Chapter 14: What Happens In Vegas…

What year did the phrase, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” come out? Surely it was after May of 2002, right? Otherwise how do you explain a Canadian girl coming home from Sin City just to dump her boyfriend, quit her job, sell her car, sublet her apartment, and move to Huntington Beach for a guy she met on the dance floor who convinced her she was his soulmate? 

OR could it be that at the ripe age of 23, she thought the phrase was just in reference to the yard stick cup you spend $42 on to drink a watered down margarita out of? No point in dragging that through customs. 

(On a side note, I had a boyfriend once who was very inexperienced at filling out declaration forms, and thought he had to put down the amount of money he SPENT in the States, and not the value of items he was actually bringing back in to Canada. When the border agent asked him what he spent $2000 on, he casually said, “Mostly booze.” Took a few minutes to sort out.)

Upon returning to my cozy Glebe apartment, nestled behind Kettleman’s Bagels (24 hrs, FYI) I was very entertained by the messages Mr. Huntington Beach had left. He had NO voice after getting home from Vegas, so it was hard to make out anything he was saying. I’m probably to blame cuz we chose to get to know each other beside a blaring DJ.

I suppose I could have given him my cell, but considering the phone plans of 2002, he’d have to go on the land line list, just like Daddy Walkinshaw. WHO COULD AFFORD ALL THESE PHONE CALLS? 

(Plus I still had a boyfriend for a week or two.)

Our phone calls went long and late- super late for me since he was on the west coast. He had just quit his day job, convinced corporate America wasn’t for him. He took a job at BJ’s Pizza and Grill, which only made us feel more like soulmates because we were both servers at PIZZA restaurants! (Me, Boston Pizza, respectfully.) Both chains, so he didn’t really escape “corporate,” but how would I know that in Ottawa? (And no, I’m not going to insert blow job jokes into dating a guy who works at BJ’s. I had enough of those in my act already.)

I spent many nights driving down Bank St. to an internet cafe so I could instant message him on ICQ. (In hindsight, didn’t the sound this site made when you had a message sound like “UH-OH!”?) We’d spend hours online, then I’d return home so we could talk on the phone. He’d pay for the calls because we both knew Americans tipped better. 

One day, he finally broke down and declared.

“That’s it! I’m moving to Ottawa!”

This startled me for several reasons. 

First of all, it was WAY too soon after breaking up with my boyfriend. I might have been a dirt bag, but I did feel bad. I couldn’t just have a new boyfriend landing in Ottawa, immediately living with me. (Especially when I met him on a trip with my ex. BAD GIRL!)

Second of all…

If anyone is moving, shouldn’t it be me?

I’ve dreamt of living in California all my life. So many road trips to Disneyland as a kid, cruising up and down the I-5. It always felt so right to me, even if my dad was writing off family vacations by going to car auctions and buying used cars while we were at the pool. The most embarrassing year being the one my dad bought ex-cop cars to sell to cab companies in Vancouver. My parents drove separately with my sister and I each in black and white Chevy Caprices all the way from L.A. to Vancouver. The good news? Nobody ever cut us off. (I KNOW I have pictures of this in the motherland and I WILL publish them when I turn this blog into a book.)

So Mr. Huntington Beach put the pressure on.

“Okay, then you’re moving here!”

He did live mere blocks from the beach. Paled in comparison to my proximity to the canal… 

And we did have such a good connection…

Both Sagittarius’s…

It just made so much sense!

So I walked over to the travel agent on Bank Street.

“Hi, I’m looking for a one way ticket to L.A, maybe in like two weeks?”

(That’s how long a 23 year old thinks is takes to move across a continent.)

The travel agent was nice, but concerned. 

“Oh… can I ask why you need a one way ticket?”

“I’m moving there.”

“Do you have a Green Card?”

“No, I’ll get that once I’m there.”

“Oh… well it’s really not advisable to get a one way ticket into America right now. Since 9/11…”

That day was still haunting us.

“I’d recommend getting a return ticket. We’ll make it exchangeable so you can come back whenever you’re ready.”

Ummmm, I’m moving for my soulmate. I’ll never need the other half of that ticket. But I get it.

“Sure, let’s do that.”

I handed over my credit card with a $500 limit, and she handed me a ticket to LAX.

I had two weeks to binge work before my departure. I took every shift I could, and had one last weekend on the road, going back to Kingston. This time with a comic who coincidently lived in L.A, so I figured it was a sign! The hilarious Lisa Gay Tremblay was headlining. I told her the big news. She was VERY concerned.

“Wait?! What?! No! You can’t just move for some guy you just met! No, no, no!”

