Vegas for a Florida Series

A little village called Goodland nestled in the Ten Thousand Islands on the Florida southwest coast received an unlikely visitor about fifteen years ago. It’s not a quaint and charming seaside village, but a scrappy drinking village with a fishing problem. A sandy road winds through the mangroves to a tiny marina at its town center surrounded by small cottages. There is a general store, one restaurant, and one bar. Most everyone there has a boat, and they cast for mackerel off their docks. The nearest industry is a cat food plant, and feral cats are everywhere.

The unlikely visitor was Donald Trump. The town was so excited to have a celebrity that they all came out to greet him and took pictures of the bar owner with him. He attended a town meeting and had a drink while schmoozing with the populous. Trump had been looking at Cape Romano as a possible place for one of his casinos or a resort. Yes, our sanctuary island could have become Mar-A- Lago.

In the end, the future So Called Ruler of the United States (SCROTUS), decided that there was not enough infrastructure to support his endeavor and it was too expensive to build. We were spared.

There have been Casinos built tho, primarily by the Seminole Indians. They have a special contract with the government and hold rights to the casinos in Florida. I’m not certain how Trump was going to edge into that market. Have one of his cronies change the law I suppose.

Dog racing, Jai-Alai, and card rooms are run by many organizations in Florida. While they bring the Seminoles much revenue, they are nothing compared to the Las Vegas casinos.

We just got back from a trip to Vegas. It was a fun trip and most of my research came via the Lyft and Uber drivers. They are very knowledgeable about their community. There seemed to be a consensus that the mob was a good thing and corporations are bad. See, the mob took care of their own. They only offed other mob members when there were issues, but they treated the general population with respect. They reinvested into the community, building schools, hospitals, and daycare facilities…whereas, the corporations have sharply increased prices, cut wages, and pocket their money.

MGM was the worst. When they moved in and started jacking up costs all the neighboring casinos did the same. There is a Trump Hotel there, but Trump doesn’t own it. He let it go when he was down on his luck and the people who bought it kept his name on it for branding. Little did they know, right?

There is a man by the name of Steve Wynn who has purchased much land and built up a major resort complex in the area. The Wynn and Encore hotels and casinos are the seventh largest in the world. Wynn is a savvy businessman and a major rival of Trump. His two properties collectively hold more Forbes five-star awards than any other resort and casino in the world.

We visited many of the famous places in Vegas along the strip, which is a mere four mile stretch of land, much smaller than the movies project it to be, and smaller than I realized. Our Hilton hotel was connected to the Miracle Mile underground mall home of the famous Halo bar and lounge.

Of course there was a casino there, as there was in every grocery store, restaurant, and hotel as well as the airport. But my favorite place in the mall was Lobster Me, a fast food joint that served the best lobster rolls and chowder west of the state of Maine.

My favorite place of all was dumpy little joint called Ellis Island. It’s lit up with green lights, can be seen from any hotel in Vegas, and boasts a couple of the best, and most affordable, restaurants in town. While Mon Ami Gabi was nice,

overlooking Bellagio Fountain, Ellis Island served us a huge slab of prime rib, mashed potatoes with gravy, and garlic green beans for a tiny sum of $8.00. They have a micro-brewery on-site, a Bar-B-Q pub and a full service restaurant. And, of course, slots. We managed to leave Vegas $2.50 to the good.

Another fun place for me, being the history lover that I am, was the Golden Nugget downtown on Fremont Street. The Golden Nugget was originally built in 1946, making it one of the oldest casinos in the city. Steve Wynn bought a stake in the Nugget, which he increased so that, in 1973, he became the majority shareholder, and the youngest casino owner in Las Vegas.

Fremont Street is Vintage Vegas. It’s the area you see in all the old Vegas movies:

Films

  • In the James Bondfilm Diamonds Are Forever (1971), the casino can be continually seen in the police chase scene.[5]
  • The casino can be seen in the beginning of the film Smokin’ Aces(2006), in which the antagonist cuts the ribbons for the casino’s grand opening.
  • In the film Next(2007), Nicolas Cage is briefly seen entering the Golden Nugget through the Fremont Street entrance.
  • The Golden Nuggetfeatures prominently in the poker mockumentary The Grand (2008).[6]

 

