The final city on the final days of my blog! Las Vegas is a lot more family-friendly than I expected it to be. The casinos all have kids running around in them, and the homeless population was generally amiable and did not threaten to stab me. The AirBnB I stayed at featured two amazingly cute dogs who sat like this without being posed, and a cat who liked to watch movies with me.
Luna and I engrossed in a Michael Douglas thriller
I spent hours wandering around through the downtown nightlife, then lost $10 on my lucky number at roulette and quit gambling forever. Mouse over this pic for the action shot!
The Olive Garden is large, clean, and well-staffed by friendly employees. One of them said "I can tell he already knows about our menu!" to my date, which either meant she knew about the blog or was calling me fat. She was otherwise super nice so I'm gonna go with the former!
The highest-rated Olive Garden in Las Vegas, according to Google!
Demeanor -- Sauvignon Blanc-like: zesty, herbal
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- ((gazing upon her unfinished plate of pasta)) "I...I'm not sure what happened here. I'm sorry."
Most bizarre final project for school -- highly sexually-charged advertisement for Chipotle, which unfortunately has been taken down from the internet. I assume this was due to some sort of dual copyright claim/violation of youtube's anti-pornography policies
((seeing the basket of breadsticks)) "Are these for me?!"
Cristina found my blog through a post I made nearly a month ago on Reddit that was immediately downvoted into invisibility by the hardcore faction of anti-Olive Garden extremists who push a clear and consistent pro-Macaroni Grill agenda. It's blatant censorship like this that disrupts truly free speech and will eventually lead the community to Voat! One day! Soon! Right, guys??
Man, Cristina, if you're reading this, I'm sorry. What a horrible opening paragraph. Let's start over. When she's not on Reddit, which I swear I will never mention again on this blog, she tutors kids on subjects of all sorts and plays the bass guitar! She has a great sense of humor, and I appreciate her commitment to a chain restaurant - not just on an intellectual level.
2 more dates to go.
Kathleen is a manager at the Santa Ana Westfield Mainplace mall Olive Garden, where I spent almost every weekday night for the past seven weeks. Since tonight was my last night at this OG, she sent me off in style with a brand-new pasta t-shirt (in awesomely creative packaging). She's a great person and every employee I asked had nothing but positive things to say about her! Thanks for putting up with me eating all your pasta, Kathleen!!
Today's pasta was
Ravi Ollie Kickflip 360
Bro! That chain is off the hook! I am, of course, referring to the Olive Garden.
Pictured here is Ravi Ollie Kickflip 360 - this pasta is a max combo!!!!
Demeanor -- Merlot-like: velvety, intense
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "You're putting me on the spot!! Just kidding. I knew you were going to ask that. I tried to think of, like, a funny quip, but I've got nothing. I really like it."
Banter skills on three hours of sleep -- Surprisingly on-point
"Yeah, I read your entire blog. I'm not afraid to say that. If someone thinks that's stalker-ish or whatever, they're not the type of person who I'd want to be with, anyway."
When I found out that Audrey was a professional photographer, I was really excited that she could maybe teach me how to use my camera. She was able to tell what an aperture was, how long to expose things, and what the optimal shutter speed for a slow-moving plate of pasta would be. Unfortunately, neither of us could figure out how to change any of those settings on the camera itself, so it all ended up being a purely academic exercise.
Audrey also has a genuine interest in people, which is always pleasant to find. And it's hard not to like someone who appreciates Taylor Swift, even though she's not quite on my level of fandom. But then, who is?!
3 more dates to go.
Normally I wouldn't allow this sort of tomfoolery, but I was moved by her explanation: "I really feel more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it, y'know?"
Deep, man. Also, she said that I could post this one for the official record, so no harm done.
Today's pasta was
Something about this pasta evokes the striking hewn-from-the-living-rock sensation of America's greatest national treasure. Legend has it that the Golden Pasta Pass, which can be redeemed an unlimited number of times for Neverending Pasta Passes, is buried somewhere deep within the monument. The only question that remains is who among us is brave and handsome enough to go forth and claim it? I just hope that someone other than Nicholas Cage gets it.
Pictured here is Mount Rushmore - it belongs in a museum!!!!!!
Demeanor -- Cabernet-like: popular, bold
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "Honestly, it's like my second family. I love it here. I dream about this job."
Most unexpected possession -- A homemade positive-energy voodoo doll
"So," I ask, "were the other employees jealous when you told them you were going to go out with me?"
"They said not to do it. They think you're a serial killer."
I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't that. "Why?!"
"You're here every day, you bring a new woman every time, and they never come back. Where do they go?!"
