The Best of 2020: Technology

One of my favorite categories to talk about and engage with others on is technology. Not only is it my day job but I would consider technology to also be a hobby and lifestyle of mine. Surprisingly 2020 gave us a lot of new technology; I guess that’s one thing that the pandemic couldn’t hold back. Some things were delayed, other things are supply constraint, but after it’s all said and done, nothing really got cancelled because of COVID. Good things come to those who wait so my top three picks this year were all released within a week of each other.

In order of release date, here are my three picks for best piece of technology sold in 2020:

Xbox Series X – November 10 | $499

The next generation of gaming is here! Finally we have solid state storage standard and get the amazing features like 120 frames per second and ray tracing. These are still really hard to find along with its counterpart the Sony PS5 due to high demand and low supply. Earlier this year I wrote about how you may want to put a new TV on your list as well to take full advantage of this new hardware.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max – November 13 | Starts at $999

The iPhone design is all new this year and Apple finally brought back the flat edge design that the iPad Pro has had for a few years now. In addition to the great new design, all new iPhones get 5G, OLED displays, and new colors. The best of them all, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, includes major changes to the three camera system producing some of the best photos you can get out of a smartphone. Two really great things about the new iPhones Pro are storage and video. Apple starts the Pro Max out at 128GB which is the sweet spot of storage for me. Lastly, the new iPhones Pro take HDR (Dolby Vision) video which may not seem like much, but when you watch it on your phone or an HDR TV, you really see the difference. I don’t want to take any other kind of videos again.

Apple MacBook Air – November 17 | Starts at $999

Earlier this summer Apple mentioned they would be ditching Intel for their processors and moving to their own, dubbed Apple Silicon. Now we have the first set of Macs which include the new Apple Silicon processors, the M1. It’s crazy to think that for only $999 you can get a tiny little laptop that has all day battery life and is faster than 90% of the computers out on the market, right now. We’ll probably never see leaps and bounds like this in computers again, so we have to relish it while it’s here. Anyone who asks me what computer they should buy, before they can finish I blurt out “MacBook Air with M1”. It’s great for everything from web browsing to professional video editing. It’s truly a great computer at a great price.

Honorable mention:
LG CX OLED 65″ TV | April – $2199.99

Check out more of my ‘Best of 2020’ —> Here

The Best of 2020: Songs

Much like my albums of the year, I’m listing my songs of the year. These songs are standouts and heavily rotated tracks in my library. Only one of the songs happens tp appear on my albums of 2020 list. Nevertheless, it was tough to only pick three, but by limiting that small amount I pull some truly great songs that I’ll be listening to for years to come.

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The Best of 2020: Music Albums

The past several years, I’ve done ‘The Best Albums’ of 2018 and 2019 because music is a very large part of my life, more so listening than playing. Because it’s 2020, I’ve switched it up and limited my picks to just three and this joins an expanded list of ‘Best of’ for this year.

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The Best of 2020: Video Games

This past year was a horrible year in more ways than one. I’ve decided to only talk about the best things that came out of 2020. Over the next several days until the end of the year, I will be posting about my favorite and best things that I experienced in 2020.

Starting with video games, much like other categories I’ll go over, being at home gave me a lot more time to appreciate these things.

The video games I have listed as my best for 2020 came from Xbox. There are some other games that should probably be on this list, but because I only have an Xbox at this time, I was unable to experience them.

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Want Next-Gen Gaming? You Need a New TV!

Thinking about getting a Sony PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series S|X this holiday season, or any point in the future? If so, the odds are your current TV won’t be good enough to get everything out of these next-gen1 consoles. Here’s why…

What’s Special About the Next-Gen Consoles

The next generation of console gaming is here and with it brings a variety of new technology that will make gaming exponentially better than previous generations. For starters, both new consoles come with solid state storage (finally!) that will make loading times 100 times faster than older systems. Another significant change is how similar the two major systems (PS5 & Xbox) compare in performance. In years past we could see an easy winner of performance on paper, but this generation, it’s much closer. The PS5 and Xbox Series X both make claims of achieving 120 frames per second2 at 4K resolution3 , which was previously only possible on very high-end computer rigs.

So Why Do I Need a New TV?

