Monday, August 14, 2006

Old School

I just said goodbye to Angy about an hour ago in the parking lot of the Peppermill. We met there for our last Vegas meal together until next March. Of course I'm feeling kind of down right now. Her visits are always a highlight of living out here because we always laugh our asses off all week long and I'm always sad to see her go. And I'm a little worried about her making that drive all the way back to Illinois all by herself. But she insists that she'll be fine and she'll call me with in-progress reports until she gets home.

She also managed to get her huge suitcase into the trunk of that little car, but I have no idea how the valet did it. Something about using a can of bacon grease, a crowbar, and a rubber mallet... She may have to take it to the Nissan dealer when she gets home so that they can take the back end apart in order to remove the suitcase. But regardless of the luggage issues, she's on the road, making that same cross-country trek along I-40 that I've made twice in the past few years.

Before she left, we walked over to the Stardust to visit one last time before the wrecking ball takes it down. I played $20 worth of blackjack, with predictable results, so we ended up having to buy more chips as souvenirs. She also picked up a few Stardust-logo'd trinkets before they become collectors items, and we wandered around a bit before saying goodbye for the last time. I don't have that many memories from hanging out or playing there at the 'Dust, so I'm not too especially saddened to see it go. Although I thought that it should've outlasted both the Frontier and the Riviera. Oh well, time marches on, and nowhere is that more especially true than here in Las Vegas.

And speaking of old Vegas, I've neglected to mention that I have the supreme pleasure of working with three old guys that between them have almost 70 years of dice dealing experience down at the old Horseshoe downtown. I've decided that there is no better way to spend my 20-minute breaks between tables than to sit in the dining room listening to them tell stories. It's even better is when all three of them are on the same break schedule with me--I feel like a fly on the wall at a mob meeting. I swear I could sit and listen to them for days on end. The stuff they've seen is enough material to fill a thousand-page bestseller. I remember, in one of my old trip reports, mentioning that I was sitting out on the loading dock at Binions one time talking to a couple of old-time dice dealers while they were on break. It was a highlight of the visit that I'll never forget. Anyhow, every night in the break room with these guys is just like that day out on the loading dock. Their stories about high-rollers and crooks, drunks and drug addicts, and all the wild times that they had when Benny was running the casino are the stuff legends are made of. I swear I just can't get enough.

As much as I enjoy my job, little things like that make me appreciate it even more. For somebody like me who has always felt like I got to the Vegas party a generation too late, it gives me a glimpse into the storied past that few people ever got to experience. Time marches on, indeed, but listening to these guys provides a window to the past with a view that can't be beat.

But I'm here, now, and I still love it.

Last night I was dealing blackjack for an hour or two on a $10 shoe game, and I had a stretch where it was just me and another player. Of course we were having a pleasant conversation and it turns out that he's been out here in Vegas for almost eight years, and like me has also lived all over the country, but has finally found a 'home' right here in Sin City. And he said something to me that is all but prophetic.

Right now, Las Vegas is the greatest city in America to be living in. There is no other place that can compete.

I've been thinking about that statement ever since, and I can't agree more.

There is no place like home.


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