Now that I've been back from Las Vegas a while, people ask me if my gambling addiction has worn off.

And the answer is yes. And no.

I haven't lost any money in the last fourteen days. That's a good thing, since I managed to lose more than $1,500 in six days in Vegas. I really couldn't keep that pace up much longer.

But I haven't stopped gambling either.

When I was leaving Vegas I bought a pack of playing cards. And just about every night since then I've been playing gin with my ex-girlfriend Maggie.

And the stakes are higher than they were at any table in any casino.

Maggie and I usually play best-of-five tournaments, and we name our bets at the beginning of play.

For example, Maggie won last Friday night. And I spent more than an hour cleaning her apartment from top to bottom. I wish that had been an option for me in Vegas! I would much rather have done the dishes at the Paris Hotel than give them my money. I would have gladly spent a day in indentured servitude in return for a night at the craps table.

I wouldn't have offered to do the laundry, though. I have a pretty good idea what goes on in hotel rooms in Sin City, and I don't want to be the guy who washes those sheets. Unless they outfitted me with some kind of bio-hazard suit.

Will McKinley and Dustin Hoffman in Outbreak: Las Vegas.

The best thing about my new career as a card sharp is, I'm finally on a winning streak!

I've won more times since I've been home than I did in my entire stay in Vegas. What have I won, you ask?

When a guy plays cards with his ex-girlfriend, and they are naming the stakes, what do you think the guy would be playing for? Hmmm? Think about it. Did you get it? Of course you did.

A foot rub!

Don't judge me people. I'm a straight man. I have certain biological needs. If I don't get a foot rub on a regular basis I get all depressed and mopey and short-tempered. And I end up trying to rub my own feet, which makes me feel dirty.

I've gotten more foot rubs from my ex in the past two weeks than I've gotten in the past two years! But the best thing is when we play double-or-nothing. If I win then she has to rub both feet! I'm in 7th Heaven!

Will McKinley joins the cast of 7th Heaven

Here's the way the foot rub goes down: I lie back and Maggie slowly peels off my tube sock. Then she works some lotion into her soft hands and picks up my limp foot and begins to gently fondle it. She starts with slow, rhythmic strokes, up and down, up and down. Then she begins to pick up the pace. After a while she's just stroking it up and down, faster and faster and then...it's done.

It feels so good.

Sure it's fun to throw away your money in the casinos of Las Vegas. But all you're going to win is more money. What are you going to do with that?

Why not dig out that old deck of playing cards, grab your current (or former) significant other and start your own game of foot rub gin!


What is this a picture of?

A. a beautiful desert at a fancy restaurant
B. a violent crime scene on CSI: New York
C. what came out of your Uncle Morty during his recent colonoscopy
D. Will was too busy hooking up with his ex last night to write anything

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Go deep into the vaults and check out some classic previously owned!



Thursday night I went to a lounge in the East Village where a friend of mine was doing a DJ gig.

Normally, I would not find myself in a lounge/bar/club at midnight on a Thursday night. Or at any time, on any night - particularly with work the next day. But I have decided recently that I need to expand my horizons. I need to go out of my comfort zone. I need to think outside the box. I need to use more cliches to express myself.

Plus the girl who was DJ'ing is hot. But that's not why I went. Okay, it's not the only reason I went.

I don't go out much. I mean, I don't go out for fun. I go out for work, but that's not usually fun. At least for me. And it's not really going out, you know what I mean? Good. Now can you explain it to me?

I'm more of the indoorsy type. I always have been. I can count on no hands the number of times I have gone to a bar, club or lounge - strictly for fun - in the last year. Or the last decade. Or my life.

There's a training process for this type of activity. It starts with high school dances. I never went to a high school dance. That may have been because I went to an all-boys high school. A bunch of dudes dancing to Wake Me Up Before You Go Go was not my idea of fun.

Jittterbug? No thank you!

Years later, I found out that there were actually girls at my high school dances. Apparently they bussed them in from a nearby all-girls school. I often thought at the time, why not combine the all-boys school and the all-girls school and make one co-ed school filled with normal, well-adjusted young adults of both sexes? Who knows, we might have been able to keep our minds off fucking each other long enough to actually do some homework!

But alas, my idea of a co-educational high school education was before it's time - at least as far as my parents were concerned!
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my Mom and Dad for making me the socially awkward weirdo that I am today. I couldn't have done it without you guys!

Anyway, I was far too busy for girls when I was in high school. I had soap operas to watch, scrambled porn to jerk off to and Dark Shadows conventions to attend.

I worked for this guy when I was in high school. It's a long story...

I spent four years commuting to my classes at NYU, so I pretty much missed out on that whole college party socialization process too. And by "pretty much" I mean "completely." Then I spent my 20's working 18-hour days and hanging out with my girlfriend (who was ten years older than me) and her son. We went to church every Sunday and watched a lot of Nickelodeon. Oh, the stories I could tell you! (Bedtime stories, mostly.)

Then I died and rose again, in fulfillment of the Scriptures.

And here I am, 37 years old and single (sort-of), at a lounge in the East Village on a Thursday night.

I spent the whole day dreading this. What the fuck am I going to do when I get there? I can't talk to the DJ because she'll be working. I'm not going to know anybody, and small talk is not my strong suit. I can't even smoke cigarettes because our mayor has outlawed smoking in bars to
protect the bartenders - most of whom smoke anyway.

I arrived at the club and was greeted at the door by a very large black man (is it okay to say black?) in a ski jacket (is it okay to say ski jacket?) whose primary job seemed to be to make me feel unwelcome. He succeeded. Give that man a raise! And a cigar - or maybe I should say a blunt (is it okay to say blunt?).

I finally got inside and was very happy to see somebody that I recognized. Both the DJ and I work with this girl at our freelance job. I had never spoken to her before, but she was a familiar face and that was good enough for me. I sat down and began chatting with her and her friend, as we listened to our DJ co-worker work the turntables.

I offered to buy the girls drinks, because that's what guys are supposed to do, right? We buy drinks. Girls drink the drinks. Everybody gets drunk and has sex. Then the process starts all over again the next night. It's the Circle of Life.

Simba gets some mad pussy.

So I bought the girls drinks and we chatted about work. It was that kind of stop-and-start conversation that one often has in loud places. I said some interesting things, but the best was "What's that?" I am definitely going to try that again, because it made the girl move her mouth closer to my face so I could hear better. Check please!

