffing dog on duty to “Smell all these packages, and call my cell if there’s an emergency.” And with that, he chuckled as he switched his cell phone off and burned rubber toward the Zillionaire’s Lounge. He arrived at our house at about 2 am on New Year’s Day, just in time to catch the last remnants of drunken jackassery at the party (I’ll let the comments section provide the details)…

As I mentioned above, with Dave’s help, we were able to introduce a new level of high-tech geekery to my basement in time for the party. We played the music for the party through Dave’s laptop computer, mainly so he could impress everyone in attendance with his ability to remotely control his laptop with his cell phone. You read that correctly, Dave is able to operate his laptop with his cell phone. You see, in today’s hustle and bustle world, using a cell phone to operate a laptop computer enables people on the go to still incorporate unparalleled nerdiness into their busy lives. Hopefully, the day will come when nerds will also be able to play Dungeons and Dragons or attend Star Wars conventions via their cell phone. Of course, Dave took endless delight in dialing up his laptop to skip over my many crowd pleasers in the music rotation to one of his crowd antagonizers, usually the latest song Tupac had just somehow released eight years after his death.

The laptop had an added bonus though. Dave set up a web cam enabling Solo to view the party from the East Coast. It was like something out of the MTV Music Awards, Solo was live via satellite. He came online at about midnight (3 am his time) and everyone took turns making wild drunken expressions into the camera. The entire laptop screen consisted of Solo’s face, and combined with the occasional skips from Internet delay, the effect was reminiscent of Max Headroom. (Which is not a bad thing…)

And of course, the highlight of the evening was watching Krusty come out of retirement for one glorious night. As I have mentioned before, I built the Zillionaire’s Lounge with Krusty in mind. I was like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams. When the time came, Krusty went behind the bar with the urgency of a surgeon called in for an emergency operation. I followed him, essentially serving as the emergency room nurse ready to hand him whatever instrument he requested. I never questioned his methods, and simply cleaned the equipment and handed him tools as he needed them: lime, strainer, ice, suture, grenadine, forceps… (And of course, a big part of my job was dabbing the sweat away from his brow so that he could focus solely on the drink he was preparing.)

At 10 o’clock, we celebrated Chicago’s New Year. Not for any reason in particular, it just gave us an excuse to do a round of shots. Same thing with Boise’s New Year. At midnight, things were really taken up a notch. Noisemakers and party poppers began surfacing. They served their purpose; the noisemakers created gratuitous noise, the party poppers a gratuitous mess. At about 1:30 we called it a night. While we didn’t want the party to end, throughout the night we had each made a series of drunken pacts (the least ironclad of pacts) to get up early the next day to go skiing…

Saturday Morning, 7 am
: My alarm went off. A curse word was uttered. Snooze was hit.

Saturday Morning, 7:10 am
: My alarm went off again. I stared at the alarm clock in disbelief. Supposedly, I was to be on top of a ski mountain in less than two hours. Good god, it takes longer to get to the top of Splash Mountain. This was not happening. At that moment, being out of bed was like quantum physics; it was a concept I couldn’t even remotely comprehend. Thankfully my wife was kind enough to get up and turn on all the lights and make an ungodly amount of noise. Nothing gets my day started quicker than an early morning surge of rage.

Saturday Morning, 7:20 am: With a shower under my belt, I felt much better. Now came the difficult part: getting everyone else out of bed. As I knocked on each bedroom door, I felt like a Jehovah’s Witness, as I was 99% certain my visits would not be well received. Then came the first surprise. Krusty came bounding out enthusiastically. He wasn’t groggy or sluggish at all. The four gallons of Red Bull he consumed the night before had really worked wonders.

Maleah was up too. This was promising. However, my biggest challenge would be Dave. Several weeks prior to New Years, I had bet everyone that Dave would choose to sleep in and spend the day watching BET (Black Entertainment Television) while the rest of us went skiing. I was speaking purely from personal experience, but now my comments were proving prophetic.

Walking into the room, it was clear Krusty had already made an effort to resurrect the Artist Formerly Known as Dave. The bedroom light was left on. Check. Krusty and Maleah were not making any attempt to quietly get ready or converse in whispers. Check. The only thing left to do would be to rip his covers off, but that would be practically asking for an awkward moment.

However, I did have one trick up my sleeve. When all other forms of peer pressure fail, I can turn to a single word. Dave hates this word. This word gets under his skin, burrows, and lays eggs of motivation like no other. And thusly, I only use it in the most dire of circumstances. All I had to do was call him a “Quitter.” It goes all the way back to our days spent together on the JV basketball team. To this day, being called a “Quitter” will cause Dave to atone for the past in whatever situation is available in the present. Again, I use this word sparingly in hopes that it will never lose its effect.

As I walked up to his bed, his foot lunged out at me in an attempt to deter me. With ninja-like reflexes I dodged this attack. He was actually willing to engage in a physical confrontation over sleeping in. Hmm… I hadn’t planned on that. I hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but there was no other option. I simply leaned in, and said “C’mon Dave, don’t be a QUITTER.”

