Tag Archives: andy franco

ROAD TO NOWHERE

Foreword by Stan Lerner: the numbers came in last week “Road To Nowhere” was downtownster’s most read blog in September 2009, which at least to this author merits a reposting on the homepage. New readers enjoy! Longtime readers, enjoy again!!!

“If anybody would like to join the first downtownster road to nowhere road trip I’ll be leaving Thursday or Friday,” I said to the meeting of the Marketing Round Table. “I don’t know where we’re going or when we’ll get there, but that’s the idea. And uh, you could get on or off the trip at any time or place—providing that there is an airport of course.” NO TAKERS

Friday morning 4:30 a.m. the 1996, black, Chevy Suburban docked at the curb of my childhood home in Montebello, CA—Montebello is Italian for beautiful hills. And it is from this very spot, that I have departed for many an adventure. I am fortunate to, over an excessively well-lived lifetime, have developed a number of friends who are willing to embark on such journeys. And I should be careful to mention here that some of these individuals were mere acquaintances or even less familiar at the time of departures, but traveling and adventure make for far greater bonds than the songs of fraternity boys in their beer soaked homes.

This particular morning it was to be my old high school buddy Mike Munoz picking me up. Although he went to West Point and achieved the rank of Colonel I still refer to him as my Mexican—I find this term of endearment more special than he does.

“The 15?” he asked.

“Sure. Let’s grab breakfast in Vegas and see if Andy wants to come with…No his mom is visiting…Let’s grab breakfast in Vegas and stop by to see Andy anyway. Maybe he can meet up with us later… How many miles do you have on this thing?”

“One hundred and eighty-six thousand. Where do you want to eat in Vegas?” asked Mike, seemingly settled into our trip within minutes. Twenty-five years ago a trip in his yellow, convertible corvette took us from coast to coast…

“All these years I’ve been going to Vegas, working in Vegas, living in Vegas, and I’ve never eaten at The Egg and I. Have you?”

He shook his head. “No. Where is it?”

“On Sahara. Let’s go there.”

Forty minutes of good conversation ensued until…  “Hey that’s the 15,” I said pointing at the exit. The Suburban swung across five lanes of traffic as can only be accomplished at such an early hour on the 10 Freeway. We could have wound up in Palm Springs or Arizona for that matter, but that’s the point, it really didn’t matter.

“Hey, let’s pull off in Barstow I like the new Starbucks there—cute girl baristas.”

Mike shrugged. “Okay.”

ROAD TO NOWHERE PART II

The black Suburban rolled down the highway with the mean rumble of a venerated work vehicle. I raised the cappuccino, which I held in my hand, to my lips and took the first soothing sip. Given the distinctly not stylish clothing being warn by Mike and myself and the rugged “Road Warrior” appearance of our vehicle my choice of a cappuccino, as my early morning sustenance seemed a strange juxtaposition—black coffee would have been the appropriate beverage of such a portrait. Continue reading

THERE’S A NEW DON IN VEGAS

My history in Vegas dates back to the “Good Old Days.” If you know what I mean? And because of this, I’ve met a few Don’s in my time. But perhaps the most interesting of them all has recently come to power in Downtown Sin City, 624 S. Las Vegas Blvd—and that would be the extraordinary Don Vicente of Don Vicente Cigar Co. A robust man, born on the Pinar Del Rio tobacco plantation in Cuba his hands can roll a cigar with the magic possessed only by those born and raised breathing Cuban air, drinking Cuban water, and learning the craft from their fathers.

The story begins with a call from my life long friend Fat Andy. “You’re coming this weekend?”

“I don’t have reservations anywhere,” I replied, feeling a little sorry for myself.

“Stay at Dave The Jew’s,” suggested Andy.

“I don’t know…” Dave is a bad influence on me. And I thought I recalled him mentioning that five or ten attractive young ladies were going to be staying at the house for the weekend…Not easy to explain to my girlfriend.

“Come on.”

“Okay…I’ll leave first thing in the morning.”

 

THE NEXT DAY

 

I pulled up to Dave The Jew’s sprawling single story—I’ve stayed there so many times, it actually feels like home. Fat Andy greeted me at the door and with the help of a couple of servants that Dave apparently traded an ipod for, I was settled in—in no time.

“My boy!” shouted Dave upon entering the living room. “Let’s go smoke some cigars.”

I nodded toward the sliding glass windows, thinking that we’d be smoking poolside.

“No…we’re going to Don Vicente’s,” insisted Dave before I could get a word out.

“Is he related to Gambino?” I asked.

“Not that kind of Don. He opened a cigar factory on Las Vegas Blvd.—Downtown.” You’re going to love this place. It’s the best cigar for the money I’ve ever had and I’ve smoked the best.”

Now Dave The Jew may not work much, but when it comes to the finer things in life, he knows what he’s talking about.

We hopped into the SL and headed for the Strip. Continue reading