You see, the volume of the music made conversation problematic. But DJs play music so people can dance, not talk. In fact, talking during a DJ's set is sort of disrespectful. I would not go to a screening of a friend's film and chat with the girl sitting next to me (unless she was cute, and I didn't like the friend very much.)

The friend of my work colleague worked for an investment bank. Sexy!

It happened to be an investment bank for whom I had produced corporate videos. Sexier!

We talked for a while and then the girls left. Sexiest!

Nobody got drunk. And nobody had sex - at least not with me. My co-worker's friend mentioned that they were going somewhere else. Perhaps some sex occurred at that "other place." But I wouldn't know, because they did not invite me to that "other place."

It means the same in any language.

About this time I noticed that a competition had started on the tiny dance floor. A black guy with dreadlocks would do a dance move, then a black girl (also with dreadlocks) would try to match that move. I don't know if they knew each other, but they sure looked like they were having fun together. It was all swinging and swaying and flying 'locks.

I watched them for awhile. There was no talking. Talking was not what they were there to do. Then they left together. I'm relatively sure they were not going somewhere to talk. At that moment I questioned my decision to skip my senior prom so I could attend the Dark Shadows Festival at the Hilton in Newark, New Jersey.

It was now after 1 am, and people started smoking cigarettes. Nobody said it was okay. Somebody just started doing it, and a bunch of other people followed the leader. It was sort of like "don't ask, don't tell." I bummed a Camel Ultra Light and felt like I was in a speakeasy in 1933.

The password is "lung cancer."

Then my friend the DJ took a break and another girl started working the tables. My friend came over, sat down and started talking with me. I offered to buy her a drink. She asked for something called a Maker & Diet Coke. I don't know what that is. It sounded vaguely Biblical to me.

Like, "Give thanks to The Maker & Diet Coke for all good things in the Heavens and on the earth!"

The DJ had met Maggie, my sort-of ex-girlfriend, one time at the office. She asked me where Maggie was tonight. I told her that Maggie was at home and reminded the DJ that Maggie and I were no longer (officially) a couple.

"Why not?" the DJ asked. "She's cute."

"I think she needs to experiment with dating a girl," I explained.

"Is she gay?" the DJ asked.

"I don't think so," I answered. "Because she seems to enjoy what I do. But I think she might be bi-sexual."

"You think, or you hope?" the DJ asked.

"Well, one time we both hooked up with a female friend of mine," I answered.I just thought I'd mention that.

At that point, the DJ was called away by her fellow DJs to consume a multi-part drink called a Car Bomb. I don't really like cars or bombs or Kahlua or Guinness, so I stayed where I was, alone on the couch.

A few minutes later the DJ returned with another female friend, who was also a DJ. Out of habit, I asked her if she wanted a drink.

"Stella," the friend said to me, touching my arm.

"Will," I replied, outstretching my hand. "Nice to meet you!"

"No, I mean I'll have
a Stella. It's a beer," she explained.

"Oh right," I said. "Stella Beer! They should make a commercial with Marlon Brando yelling 'I'll have a Stella! Stella!"

Even with the thumping house music, the silence was deafening.

"I guess you never saw A Streetcar Named Desire," I explained, as I went to donate more money to the bar.

My friend the DJ went back to the booth as I sat there and chatted with the other DJ. Our conversation consisted mostly of the other DJ telling me how tired she was. That was hot.

"I'm tired too!" I said. I felt like we were really connecting.

I heard my friend yell my name. She was motioning to me, inviting me to join her in the DJ booth. I was excited but nervous. Would it change me as a person - to be in a DJ booth with an actual DJ?!

It was very cool to watch this girl work. She loves what she does. She danced and shook her hips and smiled from ear to ear. I envied her joy.

Then her set ended, and I said my goodbyes.

"Thank you so much for coming!" my friend the DJ said. "I'm not gonna hook up with your girlfriend, cause I'm not into girls. But I'll try to find somebody for her!"

I gave her a hug, left the club and hailed a cab. It was 4 am and I was going home tired, drunk and alone. But at least my ex-girlfriend had a chance to get laid.

The cab smelled a bit pungent, so I opened the window a crack. We stopped at a red light on Houston Street and I heard music coming from the car in the next lane.

"It's cold out there, but it's warm in bed," George Michael sang. "They can dance, we'll stay home instead."

I knew there was something I liked about that song.



I love getting massages, manicures and pedicures.

If you want to call me a metrosexual, be my guest. I don't think sexuality has anything to do with it. I just love being pampered.

I get my head shaved once a week. I could do it myself, but I prefer paying a Russian guy $15 to do it. My barber also does old-fashioned, straight razor shaves. I love sitting back in that barber chair, with the warm lather on my face, having a craftsman work on me. It makes me feel like a gangster. If you've ever seen The Untouchables (1987) you know that Al Capone had his own private barber shop in the Lexington Hotel in Chicago.

Are you gonna call Al Capone a metrosexual? I don't think so!

There is a fine line between effete and elite.

I spent last Saturday night in Port St. Lucie, Florida at my parents' house. The next morning I was heading up to Orlando for work.

Before I went to bed I was ironing some shirts and my father asked me if I needed my shoes shined. I said yes, and my Dad pulled out the black wood shoeshine box his brother Joe made in shop class in 1937. That shoeshine box was always close at hand when I was a kid. My Dad worked as a mechanic in a bus garage for 44 years, but his shoes were always polished.

As my Dad shined my shoes he explained to me that he used to shine his father's shoes when my Dad was growing up back in the 1930s. And he told me a little bit about my grandfather.

His name was Joseph McKinley Sr. and he was a Depression-era saloon-keeper who liked to dress up for work. My grandfather died before I was born and, since I'm adopted, I don't really feel a blood connection with family members I have never met. But there was something very touching about watching my 76 year-old father shine my shoes and talk about his father. I felt connected to family history in a way that I don't often feel.

On Wednesday, as I was leaving Orlando for New York City I found myself in the airport with time to kill before my flight. I noticed a shoe shine stand.

Thanks to my father, my shoes looked pretty good. But the shoe shine was only $5. And I love sitting on those big high chairs. It's like sitting on a gigantic baby's high chair.

So I sat down and got a shoe shine from a gentleman named Jose. As he rubbed the black polish on my shoes, Jose told me about his life. He came from Puerto Rico to New York in 1979. He spent a few years living in a rat-infested basement apartment in the Bronx until he emigrated to Central Florida in the late 1980's.

