Hello again! I said I hoped to write again during my week between jobs, and I’m surprised but pleased to make good on that. Surpleased? Surpleased.

People who know me or have read my stories from way back in the day will recall that “Vegas Peter” was slightly different from the regular versions of myself. None are normal, of course, but I would let myself branch into new territory in the Vegas. Por ejemplo, I was known to fro out my hair, keep a brush twisted up in it, wear atypical clothes and big sunglasses, and routinely turn to strangers and ask if they could “dig it.”

I gave up on that version a while ago, and frankly I’m not sure how I ever summoned the courage to behave like that. Oh, that’s right – lots and lots of alcohol. Now I remember…mostly. In recent years, I’ve moved into a much tamer phase, but one that still provides a lot of entertainment for my group of friends: Catchphrases.

My goal was simple. I wanted to develop something to say after winning or losing hands and get a complete stranger to say it at some point. I knew there was one inescapable side-effect of this: I would drive my friends fucking crazy. You see, in order to get any traction, I was going to need heaps and heaps of repetition, especially since strangers come and go at the tables with some regularity. How else would they hear it enough to start using it?

I’m gonna spoil this a little by letting you know that my first attempt was a success, and I’ve been chasing that high ever since. I don’t even know how many years ago we’re talking about at this point, but we got to Vegas and sat down at a blackjack table as quickly as possible. I waited a little bit before I busted it out. Got a beer from the cocktail waitress, won some, lost some, etc. But then the time came. I hit, I stayed, the dealer busted. As she moved some chips over to my section of the felt, I raised one hand in the air and proclaimed, “Self-taught, everyone. I’m self-taught.” I got a couple of quizzical looks and a few half-smiles, and rightfully so. I won another hand, and my arm went up again. “Self-taught, ladies and gentlemen. No formal training whatsoever.” More smiles this time, and way more head-shaking from my friends. They started to come around though. When I was about to win a hand, Dusty asked, “Hey Dawg, did you take a class in blackjack recently?” “No, actually, I’m…SELF-TAUGHT, EVERYONE. LEARNED THIS MYSELF!”

On it went for hours upon hours. Every once in a while I wouldn’t say it because I’d be in the middle of a conversation, and I had the dealer once look at me puzzled and ask, “Self-taught?” But the highlight of the trip was when an old Asian man sitting at third base won a hand, and through a chuckle said, “Self-taught.” It was at maybe a fifth of the volume I’d been using for it, but I was thrilled. I said, “Yes!” as I pointed at him and then reached over for a high five. (That concept seems so foreign now – sitting close to strangers and touching them? Are you mad?!?!)

A year or so later, the next Vegas trip was upon us. I didn’t want to just bring the same awesomeness as before, so I invented a new catchphrase. This one was to be used sparingly, and more to amuse my friends than to have it become a running gag. Here’s the perfect scenario: I have 17 and the dealer has a 6 showing. I stay, and s/he flips over a ten, hits, and busts. Probably the least exciting way to win a hand of blackjack. And yet, that was my cue to use my new line: “Instant classic.” I’d say it slowly and not super loud, like I was still soaking up the moment and appreciating history in the making. It also worked when I’d have a 6 and a 2, for example, with the dealer showing a 7. I’d hit and get to 18, and the dealer would flip the face-down card over to show a 10, making 17. “Instant classic,” I’d say. The more mundane the better, and my friends would laugh quite often when I used it.

Some more time passed, and I had another trip planned and needed to prepare. I told my co-worker Kristen about this tradition and wanted to run some ideas by her. Kristen is the one who got me the Anonymous Potato, if you recall that post, so her humor is spot on. I told her about the previous catchphrases and what I was looking to do. I had a leader in the clubhouse and asked her opinion. This one was different, and I explained the rationale behind it. “Ohhhh,” she said. “That’s good.” I ran through the different modifications I’d use throughout the trip, and she couldn’t wait for me to go and come back so I could tell her how it all went.

The day arrived. We started playing, and Dave tried out a new phrase of his. I don’t remember it exactly, but it had something to do with needing a ten and some rhyme with “face” for a face card. I waited a little, and then after I won a hand, I proudly proclaimed, “It’s nacho time!” Then a half beat later, I said in an explaining tone, “Because they’re chips.” They all gave me the same look – a slightly scrunched-up face that said, “Yeah, I don’t think that really works and was hoping for more.” But I was just getting started. The next hand was also in my favor and I said, “It’s nacho time! Because, you see, these things are called chips and there are also chips in nachos.” The next time I won: “It’s nacho time! Because these are chips and nachos are a dish primarily comprised of tortilla chips, so it’s a pun.”

Here’s what I predicted and what happened: they fucking hated it. My friends couldn’t stand this schtick and got so angry every time I trotted it out. Naturally, like having an 11 against a bust card, I doubled down hard. If I had a 20 and it looked like the dealer was about to bust, I’d start pantomiming that I was pumping nacho cheese out of a metal container. Then I’d let everyone know that it was nacho time, and I’d explain why. “Why every time, Dawg? I hate you!” I know, I know.

Did I ever win them over? No, and they still hate me for it. However, there were some signs of light. “It’s nacho time!” I’d say, and Dave would jump in and ask, “Oh yeah, why’s that?” “I’m glad you asked,” I’d reply before explaining the rationale behind it. Dusty got creative and added his own spin to it. “It’s Ponch and John time!” he said once. “Because they’re CHiPS.” “Those gang members are wearing blue! Because they’re crips.” I think the Pigh once mentioned bringing out a wedge…because it’s used for chips. I don’t know if anyone made it Intel time on smaller bets (since it brought in microchips), but it’s possible. Regardless, I knew this would be a turn from an endearing catchphrase to combative performance art, and it was a fun change of pace. As I told Kristen beforehand, “This is going to annoy the living shit out of them. I can’t wait.”

I have no idea when our next Vegas trip will be – 2022 might be a safe bet. Whenever it is though, I’ll have to decide which direction I want to go. I did try out the nonsensical “No sugar tonight in my coffee!” line after a few wins, but it was neither funny nor annoying enough. (It’s a good song though.) It’s a difficult balance to strike, but I’m up for the challenge. Because I’m self-taught, and it’ll be an instant classic.