Should I tell her I already bought the ticket?

“Well, when it doesn’t work out, and you’re broke, can’t afford tampons, you call me! I’ll come pick you up, AND bring tampons.”

Jokes on her. I was still wearing pads.

The rest of my time on Planet Canada consisted of going away parties. And if I can recommend one thing to people in their early twenties, it would be DO NOT HAVE GOING AWAY PARTIES THE NIGHT BEFORE YOU MOVE!

Cuz guess what? Multiple people crashed in my living room that night, none of whom had the power to wake me up in time for my flight. I woke up 45 minutes before it took off.

Ooooops.

There was that hippy part of me thinking,

“Is this a sign?”

But I refused to believe this wasn’t meant to be. Plus nothing is more embarrassing than having multiple going away parties then still lurking in town.

I’m going.

So I marched back up Bank Street to Travel Cuts.

Same girl working.

“Hey… remember when you said I had to buy a return ticket… well I should have bought TWO one-ways. I missed my flight. Can you fix it?”

That miracle worker had me on a new flight by 6pm. Just enough time for me to squish in one last round at Mexicali Rosa’s, to prep for real Mexican food in my near future. 

And just like that, I left Canada even faster than a young comic today.

(The pic of me at the top of this blog is from Vegas in 2016 but this one is from 2002. You can tell by the weight difference and the Sens hat. Thanks again to Andrea for these pics of me, her and Tania:)

Chapter 13: The Real Foosball Wives of Las Vegas

I’m going to Vegas, baby! First time since turning 21. (I was so young I told people I was going to Atlanta too, just cuz I had a connecting flight there.) Sure I’m going with my boyfriend and I don’t think you’re supposed to do that, but I’m pumped. 

I figured the trip would be good for material too. I was currently trying to write a bit about how I’m always the girl in the back seat of an over packed car who had to sit horizontally across the three people actually wearing seat belts. You had to be very cautious of hiding your head from potential cops driving by. Apparently the designated driver to drunk person ratio in Ottawa that year was 7-1. 

But I was very stoked to accompany my boyfriend to his foosball tournament at the very glamorous Riviera on the Las Vegas Strip. Don’t forget it’s 2002, so a lot of these hotels hadn’t been demolished or blown up as a New Years Eve stunt yet. The boys were going to be busy training for the big games, so all the girlfriends joint forces so we could hit the club scene. 

As it turns out, we were in luck. It would be much easier to get into the hottest dance clubs without our boyfriends. Thank god for foosball! (And in my case, some poker tables which I know my bf ducked into after hours.)

My boyfriend’s foos (pronounced fooze) partner was Hussein, and his girlfriend Tanya became my bff instantly. I lucked out cuz she was super hot- a more showered, booby version of me. Made scoring a free Vodka Red Bull here and there way easier. (My boobs didn’t grow till my late 30’s, after decades of nachos.) Also, I think Red Bull was still banned in Canada at this point, so after I had three I thought I was gonna have a heart attack.

Despite the fact I desperately wanted to get into night clubs, I was a terrible dancer. At best I had the Britney hair flip down, but all my other moves just spilt other people’s drinks. But me and the foosball wives were lucky enough to get in to the esteemed Studio 54 in the MGM Grand. (These bars seem to change names every five years to keep up with the times but I believe it’s called Hakkasan now.) Tanya and I were busting a move to Sonique’s “It Feels So Good,” but I was in my head about my bad dancing and my possible heart attack. I could see some surfer looking dudes (DUDES- that’s what we called them before the word “bro” took off) laughing pretty hard on the dance floor. I had to assume they were laughing at me. Being a few years into comedy, I was getting really good at calling out my short comings, so I confronted them.

“Are you laughing at my dancing?”

This seemed to make them laugh even harder. One guy moves closer and responds.

“What?”

(Dance floor conversations. There’s a lot of “What?”’s.)

“ARE YOU LAUGHING AT MY DANCING?’

“NO!”

“YOU CAN TELL ME IF YOU ARE. I KNOW I’M A BAD DANCER.”

I’m good at breaking the ice, eh?

‘WHERE ARE YOU FROM?”

“OTTAWA!” 

“IOWA?”

“NO! OTTAWA!

Blank stare.

CANADA!”

Canadian cities don’t always register with Americans. 

We keep chatting on the dance floor until we realize it’s a bad spot to talk. We find a bench that’s not reserved for bottle service and some how end up talking for hours. 

When the foosball wives were ready to head back to the Riv, I tried to figure out a way to say goodbye to my new Huntington Beach dance partner. My cell phone didn’t work in America, or maybe it did but my bill would be a million dollars so that wasn’t an option. He suggests me and my friends come by the pool tomorrow at New York, New York. Too bad the only thing I’m more insecure about than my dancing is my body in a bathing suit. 