I learned a lot during my chat with Jose. Did you know that shoeshining is a seasonal business? It's true. Jose explained to me that he does a lot more business in the winter than in the summer.

"You know what's the worst thing that has happened to my business in the last twenty years?" Jose asked me, rhetorically. "Flip flops!" he said in heavily accented English, in answer to his own question.

I sat there and read the paper as Jose plied his trade. I enjoyed it, but not as much as when my father did it.

When Jose was done I came down from my throne, pulled out my wallet and noticed a sign next to the cash register.

So remember, if you ever need your employees shined, look for Jose the Shoeshine Man in the Orlando Airport.

But if you ever need your shoes shined, why not give my Dad a call? He's retired now, so he's got some time on his hands.



On Wednesday night I flew from Orlando to Newark on Jet Blue.

I've been flying in and out of Orlando for work for more than a decade. For millions of American kids, Orlando is home to Mickey Mouse and Grandma and Grandpa, so I know to expect children on these flights. But this was ridiculous. Half the people on the flight were under four years old. It was like a flying daycare center. I should have known something was up when the flight attendant made the following announcement:

Federal law prohits disabling, tampering with or destroying smoke detectors in the potty.

On my ticket, in the area marked meal service, it said "snack." And when Snack Time came the flight attendants came around with Animal Crackers and apple juice. Then they dimmed the cabin lights. I think that was Nap Time.

In addition, on Jet Blue, each seat has a personal video monitor with 32 channels of Direct TV satellite programming. These channels include Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, so you can watch Spongebob and Dora the Explorer for the entire flight.

You would think all this catering to single-digit-aged passengers would keep them happy, content and quiet for a two hour flight. But you would be wrong.

I was sitting in the fifth row, near the front of the plane. The crying started in the seat behind me, with a little blonde-haired girl. And then it spread across the aisle to her brother. Then, row by row another wailing voice would be added.

It was like doing the wave at a sold-out baseball game - only much louder.

Then the crying turned into screaming: long, deep, throaty, lusty, blood-curdling screaming. Once one of them screamed, all of them began screaming. It was like a symphony of shrieking. And they were all competing to see who could be the loudest.

I don't know about you but I feel strongly that, in these politically troubled times, the sound of human screaming on American airplane flights needs to be avoided at all costs.

A generation or two ago, Americans used to be able to smoke cigarettes on planes - even on short duration, domestic flights. But eventually enough people complained and smoking was banned.

It's time to do the same thing with babies. If you want to show off the new little human being you created to your parents in Florida, then fly Grandma and Grandpa to your house. A couple days in the cold isn't going to kill them.

I am not an angry, bitter, single New Yorker/baby-hater. I love babies. I'd like to have one of my own some day. I don't know when that day will come, but I do know one thing:


Babies do not belong on planes. They don't want to be there - and the rest of us don't want them there either.

Ban the Babies!



Most of the corporate meetings I work on have a theme. That theme is usually something high-concept and is reflected in just about every creative element of the production: set, lighting, music, videos, Powerpoint slides, namebadges, even guest speakers and entertainment.

I just finished working on a meeting in Orlando for a Japanese camera company. This particular event had an auto racing theme, which is odd because everybody knows Asian people are terrible drivers! I feel like we were kind of rubbing it in.

Last night, there was a cocktail reception for all 600+ attendees, so we hired a real live race car driver to do a meet-and-greet and take photos with the attendees. Because, in addition to being terrible drivers, Japanese people really like to take pictures - particularly Japanese people who work for camera companies!

But get this. The race car driver we hired is an 18 year old girl!

Will & 18 year-old race driver Amanda Gogel

I couldn't even parallel park when I was 18! Amanda Gogel is a real race car driver from Gainesville, Florida, currently competing in the 2006 USAR Hooters Pro Cup. I think the Hooters connection may be slightly inappropriate for a barely legal racer like Amanda, but her Dad was with her and he seemed okay with it.

Amanda and her Dad even brought her Dodge Charger race car with her!

Vroom! I am such a dork!

For some reason I'm posing like I'm riding a motorcycle. I even made a Vroom sound when this picture was taken. The 18 year-old race car driver looked at me like I was an idiot. I tend to have that effect on women, of all ages.

I think I look like the villain in a racing movie, about to cut the hero's gas line. All I need is a pair of greasy overalls and a false moustache.

If anybody from Disney is reading this, you should cast Amanda in the next Herbie movie. I'll play the bad guy.



Greetings from Orlando, Florida where I am once again suckling from the corporate communications teat.

This time I am working on the production of a corporate meeting for a Japanese camera company. Today the Japanese CEO came to rehearse his presentation and I managed to understand his revisions to his Powerpoint slides. I think I may be bilingual.

Arigato gozaimashita!

Somehow I managed to communicate with this gentleman primarily through pointing and drawing. It was like an episode of Win Lose or Draw hosted by the late, great Bert Convy.

America's Most Beloved Game Show Host - Bert Convy (1933-1991)

My Dad drove me up to Orlando from Port St. Lucie on Sunday morning. It really should be an hour drive, but it took us more than two hours because my Dad likes to drive really slowly. He was driving so slowly that a cop gave him a ticket! He got a D.W.E. - driving while elderly.

My Dad thinks that just because the speed limit used to be 55 MPH, that's how fast he should go. Well, I used to be able to have sex six times a night. Sometimes you just need to adopt, adapt and improve.

On Sunday the creative director of the meeting I'm working on fell asleep in the middle of a review. It was just me, him and the graphic artist. We were reviewing slides and all of a sudden I looked over at the creative director and he was unconscious. I tried coughing, hoping that would wake him up. No luck. Then I kicked his chair. Nope. Then I tapped him on the shoulder. Nada. Finally, we just decided to end the meeting. And we left him there sleeping and went back to work.

It's so weird to be next to an unconscious person when you are working, particularly one that you don't like very much. You really have to fight the urge to write vulgar things on his forehead in Sharpie marker. Or dip his hand in a bowl of warm water (supposedly this makes you wet yourself, which is hysterical).

But he's the guy who signs the checks. So no hanky panky. I have gambling debts to pay off, and I don't want to get my legs broken!

I need a hug! And a metal pin in my tibia!



On Saturday I flew into West Palm Beach to visit my family and to celebrate Niece #2's 4th birthday.