Let’s say for a moment you got a nice shiny new 4K TV a year or two ago and think that your new gaming system will look great on it. Yes it will display at 4K, but you won’t get the new features that allow 120fps gaming or advanced HDR4 for gaming. Keep in mind, if you’re TV isn’t updated, you’re better off waiting to get a new PlayStation or Xbox until you get a new TV or there is a specific game you want to play on the next-gen consoles. If you currently have a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One or One S, you’re not even currently getting above 1080P5 gaming. You need a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X6 to get the higher resolutions. If you’re fine with not getting the most out of your new system and just want the next-gen consoles, then you’re good to go and don’t need to keep reading.

What Do I Look for in a New TV?

There are three major keys to look for in a new TV for your next-gen console. I would make sure the TV you’re selecting has all of these features to make your experience the best it can be.

  1. HDMI version 2.1
    This is the latest spec of HDMI that allows 3x more data to go through the cable. Both systems have HDMI 2.1 ports, so your TV needs to as well.
  2. 120hz refresh rate
    This is how fast a TV refreshes the picture. Most TVs operate at 60hz. The 120hz refresh rate is needed to hit that 120fps mark.
  3. HDR10+ or Dolby Vision support
    These are competing HDR standards. This will allow you to get the most 4K/HDR content out of your new TV. I personally prefer Dolby Vision, but if you buy a Samsung, it will have HDR10+.

Bonus features to look for: VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), G-SYNC, FreeSync, HGiG, and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode)

Just Tell Me What TV to Buy

If you don’t want to look for a TV that has everything you could need to enjoy next-gen gaming, I have some recommendations for you.

  • Top Pick: LG CX OLED 55”, 65” or 77”
    • Has all the bells and whistles plus it’s OLED so it looks incredible
    • Supports Dolby Vision
  • Samsung Q80T LCD 55”, 65” or 75”
    • Great alternative to the high-priced OLED, also has everything you need
    • Supports HDR10+
  • Budget Pick: Vizio P Series Quantum X LCD 65”, 75”, or 85”
    • Great pick if you want a super-large TV
    • Supports both HDR10+ & Dolby Vision

If you’re interested in getting into the minute specifics of these details, it’s a great rabbit hole to go down, check out my favorite site, RTings, here:

Personally I chose the LG CX OLED 65” for my home theater and gaming TV. The TV was discounted heavily for the holidays and met all my requirements. Now all I have to do is wait for my Xbox Series X to show up.

Apple Watch Series 6 Review: Time Matured

Another year, another Apple Watch. Even amid the craziness of 2020 Apple found time to release an update to one of their still emerging products. I’ve been a fan of the Apple Watch since day one and it keeps getting better and better with each revision. I purchased the Apple Watch Series 6 on launch day making this my fifth watch since the original in 2015.

Just like last year, there aren’t a lot of major changes, especially when views as a year over year change. The Series 6 still looks the same and comes in the same sizes as the Series 4 and 5. The biggest three changes this year are the addition of the blood oxygen sensor, new case colors, and better always-on display.

The Series 5 finally gave me a feature that I’ve been longing for ever since the first Apple Watch, the always-on display. This allows you to view information on your watch without having to raise or flip your wrist. The Series 6 expands on that with a brighter display that allows you to see it better in sunlight (in always-on mode).

Something that is pretty relevant right now with COVID-19 being a respiratory disease, is the ability to measure your blood oxygen level. You may have seen this in your doctor’s office when they put a sensor on your finger to get your pulse and a percentage usually in the high 90s. Apple warns that this is not a health device so it should only be viewed as informational. I suspect this is just a liability protection until they can get FDA clearance like the ECG.

Apple Watch rear sensors

I used the Apple Watch blood oxygen reading and a traditional sensor and they both resulted in 99%. To me, this justifies the level of accuracy I would expect out of this device. Just like the ECG in the Series 5 (which is still present and the same in Series 6) I’ll probably only use this occasionally when I remember it exists. The watch will also take background measurements when you are idle, which could be interesting to track.

For the first time ever, we finally have actual colors in the Apple Watch. Instead of the usual silver, space gray, and gold finishes, we get an anodized blue and red finish for the Series 6. These look great in person with and have a similar matte finish as the iPhone 11. The stainless model also got a refined finish changing the black to graphite.