Television

  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents1959 episode “Man From The South”, the opening shot shows the Casino and Fremont St.
  • The Golden Nugget and Fremont Street are in the opening scene of “The Night Stalker” (1972) with reporter Carl Kolchak investigating a series of vampire murders in Las Vegas.
  • Vega$showed exterior shots of The Golden Nugget in the opening and closing slots and in the pilot episode
  • The Casino(2004), a Fox reality television series is based on the story of the Golden Nugget’s acquisition by Poster Financial Group.[7]
  • In 2010, the casino’s pool and shark aquarium were featured throughout an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

Video Games

  • In all Street Fighter IIgames (except HD Remix), Balrog’s (M. Bison in Japanese) stage is set in front of the Golden Nugget. The Golden Nugget sign is clearly seen in the back. In HD Remix, it has been changed to the “Crazy Buffalo”, presumably in reference to the name of Balrog’s original Super Combo.
  • The name Golden Nuggetalso designates casino games on Game Boy AdvanceNintendo 64 (known as Golden Nugget 64, and features a slideshow of the hotel and casino as a menu option), Nintendo DS (known as Golden Nugget Casino DS), PlayStation, and personal computers.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, the logo of the “Silver Rush,” formerly a gambling hall, shows a similarity to the logo of the “Golden Nugget.”

 

The expanded resort is built around two aquariums. The largest faces the swimming pool, and incorporates a slide through the tank containing full grown sharks.

The smaller aquarium is in the lobby of the Rush Tower. A total of five specialty restaurants were added: Vic & Anthony’s steakhouse, Grotto Ristorante, Lillie’s Asian Cuisine, Red Sushi and Chart House. The Chart House has a view of one of the aquariums.

It is along Fremont Street that you’ll find the Mob Museum, and the dozens of little wedding Chapels, Elvis, The Pink Cadlliac and more. There are quite a few jails down there, as well. Despite its glory, the area is a bit ghetto compared to the high-end Miracle Mile. Here is where you’ll witness most of the iconic Vegas signage.

We had a blast with our drivers. One I will always remember was Jacki…with an ‘I’. She was the splitting image of Brandi. I’ve promised her a scene in Book Two of the Naked Eye Series. Quite a character and an encyclopedia of Vegas tips and tricks.

We saw the Cirque du Soleil Beatles Love show and it was fantastic. Made me cry at the end when the National Guard drug all the old hippies off the stage. The fabulous costumes and lights coupled with extraordinary costumes and choreography with audience interaction made for the most spectacular show. The theme would have made John Lennon proud.

Frank Marinos Divas show was right up Brandi’s alley. The impersonators actually looked better than most of the celebrities. The sexy male dancers kept my attention.

All in all, it was a fun and informative trip and I am grateful for having had the experience. A nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. Bellagio Fountain was a pretty sight tho.

I think I’ll keep Richard and Brandi in Florida for the most part.

Book Two in the Naked Eye Series: Vegas, Florida Cowboys and Indians

Most of my writing these past few weeks has been marketing related. I’m jonesing to get back to creative fiction writing. I’ve been toying with the title of the next book. I was going to call it Naked Malice. But Naked Odds seems to suit the characters and gambling component that is expanded on.

We’ll be at SleuthFest in February, and then Vegas in April. There are a couple of scenes that take place in Vegas and I have never been. I’d like to get a feel for both the layout of the Strip and the people. (Being able to take in the Beatles Love Cirque du Soleil show is an added bonus.)

The Seminole Indians, (Native Americans to be more politically correct), here in Florida have a colorful recent history that is also finding its way into Book Two. Another fascinating tid-bit that I’m working in has to do with the “real” American cowboys. There were even Seminole Cowboys.

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Let’s start with the horse. Horses were not native to North America. Or were they?

Should the wild horses that roam North America be considered native wildlife? They may have been “introduced” by man, but scientific evidence suggests that they are genetically the same as the horses that became extinct on the continent between 11,000 and 13,000 years. In fact, the genus Equus could have been wiped out entirely had it not crossed the Bering Strait land bridge into Eurasia. 

Had it not been for previous westward migration, over the land bridge, into northwestern Russia (Siberia) and Asia, the horse would have faced complete extinction. However, Equus survived and spread to all continents of the globe, except Australia and Antarctica.

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Native status for wild horses would place these animals, under law, within a new category for management considerations. As a form of wildlife, embedded with wildness, ancient behavioral patterns, and the morphology and biology of a sensitive prey species, they may finally be released from the “livestock-gone-loose” appellation.

