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Old 01-27-2021, 02:40 PM   #1
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Vegas Trip Report: “My Last Chance to Be a Boy”

I was drinking beer. I was smoking cigarettes. I was playing "the ponies." I was reading Playboy. I was taking part in “submarine races.” I was doing the “backseat mambo” (missionary position). I was young and restless. But now, years later, I'm older, slower. Less hair-triggered. Yet, the young man that lives inside my then 65-year-old body still craves excitement. Adventure. But where? New York City? Chicago? Los Angeles? “Fughgettaboutit!” There's only one place: Vegas, baby! Who luvs ya?

On this snow-covered New England day, I’m recounting my last trip, over a dozen years ago, to Las Vegas. I call it: “My Last Chance to Be a Boy.”

At the time, I remember broaching the Vegas trip with my wife. "You want to go where?" she asked. "LV," I said. "Louis Vuitton," my wife said. "What a wonderful idea!" she added. I then said, "Ah...not that LV." "What LV do you mean?" my wife asked,” Las Vegas," I said. “Las Vegas!” she said. "Why do you want to go there?" she asked. "It's my last chance to be a boy," I answered. My wife then said: "Some men never grow up!" She's right. But in this case --- my immature male-self prevails. I'm goin' to Vegas!

I remember leaving on a Tuesday afternoon. I'm flyin’ Northwest (now merged). I change planes in MSP. I'm scheduled to land at McCarran at 6:50 p.m. I'm staying downtown at The Fremont. The Fremont's like "Goldilocks.” Not too fancy; not too shabby. Just right! I'll be staying there Tuesday evening and all-day Wednesday. I'll be flying home in the early-morning hours of Thursday.

I recall my bus arriving at Logan Airport's NWA's terminal. I check in, pass through security and wait for my flight. Soon, I'm boarding. Minutes later, we take off. My flight to MSP has been uneventful. During the layover, I stop the airport's BK for a fish sandwich, fries and a Diet Coke. Later, I board another plane for "The Neon Oasis."

We're about to take off again. As we become airborne, I'm thinking about what keeps me coming back. Yes, it goes without saying… I love to gamble. But there's more. Much more. The people. The atmosphere. The escape. The feeling of freedom. The "eye-candy". There are no airs. No pretenses. It's the be-who-you-want-to-be, do-what-you-want-to-do kinda place. It's Prohibition and you're drinking at a speakeasy drinking bootleg “hootch.” It's getting your first set of wheels and rushing to go "parking.” It's a tryst with a secret lover. It's all of these...and more! Much more!

As I'm looking out the window at the lite-bright-dotted ground below, I'm thinking: It's time for another “Great Escape!" The ultimate "Magical Mystery Tour." It's a place where I can literally let down my hair (what's left of it). I particularly enjoy the feeling of anonymity. Unlike the Boston-based sitcom, "Cheers," "Where everybody knows your name,” Las Vegas is a place where nobody knows my name. I'm just a face in the crowd. I can, without restraint, give free rein to my "other self" --- my degenerative side. As Jung would call it, my “shadow.”

We're now making our final approach into McCarran. I can see "the Strip's" brightly-lit hotels; they remind me of sparkling, multi-colored jewels on a golden necklace. From the air at night Vegas is a beckoning sequined siren.

When I see the Vegas properties, it's like seeing familiar faces at my high school reunion. “My Ex” (we were high school “sweethearts”), the Excalibur. “Barbie,” The Barbary Coast, now Bill's Drinking Hall and Saloon. The real Barbie Billington was a buxom blonde. She once walked into class in a tight red sweater and caused three male teachers, one who was in his 70’s, to “hide” behind their desks. Then there was Balcomb Hightower III, Bally's. When he phoned he said, "Bali Hi is calling." Unfortunately many casino class members have passed on: the Dunes, Hacienda, Sands, the Stardust, The Frontier, but I'm making new friends all the time: Mandalay Bay, Bellagio Venetian, Wynn, etc.

We’ve landed. Although I've done this many times before, I feel like it's my first. My heart's racing. Once inside the terminal, I take the automated tram, then "walk" down the moving sidewalk, and then take the escalator to the ground level. No, I won't need the baggage claim; I'm traveling light. You may recall the TV Western: "Have Gun, Will Travel". In my case, it's: "Have Tee-Shirt (and Pair of Pants), Will Gamble.”

I decide to take the Bell Shuttle. I love riding through Vegas. It's like visiting an “old friends.” Sure, we've both aged, but "she's" still as bright, brassy and beautiful as ever. I love her glitz.