The model I went with is the Apple Watch Series 6 44mm Graphite Stainless Steel. Usually I opt for the Aluminum “Sport” versions, but after a few years of my watch face getting severely scratched I find the stainless model (which features a sapphire crystal lens) to be better against scratches.

In addition to a new Apple Watch Series 6, Apple introduced a lower-priced SE version. This is the same as the Series 6, but without the blood oxygen sensor, ECG, and always-on display. This creates a good, better, best structure to the Apple Watch tiers allowing a wider variety of buyers.

New watches usually come with new bands and this time around Apple debuted a new style called the Solo Loop. Similar to the original Sport Bands, this is a single piece of silicone that you can stretch around your hand to attach to your wrist. These bands come in 12 different sizes (1 – 12) to fit a wide variety of wrists. Downside to this is it’s not like shoes where most people know their size. You have to measure your wrist and hope it’s correct. Apple provides a printable measuring tool to measure your wrist. The tool told me I was a size 12, but I concluded a 11 would be a better fit. After getting the band, I could have gone down to a 10, but that might be too tight. If you but a Solo Loop band with an Apple Watch, and it doesn’t fit, you have to return the entire watch and band to get another one. This is a difficult online-only purchase as in-store try ons would be great for this item.

Update: I have since reached out to Apple about their Solo Loop sizing debacle. They have revised their return policy to allow returning of the band purchased with the watch. Apple also update their sizing guide to make it more clear that it needs to be a tight measurement. They are sending me a size 10 and a box to send them the too large size 11 back. To make things right, they’re also gifting me a Sport Band for my troubles.

Apple Watch on wrist
Apple Watch Series 6 44mm Graphite Stainless Steel
Wrapped in Longvadon Caiman Band

Of course you don’t have to use a watch band made by Apple. One of my favorite bands are made by the good folks over at Longvadon. They make luxury watch bands that pair great with an Apple Watch. Made to look like they came right off a high-end luxury traditional watch. The cost of these bands slots nicely between the cheap knockoffs and the really expensive Apple bands. My favorite thing about these Longvadon bands is they combine the traditional metal clasp with a buckle fastener, meaning you can just unclasp the watch and slide it off your hand instead of fiddling with the buckle. Pictured above is the ‘Men’s Whiskey Brown w/ Silver Details’ from their Caiman Series. It has a beautiful embossed crocodile pattern on top of high quality top grain bovine leather. The inside of the strap is very comfortable and soft. Shortly after I got my Apple Watch Series 6 I had a wedding to attend and the Longvadon watch band was the perfect way to class up my watch for the formal occasion. You can get your own Longvadon watch band on their website use my exclusive code ‘BEN20’ to save 20% off all products in their store!

There’s always a great reason to get a new Apple Watch, and this year’s lineup is no exception. With all the fitness and health benefits of an Apple Watch I recommend any iPhone user (and now their kids) look into being an Apple Watch wearer.

Like the watch faces you see here? Download those and more on my Apple Watch face page.

Read more about my thoughts on the Apple Watch

Introducing: Double B Garage

Double B Garage Logo

For some time now I’ve wanted to get into video content that can help people with the same interests as me.

I’ve created the YouTube channel Double B Garage to share some of my experiences with vehicles. Wether it be repair, mods, or reviews, I feel my content will be valuable to someone.

So far I’ve published two videos, with more to come. Check them out below:

YETI cooler storage in Jeep Wrangler
Wireless CarPlay in Jeep Wrangler

Working Whilst Home

Some of us are working from home full or part time for the first time ever. As a technology professional that’s been in the game for more than 10 years, here are my thoughts.

My standing desk WFH setup

Working from home (WFH) isn’t easy if you’re used to going to an office or another location every day. Some people love and others hate it. I come down somewhere in the middle. In my past I’ve had a job where I consistently worked from home at least once per week, by choice. Now that some of us are forced to spend both our working day and personal time at home, things need adjusted.