After my sister, brother-in-law and the two kids picked me up at the airport we met my parents at Applebee's for some "eating good in the neighborhood." We would have gone to an independently owned restaurant, but apparently there aren't any in the entire state of Florida. Unless you count the local Hooters franchise, but that's not really a great place to bring kids who have only recently stopped nursing. It's confusing for the kids, and frustrating for the married guys like my brother-in-law and my Dad.

Our Applebee's server noticed that Niece #2 was opening presents and she asked Niece #2 if it was her birthday. Even though her birthday was more than a week ago, Niece #2 said "yes" - of course. Even a four year-old knows that you get free shit on your birthday.

Moments later, the entire staff of the Port St. Lucie Applebee's came out of the kitchen, rhythmically clapping, chanting and moving toward our table en masse. It took my niece a few seconds to figure out that they were descending upon her and, once she did, she was totally freaked out by it. It was like a scene from Rosemary's Baby. Even I got nervous. I don't know what kind of bizarre sun-induced craziness goes on down here.

Only when our server pulled out the free ice cream sundae with a birthday candle did my niece's expression turn from abject panic to forced happiness.

I appreciate the good intentions of the staff of Applebee's, but it's important to remember that a group of people clapping, chanting and slowly moving toward you with a glazed expression on their faces can be a bit freaky - particularly if you're four years old.

And, by the way, what's wrong with just singing the good old Happy Birthday song? Why do restaurants have to be all post-modern about it? Who needs clapping and chanting. It's not a Black Mass. It's a birthday party at Applebee's!

So happy birthday to Niece #2.

And all hail Satan - Dark Lord of Applebee's on Route 1 in Port St. Lucie
Now with boneless
riblets! For a limited time only!



For the last two nights I've been hanging out at my ex-girlfriend Maggie's apartment in Battery Park City. Maggie likes it when I mention her in the blog. So, I am mentioning her.

Maggie enjoys reading previously owned. Don't you?

I'm trying to stay away from my place because I'm pretty sure I have a gas leak in my apartment. Actually I'm positive that I have a gas leak. And I've had it for about six months. Everytime the delivery guy from the Chinese restaurant comes to my door, he crinkles his nose and repeats "gassy (sniff sniff) gassy (sniff sniff)."

He doesn't sniff parenthetically, but you get the idea.

I keep waiting for the Chinese food delivery guy to break down and ask me why the h-e-double-hockeysticks I don't get the gas leak fixed, but he hasn't done it yet. Maybe he's afraid I won't give him a tip. Or maybe the only English word he knows is "gassy."

My response to him is the same each time:

"Shhhh. Can you hear them? Can you hear them calling out to me? It's so beautiful, just like a chorus of angels! I'll be home soon!"

Then I invite him in for the "candle-lighting ceremony" while alternately laughing in a high-pitched voice and sobbing in a low moan. Boy, those Chinese food delivery guys sure do move quickly! He didn't even wait for his tip. I guess he had a lot of deliveries to make!

I would love to call someone to fix the gas leak, but I'm embarrassed because my apartment is too messy. When my parents moved last summer I had to take everything of mine out of their three-story house on Long Island and bring it to my one-room studio in Manhattan. I don't have an apartment anymore. I have a storage facility with a bed.

The great thing is I have been able to use the boxes to construct faux walls in my apartment.

Note the boxes stacked precariously on my kitchen table.

I think I may have inadvertantly increased the market value of my place. For instance, can you call an apartment a "junior one-bedroom" if the bedroom "wall" is made up entirely of boxes of comic books?

Maybe? Well, what if those boxes are made of acid free archival quality cardboard?

Comic book longboxes can also double as temporary walls.

And what if those boxes are filled with more than 2,500 mint-condition copies of Richie Rich comics from the late 1970s and early '80s?

Richie Rich #1 (Nov.1960) A mint-condition copy is worth more than my entire collection !

Everytime I go away on a trip for work, I secretly hope that I will come home and find a vacant lot where my apartment building used to be. I could never bring myself to get rid of my comic books, baseball cards, Star Wars stuff and all the other collections I have amassed over the years. But if my building just happened to blow up - because somebody had a gas leak - well that would spare me from a few very difficult decisions.

Of course, it would also kill a few of my neighbors. But I've never really liked them anyway.



Previously on previously owned:

Our hero, in Las Vegas working on the production of a corporate event, finds himself in the casino at the Mirage Hotel, winning at roulette with the help of two lucky lesbians named Robin and Emily.

In the words of the immortal Kenny Rogers, one of the secrets to success as a Gambler is to "know when to walk away." In four days of losing in Las Vegas, "walking away" was not a skill I had developed.

Over the course of the week I had won $300 on the Wheel of Fortune, $200 on the slots and $200 at Blackjack. In each case, I gave my winnings back to the house - and then some. The Clark County Gaming Commission loves people like me. I did it exactly what I was supposed to do. Somehow I had memorized a script that I had never even seen.

But tonight was going to be different. I had a guide, a buddy, a sponsor. Two of them, in fact. There was a system of checks and balances in place that heretofore had been lacking from my gambling career.

This was unusual for me. I'm a loner, but Las Vegas is not a town for loners.

Group activities are part of the DNA of Sin City; gambling, conventions, bachelor parties, weddings - all are experiences designed for multiple participants.

The great thing about friends is they stop you from doing things you shouldn't do. I've never had a lot of friends. So I've done a lot of things I shouldn't have done. But tonight my newfound friends Robin and Emily were telling me to walk away from the roulette table with $160 profit. And I listened.

We sat down at the bar at the Samba Steakhouse, adjacent to the gaming floor at The Mirage. Robin and Emily ordered two more Vodka & Bull's. For non-drinkers like myself, the "Bull" in a Vodka & Bull is a highly-caffeinated concoction called Red Bull Energy Drink. Apparently the theory is you get drunk, but not tired. I have achieved the same effect with a cocktail called Weed & Coke, but unfortunately there are a few things in Vegas that are still illegal.

Robin ordered some cerviche. "Emily and I are big fans of raw fish," she said.

"I bet you are," I replied. They didn't know my sense of humor well enough to get the joke.

It was difficult for me to take a break from winning. I felt like I was on a streak and I didn't want it to end. But Robin and Emily had already helped me to win $160, so I felt like I had to follow their lead.