About a three-quarters of an hour later, I arrive at The Fremont. It's now 8:15 p.m. I've been assigned room #532. No "$20 upgrade." I ain't interested in a more palatial room, or even one with a view (I don't spend that much time in the room, anyway). I'm happy as long as the room is neat, the bed and pillows are firm and the shower pressure is adequate --- all the rest is superfluous. Oh, I'd like some soap, shampoo and hot water. If I had been with my wife, a mistress or a concubine, it might well have been a whole 'nother story: overhead mirror, satin pillows, mood music, aromatic scents, hot tub, etc. But I'm not! It’s one of those “hit-and-runs.” One of your “in-and-outs.” Oh, I might mention that I'm not interested in shows, nor fancy restaurants --- at least not on this trip. I'm here to gamble!

I'll be spending lots of time at both race books and craps tables. I've always believed that you've got to stick to what you do best (or, at least, what you believe you do best). Only so many bullets in the bandoleer. Let me say at this juncture that I will--- as sportscaster Howard Cosell used to say --- "Tell it like it is." I have no axe to grind. No vested interest. I just want to provide an interesting and informative report.

Before I make my way to the casino floor, I go upstairs to check out my room. It's located near the end of the hallway next to the stairwell. I open the door with my key- card. The room is what they call in the car business, “strippy”." No frills (more on the room later). I unpack my carry-on, put away my clothes and toiletries and wash up. I then look out the window. I have a view of Binion's parking garage. Oh well. It's been a long day; yet the night is relatively young…and Vegas is so beautiful. I decide to cross Fremont Street and scope out "the Fitz's" two craps tables. Last time I was here --- about a year ago --- they were good to me. One thing about craps tables: No two are alike. They may look similar, but they're like lanes in a bowling alley --- they have their own "personalities." The “Fitz’s” craps tables --- to quote "Goldilocks" --- "are just right!" Not too spongy, not too firm --- but just that right consistency. The underlayment. But like people, tables do change. I'll have to "suss it out."

I look at my watch; it's exactly 8:30 pm. I arrive at "the Fitz's" two red-felted craps’ layouts. I'm excited. It's like meeting an "old flame.” It’s a secret rendezvous. My mouth is dry. Although I can’t see them, my pupils are likely dilated. Besides, I have this "jones" for action. I haven't been to a casino in over six months. But before I drop my money on the baize, I decide to watch the craps action. "She" (the tables) had changed! They had become bouncy. Springy. They’re like Mexican jumping beans. They had, in a word, become --- uncontrollable. I was disconsolate. I had waited for this moment “for the longest time.” I had --- in a manner of speaking --- been “jilted.” I wouldn’t take the chance. I simply put my money back in my wallet and walked out onto Fremont Street. Having left "the Fitz," I was now on a mission --- I'm "Looking for Mr. Good Table." I walk up and down Fremont Street: the Four Queens, The Fremont, Binion's, The Vegas Club, The California, etc. --- even back down Fremont St. and across the Blvd. to the El Cortez. Nothing. Nada.

It's now close to 9:15 pm. I decide to stop at the Golden Nugget (I had visited there on my last Vegas visit over a year earlier). When I had last played the GN's tables, I was not particularly pleased. They just didn't measure up to my requirements. But I was determined not "to leave any stone unturned." I went to the six craps tables that are located adjacent to the bar. It's a $5 minimum game. I buy in for $60. I put a "redbird" ($5 chip) on the DP, I start off by playing "from the don'ts.” (I watched for a while and sensed the table was “cold.”). When I became the shooter (I’m still playing from “the don’ts), my first roll is number. My goal (for those familiar with craps) is to now throw a 7. Instead I make my point. I use the same strategy on my second attempt. Same result. I now switch gears. I shoot from the PL (pass line) with the hope of either shooting "a natural" (7 or 11 on the come-out) or making a point and then repeating that number before the dreaded "7", or "Big Red" as some call it, appears.

As it turns out, I start "stroking." I throw a number and come right back with that number two rolls later. I'm taking free odds behind my PL bet. On my next roll I throw another number. However, this time, instead of hitting that number, I'm throwing a raft of numbers other than the point. I'm upset with myself. I should have a least placed the 6 and 8, or used some "come" bets --- but I didn't. I must have held the dice for about ten minutes. In fact, during one stretch I threw four straight ace-deuces (1-2). I'm happy I've found what I believe to be: "Mr. Good Table." Yet I'm chagrined that I made a relatively small amount on what should have been a money-making "hand" (roll). No gonads!

But, just then --- a surprise. A Hawaiian gentleman to my left on the inner hook (I was straight-out on the rail) gives me two $25 green chips. He says, "Thank you for an excellent roll." I say, "Thank you very much."