Simulating A Normal Work Day

Firstly, you should have a dedicated space where you can go work. Not your living room sofa, dining room table, or garage work bench. Hopefully you’re fortunate enough to have an office space or a spare room you can isolate yourself in. This allows you to have a place to go to start working and to leave when you’re done. Additionally, if you share your shelter with other people, you can use this space as an off-limits working area.

Before going to your work space and after you get out of bed, try to do some normal things just like you would before you would go to work. Take a shower, get dressed, make coffee, have a snack, or whatever you can do to make it a normal work day. Once you get to your computer you should be ready to work.

I’ve tried to replicate my work setup from my office as much as possible to be the most efficient. I have a standing desk at work so a few months ago (not knowing there was going to be a pandemic) I purchased a smaller sit/stand desk at home. Being used to standing while working all day and then sitting at home doesn’t work for me. Now I can stand all day just like I do at work and not feel the pains of sitting for eight hours per day.


A hurdle that most people have when they work from home is not having the same technology they’re used to from work. You may find yourself being stuck using a 13-inch laptop now instead of your dual 20-inch monitor setup at the office. Yes you can go out and buy monitors for home, but in reality you probably can accomplish up to 80% of the work you previously were able to do just fine on your laptop. It may take some adjustment and learning periods, but it’s definitely possible. If you find yourself using your own personal technology for work, you may want to make sure you have a compatible computer with your employer’s systems. Hopefully your IT department will be able to give you some guidance on that.

Most of our jobs in 2020 do not require you to print. If you’re used to being able to print anything/everything in the office, that doesn’t mean you need to do that at home. Try reviewing documents on a computer or tablet screen prior to needing to print. Your IT support people will thank you for not having to support a home printer.

Be sure to stay in touch with coworkers and family during this time. Zoom, FaceTime, Teams, Skype, and much more are great ways to communicate with people not in your same geographical location. Try to do video calls as much as possible instead of a voice call. This will allow you see other faces and feel a little more connected.

Staying Busy

Some people say they are more productive at home (me included) because there are less distractions or interruptions. Sometimes you are so productive at home that you may run out of things to do. An important part of working from home is staying busy so you’re not watching the clock or doing too many non-work related tasks. One way you can stay busy is dig through that pile of projects or tasks you’ve been putting off for the last year. Most of these things are time consuming and require concentration that you may not have in your normal work day. What else do you have besides time at home now, it may the right time to take a stab at them. Another way is to ask your peers or manager for things you can be doing. Every company I’ve worked for has organizational tasks that can be done during slow periods. You may even find yourself learning something new when helping out a peer.


Taking time for yourself during the day is essential to your mental health during an extended work from home period. Be sure to take ample breaks and get away from your workstation for a few moments. Some ways you can take a break can be walking your dog, throw in a load of laundry, go grab the mail, take a shower, or make yourself an espresso.

Some things you should not do during a break are scroll through social media, watch TV, read the news, get a snack, or play a game on your phone. Activities like these lead to decreased productivity and a feeling of doing the same thing over and over again. It’s important to physically move around during the day, especially if you’ve been sitting a lot. Also, set aside a time of day to catch up on the news. Don’t stress yourself with reading everything as it comes in.


When you’re at home all day, nowhere to go, no one to see, it can be easy to head for the pantry for a snack. It’s paramount to your health, and food supply, to avoid snacking more than usual while working from home. Try not to eat more or worse than you would on a normal work day. An easy way to prevent this from happening is simple, don’t buy any bad snacks. If you don’t have chips in the house, you won’t want to go look for them.

Pick a good stopping point or time to eat lunch. During this time you can focus on something else other than work. Make a sandwich and sit down and have a chat with someone or call a relative.


I’ve long believed distractions can be good and lead to higher productivity. As long as the distractions are short and constructive, you can try to implement some of these into your daily routine. In addition to the suggestions I went over in the breaks section you can try other short brain stimulating activities that allow you to focus on something else for a few moments. Some activities I would suggest are a quick game of table tennis with a spouse, work on some language learning in Duolingo, shoot some hoops, work on a puzzle, check the oil in your car, or sit on your porch and enjoy the weather.

After one of these activities you can feel refreshed, distressed, and ready to get back to work. You’ll start to notice that you will be looking forward to one of these distractions and might even try to work harder to get there quicker. Don’t be afraid to schedule things during the work day, providing your employer doesn’t make you stay glued to your computer all day, you could have a standing chess meeting with cohabitant.

