HENDERSON, Nev. -- You know that feeling you get? That feeling when it's 8:30 in the morning and all you want is a piece of fruit and a muffin for breakfast and the whole world is covered with the dingy smell of stale Camels?
If you do, then you know I'm back in Vegas. It's been a few years. In fact, the last time I set foot on The Strip it was 1991. I was staying at some place called the Westward Ho. (No, that wasn't a reference to which way the "escorts" were leaning.)
Former Royals pitching coach Guy Hansen was the subject back then. Hansen was an eccentric pitching coach/scout who has signed at least one Cy Young winner (Bret Saberhagen) but has worn out his welcome at several spots on the map. The last I heard he was pitching coach for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
The guy was entertaining. He had a surf board in his living room, 300 miles from the ocean. He would say anything which seemed to fit the town.
But enough about normal folks. That was years ago. I'm back in Plastic Town and it's not for some Hacks Gone Wild junket. It's merely for the Mountain West media days.
Late July marks the unofficial beginning of college football. The media days kick off. They are a maze of spin, interviews and coachspeak that at least gets me in the mood.
The NCAA wouldn't approve this location, but forget the NCAA. There is still some wholesome entertainment here, like Las Vegas 51s minor league baseball. Their mascot is a Jar-Jar Binks lookalike named Cosmo. I swear I had only one beer so that must be right.
Some things are still the same, though. Approximately 30 seconds after getting off the plane, I was reminded that Carrot Top is a big deal in this town. So is Rita Rudner who, according to a billboard, was recently named "Comedian Of The Year".
First, you have to know who Rita Rudner is. Clearing that hurdle, you want to know what person/outlet or PR flak named her comic of the year. What, did Yakov Smirnoff have an off year?
This is a place where -- no lie -- a new strip club was featured on the front page of the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday. Not an ad, a legitimate column ("New strip club offers smorgasbord of adult fun"), right next to a thoughtful piece on the 40th anniversary of the first man on the moon.
Mash up those two stories and you've got stripper polls on the Sea of Tranquility.
The Mountain West event is at the Green Valley Ranch resort. Nice place, except that even out here in Henderson, Vegas is still Vegas. It takes 20 minutes and a GPS to walk from my room to the casino to sift through the haze for my muffin and fruit.
I don't gamble. The point is, the casino also is where the food is. Or at least where the food is located if you don't want to stop outside into the 108-degree heat. That in itself is a tough decision -- risk getting my face melted off and walking to P.F. Chang's and trying the black lung relay through the casino to grab a sandwich at The Turf Grill.
Part of me loves it. There's nothing like a happening sports book. I stood there watching about eight million games on giant HDs. Then I realized, a triple bypass was somewhere in my future.
What is it with these places? Casinos prove that there is no substance on earth that can take cigarette stink out of furniture. This place is lined with leather and fine appointments. Eventually, though, the fragrance turns every casino, in my mind, into an I-80 truck stop.
Of course, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority isn't going to outlaw smoking. That would drive away all the poor folks with walkers and oxygen tanks.
That raises another point. The demographic here is weird. It's either the super seniors mesmerized by the dollar slots or the 20-year-old millionaires (they wish) trying to impress their girlfriends with a weekend in Vegas.
By "impress", I mean a $99 Southwest fare found on Travelocity and a Holiday Inn just off The Strip.
The moment I stepped off the plane, I was reminded of what I'd really missed. Well, missed as in regretting the fact that we'll never see a new Billy Mays commercial ...
Donnie and Marie. (Gosh, where had they gone?)
Fifty-cent shrimp cocktails.
Criss Angel. Reminder: It's an illusion, folks. This poser is not actually touched by an angel. And besides, anyone who spells their name "Criss" and paints their fingernails deserves to have a fifty-cent shrimp cocktail thrown in their face.
Oscar Goodman. He's an attorney. He's also the mayor. He also, to put it politely, has a past.
Don't take it from me. Read this or go to Amazon.com and buy, "Of Rants and Men: Oscar Goodman's Life from Mob Mouthpiece to Mayor of Las Vegas."
Who wouldn't love a mayor who loves showgirls and Bombay Sapphire Gin?
That might disgust some people. They love him in Vegas where they line up at the 51s games for Oscar Goodman Bobblehead Night.
The weird thing is, these people elected ol' Oscar without guns to their temples. Who needs corruption when you've got Dean Martin as a mayor.
Oh, one other thing. Walked around the pool here at Green Valley just to, you know, check, ahem, the depth of the water. Stumbled upon this place called "The Pond." This 50-year-old father of two cracked the door on a forbidden aqua club. All I remember is a bunch of 20 somethings gathered around a pool -- their exclusive, very cool pool -- and some wildly gyrating woman in a yellow bikini.
I immediately called my priest and went to confession right there over the phone. I didn't actually do anything wrong except glimpse something that looked very, very bad and felt worse. And by worse, I mean great.
Honey, I love you and I'll be home soon.
Meanwhile, back to business. For the next couple of days we will talk about serious issues like the BCS, Congressional hearings and Utah getting screwed.
And the end, some of us will relax by the pool and order shrimp cocktail and Bombay Sapphire from Jar-Jar Binks.
Maybe Oscar will pick up the tab.