The seed was planted… my work here was done.

Saturday Morning, 8:01 am
: Having gone through the usual progression of emotions when faced with a challenge (Denial, Apathy, Obstinance and Confrontation), Dave finally arrived at the final stage of Acceptance. He borrowed some winter gear and got ready for a day on the slopes.

Saturday Morning, 8:16 am: The last car sped off from our driveway heading towards the mountain. It was an astonishing feat, everyone that had intended on going skiing was onboard. I patted myself on the back. In terms of impassioned wake up calls to a group of people, only Paul Revere could touch my performance.

Skiing in the fresh mountain air made us all feel better. After all, nothing helps overcome a hangover like violently crashing down the side of the mountain. When every muscle in your body is in intense pain, you tend to forget about a headache or upset stomach. The pain didn’t matter though. When you own a hot tub with the Volcano, your life begins to feel like a video game. No matter how much damage I incur, I know I can always lie on the Volcano to get my life meter filled up again. And before I do anything challenging in life (job interviews, fighting bosses at the end of a level, etc) I utilize the Volcano to make sure I’ve got full health.

Saturday Evening, Approximately 5 pm: Tired from a full day of skiing, the last thing we wanted to do was clean the carnage from the night before. This dread of cleaning was the inspiration that spawned my latest Zillion Dollar Idea: disposable basements. Think about it. It’s genius. Anyway, we arrived home to find the greatest surprise imaginable. Pete, Vanessa, Julie and Jason had cleaned our whole house while we were away skiing.

These four came for the party, but had to leave early on Saturday: Pete and Vanessa had to get back to the Tri Cities for work, Julie and Jason back to Seattle for a family function. Unfortunately, these obligations precluded them from going skiing with the rest of us. So, as we left on Saturday, we said our goodbyes and let them sleep in as long as possible. Truthfully, I would have been happy just to come home to find that they hadn’t stolen anything. Instead, they cleaned our entire house before departing. This was an amazing undertaking, considering the Hanford-caliber cleanup that was needed. Clearly, they have all earned extra points in the race for the coveted “Zillionaire of the Year” award.

Saturday Evening
: After the last 24 hours, we were due for a laid back evening. Some watched TV, others decided to gather around the poker table. Several of the girls decided that they wanted to join in a poker game with the guys. We relented, as the tradeoff seemed reasonable: Spend a few extra minutes explaining each game and putting up with some dumb questions in exchange for fleecing some novice players of their chips. Of course, this strategy would ultimately backfire, as Kerri won 15 consecutive hands and wiped out everyone at the table.

It was uncanny. Forrest Gump would have marveled at her dubious luck. As the losses mounted, frustration set in. Krusty was frothing mad, convinced Kerri had made some sort of pact with the devil prior to the game. It was the shortest game of poker I’ve ever been a part of. Everyone at the table was cleaned out in about 30 minutes. I’ve decided that next year we’ll set up two poker tables: shirts and skins. That way, even if a girl cleans me out at the skins table, it will still be worth it.

Sunday Morning: The weekend wound down, as Zillionaires made their way back to their respective mansions. Everything was a huge success, and the Zillionaire’s Lounge was miraculously still intact. No puke. No fists through the wall. Nothing. This was definitely a good omen for the year to come…

Finally, thanks to everyone that came to christen the Zillionaire’s Lounge and ring in the New Year… I’ll leave you now with some pics of an epic night in Zillionaire lore… (New Year’s Eve Gallery)

The Volcano

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am over the wonderful new addition to our household. Yes, I’ve been busy passing around cigars to coworkers, accepting hearty pats on the back, and placing a full-color announcement in our local paper to broadcast our joy. This blessed event has changed my life, and has shown me what love is all about. With apologies to CK, I just hope fatherhood and the miracle of procreation is nearly half as rewarding as owning a hot tub…

New Year’s weekend presented me with an opportunity to introduce other Zillionaires to my hot tub in a form other than the accordion of photos I keep in my wallet. But our story really begins back in September at the Apollo Spas dealership (cue wavy camera effects to signify a flashback is occurring…)

Me: “I’ve got a lot of rage.”
Hot tub Dealer (nodding): “Uh huh.
Me: “No question, it’s leading me down the path of the dark side…”
Hot tub Dealer: “Yeah, we get a lot of that here.”
Me: “Seriously. Stress is killing me. I’ve tried to find constructive outlets for my rage, you know, things like paintballing, origami, coaching youth hockey teams. Nothing works.”
Hot tub Dealer (leading me into his showroom): “I’ve got just the thing… This baby will clear that right up.”