Small talk is not my strong suit, so I did what I normally do when forced to chat with people I don't know very well: I asked questions. A lot of questions. I rarely chat with strangers, but I have interviewed hundreds of people as a writer and video journalist. Most people like to talk about themselves. I don't. So it usually works out for the best.

I learned that Robin and Emily live together in a house in Daytona Beach, Florida. Emily is a landscape architect, originally from Memphis. She is in her 50s (my estimate of 60 was perhaps unkind). She has a cute little Lab puppy named Max, whom she misses terribly. She enjoys drinking. But I knew that already.

Clearly, Emily was the talker of this couple. Robin was the kind of person who seemed to keep things to herself. Then I found out why.

Robin had spent eight years active duty in the U.S. military, beginning in 1974.

I can't imagine what it must have been like to be a gay woman in the military in the mid-1970's. At least now we have mainstream movies like Brokeback Mountain and soapy TV shows like The L Word to increase awareness and tolerance of homosexuality. Thirty years ago, gays (particularly in the military) were a curiosity - and most often not a welcome one. I wondered if she had experienced discrimination. But I decided not to pry any further.

"What are you doing now?" I asked.

"I'm law enforcement in Daytona Beach," she replied, taking a swig from her Vodka & Bull.

"You're a cop?!" I exclaimed. My gambling teacher was a 50 year-old, lesbian cop who had seen active duty during the first Gulf War. This lady had stories to tell!

"What about you?" Robin asked, changing the subject. "Do you have a boyfriend?

Suddenly, everything became a bit more clear. During our initial conversation following the corporate meeting we were both working on, Robin had asked if I was traveling with anyone. I had mentioned that I flew out from New York with a producer named John.

Robin had obviously invited me for a night of gambling (at least in part) because she thought I was a member of her team. I had already won $160 because of that assumption, so it was in my best financial interest not to disabuse her of that notion. People have thought I am gay for my entire adult life. Finally it was paying off.

"Nope. Nobody special right now," I said, not lying.

"Well maybe you'll meet somebody tonight!" Emily slurred.

This struck me as an unlikely assumption. For a town built on the flamboyant showmanship of spangled queens like Liberace, Las Vegas today is an extremely macho city. Here in the middle of the Nevada desert, men are men. They drink, they smoke cigars, they gamble, they go to strip clubs, they hire escorts. Las Vegas may be known as Sin City, but it's really Straight Sin City.

When Emily announced to the roulette table that Robin had used a portion of their previous night's winnings to buy her a ring, Lisa the dealer stopped making eye contact with them. Robin's subtle touch of Emily's hand made me realize she had experienced discrimination before.

Don't ask, don't tell.

"You ready to shoot some craps?" Robin asked me.

Emily said her goodnights. Apparently the Vodka portion of the Vodka & Bull had won out. I was sad to say goodbye to her. Emily was clearly the more outgoing half of the couple. I knew, from then on, the night was going to be all business. Emily gave me a hug and invited me to visit them if I ever found myself in Daytona Beach.

"Just watch me for a while," Robin suggested as we took our place at the far end of the craps table.

To the uninformed, a craps table looks a set of elaborate blueprints placed at the bottom of a giant wood bathtub. Three to four casino workers are positioned at various places around the table, each with a very specific job.

Robin had won most of her $1,500 at this very table the night before. So I watched her work. Within ten minutes she had won $100. I decided that it was time for me to join the party.

I took the $80 in my pocket and added it to the $160 in chips I had won earlier, giving myself a $240 pot with which to work. I began with a $10 bet on "the field" where rolling a 2,3,4,9,10,11,or 12 increases your money. I won on my first bet with my lucky number 11 - the same number that had paid off for me at the roulette table.

For the next two hours I imitated Robin's bets, never truly understanding what I was doing but always being pleasantly surprised when the dealer would push a stack of chips my way.

It was now 11:30 p.m. Robin had been my gambling sensei for five hours and my initial investment of $100 had increased five fold. I looked at the long row of multi-colored chips before me. Was it time to go? I looked at Robin, if she wasn't going anywhere then neither was I.

And she wasn't. So I wasn't

The "stickman" pushed four dice toward my spot on the table. I had turned down the offer to roll on the previous turn around the table. There were some scary characters at this table. And I did not want to be the one to cool down their winning streak with a crappy roll of the dice.

But this time, emboldened by a winning streak I didn't completely understand, I chose to take my turn.

I rolled over and over, each time getting six, eight or ten. I (and most of the table) had bets on each of those numbers, so everybody kept winning. The scary dude from Jersey in the trucker cap told his dark-haired girlfriend to give me a kiss after I rolled my second consecutive 10. Robin looked at me and laughed. I think she was jealous.

By the time I rolled a seven, effectively ending my turn, I had increased my pot to almost $1,000.I now had ten times as much money as I had when I walked into The Mirage. But I was working against a $1,300 loss from the previous four nights, so it felt like I was still behind.

Sure I could walk away now. But I would be leaving Las Vegas $300 in the hole. If I kept winning, who knows how well I could do. Visions of hypothetical numbers danced in my head like sugarplums.

At this point, a friend should have told me to walk away. But my only friend at that table was on a winning streak of her own. And Robin was not going anywhere.

So I stayed, and kept betting.

And losing. And losing. And losing.

As quickly as you can make money at craps, you can lose it. And I did. I lost it all. $1,000 had come and gone. Strangely enough, Robin kept losing too. I felt bad for me, but worse for her. I felt like my bad luck had infected her.

I decided that one last $100 would fix the problem. I walked over to the ATM and swiped my card. It was declined. I checked my balance. I had more than $3,000 available, but the machine said I had exceeded my 24-hour maximum.

After six days in Vegas I was even losing at the ATM.

There was another option, however. In return for a larger fee, I could ask for a cash advance against my credit card. Only one problem - I don't have a credit card. You might not be surprised to hear that I've gotten into trouble with credit cards in the past. So the banks have (wisely) stopped giving them to me.

But my father hasn't. I carry my Dad's Mastercard in my wallet, just in case of emergency. I was now $1,400 down in Vegas - this was clearly an emergency. I could always tell my parents that I needed to take the client to dinner and didn't have any cash. Or they could just give me the money. After all, I helped them clean out the attic, basement and garage when they recently sold my childhood home. Now my parents were blowing my inheritance on plasma TVs and prescription medication.

All I was looking for was my fair share.