Make The Most Of It

The single most important thing about working from home more than usual is to make the most of it. Of course it’s not ideal for some, but if you sit and pout about it all day, that doesn’t help anyone. Try some of the suggestions above to make more of your day and don’t forget to stop working when the day is done. Just because you’re still at home and can work doesn’t mean you should. Take time for yourself, your family, and/or your friends.

Oscar Nominations 2020

The 92nd annual Academy Awards (Oscars) air Sunday February 9, 2020 on ABC

Back again for 2020 are the Beard Blog Oscars picks.

I made a determined effort to see as many nominated films this year before the awards.

Overall I feel like this year was a hell of lot better than last year. Some big names really showed out this year and put forth a plethora of legendary performances. This is a very difficult year to not only predict but also decide on which film / whom I thought was the best.

Overall, Once upon a Time…in Hollywood was my favorite movie but I’ll admit I’m partial to both QT2 and LDC3 and I think they put together a great movie. Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie also had great parts in OUATIH.1

Scarlett Johansson had a great year with an amazing performance in Marriage Story and an interesting portrayal in Jojo Rabbit.

Parasite seemed to come out of nowhere and while I wasn’t excited about reading subtitles throughout an entire movie, they disappear into the great story behind them. This is also the 12th time a foreign language film was nominated for Best Picture. And also for the second year in a row after last year’s nomination for Roma.

1917 was a great war epic that was uniquely shot and looks fantastic. This will probably win a lot of awards thanks to the director/writer’s personal ties to the film.

I felt like Joker was a bit overrated, but I can see why people hold it highly just based on the performance by Joaquin Phoenix. This is considered to be another comic book movie, but if you’ve seen Joker, you’ll realize it was just set in the world of Gotham City.

One of the longest movies ever nominated (Gone With the Wind holds the record) The Irishman. This seems like the final chapter in a long career of great films between Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro, and Joe Pesci. If you can get through the over three and a half hours this clocks in at, you’ll be delighted by how the story wraps up.

Knives Out was a great take on murder mysteries that also seemed to come out of nowhere. A great cast and superb writing could make this a sleeper this year.

I felt Ford v. Ferrari was a great bio film but may leave some audiences out if they don’t appreciate motorsports and/or the history of cars.

Jojo Rabbit is a weird look at WWII Germany. I found it entertaining and witty, but not Best Picture worthy.

The nominees are below, in bold is who I think should win, and in italics are what I think the academy will give the Oscars to.

  • Best Picture
    • Ford v Ferrari
    • The Irishman
    • Jojo Rabbit
    • Joker
    • Little Women
    • Marriage Story
    • 1917
    • Once upon a Time…in Hollywood
    • Parasite
  • Actor in a Leading Role
    • Antonia Banderas – Pain and Glory
    • Leonardo DiCaprio – OUATIH1
    • Adam Driver – Marriage Story
    • Joaquin Phoenix – Joker
    • Jonathan Pryce – The Two Popes
  • Actress in a Leading Role
    • Cynthia Erivo – Harriet
    • Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story
    • Saoirse Ronan – Little Women
    • Charlize Theron – Bombshell
    • Renee Zellweger – Judy
  • Actor in a Supporting Role
    • Tom Hanks – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
    • Anthony Hopkins – The Two Popes
    • Al Pacino – The Irishman
    • Joe Pesci – The Irishman
    • Brad Pitt – OUATIH1
  • Actress in a Supporting Role
    • Kathy Bates – Richard Jewell
    • Laura Dern – Marriage Story
    • Scarlett Johansson – Jojo Rabbit
    • Florence Pugh – Little Women
    • Margot Robbie – Bombshell
  • Directing
    • Martin Scorsese – The Irishman
    • Todd Phillips – Joker
    • Sam Mendes – 1917
    • OUATIH1 – Quentin Tarantino
    • Bong Joon Ho – Parasite
  • Writing (Adapted)
    • Steven Zaillian – The Irishman
    • Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit
    • Todd Phillips – Joker
    • Greta Gerwig – Little Women
    • Anything McCarten – The Two Popes
  • Writing (Original)
    • Rian Johnson – Knives Out
    • Noah Baumbach – Marriage Story
    • Sam Mendes – 1917
    • Quentin Tarantino – OUATIH1
    • Bong Joon Ho – Parasite

Disclosure – Movies on this list I have not yet seen at time of publishing:

  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  • Harriet
  • Little Women
  • Pain and Glory
  • Richard Jewell
  • The Two Popes

Check out my Oscars predictions from last year!

