Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mini Meet

Last night was my only night off for the week, due to our being so understaffed at work--we still haven't made up for the 27 dealers we lost to Red Rock in April--although they auditioned a whole mess of new dealers this past weekend. Hopefully they'll hire a few of them.

Anyhow, Jeremiah and Christy were in town--Jer is a longtime reader, and I met them back in December for a few beers at the Monte Carlo brewpub. He'd sent me an email last week, telling me about their trip, so we made plans to get together downtown this week.

We touched base yesterday afternoon, and decided to meet at the bar at the Golden Nugget a little after 8 pm. I got down there about 20 minutes early--leaving the new truck in the capable hands of the valet at Binion's--and I was starving, having eaten nothing but a handful of Sun Chips all day. I considered the snack bar there at Binion's, but figured that would take too long. Remembering the tasty hot dog I had last summer at Mermaid's during the We'll Always Have Paris week, I walked over there instead.

First of all, walking into the 'back' entrance of the Horseshoe (screw Harrahs, it's still the Horseshoe to me...) brought me back to all of those trips four or five years ago with Eddie and the boys when I lived in Phoenix. It was a real blast from the past--I hadn't walked that particular path in years, and there was a touch of wistfulness about it. Unfortunately, Binion's has undergone so many changes in the past few years that I'm afraid it has lost it's soul. It's just another downtown casino to me now. But for a few years, it was my favorite place in all of Vegas. And walking through there last night gave me a brief glimpse into the treasured past.

Anyhow, Mermaid's still offers a pretty good 99-cent Nathan's Famous tube steak, tax included. (And yeah, they still have that dusty Harley 883 Sportster on top of the slot machines--nobody has won it yet!) For $1.98, I got a small rootbeer and it seemed to take the edge off of the hunger pangs. I scarfed it down pretty quickly, then headed over to the Nugget. I was a few minutes early and decided to hit the head. On my way, I saw a familiar looking couple attired in matching Astros jerseys (marking them as obvious newlyweds... heh!). I jumped in between them and gave the Hook 'em Horns hand signal before bounding off to the men's room.

I came back a few minutes later and they introduced me to their friend Diane, also from Texas, and a Fremont Street virgin. The original plan was to watch a light show or two, take a ride on the grain train, and maybe do a little gambling. Unfortunately, they'd been up for almost 24 hours straight by that point, had already walked from NYNY to the Wynn, and were several rounds ahead of me in the alcohol consumption department. I figured it was going to be an early night.

The first order of business was to order a beer, but the bartenders at the Nugget did their level best to ignore us. We stood there for a couple of minutes without our presence even being acknowledged, so we decided to move on to the greener pastures. A few minutes later, the four of us were happily sipping cold beers at bar nearest the dice tables back at Binion's. They were getting hungry, and the snack bar was close by, so Christy went on a little recon mission. She came back and said it was too scary for her. I asked which one was the scary part, the food or the patrons.

A little of both, she replied.

Since they wanted to get a proper meal, and the hotdog didn't quite cut it, I suggested that we amble on down to the Golden Gate and get some shrimp cocktails. They were up for that, and we vacated our barstools.

We walked into the Gate, and again, it felt--for a brief moment--like I was back on one of those epic trips from a few years ago. When I worked there, it was during the day, so there was a totally different vibe. I haven't really visited the Golden Gate after dark unless I had some of my fellow degenerates in tow, so I wasn't reminded of being a newbie dice dealer during my early days living here in Vegas--I was reminded of good times past.

My recommendation for a shrimp cocktail, a French Dip, and a beer met with unanimous approval, so after our requisite purgatory of line-standing, we were happily enjoying what I used to consider the quintessential Vegas experience--dinner at the Golden Gate Shrimp Bar & Deli. The beer was cold, the food was good, and the pianist was tickling the ivories providing the old-school ambiance that I loved so much about the place.

Jer was itching to play some cards, so as soon as we finished our meals we found ourselves squeezing in to a $3 shoe game. It started pretty slowly, my $40 buy-in slowly getting drained away when the dealer made her first four hands in a row. Christy gave up after losing a Jackson, opting for the nearby Wheel of Fortune slots, Diane was cool with just being an observer, while Jer and I kept grinding it out. Luckily I went on a little run, but Jer got the smack-down. He walked away empty handed, but I managed a $24 profit, even after leaving the dealer a five-spot for her efforts.

I could tell that everyone was fading fast--they were dragging and the buffoonery meter barely registered our presence. We tried to find some other open tables at both the Nugget and Binion's, but each place had just enough tables open to ensure that every seat was full. We tried to catch a light show, but they only come on at the top of the hour, and we didn't want to stand around for thirty minutes waiting. Not wanting to fight it, we decided to call it a night around 10:30. We said our goodbyes and they headed back to the Nugget to catch a cab, while I went back to Binion's to fetch my truck.

Once I got on the road, I realized how tired I was, and although it was good to meet up with friends, it was nice to hit the bed at a reasonable hour, too.

The best part, however, was that I got a little reminder of why I love this place so much--and I thank Jer and Christy for providing it.


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