English Tie

Picked up a young guy from Thailand named "Narin" to drop him off at his Airbnb. He was a customer service rep. and was sent by his company to study English in Boston for a year. With only a few months left in his studies, he decided to fly from Boston to Vegas for a mini-vacation. He was very talkative and seemed to be proud of his English, which he spoke without any issues. Although every now and then, I had a hard time deciphering various words because of his accent. I would have to ask him to repeat himself until I figured it out. He never got frustrated or seemed to mind having to say a certain word over and over until it clicked in my head.

Unfortunately, his Airbnb was not in a great area of town and a bit of a drive from The Strip. As we drove towards his destination, I asked him if he had known it was this far out of the way when he booked it. He had not. He said that the neighborhood was very quiet and he liked his Airbnb host very much. I would have been disappointed if it had been my vacation but he seemed okay with it so I left it at that.

One of the things I always bring up to people from Boston is my love of the city of Salem, which is nearby and home of the Salem Witch hysteria. Actually, Danvers (known as Salem Village in 1692) is where it all started but Salem also played a large role later on. I was prepare to explain the Salem, Haunted Happenings that take place every Halloween but he had already been there and said he enjoyed it. 

Doctor Doctor, Please...

"Jim" was a guy who spoke for the entire trip. I tried to interject a few times but he just wanted to tell me about himself. So I listened. He was heading to the Peppermill restaurant which has been a Vegas staple for over forty years. There, he had a date waiting for him. He was full of energy and I suspected that it may have been from something other than nerves. He was a physician who split his time between New Orleans, Denver and Las Vegas but that's all he said about that.

When he got in the car, Led Zeppelin was playing on the radio. Jim told me that he played guitar and had been trying to improve his playing by trying to learn as many Led Zeppelin songs as possible. He played in a band back in the 90s and told me about the time his band had shared the stage with several other bands at a festival in Gainesville, Florida. At the time, he thought his band was just as good as any of the other bands on the bill that day. Years later, he found out that two of those bands were "Sister Hazel," and "Matchbox 20." He seemed frustrated that his band missed out on that level of success. The other guys in the band had been more concerned with getting laid and that pretty much put an end to their higher aspirations. When we arrived at the restaurant, he had me hold his can of soda as he took a deep breath. It was odd. But I wished him good luck and off he went. 

Hail Caesar!

Mark was a fine art consultant for a Gallery in Caesars Palace. He had spent a lot of time on cruise ships, in charge of the art auctions and sales that would take place on the ship. He enjoyed it as he was able to visit a lot of places all over the world. 

We spoke about the paranormal and he shared that on one cruise, a lot of workers claimed to have had odd experiences in their rooms. He described it as a "rash of paranormal activity." And it involved people hearing odd noises that they couldn't explain. One woman had claimed to have actually seen something but he immediately dismissed her as "a liar."

Mark said that he had several friends who had seen ghosts and he had no reason to question the validity of their stories. When I asked him what his definition was of a ghost, he was confused. "It's exactly what you would think. The spirit of a dead person," he said. But I explained to him that there were a lot of cases where a person or multiple people saw a "ghost" and it turned out that the person they saw was alive at the time of the sighting and in another part of the country or world. This surprised him as he had never heard of cases like that. I told him that a lot of this was documented in the 1800s. His response was, "Oh, the 1800s? Those people didn't know much back then and were probably easily fooled." I dropped the subject. 

As we neared the end of his ride, Mark told me that his days at the gallery were numbered. Nobody buys art any more. They all just come in, look and that's it. I wished him good luck, thanked him for the conversation and said goodbye.

Angel Maria

During the entire trip with Mark, I had another person in the back seat because it was an Uber Pool ride. Angel didn't say much and I didn't include him in the conversation with Mark. I felt bad about that and tried to make up for it as we headed towards his hotel. Unfortunately, it was really close and we didn't have much time.

Angel was from Puerto Rico and here on business. His wife was back home as she had been to Vegas before and had no interest in visiting again. Plus, the trip had been paid for by Angel's company so bringing her along really wasn't an option. He seemed pre-occupied and deep in thought. And for whatever reason, I forgot that Puerto Rico was about to be slammed by Hurricane Maria. That's probably what he was thinking about. Looking back, I should have brought this up and asked him if he and his wife were doing okay. 

David Letterman Changed My Life

I picked up Michael at a high school football game that had just ended. He was a senior at that school and during our drive, he found out what I did for a living and about my time as director of photography on "Pawn Stars." Once he heard about Pawn, it's all he wanted to talk about. I didn't mind as I love to talk about my experiences on that show. I also explained to him how I got into the business. 

I was studying computer science at Suffolk Community College in Selden, N.Y., where I grew up. I was struggling mightily with Calculus II and various programming classes. One day, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go see a live taping of David Letterman. Her cousin had to work and couldn't go. So it was my lucky day! 

As soon as I saw all of the cameras, I was hooked! The next day, I went to my guidance counselor and asked about switching my major to broadcasting. I remember him saying, "You don't want to do that. It's very difficult to get a job in television." And I said, "But not impossible?" He agreed. "Not impossible." That's all I needed to hear. I told my parents the next day. My dad wasn't happy but he realized it was my life and my decision.

I told Michael that no matter what anybody told him, he should choose a career that he would enjoy. If somebody tells him it's too difficult to get a job in that field, ignore them. Follow your passion and you'll never go wrong. And if for some reason it doesn't work out, you can tell yourself that at least you tried and gave it your all.  He appreciated that advice and I felt good giving it.


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