1 Once upon a Time…in Hollywood
2 Quentin Tarantino
3 Leonardo DiCaprio

About Last Saturday Night…

This past Saturday night my wife and I went out with some friends for a low key evening in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. The night started off just like any other Saturday but where it went was something out of a movie, like The Hangover. I’m writing about this to share the story but also for my personal memory as the further we get from the night, the less I will remember. Also, because I did not get permission from anyone, I will be changing all the names as to not identify people.

My friend Heather and I were texting back and forth about hanging out on Saturday and never really decided on anything. After her husband Chris got home from work she mentioned about having a herf at a local cigar lounge. Most of them in the area, including a new local spot nearby, close in the early evening. Heather recommended a fancy spot in the Strip District called Cioppino which is a restaurant with a Gatsby-style cigar lounge in the back. We decided on a time and had to change because this place has an unspoken business casual dress code. I packed up my own cigars and accessories before we left, I brought two different sticks because I wasn’t sure what I would be in the mood for later that evening. We left the house around 8:00pm, said goodbye to the dogs, and expected to be back within a couple hours.

When my wife and I arrived in the Strip District we were expecting to have to valet the car, but to our surprise there was a parking garage directly above the restaurant. We found a spot on the second floor right near the stairs we needed to descend to get to Cioppino. It was a warmer night than a usual late January evening so I decided to leave my coat in the car which would save it from cigar stench. At the bottom of the stairs we had to brave the cold wind for a moment to walk around to the entrance of the restaurant. When we walked inside we were immediately hit with the smell of fresh seafood and I remember thinking, “There’s a cigar lounge in here?”. I quickly greeted the host mentioning we were meeting friends but we weren’t sure where the cigar bar was. He replied eagerly, “Let me show you since most people get lost on the way, follow me”. We literally walked around the corner and straight through a door labeled “No smoking beyond this point”. I wasn’t sure how anyone would get lost on that treacherous journey. Walking in we were hit with the unmistakable aroma of cigars burning, but pleasantly surprised at how nice and welcoming the lounge was. After finding a table for four we sat down and ordered two diet Cuba Libre drinks and waited for our friends.

Heather and Chris arrived a few moments later and we start to enjoy our chosen stogies for the night. I went with a “M by Macanudo” which is a Columbian coffee infused cigar with an Indonesian Bezuki wrapper. This was very smooth and enjoyable. As I sipped my drink and smoked my cigar we all traded pleasantries and discussed how our respective jobs were going. Directly behind us was a couple who were obvious cigar newbies. They ordered two expensive large cigars and I thought to myself “Good, I’m glad they’re jumping right into it”. Later on, Chris told me to carefully look behind me and check out that same couple. As I glanced over my shoulder I immediately noticed the problem. Sometimes cigar manufacturers include a thin wrapper around the outer leaf made out of cedar. This is intended to protect the outer leaf as well as maintain the bouquet of tobacco aromas. Normally, you use this cedar wrapper to light your cigar or remove and discard. The couple behind us smoked their entire cigar with the cedar wrapper attached. That had to have been a bad experience. The cedar taste must not have deterred them because after they finished those they went back for two more.

About an hour and a half passed and I decided I was going to smoke my other cigar before the lounge closed up shop. At the table adjacent to us were two men having a good time but were clearly from out of town. One of the guys saw Chris’ travel humidor and began to engage him in cigar talk. They shared what they had with them and opted to trade each other cigars. Both Chris and this stranger are very outgoing and introduced everyone to each other. We all began talking about work, travel, and cigars. The two guys, Shawn and Brad, were naming all the places they’ve been and where to get the best cigars. Curious, my wife asked Shawn what they did for a living since they got to travel for work so often. Shawn responded, “well… you guys don’t seem like terrorists so we can tell you, we’re Federal Air Marshals”. We all gasped in shock because we weren’t expecting that as an answer. I’m not normally one to engage in meaningless conversations with strangers, but I remember thinking “Ok, these guys are actually interesting”.

