Sunday, December 25, 2005

I Saw Two Ships Go Sailing In...

Hello Everybody!

I hope everyone got some nice toys and made some wonderful memories with their loved ones. I'm muddling through, here in America's Playground, having finally crawled out of bed around the crack of noon.

I worked last night until 2 am, and it was pretty tough. The casino was much busier than I imagined it would be on Christmas Eve. I suppose my idea of celebrating Christmas is a bit different than most folks I encountered last night.

I finally kicked that minor head cold a couple days back, but yesterday I managed to pick up the same sort of funk that put me down for the count last March. I was miserable. Around midnight I ran out of cough drops and spent the last hour-and-a-half at work trying to keep from hacking up a lung while dealing the cards. Luckily my floor supervisor is one of the good guys and closed my table at twenty minutes after the hour, basically giving me an extra break. The bottom line is that I got out of work about 40 minutes early, but still got credit for the entire eight hours (it's still taking some getting used to, punching a clock every day and having to account for minutes like this).

Anyhow, my friend Jen wanted to go out after work (Hey, Vegas is a town full of single people with no families, so going out on for drinks on Christmas morning is no big deal), and was already at the bar by the time I left the casino. Since I was 'dead man walking' and would've gladly paid $500 for the temporary relief found in a bottle of Nyquil, I drove to the nearest Walgreens, praying that it would be open. It was, but I felt sorry for the poor schleps stuck working there--the store was full of morons buying up gift bags and getting last-minute stocking stuffers. Except for this moron--I filled up a basket with all of the most effective medicines I could lay my hands on. No price was too extravagant. I sat in the parking lot popping a couple of Dayquil Liquicaps and washed them down by swilling Delsym straight from the bottle.

When I got to Chilly Palmer's, I told Timmy the barkeep to set me up with a glass of water, no ice. He looked at me like I'd fallen out of my tree, but he set me up, putting the Stoli Vanilla and Coke on hold. My first round was a rocks glass full of Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold Medicine, and I immediately started feeling a little better.

A couple of the other dealers I work with were already there, and Jen was busy keeping them entertained. She saw me self-medicating, and told Tim to bring me over a cup of boiling water and some other ingredients. So my next two rounds were Hot Toddies made with Grand Marnier. It sounded kind of gross, but a cup of scalding-hot water mixed with honey, lemon, sugar, and Grand Marnier liqueur actually made me feel pretty good. So good, in fact, that I had two...while my Stoli sat there in front of me slowly getting diluted by the melting ice.

I gotta hand it to Jen, I was kind of skeptical at first, but while the medicine I'd taken stopped the coughing, it took the hot toddies to let me regain my voice and make my throat feel better. And all this time I thought her only redeeming qualities were her huge rack and affinity for gambling and booze. She may be a keeper. (And she's going to kick me squarely in the nuts as soon as she reads this--HM).

I started feeling better, but couldn't really get into all the laughing and goofing off that was going on with my usual crowd, so I kind of hung out on the fringe, nursing my toddie, watching the muted SportsCenter highlights on the tv, and wishing I were somewhere else for Christmas. Not quite feeling sorry for myself, but the combination of exhaustion, sickness, and melancholy had taken the spring out of my step.

I was content to hang for a bit and then head on home, but about that time a very attractive gal came up to me and introduced herself as Stephanie. Turns out she was at the casino earlier that night, and is actually a friend of the same floorman who let me out early. We started talking and somehow something I said was enough to keep her interested and she pulled up a chair and joined me.

We kept talking, doing the usual gettin-to-know-ya banter and wouldn't you know it, I started feeling much better. She wanted to play a little video blackjack there on the bartop, but I generally avoid that kind of diversion like a welfare queen dodges a job application, so I tried to take a pass. But she insisted that I "help" her play on her money. Ok, I agreed. What else was I gonna do? So she put five bucks in the machine and we started playing blackjack at a quarter a hand. It was actually a lot of fun, and we actually started making a little cash back. We turned her five bucks into $22 and along the way the winning-hand knuckle-bumps became high-fives, which in turn just became little squeezes, which then became hugs, which then graduated to pecks on the cheeks, which then moved on to holy shit, I'm gonna get this poor girl sick...

We cashed out the $22, leaving two bucks for Tim the bartender, and decided to play some pool. My old roommate Derek can attest that I am a shiatty pool player, but for whatever reason I was making my shots last night. Of course I was throwing out the O'Bannion at the Emporium lines from Dazed and Confused -- Y'all are an embarrassment to the sport of pool, and should be proud that I let you play... at my table...

Our mutual friend, the floorman, showed up shortly thereafter with trays full of appetizers for everyone at the bar--buffalo wings, mozzarella sticks, taquitos, etc. He was also kind enough to send another round of drinks down to the pool table, too. We were having a great time, and we ended up splitting the wins before heading back up to the bar.

We decided on more video blackjack, and we turned another ten bucks into another $44. (We always wanted to make 10% on top for the bartender's tip). Before I knew it, it was after six am and a couple of very enjoyable hours had passed. Jen and the rest of my cohorts had already gone home, I'd gone from vodka and coke to drinking bottled water, and the sun was getting ready to make an appearance over the eastern mountains. Christmas morning had arrived in Las Vegas.

I was barely able to keep my eyes open, and Steph said that she had to head over to her parents house to do the whole Christmas-with-the-family thing, so we said our goodbyes.

I didn't ask for a number, but since she said she'd come back and see me again at work tonight, I figured I wouldn't act like every other guy in the bar that night who was trying to hit on her. If I see her again, great! If not, well, I guess two ships passing in the night would be just another one of the million stories in the naked city.

I made my out of the parking lot and headed home, racing west ahead of the encroaching sunlight. As I drove across Whitney Mesa and saw all the sparkling lights of the entire valley below me, I smiled to myself and thought not bad for a first Christmas in Vegas.

Knowing that Christmas had arrived earlier in Tennessee and everyone back home would be up having breakfast and opening presents, I made a few phone calls before taking some more medicine and collapsing in bed.

Before I passed out, I reflected on another small holiday bonus--our floorman friend was kind enough to cover everyone's tabs for the entire night at the bar, making all of my drinking free, allowing me to donate all of my video blackjack winnings to the bartender's tip jar.

One could say I that left there dead even this night, but I think I came out slightly ahead.


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