Those of us who have been here a while equate wild horses with cowboys and Indians. Anyone who grew up in the sixties (with, at most, three TV channels) has seen the Wild, Wild West movies and TV shows, which showcased and romanticized the life of both cowboys and Native Americans. So, where did the cowboy originate? Out west? Most would think so.

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In 1493, on Columbus’s second voyage to the Americas, Spanish horses, representing E. caballus, were brought back to North America, first in the Virgin Islands, and, in 1519, they were reintroduced on the continent, in modern-day Mexico, from where they radiated throughout the American Great Plains, after escape from their owners.

Wild Horse Herd stampeding

Wild Horse Herd stampeding

The historic American cowboy of the late 19th century arose from the vaquero traditions of northern Mexico and became a figure of special significance and legend.

However, out west in the 1880s, one loosely organized band was dubbed “The Cowboys,” and profited from smuggling cattle, alcohol, and tobacco across the U.S./Mexico border. It became an insult in the area to call someone a “cowboy,” as it suggested he was a horse thief, robber, or outlaw. Cattlemen were generally called herders or ranchers. They were gentlemen and rarely carried weapons (unlike the the cowboys of the wild west shows).

There is regional history of Cowboys; the Texas Cowboy, the California Cowboy, and others. They developed climate suitable regional attire. Florida has its own history of “Cowboys” and they are a proud bunch.

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The Florida “cowhunter” or “cracker cowboy” of the 19th and early 20th centuries was distinct from the Texas and California traditions. Florida cowboys did not use lassos to herd or capture cattle. Their primary tools were bullwhips and dogs. Since the Florida cowhunter did not need a saddle horn for anchoring a lariat, many did not use Western saddles, instead using a McClellan saddle. While some individuals wore boots that reached above the knees for protection from snakes, others wore brogans. They usually wore inexpensive wool or straw hats, and used ponchos for protection from rain.

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Cattle and horses were introduced into Florida in the 16th century . In the 18th century, CreekSeminole, and other Indian people moved into the depopulated areas of Florida and started herding the cattle left from the Spanish ranches. In the 19th century, most tribes in the area were dispossessed of their land and cattle and pushed south or west by white settlers and the United States government. By the middle of the 19th century white ranchers were running large herds of cattle on the extensive open range of central and southern Florida.

Horses first arrived on the southeast North American mainland in 1521, brought by Ponce de Leon on his second trip to the region, where they were used by officers, scouts and livestock herders. Later expeditions brought more horses and cattle to Spanish Florida. By the late 16th century, horses were used extensively in the local cattle business and by the late 17th century the industry was flourishing, especially in what is now northern Florida and southern Georgia. The horses brought to North America by the Spanish and subsequently bred there included Barbs, Garranos, Spanish Jennets, Sorraias, Andalusians and other Iberian breeds. Overall, they were relatively small and had physical traits distinctive of Spanish breeds, including short backs, sloping shoulders, low set tails and wide foreheads.

The vaquero tradition has had little influence in Florida.

The early cattle drivers, nicknamed Florida Crackers and Georgia Crackers, used the Spanish horses to drive cattle. The cowboys received their nickname from the distinctive cracking of their whips, and the name was transferred to both the horses they rode and the cattle they herded. Through their primary use as stock horses, the type developed into the Florida Cracker horse, known for its speed, endurance and agility. From the mid-16th century to the 1930s, this type was the predominant horse in the southeastern United States.These were replaced mostly by thoroughbreds after introduction of “screw worms” from imported cattle, and the Spanish breeds nearly went extinct.

Long before Mickey Mouse came to town, the major attractions in the Kissimmee/Orlando area were the local rodeos. You can still experience the traditional culture of Kissimmee’s cowboys through the Kissimmee Sports Arena Rodeo. The rodeo runs at least twice a month on Friday nights at 8 pm. The Florida cowboy, or Cracker Cowboy became a branding symbol in the 1930s-50s.

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There was a local watering hole called the Big Bamboo on highway #192 for decades. It was a bamboo structure that sat in the midst of a pasture when I was a child. All the cowboys came by to wet their whistles after a long day of herding and told their stories. A wrecked plane and rusted out ambulance graced the front yard, the owner keeping them there as conversation pieces. He was a funny old man and refused to sell the Big Bamboo when all of the million dollar hotels were going up around him. It wasn’t until he died at the turn of the 21st Century that his grandchildren sold off the property and the Big Bamboo was no more. It’s where I had my first taste of alcohol while visiting my Uncle Jim, who started Cypress Cove nudist resort.