That ain’t happening, but I say “maybe” anyway. We hug goodbye. 

I thought that was it, but…

My last day in Vegas I was walking along the strip when I hear, 

“YOU!”

I turn and it’s Huntington Beach guy. And I know it’s inappropriate, but I was excited to see him.

“You didn’t come by the pool!”

“Oh ya I know. I don’t like my bathing suit. Sorry!”

“Well, I’m not letting you go this time.”

And from that moment on, he was by my side. We walked the strip until the sun went down and back up again. Imagine Before Sunrise, but all the European cities are fake and made in the late 90’s. If it wasn’t Vegas and 2002, I’d have more people to text and check in with. But some how that night went completely unnoticed by anyone except me and him. That’s what happens when you meet a fellow Sagittarius who’s as incapable of being practical as you. 

The last spot of the night was an after hours bar at the Venetian. Our desire to drink was fading, as it always does around your last day in Vegas. (Back then I thought three nights should be the MAX anyone stays in Vegas, but now I’m a rebel and can last two weeks. Mostly thanks to edibles.) Our conversation takes a turn for the hopeless romantic…

“Do you believe in soulmates?”

“Fuck ya, I do.”

“I think we might be soulmates…”

(I’ll leave it up to you, the reader, to decide who said what.)

I couldn’t even write this in my diary, because I was so ashamed (and worried someone might read it) but we did kiss. And it was powerful. The kind where you feel like you have a strong argument in favor of “love at first sight.” Was this cheating? Nothing else happened. It was just the peak of our bonding. A classic Vegas tale, really. 

But the kiss is always the moment when the person in a relationship knows they have to go. We walk to the cab stand and he holds my hand.

“Don’t go back to Canada. Come to Orange County with me. We have room for you in the car.”

I couldn’t help but think back to that bit I’m working on. I was tempted to ask, 

“Will I be sitting horizontal?”

But instead I just say,

“I wish.”

“Come on! I’ll take care of you!”

(We’re both 23 lolololol)

“You have my number.  You can call me.”

“Okay, but if you don’t come to me, I’m coming to Ottawa.”

I duck in my cab and wave goodbye.

At least he’s not calling it Iowa anymore. 

I get back to my hotel room and shockingly my bf is still playing poker somewhere. (Tragically, he did NOT win a foosball trophy.)

We head back to Atlanta, and then up to the mother land.

When I walk back into my sweet Glebe apartment, my answering machine is blinking. 

Mr. Huntington Beach is not letting this thing go.

Note: These pics are actually from a trip to Vegas later in 2002, featuring my Vancouver friends Andrea and Tania with an i. (I know a lot of Tanya/Tania’s.) These are not actual women who date foosball players. But they did witness me trying to learn the robot.

Chapter 12: A Relationship, Marijuana and 23-Year Old Female Comedian Walk Into a Bar…

I caved. I got a cell phone. It’s 2002- who knows? These things might actually become the norm. My plan includes 200 minutes Mon-Fri, and unlimited calls after 6pm and on weekends. Since I want to keep the bill down, I’m not giving my number to my boss and family. They can still believe I only have a land line. 

I’m also starting to have solid turn over in my love life- a sign you’re a true comedian! I have no patterns with dating, I just like who I like. My latest boyfriend is pretty much the opposite of the last one. He’s a bartender (so he has money) and also grows pot. His roommate didn’t want me to know, but I figured it out. I had questions, like,

“Who lives in your third bedroom and why are his lights always on?”

I was smoking a lot of pot myself, leading to many late nights of Bronson Pizza combos. Ottawa has a serious deep fried zucchini scene. To this day I don’t think I’ve ever been to a city with this as a staple on every menu in town. 

I started writing bits about my new vice. 

“I moved to Ottawa cuz I heard Parliament Hill was having a joint session.”

“I have a friend who doesn’t smoke pot, so I asked why and he said, “Cuz one time, I was smoking THE marijuana, and I was high for five days….” I’m thinking “Fuck… my dealer sucks. I have the stuff where you pass out with chicken tenders in your lap watching Ally McBeal .”

I was trying to figure out if I should call them chicken strips, tenders or fingers. Even without reading Judy Carter’s book, I was gravitating towards funny words.