And at that moment, I first laid eyes on the Volcano. The world stood still. My eyes were transfixed on the most awe-inspiring display of hydrotherapy I’d ever seen. I completely tuned out his sales pitch about the former Soviet Union, decommissioned submarine parts, weapons-grade-this, and nuclear-reactor-that. Mesmerized, I blindly stripped down to prove I wasn’t wearing a wire, handed over a briefcase of cash, shook his hand, and the rest is history… (Cue wavy camera effects to signify a return to the present)

Before I tell you about the Volcano, I’d like to highlight some of the other amenities our hot tub features…

The Lounger: In this seat, approximately 20 jets work all segments of the body simultaneously. This is easily the most comprehensive full-body massage available. It is especially helpful when you have unconventional spots of tension, like the area right behind your kneecap. Don’t worry, there’s a jet in place to work that knot right out…

The Co-Pilot Seat: Located adjacent to The Lounger, this is the only seat that is merely a seat. No jets, no bubbles, no frills, nothing. The experience of sitting in the Co-Pilot Seat could be easily duplicated by sitting in your bathtub in a swimsuit. For whatever reason I’ll never understand, this is my wife’s favorite seat.

The Recliners: Spaced next to each other at perfect conversational distance, the Recliners duplicate the cozy ambiance of a living room… under 4 feet of water.

And of course, The Volcano:

For once, the seismic activity being generated at my house isn’t attributed to a home improvement project gone horribly wrong. It is simply the sound of the Volcano, an industrial strength jet with the power to rip barnacles off a ship’s hull or strip away a coat of paint on the side of your house.

For starters, the Volcano is aptly named. At first glance, it is merely a solitary, conical peak lying dormant at the bottom of our hot tub. Hardly foreboding. It is almost inviting people to climb to its peak to sacrifice a virgin. On it’s gentle setting, it creates a pleasant foot massage in the center of the hot tub. On it’s medium setting, it renders a powerful back massage to users brave enough to lie across it. And on it’s “Eruption” setting, the Volcano goes Vesuvius, and treats your spine like Pompeii.

The Volcano is powerful enough to fully support the weight of the user. While floating in this suspended state, the Volcano will align your spine better than any chiropractor or orthopedic shoes ever could. The feeling afterward is pure rejuvenation. If only Ponce de Leon had stumbled across an Apollo Spas dealership, he might have decided that enjoying a cocktail while having the Volcano battering your spine is just as good eternal youth.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the capacity to withstand an experience on the Volcano, just like not everyone can withstand a cannonball being fired into their stomach. Truthfully, in the interest of full disclosure, ten minutes on the Volcano is just as likely to end in total paralysis, as it is a comfortable massage.

But, if you can endure all of that, the health benefits are obvious. Owning a hot tub has pushed back the heart attack I was going to have at age 35 to sometime in my early 50’s. I even sleep better at night, as the mixture of hot water, alcohol, and severe spinal trauma creates the perfect evening tranquilizer. And finally, because of our hot tub, I am no longer limited to just drinking my problems away. I now have the option to soak them away as well. And that, as Robert Frost would say, has made all the difference.

Winter Vacation Blues

My Desk

Top 5 Pieces of Office Furniture/Supplies I Didn’t Miss While On Vacation:

  1. My Stapler.  Used only three times in the two years I’ve had it, I didn’t miss this puppy one bit while I was out.  I don’t think it missed me either.  We spend a lot of time together but it still seems like we are strangers.  Hopefully in 2005, my stapler will open up a bit and we can start trusting each other with details of our respective personal lives.
  2. The Big Desk.  Believe it or not, I didn’t miss being surrounded by 270 degrees of work for one second while on vacation.  True, the Formica Fortress (as I’m now calling it) is new and nice but at home I prefer furniture that isn’t so large that it needs to be cordoned off into geographic areas such as a peninsula.
  3. My Fairhaven College Mug.  While I’m not under the fog of work, I actually despise drinking from ceramic mugs.  I put up with the mug while at work because I’m so numb to pain while working that I’ll drink from anything as long as I get to get up from the Fortress and take a little break.  Plus, this mug is so small it takes about 45 refills to get the daily allotment of water I need which means the breaks come quick and come often.  By my calculations, that also means I get to say hello to Heidi (who sits by the sink) 45 times a day which is a bit repetitive but fun nonetheless.
  4. The Plastic Floor Mat.  I like being home while on vacation because at my house there isn’t a single plastic floor mat.  Aren’t plastic floor mats one of the signs of the apocalypse according to the Book of Revelations in the Bible? If not, they are in the King David version. But then again, the King David version has various X-men characters as the apostles. The Book of Wolverine 4:33 reads,

    “And the Lord Jesus did deliver a mighty blow to Judas. And thus swoopeth in Wolverine who finished him off with his Blades of Adamantium which glistened in the light with divine vengeance.”

  5. My Chair.  Some of the bone is finally starting to heal where the doctor separated me from my chair before I left on vacation.  I had what is known as Spinal Chair Bone Fusion but I’m doing better now. Keep me in your prayers please and if you can help financially, I’ve set up some donation jars at various supermarkets and liquor stores around town.