Warm summer greetings, all! As I prepare for my Las Vegas trip, I got the urge to hammer out a few thoughts. Please bear with me. The heat wave that has saturated most of North America, it seems, has worn itself out. A day and a half of rain brought cooler temperatures to the greater Toronto area. I just got in from a walk around the block. Cool and delightful. I had to find an ABM for some quick cash. Can't start a vacation with an empty wallet. In my neighborhood I feel paranoid about walking with any cash on me. Alas, there are a number of youth gangs in the area. A quick story that happened about 2 or so years ago. I came home one Saturday afternoon after catching a matinee of the Ben Stiller comedy Zoolander and found the back area of my condominium taped off with about a half dozen police cars flanking the two driveways accessing the property. I stepped onto my balcony to get a better view of the scene. I noticed a teenager/young adult male lying face down on the grass working on his tan. A dude in a tie stood 20 feet away jotting down notes into a note book. About thirty feet away from the sunbather, an old Asian woman was putting out her laundry onto a backyard clothes line oblivious to the scene before her. Surreal, almost. I stared at the sunbather and noticed after 1 hour he didn't move a bit. Sure hope he's using a strong sun block I thought. Then it dawned on me: The cops are here because of him. I didn't realize sunbathing was a felony offense. Just kidding. Intrigued I whipped out my binoculars. Then out of the blue a pounding of my door made me jump out of my skin. Only one type knocks like that: cops. I thought, Oops, did I break the law by surveying the crime scene with binoculars? Turns out the policeman was canvassing the building hoping to find witnesses. Later that evening I stood part way on my balcony watching a news crew on the ground below me file a report. I could hear the reporter talk, and at the same time I was watching the same reporter on the 6 o'clock news. What a weird sensation that was. I switched the channel and caught a second reporter file a story. Just as it got dark the tarp came out. Why leave the body exposed all day only to cover it up at night? Shortly after that they carted the body off. Toronto maybe has 60 homicides a year. I don't recall the coroner being particularly busy that day. A good nine hours elapsed. I guess the sunbather wasn't in a hurry. Neither were the police. Turns out the victim was a gang member felled by a rival gang member, a young kid it was suspected, who shot him once at close range and them made off with the victim's car. Possibly motive was revenge or a membership pledge of some sort. Turns out the victim was involved in a shooting incident a year earlier: his buddy was shot and killed in a drug deal, and the victim was shot in the leg. Not sure what the outcome was. After a couple of days it was quickly forgotten. Don't recall seeing any follow up stories or hearing about any trial proceedings. I've been eager to move ever since, but vowed not to move until I was able to buy a place. Well, that day is but a few months off. I've lived in this neighborhood, this apartment for 6 years. I wished I moved earlier more for the reason that I could have possibly owned my home outright by now. 38-years old and never had a mortgage (this echoes the song, "38 years old" by the Tragically Hip ... "38-years old and never kissed a girl." A excellent short-story wrapped up in a 3-minute song. Every word says something. Stellar story-telling, although Gord Downie's cracked wavering voice is not for everyone.) Escaping to Las Vegas once a year helps. Trading reality for fantasy, high-desert style. Today my coworkers were suppose to congregate at our manager's home for a pool party / team building initiative, fueled by beer, BBQ meat, grilled veggies and chocolate cake. There's always cake at these things. Sometimes ice cream cake. Always chocolate. Can anyone make a cake without using cocoa? Alas, the sojourn was cancelled on Monday due to the perceived threat of rain and too much work. I wasn't worried about the possibility of rain, and I certainly wasn't overwhelmed by the prospect of too much work. I was bummed out because I was looking forward to the party helping me switch gears and get into a vacation state of mind. Well, color me impressed. The weather forecast held that it would rain Wednesday, and it did. And in a move to finish off a project so my coworkers would not be burdened with finishing it while I was in Las Vegas, I was busy. But it is now past quitting time. I'm officially off the clock. I've entered the vacation zone. Time no longer matters unless it involves a flight booking. I haven't had a drop of booze (I bought a bottle of wine, does that count?) but I feel a slight buzz. Giddy, yet sober. Uhm. Sorry for going on and on. I've noticed I talk a lot about me. I hate that. I don't mind others talking about themselves. It gets me off the hook having to come up with stuff to say. But I hope there is some humor and entertainment in these paragraphs. If reading this stuff is a chore, then I should hang up the keyboard. Nothing worst when not knowing when to shut up about oneself. Some dream about a white picket fence around a bungalow... Tonight I dream about Las Vegas. Tomorrow I live the real thing! I'll be skipping through McCarran at 4:30 Thursday afternoon. With my luck, I'll fall and scrap my knee. Three days in East building of the Imperial Palace may be a nightmare. But the fourth (and last day) at The Orleans will rectify that, I am sure. I signed up for a special offer at the ESPN Zone. I plan to get my buddy over to the NYNY casino sometime over the short time there to check out the place. TVs in the washroom: Little televisions installed in the wall above the urinals and on the door of each toilet stall. Got to go to the washroom with a drink and a plate of fries. No reason to leave otherwise. Take care, all! Sincerely, Sharkster P.S. The time stamp says I last posted on New Year's eve in 1969. It feels that long, but I can assure you it's been less than 11 months. A full trip report to follow in early August.