I swiped their card, agreed to the $17.81 processing fee and made my way to the cashier's cage to pick up what I promised myself would be my final $100.

I presented the ATM receipt to the cashier, who asked for my credit card and my I.D.

"What's your zip code?" she asked. I answered her, and she went to retrieve my money. She returned empty-handed.

"That zip code is not coming up," she said. "Neither is the address on your driver's license."

"It's a long story," I explained. "It's my parents' credit card. They just sold their house and moved to Florida, so I don't know their new zip code. And the address on my driver's license is not really my address. It's the address of my parents' old house, where I grew up. I kept it so I could go to the beach for free."

The cashier looked at me blankly.

"Can I have my $100 now," I asked hopefully.

"Sir, I'm afraid we won't be able to help you tonight," the cashier replied.

I looked at my watch. It was 12:15 a.m. in Vegas. That would make it after 3 a.m. in Port St. Lucie, where my parents were now living. I spent a minute constructing viable excuses for why I would awaken my parents at 3 am to ask them for their zip code.

As I held my phone in my hand, Robin tapped me on the shoulder.

"I'm gonna call it a night," she said. "You should do the same."

Finally, after five nights of gambling a friend was telling me to walk away. And this time I was going to listen.

I gave Robin a hug, thanked her for the coaching and apologized to her for cooling off her streak. She thanked me for being a good gambling buddy and reiterated her girlfriend's offer to visit in Daytona Beach. I waved goodbye to Robin the 50 year-old lesbian cop and former soldier knowing that, while I would probably never see her again, I certainly wouldn't forget her.

I walked out of The Mirage with $1 in my pocket. Not enough for a cab. So I walked. For the first time in nearly a week, I walked. I felt my mind clearing in the crisp desert air. I don't know what they pump through the vents in those casinos, but whatever it is, it makes you crazy.

I arrived back at The Paris Hotel. As I made my way toward the elevator I noticed the penny slots. "What am I going to do with $1?" I rationalized.

I fed the crumpled bill into the machine. On my first spin I hit three bars, winning ten cents. I cashed out. For the first time in nearly a week, I didn't give my winnings back to the house.

I got to the airport the following morning and went to the e-ticket kiosk to check-in for my flight to Florida to celebrate my niece's birthday. I was scheduled to fly to Houston, and connect to a flight to Ft. Lauderdale. But my outgoing flight was delayed, pushing back my connection in Houston until after midnight.

I went to the counter and spoke with an atendant, who explained the situation to me. I thought about changing my ticket, and flying back to New York instead. After all I would be returning to Florida in a few days for another job, so I wouldn't be missing my niece's birthday - only pushing it back by a few days. The airline representative told me there would be a $90 fee to change my ticket. I argued, complaining that it was Continental's fault that I couldn't make my connecting flight to Ft. Lauderdale, not mine.

After all, the money I had allocated to that change fee was spent the previous night at the craps table.

"Oh well. What's another $90?" I thought to myself, passing her my Dad's credit card.

"I'm sorry sir," the attendant said,"The difference is actually $130."

"I'm doing about as well at this table as I did at the casino," I said. The attendant smiled.

I boarded the crowded plane to Newark. Everybody looked tired, defeated, ready to get the hell out of this money-sucking city. I sat down in my aisle seat, next to an overweight woman and her husband.

"Did you win?" the woman asked me, unsolicited. She was wearing a sweatshirt that read I lost in Vegas! so I knew how the trip had gone for her.

"No!" I replied emphatically. "Not even a little."

I don't talk on planes. Never have. But the three of us had something in common. We had all rolled the dice and come up with craps. For the first time in my life, I started chatting with the people sitting next to me on a flight. It was nice to commiserate.

As the plane took off I looked out the widow at the fading lights of the Las Vegas Strip.

"I'll be back to get you some day," I said to the nearly $1,500 I had left behind.

I pulled out the lucky dime I had won on the penny slots. At least I was leaving with something.

Then I played Gin Rummy with Barb and Dave from Nutley, New Jersey for the next hour.

I won a bag of pretzels.

And I walked away from the table. At least as far as you can walk on a plane.



When last we left our hero, he was riding down the Las Vegas Strip in a taxi cab, headed to the Mirage Hotel to meet a woman named Robin and her "girlfriend" for some gambling - and who knows what else...

"Are you winning?" Nancy the Asian cab driver asked me as we idled at a red light on the Las Vegas Strip.

"No!" I replied emphatically. "Not even a little."

I've always considered myself a lucky person. My birth mother gave me up for adoption when I was four months old, and I ended up with with a completely normal, loving family. I was stricken with a rare illness when I was 29 and my life was saved with an experimental medical procedure. I've had two longterm relationships (ten years and seven years) with women I loved and considered my best friend. I've never been out of work (except by choice) and I've supported myself in greatest city in the world - New York - for fifteen years.

But luck in Vegas had been in short supply. At least for me.

"Your luck will change," Nancy the Asian cabdriver said emphatically in heavily accented English as we pulled up to The Mirage. "Tonight is the night!"

What else was she going to say? Everybody who works in Vegas is part of the system. When you gamble, everybody benefits - from the cabbie driving you to the casino, to the waitress bringing you free drinks, to the dealer taking your money. Las Vegas is an ecosystem built on hope. And your money.

I exited the yellow cab and walked into The Mirage.

I've been to Las Vegas two times in the sixteen months. The first time I stayed at The Venetian, a modern, sprawling resort complex with more than 4,000 guest rooms. This time I stayed at The Paris, a 3,000 room property with French theming and a faux Eiffel Tower.

Both of these properties opened for business within the last few years. They represent the new Las Vegas. The guest rooms are large, the decor is elegant (at least in Vegas terms) and the casinos are bright and spacious.

The Mirage is different. It opened in the late 1980s, but it feels old. It's all dim lighting, dark carpeting and smoked glass.

I entered the casino and noticed that the people were different, as well.

At The Ventian and The Paris, the guests tend to be younger, better-dressed, hipper. The dealers are attractive and friendly. Not so at the The Mirage. I felt the heavy stink of desperation in the air. Or maybe that was stale cigarette smoke. Either way, it wasn't making me feel lucky. It was making me feel creeped-out.

Then my phone rang. It was Robin, my soon-to-be gambling coach.

"My girlfriend Emily and I are at the roulette table," Robin said. "Are you here yet?"

