*quick edit–I’m now adding El-P’s verse on “Michael Douglas” to the list for Verse of the Year Contenders (thank you, Jeff) as well as Andre 3000’s verse on “Royal Flush. Back to the program.*
I’ve been reading this book called “The Cold Six Thousand” by James Elroy, the guy who wrote “L.A. Confidential” and “The Black Dhalia.” It’s about Vegas in the early 60s after the Kennedy assassination, when men were men, racism was blistering, and the mafia ran everything. If you’re a fan of crime novels and underworld dealings, I strongly suggest picking it up.
Anyway, I bring up “The Cold Six Thousand” because it paints a picture of Vegas that is wholly opposite from what Sin City is today. There’s kids everywhere, world class chefs working at buffets, Celine Dion, and crap like this available everywhere for sale. Hell, there’s even an Ashton Kutcher movie based on Vegas, so it’s safe to say I’ll probably never go there again.
Thinking about the Vegas I’d be murdered in circa 1964 is kinda different from the Vegas I experienced in 2005. And here is my Vegas Story.
Nico the Beast decided to get married. He asked me to come and be his best man, alongside his brother and 2 of his wife’s family members. I had never been out west before, so I happily complied. We touched down in Vegas, checked into the Aladdin Hotel, and loafed around for awhile.
Now, what’s important about this story is gambling. Nico LOVES playing cards and roulette. I gamble about as much as Jimmy Fallon makes humans laugh–not often. I knew before we left that I could afford to lose about $100, but even losing more than that wouldn’t have killed me. I have just a problem with walking into an establishment, odds stacked against me in every which way, knowing I’m just handing over my money to thieves, pit bosses, old mafia boys, and Donald Trump. I’d rather buy a compact disc or get a milkshake.
Within the first day, Nico loses, oh I don’t know, $150 perhaps. He and Mrs. Beast budgeted how much money he was allowed to lose per day. There was a cap on losing streaks thankfully. This left me without many options besides sitting at the slots, drinking free Coronas, and hoping to ride the wave of old people hitting big.
I think I ended the first day up something like $80, which was massive for me. Up until that point, the most I’d ever won in my life was free passes to see “Daredevil” before it hit theaters. We were still on East Coast time, so Day 1 ended up with hitting the hay around 11pm.
Fast forward to Day 3. By that time, we had a great feel for Vegas–the dry heat, the Mexicans handing out escort flyers, the amazing and expensive food, the long long walks on the strip just to take an escalator to cross the street. Day 3 is significant for one reason and one reason alone: Nico the Beast went on a winning streak the likes of which you only see in Bond movies.
It was about 10:30pm. I was moping around the floor at the Aladdin. I lost about $35 on slots. But I didn’t want to go back to the room. Nico lost his daily allowance and didn’t want to go back to the room. Nico’s brother Michael (aka Noochman who produced “I Was Told” off “No Beast So Fierce”) was 18 and didn’t want to go back to the room.
Nico had an idea: we should front him some money. Mind you, I love the guy to death but thus far on that trip he was absolute mush. Acid. Dirt. In baseball terms, he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a friggin’ boat.
With all of this mind, watching Nico lose another $40 for 10 minutes was infinitely more interesting than going back to the room to drink warm Budweiser and watch Sportscenter. However, the floor was alive, dice were rolling, chips were being moved back and forth, kinda-skanky/kinda-hot waitresses were throwing drinks down people’s throats–it was electric.
We couldn’t leave.
Mike and I looked at each other, looked at our $20 bills, looked at Nico, then handed over the money. We were gonna see this thing through.
We walked over to a roulette table with some decent action. It was the kind of table where $40 in chips looked like $80,000. I felt rich but left the strategy up to the man who had been playing cards and betting on sports since we were 16. Nico put chips down on the Mid 12. The dealer (is that the right term for a roulette attendant?) took the bets, spun the ball around the wall, then waved his hand with this little glass thingy that looked like a rich person’s salt dispenser. No more bets.
We hit the mid 12.
Nico put more chips on the mid 12 again. The dealer shot the ball around the wheel, waited a few moments, waved his crystal salt dispenser, no more bets.
We hit the mid 12 again.
By this point there was no way in hell I was leaving this table. The cans of Budweiser submerged in tepid casino water in our bathroom were going to have to wait.
Chips down on the mid 12. Some slutty Chinese chick placed bets all over the board. The ball exploded around the wheel. The dealer waved his salt dispenser.
We hit the mid 12 again.
Now we were certified winners. A waitress came over and asked me what I wanted to drink. I was so caught up in the moment, my brain resorted back to Philly–“Get me a Yuengling.” When she arrived back in 5 minutes with a shot glass of some dark, syrupy liquid it dawned on me that, hey there guy—Yuengling isn’t a national brand. The waitress processed the word “Yuengling” as “Yaeger.” I had no choice BUT to drink it. We were on a roll!
Mid 12. We hit again.
Mid 12. We hit AGAIN!!
Mid 12. HOLYFUCKINHELLWEWONAGAINICANTBELIEVEIT!!!
There’s nothing more seductive than winning money in a casino. I hadn’t done it much before then, but watching “Casino Royale,” “The Good Thief,” and “Casino” planted a seed in my brain that, hey, that just might be fun one day. And oh by the way…
At that point I remember wishing we were playing craps so I could have a nice bimbo blow on my dice after I said something like “Daddy needs a new pair of shoes!”
Then, as if the gods of gambling had finally seen enough, we lost.
Then we lost again.
Immediately, Michael and I said “CASH OUT!” We walked away feeling higher than the dandruff on Shaq. We gave Nico his little cut for having the hot hand. And we went back to the room as WINNERS, I tell you! VEGAS WINNERS!
Then we drank some warm Budweiser, watched Sportscenter, and fell asleep.