But I digress.

Several documentaries have been made about the Cracker Cowboys as they fight to defend their ranch land from encroaching development. Here’s a short clip from one of them.

More than one of these Florida Cracker Cowboys makes his way into Book Two of the Naked Eye Series.

Naked Malice, or Naked Odds? ….the story focuses on some gambling and other issues surrounding gambling in Florida and how the Seminoles are dealing with getting rich quick.

Book Two in the Naked Eye Series Sprouts Wings

Being introduced to Social Services at a very early age as a result of entering the foster care program, I have always had an interest in social issues.

With my debut novel, Red Clay and Roses, I focused on the inequalities of people living in the Deep South during the 1950s-60s, Women’s Rights, and Civil Rights as I told the stories of a black family and an independent, high-spirited white woman and her relationship with an African-American man who was in medical school and became very active in the Civil Rights Movement.

For a long time, I pondered over how my social issues of interest could be written into genre specific novels. Historical fiction was not conducive to current issues, except by virtue of how it is that current issues came to be issues at all.

I read across many genres and have always loved a good crime novel. But what is “good” to me may differ from what is “good” to you. I enjoy the witty comedy of crime that is characteristic of Serge and Coleman in Tim Dorsey’s work. I love the way Carl Hiaasen integrates current issues and history into his eco-thrillers and crime stories along with humor. Randy Wayne White fascinates me with the historical elements of place and time and contemporary elements of technology and current events. Tim Baker keeps me amused with his iconic justice for Florida weirdo criminals. They are more than crime novels, they are adventure stories. Not gritty noir, not hardcore city streets…but regional crime fiction that illuminates the unique culture that is Florida.

With this in mind, I set out to write my first crime novel, Naked Alliances. My goal was to write a Florida regional crime fiction novel that addressed the social issue and crime of sex-trafficking. I chose a private investigator as a protagonist because they have the unique ability to sometimes skirt the law to accomplish their goals, yet have boundaries they are governed by. (Though, sometimes, my P.I. oversteps these.) Richard Noggin is a bit naive, and a bit scattered, but both brave and intelligent, in his own way. I wanted him to have a female co-protagonist who was strong, smart, and skilled…but not necessarily traditionally feminine. Brandi, a transsexual exotic dancer, who was a cop briefly, and served time in the military as an E.O.D. Specialist, became his sidekick.

I’m not a comedian, but wanted there to be opportunity for subtle humor, while keeping the social issues and crimes serious. To that ends, I’m quite satisfied with book one in the Naked Eye Series.

Naked Alliances should be released this September, if all goes well.

In keeping with Florida themed social issues and crime, I have completed the outline of my next book, titled Naked Malice.

Richard Noggin, P.I., a gambler, sets out to investigate the suspicious death of his investment partner and friend, Milton Rexrode, in Vegas, but another death at the Reedy Creek Kennel Club and Card Room raises his suspicions that another investment partner is guilty of murder. But when a string of young Seminole men in the 3320 member Seminole Nation die under suspicious circumstances, and the Federal agents investigating rule the deaths accidents, Council Elders fear these are crimes against humanity in a conspiracy to commit genocide.

Each and every Seminole man, woman and child receives a check of from $7000. to $150,000 per year from the tribes’ gaming industry and non-gaming enterprises. The tribes have quickly gone from poverty to immense wealth over the past three decades. With a new generation that has never lived in the thatched roof chickees of their ancestors, or suffered the deplorable conditions of reservation life in the sixties and seventies, new problems arise as they receive distributions that lead the young people to believe they do not need to go to school or work for a living. Crime, excessive gambling, financial irresponsibility, and drug and alcohol problems threaten the existence of their culture. This is the skeleton that forms the basis of my next crime novel.

Huge efforts are being made to bring the youth back into the fold and keep the nation and its culture intact.

The Seminoles were not originally a single tribe. They were an alliance of Northern Florida and Southern Georgia natives that banded together in the 1700’s to fight the European invaders, including people from the Creek, Miccosukee, Hitchiti and Oconee tribes. Later the alliance became even closer, and today the Seminoles are a united sovereign nation, even though their people speak two languages and have different cultural backgrounds.

I really want to shine a good light on the Seminoles. In recent years, they’ve taken a lot of heat for irresponsible fiscal management, and I’m trying to use the story to demonstrate the positives that are coming out of their progress.

Change in Plans on Crime Novel Series

Richard Noggin and Brandi already have a few fans. I’m happy that readers found them likeable and well developed.