The six of us probably chatted for an hour about cigars, whiskey, and air travel. Stephanie was in a daring mood so she was trying a new flavor of Jameson Irish Whiskey she hadn’t tried before. After that, Shawn ordered her a glass of some fancier, more expensive, Jameson for her to try. While it was nice of him, I felt like he may have been trying to hit on her. Shawn and Brad were wondering where they should go next since the night was still young. Chris half-jokingly said they should go to a gentleman’s club right up street. Shawn seemed all for it, but since it was late the four of us were going to turn in for the evening.

After more conversation and planning Chris offered to drive our two new friends to the gentleman’s club since they didn’t have a car. Chris also happened to know someone who worked in the club that would allow us to get in for free instead of paying the steep cover charge. Feeling a bit adventurous we all agreed to go along and see where this would end up. Personally, I love to say “yes” to things as much as possible, within reason, and that’s how situations like these arise. We quickly paid the bill, paid for parking, and exited the garage to head down the street. Upon arriving at Cheerleaders gentleman’s club they had mandatory valet parking for $8.00. Because I had no cash, I had to get my wife to pay for it and she brought me cash and we headed inside. We proceeded through the metal detectors and past the cashier, thanks to Chris’ friend, into the club. I went to get some change for the large bills of cash we had and by the time I turned around, Chris was sitting in a very large VIP area. I walked over and said, “is this for us?” He replied, “Hell yeah this is for us!”

This is when the night quickly escalated. Three of us ordered more diet Cuba Libre drinks and I headed to the restroom. Upon my return, instead of a glass of Captain Morgan and Diet Coke on the table I found an entire bottle of Captain Morgan. Shawn had purchased this bottle service for us. We were astonished and extremely grateful. Shawn and Brad continued to drinks glasses of Jameson whiskey, piggybacking on the ones they had at the cigar lounge. A nice middle-aged women came to our VIP area and offered neck massages for about $20. Earlier that morning I attended a yoga class so my shoulders were quite sore. Chris went first and gave his recommendation on the massage so I signed up to be next. It was a pretty good neck massage but it kind of creeped me out being massaged in a gentleman’s club VIP booth. After the massage we toasted to meeting new friends and continued to work on that bottle of Captain Morgan. If you have ever been around people that are drinking, it seems all they want to do is have you drink more with them. As the designated driver for my wife and I, I was making sure I wasn’t drinking too much. To not be a party pooper, I would drip a few drops of rum into my glass and fill it the rest of the way up with Coke. This worked most of the time until one of the drunken guys would make a drink for me. I must have had seven or eight glasses of Diet Coke that night.

If you ever been to a gentleman’s club or a strip club you may have experienced the sales tactics of the women who work the floor. They will continually come up to you and ask for drinks, dances, or whatever, just to make some money. I appreciate their hustle, but I will not be fooled into spending money on them. One young girl stopped by our area and started giving Brad the sales pitches. He wasn’t drunk enough to fall for it and she quickly left. Chris and I were the only sober ones in our six person crew so we commented about how crazy it was that we ended up here. Shawn would periodically make his way around the club checking out the girls, giving tips, and buying drinks. Meanwhile the four of us pretty much stayed in our VIP area, standing around drinking except for the several trips to the restrooms. Later the same girl who was working on Brad came back and must have sweet talked him just enough for him to agree to go in the back with her. Now I’ve been to a few bachelor parties and know what goes on back there (nothing illegal), how much it costs, and how long it takes. Brad quickly came back within two or three minutes. I knew something was wrong when I saw him walking back and then I saw his face. He couldn’t really speak clearly, whether he was in shock or just intoxicated, but all I really got out of him when I asked what happened was, “I felt bad for her, she’s so young, I don’t know, I just felt bad for her”. At this point I urged everyone to cut him off from drinking but this fell on deaf ears of his travel companion. The Jameson shots kept coming out in succession.

