It plays second fiddle to Las Vegas and ugly duckling to Lake Tahoe, but it's my kind of town. The biggest little city in the world is Reno, Nev., and if you've never been there, you've never been anywhere.
And now -- and I'll get back to this momentarily -- Reno is home to my favorite franchise in all of sports.
This is a town that embraces gambling and bowling, and, like ESPN and 7-Elevens, it never closes!
(I'd move there tomorrow, except my current family just voted, 2-1, to allow me to stay).
The air is crisp and fresh -- well, other than secondhand smoke in most of the casinos -- and the backdrop is breathtakingly American, full of hopes and promise and, on occasion, shattered dreams.
Reno is large enough to change your life forever and small enough to pick up your dry cleaning easily.
When you call 911 in Reno, they give you winning keno numbers.
If I had to do it over again, I'd want to be born and raised in Reno.
At Reno Elementary School, you learn math by playing craps. At Reno Middle School, you pick up the basics of blackjack at recess. At Reno High, there is a weekly no-limit hold 'em tournament in the cafeteria. By the time you go to Reno Community College, you have all the tools to drop out of school and pursue a gaming career, if you desire.
And there's no traffic!
If Toni -- a.k.a. She Is The One (And Then Some) -- ever wants to renew our vows, we'll do it in Reno. Heck, even if she wants to disavow our vows -- and I'm just speaking hypothetically here -- we'll do it in Reno.
At the moment, I am working on a new song -- "I Left My King-High Heart Flush In Reno" -- to celebrate the city's intoxicating hold on my spirit.
Anyway, Reno just became even more of an urban haven for Couch Slouch. The Arizona Diamondbacks' longtime Class AAA Pacific Coast League affiliate, the Tucson Sidewinders, moved at the start of the 2009 season and are now the Reno Aces -- how great of a name is that? -- playing in the city's new stadium, Aces Ballpark.
The downtown park cost $50 million -- this is my only complaint; me and Ralph Cifaretto could've done it for $15 mil and still given Paulie Walnuts two no-shows -- and what a stadium it is: A cozy 9,100 seats, a family friendly lawn area from which to watch in right field, plus its own mini-Green Monster (minus Red Sox fans).
Tickets run from $7 to $29, with most seats in the $12-to-$15 range, which makes it semi-reasonable.
(Frankly, a minor league ticket should not cost $29, unless it includes Bull Durham on DVD and Susan Sarandon's private number.)
The Aces are my club now, sort of a Minor League Team of Destiny.
Sure, they're hanging around last place right now in the PCL Pacific South, but the team has a .350 hitter, Josh Whitesell, and, by season's end, I expect the bases will be full of Aces and Aces Ballpark will be holding a pennant-winning full house.
(Boy, I loved writing that sentence, and I'm only on my second PBR!)
If you come to one of the Aces' home games, be advised that the ballpark has no parking structure but there are 21 downtown-area lots within walking distance. Besides, it's good to stretch your legs; most everybody walked every day when America was first started, which precluded talk radio and Internet chat rooms from thriving.
Just remember: It's easy to get into town and into the ball yard.
Speaking of which, Tom Waits once sang, "We'll drive all the way to Reno on the wrong side of the road." I'm a big fan of Waits, but if you're driving to Reno, you can't be on the wrong side of the road.
Q. Would you support an investigation into the use of performance-enhancing substances in bass fishing? Those fish are clearly bigger, faster and stronger than they used to be. (Bob Lynch; Albany, N.Y.)
A. I actually ran into a steelhead a couple of weeks ago that was a cross between Mark McGwire and Moby Dick.
Q. On my flight from Albuquerque to Las Vegas, the flight attendant explained how to use a life vest. Isn't this as nonsensical as The Slouch saying, "I do?" (Herb Pasternak; Houston)
A. You are overlooking the canals in front of The Venetian.
Q. Have you sought professional counseling for your irrational bitterness toward the Celtics? (Stephen Miller; Indianapolis)
A. No. I hate the Celtics so much, I've stopped eating at Boston Market.
Q. Now that Dave Bing and Kevin Johnson have been elected mayors of major cities, is there a political future for World B. Free? (Mark Concannon; Whitefish Bay, Wis.)
A. Any question that includes the name World B. Free is an automatic winner.
Q. Why hasn't ESPN begun a nightly update show anchored by John Clayton on Brett Favre's status, similar to "Nightline"? Favre has held America hostage longer than Iran did. (Don Frese; Towson, Md.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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