"I'm here. I'll be right over." I answered.

Emily. Her girlfriend's name was Emily. That was a problem. My oldest niece's name is Emily. How was I going to have a threesome with a girl named Emily? This was a bad way to start the night.

I walked through the gaming floor. It looked like Casino Night at the Shady Acres Retirement Home. Everybody was wrinkled. The entire place needed an good ironing. An elderly woman with an oxygen tank fed dollar bills into a slot machine. A man with a gray combover dealt blackjack to a table of retirees.

Where were the young, hip people from the TV commercials? Maybe there was an AARP convention in town.

Then I found the roulette table. Robin was standing there, with stacks of green chips neatly piled in front of her. Next to her was a woman who appeared to be about sixty. She was singing a song.

"Doing the Lisa Dance!" the woman yelped, kissing Robin as the dealer pushed another large stack of chips toward her spot on the table. I looked at the dealer's nametag. It said Lisa. Then I looked at Robin.

"Will!" she said, greeting me with a smile. "This is my girlfriend Emily."

Okay. These women were lesbians. Not Howard Stern Show lesbians. They were rank-and-file, Melissa Etheridge-listening, key-on-the-belt lesbians. The two Trojan ultrathin condoms in the pocket of my leather jacket mocked me. Tonight would not be their night to play.

But it was mine. I might not be scoring with these ladies, but I had every intention of winning with them. And from the looks of things, Robin was already well on her way.

And her girlfriend Emily was well on her way to being blitzed.

"Let me get you a drink!" Emily slurred, grabbing a fifty-something waitress. Even the cocktail waitresses at The Mirage were old.

"Coors Light" I said, turning my attention toward the table. After all, that was why I was here.

Robin explained the game to me, as she arranged her chips on the board. Lisa the Dealer spun the wheel. Robin won again.

"Doing the Lisa Dance!" Emily yowled as she shook her (hopefully not artificial) hips.

"You're gonna have to cut that out." Lisa the Dealer scolded humorlessly. I was on my fifth night of casino gambling and it was already getting old. I imagined what it was like to do this every night of your life. I felt empathy for Lisa as I slipped a $20 across the table.

"I'll take one dollar chips Lisa," I said. "And I promise not to sing."

Within an hour I had doubled my money and, thanks to Emily, my Coors Light consumption. I put two chips on 11, my lucky number. Lisa spun the wheel. The ball landed on 11. My $2 bet had turned into $70. I finally understood what people liked about Las Vegas.

Robin kept winning, and so did I. Within two hours, my $20 investment had turned into $200. Lisa the Dealer left and was replaced by a Latino gentleman Felipe. There were no Felipe Dances. Our luck had changed with the dealer, and it was time for a new adventure.

"Let's go have something to eat," Robin said.

I left the roulette table with $180 in chips. For the first time in my gambling career I was ahead!

And it was about to get a lot better...

Tune in tomorrow for the dramatic conclusion of LAS VEGAS - THE FINAL CHAPTER!



On Monday, after the conclusion of the corporate event I was working on in Las Vegas, the crew gathered in a hotel meeting room for dinner.

As I held my plate and waited on the chow line, I overheard a woman seated at the table talking about how well she had done at the casino the previous night. My ears perked up. After a four-night losing streak I was looking for the secrets of how to beat the Sin City system.

I loaded up my plate with salad, in an attempt to reverse the ill effects of drinking and smoking every night for nearly a week. Then I grabbed a seat next to the lucky lady. Maybe she could tell me where I went wrong.

Her name was Robin, and she appeared to be in her forties. Not my type, but a hook-up of the romantic kind was not my interest. I wanted answers.

And she gave them to me. According to Robin, I had been wasting my money on low-margin games, like quarter slots and the Wheel of Fortune. Her windfall came at the roulette wheel, where a $1 bet paid $35. And the craps table, where an initial bet of only $10 can grow exponentially with a few smart bets a hot pair of dice.

In the course of one night, Robin was up $1,500. Since I was down more than $1,300 for the week I listened intently.

"What are you doing tonight?" I asked Robin. The table laughed.

"What do you think I'm doing?" she questioned back. The table laughed again, knowingly.

If you've spent any time in Sin City, you know that winnings do not stay in the winner's pocket for very long. That's the $8.7 billion(!) secret to success for the Las Vegas gaming industry - give the player some money, and they will probably decide to give it back to the house in one form or another. And then some.

I had made a promise to myself that my nascent gambling career was over - for now.

But I still felt unfulfilled. I had stared longingly at the players at the roulette and craps tables, scooping up stacks of chips and cheering in that way that people do when someone else gives them money unexpectedly. I wanted to experience that feeling, just once before I left Las Vegas.

I wanted to win. But there was one problem - that little promise I had made to myself. Then I found a loophole.

The company for whom I was working had, at my request, booked my return flight to Ft. Lauderdale, where I would be celebrating my niece's fourth birthday. I was then going to pay for my ticket home to New York.

But in the interim I had gotten booked on a job in Florida that was scheduled to begin in less than a week. So I had decided to change my flight, return to New York City, and celebrate my niece's birthday after the conclusion of the Florida job. That meant changing my ticket - and paying a $100 fee.

So, instead of spending the money to change my ticket I decided to fly to Ft. Lauderdale the next day as planned - thus saving $100. Technically, I wasn't saving anything. But I had allocated the $100 for the fee, and once those funds were freed up, it felt like found money.

Found money with which to learn how to win. And Robin was going to be my coach.

I gave her my number and asked - begged - her to call me that night. She seemed noncommittal, understandably so. I had never seen her before. Why should she help me learn how to play with the big boys? The crewmembers at the table didn't help my case as they playfully began to refer to me as The Vegas Stalker.

After I finished work, I returned to my room at the Paris Hotel and sat by the phone, waiting for her call. And then it happened. She called! I have never been so excited to get a phone call from a woman I didn't want to have sex with. Scratch that. I have never been so excited to get a phone call from any woman.

That's the power of gambling. Sex is fun, but it doesn't pay 35-1. At least not for balding 37 year-old men.

"My girlfriend and I are about to hit the roulette tables at the Mirage," Robin said. "You wanna join us?"

"You bet!" I replied, not realizing my unintentional pun. "Where should I meet you?"

"We're at the bar, and we're on our third Vodka & Bull," Robin answered. "My girlfriend is wearing a hot little denim skirt. We'll see you soon." She hung up.