It's now after 10 o'clock. I take a break from gambling and head out of the GN and walk back to Fitzgeralds' second-floor bar. I order a Corona with a lime. I feel relaxed. Contented. I'm as happy as a dog with a bone. As I take occasional sips of beer, I'm thinking back to how I got started gambling. I must have been about 11- or 12-years-old. I was then an elementary-school student who was living in a section of Boston’s Dorchester (pronounced: "Daw-chestah") section. Besides playing street and schoolyard games, e.g., stickball, box ball and handball, my friends and I would go down a buddy's cellar to play penny-ante poker. Later, that evolved into nickel-and-dime. As the years passed, my friends and I would gamble on just about everything we did: tennis, golf --- even Scrabble.

But that was then, and this is now. I would have never imagined that my early gambling predilections would bring me to casinos in southeastern CT: Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, to the Casino de Montreal, to Merv Griffin's Resorts Casino in AC, to John Ascuaga's "Nugget" in Reno (actually Sparks), to the Illinois casinos, Pair-A-Dice (E. Peoria), the Grand Vic (Elgin), the Argosy's Empress (Joliet) and to the Holiday Inn and Alhambra in Aruba.

By now, I'm exhausted, I decide to head back to my room at The Fremont, Moments later, as my father would say, “I hit the sack.” Maybe it's my exhaustion from a long day's traveling, but I can't help but conjure up my own personal fantasy. There's this knock on the door. "Come in," I say. The door opens. The light from the hallway reveals a curvaceous, negligee-clad female body. She turns on the light. She's stunning. She's wearing this bright-red teddy with thigh-high, gartered sheer stockings. Oh, did I mention --- spiked heels? "Get real," I say to myself. I can dream --- can't I? What will tomorrow bring? In Vegas anything's possible!

It's Wednesday morning. I look at my watch. It reads 4:30 a.m. My body may be in Vegas, but my internal body-clock is still back in Boston. No, I'm not going back to sleep. Not with all the action going on downstairs and around me on Fremont Street. I go through my morning routine: the three "S's": shower, shave.... As I'm showering, I still can't get used to seeing the shower nozzle situated on the wall at chest level. After toweling off and getting dressed, I call my wife. It's a little after 5:00 am in Vegas, but it’s already eight o’clock in Boston.

My wife is up. Her first question: "Are you winning or losing?" I tell her that I'm about even. She then says, "You better keep it that way!" I reply, "I'll try to." I then remind my wife that she needs to pick me up tomorrow at noon at Logan Airport. She tells me she'll be there. A few minutes later, I close my room door and take the elevator down to the casino. Except for the noise the slots make, you could hear a mouse fart.

A few minutes later, I decide to walk across the street to the GN. As I'm walking over to the GN, I look up at the canopy high above Fremont St. It reminds me of a large tunnel. I marvel at its construction.
Seconds later, I'm walking into the GN and heading toward the back of the casino for the craps tables. I quickly notice that my favorite table is being used. There are only a handful of players. When I do get the dice, I immediately sense I'm "on." I'm throwing numbers and making money. I'm quickly up $50. To add to my enjoyment, I'm having a great time “yukking it up” with the craps crew. I'm so into this I'm actually moving the table when I brace it with my left hand when I release the dice. When the pit boss asks me about it (table), "I say that I get excited whenever I shoot craps." The actual answer is that --- I'm intense.

Because “da boyz” are treating me so well, I'm putting the dealers "in the game." Every time I shoot I'm playing "two-way “hard-ways a dollar each." So, if I hit the hard-way, I win and so do the dealers. I also like to put the dealers "on" for another reason. I feel that by putting them in the game, they're rooting hard for me to make my bet. I guess you'd call it trying to create “good karma.” As it turns out, I do nail a hard ten. It's now close to 7 am. I've made about $100 in this early morning craps session. Yet, very candidly, if I had the gonads… But I do get a surprise. As I'm about to leave, the pit boss gives me a chit for the GN's breakfast buffet. "Thanks," I say. "Enjoy," he replies. I leave the table with a very upbeat feeling about how I was treated by the craps people at the GN. First class.

I then walk over to the GN's breakfast buffet. I had eaten there twice before when I stayed at the GN. It was good then. Also, because I have “the comp,” I don't have to wait in line. In seconds, the hostess has seated me. I get a booth not far from the serving area. My first order of business is to go to the “made-to-order” omelette station. I have the chef make me an omelet with cheese, mushrooms and onions. To me there's nothing better than an omelette with OJ and a piping hot cup of coffee. When I get back to my seat, I'm not disappointed. In addition, the service is excellent. Kudos to the GN. I later go back up for some hash browns, muffins and Danish. There's a nice selection of crispy bacon and sausages, but, in my case, eggs are as far as I'll go (I take Lipitor to keep my cholesterol under control). I finish off the meal with slices of cantaloupe and honeydew melon. I thoroughly enjoy the breakfast experience.