The Ottawa comedy scene was really becoming a tight knit group. Rick Kaulbars wrote a movie called Hell Gig that we were all gonna be in. The whole gang- me, Ben Miner, Jon Steinberg, Jon Dore, Jen Grant, Oliver Gross, Mike Beatty, Don Kelly, Wendi Reed, Jason Laurans. Rick would direct it, and somehow the whole thing would be made in days, AND in Ottawa. I didn’t even know you could make movies in Ottawa. I tried in my last year at Carleton, but my tech skills were so bad I ended up with a cassette for my audio, and VHS for the actual movie. I had to hit play on both machines at the same time to present my project to my class.

(Me, Jen Grant and Rick Kaulbars. And I’m guessing Alexander Keith’s cuz that’s all anybody drank back then.)

Things were going pretty well. My boyfriend had finally come to one of my shows. It took a while. He had zero interest in stand up. If he wasn’t staying home to play online poker (which he told his parents was not real money,) he was busy with this foosball league. Our relationship was actually quite good, even if I did fake being Catholic in front of his family. (I took communion in their church lololol.*)

I was smoking a lot of pot. Sometimes I did my dishes so high, I’d hide all the knives afterward just in case someone broke into my apartment and didn’t bring their own. (CANADA, baby! Even high, I never worried about guns.) Meanwhile I’d pass out with my lava lamp still on and who knows what days of the week I was actually taking my Tri-Cyclen. 

I was also over thinking my relationship- BIG TIME. 

I was dating someone who had NO interest in comedy.

Was it my comedy, or comedy in general?

(Cut to me in 2021 not wanting any guy I’m interested in watching my comedy cuz I’m scared he won’t want to fuck me anymore.)

I had big dreams. But what were his dreams? Was foosball a good prospect for the future? Or growing weed? (In hindsight, it actually probably was.) It sounds cheesy to write now, but these diaries from 20 years ago pour it out. After returning from the Canada Loves New York rally at the end of 2001, I wrote this:

Here’s my little trick that will help determine whether or not you’ve found your ultimate goal in life and how I know what mine is: When you think about your passion for something and cannot fathom how anyone else in the world wouldn’t want to do the exact same thing, you have your dream.

(Remember I’m high, it’s post 9/11 and I’m 23. Don’t judge me.)

I didn’t feel like I was dating a guy with a dream. 

And it bothered me.

As much as I loved him, I decided we needed to break up. I was barely out of my old technique where I just avoided a guy until they broke up with me. This one would have to be done properly. I was really growing up.

I played Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” on repeat every night for weeks. It didn’t really help me figure out how to do it, but I did learn all the words.

I managed to get it done, but it didn’t take.

I make it sound like I was this straight forward about my reasons for breaking up to him, but in reality I probably said:

“So ya ummmm I think we should break up, but I’ll see you at work! Let’s see if we can get different shifts!”

A week later, we met at Irene’s, a classic dive pub on Bank Street in the Glebe. (Is it still there? Tell me it is!) It was such a weird location for an emotional conversation. The only goal I ever had at this bar was getting the cranky old waitress to like me. But now my barely ex was asking for clarification on our break up.

“Why…? We get along great.”

He was right. We really did. Sagittarius/Aquarius combo. Things that really meant something back then. I took a big gulp of my Keith’s and decided to spit out the corny truth.

“I have dreams… BIG ones… I don’t want to live in Ottawa forever. Don’t you have dreams…?”

And he responded with something so powerful I don’t even need my diary to remember:

“Maybe my dream is just to be in love with a great girl.”

Fuck. 

That’s a good one. 

I’m a dick. 

Instantly that line won me back.

And he added in another fun invite.

“Why don’t you come with me to my foosball tournament in Vegas? It’ll be fun.”

Oh that does sound like fun! We haven’t been anywhere other than Pembroke together. I’m IN!

Besides, what could possibly happen with a rocky relationship in Vegas…

To Be Continued…

(Because blogs don’t get red lights.)

*I finally came clean about not being Catholic. I tried to make it better by explaining my that family did go to church, we just went to a United one. (I left out the “once a year” part.) His uncle responded, “Ohhh, UNITED… just in case there’s a God…” I’ve never forgotten that. 

(Also, I fear this blog drifted between past and present tense. As a writer, I need you to know this bothers me. How did they do it in The Wonder Years?)

I’m bummed I don’t have more old shots of the Ottawa Yuk Yuk’s scene, but we didn’t live life on phones back then. Here’s one though: Jon Steinberg, Howard Wagman, Wafik Nasralla, me, Allison Dore, Tracey MacDonald, Jen Grant, Don Kelly and Pete Zedlacher even though he was from Toronto.

Also, here’s a clip from Hell Gig. I’m not even in this one, but it made me laugh my ass off.

https://www.facebook.com/kaulbars/videos/10150091150045525

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