Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Your best Halloween story?

I've always loved those round-the-campfire stories people tell at Halloween (or in other dark and scary moments). Ever since mankind figured out it was kind of fun to be scared, we've passed down these stories. I'm sure the Neanderthals spent long nights talking about the legend of the Headless Mastodon.

For me, the shortest stories are often the creepiest because they let your imagination fill in the blanks. I still get a chill when I think about sitting in the library in high school and watching the short film of Shirley Jackson's horror masterpiece "The Lottery." (The story itself is even better.)

So for this Halloween, here's what I want from you: Your best Halloween story, in 50 words or less.

My favorite ultra-short horror story is one I ran across in the preface to a Stephen King collection -- it's part of the story "Knock" by Fredric Brown. The story goes like this:

The last man on Earth was alone in a room.

There was a knock on the door.

There's only one story I can think of that's more scary:

The Panthers have to choose between a backup quarterback with a bad back, or a third-string quarterback with a bad foot.


Post your tales of terror below.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Vegas, baby. Vegas.

Spent a little R&R time in Las Vegas last week. This was my second trip and so far I've managed to come back alive, unindicted, and still able to pay the mortgage. This time I even came back a little ahead, not because of any skill on my part but because of a lucky royal flush on video poker.

(That's my Official Gambling Tip: If you can draw a royal flush, by all means do.)

I'm not a big gambler but Vegas is still one of my favorite places because of the unparalleled people-watching and the five-star eavesdropping. (I overheard two conventioneers at a blackjack table seriously discussing whether they should hit a strip club or see Celine Dion.)

So I've been wondering what Charlotte could learn from Vegas, assuming that we're not going to install slot machines up and down Tryon Street anytime soon. Here's a few thoughts:

1. Create a central spot people HAVE to see. Vegas is a huge, sprawling city -- much like Charlotte -- but if you visit there you have to hit the Strip. There's nowhere here that people feel like they have to see. Uptown is a lot more lively than it used to be, but it's still spread out. We need an entertainment district that draws in tourists and locals.

2. Give people something to do when they get there. There's a lot to do in Vegas even if you don't gamble -- you can ride rollercoasters, play carnival games, even pose with terrifyingly lifelike wax figures. In uptown Charlotte there's not all that much to do, unless you're a kid at Discovery Place. We need stuff for people who like to do more than watch. (If there's not some sort of driving simulator at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, those guys are morons.)

3. Make parking easier. Time and time again I've heard people from the Charlotte suburbs say they don't come uptown for events because it's too hard -- and too expensive -- to park. In Vegas all the casinos have free parking decks. Maybe that's an option for our parking decks after 5 and on weekends.

4. Provide options at every price level. In Vegas, you can buy a $50 steak or a 99-cent hot dog. You can play the slots for $500 a shot or a penny a pull. Charlotte isn't as accessible across the board. It's harder to get cheap tickets to good events. We maximize our dollars -- a Charlotte virtue -- but we lose out on a little funk and fun. Plus, Vegas understands that a cheap meal (and a free parking space) is a loss leader.

5. Don't be afraid of shameless commerce. In Vegas, the glitzy billboards and flyers for various, uh, services are part of the scenery. In Charlotte, street musicians have to get permits and they won't even allow ads on city buses. Sometimes a little selling out is a good thing.

6. Wayne Newton. I don't really have anything to add, just, Wayne Newton.

Any other ways we could learn from Vegas? Or do you just have a good Vegas story? Add your tales of woe and blackjack in the comments.