Richard is a bit of a klutz. Not seriously useless, but not quite as adept as I had originally planned for him. That’s how characters sometimes take over and write their own stories.

Having a name that translates into dickhead might have been the impetus for his development, but I really think developing Brandi and her skills had more to do with it. I wanted her to be feminine, but tough. She frequently had to come to Richard’s rescue in book one, so she sort of came into her own, leaving Richard to appear to be floundering a tad.

Richard is still a smart guy. The outline I have for book two gives Richard a much greater leading role and Brandi sort of takes a back seat.

But here’s the thing:

I don’t know if I like this. Brandi has earned her place and pushing her into the background on this one doesn’t seem right.

So, I’m skipping what I planned for book two and proceeding with book three. Book three has a more interesting plot, whereas book two has a plot that, IMHO, has been done to death.

Book two deals with development encroaching on the environment. A noble cause. However, I must have read variations to that story a hundred times. Maybe I’ll come back to it.

So I’m going with what I had planned for book three as book two. It’s more obscure and I think it will be more fun.

Confused little old people are missing all over the country, with a significant number missing in Florida. Richard and Brandi must find out who, when, where and how. There’s a common denominator.

I’m working on my victim profiles now. We’ll see how this unfolds.

Potential victims:

To Kiss a Ghost by Becky M. Pourchot

After reading the first book, Food for a Hungry Ghost,  I was intrigued by Gala’s gift and trying to decide if it was truly a gift or a curse. The second book delves deeper into the origin of her abilities and her brother’s talents, as well.

After meeting an awkward, clumsy ghost in a local Inn, and falling for another ghost she spots in her acupuncturist’s clinic, Gala learns her “assignment” is much more important than simply entertaining the local ghost hunting tourists.

This book was slower in pace than the first book, but a lot deeper, and a little longer. The ending surprised me in a good way and I learned her ability truly was a gift.

This is a well-written book that approaches spirituality in a secular manner. I enjoyed it and would recommend it for any pre-teen, teen or adult who likes a good modern ghost story without the bloody terror of horror.

5 of 5 Stars

http://www.amazon.com/Kiss-Ghost-Hungry-Book-ebook/dp/B00C4J0WBW/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1420641393&sr=8-2&keywords=To+Kiss+a+Ghost

 

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Reedy Creek: The Launching Point of Book Two

My next book focuses on a crime that occurs south of the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID). This is an area of old world Florida that was raped to create Disney World. I say raped, although Disney’s RCID works hard to maintain the district now, because it has seen some dramatic changes over the past forty years that have totally disrupted the natural ecosystem.

Disney called on his friends to lead the way in turning the marshes, swamps and wetlands of Central Florida into what would become the Walt Disney World Resort.

The headwaters of Reedy Creek are not natural. An effort to demolish a stand of low rent housing unearthed the waters. The low-lying swamps were essentially drained into what became Reedy Creek. It is now in what is one of the busiest parts of the world. But there is some effort to maintain the beauty and cleanliness of it.

Walt Disney World sits on of 25,000 acres in Central Florida governed and managed by an essentially “private” government—the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID). RCID levies taxes on its residents, devises and enforces building codes, handles waste management and fire protection, issues bonds to finance infrastructure projects, and performs many other functions ordinarily performed by local governments.

With its headwaters in what is now Walt Disney World, Reedy Creek flows sluggishly southward through cypress swamps into pristine Lake Russell, and is one of the northernmost sources of water for the Everglades.

The Osceola County Schools Environmental Study Center has a nineteen acre area of Reedy Creek where you can walk out through the swamp.

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The cypress with its air-pine bromeliads growing on the trunks and the water fowl are powerfully breathtaking. I always think of the Indians who made this their homeland long before we came along. What we see as inhospitable, they made their homes and learned to work within the environment to survive.

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This nineteen-acre segment of the Reedy Creek Swamp offers elevated observation boardwalks, three hiking trails and indoor educational displays. You can see alligators sunning on turtles and turtles sunning on alligators.

The Reedy Creek Elementary school is an earth-bermed structure designed to be obscure in the natural habitat. Many Indian artifacts were unearthed when the school was built, including full-sized dugout canoes, which are on display inside the school.

Book Two of the Naked Eye Series begins as one of the private investigator’s former investment partners plans to work with the Seminole Indians to build a casino near the RCID and another one plans to build condos. One former partner ends up dead.