I paused. Robin had twice referred to her gambling buddy as "her girlfriend." Yes, unlike men, women routinely refer to their female friends as girlfriends. It's a shorthand that has confused many a single man in these sexually ambiguous times.

But she also had mentioned that her girlfriend was hot (or at least her skirt was) and possibly drunk. What did she make a point of telling me that? And why was that the last thing she said to me on the phone? What was I about to get myself into?

These and other questions raced through my mind as I jumped in a cab headed for The Mirage.

After all, they don't call it Sin City for nothing.

to be continued...


Monday was my sixth and final day in Las Vegas.

It was also the day of the huge corporate meeting that I have been working on for the last five weeks; 1,600 Europeans celebrating their achievements of the past twelve months, and looking forward to the year to come.

They really should be looking forward to going to the dentist. Apparently orthodontics are unavailable on "the continent." Maybe Sir Bob Geldof should produce some kind of benefit concert. He could call it Live Brace.

The show went well. The Euro clients were happy. The executive producers and creative directors from the production company were happy. The producer for whom I was working (I was her production coordinator) was happy. And I was happy. Because it was o-v-e-r.

And because I made $12,500 for 26 days work.

I hesitate to call it work, because it was one of the easiest jobs I have ever been paid to do. I feel like I should apologize for doing so little work for so much money. But I won't, because they might ask for some of it back.

That's the great thing about working on the production of a corporate event. The budgets (for the most part) are huge. And there are tons of people working on them, so no one person had to do too much.

Do I know how to pick a career or what?

But you don't really care about all that. What you want to know is - did I gamble on my final day in Sin City?

Of course I did! And wouldn't you like to hear about it?

You will. Later. Until then, here are some highlights:




So I kept my promise to not do any gambling yesterday. Sort of.

Sunday afternoon I was at Bally's (which is connected to my hotel, the Paris). I was in the corridor outside the Bally's Event Center, following a client rehearsal. On the floor near the bathroom I spied a small white piece of paper. I picked it up. It said

$250 straight bet
NFL Divisional Playoffs
-110 PLB -10
event date: 1/15/06
$227.25 to pay $477.25

I've never done any sports betting (yet), so I asked a bathroom attendant what this piece of paper was. He told me that I had bet $250 on the Indianapolis Colts and that if the Colts beat the Pittsburgh Steelers by 10 points, I would collect $477.25!

"That's a smart bet, " he complemented me. "The Colts started the season 13 and 0. Head on over to the sports book, the game's just about to start."

"Okay, I'll do that." I replied nervously.

"Good luck." He answered.

I consider myself an ethical person. Maybe an ethical person would have taken the ticket to the casino management and reported it lost. But this particular ethical person is down $1,300+ in four days in Vegas.

In addition to being a day for football, Sunday is the Sabbath for good Christians like myself. It is the Lord's day. And it was obvious to me that God had placed that ticket there, for me to find. This was my second chance. All those years as an altar boy were finally going to pay off!

I couldn't watch the game, because our rehearsal was in progress. So I went back to the Bally's Event Center to endure the abject boredom of a rehearsal for a corporate meeting, all the while sneaking glances at espn.com on my Treo 600 phone.

The Colts may have had an historic season, but that season came to an end yesterday afternoon as they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 21-18.

Even when I don't bet, I lose.

I folded the ticket and placed it in my wallet. If I am tempted to gamble just one more time before I leave, I'm going to look at that ticket.

I'm going to get out of here with the rest of my money intact.

Wanna bet?



I promised myself I was going to stay away from the casino tonight. I even made tentative plans to meet a single girl on the crew for drinks after work. Then I ended up working a very long day - 13.5 hours.

Normally, working a long day sucks. But when I'm on the road, working on the production of a corporate show, I get overtime - time and a half. So I ended up making $686.25 just for today.

Yay me!

Then I lost another $600 in the casino at the Paris Hotel.

Boo me!

If you're keeping score at home (and you know you are, you living-vicariously-through-me fuckers, here's the tally after four days:

$1,343.75 PROFIT

Yes, more than half the money I have made on this job is gone forever, with nothing to show for it. But hey, I had fun right? RIGHT??!!

Yes, it sucks to lose. But I didn't just lose. I won a little too. I won $200 on the Wheel of Fortune slots. And the desperate gamblers around me cheered for me. Notice how I think of them as desperate gamblers, and not me.

But honestly, there is a kinship, a comraderie that I feel with these people. I can't explain it. It's kind of like we're all in this together. I have chatted with people that I never would talk to outside a casino. And we're all kind of rooting for each other.

Of course, I ended up losing the $200 that I had won on the slots - plus another $400. But I still have another three days on this job. If I don't work an hour of overtime I will make another $1,350 - effectively erasing my gambling debt.

It's amazing the kind of justification I engaged in on my sixth trip to the Casino ATM in the same day. The ATM is the only machine in this place that I seem to have mastered.

On the upside, one of the casino boses took me aside and invited me to join The Player's Club! Apparently my bald head and my difficulty with quitting smoking are not the only things I share in common with the late Mr. Telly Savalas.
Who loves ya, baby?
The Paris Hotel and Casino - that's who!

It seems that the fine folks at Caesars Entertainment have taken note of my propensity for handing my hard-earned money over to them. Of course, I politely declined their invitation - even when the gentleman suggested that hotel might fly me to Vegas next time.

It's nice to be wanted, but my gambling career is over. Believe me, or don't. Fuck you. I don't really care. It's been fun, but now the fun is done.

This Player is hanging up his ATM card. This time I promise...



In today's episode, handsome faux Frenchman Guillaume McKinley spends three hours at a Wheel of Fortune-style gambling table in the faux Paris Hotel and Casino. He loses his shirt. Again. Turns out acting like you are French does not make you win at gambling. In fact, it makes you lose more than you have lost in each of the previous two days.

If you add up my day rate, overtime and per diem, after three days I have earned $2,017.50 working on this large corporate meeting in Las Vegas. And I have lost (drum roll please) $760 in the casino. So, on the bright side, I am technically in the black to the tune of more than $1,257.50.

On the dark side, I have lost all respect for myself and can't wait to get the fuck out of here. I promise you, if I gamble one more penny I will officially be the World's Biggest Loser.

Stay tuned to see whether my nonexistant self control wins out over the compulsive demons that tear at my insides.

Oh, ye of little faith...