I've never met anyone who exemplifies the 90's-era slogan of Olive Garden ("When you're here, you're family") quite like Alycia. Extraordinarily friendly, upbeat, and charming, she's a natural-born hostess who improved every one of the nights I saw her. I was thrilled when she accepted my invitation to be one of my final Olive Garden dates.
Most of my dates last about an hour, sometimes an hour and a half if refills are ordered. Dinner with Alycia was two and a half hours long - she's so easy to talk to that one completely loses track of time. I'm sure that she'll go on to have a very happy and fulfilling life!
4 more dates to go.
(she's doing "air bass")
Bonus - Staff Spotlight!
I also had to ask for a selfie with a few other treasured members of the Santa Ana mall Olive Garden's staff - our server, Lindsey, and our host, Bryan. They, along with Alycia, all deserve recognition for their contributions to Olive Garden's reputation. Whatever these folks are paid, it's not enough!
Today's pasta was
How Do I Turn That Off?
It took me a month to learn that a harsh flash doesn't cast food in the best light (heh), and another 10 months to learn how to turn it off on my camera. I figured I'd do one more bad photo of good Olive Garden food as I wrap up this year's blog, y'know, out of nostalgia's sake.
Pictured here is How Do I Turn That Off? - I've ruined many a neighboring table's meal with that flash.
Demeanor -- Muscat-like: Acerbic, astringent
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "Um...indifferent? Do you ask everyone that?"
Tough crowd -- laughed way harder at the fact that I had a second Olive Garden date lined up immediately after hers than she did at any of my jokes
"Totoro is overrated. I really prefer Princess Mononoke"
-Missy, sealing herself away in my Friendzone™ forever
Missy does "pretty much everything" in her employ at a local movie theater, even making drinks! I don't know what kind of movie theater serves cocktails, but it sounds like a pretty chill place. I'd recommend it, if I had thought to ask her the name.
Sassy and no-nonsense, Missy does not suffer fools gladly and has no reservations about pointing out hypocrisy where she sees it. This made dining with her a uniquely rewarding experience!
5 more dates to go.
Today's pasta was
The chef dropped this dish off with the following note attached.
I am finished doing what I swore an oath to God 28 years ago to never do again. I've created, "something that feeds people." And in that purpose, I was a success. I've done this because, philosophically, I am sympathetic to your aim. I can tell you with no ego, this is my finest pasta. If on your journey, you should encounter God, God will ask for seconds.
Pictured here is Volume One - My name's Pete, I'm here to eat.
Demeanor -- Zinfandel-like: dry, light-bodied
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "I've only been here once before, and it was...not the best experience. It felt like they just put sauce on top of pasta. It wasn't really a cohesive meal."
Could she even begin to explain how stressful nursing school is? -- No
I ask Meagan if she's interested in having kids, because I find that the best time to have that particular conversation with a loved one is within 3 minutes of meeting them.
"Ugh...um...don't put this in the blog, but...children are like small, psychotic, drunk adults."
"Wow. I'd really like to put that in the blog."
"Okay. Man. All my friends are going to know it's me who said that."
Meagan is a nursing student worried that she may already be becoming jaded about the profession, despite having not yet worked a full day as an RN (Real Nurse) or NP (Nurse-Plus). That sounds like a lot to have on one's plate, so I'm particularly grateful for her coming all the way to my OG to fill a less metaphysical plate.
5 more dates to go.
Today's pasta was
When I was prepared, I went on what the menu descriptions referred to as a furious frenzy of feeding. I binged and I banqueted and I got delicious satisfaction. I've fed a hell of a lot of people to get to this point. But I have only one more. The last one, the one I'm being served to right now. The only one left. And when I arrive at my destination, I am gonna fill Bill.
Pictured here is Volume Two - this pasta and I have unfinished business.
Demeanor -- Riesling-like: Honey-sweet
Feelings about the Olive Garden -- "Growing up in a small town, this was the fanciest place we could go. It's way better than Applebee's. I always felt like they just microwaved their food."
Favorite subreddits -- /r/askwomen and /r/pcmasterrace ("despite the ayyy lmao")
Back in middle school, Shanina was a Pretty Big Deal in free-to-play MMOs like Maplestory and, especially, Mabinogi.
"I spent a lot of my mom's money on that game, buying all the coolest gear. I was the most popular player on the server. Then I got banned."
I can tell this is a painful memory for her, so I don't ask her to relive the trauma.
With an infectious laugh and refreshingly positive outlook, Shanina was a delightful dining companion. She's studying to be a civil engineer. If you were wondering: yes, she has played Sim City. No, you are not the first person to ask.
6 more dates to go.
Today's pasta was
The PonyGirl Special