Today I traveled to Vegas by way of convertible from Boise. I left the top down way too long and absolutely irradiated my face. Vegas it seems, is at the crossroads for my friends and family who live in Denver and my friends and family that live in Santa Barbara.
I used to travel to Vegas several times a year as a young man. I loved to play poker. I was here the day they tried to blow up Frank Rosenthal at the Stardust. (casino, the movie) I was staying just down the street at the Sahara. In 1987 I moved to Las Vegas. I had some success playing poker in Northern Nevada and I wanted to play in Vegas- where there are games everywhere- at all hours of the day or night. There is no shortage of action here.
I can't even begin to tell you what that was like. Quite honestly, I cannot describe myself as anything but naive and delusional. Ultimately, like virtually all gamblers- I went broke in 1988. I also landed in the hospital. The only good thing that happened to me in Vegas was that I met my future wife and of course, we were married here. We left family here when we moved to Idaho- and that prompted our frequent visits. Somewhere in the mid 1990's, The movie, "Leaving Las Vegas" was released.
I loved that movie because it was real. I have seen people do precisely what Cage's character came here to do. Whether drinking yourself to death was a conscious or unconscious decision doesn't seem to matter- the results are often the same. I knew three or four people who did that very thing. I met a guy, an old homicide cop from Chicago named Milt. An alcoholic named Bill Parks that I shared a hospital room with for two weeks and a very famous poker player named Bill Smith. I played with Bill a lot at the Gold Coast. Always smoking and drinking beer. Read this wikipedia piece which is very accurate. You'll laugh. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Smith_%28poker_player%29 I'd throw in Stu Ungar but I didn't really know Stu although I played cards with him. They did a movie about Stu. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Roller:_The_Stu_Ungar_Story Stuey was a math whiz. Stu also loved cocaine. If you have any character flaws when you arrive here- this city is like a giant magnifying glass. It will help you find those flaws and magnify them. This city facilitates and exploits addiction like no other- and it can certainly help you kill yourself. Kind of like Dr. Kevorkian.
About ten years ago, I was playing in a poker game at the Mirage. This tall, lanky kid, sits next to me and soon we strike up a conversation. The kid is about the same age that I was when I moved to Las Vegas. He had asked me if I lived here. After I gave him my brief bio, he gets all giddy and tells me that he is moving to Las Vegas from Michigan just like I had done. He is excited. He tells me that he has saved up 10k and that he is going to play poker for a living. I sat there just kind of stunned. I wasn't sure what to say. Gullible and naive kids like I was and perhaps he was, have to live out our dreams. Would he have listened to me if I had tried to dissuade him? No of course not. Every gambler thinks that he is a little smarter, a little better, than the next guy. I was like that. I think this kid was too. I did the only thing that made sense. I wished him the very best.
On the way down today, I heard about the stock market slaughter and listened as gold rallied once again. Tonight I am staying at a nice hotel with no gaming. Quiet and serene. I played cards for about 30 minutes after dinner and made 50 bucks. That's a big score for me nowadays. I have about a pound of Noxzema on my burning man face and it's getting late. Tomorrow I will pick up some friends. On Friday, I'll be leaving Las Vegas once again. It gets easier all the time.