After breakfast, I go back to The Fremont's race-book. They are the only downtown casino that carries Freehold Raceway. Time for Freehold and Aqueduct. I’m not doing well. I quickly drop the $100 I made shooting craps only a couple hours earlier. Yet I keep plodding on. Still, I can do nothing right. Not only have I lost the $100, but I quickly lose another $100 on top of that. I'm now down over $150 for my visit.

Shortly before noon I head up to my room to pack my carry-on. Checkout time is 12:00. I double-check the drawers and bathroom and leave a tip for the maid service. I then close the door to my room and head for the elevators. When I reach the registration desk, I finalize my bill. I then check my carry-on with the bell captain. After checking out, I play a few more races at the race-book before I finally throw in the towel and head over to The Four Queens. Their tables, in my estimation are second only to the Golden Nugget's. I play at the Four Queens for about an hour. It's basically a "push" session. Yet, from a social standpoint, it's enjoyable. I have a good conversion with one of their dealers, a fellow named Alan from NJ.

At 1:30 pm I head back to the Fremont to use one of my two remaining $10 food comps. I'm not going to beat this into the ground, but it would suffice to say that The Fremont can do a better job (as least in those days) with the quality of the food that they serve at their buffets. The only bright note was my server. I don't remember his name, but I do recall he was from Cuba (the same country as my son-in-law). We talked about Cuban sports figures, particularly major league baseball players.

After lunch, I decided to head over to Binion's. I'm not enamored with their craps tables; I was just looking for a change of scenery. For some reason, I'm nailing this table at Binion's. The guy next to me says, "I notice you ‘fix’ the dice." I said, "Yes, I do." I go on tell him that I've experimented at home with different sets. I tell him I'd rather do this than just try to randomly throw the cubes.

After about an hour I'm up about $40 or $50; however, a short time later I give it all back --- and then some. I'm back at the race-book playing Maywood and Meadowlands harness. It's now around 6:30 pm, I use the last of my comps for The Fremont dinner buffet. It’s “Mexican” night. I have, through my son-in-law, acquired a taste for Mexican food. You know, fajitas, burritos, etc. At the dinner buffet, they did have chicken fajita and refried beans.

After supper, I went casino-hopping between The Fremont, Four Queens, Binion's and the Golden Nugget. I spent time at each shooting craps. Although I have the resources, I'm just not going to "go tilt." Instead, I played out my short-lived Vegas stay in a conservative manner. I end up losing a "few" more dollars. I estimate that for the entire trip I lost slightly bout $200.

It's now close to 10 pm. I'm flying the 1:10 a.m. NWA "red-eye" to MSP. After a short layover, I catch another flight to Boston that gets in shortly after 11 am. Before I retrieve my carry-on and wait outside to catch the Bell Shuttle, I take one last stab at The Fremont's craps tables. I manage to make some “chump change.” Then, one final fling at The Fremont's keno station. I play two games in the hope of "hitting a home run." Nothing.

Shortly before 11 pm, the Bell Shuttle picks me up. We make one stop at "the Strat" and then it's on to McCarran. Frankly, I feel sad. Although I've had my fill of gambling, I still hate to see it all end. About a half-hour later, we reach McCarran. I print up my boarding pass at one the kiosks, pass through security, and wait for my boarding call. We start boarding a little after 12:30 a.m. Yes, technically speaking, I was in Vegas from Tuesday through Thursday; yet the Thursday part could be counted in minutes. My flight into MSP is uneventful, save for the fact that when we boarded the captain said it was snowing in Minneapolis. Comforting thought. As it turns out, it was just foggy by the time we arrived.

Minutes later, I'm boarding another flight to Boston. We arrive in Beantown a little early. I waited for my wife to pick me up. One of the first things she says to me, "Did you get this out of your system?" I said, "Yes." And then, I added with a smile, "That is until the next time I get the urge “to be a boy.” My wife would say, “Some men never grow up.”
Walt (Teach)

"Walt, make a 'mental bet' and lose your mind." R.N.S.

"The important thing is what I think of myself."
"David and Lisa" (1962)

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Old 01-27-2021, 07:26 PM   #2
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"I'm about even"

Hardwired response in every gambler I've ever met.
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