In the booth next to ours was a large group of young ladies, I’d say about 15 of them piled into a small sitting area. We immediately thought bachelorette party, but as the night went on, they didn’t exude that vibe. Finally, Chris asked one of the ladies what they were celebrating and how we immediately thought it was a bachelorette party. She scoffed at this notion and proceeded to explain how she used to work here and was working somewhere else, but is leaving that job, so they were all out celebrating her last day. Brad became completely interested in this girl and began talking to her and flirting. At one point Shawn, Brad, and the neighbor girl (I never caught her name) were playing a game where they bet shots on guessing age and ethnicity. She lost and had to take two shots, but I could tell she was nervous about taking drinks from these guys. I didn’t have any reason to suspect foul play so I didn’t interfere. At this point I lost track of how many Jameson shots these two guys had. Shawn was still functioning, but Brad could barely stand.

Shawn and I had some great conversations about being a Federal Air Marshal and how that impacts his home life. Without giving away too much personal information, Shawn is a second generation Air Marshal who has been serving for over 15 years.

Brad was still over talking to our neighbor who didn’t want to leave her party, but was interested in ours. At one point I saw him climbing over the wall between our areas, knocking over some glasses, and falling into the booth. Some of us thought, “He’s going to get us kicked out of here”. Our bottle of rum was about 1/4 full and we were ready to hit the road, it was 2:00am at this point. Shawn convinced us to stay and finish the bottle while he ordered up some more shots. I was standing by the railing, which separated our VIP area from the main bar area, holding my drink when two girls approached me. They reached out to shake my hand so I switched my drink to my left hand, wiped off any condensation on my jeans and shook their hand. They noted how cold my hand was and I explained it was because I was holding my drink there. They then started to comment on how big my hands where and made insinuating facial expressions. I know this as one their sales tactics, so I played along. One of the girls said to me, “you have really big hands, that must mean…” and she reached for my crotch and said “do you mind?” I said no, but motioned behind me and said “You’ll have to ask my wife.” They immediately said “oh no!” While quickly turning and walking away. I laughed and walked behind me and told the story to Stephanie and Heather. Those two were pretty intoxicated at this point so they laughed along.

Another nice young girl approached Brad, who at this point was swaying while standing up and had a glossed over look on this face, with the usual sales pitch. Shawn saw this and immediately came over, handed the girl $200 to buy him a few dances. As they walked away Shawn yelled “Happy Birthday Brad!” And we all joined in knowing it was definitely not his birthday. The girl escorting Brad away replied “Oh, that’s why you guys are out celebrating, happy birthday!”

We were wrapping things up and polishing off our drinks when we noticed Brad had been gone a lot longer than his previous trips to the champagne room. Shawn mentioned about them getting back to their hotel near the airport as they were flying out tomorrow. An Uber ride from the Strip District to the airport was going to cost over $80, so Chris offered to give them a ride much to Heather’s chagrin. Shawn then disappeared and the four of us collected our thoughts on how crazy it was that we were there and how all these drinks have been free. At one point, we were concerned that we have been scammed and could be stuck with the bar bill. All of a sudden we see Shawn talking to a police officer near the entrance. He waved us over in a way that suggested it was time to go. When we arrived at the entrance area, which also happened to be where the entrance to the champagne room was, Shawn was having a friendly chat with the police officer and Brad was standing there expressionless.

We walked out of the club, said our goodbyes, and thanked our new friends for the great night. They got in the car with Chris and Heather and headed towards the airport and Stephanie and I got our car and drove home.

Sometime later Heather sent me a few messages about what happened before we left. As of writing this I’m still not sure what happened exactly. Allegedly during one of Brad’s final interactions with the dancer, he removed his penis from his pants to insinuate an illegal act. This is a huge no-no for places like this, and most public places to be honest. Luckily he was not forcibly removed from the club or arrested. There could be more to that story, but it sounds pretty believable to me.

All in all it was a great night with old friends and new friends. No one got hurt (or arrested), everyone got home safely, and lived to tell the story. You’re probably reading this thinking “that really wasn’t that bad or hard to believe” but to us it was. Normally we have quiet adult evenings with our dogs, this took us out of our comfort zones and we had a good time. Hopefully we run into Shawn and Brad in the future, but if not I wish them the best luck!

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